Brady knows playoff wins are hard to come by

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Brady knows playoff wins are hard to come by

FOXBORO -- Much has changed among Patriots personnel since the team's last title. 
Quarterback Tom Brady, however, persists. 
As one of just three players (Vince Wilfork and Deion Branch being the other two) who were on New England's 2004 Super Bowl Champion roster, Brady has a unique perspective on the postseason. He knows the tragedy, the triumph, and every shade of feeling in between. 
One thing he's grateful for? Going through the gamut with head coach Bill Belichick. 
"He is very consistent," Brady said. "I think there is one thing you can always expect about coach Belichick: he is going to give you everything hes got. Whether its this week, or you come to our passing camp in May, he coaches just as hard. 
"And I think that is why we have been able to make improvements over the course of the year. Because it is not like, Ok guys, this week is not that important. It is always like, Look, this week is important because it is only going to build on next week."
Belichick has similarly commended Brady for being steadfast. Clearly, it counts for a lot: Brady is not just the only quarterback among the four still playing who's won a Super Bowl, he's the only one who's even been to a Super Bowl.
Doing the time, earning trust, has earned him a bit of breathing room on the field. 
"I think over the years Ive gained flexibility within what my coaches allow me to do. I see certain looks and I know to get to a particular play that may be better." 
"Sometimes it doesnt always turn out that way," he grinned ruefully. "Those are the ones you go to the sideline and coach yells at you for changing the play. But when everything goes right, I think it is real positive for our team. That is part of the experienced part that really pays off; youve been in enough situations to understand what may work and what may not work."
His experience has become more varied in recent seasons. 

Brady's earliest years might have tricked him into thinking winning is easy; hoisting three Lombardi Trophies by age 27 might do that to a guy. But he has learned in the years since -- via six playoff losses that include two Super Bowl heartbreaks -- that easy has nothing to do with it.  "Believe me, I have thought about that a lot myself," he admitted. "It's hard to win the Super Bowl, no question. We have made it there, since Ive been here, five times. It is hard to get to this point; it is hard to get to the AFC Championship game. You need a lot of things to go your way over the course of the year. 
"I think we are fortunate to be in this game and have this opportunity. There are a lot of things that need to happen positively over the course of a long season to have this chance and I am glad we have it."

WATCH: Celtics vs. Thunder

WATCH: Celtics vs. Thunder

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Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Hosting the San Antonio Spurs on Nov. 25, the Boston Celtics had the perennial title contenders on the ropes with the lead in the fourth quarter only to lose it and the game, 109-103.

On the road at Houston, one of the Western Conference’s top teams, the Celtics led in the fourth quarter and wound up losing their Dec. 5 matchup 107-106 as Al Horford missed what would have been a game-winning lay-up as time expired.

Boston played well in both games, but not well enough to win which unfortunately for the Green Team has been how things have gone when they’ve faced some of the better teams in the NBA this season.

They are hoping to break that trend tonight when they hit the road and face the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder (14-9) come in with a slightly better record than the Celtics (13-10).

Boston’s issue isn’t that they can’t play with the better teams.

It’s their finish that needs work.

Boston has lost five of its six games this season against teams that are currently among the top-4 in their respective conferences. 

Losses to San Antonio and Houston only highlight Boston not being able to make the late-game runs needed to win.

Even in their 101-94 loss to Toronto on Friday, it was the Raptors’ ability to make one clutch play after another when it mattered most, that proved to be what was needed to propel them to victory.

“That’s what good teams do; they execute at the end of the game,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “We just have to execute better and get stops at the end of the game. That’s what it comes down to.”

And while the Celtics have a number of returners from last season, every season brings about a different team and with that, a need to learn how to collectively be successful especially down the stretch in close games.

“We’re learning,” Bradley said following the Raptors loss. “We’re moving on to the next game.”

And that would be the Thunder who come in having won six of their last seven games.

Of course when it comes to the Thunder, everything starts with Russell Westbrook who is on everyone’s short list for league MVP.

He is averaging a triple-double this season with 30.9 points, 11.3 assists and 10.8 rebounds per game.

“He’s amazing,” said Boston’s Terry Rozier who will likely spend some time defending Westbrook tonight. “He’s going to be aggressive. We have to try and find a way to stop that. He’s putting up video game stats. It’s tough but we gotta do something.”

The Celtics will likely lean heavily on Marcus Smart and Bradley, a first-team all-NBA defensive selection last season, when it comes to trying to slow down Westbrook.

“Russell’s a good player,” Bradley said. “I look forward to every matchup. If it’s him, whoever it is, I look forward to it. That’s what this league is about.”

It’s also about growth and development of franchises into title contenders, something the Celtics are eager to continue pushing towards tonight.

Horford spent the previous nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, advancing to the playoffs every season.

He saw first-hand how they went from a team that could barely get into the playoffs, into one that produced four all-stars in one season and had the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Horford saw the loss to Toronto as an example of a really good team doing what great teams do and that’s finding a way to win regardless of how things are going most of the night.

“We made a run early (against Toronto), they stayed with it, didn’t rattle and eventually got over us,” Horford said. “We’re growing as a group.”