Celtics use road trip to bond on and off the court

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Celtics use road trip to bond on and off the court

CHICAGO Bonding on the road during the preseason is one thing.

But in the regular season when the games actually count?

Even better.

That's what the Boston Celtics are taking away from their two-game road trek to the Midwest with wins in Milwaukee and Chicago, respectively.

The victories by themselves were impressive.

But more than that, they gave tangible evidence to each and every player that the effort they put into becoming a better team, a championship-caliber team, is starting to pay off in victories.

Making it even better is that both road wins involved the Celtics having to overcome some type of adversity, whether it was Rajon Rondo having to leave the game briefly in Milwaukee because of a leg injury or Brandon Bass suffering a dislocated right ring finger injury on the way to his most complete game of the season.

"I definitely think adversity on the the road is good," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "This is a competitive group of guys and they want to find a way to win."

And they want to do it the Celtics way, which involves being a defensive team first.

It's still relatively early in the season, but Boston's defense has stood out - and not in a good way.

Boston is giving up 98.9 points per game which ranks 20th in the NBA. Teams have been able to break them down repeatedly with dribble-penetration that far too often resulted in easy baskets and easy assists which is evident by the Celtics opponents averaging 23.9 assists per game which ranks 28th (out of 30 NBA teams) in the league.

However, the Celtics and their problems defensively took the weekend off and were instead replaced by an improving brand of defensive-minded basketball that's not quite as good as past Celtics teams defensively - but definitely trending in that direction.

Indeed, Boston's defense played a pivotal role on the path towards victory in Saturday's victory over the Bucks as well as Monday's 101-95 win over the Bulls.

Boston's defense was especially impressive down the stretch in both games.

In Milwaukee, the Celtics limited the Bucks to just 36.8 percent shooting in the fourth quarter while connecting on 54.5 percent of their shots during that same span. In addition, the C's didn't commit a single turnover in the fourth quarter.

On Monday, Boston led the Bulls the entire game but saw their comfortable lead become kind of cramped in the game's final minutes.

After Joakim Noah scored on a lay-up with 3:33 to play to cut Boston's lead to 91-88, the Bulls would only make one more field goal the rest of the game. During that final 3:33, Boston had three baskets - two lob dunks by Kevin Garnett and another dunk by Brandon Bass.

Strong play at both ends of the floor in the game's closing moments was just what the Celtics needed to rack up a couple of important road wins.

But even before the Celtics left town, Paul Pierce talked up the benefits for him and his teammates of hitting the road for multiple games for the first time this season.

"It gives guys a chance to get together and to talk about problems and other situations," Pierce said. "It can be the start of something special and begin to develop a chemistry between us all."

Rask stops 35 shots in Bruins' 2-1 win over Sabres

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Rask stops 35 shots in Bruins' 2-1 win over Sabres

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Tuukka Rask made 35 saves to help the Bruins hold off the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 on Saturday

David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron scored to give Boston a 2-0 lead and the Bruins improved to 3-0-1 in their past four.

Evander Kane scored his first goal of the season for Buffalo. Robin Lehner returned after missing one game with a hip injury and made 32 saves.

The Sabres combined for nine goals in their previous two wins but the NHL's lowest-scoring team reverted to form from the first 21 games, when star center Jack Eichel was out of the lineup with a high-ankle sprain.

Krejci got the Bruins on the scoreboard with 5:50 left in the first when he deflected Brandon Carlo's slap shot from the point off the right post and into the net.

The Sabres appeared to tie the game late in the second period but replays determined Brian Gionta kicked the puck into the net.

Bergeron made it 2-0 at 7:10 of the second at 7:44 of the third when he knocked on the rebound of his own missed shot. Bergeron initially hit the puck with his forearm on the left edge of the crease and skated around the net to chase down the puck and slip a backhand past Lehner.

The Sabres answered two minutes later, scoring on Rask for the first time in 109:12 this season. Sam Reinhart's feed off the rear wall set up Kane for a wrist shot from the slot that bounced in off Krejci. Reinhart has five points in his last four games.

NOTES: Bruins F Matt Beleskey was escorted to the dressing room in the final minute of the first period with a lower-body injury and did not return. ... Sabres D Josh Gorges did not play after injuring his foot blocking a shot in Thursday's win over the New York Rangers. With Dmitry Kulikov (lower back) and Zach Bogosian (MCL sprain) also out, the Sabres were down three of their top four defenseman and recalled 19-year-old Brendan Guhle from the minors to make his NHL debut. Guhle hustled back to thwart a breakaway by Krejci late in the third period. ... F Anton Blidh became the seventh Bruin to make his NHL debut this season after being recalled from the minors on Friday. ... The Bruins scratched F Jimmy Hayes. D Zdeno Chara, the Bruins' captain, missed his sixth straight game with a lower-body injury. ... Rask got a shutout in Boston's 4-0 win over Buffalo on Nov. 7.

UP NEXT

Bruins: Host Florida on Monday.

Sabres: At Washington on Monday.

 

© 2016 by STATS and The Associated Press.

Gronkowski put on IR, officially ending his season

Gronkowski put on IR, officially ending his season

The Patriots have placed Rob Gronkowski on injured reserve, officially ending the injured tight end's season. 

The Patriots have added running back D.J. Foster to the 53-man roster. 

Gronkowski underwent surgery on his back Friday in Los Angeles. There was some hope he might be able to return if the Patriots reached the Super Bowl, but this move ends that.

More to come...