How did Plaxico Burress fare in first game back?

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How did Plaxico Burress fare in first game back?

From Comcast SportsNet Monday, August 22, 2011
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Plaxico Burress saw the ball coming his way and everything started to move in slow motion. He stretched his arms out, grabbed the pass over his shoulder and fell into the end zone for a touchdown. After being away from the game for nearly three years, Plax was back. "Everything feels normal," the wide receiver said. "It feels like football. To be honest, it feels like I never left." Burress caught three passes for 66 yards, including a terrific 26-yard reception for a touchdown, in his first game since 2008 to help the New York Jets beat the Cincinnati Bengals 27-7 in a preseason game Sunday night. "It's the tip of the iceberg," Burress said. "I'm just getting started." Signed last month after serving 20 months in prison on a gun charge, Burress made his debut with the Jets (1-1) a memorable one. He caught a 20-yard pass from Mark Sanchez on the Jets' first offensive play, prompting huge cheers from the rain-soaked crowd at the New Meadowlands Stadium. "He was ready to play," Sanchez said. "He's been waiting for this for a long time, so I didn't have to say anything or do anything, really, except get him a ball that he could catch and he was rolling after the first play." Burress had another 20-yard grab in the second quarter, but the highlight came on New York's last offensive play of the first half. Burress took off down the left sideline, drew separation from defensive back Fred Bennett and hauled in the pass as he dropped into the end zone to put New York up 17-7. Burress got up and bowed a few times to the crowd, which had seen him make similar plays for years with the Steelers and Giants. "It's a good thing to make it seem like everything is going in slow motion because that means the game is still slow to me," he said. "Nothing's moving fast. To have that ball hanging up in the air like that with the lights and different things like that, I just trusted myself to make an over-the-shoulder catch and try to bring it in." Burress recently turned 34 and has acknowledged that many doubt he can return to the elite level he was playing at before he accidentally shot himself in the leg at a Manhattan nightclub in 2008. But the former Super Bowl star with the Giants has insisted throughout training camp -- even while he was hobbled by a sprained left ankle -- that he expects to be a game-changing receiver again. After missing the preseason opener at Houston because of the ankle injury, Burress backed up his bold words against the Bengals (0-2). "He played great," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "If we get the coverage a certain way, good luck to you. He is a big target and when he is covered, he is open." Sanchez finished 12 of 20 for 173 yards and two touchdowns, the first to Santonio Holmes, as the Jets' starting offense played the entire first half. The running game, without starter Shonn Greene, stalled during the first two quarters, gaining just 17 yards, as a driving rain fell. LaDainian Tomlinson had just 16 yards on nine carries. Cincinnati's offense struggled badly as rookie Andy Dalton, the second-round pick out of TCU, threw two interceptions that resulted in scores by New York. Dalton was 4 of 11 for 29 yards after one quarter, and finished 8 of 19 for 86 yards. "It wasn't good enough," Dalton said. "I have to come out and play better." On the Bengals' second possession, Eric Smith intercepted Dalton's pass intended for A.J. Green, who tipped the ball into the safety's hands. After a few steps, Smith lateraled the ball to Darrelle Revis, who brought the ball to the Bengals 16. One play later, Sanchez connected with Holmes to give the Jets a 7-0 lead. Dalton made another mistake a few minutes later when he overthrew Andre Caldwell on third-and-15 from the 22 and the ball landed in the hands of a waiting Jim Leonhard, who returned it 35 yards to Cincinnati's 10. The Jets' offense stalled and settled for Nick Novak's 30-yard field goal that made it 10-0. "He continues to work through the rough spots of playing this game as a rookie," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said about Dalton. "He experienced some different conditions, playing with a wet ball. It was just another good step as he moves forward." Dalton did engineer a terrific 70-yard scoring drive -- his first of the preseason -- early in the second quarter that was capped by Brian Leonard's 1-yard rush. But this night belonged to Burress, whose last game was Nov. 23, 2008, at Arizona while with the Giants. Sure it was only a preseason game, but it was huge for Burress, who just a few months ago was cleaning toilets, mopping floors and serving meals in prison. "Just to walk into stadium and get on the football field and doing stretches and different things like that, I kind of felt like I was there," he said. "But in my mind, it was kind of like I couldn't believe I was actually doing football again. It was like an out-of-body experience, a surreal feeling. I just tried to stay focused." He was cheered as he ran out of the tunnel with the offense in pregame introductions, and got a nice hand when he zipped across the field and Sanchez immediately got him involved with a 20-yard completion. "It's different," Sanchez said. "I've never had a target like him." Burress could only dream for nearly three years of the cheers he heard Sunday. After a slow start with the Jets because of not being able to practice fully with the sore ankle, Burress got in a few days of full practices this week and felt good. Now, he needs to build a rapport with Sanchez, who threw Burress' way seven times. "We left a few plays out there that we should've hit," Burress said, "but the sky's the limit." Notes: Several key players sat out, including Derrick Mason, Bart Scott, Brandon Moore and Calvin Pace for the Jets, and Keith Rivers, Jonathan Fanene, Adam Jones and Gibril Wilson for the Bengals. ... Brashton Satele had an interception that helped set up Greg McElroy's 3-yard touchdown pass to Joe McKnight in the fourth quarter that gave the Jets a 27-7 lead. ... LB Aaron Maybin, a former Buffalo first-round bust signed last week by the Jets, had a sack and a forced fumble.

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.