Green Christmas: Celtics rip Nets in Brooklyn, 93-76

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Green Christmas: Celtics rip Nets in Brooklyn, 93-76

BROOKLYN, N.Y. The Boston Celtics got the win, and NBA charities got a little Christmas Bonus.

All left the Barclays Center feeling pretty good except for the Brooklyn Nets who suffered a 93-76 loss to the Celtics.

Rajon Rondo led all scorers with 19 points, five rebounds and five assists.

Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green had solid games off the bench for Boston with 16 and 15 points, respectively. Brooklyn was led by Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace who each had 15 points.

With the victory, the Celtics (14-13) are now tied for second in the Atlantic Division with the Nets (14-13), losers in four of their last five games.

Not surprisingly, the game got a bit chippy and the result was a handful of players were a bit more giving this holiday season than they probably would like to be.

Four players - Boston's Kevin Garnett and Courtney Lee, along with Brooklyn's Wallace and Andray Blatche - were called for technical fouls which drop 2,000 a pop into the coffers of the NBA's various charities.

If you're Boston, putting together a win like they did on Christmas Day was priceless.

Boston made their share of mistakes all night, but the effort level and focus defensively was relatively consistent most of the game.

It was the kind of performance that the Celtics have not been able to deliver with any level of consistency this year which is why they remain a team that's hovering around .500 this season.

After a strong first half, the Celtics pushed their lead to as many as 21 points only to see it chopped down to single digits.

To the Celtics credit, they showed the kind of resiliency in the third quarter that hasn't been on display much of this season.

Boston clamped down defensively and pushed its lead back to double digits, taking a 73-58 advantage into the fourth quarter.

The Celtics spent most of the first quarter playing catch-up before a 3-pointer by Rondo - seriously - cut the Nets lead going into the second quarter to 24-22.

After a brief exchange early in the second, the Celtics took control by doing three things: Rebounding, defending and getting out in transition.

Once Boston went with that Big Three, it was all Green raining down on the Nets.

And while the Celtics have a number of proven, battle-tested veterans who can lead the charge, it was Sullinger carrying the C's in the first half.

Sullinger, who saw his first benching of sorts in a game earlier this season against the Nets (he played just 8 minutes against Brooklyn on Nov. 15), refused to allow a repeat on Tuesday.

In the first half alone, Sullinger had 10 points and six rebounds along with two assists and a blocked shot as the Celtics led by as many as 15 points before settling on a 56-42 halftime lead.

Contributions on the Celtics roster were coming from unfamiliar places, indeed.

Rajon Rondo, the league's leader in assists, had three at the half while Paul Pierce led all players with six.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn had the look of a team that was dazed and confused, trying their best to shift the Celtics momentum but only making matters worst with a slew of forced and unforced turnovers - 10 to be exact - in the first half that led to 15 points for the C's.

Acciari, Heinen called back up to Bruins

Acciari, Heinen called back up to Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass. – The Bruins made a few roster moves after a slogging 4-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche earlier this week, with an eye toward getting some competition going among the forward group, and perhaps spark a team struggling offensively.

Danton Heinen and Noel Acciari were brought up from Providence to skate with the big club on Saturday morning at Warrior Ice Arena and gritty Anton Blidh was returned to the P-Bruins after a solid stint as a fourth-line energy guy for the Black and Gold. 

Heinen has been tearing it up for the P-Bruins lately with four goals and seven points in his past five games with a plus-2 rating, including a couple of two-goal games for a Providence team that’s starting to heat up. 

Otherwise, things looked fairly similar for the Black and Gold, who didn’t make any changes to the struggling top power-play unit that was a disaster on Thursday night in the first period. It was Patrice Bergeron in the bumper role, Ryan Spooner on the half-wall, David Backes at the front of the net and David Krejci and Torey Krug manning the point positions. 

Here are the Bruins projected line combos and D-pairings for tonight vs. the Maple Leafs based on the morning skate: 

 
Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

Heinen-Krejci-Backes

Spooner-Nash-Czarnik

Schaller-Moore-Acciari/Hayes

 
Chara-Carlo

Krug-McQuaid

Morrow-K. Miller

C. Miller

Rask

 

Bruins power play looking for some upgrade answers

Bruins power play looking for some upgrade answers

BOSTON - It would appear things can’t continue the way they are for the Bruins' power play. 

After a disastrous first period helped dig them a hole in a 4-2 loss to the lowly Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night, there was some pretty serious soul-searching going with a man-advantage that has been both toothless and mistake-prone on far too many nights. 

In the Colorado loss a couple of early power-play possessions, one that was completely ineffectual with zero meaningful possession or shots on net and then a second that turned into a Nathan MacKinnon shorthanded goal, dropped the B’s into a hole they couldn’t climb out of. The shorthanded sequence was particularly damning with a desperate Torey Krug diving to keep a puck in the offensive zone, and then watching helpless as MacKinnon beat him to the loose puck and then took off down the ice behind the last line of B’s defense. 

Krug placed the blame on himself for the high-risk play at the offensive blue line, but it’s hard to wholly blame somebody that was using hustle to try and make something happen offensively. 

“I thought they were tired, and if I could keep it in then we keep them hemmed in and get them running around. At the end of the day, it’s a 50-50 play, but maybe early in my career, I learn that now and probably won’t do it anymore. Sometimes you’ve got to go through those things to learn,” said Krug. “It’s just one of those plays I thought instinctively I could get there and keep him hemmed in, and you could even tell when he went in on the breakaway that he was tired.

So, if I keep that in and we keep them hemmed in, hopefully we get a couple chances. But we’ve got to be better, some of our better players on our team, and we’ve got to take the onus on ourselves to start capitalizing on opportunities and changing the game for our team.”

Nobody is going to reasonably suggest that a dangerous power-play guy like Krug be removed from the special-teams unit, but clearly something needs to change. The Bruins are tied for 25th in the NHL on the power play with a 14.1 percent success rate, and they can’t blame lack of opportunities because they’re middle of the road when it comes to power-play chances this season. 

Only the Flyers, Stars and Blackhawks have allowed more shorthanded goals than the Bruins (four) in 28 games played as well, so the Black and Gold essentially aren’t playing good defense or offense on the power play this year. Krug saie that it’s a mindset thing and that the Bruins need to get back to the confident, energetic way they attacked penalty kills last season. 

“We want to make plays, we want to help our team. It’s not like we’re out there not trying to make plays or anything, but we just have to be better,” said Krug. “We’ve got to have better focus, crisper passes, making quick plays to the net and making things happen. I feel like right now we might just be standing there, [just kind of] static, just hoping that things are going to happen and we’re not making them happen. 

“So, we’ve got to change our mindset, and like I said, those guys on that unit are the guys that will go to work and make sure we’re better next time for our team.”

But it goes beyond simple approach. The Bruins lost their second-leading PP goal-scorer last season when Loui Eriksson signed with the Vancouver Canucks. Other top unit PP performers like David Krejci,  Krug and Ryan Spooner haven’t been as good this season. Still, perhaps the biggest reason is the all-around offensive disappearance of Patrice Bergeron, who had 12 goals and 13 assists on the PP last season for a team-best 25 power-play points. This season, Bergeron has one goal and two points on the PP in 25 games and has been neutralized by opposing penalty kills from his “bumper” position roving up and down the slot. 

The Bruins are determined to ride things out with Bergeron both five-on-five and on the PP, and rightfully so, given his quality, productive body of work with the Bruins. He’s Boston’s best player and you don’t ever go away from those guys. 

But Bergeron has been ordinary for the Bruins on the PP after being extraordinary last season, and not much is going to change with the B’s man advantage unless No. 37 begins to find the range, confidence and short-term quick burst that’s needed for the B’s power play to flow through him like a well-oiled scoring machine. A greater impact by David Backes on the net-front power play could help and an uptick in PP production from Krug, Krejci and Spooner would obviously be welcome for the Black and Gold. 

But the Bruins power play is designed to play off Bergeron’s many qualities and strengths when he’s at his best, and a big part of the B’s troubles and Bergeron’s troubles are linked together because No. 37 has been less than his best in a season that’s been challenging for him from the very beginning.