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Celtics lose ... in more ways than one

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Celtics lose ... in more ways than one

From Comcast SportsNet
ATLANTA (AP) -- The Boston Celtics lost Game 1 -- and they may have lost their floor leader for Game 2. Josh Smith scored 22 points and grabbed 18 rebounds as the Atlanta Hawks built a big lead early, then held on for an 83-74 victory over the Celtics in their opener of the Eastern Conference playoffs Sunday night. But this one will be remembered for what happened in the final minute, not the Hawks' blistering start. While complaining about a call, Boston star Rajon Rondo was ejected for bumping an official and faces a possible suspension when the teams meet again Tuesday night in Atlanta. "I didn't intentionally chest-bump him, but that's what it appears to be," Rondo said. The Hawks, who led by as many as 19 in the first half, were clinging to a four-point lead when Rondo lost his cool with 41 seconds remaining. Boston's Brandon Bass was called for a foul on Smith tussling for a loose ball, with both players sprawled on the court out beyond the foul line. Rondo screamed at official Marc Davis, who quickly called a technical. Rondo then bumped Davis with his chest and was tossed out. A suspension could be coming, too. Rondo, who scored 20 points and dished out 11 assists, clearly appeared to stick out his chest to strike the official. That's a huge no-no and will almost surely draw the wrath of NBA Commissioner David Stern. "It's out of my control," Rondo said. "Obviously, I want to be there for my teammates but other than that, it's out of my control." Getting in some immediate lobbying, Celtics coach Doc Rivers saw things a bit differently than the replay showed. Not surprisingly, he doesn't think Rondo deserves a suspension. "I'm always worried, but I would be surprised if that happens," Rivers said. "I thought Rondo was walking toward Marc, and Marc turned back toward him, and that's when Rondo bumped him. ... That's all it was, in my opinion. But we'll see." Rondo had a similar take. "Obviously I was upset about the call and I said some words to Marc. I deserved the first tech," Rondo said. "As I was walking, I thought he stopped. My momentum carried me into him. I even think I tripped on his foot." At the beginning, the Hawks looked much quicker and faster than the aging Celtics. With every starter outside of Jason Collins contributing at least four points, Atlanta raced to a 20-6 lead with the game just over 5 minutes old. The Hawks twice pushed the margin as high as 19 points and settled for a 49-35 edge at halftime. Smith totally outplayed Boston's Kevin Garnett over the first two quarters, going into the break with 15 points, 11 rebounds and two assists. Garnett had only two points on 1-of-9 shooting. "He was an animal," Atlanta coach Larry Drew said of Smith. "When he's playing with that energy, he just makes us so much better." Smith had to carry the load. The Hawks' other big gun, Joe Johnson, had a miserable night with 11 points on 3-of-15 shooting, committing more turnovers (four) than he made field goals. He was 0 of 9 from 3-point range. The Hawks got sloppy with the ball and made only 19-of-54 shots after their blistering performance in opening quarter. That allowed the Celtics to edge back into the game, and it looked as though they might just pull off the comeback until Rondo's big blunder. "We came out like our jerseys were going to win the game, because we're the Celtics," Rivers said. "You've got to play to win the game." Smith said he was definitely fouled as he scrambled for the loose ball with Bass. "That was the right call they made," Smith said of the potentially series-altering play. "I'm not sure what happened with Rondo. That will be up to the league to see what he did wrong. You never know what's going to happen, but we'll definitely factor him in going to tomorrow." Garnett bounced back to put up 20 points and 11 rebounds. Paul Pierce had only 12 points, going 5 of 19 from the field and missing all six of his 3-point attempts. "For us to win, I have to be a better player," Pierce said. "I was a really big culprit." Both teams were short-handed. Celtics guard Ray Allen missed a playoff game for the first time in his career, watching from the bench in a suit and tie because of an ailing right ankle. He would've already had surgery if it was earlier in the year, but the 36-year-old member of Boston's Big Three is hoping to heal in time for possibly his last hurrah in Beantown. The Hawks, meanwhile, started third-stringer Collins at center. Al Horford missed most of the year with a pectoral injury and has been ruled out for the entire series, and the guy who took his place, rugged Zaza Pachulia, went down late in the regular season with a sprained left foot. Pachulia famously went forehead-to-forehead with Garnett during an opening-round series in 2008, and the Hawks wondered how they would fare without the Georgian's toughness. Just fine, it turned out. Of course, the teams were much more closely matched heading into this series than they were in their last playoff meeting. In 2008, the Celtics won 66 games and were the top seed in the East, setting up for a run to their most recent NBA championship. The Hawks were the eighth seed, a team that went 37-45 and made the postseason for the first time in nine years. Still, they managed to push the Celtics to seven games. This time, Boston won the season series 2-1, the three games decided by a total of 10 points, and Atlanta finished one game ahead in the conference standings to earn home-court advantage. Now the big question is: Will Rondo get to play in Game 2? "I don't think it was on purpose," Pierce said, "but it's up to the league." NOTES: Allen and Pachulia are both listed as day-to-day. ... The Hawks have never beaten Boston in the playoffs since moving to Atlanta in 1968, losing six straight postseason meetings. ... The teams met four times in the finals when the Hawks were based in St. Louis. Boston won three of those series, the Hawks only playoff win over the Celtics a 4-2 triumph to capture the title in 1958.

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Redskins will eye Vikings' QB decisions with great interest

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Redskins will eye Vikings' QB decisions with great interest

Now that the Minnesota Vikings’ season is over, the team can start sorting out its quarterback situation. The Redskins will be watching the process with great interest.

Minnesota has three quarterbacks who have significant NFL starting experience and all three of them are free agents. It would be difficult for the Vikings to keep more than one of the trio of Sam Bradford (80 NFL starts), Case Keenum (38), and Teddy Bridgewater (28). All three would like to start, or at least have an opportunity to start, in 2018. The Vikings will only be able to accommodate one of them.

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That would leave two experienced quarterbacks on the market. As you may have heard, the Redskins could be parting ways with Kirk Cousins. Would they be interested in any of the three possible ex-Vikings? Let’s take a look at each of them:

Sam Bradford, age 30 at start of 2018 season—After the Rams made him the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft, he had four up and down years in St. Louis. He was traded to the Eagles for Nick Foles. Philly flipped him to the Vikings after Bridgewater was injured before the 2016 season. Bradford had a career year in his first year there but a knee injury limited him to two starts in 2017.
Fit with the Redskins: He is the most likely of the three to end up on the free agent market and he could end up costing the least. Bradford was very productive in 2016 and he would be a good fit in Jay Gruden’s offense. But the injury bug is a major red flag. He has missed 48 of a possible 128 games with injuries including 14 last season and the entire 2014 season.

Teddy Bridgewater, age 25—He was going to be the Vikings’ franchise quarterback after they drafted him in the first round in 2014. Bridgewater led the Vikings to an 11-5 record and a division title his second season and they were a missed chip shot field goal away from advancing to the divisional round. But a devastating knee injury suffered before the 2016 season has put his future in doubt. It put him on the injury list for all of 2016 and most of last year.  
Fit with the Redskins: The story now is that the organization is torn between keeping Bridgewater or sticking with Keenum. Bridgewater also could fit into Gruden’s offense. Bridgewater is by far the youngest of the three and he could be more of a long-term solution. The knee is the reason why the Vikings can’t move on and there is uncertainty over whether it will ever be 100 percent.

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Case Keenum, age 30—The Vikings are the third stop in his six NFL seasons. He had stints as the starter in Houston and with the Rams before landing in Minnesota as a free agent last March. When Bradford was injured in Week 1 in came Keenum and he had a career year, completing 67.6 percent of his passes with 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Vikings had an excellent defense but it’s unlikely that they reach the NFC championship game without Keenum.
Fit with Redskins: Is Keenum a one-year wonder? Or did his show is ability given a chance? Look at this table to compare his first season as a starter with Kirk Cousins’ 2015 season. Keenum had 62 fewer attempts so the yardage total is lower, but their performances are comparable. But if the Vikings let him go, will the Redskins risk a multi-year deal that probably will be in excess of $20 million per year on a guy with one solid year on his resume? They were unwilling to do it with Cousins a few years ago.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

 

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Need to Know: Will Zach Brown stay with the Redskins or go?

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Need to Know: Will Zach Brown stay with the Redskins or go?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, January 23, 52 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 42
—NFL Draft (4/26) 93
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 229

Five Redskins free agents—Stay or go?

Kirk Cousins isn’t the only Redskins free agent whose future with the team is up in the air. Let’s break out some imaginary casino chips and budget a maximum of $100 on whether each of the following free agents stays with the Redskins or plays elsewhere in 2018.

ILB Zach Brown—I’m starting with the toughest one first. He seems to be a good fit in the Redskins’ defense and he had a good year playing in it. The six-year veteran didn’t express any great desire to stay in Washington when talking to the media, but that is just the smart thing to do. At age 28, this probably is his best shot at getting a big contract and he may simply go to the highest bidder. If he has to go to his fourth different team in four seasons to get it, he probably will. $55 on stay

OLB Junior Galette—Galette still has the Redskins tattoo on his arm, but he might have to start calling it a buffalo nickel tat if the wants to get more playing time. He’s still grateful that the Redskins stuck with him through two seasons lost to Achilles injuries. But he can read a depth chart and he knows that his playing time will be limited as long as Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith are around. $80 on go

OLB Trent Murphy—You can’t have too much pass rush. If Galette leaves, the Redskins could have too little if Murphy also bolts in free agency. Ryan Anderson may develop but he is not someone the Redskins can count on as their first option off the bench. It’s easy to forget the nine sacks and 45 pressures Murphy had in 2016 before tearing his ACL in a preseason game last summer. Although another team could swoop in and grab him, a one-year deal with some performance incentives should work for both sides. $60 on stay

OL Spencer Long—The easy talking point is that the Redskins will keep Chase Roullier at center, let free agent Shawn Lauvao walk, and have Long play left guard. But the word is that the Redskins are looking for an upgrade at LG in either the draft or in free agency. That would leave the 2014 third-round pick looking for a new employer. It’s possible that the Redskins will look for a replacement and not be able to find one who is both significantly better and affordable, leading back to Long. $65 on go

WR Ryan Grant—This is a simple case of Grant likely being worth more to the Redskins than he is to other teams. Jay Gruden and the other coaches appreciate his hard work in practice and his ability to line up at any wide receiver spot on the offense. After three years of learning, his work finally showed up on Sundays as he exceeded the combined production of his first three seasons with 45 receptions for 573 yards and four touchdowns. It seems likely that the team and player will continue their mutually beneficial relationship. $75 on stay

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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