Celtics battling back after another slow start

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Celtics battling back after another slow start

ATLANTA A new season, a new hole for the Celtics to dig themselves out of.

While the reasons have varied as to why the C's have had their annual slow start, there's no denying that it has become a pattern.

Now with the momentum that comes with back-to-back defensive-fueled victories, the Celtics have a feeling that they are indeed on the verge of turning the corner on their season just like they did a year ago.

Heck, they even have an identical 16-17 record as last season's squad at this point, a team that advanced to the Eastern Conference finals and came within a game of knocking off eventual NBA champion Miami Heat.

"Last year, it wasn't like we were trying to get in a rut so we could fight our way out of it," said Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. "We just were in one. And we made a couple changes and it worked."

The most significant shift made by last year's group was the decision by Rivers to make Kevin Garnett the team's primary center.

Garnett in the middle created a matchup problem for opposing teams, and that created a major boost for the Celtics when it came to winning games.

After muddling around .500, the C's were an impressive 20-8 after the all-star break.

This season's most significant move thus far has been Doc Rivers' decision to revert back to the lineup he had to close out last season which included Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass starting games along with Boston's Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo.

That unit has two starts this season -- both wins.

And barring injuries, it's unlikely that Rivers will tinker with that group for the remainder of this season.

Bradley's recovery slowed the process of Rivers reverting back to his most successful lineup. But that was just one of the many challenges he has faced in molding together a team that looks and plays differently than last year's club.

"This year, we brought in a lot of new players," Rivers said. "I don't think people understand it. People say Rondo, Kevin and Paul and think it's the same team. It's not. It's a completely different team. It takes time. It's taken longer than I would like."

But it's coming together, slowly but surely.

"We just have to keep playing hard, playing together," Bradley told CSNNE.com. "That's what the Celtics are about. That's what we did last year and that's what we're starting to do a better job of right now."

Bennett back at practice, but admits injuries hurting his play

Bennett back at practice, but admits injuries hurting his play

FOXBORO -- Martellus Bennett is willing to admit it. 

"Last week was probably my worst game as a Patriot," he told reporters in the locker room on Thursday. "But, you know, you have a bad game here and there. This week, come back grinding, and get ready."

Never was it more clear than on Sunday that Bennett has been hobbled by the injuries he's dealing with. He's coped with an ankle injury since Week 5 in Cleveland that has earned him the respect of his teammates and coaches, but against the Rams it appeared to severely impact his performance. 

He saw four targets and caught two for four yards. As a blocker -- the facet of his game that stood out more than his receiving ability early this season -- he was called for two holds and had difficulty keeping his assignments in check, both in the run game and in pass protection. 

Asked if he may benefit from a week off, Bennett said he planned to continue to play.

"I never thought about that. I just keep going," he said. "I'm like the energizer bunny. I just try to find a way. Sometimes it's [expletive] when you're out there playing with different injuries. You can't do a lot of things that you want to do. You have [expletive] plays. You might have a string of bad plays in a row just because youre dealing with different things . . . 

"But throughout the game you kind of find a way to get the job done. I think that's the biggest point. It may not be pretty all the time, but try to figure some kind of way to get it done. Sometimes it's adjusting as the game goes on."

He added: "The thing about this sport is it's always something. You never go throuigh a season without having some kind of nick or tear, but there's a lot of guys playing with different things. But some guys are able to play through different injuries, and [with] some of the same injuries, you see guys around the league . . . go on IR and things like that. But it just depends on the person and their pain tolerance."

Bennett was back at practice Thursday after he wasn't spotted there on Wednesday. He may be helped by the long week leading up to Monday's game against the Ravens. It could mean an extra day of rest and recovery.

Sometimes, he said, it's difficult not to be out there.

"Sometimes. Sometimes it's like, thank God. I needed that today," he said. "It varies each week. . . I'll fight through whatever and I think that's something that my teammates and coaches know about me that I'm going to try to give them everything I got no matter what."

Tim Thomas ranked one of top 40 goalies on very weird list

Tim Thomas ranked one of top 40 goalies on very weird list

The NHL Network is terrific. Its programming is the best of any of the four major sports leagues’ channels, its talent is outstanding and it shows a lot of cool games across various leagues.  

Players mess up though. 

In the network’s recently released ranking of the 40 best goaltenders of all time, the Bruins were well-represented, but so too was insanity. We’re talking Jonathan Quick in the top 20 (No. 16!), Marc-Andre Fleury top 25 (No. 21!) and Corey Crawford top 30 (No. 26!). Those are just a few of the head-scratchers. 

Tim Thomas was one of seven Bruins on the list, coming in at No. 27. Other Bruins ranked were Bernie Parent (No. 12), Frank Brimsek (No. 23), Rogie Vachon (No. 25), Tiny Thompson (No. 28), Gerry Cheevers (No. 29), Andy Moog (No. 36). Here's the full list, per Mark Lazerus. 

Statistically, Tuukka Rask deserves a place on this list if Fleury and Crawford are going to be that high, but we’ll save the Rask arguments for literally every other second of my life. 

[OK, real quick: Rask has the highest career save percentage of all time. Quick sits No. 17 and Fleury is 32nd. This doesn’t need to be completely statistics based, but it also shouldn’t be completely how-many-Cup-teams-were-on-based. Honestly, I can’t tell what this list is based on at all. Like Cristobal Huet had a better career save percentage than Fleury has.]

Anyway, everyone else hated the list, too.