Celtics-Suns review: Boston bench key in win

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Celtics-Suns review: Boston bench key in win

BOSTON The Boston Celtics starters weren't too shabby against the Phoenix Suns. 
But the C's second unit?
Better.
Better than their Phoenix counterparts.
Better than the Phoenix starters. 
Better than their own starters. 
It was the kind of performance that once again showcased the promise that this unit has, and reaffirmed why players such as Jason Terry remained confident in the second unit's success even when they weren't playing particularly well.
"We'll get it together," Terry told CSNNE.com recently. "It's going to take time, but we'll get it. We'll start clicking. We'll take off."
That was indeed the case on Wednesday night as Boston's second unit outscored the Suns' backups, 47-16.
And it wasn't just one or two players, either. 
It was the kind of balanced bench attack that has made the Celtics (18-17) one of the hottest teams in the NBA.
Bench play was among the many keys weighing in the C's favor on Wednesday against the Suns who have now lost 11 in a row on the road. Here are some other keys outlined prior to the game, and how they eventually played out. 
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The days of scoring a ton of points seems to be a thing of the past in Phoenix. They come into tonight's game averaging 96.4 points per game which ranks 16th in the league. They haven't finished outside of the top 10 in scoring since the 2003-2004 season.
WHAT WE SAW: Phoenix continued its season-long trend of not scoring a lot of points. Their 79-point total on Wednesday was the 10th time in their last 11 games in which they failed to score 100 or more points.

MATCHUP TO WATCH:  Brandon Bass vs Luis Scola: Bass isn't scoring as much as he did last season, but his defense and rebounding has been solid during Boston's current three-game winning streak. Scola is a high-energy, multiple-effort kind of player so keeping him off the boards - especially the offensive ones - will be key for the C's.
WHAT WE SAW: Scola got his share of points (16) and rebounds (8) but there was never a point in the game in which his play was making a huge difference or impact on the game. Bass (6 points, 5 rebounds) didn't have a huge game scoring the ball himself. But his defense more than made up for whatever he didn't get done offensively.

PLAYER TO WATCH: It seems playing against the Boston Celtics brings out the best in Marcin Gortat, a player the C's may have some interest in as we get closer to the trading deadline. In the three games he has played against Boston since joining the Suns, he has averaged 18.7 points and 14 rebounds while shooting 56 percent from the field.
WHAT WE SAW: Gortat did what Gortat always does against Boston and that's leave the game with a double-double under his belt. It was essentially just another day at the office against the Celtics for Gortat who had 12 points and 14 rebounds while shooting 6-for-12 from the field.

STAT TO TRACK: The third quarter has been decisively positive for the C's lately, and quite devastating to the Suns. In its last three wins, Boston outscored its opponents in the third quarter each game, by an average of 12.3 points per game. Meanwhile, Phoenix is giving up a league-high 25.6 points in the third quarter this season.
WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics' string of dominating the third quarter came to an end. Fortunately for them, the same can not be said for their winning streak. Despite being outscored 23-14 in the third, Boston's ability to dominate the second and fourth quarters would prove to be the difference on Wednesday night. 

Beleskey, Krug missing from Bruins morning skate

Beleskey, Krug missing from Bruins morning skate

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- There were both expected and unexpected absences from Bruins morning skate on Monday morning at Warrior Ice Arena ahead of tonight’s game at TD Garden against the Florida Panthers. Matt Beleskey was the expected absence after getting knocked out of Saturday’s game with a lower body injury caused by a Tyler Fedun check to his right leg, and Torey Krug was also missing from the ice after pulling workhorse duty over the last handful of games in the absence of Zdeno Chara.

It doesn’t appear likely that Beleskey is going to play Monday night vs. the Panthers, but it’s unknown what’s behind Krug’s absence from the skate.

Both Zdeno Chara and Noel Acciari took part in practice as they come back from injuries, and it appears they both could be closing in on a return to the lineup. Frank Vatrano also shot the puck around a bit at the very beginning of Monday’s skate, but came off the ice as the team began their preparations for tonight’s game. 
Here are the Bruins projected line combos and D-pairings vs. Florida based on the morning skate with Beleskey and Krug both absent:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

Schaller-Krejci-Backes

Spooner-Nash-Czarnik

Blidh-Moore-Hayes/Acciari

Chara-Carlo

Morrow-McQuaid

K. Miller-C. Miller

Rask

Khudobin

Belichick on keeping Brady in: 'Seen those double-digit leads evaporate'

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Belichick on keeping Brady in: 'Seen those double-digit leads evaporate'

With 5:52 remaining in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game between the Patriots and Rams, and with the hosts up 26-3, quarterback Tom Brady was back on the field to lead the Patriots offense. 

It was a decision that had some scratching their heads. Why risk the health of your Hall of Fame quarterback in a game that's essentially been decided? Particularly at this point in the year? Particularly just days after the team lost it's most dynamic offensive weapon to season-ending back surgery?

"Well, after the game turns out, it's easy to go back and make those suggestions," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said on a conference call Monday. "I've seen a few games in this league. Seen those double-digit leads evaporate in a minute or two. I know that's not a big concern when it does happen and then when it does happen it's a major crisis and [there's] a lot of second-guessing about what should've been done or what shouldn't have been done. Trying to win the game."

The Patriots held the ball for a little over two minutes before punting it back to the Rams. By the time the Patriots got the ball back for the final time with 1:15 remaining, Brady was on the field to take two kneeldowns and wipe out the clock. 

He told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show on Monday morning that he wasn't looking for an early hook. The Rams have been accused of dirty plays in the past, and their coaching staff has a reputation for encouraging a reckless style, but Brady explained why he wanted to remain in the game late.

"All these games are close. I know yesterday, 26-3 at one point, but we’re playing for a lot here," he said. "i don’t think it’s ever right to take your foot off the gas pedal. We could use as many reps as possible, all the guys out there. There are different situations that come up in every game. You only get 16 weeks a year to try them out. You try them in practice, but there’s not the speed. There’s not the urgency. It’s not the decision-making because it’s unscripted.

"In practice you go and talk about these are the plays you’re going to run, these are the defenses you can get. Then you go into the game and they it’s all about decision-making really under pressure with everything on the line, so the more reps you can get with Malcolm [Mitchell] and [Chris] Hogan and Martellus [Bennett], guys that I haven’t played with, the better it gets."

Brady escaped his late-game reps no worse for the wear -- he completed three of four passes for 14 yards on his team's second-to-last drive -- but he did take one shot earlier in the game that had him ticked. Rams safety TJ McDonald got into the Patriots backfield untouched and drove Brady into the ground during a second-quarter drive. Brady got the ball away, but he was walloped, and when he got up he sought out McDonald for a few words.

"I think it was pretty emotional," Brady told Kirk and Callahan. "I didn’t see the replay yet, but he made a good clean hit. They were blitzing us. I knew we didn’t have him picked up and he put a little extra something on.”

Asked if the threat of a play like that late in a lopsided game bothered him, Brady said no.

"I said to my wife as I was driving home, she was like, ‘What was that?’ She wants to know about all these things and I was like, ‘I think it is all fair on the football field.’ You put yourself out there," Brady explained. "You’re up 20, you’re down 20. Everyone is playing hard and whatever happens out there is on the football field. I don’t think it was a dirty play.

"Guys love going in there and hitting the quarterback. They’ve been trained to hit the quarterback their entire careers, especially on defense. They get paid more hitting the quarterback. Their team is 4-8 so they are going to play hard 'til the end no matter what. They haven’t been in a lot of games this year so they are going to play hard to try and set them up for next year. I had no problem with that hit. I thought it was a real clean play. I was pretty pissed off for the most part yesterday because we weren’t executing as well as we could and that probably had something to do with it as well."