Celtics-Blazers preview: Bench will be counted on


Celtics-Blazers preview: Bench will be counted on

BOSTON With Rajon Rondo serving the first of his two-game suspension for fighting Brooklyn's Kris Humphries tonight, Boston has no choice but to turn to its bench.

Against the Portland Trail Blazers, that can be a good thing ... a very good thing.

The Blazers (6-9) come into tonight's game on a three-game losing skid that includes a loss to then-winless Washington.

Portland's struggles are in large part due to an ineffective bench which is averaging a league-low 12.3 points per game.

Boston's second unit is averaging 30.7 points per game which ranks 21st in the NBA.

However, the C's reserves will not be at full strength - and some might not even play tonight.

Chris Wilcox has been under the weather and was unable to finish Wednesday's loss to Brooklyn. Also, Jeff Green has a sprained right knee injury that may sideline him as well.

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

Bench play will indeed play a prominent role in tonight's matchup. Here are some other keys as the Celtics look to snap a two-game losing skid and avoid falling below-.500 at home this season.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:  Boston and Portland are the two most rebounding-challenged teams in the NBA. The C's are dead-last (out of 30 teams) at 37.1 boards per game while the Blazers are just ahead of them at No. 29, bringing in just 39.4 boards per game.

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.

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.

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.

Brady: Patriots have 'Trump' and 'Clinton' play-calls


Brady: Patriots have 'Trump' and 'Clinton' play-calls

When the Giants took on the Rams in London on Sunday, there was a point early in the second quarter when Eli Manning very clearly made a call at the line of scrimmage that was picked up by nearby broadcast microphones.

"Trump, Trump!" Manning shouted. "Trump, Trump!"

Manning insisted that it was not "Trump" that he was saying, but maybe he simply wanted to try to keep one of his team's calls under wraps for a future opponent.

On Monday morning, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, whose relationship with Donald Trump has been well-documented, was told about the Giants call on WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show.

"Oh really?" Brady said. "We got a call like that, too. We got a call. They listen to everything we say. They got the microphones, and they can pretty much hear everything . . . It goes for both teams, but I wish you wouldn't have your whole -- a lot of mechanisms in your offense are based on what you say." 

For anyone worried about equal time, Brady explained that the Patriots aren't strictly leaning to the right with their calls at the line.

"I'm telling you," he said, "Trump and Clinton. Those are our two calls."

Butler imitates Brown with post-interception dance: 'Nothing personal'


Butler imitates Brown with post-interception dance: 'Nothing personal'

Malcolm Butler didn't mean any disrespect. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. 


When the Patriots corner picked off a Landry Jones pass in the first quarter -- one that was intended for receiver Antonio Brown -- Butler stood up in the end zone, faced the Heinz Field crowd, stuck one arm in the air But and gyrated like someone had attached jumper cables to his facemask. 

He was doing his best to mimick one of Brown's well-known touchdown dances.

"Me and Brown had conversation before," Butler said, "and it was a joke to him once I showed him how I do it. Much love for that guy. Nothing personal."

For Butler, it was the highlight of what was a productive afternoon. The third-year corner was asked to shadow Brown for much of the day, and he held Brown to five catches on nine targets for 94 yards. He also broke up a pair of passes intended for Brown's teammates.

“Stopping Antonio Brown, that’s impossible," Butler said. "You can’t stop him. You can only slow him down. I just went out there and tried to compete today . . . Great players are going to make plays but you have to match their intensity.”
Even on the longest throw from backup quarterback Landry Jones to Brown, a 51-yarder, it appeared as though Butler played the coverage called correctly. 

Butler lined up across from Brown and trailed him underneath as Brown worked his way from the left side of the field to the right. Butler was looking for some help over the top in that scenario, seemingly, but because Brown ran across the formation, it was hard for the back end of the defense to figure out who would be helping Butler. 

Coach Bill Belichick admitted as much after the game. 

"He was on [Brown] a lot the way we set it up," Belichick said. "Look, they've got great players. They're tough to cover. They hit us on a couple over routes, in cut where they kind of ran away from the coverage that we had. 

"The plays were well designed. Good scheme, good thorws and obviously good routes by Brown. They got us on a couple, but I thought we competed hard. We battled all the way. We battled on third down. We battled in the red area. They made some. We made some, but they're good. They have a lot of good players."

And Brown, in particular, is about as close as it gets to unstoppable in the NFL. Butler found that out in Week 1 of last year when he matched up with Brown in his first game as a starter, giving up 9 catches for 133 yards to the All-Pro wideout. 

Though Sunday might not have been perfect for Butler, it was better than that day about 14 months ago. And at times, it was worth dancing about.