Celtics-Wizards review: Garnett more rounded

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Celtics-Wizards review: Garnett more rounded

BOSTON A more assertive, more aggressive Kevin Garnett was in the building Wednesday night for the Boston Celtics.
And when he shows up, the Celtics usually don't lose.
That was indeed the case on Wednesday as Garnett led the way in Boston's 100-94 overtime win over Washington.
Garnett, who was encouraged by C's head coach Doc Rivers to be more assertive, took Rivers' words to heart at both ends of the floor.
He finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds, with most of his board work -- seven rebounds, actually -- coming in the game's first quarter which set the tone for a strong start for Boston.
Following the victory,Rivers talked about some of the players who put forth great effort and displayed strong leadership skills.
"Kevin, always, I always exclude him because he always plays the right way," Rivers said.
In addition to his scoring and rebounding, Garnett was also a bit more attentive to Washington big man Kevin Seraphin.
When the two teams played on Saturday, Seraphin had 19 points on 8-for-9 shooting from the field.
Although Seraphin had another 19-point scoring game on Wednesday, he did so on 8-for-19 shooting.
In addition to Garnett playing a more well-rounded game, here are some other keys to Boston's win identified prior to the game and how the C's fared in those areas.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Boston's first win of the season came on a night when they jumped on the opponent (Washington) with a 17-2 run behind suffocating defense and timely scoring. Being the aggressor at both ends of the floor will once again be a key to the C's beating the Wizards again.
WHAT WE SAW: Boston came out the aggressor once again, putting together a strong showing defensively with an efficiently-run offense to bolt out to an 11-2 lead.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: The Celtics bench vs. Jordan Crawford: Had it not been for an ankle injury early in the fourth quarter of Saturday's game, Crawford (21 points in 25 minutes) may have single-handedly outscored the entire C's bench. That should never happen. Jason Terry is more than due to have a breakout game. Ditto for Jeff Green.
WHAT WE SAW: Boston's bench was better while Crawford had problems most of the game. He had not practiced since suffering a left ankle sprain against the Celtics, and it showed. In 15 minutes, he had just two points while missing five of his six shot attempts.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Courtney Lee has been OK, but an intangibles player like him tends to have a breakout performance when you least expect it. With the Wizards wanting to limit Paul Pierce from having another big game, and withstand the strong play of Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo, it seems an ideal scenario for Lee to be an unexpected difference-maker.
WHAT WE SAW: Lee had another nondescript game for the Boston Celtics. He didn't play all that bad, but it wasn't the kind of performance that will get you all lathered up with excitement, either. He's clearly still trying to figure out where his shots will come from, and the reality that there will be fewer attempts and thus a greater premium on him to make the ones he gets to take. He finished with just two points -- from the free throw line -- while missing all three of his shot attempts.

STAT TO TRACK: Doc Rivers loves to keep the Celtics turnovers to 13 or less per game. In Saturday's win, the C's turned the ball over just nine times. That was a significant improvement compared to the first two games in which the Celtics turned it over an average of 17 times per game.
WHAT WE SAW: Boston's turnover numbers were higher than what Rivers likes to see, and those miscues factored heavily into the game being a lot closer than the Celtics would have liked. Boston turned the ball over 19 times which led to 18 points for Washington.

Garoppolo: Get the little things corrected, or they'll bite us in the butt

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Garoppolo: Get the little things corrected, or they'll bite us in the butt

 

This felt like a step backward for Jimmy Garoppolo. 

The preseason had been shaping up so nicely for him, too. He'd be able to ride the wave of momentum following his strong performance last week against the Bears, and carry that into Carolina, where he would take on a very good defense on the road. What better way to simulate what he'll see in Week 1 of the regular season in Arizona?

Then something happened. Garoppolo, who looked cool last week at Gillette Stadium, seemed rattled by the Panthers defense. The quarterback who hadn't turned the ball over all preseason very nearly gave it away twice. Whereas he made calculated risks in the red zone last week, this week there were head-scratchers in the same area. 

"Ups and downs," said Garoppolo, who beat the Panthers, 19-17, and finished the game 9-for-15 for 57 yards. "Just little things here and there we need to get corrected. We’ll take care of it."

Garoppolo's first third-down throw foreshadowed what was to come for the Patriots on third down Friday night. He threw what should have been an easy interception for linebacker Luke Kuechly when there was a miscommunication between him and receiver Julian Edelman. 

Edelman stopped and turned for a pass a few yards off the line of scrimmage. Garoppolo targeted him as though he was still moving, hitting Kuechly between the numbers at the Carolina 12-yard line.

The team started the night 0-for-7 on third down.

"It’s my fault. I can’t put it in the linebacker’s hands like that," said Garoppolo, who insisted splitting reps in practice wasn't to his detriment. "It’s just bottom line. Just got to be smart. It’s tight windows, tight throws. Just got to finish with touchdowns."

Later in the game, Garoppolo didn't recognize a Panthers pressure, he took a glancing blow from a defender and escaped the pocket. Rather than throw the football away, he tried to make a positive play and was stripped from behind by linebacker Thomas Davis. 

Patriots running back James White was there to pounce on the ball, and Garoppolo was fortunate to escape with his turnover column clean.  

Still, Garoppolo knows there are adjustments to make. In order to give the Patriots a chance to beat the Cardinals in Week 1, he'll probably have to play better than he did on Friday. 

“We’ll do our best to get in there,” Garoppolo said. “We have two weeks until then and we’ll work. There’s little things here and there. Overall, there’s some good things that we did tonight. 

"We just have to get the little things corrected or they’re going to bite us in the butt. We’re going to work our tails off to get to that point. We’ll get there.”

Running back D.J. Foster making a late push for Patriots roster spot

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Running back D.J. Foster making a late push for Patriots roster spot

CHARLOTTE – D.J. Foster began making his case to stick on the Patriots’ 53-man roster Friday night against the Panthers.

An undrafted pass-catching back from Arizona State who’d missed almost all of training camp with an unknown injury was pretty persuasive. He caught three passes for 33 yards, showing nice burst, carried twice for 9 and returned a punt for 16. He saw his action late in the third with fellow rookie Jacoby Brissett in at quarterback.

Foster punctuated his first reception – an 11-yard screen that Brissett (9-for-9 for 85 yards and a touchdown) – by lowering his shoulder and delivering a blow that Foster said he wanted to “get that adrenaline going.”

“It felt great,” said Foster. “It had been a long time. I was telling some guys, that was the first time I’d gotten hit since college. It felt good to get back out there. The coaches gave me a chance to get out there and show what I could do.”

James White will be the Patriots sub-back (or third down back or pass-catching back or whatever you want to call him) until Dion Lewis returns from his knee malady. But Foster showed the acceleration and quickness that made him such a productive player for the Sun Devils. With 222 receptions for 2,458 yards and another 2,355 on the ground, Foster would fit nicely in an offense like the Patriots that uses the short and intermediate passing game so well.  

He hasn’t had much chance to make a case to stick and the Patriots – with White, LeGarrette Blount, Tyler Gaffney, Brandon Bolden and Joey Iosefa all in the mix – may have to take their chances with releasing Foster and hoping he goes unclaimed so New England can bring him back for their practice squad. It’s a risk, but other teams are encountering the same issues at cutdown time. Do they pluck a player they passed on in the draft and put him on their roster ahead of players they’ve been working with since the spring?

Bill Belichick wasn’t effusive in his praise for Foster but did indicate it was a good opportunity to at least see him in game action.

“We played a couple of guys that haven’t gotten much playing time so we got a chance to look at them,” he explained. “D.J. is one of those so we wanted to give him a few opportunities to handle the ball because he hasn’t done it this year. I thought he did some good things. There are a couple of things that he could do a little better but we’ll look at the film and see how it goes. He did a couple of things with his chances out there.”

To make the most of those chances, Foster said he avoided getting too hyped before getting on the field.  
 
“Just keeping my calm and hearing the playcall and just doing the mechanics and all the fundamentals of being in the backfield (was the focus),” said Foster. "Coach Ivan (Fears, running backs coach) did a great job of keeping me mellow. I felt healthy, I felt really good. I got some punt returns, some kick returns, some special teams. I was seeking contact to get that adrenaline going.

“It’s a long process,” he acknowledged. “Talking to the veteran guys, they said it’s a long process. I knew battling my injury and come back healthy, I came back strong and I felt ready.”

We’ll see if it’s enough to carve out a niche on the roster. The cutdown to 75 players comes Tuesday.