Mankins expects a challenge from Texans' Watt

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Mankins expects a challenge from Texans' Watt

FOXBORO -- Though Texans star defensive lineman JJ Watt frequently lined up against the right side of the Patriots offensive line in New England's Week 14 win, 42-14, all Patriots will be on alert to make sure he's kept out of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's face on Sunday.

That includes Patriots left guard Logan Mankins.

"Well, its going to be really tough," Mankins said. "You have probably the best D-lineman in the league in J.J. Watt and then youve got Antonio Smith, another very good defensive lineman. So those two together are very tough and then you put all four of them out there at one time and theyre a tough matchup for anyone.

"You see the problems they give teams every week. Cincinnati scored six points on offense in Houston's Wild Card Round win so that says a lot right there, to hold a team to six points in the playoffs."

Watt will likely see a lot of Patriots right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and right guard Dan Connolly in their Divisional Round game on Sunday. But if Watt is moved along the line, the job of blocking the 6-foot-5, 295-pound man who is arguably the NFL's best defensive player could fall to Mankins.

Mankins explained what makes it so difficult to handle Watt.

"It starts with he's got all the physical tools," Mankins said. "He's big, strong, fast and plays relentless. He's a high motor guy that hustles a lot. He's got a great playing style. That's why he's good."

Watt wasn't dominant in Week 14 on Monday night when the Patriots beat up on the Texans, 42-14, but he was very good. He finished the game with four tackles, a forced fumble and three quarterback hits.

Mankins said that Watt's performance against the Patriots during the regular season will have no bearing on Sunday's Divisional Round game, however. Even though the Patriots offensive line kept him from taking over the game, Watt will undoubtedly present his share of problems once again this time around. He's been too good over the course of this year not to. He had 20.5 sacks, 69 tackles, 4 forced fumbles in the regular season and five tackles and a sack against Cincinnati last week.

"It's gonna be a new challenge every time," Mankins said. "You play against him, you see him on film, you say 'That's a pretty good player right there.' Then you go against him and you really know what he's capable of doing. Experience helps you a little bit, but it still comes down to one man versus him and you either got it or you don't."

Thomas strains right groin, says he'll 'be fine for Wednesday'

Thomas strains right groin, says he'll 'be fine for Wednesday'

The bumps and bruises continue to pile up for Isaiah Thomas, adding a new one to the group during Boston’s 107-106 loss at Houston. 
 
The 5-foot-9 guard said he strained his right groin in the second quarter, but added that the injury won’t force him to miss any games. 
 
“I’ll be alright,” Thomas told reporters after the loss. “I’ll get treatment. I’ll be fine for Wednesday (against Orlando).”
 
The injury appeared to have happened shortly after Houston’s Trevor Ariza hit a 3-pointer that put the Rockets ahead 55-45.
 
At the time it didn’t seem all that serious as Thomas, who had 20 points on the night, came down and drained a 3-pointer. 
 
But after the game, Thomas acknowledged his groin did bother him during the game in which he played 33-plus minutes. 
 
“A few drives I didn’t have the lift,” said Thomas, who finished with 20 points. “It is what it is. I’ll figure it out.”
 
Thomas, who played in all 82 regular season games last season in addition to each of Boston’s 21 games this season, has dealt with an assortment of injuries including but not limited to, a swollen middle finger injury on his left (shooting) hand. 
 
Thomas, an All-Star last season for the first time, has played at an elite level that should once again position him to be represent the Eastern Conference. 
 
Following Monday’s game, Thomas is averaging a career-high 26.0 points per game which ranks ninth in the NBA along with 6.1 assists. 

Smart: 'Can’t blame the officials for the outcome of the game'

Smart: 'Can’t blame the officials for the outcome of the game'

The fact that the James Harden of the Houston Rockets went to the free throw line 18 times which was more than the entire Celtics roster (12 free throw attempts total) certainly fired up conspiracy theorists among Celtics Nation. 
 
But what seemed to draw the most ire was what appeared to be a 3-pointer by Avery Bradley late in the fourth quarter that was initially called a long two-pointer. 
 
And after it was reviewed by the good folks in Secaucus, N.J., they allowed the ruling to stand because there wasn’t enough proof in the many replay angles for them to overturn the original call. 
 
The missed lay-ups by Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas in the closing seconds stand out, obviously. 
 
But the 3-pointer that wasn’t a 3-pointer was one of the more talked-about topics in the Celtics locker room afterwards. 
 
“From the angle we saw, it was a three,” Boston’s Marcus Smart told reporters after the game. “We definitely thought it was.”
 
Said Jae Crowder: “I thought it was a three. Nothing we can do about it now.”
 
It was that kind of game for the Celtics, one in which plays that could go either way more often than not, went against them. 
 
And while Bradley’s questionable two-pointer certainly was a factor in the game’s outcome, as was the free throw discrepancy and the late-game misses, ultimately the blame for Monday’s loss falls upon the Celtics players who were still in position to win despite all those setbacks.

They simply didn't get it done, when it mattered.
 
Smart, who had 13 points off the Celtics bench, understands that fans like to blame the officials when a game ends like Monday’s loss to Houston. 
 
“Officials, they did their job,” Smart said. “You can’t blame the officials for the outcome of the game. We made some costly plays down the stretch. Give credit to the Rockets. They made plays and executed down the stretch.”