Boston Celtics

Bass rebounds in C's win over Timberwolves

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Bass rebounds in C's win over Timberwolves

BOSTON Two fouls in the first quarter wasn't quite the start that Brandon Bass was looking for against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
It didn't matter.
Bass' ability to rebound, literally and figuratively, was more important as the Celtics -- behind a strong third quarter from Bass -- defeated the Timberwolves 104-94.
All five of Boston's starters tallied double digits scoring, with Bass seemingly the least likely after a horrible first half in which he was plagued by foul trouble.
But the 6-foot-8 forward bounced back with 12 points -- 10 of which came in the third quarter -- to go along with eight rebounds.
"Right place, right time," said Bass who was part of a Celtics unit that outscored Minnesota 32-21 in the third.
But as disappointed as Bass was in his play early on, he was just as determined to turn things around in the second half.
His mindset at that point was pretty simple.
"Just keep playing, keep grinding, keep working," Bass said. "Things will work out."
One by one, the ball kept winding up in Bass' hands in the third and one after another, he knocked down shots -- all five of his third-quarter shots, actually.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers has a number of sermon-like messages he gives to his team throughout the course of a season. Among them is giving one's self to the team, something that Rivers was told former Celtic and current Oklahoma City center Kendrick Perkins was discussing recently.
"When you do that, it's amazing how many good things happen," Rivers said. "Just go and play your game, play hard and kind of get lost in execution. Good things happen, and I thought that was Brandon in the second half."
Scoring has never been an issue for Bass, whose mid-range game on pick-and-pop plays is among the best on the roster.
But he's starting to become more of a force on the boards, something the Celtics needed desperately against Minnesota which came into Wednesday's game as one of the best in the NBA.
"We know we've been struggling with that (rebounding) in the past," said Bass who is averaging 5.6 rebounds per game which is tied for second on the C's with Paul Pierce. "We want to improve on that."

Cavs expect Isaiah Thomas playing in games by January

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Cavs expect Isaiah Thomas playing in games by January

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Isaiah Thomas could be running the point for Cleveland by the end of the year.

The All-Star point guard, acquired from the Celtics this summer in a blockbuster trade, has made progress with his hip injury, and the Cavaliers expect him to be playing games by January.

Thomas has begun running and doing on-court activities as he rehabilitates the injury, which prematurely ended his postseason with the Celtics. Cleveland acquired him in a trade that sent All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving to Boston, its biggest challenger in the East.

Thomas doesn’t need surgery. While the Eastern Conference champions have been encouraged by his recovery, they will not rush him back. While he gets healthy, Derrick Rose, another summer acquisition, will start at point guard.

Thomas averaged 28.9 points last season for the Celtics, who sent him along with forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and a 2018 first-round draft to Cleveland.

The Cavaliers were concerned with Thomas’ injury, so the Celtics added a second-round pick to complete the deal.

When they introduced Thomas at a news conference, the Cavaliers were vague about a timeline for his return, mainly because they hadn’t yet worked with him. It’s now possible Thomas could be back and playing by Christmas, when the Cavs visit Golden State.

Thomas is only under contract for the upcoming season and has said in the past he wants a maximum contract.

Copyright The Associated Press.
 

Tom Brady on pace to dwarf deep-ball passing numbers from 2016

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Tom Brady on pace to dwarf deep-ball passing numbers from 2016

FOXBORO -- When the Patriots traded their first-round pick in the 2017 draft for Brandin Cooks, they gave Tom Brady one of the most productive deep-ball receivers in the NFL over the course of the last few seasons. 

The Cooks acquisition not only made the Patriots offense more versatile, it also may have signaled an acknowledgement that the team needed more pass-catchers who could produce down the field and outside the numbers.

In the playoffs last season, against Houston's and Atlanta's defenses -- both of which were effective at times in taking away the short-to-intermediate areas of the field -- the Patriots could have benefited from someone like Cooks. In both games, the Patriots were able to hit on throws deep and on the outside in critical moments with likes of Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell. 

Now after three weeks, and after having faced two defenses in Houston's and Kansas City's that were intent on packing the middle of the field with defenders, it's clear that the move to grab Cooks is paying dividends. 

In Sunday's win over the Texans, 36-33, Brady threw eight passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air, and he completed five for 185 yards and three scores, according to Pro Football Focus. On the season, Brady leads the league with 22 attempts of 20 yards or more, per PFF. He's completed 11 of those for 368 yards and four touchdowns. His passer rating on deep attempts (135.4) is second in the league. 

Compare that to last season's totals for Brady on deep passes -- 23 completions for 834 yards and eight touchdowns -- and he's on pace to blow those numbers away. Whereas he only attempted deep passes on just over 11 percent of his throws last season, according to PFF, so far this year one in every five of his throws is traveling 20 yards or more.

The biggest beneficiary of the new approach? Cooks, of course, who Brady has dubbed "Cookie." 

PFF says Cooks is leading the league in deep-ball receiving through three weeks, with 187 yards on five deep catches. Three of those came on Sunday and they resulted in 111 yards and two scores. In Week 1, Cooks had three catches for 88 yards -- including a 54-yarder -- and he drew three penalties that resulted in an additional 38 yards. In Week 2, Cooks had two catches for 37 yards -- including a 22-yarder.

Last year? The leading receiver for the Patriots on passes that traveled 20 yards or more was Hogan (10 catches for 397 yards). 

One more indication that the Patriots offense has shifted with Cooks in and Edelman sidelined: Cooks leads the NFL in yards per catch through three games (25.6 yards per reception), while Danny Amendola (16.4 yards per reception, seventh) and Rob Gronkowski (14.9, 13th) are all found among the league leaders in that category.  

Opposing defenses may continue to play the Patriots as the Texans and Chiefs did this season: Flood the middle of the field and pressure Brady with just three or four linemen. They may be content with allowing Brady to attempt lower-percentage throws down the field as opposed to letting him slice them up with shorter tosses. 

It worked well enough for the Chiefs to win, and it nearly worked well enough for the Texans. Perhaps "the blueprint" is still the blueprint. But with the addition to Cooks, Brady and the Patriots have proven that they've evolved to more efficiently combat those schemes.

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