Ference ready to jump in coming off suspension

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Ference ready to jump in coming off suspension

WILMINGTON, Mass. Andrew Ference is coming off the first suspension of his 12-year NHL career, but dont expect the defenseman to change anything about his game heading into Thursday nights game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Ference is experienced enough to realize that things simply happen sometimes in the game of hockey, and that was the case in the collision with New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh that led to his initial suspension. When asked by particularly persnickety reporter if he was concerned about a besmirched reputation or becoming a repeat offender, Ference had the line of the day.

I dont have to register in my neighborhood, so I think its all right, shot back Ference. That type of play happens a lot over the course of the game. It doesnt usually result in a guy falling and its a little lower speed. The next time I guess Ill get the puck and score. You try to let up as much as possible and not plaster them into the boards.

The Bs defenseman hasnt played since the Jan. 21 game that resulted in his three-game suspension for boarding McDonagh, but didnt see a lot of benefit to getting a rare 10-day break into the middle of the hockey season.

This would have been like having an Olympic break during those particular years, and if youre injured or banged up then its the greatest thing in the world, said Ference. But if its not then youd rather not take any break at all. Ive been healthy this season, so its best not to take breaks.

Claude Julien took a more serious tack to the line of questioning, and pointed to Ferences levelheaded veteran approach as the biggest reason those factors wont weigh heavily in his mind. After all, Ference managed to go nearly 800 games before his first NHL suspension, so chances are there wont be another one anytime soon.

Anybody coming back is going to be a welcomed addition. Hes an experience player thats had a really good year for us. Hes as steady as we could have asked for, so were happy to have him back especially with the situation McQuaid is in right now, said Julien. The page has been turned with the suspension. Sometimes things happen in the game. It doesnt mean that its meant or that its dirty. Its a fast-paced game and sometimes you dont have time to react properly.

Its something you getter yourself at, but its not something that you dwell on. Hes a pretty respectful player. Hes going to be fine, hes always been in great shape and a guy thats been around the league for a long time doesnt let things like that rattle him.

Its a case of good timing for the Bruins, as it appears Adam McQuaids status might be up in the air after suffering a lower-body injury Tuesday night, but a refreshed and recharged Ference will step back into the six-pack of Bs blueliners.

Ferences presence has been missed from a defensive standpoint, and his efforts should help the club reach the consistency thats eluded them for pretty much all of January.

Its a new month, Ference is back and its time for the Bruins to turn the dial back up.

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

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Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Avery Bradley was a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive first team a year ago. And Al Horford has been among the league’s best interior defenders for a number of years.

But as talented defensively as they may be, the Celtics are still learning how to play with each other as well as off of one another.

Injuries have slowed down the chemistry developing as quickly as some might expect. Horford missed nine games due to a concussion, and another game due to wife giving birth to their second child, Alia Horford.

And in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia on Saturday night, defensive chemistry -- not only among Horford and Bradley, but with all of the players -- remains a work in progress for sure.

Boston had a number of defensive issues in the first half which factored in the Sixer shooting 46.1 percent from the field while shooting 9-for-18 from 3-point range.

But the second half was an entirely different story as Boston’s defense picked up his intensity and focus level which would prove to be just enough to beat a scrappy Sixers team.

The Celtics (12-8) are four games over .500 for the first time this season currently have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland (13-5) and Toronto (14-6). 

And while the players point to a handful of games that they felt they gave away, Avery Bradley reminds all that the success of this team this season has for the most part come with key players out of the mix or limited in some capacity.

“We haven’t played that many games with the full roster,” Bradley told reporters after the win. “We’re still learning how to play with each other.”

Bradley pointed out a moment in Saturday’s victory where a miscommunication between him and Horford led to a defensive miscue.

Boston has had similar mistakes made on offense this season, too.

“We haven’t really been in pick-and-roll that much,” Bradley said. “Every single game we need to improve.”

And that improvement has to continue evolving on the defensive side of things for this team to achieve its goals this season which include being among the last teams standing in the East.

Doing that will likely mean Boston re-establishing itself as a defensive force, something that should come with time and experience playing with each other.

Horford, who signed a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston in the offseason, says it’s an ongoing process for all involved.

“I have to learn to play with our concepts, the guys have to learn to play with me,” Horford told reporters after Saturday’s win. “We just have to make sure we keep playing the right way, be more consistent with that. I feel like we’re getting better but there’s still some work that we need to do.”

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

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Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

The pressure that comes with a tight game in the fourth quarter can be a weighty proposition for some NBA players.

Then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who continues to save his best work for the fourth quarter.

Saturday’s 107-106 win at Philadelphia had yet another Thomas-like finish for the Celtics as the 5-foot-9 guard was at his most dominant state in the game’s final minutes.

Thomas finished with a season high-tying 37 points which included a stretch in the fourth in which he scored 12 straight.

“I just love the fourth quarter,” Thomas told reporters following the win. “I just want to win. Whether it’s making plays for myself or making plays for my teammates, it’s about making the right play. I get ultra- aggressive in that fourth quarter. That’s what I’ve always done.”

And his teammates appreciate how Thomas elevates his play in the game’s most pivotal moments.

“A lot of the credit is to Isaiah, how he was able to finish the game tonight,” said Avery Bradley. “He was able to make shots when we needed him to.”

And while Thomas knows his shots won’t fall all the time down the stretch, his fourth quarter mentality does provide him with a level of confidence that no matter what the defense does to him or what the score may be, he can swing the game’s momentum in his team’s favor.

“Some guys get a little tight, they get a little timid (in the fourth quarter),” Thomas said. “I embrace it. I want to be great. I want to be somebody my teammates can call on when the game is close.”

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

STARS

Isaiah Thomas: There was no more dominant player on Saturday night than Thomas. He finished with a game-high 37 points along with seven assists.

Dario Saric: It was a breakout game for the 22-year-old rookie who led the Sixers with 21 points as well as 12 rebounds for his third double-double this season. Both his points and rebound totals tied his career highs in those categories.

STUDS

Avery Bradley: Boston’s surge towards victory did not kick in until the third quarter which is when Bradley elevated his play offensively. In the third he scored 10 of his 20 points on the night, to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.

Ersan Illyasova: He finished with 18 points which included a pair of three-pointers in the closing seconds of the game. He also grabbed six rebounds and two assists.

DUDS

Celtics first half defense: There wasn’t much to like about Boston defensively in the first half. The Celtics struggled to take away or limit Philadelphia’s only strength Saturday night which was three-point shooting. The Sixers nailed nine of their 18 three-point attempts in the first half in addition to hurting the Celtics’ transition defense which gave up seven fast-break points to Philly compared to Boston scoring just one point in transition.