Celtics-Spurs review: Celtics worn down

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Celtics-Spurs review: Celtics worn down

SAN ANTONIO Aside from being on the short end of a 103-88 road loss to San Antonio, Doc Rivers liked a lot about Saturday's game.

But as the game wore on, it appeared as though the Celtics were simply worn down.

"I thought we played hard," Rivers said. "I honestly thought we got fatigued. So that's something ... we have to get in a little better shape because we want to play at that pace."

Rivers added, "it was a good pace; the game was a good pace. It was a fun game to watch. But the difference was I thought San Antonio was used to doing that and continued to do it throughout the game. They were able to sustain their play, and we couldn't. I thought that was the difference in the game."

It is disturbing to say the least that we're just barely past the first quarter mark of the season and the C's are already showing signs of being unable to sustain the necessary energy levels needed in order to play deep into the playoffs.

Even Kevin Garnett acknowledged that fatigue might have been a culprit in Saturday's loss - Boston's second straight in as many nights.

"Second half, you could see the fatigue come tired legs," said Garnett who quickly added that there are, "still no excuses. You step on the floor, you suit up. You have to perform."

Lately, the Celtics' performances haven't been good enough to do the only thing that truly matters to this franchise - win games and lots of them.

Here's how some of the keys identified prior to tonight's game actually played out as the Celtics will have three days to regroup before they return to the floor with the goal being to get another winning streak started on the road at Chicago on Tuesday.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Rajon Rondo had a near triple-double of points (15), assists (13) and sadly, turnovers (seven) in the Rockets loss. Look for him to do a much better job in terms of limiting his miscues despite San Antonio's better-than-average defense.

WHAT WE SAW: Sadly, Rondo had another seven-turnover performance which was among the many problems that plagued Boston on Saturday night. It was quite a different story for his counterpart on San Antonio's roster, Tony Parker, who easily won this individual matchup with a game-high 22 points and eight assists; and of course the game as well.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs Tim Duncan. Two of the greatest big men of this generation, every opportunity to see these two champions duel it out in the twilight of their careers should be cherished.

WHAT WE SAW: Saturday's duel won't go down as one of their best, but each did their part to keep their respective teams in the game. Garnett had 13 points on 6-for-13 shooting while Duncan grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Do not be surprised if Paul Pierce has one of those statement-type performances. He had 18 points against Houston, but did so shooting 5-for-18 from the field. Knowing the Houston loss was a step back in the team's develop and growth this season, look for the Captain to try and get the C's back on track.

WHAT WE SAW: The Captain had a solid all-around game (18 points on 7-for-13 shooting, five rebounds, four assists and three steals), but it wasn't nearly enough for the C's to get a road win over San Antonio - always a challenge.

STAT TO TRACK: The Spurs have evolved into an offensive power, averaging 104.8 points per game which ranks second in the NBA. Keeping them under 100 points scored is the key to beating them, evident by four of their six losses this season coming when they fail to reach triple digits scoring.
WHAT WE SAW: San Antonio cracked the 100-point plateau with a steady game offensively by scoring 25 or 26 points in every quarter of play that proved to be too much for the Celtics to contend with on Saturday night.

2017 NBA title odds are out, Celtics rank second in the East

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2017 NBA title odds are out, Celtics rank second in the East

Teams are still fighting for the 2016 Larry O’Brien Trophy, but the 2017 NBA title opening odds have already been released by the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. The Warriors unsurprisingly come in as heavy 3/2 favorites. The Cavaliers already punched their ticket for this year’s finals and are second, with 5/2 odds. Then there’s the Spurs, Thunder, and Clippers, as you’d expect rounding off the top five.

But then there’s the Celtics with 20/1 odds -- sixth-best in the NBA -- to raise Banner 18.

With eight draft picks and a chunk of cap space, the Celtics are in a position to capitalize on any opportunities that may come their way. There is a lot of uncertainty at this point in the NBA calendar, so Vegas must be hedging their bets on the Celtics making a leap towards contender status.

Celtics fans will also be happy to know the Nets have 500/1 odds to hoist the trophy next season, which ranks last of all teams. The Celtics have the right to swap first-round picks with the Nets in the 2017 draft, which could give them another swing at a superstar prospect.

For full draft profiles of players the Celtics could draft this year, click here.

Team Opening odds
Golden State Warriors 3/2
Cleveland Cavaliers 5/2
San Antonio Spurs 6/1
Oklahoma City Thunder 8/1
Los Angeles Clippers 16/1
Boston Celtics 20/1
Toronto Raptors 25/1
Miami Heat 25/1
Chicago Bulls 40/1
Atlanta Hawks 40/1
Minnesota Timberwolves 60/1
New Orleans Pelicans 60/1
Houston Rockets 60/1
Portland Trail Blazers 60/1
Memphis Grizzlies 80/1
Utah Jazz 80/1
Charlotte Hornets 80/1
Washington Wizards 100/1
Indiana Pacers 100/1
Dallas Mavericks 100/1
Milwaukee Bucks 100/1
Detroit Pistons 100/1
Los Angeles Lakers 100/1
New York Knicks 100/1
Sacramento Kings 100/1
Philadelphia 76ers 100/1
Orlando Magic 100/1
Denver Nuggets 100/1
Phoenix Suns 300/1
Brooklyn Nets 500/1

Malcom Brown already considered a leader for Patriots in second year

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Malcom Brown already considered a leader for Patriots in second year

FOXBORO -- Late last year, Bill Belichick went out of his way to explain just how far then-rookie defensive lineman Malcom Brown had progressed over the course of his first professional season. 

From the sounds of it, the first-round defensive tackle's on-the-field growth was atypical. 

"I think he’s really come on through the season, which isn’t always the case with first-year players," Belichick said on Dec. 30. "It took him a while to get to that point through training camp and the early part of the season, but he’s become much better and more consistent in every phase of the game – running game, passing game, play recognition, communication, adjustments – just everything. It seems like every week he just builds on it.

"He’s really hit a good slope, good incline. He’s worked hard. There is a lot on every rookie’s plate. There’s a lot on his plate as a rookie in the different situations that he plays in and the number of things that we do on the front, so it’s not easy, but he’s improved his techniques, his fundamental play and he’s improved his communication and overall understanding of the multiples that are involved. It’s been good."

Brown finished the year as the Patriots interior defensive lineman with the most snaps played (his 517 snaps trailed only Jabaal Sheard, Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich among defensive linemen), and he established himself as a trustworthy option in the team's steady rotation on the interior of its front. 

According to one of Brown's newest teammates, free-agent acquisition Terrance Knighton, Brown is now serving as a leader on the interior of the defensive line. Though he's only in his second season, Brown's understanding of the Patriots defense gives him a leg up on players who may have more experience in the league but are new to New England. 

"Malcom Brown has basically been leading the group," Knighton said after an OTA practice last Thursday. "Being in his second year, he's probably the most experienced guy in it right now as far as this team. I'm picking his brain to see how things are done around here."

 

Knighton acknowledged that once the Patriots have Alan Branch back on the field -- Branch was one of 17 players missing from Thursday's OTA -- they'll get another player with a sound understanding of the defense. But right now, Brown is looked to as a source of information for veterans like Knighton and Markus Kuhn as well as rookie fourth-rounder Vincent Valentine. 

"Young guy, obviously played at a high level last year and you can tell he's feeding off of that," Knighton said of Brown. "He's only continued, from what I've seen on tape to now. That's one of the things I try to talk to about with the young guys is being on the up, and not going up and down in your career. That's something I've been through in my career so I just try to share knowledge and help guys out."

Brown, who turned 22 in February, certainly ended last season "on the up." In the early going this offseason, it seems as though he's on track to continue that trajectory.

Monday's Red Sox vs. Orioles lineups: Ortiz back from sore foot

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Monday's Red Sox vs. Orioles lineups: Ortiz back from sore foot

David Ortiz makes his return to the Red Sox lineup after being a late scratch on Sunday due to a sore left foot is sore after getting hit by a pitch Saturday. However, Hanley Ramirez is getting the day off, with Travis Shaw getting the start at first.

The lineups:

ORIOLES:
Adam Jones CF
Hyun Soo Kim LF
Manny Machado SS
Chris Davis 1B
Mark Trumbo DH
Jonathan Schoop 2B
Nolan Reimold RF
Ryan Flaherty 3B
Caleb Joseph C
--
Tyler Wilson P

RED SOX:
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Travis Shaw 1B
Blake Swihart LF
Ryan Hanigan C
Marco Hernandez 3B
---
Steven Wright P