Welcome to Gillette for a Patriots-Ravens AFC Championship!

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Welcome to Gillette for a Patriots-Ravens AFC Championship!

FOXBORO -- The buildup inside any stadium on game day is always a slow one. It's no different during the playoffs. 
Players start trickling out of the locker room and onto the field a few hours before kickoff. Today, the Patriots and Ravens are starting to warm up for the AFC Championship game at Gillette. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco is outside, testing the ball's flight on routes of various distances. Wind is a concern for game time as the National Weather Service has issued an official advisory.Westerly winds of 10 to 20 miles per hour with gusts of up to 45 miles per hour. 
Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski and long snapper Danny Aiken are also out early, likely to see how the ball is traveling. But before getting to work, the pair met Baltimore's three specialists at the south goal's 45-yard line for a lengthy powwow. Gostkowski and Ravens long snapper Morgan Cox became friends after rehabbing injuries together before the 2011 season. 
It doesn't appear to be frigid just yet as a few players have taken to the turf in shorts. The current 40-degree temperature is expected to be cut down by half before this game is over; most guys are wearing hats and gloves as they go through their pregame paces. One might give the weather advantage to New England. Playing well in the snow doesn't mean all Patriots are impervious, however. 
To quote one player, just inside the locker room after practice earlier this week: "It is expletive cold out there, man! WOO!" 
There are some heavy hitters staying warm inside Gillette today -- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell being an obvious one. Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome, Assistant GM Eric DeCosta, and VP of Football Administration Pat Moriarty also made an appearance in the press box. 
Other than a few VIP sightings and a cramped press box, it feels like any other game week. Don't be fooled, though -- either Baltimore or New England is heading to Super Bowl XLVII and this place will be electric. 
Just wait until the fans get in.

Fast-break points aren't necessarily a good thing for Celtics

Fast-break points aren't necessarily a good thing for Celtics

BOSTON – Conventional NBA wisdom tells you that getting out to score in transition is a good thing, usually serving as easy points scored, which is what every team wants, right?
 
But bundles of transition points have been nothing but trouble for the Celtics this season.
 
They are coming off a game against the New York Knicks in which they scored 22 fast-break points, which was their second-best showing this season. But the final score, a 117-106 loss, wasn’t all that unusual from what has happened this season when their transition game has generated a decent amount of scoring.
 
Boston has a 2-6 record this season when they score 16 or more fast-break points. On the nights when Boston’s fast-break offense generates 10 or fewer points?
 
They’re 11-5.
 
While there are several possible reasons why this is, here’s what you have to remember.
 
The Celtics are a ball-movement, 3-point shooting team.
 
Often that means they’ll pass up potential shots in transition, to instead work the ball around from one side of the floor to the other, until they get what they deem is the best shot to take (usually it’s a lightly contested to wide open 3-pointer).
 
The Celtics average 329.6 passes per game, which ranks second in the NBA (Philadelphia, 354.8). Not surprisingly, that has led to them ranking among the league’s leaders in assists (24.9, third in the NBA).
 
And that has led to Boston being ranked among the top-3 in several other key passing statistics, such as secondary assists (7.1, 2nd in the NBA); potential assists (49.5, 2nd); and assists points created (60.8, 3rd);
 
Here are a few more stats to crunch on, courtesy of CSN Associate Producer Andy Levine.
 
PAINT BY NUMBERS: When the Celtics score 40 percent or less of their points in the paint, they are 19-5 this season. When Boston gets 40 percent or more of its points in the paint, they are just 7-11.
 
BROWN IN THE FOURTH: Jaylen Brown has been among the better rookies this season, especially in the fourth quarter. Among rookies who played in at least 20 games in the fourth quarter, Brown is second in fourth quarter shooting at 54.9 percent. With those same standards, he’s sixth in shooting 3’s in the fourth at 38.5 percent.
 
CROWDER BOUNCES BACK: The past four games has seemingly brought out the best in Crowder. In that span, he has averaged 18.5 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 57 percent from the field and 48 percent from 3-point range. Crowder’s 3-point shooting of late has elevated him to seventh in the league while connecting on 42.5 percent of his 3-point attempts (minimum 150 attempts).

OUCH! It has not been a smooth start for Evan Turner with his new team, the Portland Trail Blazers. This season, Turner’s plus/minus is -234, which is the fourth-worst plus/minus in the NBA.
 
 

Stevens: Bradley, Zeller, Jerebko out vs. Trail Blazers

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Stevens: Bradley, Zeller, Jerebko out vs. Trail Blazers

BOSTON – Before Brad Stevens addressed the media before the Celtics faced the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday afternoon, he had to take a moment to make sure he wouldn’t forget anyone who wasn’t able to play.
 
Yeah, the list was a pretty long one.
 
Tyler Zeller, Demetrius Jackson and Jonas Jerebko will not play tonight due to sickness. And Avery Bradley (right Achilles strain) will also be out with a timetable that’s starting to feel like it’ll be longer than anyone would want.
 
“I don’t anticipate Avery this week at all,” Stevens said. “He still has some soreness. Obviously we’re concerned about the long-term impact of a sore Achilles; what it means on that foot but also what it means when you compensate off it. But he’ll be back when he’s ready but I think he’s still a little bit away.”
 
Bradley, the team’s top on-the-ball defender and No. 2 scorer this season at 17.7 points per game, will be out for the sixth time in the Celtics’ last seven games because of the Achilles injury.
 
Replacing him in the starting lineup will be Marcus Smart whose status for tonight’s game wasn’t a sure thing.
 
On the Celtics’ pregame notes package, Smart was listed as probable with a sore right ankle injury. I asked Stevens about Smart’s status a few minutes ago, and he said the 6-foot-4 Smart will play tonight.
 
In his 15 starts this season, Smart has averaged 10.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists while shooting 38.4 percent from the field and 31.7 percent on 3's - all of which are better than what he produces when coming off the bench.