Game Day: Crennel, Pioli stand tall in tragedy


Game Day: Crennel, Pioli stand tall in tragedy

MIAMI -- Some quick hits on the dawn on Week 13 . . .

An immeasurably sad crime in Kansas City on Saturday. There will be endless debate about whether or not the Chiefs and Panthers are doing the right thing by playing on Sunday. My overriding feeling on that is that, whatever the Chiefs players think is the right thing to do is the correct thing to do. But there is no "right" answer. None of it is "right". I wouldn't disagree with anyone who feels the game should have been postponed out of respect to the family of the slain girlfriend of Jovan Belcher and Belcher's family. If that was their wish. However, at this point, it's probably best to get the football game out of the way. Postponing it would merely create a maudlin media circus out of the crime. There will be more important things for the Chiefs players, coaches and staff to attend to this week and the sooner they can get to those the better.

Police in Kansas City reported that GM Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel intercepted Belcher when he arrived at the Chiefs' offices andprevented "further violence."Both men showed what kind of people they are by intervening in the situation. It was brave for them to do so but, knowing them as I do, they would never have considered doing anything but that, despite the fact Belcher was clearly dangerous and unstable given the events of the day.

Parallels have been drawn between Jim Harbaugh's controversial quarterback call in San Francisco and the decision Bill Belichick made in 2001 when he turned the reins over to Tom Brady. On the face of it, they're similar: The starter got hurt; the backup got the job and remained in place. But the similarities end there. In the case of Alex Smith, the supplanted starter, you have a quarterback the Niners have been angling to replace despite Smith's efficiency and success. Prior to Belichick taking over in New England, Bledsoe was an untouchable. And ownership had rewarded Bledsoe with a massive, 10-year contract just months before he went down in the season's second game. Meanwhile, Smith has played about as well as he could since the start of 2011. In the Patriots' case, Bledsoe was in decline and had played poorly throughout the 2001 preseason and the first two games of 2001. Brady submitted weeks of competent play before Bledsoe was ready to return and reclaim -- as Bledsoe put it -- "my job." Kaepernick had one good start while Smith was still recovering from his concussion then another good start after Smith was cleared to play.

Is San Francisco making the right call? What we haven't seen is probably what made Harbaugh feel confident in his decision: Practice reps by Kaepernick that made his upside unmistakeable in relation to Smith. Kaepernick has a higher ceiling. Smith is a good NFL quarterback. But he isn't likely to win games for you on his own. He's a cog in the machine. The dual threat ability of Kaepernick to run, to move, to create and be a more explosive thrower than Smith tips the scales. Kaepernick is bound to have a bad day and make mistakes Smith wouldn't because Smith -- by dint of having been in the league longer -- has already learned how to handle some situations Kaepernick hasn't yet encountered. There will be pressure on Harbaugh when Kaepernick falters to decide whether he rides out the missteps or goes back to Smith. Personally, I don't think it's an awful thing if Harbaugh goes back to Smith later. There's a perception -- often espoused by former quarterbacks -- that the position requires a commitment from the sidelines and that a quarterback can't play while looking over his shoulder. I kinda think competition is good and it should sharpen the focus of whoever is on the field, not serve as a distraction. If Smith or Kaepernick play scared because they may get the hook, do you really want them to be your quarterback anyway?

WATCH: Celtics vs. Knicks

WATCH: Celtics vs. Knicks

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics host the Knicks at TD Garden. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by McDonald's on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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Celtics-Knicks preview: Thomas scoring at record pace in fourth quarter

Celtics-Knicks preview: Thomas scoring at record pace in fourth quarter

WALTHAM, Mass. –  As the fourth quarter rolls around, you will occasionally catch Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas looking down at his wrist, a gesture to remind anyone watching what time it is – Thomas time.

There are those who elevate their play in the fourth quarter of games, and then there’s Thomas who continues to smoothly navigate his way in unchartered fourth quarter scoring territory.

The Celtics begin the second half of the season Wednesday night against the New York Knicks, and there sits Thomas atop all players in the NBA when it comes to fourth-quarter scoring.

But that’s not all.

He’s not only dropping more points than any other NBA player in the most important quarter of them all, but he’s doing so at an unprecedented level of 10.1 fourth-quarter points per game.

Since began tracking fourth quarter scoring with the 1997-1998 season, no player has averaged more than 9.5 fourth-quarter points (LeBron James, 2006) in a season.

What makes Thomas’ fourth quarter heroics so impressive is that everyone in the building – fans, coaches, opponents – knows that’s when he’s looking to be most impactful for the Celtics and yet he still can’t be stopped.

Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford acknowledged how tough it is to limit Thomas despite knowing he’s looking to take over games in the fourth.

“It’s hard because the blitz game is impossible because they don’t roll,” said Clifford whose Hornets were beaten 108-98 by Boston on Monday. “If you watch the teams that try to blitz them, you’re going to give up basically lay-ups. We had things in to get the ball out of his hands but the way they played and the stuff that they usually go to late, they didn’t get to. He (Thomas) made some terrific plays; he’s a terrific offensive player.”

Despite what he does in the fourth and his overall scoring average of 28.2 points which is ranked among the league’s leaders, there are still lots of doubters as to how good Thomas.

Regardless of how you view his play, he has consistently played at a level this season that places him among the game’s best players.

And at the rate he’s scoring in the fourth quarter, he’s establishing himself as one of the great closers in the game.

Consider the list of players in the past decade who led the league in points scored in the fourth quarter.

  • 2016: James Harden (7.7)
  • 2015: Russell Westbrook (7.1)
  • 2014: Kevin Durant (7.9)
  • 2013: Kevin Durant (8.4)
  • 2012: Kevin Durant (7.3)
  • 2011: Amare Stoudemire (7.1)
  • 2010: LeBron James (8.0)
  • 2009: LeBron James (7.7)
  • 2008: LeBron James (9.1)
  • 2007: Dwyane Wade (8.2)

You have All-stars, All-NBA First Teamers, league MVPs as well as a few future Hall of Famers.

As good as those players were in their respective seasons, when the game mattered most – the fourth quarter – Thomas numbers (for now at least) stand head and shoulders above them all.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens gives Thomas a lot of credit for being such a consistent scorer, particularly in the fourth quarter.

But as good as Thomas is, he’s not out there getting all these baskets on his own, either.

“It says a lot about the fact that he’s got a lot of skilled guys around him that are hard to leave,” Stevens said. “When you’re playing Kelly (Olynyk) and Jonas (Jerebko) together with him, there’s a lot of space on the floor to operate. When those guys are at the four (power forward) and five (center), when you’re playing guys like Al Horford who can space the floor or Avery (Bradley) or Jae (Crowder), you know, those types of guys … at the end of the day I think that it’s a combination of a lot of things.”

And for opponents, a lot of problems.

“He’s been playing well,” Hornets guard Kemba Walker said of Thomas. “He’s been playing better than anyone in our league. He’s playing with great confidence and making the plays for his team to win games. He’s been great.”