Brady on playoffs: You never take it for granted


Brady on playoffs: You never take it for granted

FOXBORO -- Ten years have passed since a joyfully overwhelmed Tom Brady first hoisted a Lombardi Trophy above his head. 
He's 35-years old, now. He's also a better quarterback than in that 2001 title year. It seems Brady breaks a passing record or leapfrogs three record-holders every game he plays. A win against Houston in Sunday's Divisional Playoff would make him the winningest quarterback in NFL postseason history. 
Looking back on that first Super Bowl win, does he even recognize himself as the player he is today? 
"That was some kid, back then," Brady smiled. "You really don't quite understand what has happened or what's been accomplished until you try so many times and you don't get to accomplish those things. It's very hard to win that final game of the year. We've had a chance and lost a few. It's hard to win this Divisional Playoff game." 
He knows well enough. 
Brady has 22 playoff games, and 16 wins, under his belt heading into this weekend. 10 of those wins, including three Super Bowl championships, came in his first 10 tries. The Patriots have gone 6-6 during Brady's personal ascent. 
That one last win has been elusive. 
"The margin for error is less. You make one mistake, you're going to be watching next weekend. A lot of what we talk about in our meetings is making sure that we've got everything covered. You spend extra time talking about every little detail, every little play. And not that last week wasn't important, but the ramifications are different. We've got to be at our best."
You have to wonder how much the failure to recapture championship glory can tinge a season in retrospect. Falling just short is what makes Patriots fans cringe to look at that 16-0 banner at Gillette Stadium; not a mark of greatness, but a reminder of the ultimate letdown.  
New England has had 10 seasons with 10 or more regular season wins since 2001. The franchise has had 10 playoff berths in the last 12 years. 
But for the players, what does it matter without a title? Who starts training camp hoping to be second-best in the league? 
Brady struggled a bit in addressing the bitterness of being great enough to just barely fall short.
"I think every year -- I said to someone yesterday -- we try to win every game. It's not like I hate to use the word like that season meant nothing. There's always something to be gained from every game, every season. But at the same time I think that when you lose a game, whether it's the first game of the year or the last game of the year no one wants to be on the losing end. I think that you just put everything into it and if you win, great, you continue to move on. When you lose lose, you learn from it. Hopefully it motivates you for next year."
So maybe he doesn't quite recognize that 23-year old kid gripping 2001's Lombardi trophy. But he probably respects the hell out of him now. 
"You certainly never take it for granted; it's hard to get to this point. You've got to work pretty hard. There's a lot of teams that have worked hard, but certain things have to go your way and you've got to win a lot of games, you've got to put a lot of practice in, a lot of preparation to get to this point. It's as exciting as it is."

Isaiah Thomas won't make trip to Oklahoma City for Sunday game

Isaiah Thomas won't make trip to Oklahoma City for Sunday game

BOSTON – Facing Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook with a fully healthy squad is tough. 
Doing so without your leading scorer makes the challenge all that much greater. 
That is where the Celtics find themselves heading into Sunday night’s game against the Thunder without Isaiah Thomas, who did not travel with the team when they left for Oklahoma City today. 
Boston’s leading scorer this season with 26 points per game, Thomas suffered a right groin injury against Houston on Dec. 5 and has missed the Celtics’ past two games because of it. 
He was hoping to convince Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to let him travel with the team, but Thomas acknowledged convincing Ainge was a long shot. 
“He’s not really in favor of me going,” Thomas told reporters on Friday. “I’m trying to convince them to let me go. If I’m there, they know I’m going to try and play. I’m shooting for Wednesday [at San Antonio] for the most part. That’s more realistic than Sunday. Hopefully I can play on Wednesday.”
Boston has split the two games with Thomas out, beating the you-know-what out of Orlando 117-87 on the road, but dropping one at home 101-94 to Toronto on Friday night. 
As disappointed as Thomas is with not being able to play – it’s the first games he has missed since the 2014-2015 season – he understands the potential problems that could surface with an injury like this if he and the Celtics aren’t careful. 
“They keep wanting to be very patient with this,” Thomas said. “They don’t want to re-injure it. It is an injury that can get re-injured and be a problem the rest of the season. I don’t want that. On top of that, it gives me time to heal all the other injuries I have.”
Among the other injuries Thomas was referring to, is a still-swollen finger on his left (shooting) hand. 
The injury was believed to have happened on Nov. 12 against Indiana. 
While it was painfully sore, it didn’t seem to be an issue in Boston’s next game against New Orleans when he scored a season-high 37 points. He followed that up with a 30-point performance in a 90-83 win over Dallas.

Heinen looking to show his offense in his shot on Krejci line

Heinen looking to show his offense in his shot on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins mixed things up with their roster a bit on Saturday after dropping a couple of games in a row to Washington and Colorado. 

Fourth-line energy winger Noel Acciari and playmaking forward Danton Heinen were called up from Providence and will be in the lineup against the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden on Saturday night. 
Acciari went to Providence the past couple of days to get some game action in after missing the past month with a lower body injury, but clearly showed he’s ready to go. 

So, Acciari is back to provide the same hard-hitting and energy he showed before he was hurt and Heinen is looking to show off a little more offense than in his first stint with the Black and Gold this season. He’ll be featured in a top role as left wing with David Krejci and David Backes and with marching orders to shoot the puck like he never shot it in his previous stint in Boston. 

For the Bruins, it’s about getting another look at a candidate to play left wing beside Krejci with both Ryan Spooner and Tim Schaller, with limitations to their respective games, unable to fully grasp that same opportunity. 

“My hope is that Heinen can come in and give us some good hockey. He’s a skill player and he’s been down there for a while, and he’s back up again because he’s been playing well,” said Claude Julien of the Bruins rookie, who had four goals and seven points in his past five games with Providence. “Hopefully he can play well here also. It’s about getting some confidence. When he went down to [the AHL] the pace of his game had to get a little bit better, and in the battles coming up with the puck along the walls. Those are the kinds of things we thought he could work on down in Providence.”

Heinen knows he needs to shoot the puck a bit more to show off his offense after a seven-game stint with the Bruins where he went scoreless, was a minus-2 and had just six shots on net.

“Being hard on the walls, playing fast and shooting the puck, those were all things I was working on [in Providence],” said Heinen, who has seven goals and 13 points in 13 games for the P-Bruins after being assigned to Providence. “I was doing what they told me to do [in Providence] and that’s shoot the puck. They were going in, and I was getting some good opportunities on the power play. It’s seriously tough to get chances [at the NHL level], so you can’t pass them up when you have chances. That was kind of my focus down there.”

Fellow fourth-line energy winger Anton Blidh has been shipped to Providence after three solid games with the Black and Gold. 

Julien said Blidh goes back to Providence having adequately shown that he can play in the NHL. He clearly showed the Bruins that he understands his role as a player that stirs things up a bit and gets his nose dirty on a regular basis.

“[Blidh] was fine. No issues there. He does his job. He plays with lots of energy and obviously he’s getting more experience. He’s a lot better at understanding his positioning within the game and what he has to do,” said Julien. “I thought he helped us out for the time that he was here.”

With Heinen and Acciari both in the lineup and Blidh back in Providence, that means Jimmy Hayes will be scratched after dressing for three of the past four games for Boston.