Brady: We were lucky to win

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Brady: We were lucky to win

It's not unusual for Tom Brady to appear upset after an ugly win.

His demeanor fit that bill Sunday evening after the Patriots narrowly escaped Jacksonville, 23-16.

"I mean, we played pretty terrible out there," he said. "It came down to the wire and our defense made some plays but that was a bad 60 minutes of football. We got out-competed out there, out-fought.

"We were lucky to win."

New England's execution was unimpressive from the start.

Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne went a perfect 6-for-6 passing on the team's first drive. The nine-play, 78-yard effort got Jacksonville on the board and ate up almost six minutes of clock.

New England's offense was equally impotent and the team went down 10-3 after the first quarter.

"We started slow -- couldnt do anything offensively, couldnt make any plays," Brady said. "They made plenty of plays. We were lucky to be in it at halftime, didnt really do anything in the second half in the run game or the passing game, so its just a poor effort overall."

Henne contributed 343 to the team's overall 436 yards of offense.

When the Patriots 'D' did step up, killing a Jacksonville drive that got down to New England's 1-yard line, the offense couldn't answer. With a seven-point lead to protect and three minutes of remaining regulation to burn, Brady and company gained just 13 yards before punting.

Patriots-Jaguars truly came down to the wire.

In his press conference last Wednesday, Brady gave 2-12 Jacksonville what seemed like undue respect. When the quarterback went on about how the Jaguars always fight to the last bell, it went even beyond the typical NFL diplomacy.

Those words turned out to be disconcertingly prophetic.

"They didnt give us anything," Brady said Sunday. "I mean, we had to fight for it and they made plenty of plays on us. It just wasnt a very good performance."

There was no, 'A win is a win' shrug to punctuate the presser's end.

The quarterback just saw too many mistakes, with too little time to correct them, before the postseason.

You get very concerned when you dont play well. Thats very evident by the way we performed," Brady said. "We better have a good week of practice or its going to be just as tough against Miami.

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.”