Bears

Bass scores 27 as Celtics take 3-2 series lead on Sixers

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Bass scores 27 as Celtics take 3-2 series lead on Sixers

BOSTON (AP) They started as a Big Three and grew to a Big Four when Rajon Rondo earned the right to be mentioned along with the other Boston Celtics All-Stars.At no point, however, did Brandon Bass merit marquee billing in his first season in Boston.The fifth, newest and least-heralded member of the Celtics' starting lineup, Bass erupted for a career playoff-high 27 points on Monday night, scoring 18 in the third quarter as Boston pulled away from the Philadelphia 76ers to win 101-85 and take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals."We've got a few good players on the team that they had to focus on," said Bass, who left the game to a standing ovation with 2 minutes left and Boston leading by 18. "That left me open, and I was able to take advantage of my opportunity."The 27 points matched Bass' regular-season career high, and the 18 points in the third was one off his career playoff high for an entire game. It was also more than the Sixers scored in the quarter as a team."It was one of those games we needed something to ignite us together," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I thought the biggest difference was his energy. He played with a force. I thought he just let himself go."Kevin Garnett added 20 points and Rajon Rondo had 13 points and 14 assists for the Celtics, who can advance to the East finals with a victory in Philadelphia in Game 6 on Wednesday. The Sixers would need a win at home to force the series back to Boston for a decisive seventh game.

As he walked to his postgame interview, Elton Brand told the Celtics' ball boys in the hallway outside the locker rooms: "See you on Saturday."No team has won consecutive games yet this series."It would just be nice to win two in a row. That would be terrific," Rivers said. "It's not going to be easy. This series has been hard. Every minute, you think we're leaking oil physically."Brand scored 19 and Evan Turner had 11 points and 10 rebounds for Philadelphia, which led by six points early in the third quarter before Boston scored 14 of the next 16 points. Bass had eight of them, including back-to-back dunks followed by a steal that set up Ray Allen's fast-break layup to give the Celtics a 63-57 lead with five minutes left in the quarter.Boston closed out the third with a 10-2 run over the final 3 minutes and outscored the Sixers 28-16 in the period. The Celtics also scored 16 of the first 22 points in the fourth quarter - seven from Rondo - to put away the game."We had too many turnovers and that just got those guys going," 76ers center Spencer Hawes said. "They got a couple of easy baskets in transition off our mistakes. It got them going, they took advantage of it and held home court. Now we have to go home and take care of ours."The Celtics acquired Bass in December in a trade with Orlando for Glen "Big Baby" Davis, and he worked his way into the starting lineup after the All-Star break. Although he solidified the power forward position after Garnett moved to center, he hadn't done anything spectacular - until Monday.Bass hadn't scored more than 22 points in a game this season. His playoff high was 19 points, in 2008.Paul Pierce had 16 points - a perfect 9 for 9 from the free throw line - and Allen, back in the starting lineup because of an injury to Avery Bradley, had five points.Boston tied it 57-all when Bass stole the ball from Thaddeus Young and got to the free throw line, making both foul shots. After a Sixers miss, Rondo found Bass underneath for the dunk. Bass added another crowd-pleasing dunk before knocking loose a ball to start Rondo on a fast break he finished by finding Allen for the layup.
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Can the Bears make enough plays to beat the Carolina Panthers?

Can the Bears make enough plays to beat the Carolina Panthers?

Everything changed for the Bears after going up 17-3 last week against the Baltimore Ravens. Mitchell Trubisky’s 27-yard touchdown to Dion Sims was immediately followed by Bobby Rainey running a kickoff back 96 yards for a touchdown, then the offense was bogged down with three fumbles (two lost) on three consecutive possessions. 

But Adrian Amos seemed to seal the game with his 90-yard pick six — that is, until Michael Campanaro ran Pat O’Donnell’s punt back 77 yards for what wound up being a game-tying touchdown after a two-point conversion.

The point is the Bears should’ve cruised to a comfortable win last week; a few critical mistakes didn’t allow that to happen. The Bears haven’t led at the end of the fourth quarter this year, a pretty strong indicator they haven’t played a complete game yet despite having two wins. 

The Carolina Panthers have road wins over the Detroit Lions and New England Patriots this year, and only lost to the Philadelphia Eagles by five points last week (despite Cam Newton throwing three interceptions). The bet here is the Bears keep things close on the backs of a strong defense, but either can’t make enough plays or make too many mistakes to win. 

Prediction: Panthers 20, Bears 16

Three and out: What Ron Rivera likes about Mitchell Trubisky played out this week

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Three and out: What Ron Rivera likes about Mitchell Trubisky played out this week

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera saw a lot of Mitchell Trubisky last year, with the North Carolina quarterback on TV quite a bit in the Charlotte area. The Panthers, set with Cam Newton, weren’t in the market for a quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft, but Trubisky nonetheless stood out to the seventh-year Carolina coach and former Super Bowl-winning Bears linebacker. 

For Rivera, more than Trubisky’s arm strength and athleticism jumped off the screen. 

“Leadership,” Rivera pointed to. “When you watch him when he was playing — I love watching guys that either get on their teammates when they’re not doing it or they take accountability when they make a mistake. And you saw that with him.

“… We think the young man has got what it takes. We like who’s he’s gonna become. We do. We think the future can be bright for him. We are big fans here.”

Trubisky took accountability for both of his turnovers against the Minnesota Vikings: The interception Harrison Smith baited him into was certainly his fault, but his sack-strip fumble was more the result of Everson Griffen jumping the snap and blowing past left tackle Charles Leno. Against the Baltimore Ravens, Trubisky also lost a fumble on a sack-strip when cornerback Lardarius Webb hit him and dislodged the ball.

Trubisky’s explanation of that fumble was that he moved off his first read too quickly, causing him to miss Webb making a beeline for him in the backfield. But according to offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, that fumble wasn’t the quarterback’s fault. 

“That’s because he’s a stud,” Loggains said of Trubisky taking responsibility for it. “We screwed the protection up. We should have been sliding to the guy. The guy should not have been coming free. That’s Mitch taking a bullet that he doesn’t need to take. The reality is he saw the guy coming and tried to get over to the check down quickly but we got to do a better job up front protecting him.”

But that Trubisky was willing to say he was at fault for that fumble plays into why he quickly gained the respect of the Bears’ the locker room. That’s what a quarterback should be doing when speaking to the media after the game — accepting responsibility and deflecting off his teammates, even if he’s not at fault. That kind of stuff doesn’t go unnoticed. 

Stopping Superman

Pernell McPhee offered this goal up for his fellow defensive teammates this week: Make sure Newton stays as Clark Kent on Sunday. 

“He’s a very talented guy, but the only thing I told the defense is let's make him be Cam Newton, not Superman,” McPhee said, referring to Newton’s signature touchdown move. “We don't want him opening up the cape.”

So how does a defense stop Newton from being Superman?

“He’s a very versatile quarterback,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “Obviously his running the ball, whether it be through his improvising with scrambling on called pass plays, or the called running plays they do have for him, that’s a strength for him. We can’t just focus on stopping that. We’ve gotta stop Cam Newton the passer and the runner. They’ve got good running backs they’re handing it off to and receivers and running backs he’s throwing it to, so you’ve got a total offense to stop.”

One point to note here: Newton threw three interceptions last week against the Philadelphia Eagles and had been picked off eight times this year. A Bears secondary that intercepted Joe Flacco twice last week could have some more shots at takeaways on Sunday. 

High praise

Sunday will mark Thomas Davis’ 156th game in the NFL, with the linebacker playing every one of those with the Carolina Panthers. He played for John Fox from 2005-2010. But where we’re going here is what he had to say about how the Bears run their offense with a rookie quarterback:

“I think this is probably the best running game that we’ve seen from an offense with a rookie quarterback,” Davis said. “You look at some of the other rookies that come in. Teams want to run the ball. But when you look at the physicality and the style of play that this team plays with, I think that really makes the job a lot easier for a young quarterback. So I definitely feel like that physicality in their running game is definitely going to help him out.”

The Bears ran the ball 50 times against a Baltimore Ravens defense that played a lot more Cover-2 than expected. With star linebacker Luke Kuechly out for Sunday, the Bears may try to use a similar strategy, even if Carolina loads the box more than Baltimore did (a little more than once one every three runs by Jordan Howard). 

But if the Bears’ offense is going to have success, it’s going to be behind Howard, Tarik Cohen and an improving offensive line. Maybe Davis’ comments are hyperbole, but he’s also played a lot more football than you and me.