Patriots coaching staff looks within during bye week

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Patriots coaching staff looks within during bye week

Bill Belichick knows how important it is to make use of the bye week. The extra time off isn't all about rest and relaxation. For the Patriots coaching staff, the extra time allotted to them before their Week 10 game against Buffalo will be maximized in an effort to find out what's working, what isn't, and what can be done better in the second half of the season.

The Patriots coaching staff has already had an opportunity to do some work since returning home from London on Monday.

"Well we got back in yesterday and kind of started to get re-organized here," Belichick said in a conference call on Tuesday. "So todays a good day for us to catch up on a few loose ends in the last few weeks, first half of the season, and really turn our attention to Buffalo and start getting ready for them, take advantage of the extra time, try to do a good job there."

To improve during the bye, Belichick said that he and his staff will turn their focus inward for a period of time, analyzing themselves and their tendencies rather than focusing purely on their next opponent. There is some self-scouting that takes place every week, but during the bye there's time to dig a little deeper.

"This is a good opportunity for us to try and look at some things that we can do better going forward," Belichick said. "But also looking back at maybe things that we could spend more time on to try to improve over the little bit of extra time this week from things that didnt go so well at other points, whether it was last week or some other week or some other problem that may have been re-occurring or something we hadnt done as well as wed like to do."

Everything's fair game. The Patriots will analyze statistical information as well as film in order to iron things out. They'll even dive into their own playbook to see if there are any trends that need to be fixed.

"Sometimes we just look at it and you see a group of 15 or 20 plays in a certain situation -- red area, two minute, third down, outside runs, inside runs, whatever it happens to be," Belichick said. "Sometimes something just jumps out at you. Its probably something youre aware of but maybe its a little bit more prevalent than what you expected."

The Patriots will even scout how other teams have scouted them. If they see that their opponents are playing the same way every week, then they know something's up.

"If were kind of seeing the same coverages," Belichick said, "or the same front or the same plays or the same formations are repeating -- whatever it happens to be on a consistent basis, then theres probably a reason for that that teams are trying to create some type of advantage or positioning that we were having trouble with for some reason."

The bye week is the time to figure out exactly what those things are.

Even with the time off, it should be a busy week at Gillette Stadium. While it will be important for players to rest up and receive treatment on their lingering injuries, Belichick and his staff will be hard at work, angling for whatever advantage they can find as they prepare for the second half of the season.

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.