Celtics-Pistons review: C's are 'dead men walking'


Celtics-Pistons review: C's are 'dead men walking'

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. In this still-young NBA season, the Detroit Pistons have stood out as arguably the league's worst team for no other reason than them having the league's worst record.

But the danger with that is teams like the Boston Celtics spending more time playing the opposing team's record rather than the team.

Although the C's were beaten handily, 103-83, taking the Pistons too lightly didn't seem to be the issue.

The problem?

Boston's schedule, with Sunday's loss putting an end to a brutal seven games in 10 days stretch in which the C's were 4-3.

"Dead men walking" was how Celtics coach Doc Rivers described his team's play against the Pistons. "Give Detroit credit. I thought they played extremely hard. We just had no legs."

With the loss, the Celtics are now 4-1 this season against teams with a record of .500 or worse on the day in which they play.

Although the loss is disappointing, the Celtics have no plans to allow it to linger.

"We won't have another stretch like this the entire season," Rivers said. "When I saw the schedule, I saw that last game and thought, 'That's going to be a hard game for us to win,'" Rivers recalled. "I thought we could figure out a way to pull it out. We just couldn't."

Here are some of the keys identified prior to the game that played a role in some fashion to the Celtics losing for the first time this season to a team with a losing record.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Celtics kept Kevin Garnett's minutes down to just 17 on Saturday, which is an ideal tally on the front end of a back-to-back set of games. That had a lot to do with Boston's second unit uncharacteristically extending the team's lead when he left the game. The C's increased their lead when Garnett left the floor in all but one quarter of Saturday's 107-89 win over Toronto. It's worth monitoring to see if they can repeat that success.

WHAT WE SAW: Kevin Garnett's minutes were once again relatively low (21 minutes) and his production was not bad (15 points, four rebounds) but not great, either. But like most of his teammates, Garnett never sustained the kind of high impact the Celtics needed in order to win.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo vs. Brandon Knight: Rondo played a very Rondo-like game with 20 assists against Toronto on Saturday after missing the previous game with a right ankle sprain. Knight will be the latest up-and-coming talented point guard who will see Rondo as a litmus test as far as how they stack up to the game's premier playmakers. The second-year guard is averaging 11.3 points and 7.1 assists this season. Only two players from the 2011 draft (Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker) are averaging at least 10 points and five assists per game.

WHAT WE SAW: This matchup never materialized into much of a duel, with Knight playing just 22 minutes while scoring three points with one assist. Rondo had 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting, but only tallied a season-low 10 assists.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jared Sullinger had a nice bounce-back game with 12 points and 11 rebounds against Toronto after logging less than eight minutes in Brooklyn on Thursday. It will be interesting to see if he can bring that same level of intensity and production to the floor tonight.

WHAT WE SAW: Sullinger, playing in front of his parents and his agent David Falk, did his part in keeping this blowout loss from being a lot worst. He finished with 16 points on 7-for-12 shooting which included a jumper that gave Rajon Rondo his 10th assist and kept Rondo's double-digit assists streak alive and well at 34 games and counting.

STAT TO TRACK: With or without Rajon Rondo in the lineup, you can count on the Celtics racking up a high number of assists per game. They come into tonight's matchup averaging a league-best 25.3. For all that has gone wrong for Detroit this season, the Pistons have done a fairly decent job of limiting the assists of opponents. Teams are averaging 20.4 against Detroit this season, the sixth-best mark in the league.

WHAT WE SAW: Ball movement was a foreign concept most of the Sunday night for the Boston Celtics, as the team tallied a season-low 12 assists. "That is how it goes," said Boston's Courtney Lee. "Some nights you are on and some nights you are off."

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 a 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 allowed Brown to catch five of 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 jway 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. 

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 nine 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. 

SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Seahawks, Cardinals miss OT FGs, tie 6-6


SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Seahawks, Cardinals miss OT FGs, tie 6-6

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Seattle's Stephen Hauschka and Arizona's Chandler Catanzaro missed short field goals that would have won the game in overtime and the Seahawks and Cardinals settled for a 6-6 tie Sunday night.

Hauschka's 27-yard field goal was wide left with seven seconds left after Catanzaro's 24-yarder bounced off the left upright.

The tie was the Cardinals' first since Dec. 7, 1986, a 10-10 draw at Philadelphia when the franchise was based in St. Louis. It was the first for the Seattle since entering the NFL in 1976.

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