Celtics

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."

Blakely: An early look at some early exits

Blakely: An early look at some early exits

BOSTON – Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. will undergo back surgery that’s expected to keep him out for the rest of this season, giving him a college career that will likely consist of two points in two minutes of action.
 
Projected as a potential No. 1 overall pick in next June’s NBA draft, his injury sent shock waves throughout the college basketball landscape as well as among NBA executives, who now must weigh the injury in their evaluation regardless of how well he recovers or even he aces the physical tests he’ll surely undergo leading up to the draft.

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You can count the Celtics among those to pay close attention to what’s happening with Porter Jr., a player that may be available to them in June courtesy of the first-round pick from the Los Angeles Lakers (via Philadelphia) that Boston received as part of the Markelle Fultz-Jayson Tatum trade.
 
As talented as Porter Jr. is, he won’t be the only high draft pick counted on to make an impact at the next level.
 
In this week’s Starting Five, we’ll take a look at the top five college freshman (most of whom are expected to turn pro and be in the draft in June) as well as MVP candidates; the top backcourts; the top rookies and my top five teams on the rise.

TOP 5 COLLEGE FRESHMEN
1. Marvin Bagley III, Duke: Has a double-double in four of Duke’s six games this season, averaging 19.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game.

2. DeAndre Ayton, Arizona: Has impressive numbers, but back-to-back losses by the Wildcats? Not a good look for this future lottery pick.

3. Michael Porter Jr., Missouri: Depending on how his recovery/workouts/physicals go, no shocker if he winds up as the No. 1 pick when all is said and done.

4. Collin Sexton, Alabama: Big-time scorer, Sexton is a tough, tough cover in the half court or in transition.

5. Mohamed Bamba, Texas: 7-footer with a 7-9 wingspan, think Rudy Gobert with better athleticism.


TOP 5 NBA BACKCOURTS 
1. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Golden State: NBA champions two of the last three seasons, Curry and Thompson are the gold standard all NBA backcourts are measured against.
 
2. Chris Paul and James Harden, Houston: The sample size is small, but the three games since Paul’s return have been by an average of 26 points per game which speaks to how well this all-star backcourt has come together.
 
3. John Wall and Bradley Beal, Washington: Wall’s end-to-end speed coupled with Beal’s elite shooting has made this one of the game’s most deadly backcourt duos.
 
4. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, Toronto: They’re the next best thing backcourt-wise to Wall/Beal in the East, but Boston’s Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown are right on their heels.
 
5. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, Portland: You don’t hear a ton about these two because Portland has been a good-but-not-great program that doesn’t garner a ton of attention. But don’t be fooled. Lillard and McCollum are two of the league’s most dynamic scorers.
 
 
TOP 5 MVP CANDIDATES
1. James Harden, Houston: A prolific scorer, Harden leads the NBA in scoring (31.1 points) and assists (9.8) per game while boasting the best record in the West.

2. Kyrie Irving, Boston:  The best player on the team with the best record who has been at his best in the clutch – that’s Kyrie Irving this season.

3. LeBron James, Cleveland: The Cavs are starting to roll up the wins and it is once again due to LeBron James doing LeBron James things.

4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee: The MVP front-runner the first couple of weeks of the season, the Greek Freak is still a load for teams to deal with.

5. Kristaps Porzingis, New York:  Among the NBA’s top-5 in scoring and blocked shots, Porzingis’ biggest achievement has been leading a far more competitive Knicks team than what we’ve seen the past couple of years.
 

TOP 5 ROOKIES
1. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia: A triple-double in the making, his statistics combined with Philly winning make him a no-brainer if he can stay healthy.

2. Jayson Tatum, Boston: His numbers are solid, but he moves to the forefront of those being considered because of his two-way play and his team’s success.

3. Donovan Mitchell, Utah: His 14.3 points leads all rookies who average less than 30 minutes played per game.

4. Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers: Only Simmons is averaging more points among rookies than Kuzma (16.8 points per game).

5. Lauri Markkanen, Chicago: The Bulls are bad, but Markkanen’s inside-outside is impressive regardless of how his team has fared this season.
 

TOP 5 TEAMS ON THE RISE
1. Cleveland: With Boston’s loss, the Cavs have the longest current winning streak which stands at six wins in a row.

2. New Orleans: Currently with the seventh-best record in the West, the Pelicans have won seven of their last 10 games.

3. Indiana: Only Cleveland has been hotter than the Pacers, winners of four in a row.

4. Philadelphia: Joel Embiid has the Sixers three games above-.500, trending towards entering league MVP conversation.

5. San Antonio: After 4-4 start, Spurs are 7-3 since and very much in the thick of things out West.

Chris Hogan, David Andrews, Marcus Cannon miss full week of practice

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Chris Hogan, David Andrews, Marcus Cannon miss full week of practice

FOXBORO — It's safe to say Chris Hogan, David Andrews and Marcus Cannon won't play Sunday against the Dolphins.:

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The trio was not on the field for the media portion of Friday’s practice, completing a week in which the three did not practice at all. Hogan has been out with a shoulder injury, while Andrews missed last week’s win over the Raiders due to illness and Cannon has been dealing with an ankle injury. 

Martellus Bennett was also absent, making it two straight days in which he did not take the field. Bennett, who was released by Green Bay this season amid questions of whether he would undergo surgery, is listed on the injury report with shoulder and hamstring issues. 

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