Bruins fourth line brings the energy in loss

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Bruins fourth line brings the energy in loss

ST. PAUL, MN While the Bruins couldnt have been happy about the results after losing their sixth game in nine tries during the month of February, there was one group of players that had nothing to hang their heads about.

The Bs fourth line totaled nine shots in the game and generated a handful of prime scoring chances in the first period when the game was still very much in question. Their play quickly proved Bruins coach Claude Julien correct for reuniting Daniel Paille, Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell after breaking them up during Friday nights loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

The best shot in the first period was Pailles breakaway midway through the first period when he split a pair of Minnesota defenders, but fired his shot straight into Niklas Backstroms chest in the 2-0 loss at the Xcel Energy Center.

The missed chances early by Bostons Merlot Line had their members kicking themselves after it was all over.

Weve got to put a couple of those in and maybe its a different game, said Thornton. I always say its never a lack of effort with us, but sometimes maybe its a lack of execution. I dont want to put too much pressure on us, but I think creating energy and keeping the puck out of the net is our job. Then again look at the opportunities were getting . . . we should be able to chip a few of those in.

Paille wasnt the only that couldnt get his shot to fall with Backstrom making 48 saves in the shutout against the Black and Gold, improving the Wild to 10-1-1 in their history against the Bruins. Theyve also outscored the Bs by a 35-16 margin during that time period, so the Bs knew theyd have to come up with something special.

Thornton attempted that in the third period when he challenged 6-foot-5 Minnesota brawler Matt Kassian to a fight designed to get his stagnant bench back into the game. Thornton and Kassian battled to a draw after the Wild enforcer had landed a couple of heavy punches early in the bout, and Thornton screamed a challenge at the Bruins bench as he skated off to the penalty box.

I thought it was a good plan to get the bench going with a lot of time left on the clock, said Thornton. That was the plan.

Unfortunately the emotion didnt carry over into the scoreboard, and instead Thorntons long heavyweight bout turned into one of the few Bs highlights in their fourth shutout defeat in the last 11 games. Julien appreciated the effort from his fourth line and it served as one of the few gleaming positives in a game that ended with Milan Lucic splintering his stick in a series of angry swings at the boards while heading to the bench.

There was some energy from that line. You can always count on those guys to play with that. They were good and Paille had that breakaway. They spent a fair amount of time in the offensive zone and some shots, said Julien. Theyre certainly doing their job, but they also see what were going through and want to contribute to what were doing in the offensive end."

Bradley could miss 'a little more time' with Achilles injury

Bradley could miss 'a little more time' with Achilles injury

BOSTON – Wednesday’s 117-106 loss to the New York Knicks was the fifth time in the last six games that Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley was out because of a right Achilles injury.

Well, it appears the 6-foot-2 guard may miss a few more with this injury.

“I can see him missing a little more time,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said following Wednesday’s loss. “I just think maybe he came back a little bit too early, whatever the case may be.”

Bradley was expected to play against the Knicks, but was a last-minute scratch.

Celtics big man Al Horford said he didn’t find out Bradley was out until the team was on the floor doing pre-game warmups and he didn’t see him.

“He was really sore,” Stevens said of Bradley. “Went through our walk-through and then came on to the court and did some stuff and was more sore today than he has been. I think he did treatment the whole game.”

This latest setback for Bradley is part of a growing narrative that has dogged him throughout his career which has included him missing games to injury in each of his six-plus NBA seasons.

Bradley came into this season once again hoping to be as injury-free as possible, only to see that dream dashed with this right Achilles strain he's suffering with currently.

Still, there’s no downplaying the significance and value the Celtics have in the 26-year-old. This season, he is second on the Celtics in scoring at 17.7 points per game and leads them in rebounds with 6.9 per game with both being career highs. In addition, he averages just under 35 minutes per game which is also tops on the team.

Marcus Smart has been Stevens’ choice to replace Bradley in the starting lineup when Bradley has been unavailable, and that’s not likely to change between now and Saturday’s home game against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Horford on rough night vs. Knicks: 'They deserved to win. They played better'

Horford on rough night vs. Knicks: 'They deserved to win. They played better'

BOSTON – With the night’s outcome all but a foregone conclusion, Al Horford’s last basket of the night got a sarcastic round of applause and a few jeers from the few fans that decided to stick it out for the final few seconds of Boston’s 117-106 loss to the New York Knicks.

Horford finished with a season-low five points for the Celtics (26-16).

Connecting on just 2-for-14 (or 14.3 percent) of his shots also represented the worst shooting night percentage-wise in Horford’s nine-plus NBA seasons.

“I struggled bad offensively,” said Horford who still managed to dish out a game-high 10 assists. “I tried to do anything I could to help us. It just wasn’t going for me.”

But as poorly as Horford shot the ball, he was more bothered by his defense and for that matter the Celtics’ team defense.

New York came into Wednesday’s game having lost 11 of its last 13 games and spent most of the night playing like a team that’s thirsty for a win.

They shot 50.5 percent from the floor, 40 percent on 3’s and dominated the glass 57-33 which helped fuel New York’s 24-12 advantage in second-chance points.

“We have to do a better job of holding teams to one shot,” Horford said. “That’s the first thing. I have to do a better job at protecting the rim. I know I can recall a couple instances where I needed to be there and I wasn’t impacting the ball as much as I would like to. I know I have to be better on the defensive end.”

Horford’s struggles on many levels mirrored the problems experienced by the rest of the Celtics.

“They punked us,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who led all scorers with 39 points. “They were the harder playing team on both ends of the floor. That was the definition of this game; they played harder than us.”

For most of the night, the New York Knicks were making all the big plays defensively and clutch shots offensively while the Celtics consistently failed to get that one defensive stop or knock down the one jumper that could have at least shifted the game’s momentum closer to being in their favor.

Boston rookie Jaylen Brown believes the Celtics didn’t take the struggling Knicks as seriously as they should have.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Brown who came off the bench to score 12 points for Boston (26-16). “It’s a game we should have won. We underestimated our opponent. We are a better team than that even though we played bad we still had a lot of opportunities to win the ball game.”

Horford had a different take on how things went down on Wednesday.

“I don’t think we overlooked them,” Horford said. “But I think we kind of … consciously or not, we felt we were going to win this game like, ‘We’ll struggle a little bit, but we’ll figure it out and win it.’ It didn’t work like that. In the fourth, we were right there. They made a couple shots. They deserved to win. They played better.”

And as the Celtics found themselves on multiple occasions having a chance to tie the game or take the lead in the fourth, it would have been fool’s good if they somehow managed to squeak out a win on Wednesday night.

“We didn’t deserve it,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder who had 21 points. “When you don’t deserve it, the basketball gods don’t bless you.”

But there’s plenty of season left to be played, and the Celtics – as we saw on Wednesday – have plenty of room for improvement.

Especially Horford, particularly when it comes to getting back on track shooting the ball.

“It was at the point where I didn’t have it,” he said. “That was tough. So I tried to impact the game in other ways whether it was setting screens or giving people shots, stuff like that. That was definitely tough for me because they were good looks. They just didn’t go in.”