Trap defense 'paying dividends' for Celtics


Trap defense 'paying dividends' for Celtics

BOSTON The numbers don't lie -- at least not this time.
The Boston Celtics' trapping defense, much like their entire squad, has been a work in progress with various ups and downs along the way.
But it wasn't until Wednesday night's 117-115 double overtime win over Dallas did the use of the team's trap defense pay off in a big way.
And the timing of its success could not be any better as the Celtics gear up for a Texas two-step of Houston and San Antonio, who are led by talented guards James Harden and Tony Parker, respectively.
Having to deal with Mavericks guard O.J. Mayo on Wednesday served as a good tune-up for what's on tap the next couple of games for Boston's defense which will surely look to trap and double team both of those players at various points in the game.
"We just had to keep him (Mayo) in a box," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said after the win. "He's good. I mean, he's really good. He's strong as an ox, and he makes difficult shots."
That same description can apply to Harden, who has emerged as one of the NBA's top scorers since he was traded from Oklahoma City to Houston.
The reigning Sixth Man of the Year award winner is averaging 25 points per game which ranks fifth in the NBA. Parker and his 19 points per game isn't too far behind at No. 12.
Both will have the ball in their hands a lot, similar to Mayo, who had 24 points against Boston, but also turned the ball over nine times.
"I've been talking about it a lot over the past seven games," said Rivers, referring to the C's trapping defense. "It's been paying dividends for us. It's been terrific."
It certainly was against the Mavericks, a team that averages 15.6 turnovers per game this season. They turned it over 28 times against Boston and that led to 34 points.
Yes, it's the holiday season when everyone seems to show a little more generosity than normal.
But Mayo would have much rather seen himself and his teammates be more Scrooge-like when it came to all those turnovers.
"We had 28 turnovers so that says a lot right there," Mayo said. "I take the most fault for it because I had nine."
The key to Boston's trap being successful hinges heavily on the play of the Celtics big men, who are asked to come out and trap, and then hustle back to get in position to rebound or match back up with the man they were previously guarding.
It makes for a pretty exhausting night.
"You telling me," said C's big man Kevin Garnett. "You telling me. It's nothing easy about being a big here. It's hard work; that's what it is."
It also creates some switches at times that involve Celtics big men matched up briefly with quicker, more athletic guards.
Although Brandon Bass is the C's starting power forward, he doesn't shy away from switches like some he had on Wednesday that paired him with Mavericks ultra-quick guard Darren Collison.
And to Bass' credit, he more than held his own in just about every instance.
"I was always able to switch out on guards," Bass said. "Growing up, my workout partner was a point guard. We used to play one-on-one, so I was always comfortable guarding guards here and there -- not the whole game -- but here and there. I'm able to."
And with the bigs showing an ability to hold their own on traps and still get back in position defensively, it takes some of the pressure off of Boston's guards in terms of dribble penetration.
"It's tough, but we're doing what we gotta do to get the win," Bass said.
And their work is not lost on the play of C's point guard Rajon Rondo, who is the team's first point of attack defensively while Garnett serves as the anchor.
"We're asking a lot of our bigs," Rondo said. "That's what we need."

Saturday's Red Sox-Blue Jays lineups - Ortiz returns


Saturday's Red Sox-Blue Jays lineups - Ortiz returns

David Ortiz is back in the starting lineup after a night off and Chris Young is in left field for the Red Sox in the second game of their three-game weekend series in Toronto.

The Blue Jays won the opener 7-5 behind two home runs from Josh Donaldson. Rick Porcello (7-2, 3.47 ERA) is on the mound for the Red Sox, opposed by the Blue Jays' Marcus Stroman (5-1, 3.89).

The lineups: 

Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Travis Shaw 3B
Chris Young LF
Christian Vazquez C
Rick Porcello RHP

Jose Bautista RF
Josh Donaldson 3B
Edwin Encarnacion DH
Michael Saunders LF
Justin Smoak 1B
Russell Martin C
Devon Travis 2B
Darwin Barney SS
Kevin Pillar CF
Marcus Stroman LHP 

Knighton not worried about Deflategate: 'We have enough on our plate'


Knighton not worried about Deflategate: 'We have enough on our plate'

FOXBORO -- Patriots defensive tackle Terrance Knighton has been on three different teams since the Deflategate controversy was sparked on the night of the AFC title game in 2015. But that doesn't mean he's immune to receiving questions about Tom Brady's ongoing saga. 

Meeting with reporters after Thursday's OTA session, Knighton was asked if he was surprised by the buzz that still surrounds Brady's legal situation. Earlier in the week, Brady filed a petition for a rehearing to have his four-game suspension overturned, and the Patriots organization filed an amicus brief backing their quarterback.

"All I was thinking about that year was losing to the Colts," said Knighton, who was a member of the Broncos two seasons ago. "I wasn't really worried about what was going on. I don't really feed into that. I just try to handle what I have to do in the building. We have enough on our plate as it is. That'll handle itself. 'Terrance Knighton' is not anywhere in the documents so it doesn't have anything to do with me."

As was the case during last preseason, with Deflategate hearings hanging over Brady's head, the Patriots quarterback didn't appear at all distracted by the continuing proceedings. He went 9-for-14 in 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 periods during Thursday's practice, working with a group of offenive weapons that was without tight end Rob Gronkowski and receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. 

Knighton said on Thursday that Brady has ben equally impressive off the field in the short time he's been able to spend with the future Hall of Famer. 

"[Conversations hav been] a little bit about our past playing against each other, me getting the better of him, him getting the better of me," Knighton said. "He's won that matchp more times than I have, but it's always good to be around guys like that, pick their brain and see what type of professional they are.

"Playing with a Peyton Manning and a Demarcus Ware, you learn a lot from those guys, Hall of Famers. I'm just trying tp pick [Brady's] brain, and just watch him out of the corner of my eye, and see how he prepares and how me moves around."