Bruins

Texans: Patriots 'showed us what championship ball is'

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Texans: Patriots 'showed us what championship ball is'

FOXBORO -- To be the man, you've got to beat the man.

The 11-1 Houston Texans -- the AFC's top dog -- entered New England on Monday night looking to beat the defending AFC Champion Patriots.

It wasn't a playoff game at Gillette Stadium. But it certainly was a chance for the Texans to silence any critics that may exist or continue to "disrespect" them. They had something to prove.

But after the Patriots' 42-14 rout of the Texans in the national spotlight, the team with the best record in the NFL learned something on Monday night.

They are not the Patriots.

"It doesn't feel like we have 11 wins," said Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips after the loss. "It doesn't feel like we have more wins than New England right now."

They do though. The Patriots are now 10-3, and are currently in line to be the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs. So technically, the Patriots still aren't the top dog in the conference. But after Monday night's debacle, the Texans realize, neither are they.

"They showed us what championship ball is," said Houston linebacker Bradie James. "I think we put too much focus on this game as just a huge game, and not doing our approach as far as just going 1-0. And sometimes guys get a little tight, things get a little out of hand. But the Patriots played lights out in the first half. That's what it takes. I think they showed us what it takes to be a champion.

"Man, we just didn't play the way that we wanted to," added James. "But like I said, we got that example, as far as the intensity, the way you have to come out and you have to play when you come into somebody's house. These guys have been good for so long, and so, we know now. We know. And it's up to us to just man up, take this one. We've got to take it on the chin, and get ready to go back to work."

Quarterback Matt Schaub described the loss as "humbling" afterwards. He finished the game 19-of-32 for 232 yards, zero touchdowns, and one interception.

His first-quarter interception that ended up in the hands of Devin McCourty led to a 14-0 Patriots lead. But to some, this one was over well before that.

"We got our tails kicked," said Texans coach Gary Kubiak.

"I mean, the first play of the game we line up wrong," said Kubiak. "So that's really concerning. You know what you're fixing to do on the first play of the game for about three days, and then you line up wrong and get a penalty. That's concerning."

Houston received the ball first, but before they even could snap the ball, they got penalized for an illegal formation.

"Before we knew it, it was 21-0," said James. "We had to settle down and get back to doing some things. We had to stop them on third down. We were not getting off the field on third down. And that was our achilles heel, especially in that first half, first quarter."

It was over early, for sure. And the Texans learned that, regardless of their record, they're still not the top dog in the AFC. Not with the way the Patriots beat them on Monday night.

And Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson summed it all up perfectly.

"They just gave gave us a good ass-whooping," said Johnson. "That's pretty much it."

Bruins closing in on Nash with many details to iron out

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Bruins closing in on Nash with many details to iron out

TORONTO – It sounds like the Boston Bruins are on the verge of a fairly substantial trade if they can iron out some of the details both big and small.

According to multiple reports and sources, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney is closing in on a trade for New York Rangers winger Rick Nash ahead of Monday afternoon’s trade deadline. The 33-year-old Nash has 18 goals and 28 points in 60 games this season for the Blueshirts, and really has been in decline over the last couple of years in New York since scoring 42 goals and 69 points back in the 2014-15 season.

Still, Nash has quite the resume as the first overall pick in the 2002 NHL Draft and a guy that’s scored over 400 goals and nearly 800 points in his 14-year NHL career while starring for the Columbus Blue Jackets and Rangers during that time. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder would bring the size, heaviness and experience factor that the Bruins have been looking to add to their wing ahead of the stretch run and playoffs, and certainly could be energized down the stretch while potentially playing a second line role with a center like David Krejci.

Don Sweeney indicated prior to the reports surfacing that the Bruins could be more invested into the rental market this season, given their strong campaign, than they originally thought they’d be when the season started.

“We’d like to think that the group can continue on along the path that they’re on, but if you can add to it and help it…the rental market depends on what you’re going to give up, and what that impact of that player is necessarily going to be and how they’re going to fit into the group,” said Sweeney. “The chemistry piece is an important piece in and around the trade deadline, so that’s something we have to be cognizant of.”

There are, however, a couple of issues for the Bruins and Rangers to work out before it’s a done deal. One is the massive cap hit for Nash that would still be well over $3 million even if the Rangers agree to eat half of his remaining contract, and that would leave the Bruins to need to clear some space with a corresponding deal elsewhere. There’s also the matter of ponying up assets in exchange for Nash, who it’s believed would cost the Bruins a first round pick and a solid prospect that is not yet on the NHL roster.

That means the Bruins would able to avoid potentially dealing Brandon Carlo, Jake DeBrusk or Danton Heinen from their NHL roster, which it wasn’t expected they would need to move in a rental deal for Nash. But it does mean the Bruins likely would be parting with a blue chip prospect still in the development stage, whether it’s Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Jakub Zboril, Zach Senyshyn or even a college hockey prospect like Trent Frederic.

That’s a big price to pay from Boston’s future to be sure, but it would be done based on Nash being an impact player this season for a Bruins team that looks like they might have a pretty good postseason run in them.

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Marcus Smart makes the Celtics great again

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Marcus Smart makes the Celtics great again

Two games in and the return of Marcus Smart has had the effect many predicted it would for Boston.

There may be other Celtics who score more points, tally more assists and snare a few more rebounds.

But the impact of Smart’s play on what truly matters – winning – is undeniable.

His play was one of the keys to Boston’s 121-112 win at New York on Saturday night.

Smart came off the bench to score 11 points to go with five assists and three steals.

In his two games back, Smart is averaging 11.5 points, 5.5 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals while shooting 64.3 percent from the field.

Yes, it’s a small sample size for sure.

More than anything, it serves as a reminder of how one of Smart’s greatest assets as a player is his ability to contribute in a multitude of ways.

“He just adds a lot of versatility to our offense and our defense,” Boston’s Kyrie Irving told NBC Sports Boston following Saturday’s game. “He has a high awareness on both ends. He’s able to create opportunities for all of us at both ends of the floor and we appreciate that.”

Certainly Smart is credited for being a good defender, and his play-making skills have improved dramatically in the last year or so.

But arguably Smart’s biggest contribution is that his play allows others around him, to focus on whatever it is that they do well, knowing that Smart has the ability to do both his job as well as provide help when needed.

Boston’s defense struggled mightily before the break with teams scoring seemingly whenever they wanted to.

But in the last two games, Boston has looked more like the defensive unit that has been among the NBA’s best most of this season.

In the last two games, Boston’s defensive rating has been 104.5 which ranks 11th in the NBA during that span.

Several factors have played a role in Boston’s improved defense the last two games; among them being the return of Smart who missed 11 games after punching a picture frame last month that left him with 20 stitches.

“It’s the appreciation of Marcus Smart right there,” Irving said. “Implement him and him just putting his stamp and identity on our team as well. It just makes a lot of other guy’s job, easier. Because he covers up a lot of our mistakes as well as playing with unbelievable awareness at both ends of the floor. He understands spacing, he understands how the little things matter.”

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