Celtics-Hawks review: Bradley's effort sparks Celtics

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Celtics-Hawks review: Bradley's effort sparks Celtics

ATLANTA Avery Bradley like most of his Boston Celtics teammates, didn't come out playing well to start the game.

"That first half, I didn't have any energy," he told CSNNE.com. "But I came at halftime and told myself, I have to find that energy somewhere and that's what I did; I played as hard as I could."

And Bradley's effort is indeed becoming contagious with his Celtics teammates stepping up their play defensively as well in the second half as Boston rallied for an 89-81 win over Atlanta.

Bradley had six points and four rebounds, but numbers do little justice when it comes to explaining the impact he has made on the C's in just his second game back.

His ability to pick up ball-handlers the full length of the court has a tendency to wear down opponents, evident by Atlanta's guards turning the ball over six times in the second half after not committing a single turnover in the first half.

"I just wanted to give everything I could give. That's what I did," Bradley said.

For all that went right for the C's in the second half, Celtics coach Doc Rivers pointed out that the play of his perimeter players defensively was instrumental.

"We pressured the ball with our two guards (Bradley and Rajon Rondo) and that made a huge difference," Rivers said.

Here are some other keys highlighted prior to the game, and how they actually played out as the Celtics (16-17) string together back-to-back wins for the first time in nearly a month (Dec. 8 and Dec. 12).

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: A big part of Boston's success against the Pacers on Friday was their ability to hold their own on the boards. In fact, Boston was plus-2 on the boards which is a major coup for them. They will look to be just as good or better tonight.

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics pulled off a rare feat in out-rebounding an opponent two games in a row. Boston was plus-8 (44-36) on the boards against the Hawks who have also had their struggles on the board. Like Boston, the league's worst rebounding team, Atlanta is also ranked in the bottom 10 (No. 24) with 49 rebounds per game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs Al Horford: Both have the ability to score around the basket as well as facing the basket. But Horford's experience and youthfulness give him a slight edge over the future Hall of Famer.

WHAT WE SAW: Garnett was an efficient scorer (14 points, 7-for-12 shooting) who did a much better job on the boards than his five rebounds would indicated. Meanwhile, Horford's impact was never felt offensively (6 points, 2-for-8 shooting) and his nine rebounds didn't do much to help the Hawks' efforts, either.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jason Terry could use a stretch of consistent play which isn't coming anytime soon for the Celtics. Against the Pacers, he missed six of his eight shots from the field and finished with six points.

WHAT WE SAW: Terry had another less-than-stellar night shooting the ball, scoring four points on 2-for-8 shooting despite the Celtics making an effort to free him up for shots. Still, he was part of a perimeter defensive unit that stymied the Atlanta guards in the second half.

STAT TO TRACK: Boston should capitalize on an Atlanta team that sends opposing teams to the free throw line - a lot. Hawks opponents are averaging 14.5 free throws made and 18.4 free throw attempts - both league highs.

WHAT WE SAW: Free throw shooting was never a factor in tonight's outcome, although the Celtics know they have to do better than 8-for-12 from the line.

Julien: 'A lot of problematic things' in Bruins loss to Avalanche

Julien: 'A lot of problematic things' in Bruins loss to Avalanche

BOSTON – The Bruins simply weren’t ready to play on Thursday night when the puck was dropped against the Colorado Avalanche at TD Garden. 

They fell down quickly by a 2-0 score, had a couple of completely inept power plays in the first period that sucked all the game’s momentum away from them and received some subpar goaltending from Anton Khudobin on the way to a 4-2 loss to the lowly Avs. About the only B’s person above reproach in this one was David Pastrnak after scoring a pair of goals in the second period to get Boston back into the game, but it all fell short in a very frustrating, lackadaisical loss to a Western Conference team that isn’t very good. 

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Needless to say B’s coach Claude Julien wasn’t too happy after a loss where the Bruins might have had more success with a smarter approach to holding the puck. 

“There were a lot of problematic things [in the loss]. No doubt that the power play could have helped us in the first period, and failed to do that. They’ve got to be better,” said Julien. “We needed some saves tonight, and we didn’t get them. [Anton Khudobin] has got to be better. 

“A lot of things here that we can be better at, and take responsibility [for]. But at the same time, you got to move on here.  It’s one of those nights that had we been smarter from the get go, we would have had a chance.”

Clearly it was about a lacking group effort when dissecting the loss, and the minus-3 for David Krejci on Thursday night marked back-to-back negative performances from the playmaking Czech center in big spots. The goaltending was shoddy with Anton Khudobin allowing four goals on 22 shots for Colorado, and unable to make plays on a couple of Colorado shots from outside the painted area that built up the Avs lead in the first place. 

But it was also very much about the inability of the Bruins to generate consistent offense outside of David Pastrnak’s offensive burst in the second period, and the complete breakdown of the Boston power play in the opening 20 minutes. The Bruins struggled to enter the zone in their first PP possession of the game, and then allowed a Nathan MacKinnon shorthanded goal after Torey Krug futilely dove at the blue line to try and keep the puck in the offensive zone. 

The Krug misplay at the offensive blue line gave MacKinnon a clear path the net, and he buried a wrist shot past Khudobin to get the one-sided loss rolling. Beyond the costly mistakes that ended up in the back of the net, the Bruins looked sloppy and slow-reacting in their breakouts and more than willing to settle for outside perimeter shots.

That doesn’t exactly make for a winning combo even when it comes against a flawed, underachieving team like Colorado, and especially when it comes less than 24 hours after a hard-fought road game in Washington DC. 

“I think we were still sleeping there early in the game and they were able to capitalize on their opportunities. We couldn’t claw our way back,” said Brad Marchand, who picked up an assist on David Pastrnak’s second goal of the night on a perfect dish for the one-timer. “I think it was definitely a mental [block]. You’re able to battle through that physical fatigue. It was more the mental mistakes and not being prepared right off the hop of the start of the game. Again, that’s kind of where we lost it.”

The sleepwalking Bruins lost Thursday night’s valuable two points as soon as the opening puck was dropped against the Avalanche, of course, and the Bruins never got out of lollygag mode at a time when intensity should have been automatic. 

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Chiefs top Raiders 21-13, take AFC West lead

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THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Chiefs top Raiders 21-13, take AFC West lead

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Tyreek Hill had touchdowns receiving and on a punt return, Kansas City's defense made life miserable for Oakland quarterback Derek Carr, and the Chiefs beat the Raiders 21-13 on a frigid Thursday night to take control of the AFC West.

Charcandrick West also had a touchdown run for the Chiefs (10-3). They moved into a first-place tie with Oakland (10-3) but holds the tiebreaker with two wins over their longtime divisional rival.

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