Celtics-Bucks preview: C's strong at home


Celtics-Bucks preview: C's strong at home

BOSTON After what has been a slow, tumultuous start by the Boston Celtics, the road back to respectability begins at home.

And lately, home has been a good place for the Celtics who come into tonight's game against Milwaukee (again, I know) having won their last five at the TD Garden.

This will be the fourth and final regular season matchup between these two teams.

Leading the charge for Boston at home has been their defense which has been noticeably better.

During their current five game winning streak at home, the C's are giving up 91.4 points per game. For the It is that kind of play that the C's have to figure out how to maintain both at home as well as on the road where the Celtics are just 4-8.

And while there's still plenty of season left to be played, they know the goals they have set for themselves this season will be easier to accomplish the sooner they start putting together some wins.

"I know we're in December, but games are games," said Celtics big man Kevin Garnett. "We gotta figure out what we want to do and be consistent with it."

They're starting to do that at home, a trend they clearly want to stick with tonight against a Milwaukee Bucks team that's also hovering around .500.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Paul Pierce carried the C's to a season-high 40 points on Wednesday. No one should expect another night like that from the Captain, but he really does have to deliver 20 or so points consistently for this team to win.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs Larry Sanders: Now that Garnett is back to playing the power forward spot, we'll see if that helps him do a better job on Sanders who has emerged as one of the league's most improved players this season. This season, Sanders is averaging 12.7 points and 11.7 rebounds against the Celtics.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jeff Green has been in a bit of an offensive lull lately, but the Bucks just might be what he needs to snap out of it. Some of Green's best play this season has come against Milwaukee, a team that he averages 13.7 points per game against this season while shooting 57.1 percent from the field.

STAT TO TRACK: A solid night defensively by the Celtics should lead to plenty of fast-break opportunities against a Milwaukee team that has had issues with their transition defense. The Bucks give up 16.3 points on fast breaks per game this season which ranks last in the NBA. That should help the C's improve upon their 13.5 fast break points per game average which ranks 16th in the league.

Bruins recall Subban, Khudobin leaves practice early


Bruins recall Subban, Khudobin leaves practice early

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- The B’s goaltending carousel continued on Monday with young netminder Malcolm Subban getting recalled by the NHL club on emergency recall after Zane McIntyre was sent back down to the P-Bruins on Sunday. Subban started on the ice with the rest of the team at Monday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena along with Anton Khudobin, but the Russian backup goalie departed the ice early from Monday’s practice presumably with some kind of issue.

Subban has been pulled from two of his four starts for Providence this season, and the former first round pick is 0-3-1 with 4.50 goals against average and .846 save percentage after coming back from last season’s fractured larynx injury.

Tuukka Rask was once again absent from the practice ice, and hasn’t skated with the team since last playing in Thursday night’s win over the New Jersey Devils while clearly dealing with a lower body injury. So the Bruins ended Monday’s practice with only Subban between the pipes, and a swiss-cheese-like blue shooting tarp covering the other net for the B’s shooters.

With that in mind, here are the line combos and D-pairings for Monday’s practice with the Minnesota Wild coming to town on Tuesday:







Liles-C. Miller



Khudobin (left early) 

Belichick: Kickers are like golfers; have to hit driver, sand wedge, 5-iron


Belichick: Kickers are like golfers; have to hit driver, sand wedge, 5-iron

In searching for answers on what might be going on with Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski, coach Bill Belichick was asked on Monday if there was any chance that Gostkowski's mechanics on kickoffs may be affecting his field goals. With the new touchback rule encouraging the Patriots to use more "pop-up" kicks to the goal line this season, might Gostkowski's swing have been altered?

Belichick said that the two plays are separate and that the Patriots expect Gostkowski to be able to execute a whole series of different types of kicks as part of his job.

"Well, I think they’re definitely different," Belichick said on a conference call. "I don’t think there’s any question about that. I mean, it would be like a golfer. You’ve got to be able to hit a sand wedge. You’ve got to be able to hit a five-iron. You’ve got to be able to drive. You’ve got to be able to putt.

"That’s what kickers and punters do. There’s plus-50 punts, there’s field goals, there’s kickoffs, there’s backed-up punts, there’s punts against a heavy rush, there’s punts against a six-man box where the gunners both are getting double-teamed. And just like golf, there’s wind conditions and not wind conditions and so forth. So it’s not like like you’re standing out there in a driving range and just banging the ball away every time. Especially on place kicks, you’re dealing with a center and a holder and timing on the play. It’s not like you’re just placing the ball down there on a tee and kicking it like you are a golf ball or a kickoff.

"Yeah, they’re definitely different, and whether it’s a punter or a kicker you’re talking about, they have to master different skills, different kicks, different types of kicks, different things that are specific to their position, just like every other player and every other athlete, for the most part, has to do. If you’re a basketball player, you just can’t shoot free throws. You’ve got to be able to make some other shots, too. That’s part of the position, being able to do the things that are required of that position, and they’re not all the same. I don’t think they’re all the same for anybody."

Belichick was also asked about how Gostkowski is coached. There are position-specific coaches with every NFL franchise, but when it comes to special teams, there is typically a special-teams coordinator and little else. There is no kicking coach, generally, nor a position coach dedicated to punting or snapping. 

Belichick said that he feels the team has enough support in place, starting with special teams coach Joe Judge, in order to help Gostkowski through his difficult stretch.

"I think Joe’s very knowledgable about the techniques of kicking," Belichick said. "I know when I became a special teams coach and coached special teams for many years as an assistant coach, and I continue to be involved with it as a head coach, that’s one of the things I had to learn. I had to learn how to coach those individual specialists, the snappers, the kickers, the punters, the returners. I don’t think it’s any different than coaching any other position. Things you don’t know, you need to learn. The things you do know, you need to be able to teach to the players, however you acquire that information.

"Some of that certainly comes from the players, especially when you coach good players at the position that you’re coaching, you can learn a lot from them, just like I learned a lot from many of the players that I coached. Going back to people like Dave Jennings as a punts or Carl Banks or Lawrence Taylor or Pepper [Johnson], guys like that, as linebackers with the Giants. However you acquire that information, you acquire it and you have to be able to convey it and teach it to the players and recognize technique or judgment.

"There’s a whole host of things that go into performance, but all the things that are related to those; be able to figure out which ones are the most important and which ones need to be corrected and so forth. I think Joe’s very knowledgeable on that, as was Scott O’Brien. I have a lot of experience with that myself. That’s what coaching is. You don’t know, then you’ve got to find out. Nobody knows everything. No coach knows everything about every position. Maybe a guy’s played it for a decade, he might be well-versed in that position. But I’d say for the most of the rest of us that haven’t done that, things you don’t know, you’ve got to learn, you’ve got to find out, you’ve got to figure them out."