Celtics

Welker not motivated by Phillips on big night

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Welker not motivated by Phillips on big night

FOXBORO -- Wes Welker has been here before. People have criticized his height or his athleticism and the 5-foot-9 receiver from Oklahoma City has made each loose-lipped detractor look amazingly misinformed.

Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips accidentally added himself to the list this week. In the course of answering a question about Welker on Thursday, Phillips let one slip.

"Ah, Welkers not Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green," Phillips told ESPN.com, in response to a question asking if Texans corner Johnathan Joseph, who covered Green in their Wild Card game, might cover Welker. "Hes a good player, but hes not that big or a real athletic guy. Hes a quick guy that gets open on option routes. Texans defensive back Brandon Harris actually played him pretty good."

Welker said he paid no attention to Phillips' comments, but he exploded for a big game in New England's 41-28 Divisional Round win over Houston. He finished with eight catches for 131 yards -- his third-highest yardage total of the season.

"I'm really not too worried about that," Welker said about Phillips' comments from earlier in the week. "It's just all noise. I try to do my job the best of my ability."

In the second quarter, Welker proved his abilities include more than catching short routes over the middle. He streaked up the sideline and hauled in a 47-yard pass from quarterback Tom Brady to set up Shane Vereen's 8-yard touchdown reception that made the score 17-3.

Brady and the Patriots must have liked Welker's matchups throughout the night -- as they so often do -- as he was targeted a team-high 13 times. He had a couple of drops, including one on a pass over the middle after holding on to a catch moments earlier on a similar play when he took a vicious hit. But Brady's confidence in his favorite target never wavered.

With tight end Rob Gronkowski out for the remainder of the postseason, Welker's significant workload will likely remain that way. He'll continue to take big shots from oftentimes bigger defenders, and he'll continue to be Brady's most trusted weapon in the passing game.

"Wes is a tremendous receiver, a great competitor," Patritos coach Bill Belichick said. "Again, we feel like at times there was a good matchup with him in the slot. He did a good job in there. Again, Tom made some throws. Wes is quick to cover. Tom had some good weapons to work with and he was able to move it around and get it to a bunch of them. I thought we had good balance offensively. Overall it was pretty good."

After Phillips made his comments on Welker and found that they were being perceived by many as bulletin board material for the Patriots, he posted on his Twitter account: "Wes Welker is a great athlete and one of the best receivers of all time. twistthataround"

It was something Phillips probably didn't have to do. Welker had been there before, through high school and then college and then earlier in his NFL career as he tried to work up the ranks. He was used to people commenting on his stature and his athleticism.

But at this point he's one of the best receivers of his era. His numbers stack up against any other receiver's. At this point he doesn't need criticism to get him motivated. He's great without it. At this point, like he said, it's just noise.

Right now, he's more concerned about what's next.

"It's one step forward in the right direction," Welker said of the win. "It's one thing done that we've taken care of. Now we're moving on to the AFC championship, and we'll get ready for that."

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics back in win column

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics back in win column

0:41 - The Celtics returned to their winning ways with a 118-103 victory over the Orlando Magic. Tom Giles, Phil Perry and Rob “Hardy” Poole break down the win.

6:58 - Tom Giles and Hardy discuss the Bruins’ four-game winning streak and how the success of Anton Khudobin has helped keep the team afloat.

11:39 - Is the Patriots' Week 12 matchup with the Dolphins a trap game? Tom Giles, Phil Perry and Hardy discuss where Miami ranks among NFL teams and how the Patriots should approach the game.

17:07 - With Black Friday upon us, the Boston Sports Tonight crew discusses what big-ticket item they would choose to buy for any Boston sports team. 

 

Morris out, Brown questionable for Pacers game Saturday

Morris out, Brown questionable for Pacers game Saturday

BOSTON – Boston made strengthening their depth at the wing position a priority during the offseason.

Well, that depth will be put to the test with the possibility of at least one and maybe two of their top wing players being out for Saturday’s game at Indiana.

Shortly after Boston’s 118-103 win over Orlando on Friday night, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens announced that Marcus Morris (left knee) would not travel with the team for Saturday’s game against the Pacers.

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Also, Jaylen Brown will be attending the funeral of his best friend (Trevin Steede) in Georgia on Saturday and isn’t sure if he’ll be back with the team in time for Saturday’s game.

“My intention is to make it back. If I can, I’ll definitely be playing,” Brown said. “But we’ll see.”

The absence of Brown would be a huge blow for the Celtics.

Boston only returned four players from last season’s team, none of whom have improved their overall game as much as Brown did during the offseason.

He came into the season focused on being a lock-down defender.

But Gordon Hayward’s left ankle injury was a game-changer for all the Celtics, including Brown.

Not only would Brown be charged with being an elite defender, but Boston now needed the second-year wing player to become more of a scoring threat.

And to Brown’s credit, he has risen to the challenge.

In 20 games (all starts) this season, Brown has averaged 15.9 points per game which is second on the team to Kyrie Irving (22.9). In addition, Brown’s defense has been among the keys to Boston’s 17-3 start which is the best record in the NBA thus far this season.

His defensive rating of 95.0 is fifth among players to appear in at least 10 games this season, and tops among all second-year players. And of the four players ahead of him, two – Aron Baynes and Marcus Smart – are teammates.

But just like the Celtics gave Isaiah Thomas all the time he needed in dealing with the death of his sister right before the playoffs last season, a similar approach has been taken with Brown which he is admittedly appreciative of the organization for doing.

“Brad (Stevens) has been great in this process,” Brown said. “Just somebody to talk to, allowing me to deal with it in the best way our family and their family feels we can deal with it. He’s been great; we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully I can make it to Indiana; if not, I just have to re-group with my family and I’ll see you guys next game (against Detroit on Monday).”

While there's a chance that Brown will play against Indiana, the same can not be said for Morris who is definitely out.

Morris, who missed the first eight games of the season with left knee soreness, has been on a minutes restriction all season in addition to not being allowed to play in back-to-back games.

Following Friday’s game, Morris said the knee feels good but he understands the need to be cautious.

“It’s frustrating,” said Morris who acknowledged the decision was made by the coaching and medical staff. “I’m a competitor, so I want to be out there.”

He added, “Like I said, at this point I pretty much don’t have control over it when I’m playing. It’s a long season. I just want to be ready for June.”

With Morris out and Brown potentially out as well, the Celtics will be extremely thin and inexperienced at the wing position. Look for Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes to be in the starting lineup if Brown is out along with Morris.

Also, Stevens will likely use Terry Rozier and first-year forward Semi Ojeleye more in addition to increased spot-duty for another rookie, Abdel Nader. On Friday, Rozier had a career-high 23 points while Ojeleye and Nader had seven and three points, respectively.

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