Ravens' Pees on slowing Brady: 'Hire Tonya Harding'

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Ravens' Pees on slowing Brady: 'Hire Tonya Harding'

FOXBORO - Dean Pees knows a thing or two about Tom Brady.

Pees was the linebackers coach for the Patriots for two seasons (2004, 2005) before being promoted to defensive coordinator when Eric Mangini left for the Jets after the 2005 season. He remained at that post until after the 2009 season, when he left to join the Baltimore Ravens.

Still with Baltimore as a defensive coordinator, Pees has had to do what he used to do in practice: figure out a way to stop Tom Brady.

But stopping Brady is impossible -- check the stats. What about simply making life uncomfortable?

Pees was asked how to do just that on Thursday.

Hire Tonya Harding," he said jokingly, getting laughs from reporters. "If they were getting off the bus, Id spray water outside the bus and hope it freezes. (laughing) He is who he is. I went against him up there in practice for six years. Hes as competitive of a person as Ive ever been around. He can give you this little boyish look on TV, but he is a very, very, very competitive guy.

"He didnt even like losing in practice. The more we rode him on defense because I had a couple trash-talkers the harder he played. He is who he is. Hes going to play well. You expect him to play. We have to do the best job we can, fundamentally, to disrupt him and do some things to him. I have a lot of respect for him. He is a Hall of Fame quarterback.

And he's coached by a Hall of Fame coach, all of which Pees knows too well. By coaching with Bill Belichick, Pees is expected to know a bit more about his approach to games, his style, and tendencies.

"I think the thing that you know about Bill, if youve ever worked for him, is the fact that when he looks at another team, whatever youve done in the past, if there has been a weakness, you better shore that one up, because thats what hes going to go after," Pees said. "There are some guys that are going to go out there and theyre going to run Power O no matter who the heck lines up, no matter what your front is. Well, Bill might not run a certain play against us at all that he has shown for the last three weeks, but he is going to run a play or a pass or whatever based on something that they have seen on film that they think is a weakness for us. Hes going to try to exploit either a person or whatever, a scheme that we have on defense, and he is going to do the same thing on offense on both sides of the ball.

So just how extreme will Belichick go in looking to exploit the opposing team? All the way into the Super Bowl.

"There were games that we played 4-3 and then there are games we never played 4-3 and played 3-4," Pees said. "The 2004 Super Bowl, we played a defense with five linebackers on the field that we hadnt played, ever. So, it was a matter because of Eagles QB Donovan McNabb and how we were going to take him and Brian Westbrook out of the game. So, it was more specific to things like that. Thats what Belichick does and is phenomenal about.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics go on second-quarter run

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics go on second-quarter run

BOSTON – The Celtics used a blistering run in the second quarter to propel them to a 50-42 lead over the Toronto Raptors after two quarters of play. 

It was the second straight game the Celtics had to play without their leading scorer Isaiah Thomas who remains out indefinitely with a right groin injury. 

As was the case in Boston’s 30-point win at Orlando, Avery Bradley took it upon himself to pick up some of the scoring slack as he leads the Celtics with 13 points at the half. 

Boston also got strong play in the first half from Al Horford who set the tone with a pair of 3’s in the first few minutes of the game. He would score eight first-half points to go with three rebounds. 

And then there was the Celtics bench seemingly picking up where they left off in Orlando.

Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier were once again making their impact early and often as they scored seven and four points, respectively. 

The game was relatively close until Boston, leading 32-31, went on a 14-0 run.

But the Raptors, once again among the top teams in the East, were able to outscore Boston 11-5 the rest of the second quarter which cut Boston’s led at the half down to eight points.

Here’s a look at the first half Stars, Studs and Duds from tonight’s game. 

 

STARS

Avery Bradley

Showing some serious two-way game tonight, Bradley was scoring the ball well in addition to doing a better-than-average job defensively on DeMar DeRozan. At the half, Bradley had 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting with three rebounds and two assists.

Kyle Lowry

He’s an All-Star but this kid doesn’t get enough credit for his talent. The Celtics had problems with him for large chunks of the first half as he led all Toronto scorers with 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting.

 

STUDS

Jaylen Brown

Very active at both ends of the floor, making the most of his chance to see extended minutes. At the half he had seven points along with two rebounds.

Kelly Olynyk

This was one of the more active games we’ve seen Olynyk play in, especially when it came to rebounding. At the half he had five points and seven rebounds. 

Norman Powell

He helped Toronto get off to a solid start, and finished the half with seven points. 

 

DUDS

DeMar DeRozan

He had eight points at the half, but the Celtics made him work a lot harder for it than he’s used to as DeRozan shot just 4-for-12 from the field.

Thomas (groin) 'pretty ambitious' about return, remains day-to-day

Thomas (groin) 'pretty ambitious' about return, remains day-to-day

BOSTON – Isaiah Thomas, out for the second straight game with a right groin injury, is hoping to be back in the lineup by Wednesday’s game at San Antonio. 

But the Celtics may find themselves having to save the 5-foot-9 from himself on this one. 

“When I talked to Ed (Lacerte, the team’s head trainer) over the last 24-48 hours they said it’s usually 10 days to two weeks for an injury like this,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters.

“But again we're talking about Isaiah being pretty ambitious in his return,” Stevens said. “He's been getting treatment around the clock so we'll see. He'll be officially listed as day-to-day.”

When asked about how he was feeling prior to the game, Thomas said, “I’m not that good because I can’t play (tonight). It’s getting better. It hasn’t gotten worse and I’m just working as hard as I can to get back on the court.”

At a Christmas event earlier this week, Thomas said he was planning to travel with the Celtics when they play at Oklahoma City on Sunday and at San Antonio on Wednesday. 

But he didn’t sound as optimistic when asked about it on Friday. 

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ll probably know tonight.”

If the Celtics have ruled him out for Sunday’s game against the Thunder, it would make more sense for him to stay in Boston and continue to rehab his groin. And if he’s feeling better to the point where he becomes a game-time decision, he could meet the team in San Antonio. 

“I’m going to take it day-by-day,” Thomas said. “Hopefully, I can play in the next few games and we'll see what happens. Today I feel a lot better than I have since I (suffered) the injury so we'll see maybe in next couple of days. I'm shooting for Wednesday."

As much as Thomas wants to be back on the floor quickly, he understands that he must listen to his body as well as the Celtics’ medical folks who have consistently brought back players only after they pass a series of rigorous physical tests that leave little doubt about a player’s readiness to return to action. 

“Our medical staff is great and he trusts them,” Stevens said. “But also, nobody knows his body better than him. They feel like he's not looking (to be sidelined) long-term. It's not going to be a long-term thing for sure. We got to make sure not to bring him back tonight or too soon.”

Thomas is averaging a career-high 26.0 points per game in addition to being Boston’s leaders in assists with 6.2 per game.