Lin, Knicks are surging up the NBA standings


Lin, Knicks are surging up the NBA standings

From Comcast SportsNet

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- As Amare Stoudemire walked into the New York locker room with a towel over his shoulders, the coaching staff followed. When the door closed, one jubilant voice inside screamed: "How Bout Those Knicks!" How about em, indeed. Fueled by a dose of Linsanity and a timely coaching change, the Knicks are making a furious charge toward a division title. Knocking off a 76ers team in full swoon was the latest step. Stoudemire had 21 points and nine rebounds to lead the Knicks to their fifth straight victory, 82-79 over fading Philadelphia on Wednesday night. Jeremy Lin scored 16 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, and Carmelo Anthony had 10 to help the Knicks pull within three games of the Atlantic Division leaders and clinch the head-to-head tiebreaker. "It's been our goal," Anthony said. "That's never changed." The game ended with thousands of New York fans chanting, "Let's go Knicks!" They had reason to celebrate after Stoudemire hit a pair of big buckets down the stretch to clinch the win. The Knicks scored fewer than 83 points in a win for the first time since Nov. 14, 2005, vs. Utah (73-62). Linsanity has turned into Winsanity as the Knicks are unbeaten since Mike D'Antoni stepped down exactly a week earlier. "I was sweating a little bit tonight," interim coach Mike Woodson said. "But I learned that my team is not going to buckle, and I honestly believe that they believe they can win any game that they play now." Elton Brand had 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Sixers. Jrue Holiday scored 16. This could be a crushing week for the Sixers with Boston set to visit on Friday. The Celtics are only a game back for the division lead and an automatic top-four seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. "You've got to look at the division right now. Have to," Brand said. "We have to step up, win some games, and find a way to get some separation from New York and Boston." Each team was backed by a Hollywood heavyweight supporter: Co-owner Will Smith rooted on the Sixers and Spike Lee sat adjacent to the Knicks bench. Smith and Lee exchanged some laughs, and Smith pointed to his black 76ers cap when he was shown on the big screen in front of 20,470 fans. The Sixers shook off a miserable start and a double-digit hole to make a run at the Knicks in the fourth. Lou Williams, perhaps the NBA's best sixth man, nailed a 3-pointer that tied the game at 63-all. Stoudemire, though, returned the favor with a monster dunk and a loud roar that was gleefully met with cheers by all the Knicks fans. Stoudemire hit a pull-up jumper next time down and the Knicks led by four. Lin followed with a runner and Lee, wearing a No. 17 jersey, leapt from his seat and applauded as the Knicks ran his way for a timeout. Lin delivered from the free throw line, sinking two for an eight-point lead, then feeding Anthony for a 16-footer that gave the Knicks the breathing room they needed. Lin was 10 for 10 from the line. The Sixers kept coming, and nearly turned the game around in the final 2 minutes. Trailing by three, Brand blocked Lin's shot that led to a fast-break attempt for Andre Iguodala. Iguodala missed the layup, and the empty possession would finish off the Sixers. For good measure, Iguodala shot an airball in the final minute. "We have to do a better job of being a better unit," Iguodala said. Meanwhile, the orange and blue took over, and chanted for the Knicks, completing a double-dose of defeat for Philadelphia. The Sixers never led and trailed by as many as 12 points when they finally found a groove in the third. Thaddeus Young's dunk pulled them within two and Iguodala buried a 3-pointer from the corner -- only his third basket -- for a 49-48 lead. Philadelphia was invaded by a fleet of Knicks fans that gave this one a postseason feel -- for Madison Square Garden. But the Sixers fans came alive along with their team and went wild when, after the Sixers blew the lead, Williams nailed a 3 to pull them to 59-58 to end the quarter. Only 10 days earlier, the Sixers handed the Knicks their fifth straight loss, 106-94. Stoudemire sat alongside Anthony for the entire fourth quarter. Both were needed this time around, especially with Lin having a miserable first three quarters. He missed 10 of his first 11 shots and had only two assists -- one on a long pass to a streaking Anthony for a thunderous dunk. Lin wasn't the only scorer who couldn't buy a bucket. Iguodala, who averages 12.2 points, didn't score his first field goal until there was 45 seconds left in the first half. He scored 13 points. Of course, Linsanity is so 15 minutes ago now that Tebowmania headlines New York. "I'm just excited for him and to see what he does," Lin said after the Jets acquired Tim Tebow. "We'll see what happens next year. But I'm excited, obviously, that he's going to be in New York." The Sixers missed their first 14 shots -- Spencer Hawes even fired an airball on the 10th attempt -- and committed five turnovers in the first quarter. "Never seen anything like that before. 0-14?" Brand said. The only part more amazing than their futility from the court was that they only trailed by eight points. The Knicks did their part at the end. "We're building, we're getting better, we're feeling more confident," Lin said. "We're creating a team identity." Notes: Knicks G Baron Davis returned after sitting out two games with a strained right hamstring. "I want to make myself available," he said. ... Knicks F Jared Jeffries left in the fourth quarter with a sore right knee. ... Flyers Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds sat courtside. Hartnell tossed shirts into the crowd. ... The Sixers are 6-12 after a 20-9 start.

Older, wiser Gronk: 'When the journey is need to get down'


Older, wiser Gronk: 'When the journey is need to get down'

FOXBORO -- The move did not require Olympic-caliber speed or other-worldly quickness. There was a subtle head fake, a foot in the ground, a shoulder turn. All of a sudden, Rob Gronkowski was wide open in the middle of the field and reeling in a Tom Brady pass for 37 yards in the fourth quarter of last weekend's win over the Steelers. 

Bill Belichick raved about the play on days after the fact. What Gronkowski did to safety Robert Golden was a thing of beauty in the eyes of the coach.

"This really is a good look at Rob’s route-running ability," Belichick said. "Rob comes in on Golden and takes it down the middle, like he’s going to run a crossing pattern or over route, and gives him a good move here and bends it back out. The receivers clear out the corners. That’s a lot of space there."

Gronkowski's move, combined with the steady diet of crossing routes teams have seen from the Patriots in recent weeks, helped set up the play that led to LeGarrette Blount's second touchdown of the day. The 6-foot-6, 265-pound tight end was like a power pitcher who had been throwing fastballs for six innings and then pulled the string with a change-up in the seventh. Golden was helpless. 

"The number of times we’ve run Rob on over routes, and to come back and counter it -- it looks like Golden is trying to guess on the route and undercut it a little bit. Rob comes back away from it and turns it into a big play and sets up our last touchdown. Really a well-executed play by Rob.

“Sometimes you think it’s all size and strength, but as a technique route runner, he’s very good, too."

A quick mid-route shimmy. A look in one direction before heading in another. A nudge -- sometimes picking up a flag, sometimes not. They're all elements of route-running that Gronkowski has added to his tool belt over the course of his seven years with the Patriots. Considered the team's resident frat boy, it's sometimes hard to remember that he's one of the longest-tenured players on the team, a captain, and that he's picked up his share veteran tricks along the way.  

"I’ve definitely had to work it out plenty since I’ve been here," Gronkowski said of his route-running. "To be successful in this organization and this offense you just got to be working on it big time. It’s not just you just come in and you have it. From day one I remember I could barely even get open but just learning from Tom, from all my coaches here, it definitely helps out going out and focusing on your route detail. 

"Sometimes, necessarily, you don’t have to be the best skilled player out on the field to get open. It’s just learning the game of football, how to get open, what move to make is definitely all part of it."

Getting open is only part of it.

What he does with the football in his hands to run away from defenders is something that comes naturally. What hasn't always clicked for Gronkowski is how to finish. He has a tendency to want to impose his will on opponents at the ends of plays, running them over and leaving them behind, or embarrassing them and their loved ones by dragging them for inordinate amounts of time as he churns forward for extra yards. 

But in recent years, he's accepted that not every play needs to end with an exclamation point. He has come to understand that oftentimes a simple period will do.

Take his 37-yard catch against the Steelers, for example. When he got near the sideline and faced down a Pittsburgh defensive back, instead of trying to trample him to get to the goal line, he lowered his pads, shielded his legs, and went down.

"You always got to protect yourself whenever you can," he said. "You know, when the journey is done, if you’re running the ball, just get down and don’t take that extra shot. You can always show your toughness, you can have five guys take you down, but really that’s sometimes not the case. 

"You really want to show that you just want to get down, you want to preserve your body for the next play when the journey is done and you’re not going to get any more yards."

More often than not, it's the prudent choice. Mature, even. 

"It started coming in the last few years," Gronkowski said. "I remember a couple times my rookie year I'd just try and ‘Boom!' I remember I’d be like, ‘Oh, that one hurt.’ It hurt to go one more inch. 

"Definitely, when the journey is over and you know you gave it all -- you’re not going to be able to carry five guys, sometimes not even two guys -- whenever you just feel like you need to get down, you need to get down. It’s a physical game. Every play is going to be physical so save it for the next one."

Spoken like a savvy veteran. 

Stevens, Celtics expect to use similar rotation vs. Bulls


Stevens, Celtics expect to use similar rotation vs. Bulls

The Boston Celtics’ bench was unable to close out Wednesday’s 122-117 win over Brooklyn, but don’t look for head coach Brad Stevens to make any significant changes tonight.

“I felt pretty good about those rotations last night,” Stevens told reporters prior to tonight’sgame against Chicago. “For forty minutes, we rotated well.”

After a relatively close first quarter, it was Boston’s second unit that gave Boston its first double-digit lead of the night and led by as many as 13 points.

But it wasn’t their scoring that jumped out to Stevens.

“The second unit came in and provided probably our best defensive sequence of the game, start of the second quarter and played really well until the end,” Stevens said.

Stevens played a total of 10 players against the Nets – all playing in the first half - and will likely have a similar number of Celtics on the floor tonight against the Bulls.

It will be interesting to see what the Celtics do rotation-wise when Marcus Smart (left ankle sprain) and Kelly Olynk (right shoulder) are back on the active roster.

Smart recently confirmed an earlier report that the left ankle injury he suffered in the Celtics’ final preseason game against the New York Knicks, would keep him out for a couple of weeks.

In addition to missing the season opener against Brooklyn, Smart is likely to miss another three games.

Olynyk, who had offseason surgery in May, has been cleared for contact but is not expected to be back on the floor until the middle of next month.

“Until our other guys get back,” Stevens said. “There will be similar rotations.”