Celtics-Raptors review: What we saw


Celtics-Raptors review: What we saw

BOSTON When you're a "professional" scorer like Paul Pierce, points have a way of coming in all kinds of ways.

Lately, Pierce has been making a living from the free throw line with Saturday's 107-89 win over Toronto being no exception.

Pierce had 19 points while going to the line for six attempts (all makes) which led all players.

It was a solid performance, albeit below his season average coming into the game of 10.6 free throws per game which prior to the game ranked fifth in the NBA.

Getting to the free throw line more was among the goals Pierce set for himself this season.

To do so would be a departure of sorts from how things have played out since he joined forces with Kevin Garnett prior to the 2007-2008 season.

Since Garnett's arrival and the C's immediately became a perennial title contender, Pierce has finished no better than 14th in the league in free throw attempts.

The year before Garnett arrived, he was eighth in the league with 8.6 free throw attempts per game. In 2005 and 2006, Pierce ranked 10th and fourth, respectively.

"We all know what the Captain can do," C's guard Jason Terry told CSNNE.com. "When he's attacking, being aggressive out there, it only makes us a better team. And if you can get him to the free throw line, that's easy points for both him and our team."

A career 80.8 percent free throw shooter, Pierce is connecting on 82 percent of his free throws this season.

In addition to Pierce getting to the line, there were other factors identified as potential keys to Saturday's game. Here's a review of those key factors, and how they actually played out as the C's defeated Toronto for the ninth straight time at home.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Celtics have not exactly lit up the scoreboard to start games, ranking 20th in first-quarter points with 23.2 per game. But that could change today against a Raptors team that tends to dig itself an early ditch by giving up 26.4 points in the first quarter which ranks 28th in the league.

WHAT WE SAW: True to form, the Raptors put themselves in an early ditch that the Celtics refused to let them completely dig their way out of on Saturday. Boston led 30-17 after the first. The 30 points scored in the first quarter were just three less than the C's season-high of points scored in the first (33 at Chicago, Nov. 12).

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs Andrea Bargnani: Garnett and Brandon Bass will likely switch off at times on Bargnani whose length and perimeter-shooting skills make him a scoring threat whenever you play the Raptors.

WHAT WE SAW: Garnett was an efficient impact player at both ends of the floor. Along with his 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting, Garnett also did a decent job of not allowing Bargnani to get into any kind of flow.

PLAYER TO WATCH: To the surprise of many, DeMar DeRozan landed an unusually large multi-year extension worth 40 million over four years last month. To his credit, he has put up some decent numbers this season - 20 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.

WHAT WE SAW: This wasn't one of DeRozan's better games, tallying 10 points on 5-for-10 shooting from the field. It was a decent night shooting the ball, but at no point did it feel as though he had a major impact on the game, good or bad.

STAT TO TRACK: The C's have been a decent 3-point shooting team this season, ranking 11th in the league at 36.8 percent per game. That number will likely see a spike today against a Raptors team that has had problems defending perimeter shots all season. Opponents are shooting 41.3 percent on 3s against Toronto, the second-worst 3-point percentage defense in the NBA.

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics were pretty consistent with most teams when it comes to shooting 3s against the Raptors, as the C's connected on 6-for-15 shooting (40 percent). But with so many easy looks off the dribble or on mid-range attempts, the Celtics didn't need the 3-ball that much to be effective.

Randy Moss: Roger Goodell is 'biggest reason' for NFL's problems

Randy Moss: Roger Goodell is 'biggest reason' for NFL's problems

With the NFL facing more PR issues by the day, Randy Moss has identified what he feels is wrong with a league that can’t seem to stay out of trouble.

In wake of the Josh Brown situation, which saw the NFL blame the King County (Wash.) Sheriff’s Office for the lack of initial punishment given to the Giants kicker for domestic violence, Moss said on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown that commissioner Roger Goodell is the league’s biggest problem. 

“[This is] a bad time to show up now, breast cancer awareness month where we’re supporting the women, and then you come up with this Josh Brown, where it doesn’t seem like we are supporting women,” Moss said. “I think the NFL needs to take a deep look. I think the owners are mad, and Roger Goodell, he is the biggest reason to all of this stuff that’s fallen downhill with the NFL. I have to agree with that.”

Brown was initially given a one-game suspension for violating the league’s conduct policy stemming from his 2015 fourth-degree domestic violence charge. On Friday, the 37-year-old was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list. 

Steelers know they'll have their hands full with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett


Steelers know they'll have their hands full with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett

PITTSBURGH – So far this season, Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski have combined for 39 catches, 644 yards and five touchdowns. Making the numbers that much more impressive is the fact the numbers were rolled up with Gronk inactive for two games and fairly useless in another thanks to his hamstring injury.

Will the Steelers slow the roll of Robellus Grennetski?

Hard to imagine. As Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette points out, Gronk alone has tuned up the Steelers with 26 receptions for 403 yards and seven touchdowns in six meetings.

Fittipaldo explored the strategies the Steelers defense may unveil Sunday afternoon when the Patriots and Steelers get going. He also pointed out that the return of linebacker Ryan Shazier after a three week layoff and injuries for safeties Mike Mitchell and Robert Golden may put Pittsburgh at a disadvantage.

Said Shazier: “They have the tandem they want at tight end. Now they can use tight ends the way they want. You have to respect everyone on the field. Both of them are good blockers, good pass threats and great at running after the catch.”

Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler said Pittsburgh will alter its approaches.

“We have to be able to play more than one defense,” Butler said. “They’re very good and they’ll pick you apart if they can figure out what you’re doing. We just have to execute the defense more than anything else. If we can do that … that’s been our problem for the most part. Some of the things that went on last week, we missed some things we should have made mentally.”

What “went on last week” was a 30-15 loss to the Dolphins.

Pittsburgh hasn’t been a big-play group so far -- eight sacks and three picks -- nor have they seen a gauntlet of great quarterbacks in the first six games. 

Interestingly, their losses have been to Ryan Tannehill and rookie Carson Wentz, probably the two quarterbacks one would figure Pittsburgh would do best against.
Between a smoking hot Brady and a can’t-be-stopped tight end tandem, there’s probably not a lot Pittsburgh can do aside from hoping for an off day.

Said linebacker Arthur Moats hopefully: “You have to continue to mix it up against (Gronkowski). You can’t give him the same look over and over. He has success on guys like that. If we disrupt him, and rush Brady and speed up his clock, I definitely think that will help out.”

In theory, perhaps. In practice? We’ll see.