Bench delivers first-rate performance for Celtics

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Bench delivers first-rate performance for Celtics

BOSTON The Boston Celtics' second unit delivered a first-rate performance in Friday's 96-78 win over Portland.

With Rajon Rondo out serving a two-game suspension along with a few other players whose health status made them game-time decisions, the C's took control of the game in the first half with their bench playing a prominent role.

"I don't care who doesn't play," Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said earlier. "The guys that play have to be ready to play and ready to win."

That was indeed the case, with Jeff Green leading all Celtics scorers with 19 points off the bench.

For the game, the C's second unit outscored Portland's backups, 41-22.

Not only were they scoring, but their play was also important on the defensive end as the C's limited Portland to just 34.8 percent shooting and extended their losing streak to four in a row.

In addition to strong play from its bench, here are some other keys identified prior to the tip-off that played a role in the Celtics victory over the Blazers.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Boston and Portland are two of the most rebounding-challenged teams in the NBA. The C's are dead-last while the Blazers are 25th in the league.

WHAT WE SAW: Although Boston lost the rebounding battle 37-36, the C's controlled the action around the glass most of the night with a number of Portland's rebounds coming in the game's final moments when the outcome had already been well established.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs. LaMarcus Aldridge: Garnett's ability to stretch the floor won't do him much good against Aldridge who brings that same skillset to the floor. Both have strong all-around games, although Garnett's defense is better.

WHAT WE SAW: Garnett's 10 points and five rebounds was well short of equalling Aldridge's game-high 23 points, but there was no mistaking that Garnett's impact was greater. He set the tone with an early blocked shot that was among several plays made by the C's defensively. Aldridge's impact was minimal, at best.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Without Rondo, Courtney Lee will have more opportunities to score. That's exactly how things played out in the lone game Rondo missed this season. Lee had a season-high 13 points which is his only double-digit scoring game this season.

WHAT WE SAW: Lee was sniffing at a Rondo-like triple double before finishing with 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists. He has had just two double-digit scoring games this season - both coming with Rondo out of the lineup.

STAT TO TRACK: The second quarter has seen the Celtics at their worst far too often. They average an NBA-low 21.9 points per game in the quarter. That wouldn't be that big a deal if opponents weren't scoring an average of 24.8 points per game.

WHAT WE SAW: Not only did the Celtics play better than usual in the second quarter, the 31 points scored by the C's in the second was their highest-scoring quarter of the game. Fueled by the defense, Boston took a commanding 23-point lead in the half that was never threatened afterward.

Bruschi to serve as honorary captain for Patriots before AFC title game

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Bruschi to serve as honorary captain for Patriots before AFC title game

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will have a good-luck charm of sorts on their side before they take on the Steelers for the AFC Championship.

Former Patriots linebacker and three-time Super Bowl champ Tedi Bruschi will serve as an honorary captain Sunday, taking the field for the pre-game coin toss with Devin McCourty, Dont'a Hightower and Matthew Slater. Tom Brady is the team's fourth active captain, though, he rarely participates in the coin toss. 

"With an undefeated record in games that we have honored him, I can't think of a more perfect player to serve as honorary captain this Sunday," team chairman and CEO Robert Kraft said in a statement. "He was called the perfect Patriot by head coach Bill Belichick, and he has lived up to that nickname with an 8-0 record in games where he has been a part of the Patriots celebration."

Bruschi is 2-0 as an honorary captain in AFC Championship Games, taking part in the pre-game festivities in the conference title games in both 2012 and 2015. Bruschi was last at Gillette Stadium as an honorary captain back in Week 13, when the Patriots took on the Rams and celebrated the franchise's Super Bowl XXXVI victory back in 2002.