Haggerty's Bruins-Senators preview

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Haggerty's Bruins-Senators preview

Tonight the Bruins have some new parts to add to what they hope will be a Stanley Cup-winning machine, but the focus remains the same: Beat down your closest opponent. The Senators stand only three points behind Boston in the Northeast Division race, though the Bruins also have four games in hand against trailing Ottawa.

That shouldnt matter to a Bruins team that still hasnt won back-to-back games since the middle of January. Rather than getting caught in Joe Corvo seeking retribution, or in making things easy for the newcomers, the Bruins need to concern themselves with getting results.

Our guys do a pretty job of doing research on the players, their character and everything else around them, said Julien. The chemistry of a team always revolves around the guys in the dressing room, and the guys in the dressing room are good people. You can ask guys like Benoit Pouliot and Joe Corvo that have just come in. Those are guys in their first year and theyd tell you that its amazing how well theyve been treated.

Thats what makes us a good team. They bring everybody else right into the fold. If they dont fit in then they wont be around.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: Theres little question Joe Corvo annoyed the Bs coaching staff by verbally challenging Kyle Turris a day before the big rematch against the Ottawa Senators. The Bs veteran can still salvage a very mediocre season if he can finish with a strong 22 games to end the regular season and that starts tonight in a game he should be highly motivated to play in. It should be interesting to see if he goes after Turris after backing off of his comments from Monday. It's worth noting that his playing time could be in serious jeopardy after the B's acquired two defensemen at the trade deadline.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: Ive always said that Id take a puck to the teeth for a chance to play for the Boston Bruins. Now Ill be getting that chance. newly acquired defenseman Mike Mottau, who grew up as a Bruins fan in nearby Avon, Mass.

KEY MATCHUP: The Bruins forwards vs. Ottawa rookie netminder Robin Lehner. The Bs forwards did the job against a shaky Alex Auld on Saturday night, and now theyll have to deal with a promising young goaltender in Lehner looking to step in for Craig Anderson. Lehner is big between the pipes and has plenty of big game experience below the NHL level, but the Bruins still have a chance to rattle the rookies cage a little bit if they can get traffic around the net. Traffic, rebounds and general havoc around the crease were big keys to Saturdays win.

STAT TO WATCH: 1 That's the number of two-day breaks the Bruins have for the rest of the season as theyll be playing 22 games in 40 days for a regular season gauntlet to the finish.

INJURIES: Johnny Boychuk (mild concussion), Rich Peverley (right knee sprain) and Nathan Horton (mild concussion) are out for the Bruins, but Shawn Thornton makes his return after battling a nasty flu that knocked him out for Saturdays game. For Ottawa, goaltender Craig Anderson remains out after cutting his hand with a kitchen knife, and both Peter Regin (shoulder) and Jesse Winchester (concussion) have missed significant time with injuries.

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tim Thomas is expected to get the start against the Ottawa Senators with sterling numbers against them over his career. He is 13-1-0 against Northeast Division opponents this season with 12 straight wins. Robin Lehner made 28 saves in a Sunday victory over the New York Islanders and is at the beginning of his second promotion to the NHL this season. With Anderson injured and Auld struggling, the promising Lehner appears to their only hope between the pipes right now.

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.