Curran: Can a team count on turnovers?

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Curran: Can a team count on turnovers?

Even the most diehard Patriots fan would agree that the Pittsburgh Steelers have a superior defense to New England.

By conventional measure. In terms of yards allowed, the Steelers are having an absurd season defensively allowing just 259.8 total yards per game. The Patriots are allowing 390.2.

But check this out: the Steelers have created nine turnovers this season. The Patriots have created 32. Thats 23 drives or would-be drives if the turnover came on special teams that were snuffed out before points could be scored. There are about 10 drives in every game (give or take) for each team. The Patriots have snuffed out more than two games worth of drives with turnovers. Additionally, the Patriots happen to have the stingiest quarterback in NFL history when it comes to giving the ball away. The Patriots have turned it over just eight times this season, three times on Brady picks.

They are plus-24 in turnover differential. The teams in second and third behind the Patriots in that statistic are Baltimore, Chicago and Washington. They are all plus-12.

Now, turnovers are a tough foundation on which to build a successful team. They are ephemeral, a product of luck. Can a team count on them? Especially in the playoffs when the quarterbacks are better and Ryan Fitzpatrick is in Cancun?

Who can say?

Last year, the Patriots were plus-17 third in the league after creating 34 takeaways during the year and when the Super Bowl came, fumbles bounced into the hands of Giants and interceptions were thrown by New England.

But the clip at which the Patriots are creating turnovers and the efficiency of the New England offense is a crushing 1-2 punch for prospective opponents.

Turnovers are a huge part of the game and other than points, theyre probably statistically the highest correlation to winning, Bill Belichick said Friday on a conference call. We had a lot of turnovers earlier in the year and we didnt get enough point production out of those turnovers. A lot of times, wed turn the ball over and end up leaving with not many points. So even though we had a turnover differential advantage, that didnt really translate into a big point advantage with those turnovers.

The past few weeks, that number has changed more in our favor where the turnovers have been converted into points and in a lot of cases, touchdowns, Belichick continued. We all saw how quickly that a very competitive game last night, that was a scoreless tie, a battle back and forth, then all the sudden its 35 points up there. But thats what happens. A big play, a turnover, score, another turnover, another big play and when you get all those yards in one play, whether its on a big play or a turnover, then thats what defines explosive plays.

Seven of the last eight turnovers the Patriots created have resulted in touchdowns. Four came on returns two pick returns, two fumble returns.

On the season, the Patriots have generated 97 points off turnovers. And many have been immediate.

It certainly changes the whole dynamic of the game even though a 14-play, 80-yard drive that takes seven and half minutes, you get the same amount of points and all that, but it takes longer and doesnt change the game as quickly obviously, said Belichick. You have to take advantage of those opportunities, to turn them into points, whether its Julians Edelman return or Steves Gregory return or like we had in the Indianapolis game, the strip sack and then the pass to Rob Gronkowski from the 20-yard line or whatever it was. When it happens that fast, it really can swing the momentum in a hurry.

The momentum is all swung New Englands way right now. Theyve won five in a row and seven-of-eight with the only loss being the weirdness in Seattle. A lot of it is turnover-based.

Is that a foundation made of sand or stone? The fun part will be finding out.

Bradley steps up to lead Celtics to 117-87 blowout win over Magic

Bradley steps up to lead Celtics to 117-87 blowout win over Magic

It was one of Tacoma, Washington’s finest carrying the scoring load most of Wednesday night for the Boston Celtics. 
 
But it wasn’t the Celtics’ leading scorer, Isaiah Thomas. 
 
It was his backcourt mate and fellow Tacoma, Wash. native Avery Bradley picking up the slack in Thomas’ absence as Boston pulled away in the second half for a 117-87 blowout win over the Orlando Magic. 
 
Wednesday’s victory was Boston’s first in Orlando since Nov. 8, 2013. 
 
Bradley led seven double-figure scorers for Boston (13-9), with a team-high 23 points.
 
Thomas missed his first game of the season with a right groin injury that will sideline him for a yet-to-be-determined period of time. 
 
The 5-foot-9 guard ranks among the NBA’s leaders in scoring (26.0) in addition to leading the Celtics in assists (6.2) per game. 
 
But Bradley was up to the challenge of filling the void left by Thomas, which isn’t all that surprising when you consider the game was away from the TD Garden. 
 
Bradley has been good this year, but has really stood out in road games where he has averaged 19.0 points on 51.4 percent shooting from the field compared to 15.8 points on 41.3 percent shooting at the TD Garden. 
 
The first half was a tightly contested game with neither team leading by more than eight points. 
 
After Orlando scored the first basket of the third quarter, the Celtics went on a furious 18-2 run to lead 67-54 which had five different scorers for Boston that spoke volumes about the balanced offensive attack the Celtics came with to make up for Thomas’ absence. 
 
Boston’s defense picked up its intensity in the second half, but just as important was the renewed emphasis on ball movement that was simple, crisp and highly effective. 
 
And it came against an Orlando team that came in having won four of its last five games – all on the road – which included beating the always-challenging San Antonio Spurs on their home floor. 
 
But as important as it was for Bradley to help fill the enormous scoring void that exists without Thomas, Boston also needed a strong game from their bench. 
 
That’s exactly what they got, and it wasn’t just one or two guys, either. 
 
Jaylen Brown had arguably the best game of his still-young NBA career coming off the Celtics bench, finishing with 13 points which included a powerful, rim-rattling dunk over Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic
 
Boston also got great play out of Terry Rozier (career-high 16 points, five rebounds) who saw a few more minutes than usual because of Thomas’ injury. 
 
Not only was the victory important to pad the win total, but it also provides a nice boost of confidence for the Celtics as they hit what will be arguably the most difficult stretch of the season in terms of quality opponents. 
 
The Celtics have 12 games remaining this month, with the teams having a combined record of 152-105, or a winning percentage of .591.

CSN CHICAGO: Yoan Moncada 'thrilled' to reunite with Jose Abreu on White Sox

CSN CHICAGO: Yoan Moncada 'thrilled' to reunite with Jose Abreu on White Sox

Yoan Moncada and Jose Abreu are back together.

The two Cuban natives were teammates in 2012 when they played for Cienfuegos in Cuba, and now they'll be in the same dugout once again — this time in Chicago.

"To get the opportunity to play with him right now in the United States, it's an honor for me," Moncada said through a translator on a conference call Wednesday. "I'm thrilled with that."

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