Heisman winner could go pro after Alamo Bowl

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Heisman winner could go pro after Alamo Bowl

From Comcast SportsNet
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Since winning the Heisman Trophy, Robert Griffin III is often shadowed by a bodyguard of sorts to dissuade autograph seekers, and this week tucked his dreadlocks under a hat in hopes of strolling through Sea World incognito. "I got a lot of double-takes," the Baylor quarterback said. "If you can get a double-take, you can walk far enough away to where they'll be discouraged to approach you. But it was cool. I didn't mind." Now it's a question of whether RG3 is about to give college football its last look at him altogether. The nation's most electrifying player leads No. 15 Baylor (9-3) into the Alamo Bowl against Washington (7-5) on Thursday night while keeping his decision about leaving for the NFL private for now. Griffin, who says he can't "go to Wendy's and get a cheeseburger without signing 1,000 autographs" since winning college football's top award, reiterated in San Antonio that he's undecided about forgoing his senior year. He said his parents are looking at his draft prospects but denies having any substantial talks with them. Baylor can hardly feel jilted if this is Griffin's last game. The fourth-year junior, who also won the Davey O'Brien Award and is the AP Player of the Year, has raised the program's profile to unseen heights. He rescued the Bears from their perennial status as the Big 12's punch line and has Baylor on a five-game winning streak, its longest in 20 years. A win against Washington would match the school record of 10 wins when Mike Singletary was a senior in 1980, and merely playing in back-to-back bowls is a first for Baylor in two decades. Simply put, it's been a magical season the school doesn't want to see end. Washington won't exactly say the same. The Huskies stumbled into a second consecutive bowl game dropping four of their last six and losing badly to all four ranked teams they played this season. That included Stanford and Andrew Luck, the Heisman runner-up to Griffin, who coasted in a 65-21 win that began Washington's second-half slide. Yet tailback Chris Polk and other seniors still vividly remember going 0-12 just four years ago under Tyrone Willingham. According to the school, Washington is the first BCS program to go from winless to back-to-back bowl appearances in three years since Central Florida in 2004. "I would have never imagined this," offensive lineman Senio Kelemte said. "It was pretty hard for all of us, the 0-12 season. I'm pretty sure a lot of guys didn't really want to play football anymore or wanted to transfer or just ... just football wasn't fun." The Huskies have a shot at an eight-win season for the first time since 2001, but it might be a long night against Baylor. The Huskies will put one of the nation's worst defenses against the Bears, whose offense was the second-best in the country. Baylor averaged more than 570 yards of offense a game behind Griffin, who threw for nearly for 3,998 yards with a Big 12-leading 36 touchdowns and only six interceptions. That made him the nation's most efficient passer. Baylor averaged 43 points a game. Washington's let opponents score an average of 33. "We've had a huge challenge this whole year playing against good offenses," Washington defensive coordinator Nick Holt said. "This is good offense and the only difference this time is that we're playing against the best player in the country and a Heisman Trophy winner who has a great supporting cast." Anything else? "And, oh yeah," Holt added. "They run an up-tempo, no huddle offense and can score really quickly." Griffin is the first Heisman winner to play in a bowl game before New Year's Day since Ty Detmer led BYU to the Holiday Bowl in 1990. Two years later, Baylor won its last postseason game in the Sun Bowl. Ending that drought may be the last thing left for Griffin for do. "We know why we're here and we came to win our 10th game," Griffin said. "Washington just happens to be in the way."

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

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Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Avery Bradley was a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive first team a year ago. And Al Horford has been among the league’s best interior defenders for a number of years.

But as talented defensively as they may be, the Celtics are still learning how to play with each other as well as off of one another.

Injuries have slowed down the chemistry developing as quickly as some might expect. Horford missed nine games due to a concussion, and another game due to wife giving birth to their second child, Alia Horford.

And in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia on Saturday night, defensive chemistry -- not only among Horford and Bradley, but with all of the players -- remains a work in progress for sure.

Boston had a number of defensive issues in the first half which factored in the Sixer shooting 46.1 percent from the field while shooting 9-for-18 from 3-point range.

But the second half was an entirely different story as Boston’s defense picked up his intensity and focus level which would prove to be just enough to beat a scrappy Sixers team.

The Celtics (12-8) are four games over .500 for the first time this season currently have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland (13-5) and Toronto (14-6). 

And while the players point to a handful of games that they felt they gave away, Avery Bradley reminds all that the success of this team this season has for the most part come with key players out of the mix or limited in some capacity.

“We haven’t played that many games with the full roster,” Bradley told reporters after the win. “We’re still learning how to play with each other.”

Bradley pointed out a moment in Saturday’s victory where a miscommunication between him and Horford led to a defensive miscue.

Boston has had similar mistakes made on offense this season, too.

“We haven’t really been in pick-and-roll that much,” Bradley said. “Every single game we need to improve.”

And that improvement has to continue evolving on the defensive side of things for this team to achieve its goals this season which include being among the last teams standing in the East.

Doing that will likely mean Boston re-establishing itself as a defensive force, something that should come with time and experience playing with each other.

Horford, who signed a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston in the offseason, says it’s an ongoing process for all involved.

“I have to learn to play with our concepts, the guys have to learn to play with me,” Horford told reporters after Saturday’s win. “We just have to make sure we keep playing the right way, be more consistent with that. I feel like we’re getting better but there’s still some work that we need to do.”

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

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Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

The pressure that comes with a tight game in the fourth quarter can be a weighty proposition for some NBA players.

Then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who continues to save his best work for the fourth quarter.

Saturday’s 107-106 win at Philadelphia had yet another Thomas-like finish for the Celtics as the 5-foot-9 guard was at his most dominant state in the game’s final minutes.

Thomas finished with a season high-tying 37 points which included a stretch in the fourth in which he scored 12 straight.

“I just love the fourth quarter,” Thomas told reporters following the win. “I just want to win. Whether it’s making plays for myself or making plays for my teammates, it’s about making the right play. I get ultra- aggressive in that fourth quarter. That’s what I’ve always done.”

And his teammates appreciate how Thomas elevates his play in the game’s most pivotal moments.

“A lot of the credit is to Isaiah, how he was able to finish the game tonight,” said Avery Bradley. “He was able to make shots when we needed him to.”

And while Thomas knows his shots won’t fall all the time down the stretch, his fourth quarter mentality does provide him with a level of confidence that no matter what the defense does to him or what the score may be, he can swing the game’s momentum in his team’s favor.

“Some guys get a little tight, they get a little timid (in the fourth quarter),” Thomas said. “I embrace it. I want to be great. I want to be somebody my teammates can call on when the game is close.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Saturday night’s game.

STARS

Isaiah Thomas: There was no more dominant player on Saturday night than Thomas. He finished with a game-high 37 points along with seven assists.

Dario Saric: It was a breakout game for the 22-year-old rookie who led the Sixers with 21 points as well as 12 rebounds for his third double-double this season. Both his points and rebound totals tied his career highs in those categories.

STUDS

Avery Bradley: Boston’s surge towards victory did not kick in until the third quarter which is when Bradley elevated his play offensively. In the third he scored 10 of his 20 points on the night, to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.

Ersan Illyasova: He finished with 18 points which included a pair of three-pointers in the closing seconds of the game. He also grabbed six rebounds and two assists.

DUDS

Celtics first half defense: There wasn’t much to like about Boston defensively in the first half. The Celtics struggled to take away or limit Philadelphia’s only strength Saturday night which was three-point shooting. The Sixers nailed nine of their 18 three-point attempts in the first half in addition to hurting the Celtics’ transition defense which gave up seven fast-break points to Philly compared to Boston scoring just one point in transition.