Talib, Lloyd gearing up for first career playoff game

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Talib, Lloyd gearing up for first career playoff game

FOXBORO -- If they were on different teams, cornerback Aqib Talib would most likely have the duties of covering wide receiver Brandon Lloyd.
Instead, both players are Patriots. And both will be participating in their first career playoff game on Sunday.
Both Talib and Lloyd knew what they were getting into when they came to New England. They knew that they'd be getting a chance to make the playoffs.
Before then?
"I'd be at a Sundance Film Festival, on my way to the Bahamas, you know, all kind of different stuff," said Lloyd with a smile on Thursday, when asked what he usually does during the NFL playoffs.
Lloyd didn't go out of his way to watch the games he would rather be playing in.
"Unless it was on the television in the hotel lobby or something," he said.
Now, Lloyd's right where he wants to be, in position to get to a Super Bowl. Which is why he signed with New England in the first place.
"It was part of the decision," said Lloyd. "Ever since you're a kid, the ultimate goal is to play in the Super Bowl. And the only way to get to the Super Bowl is to make it to the playoffs."
Talib was traded to the Patriots during the season, so it wasn't necessarily his choice. But now that he's here and it's finally time to make his playoff debut, he believes he's ready.
"You see that intensity turned up in practice some," said Talib on Thursday. "Meetings turn up. So it definitely feels like a playoff week.
"Just prepare, man," he added. "As much as you prepared for the regular season, just prepare a little bit more for the playoffs. The game's going to speed up a little bit.
Talib said he expects the action to speed up, but that doesn't mean he's going to change what he does.
"I don't play scared," said Talib. "So I'm going to play my game. I'm going to read and react. Read my keys, and I'm going to react. I don't play scared though."
Just because Talib and Lloyd are big names, that doesn't mean their first seasons in New England were going to work out. Just ask, oh I don't know, Chad Ochocinco.
Talib and Lloyd had to fit in. The Patriots organization is run differently than any organization in the league. Players realize that the second they enter the building.
For Talib, he walked onto a Patriots defense that needed a shutdown corner. He didn't need to do too much to fit in with the team on the field. But previous off-the-field issues may have been a cause for concern for some.
Not for the Patriots.
"It's funny, as soon as he got here he was kind of just like one of the guys," said cornerback Devin McCourty. "I don't know if it's just with athletes in general, but it seems like anytime we get a new guy on this team -- even a guy like Marquis Cole that came in the offseason -- it seems like he's been here for years. There's always a lot of transition in the NFL. I think guys know each other from playing against each other, some guys know each other from college, guys come in and it seems like they just fall right into the group. And I don't think there's a group that has more fun than us, in the secondary, just being around each other in the locker room, cracking jokes and doing things like that. He's fit in well."
Lloyd has had to prove himself in an offense that has plenty of weapons, or at least, a lot more than other teams.
On Thursday, Lloyd said his on-field success with Tom Brady is still a "work in progress," as he's said all season long. But he also filled everyone in on just how different it is playing with someone like Brady, during a game, as opposed to some of the other quarterbacks he's played and prepared with.
"It's been different than the past, just because of the organization," said Lloyd. "It's been different than the past because of Tom Brady and his style of preparation. But it's been similar in the sense that, you have to put the work in during the week, in all the weeks, and during the camps. And then we go into the game, and that's when we really find out about one another. That's what makes it similar.
"In playing with the less experienced quarterbacks, like in St. Louis I was playing with Kellen Clemons, it would be different. When he was thrown into the starting lineup, it was more of a situation where I was like, 'Where do you want me to be? I'm not going to tell you where I'm going to be. You tell me where you want me to be, and then I'll do my best to get there.'
"And with Tom, we have a little bit of give and take," added Lloyd. "Some plays I have that freedom, and then there are some plays where I can say, 'Hey, I'm going to be here.' And then he'll work it out. And then other plays he'll say, 'You need to be here.' And then that's the way the plays go. So it's similar and it's different. But it's equally rewarding."
Lloyd believes the presence of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has certainly helped the process move forward.
"I think the bridge with Tom is Josh, because Josh gives me credibility," said Lloyd. "Being with Josh the last three seasons, that's what gave me the credibility to come here and be accepted as a productive member of this team."
Both Lloyd and Talib have been productive in their own separate ways at different times of the season. Now, they'll both need to be productive at the same time. Because both share the same goal.
Get to New Orleans.

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

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But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."

Stars, studs and duds: Lillard steps up in second half, overtime

Stars, studs and duds: Lillard steps up in second half, overtime

BOSTON – Saturday was yet another night when the opposing team – this time it was the Portland Trail Blazers – that up the Boston Celtics with an avalanche of points that ended in a 127-123 overtime loss.

And yet through the rubble of all those lay-ups and put-back baskets and mid-range jumpers, Stevens saw something he has not seen in a while – hope that better days defensively were coming sooner rather than later.

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“As crazy as it sounds with them scoring (127) … I actually thought we were a lot closer to defending the way we want to defend," said Stevens. "I thought we were really locked into those guards, and I thought we tried to make it as tough as possible. Those guys are really good players, obviously, but I thought, I thought we did a lot of good things in that regard.”

For the most part, Boston and Portland played a relatively even game that wasn’t decided until the final minute of overtime.

“They just made more plays down the stretch,” said Boston’s Al Horford.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Saturday’s game.

 

STARS

C.J. McCollum

He tends to get second billing to Damian Lillard, but he was a first rate problem for the Celtics. He led the Blazers with 35 points on 11-for-21 shooting.

Damian Lillard

After a foul-troubled first half, Lillard stepped up like the All-Star he is in the second half to finish with 28 points and seven assists which included seven of Portland’s 14 points in overtime.

Isaiah Thomas

It was another dynamic scoring night for Thomas, finishing with a game-high 41 points which included 21 in the fourth quarter and overtime.


STUDS

Terry Rozier

Making the most of his chance to play due to injuries and illnesses, Rozier came up with a number of big shots all night. He finished with 15 points which included a 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds in the fourth that forced overtime.

Mason Plumlee

In addition to doing a solid job protecting the rim, Plumlee also tallied a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds while dishing out a game-high eight assists.

Meyers Leonard

Easily the big X-factor of the game, Leonard had 17 points off the bench on 6-for-7 shooting.

 

DUDS

Celtics Turnovers

This is the one area where the Celtics have been really good all season. Saturday? Not so much. Boston turned the ball over a season-high 21 times which accounted for 34 points for the Blazers.