Celtics prove they're still a defensive power

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Celtics prove they're still a defensive power

BOSTON Doc Rivers found himself doing something he hasn't been able to do in quite a while - praise his team's play defensively.

For all that went the Boston Celtics' way in their 96-78 win over Portland - and there were a lot of things working for them - it was the C's defense that stood out.

"Our defense was fantastic," Rivers said.

Boston's defensive success was due in part to some tweaking on Rivers' part in terms of their coverage schemes in addition to more trapping.

After Wednesday's loss to Brooklyn, the C's came into Friday's game looking to not just win but win on their terms.

And around here, that means putting teams away with strong play defensively.

The C's did just that, especially in the first half when they limited the Blazers to just 33 points on 23.3 percent shooting.

So much for the Celtics being "soft," huh?

That four-letter word - Rivers' description of his team after their loss to the Nets on Wednesday - resonated with the players in the hours leading up to Friday's victory.

"Me individually I took that personal," said Courtney Lee. "I feel that I'm far from being soft. And I think our team took it personal, too."

Especially on defense where the Blazers simply had no breathing room to speak off inside the paint or on the perimeter.

Portland coach Terry Stotts was well aware of how the C's were probably going to play with an extra bit of motivation following Rivers' comments.

"Boston came out really aggressive," Stotts said. "Doc called them a soft team and they came out aggressive."

In addition to limiting the Blazers shooting (they connected on just 34.8 percent of their shots for the game), the Celtics also forced 23 turnovers which led to 18 points.

"We did a couple things different, trapping, it was great," Rivers said.

But maybe most significant, the Celtics were playing Celtics basketball which starts with strong play defensively.

Rivers had a relatively hard practice on Thursday and the C's went pretty hard during Friday morning's shoot-around which is a bit unusual.

But when you look at the result, an impressive win at home, it's hard to argue with Rivers' method of motivation.

"We've got to get our culture right in that way," he said. "And we've got a long way to go, but we're getting better. You can see it, for sure."

Belichick: Brady-less Patriots ‘just really focused on Buffalo’

Belichick: Brady-less Patriots ‘just really focused on Buffalo’

FOXBORO -  A verrrrrryyyy long time ago, the Patriots targeted September. There were t-shirts and everything printed back in 2002 as the Patriots came off of their first Super Bowl title.

The names of that season’s first four opponents – Steelers, Jets, Chiefs and Chargers – were all listed on a bullseye.

How’d that work out? Well, they hit the bullseye for most of September, winning the first three. Then they lost four in a row and the notion of “targeting” a segment of the schedule around these parts went the way of the Dodo bird.

Which may be why, as truly remarkable as this September’s been, Bill Belichick isn’t taking any bows after three damn wins.

“We’re just really focused on Buffalo,” Belichick told me Friday morning when I asked about whether winning the first three in the face of some adversity was a point of pride. “I don’t really care about last week. I don’t really care about two weeks ago. I don’t really care about last year. I don’t really care about four years ago. I don’t really care. I think we’re just trying to get ready and compete against Buffalo. That’s our challenge this week.

“The rest of it – it’s in the books. It is what it is,” he said. “So write whatever you want to write about it. It’s good, it’s bad, I mean I don’t really care. It’s done. We’ve got to do a good job of what we have here with Buffalo. We can’t live in the past. And I respect where you’re coming from, I really do. It’s not like I’m trying to be dismissive of it, but I really don’t care. It doesn’t really matter. Nothing that happened last year, last week, last month really has anything to do with this week.”

Things change after Sunday. The best player the franchise has ever had rejoins a team that – in spite of the adversity – flourished without him. Even though the competition wasn’t what one would call “stiff” compared to challenges Brady faced as recently as last January, it’s still remarkable.

Asked about Brady’s looming return, wide receiver Julian Edelman also redirected.

“We got a game before that,” he pointed out. “When he comes back we'll obviously be happy but we got a job ahead of us with the Buffalo Bills.” 

Asked if there’s some pride taken in the beginning, Edelman replied, “It’s just having pride in your job in general. Really just focusing every week and trying to improve. I say it every week on these cameras, if you try to get better and you get better every week, you're gonna do these things. 

“It tells you that you have a mentally tough team that goes out there and works hard and prepares hard and does the extra things,” Edelman added. “I've been around here a little while and that's just the mentality we've always had and continue to have. We have a tough one against the Bills and we'll see how it tests out against these guys.”

 

 

Patriots-Bills injury report: Garoppolo, Brissett listed as questionable

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Patriots-Bills injury report: Garoppolo, Brissett listed as questionable

The inury report for Sunday's Patriots-Bills game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

QUESTIONABLE
QB Jacoby Brissett (right thumb)
OT Marcus Cannon (calf)
G Jonathan Cooper (foot)
LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring)
LB Dont'a Hightower (knee)
CB Eric Rowe (ankle)

BUFFALO BILLS

OUT
OL Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle)
OL Patrick Lewis (knee)
WR Greg Salas (groin)
WR Sammy Watkins (foot)

QUESTIONABLE
DB Colt Anderson (foot)
TE Charles Clay (knee)
DB Ronald Darby (hamstring)
OL Cordy Glenn (ankle)
QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder)
DB Jonathan Meeks (foot)
DB Aaron Williams (ankle)