Celtics-Sixers preview: C's still trying to shake 'soft' label


Celtics-Sixers preview: C's still trying to shake 'soft' label

PHILADELPHIA Even now the subject of the Boston Celtics being a "soft" team still comes up - and it's not from the media.

It's from the Celtics players who still feel the sting of their coaches' assessment following a loss to Brooklyn last month.

"We're a soft team right now; we have no toughness," C's coach Doc Rivers said following a 95-83 loss to Brooklyn on Nov. 28 that also involved Rajon Rondo being ejected.

Following Boston's 104-94 win over Minnesota on Wednesday, Kevin Garnett was asked about the team's rebounding performance which led him down the road of discussing toughness which then took a detour down the road of being labeled a "soft" team by Rivers.

"Obviously being called soft is not something that you want to be called," Garnett said. "It still lives in the back of our minds. Work in progress, man."

Since the Brooklyn loss, the Celtics have tried to go about proving their coach wrong with a brand of basketball that's reminiscent of the days not that long ago when the Celtics had a defense that teams feared.

Boston has held its last three opponents to 94 or less points scored. Prior to the Brooklyn loss, C's opponents cracked the 100-point plateau in five of the previous six games.

"We've got a long way to go, but we're getting better," Rivers said. "You can see it, for sure."

The Sixers have been one of the few teams in recent years to find success against Boston with wins in four of their last six regular season matchups.

Rivers and his players are all too aware of their recent struggles against the Sixers.

"I've always said consistency has always been our biggest question mark," Garnett said. "Philly always plays us tough, and we have a back-to-back (the two meet again Saturday in Boston). Let's see how consistent we can be with this."

Here are a few keys to tonight's game as the Celtics try to take another step towards shedding that "soft" label put on them by their head coach.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Kevin Garnett was so good against Minnesota because he got the ball so often on the block with plenty of time on the shot clock. Getting Garnett lots of early touches offensively usually works out well for the C's over the course of a game. Knowing this and actually doing it, that's another story.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jason Terry vs. Jason Richardson: Terry has been in a nice groove lately, scoring at least 13 points in each of the Celtics' last four games. The C's will need more of that, especially with Richardson struggling the way he has shooting the ball recently.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Brandon Bass had a stretch in the third quarter of Boston's win over Minnesota in which he was the best scorer on the floor. Finding a stretch like that against the Sixers will bode well both for him and the Celtics' chances of winning.

STAT TO TRACK: The third quarter is usually a big one for both teams. The Celtics average 24.9 points in the third which ranks seventh in the league, while the Sixers are giving up just 23 points in the third quarter which is the sixth-lowest average in the league.

Brandon Pirri scores twice, Rangers rally to beat Bruins 5-2


Brandon Pirri scores twice, Rangers rally to beat Bruins 5-2

NEW YORK - Brandon Pirri scored twice to help the New York Rangers beat the Boston Bruins 5-2 on Wednesday night.

Rick Nash, Kevin Hayes and Jimmy Vesey also scored for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 shots. The Rangers won their third straight game, overcoming a 2-0 deficit to improve to 5-2-0.

David Pastrnak and Austin Czarina scored for Boston. The Bruins have lost three straight to drop to 3-4-0.

Zane McIntyre made 26 saves in his first NHL start. He was called up prior to Boston's 5-0 home loss to Minnesota on Tuesday night to back up Malcolm Subban due to injuries to Tuukka Risk and Anton Khudobin.

Down 2-0 after the first, the Rangers scored three times in the final 10:44 of the second.

Nash began the comeback with a power-play goal at 9:16. He curled to the net before corralling a rebound of Derek Stepan's point shot and flipping it over goalie Zane McIntyre for his third of the season.

Hayes tied it with 3:25 left in the second, banking a shot from behind the net off of McIntyre's pants.

Pirri's power-play goal with 36 seconds left made it 3-2. The free-agent signee ripped a shot from the right circle that was in the net before McIntrye could get his glove up. New York finished the game 2 for 6 on the man advantage, while the Bruins were 0 for 1.

It was not all positive for the Rangers in the second, with Dan Girardi missing two shifts following a hit from Pastrnak, who was assessed a minor penalty for an illegal check to the head. Girardi leaped in the air to play a loose puck in the neutral zone and, as he came down, Pastrnak drove his shoulder into the upper body of the New York defenseman.

Pirri made it 4-2 2:23 into the third with his fourth of the season. Vesey scored on a tap-in 43 seconds late.

The Bruins opened the scoring Pastrnak's fifth of the season 10 seconds into the game. The lead grew to 2-0 14:34 later when Czarnik scored his first goal in the NHL. Czarnik fired a shot from inside the blue line that New York defenseman Brady Skjei blocked, but Henrik Lundqvist appeared to lose track of the puck and it bounced across the goal line.

Lundqvist had 27 saves.

Roethlisberger to Brady: I've never done this before but...can I have your jersey?

Roethlisberger to Brady: I've never done this before but...can I have your jersey?

Tom Brady has fans everywhere, apparently. Even in Pittsburgh. Even on the Steelers roster. 

Showtime's Inside the NFL caught video of Brady meeting with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger before Sunday's game between New England and Pittsburgh. 

The pair hugged near the 50-yard line at Heinz Field. Brady called Roethlisberger "big guy." Roethlisberger, who was out with a knee injury, told Brady he wanted to play "so bad." 

Then Roethlisberger became a fan. And like many of them, he had a request. 

"Um, hey, listen," he said. "I've never done this before, but I would love to get a jersey at some point. It'd mean...There's not many I want to put in my office. You're the best, dude."

Brady was happy to oblige. Just not right at that moment. 

"Sure, I'd love to," Brady said. "I'll get you after the game."