Lucic has something to prove in postseason

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Lucic has something to prove in postseason

Milan Lucic is hoping the last piece of his playoff experience this season mirrors that of last years, bathed in Stanley Cup glory. Lugging the Cup around his home city of Vancouver felt pretty good for the Bs power forward.

But his own personal playoff experience isnt something he wants to repeat. Thats because Lucic had a tough time getting the engine going last year at the end of the regular season, and that carried over into a tough start to his postseason.

Normally a big-game player, Lucic ended the season with a 10-game goal-scoring drought and smashed his toe early in the playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens. That slowed down his skating speed considerably and ate into his confidence level, and No. 17 looked uncharacteristically lost while getting just a pair of assists and a zero plusminus rating in the seven-game series win over the Habs.

"It wasnt that disappointing because we still won the Cup," Lucic said. "Obviously I was good enough to help us still win. It goes to show that the only thing matters is winning and losing. I feel like Ive become a big part of the team, so you take it upon yourself as a point of pride to step up your game and bring what you bring best to the table."

That wasnt a very good time for the Bs prototypical power forward.

You definitely learn a lot from playoff experiences and take that with you to make yourself a better player. I think I definitely finished off the season a lot better than I did last year, said Lucic. I think my skating is definitely better. I played a little bit more of a physical aspect to my game this year than last year.

I remember last year I struggled the final 10 games of the regular season and then struggled the first 10 games of the playoffs. There were some confidence issues and stuff going into last years playoffs. This year I feel much better about myself and my game. Im confident I can help my team be successful.

In all Lucic managed just nine points (3 goals and 6 assists) in 18 games during the first three rounds against the Canadiens, Flyers and Lightning last season. But he did manage to find his footing in the Cup Finals. Lucic had a pair of goals in the seven-game series win over the Canucks, and his pounding physical presence knocked defenseman Dan Hamhuis out of the series early in the proceedings.

Bs coach Claude Julien doesnt see the same kind of thing repeating itself this time around. Lucic had arguably his most consistent season as an NHL player and finished with six points in the Bs final six games while getting ready for another long, bountiful run through the Eastern Conference.

Growth and experience, maturity . . . all of those things go hand-in-hand. The last couple of months hes skated as well as Ive ever seen him skate, said Julien. Thats been part of his game. Hes been able to carry the puck rather than look for a center or his other linemates to carry it up the ice. His ability to carry it up the ice with speed and cut into the net has created a lot.

Thats what Looch is all about. His forecheck, his physical presence, his strength. And hes one of those guys thats incredibly hard to stop once hes determined to go to the net.

One scary note for opponents: Lucic says he has something to prove to himself when it comes to the postseason. That means bone-rattling hits and strong plays around the net should be on the menu for Lucic and his Bruins teammates. Success usually follows that recipe.

On a personal note I feel like I have something to prove this year after what happened to me in the playoffs last year, said Lucic. But I cant be disappointed in last year because we won. But I want to do everything I can to help the team win.

Lucic with something to prove is a frightening thing indeed.

Celtics force overtime, come up short in 127-123 loss to Blazers

Celtics force overtime, come up short in 127-123 loss to Blazers

BOSTON – For the second time in as many games, the Boston Celtics ran into a team that played with a greater sense of desperation.

And the result was yet another defeat as the Portland Trail Blazers, playing their second game in less than 24 hours, were able to get off their losing skid with a 127-123 overtime win over the Celtics.

Boston (26-17) has now lost back-to-back games at home, while the Blazers (19-27) snapped a four-game losing streak.

In the extra session, Portland jumped out to a 117-113 lead only for Boston’s Al Horford scoring on a bank-shot in the paint and Thomas draining a go-ahead 3-pointer for Boston.

Portland regained the lead when Al-Farouq Aminu made a pair of free throws with 59.3 seconds to play to make it a 119-118 game.

Boston soon fell behind 122-118, but a pair of Thomas free throws with 44.8 seconds to play made it a two-point game.

Mason Plumlee scored with 24 seconds to play in overtime, and an Al Horford miss – rebounded by Plumlee who was then fouled by Horford – essentially put the game away with 13.5 seconds to play.

Boston found themselves down late in the fourth quarter and seemingly headed towards defeat, only to get an unexpected lift in the final seconds from Terry Rozier.

Trailing by three points late in the fourth, Boston had one last chance to force overtime so who did they turn to?

If you were thinking Thomas which is what the Blazers and most fans were thinking, you would have been dead wrong.

The fourth quarter may be Thomas’ time to shine, but at that point in the game it was Rozier’s moment as he drained a 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds left that ultimately forced overtime. He finished with 15 points, three rebounds and three assists off the bench.

The Blazers came into the game with the kind of potent scoring punch in the backcourt that strikes the fear into the heart of any defense, let alone one that has been as up and down as the Boston Celtics this season.

For most of the game, Portland’s 1-2 punch of Damian Lillard (28 points) and C.J. McCollum (35 points) lived up to the lofty billing as they combined for 63 points.

McCollum and Lillard both did their share of damage down the stretch, but it was their bench – specifically Meyers Leonard – whose play kept Portland in the game early on.

He finished with 17 points off the bench.

Boston led 65-56 at the half, but soon found itself in a 67-all game after McCollum made the second of two free throws.

But Boston countered with a put-back basket by Kelly Olynyk and a 3-pointer from Isaiah Thomas to push Boston’s lead to 72-67.

Once again the Blazers fought back and eventually took the lead 74-72 on a powerful put-back dunk by Haverill (Mass.) native Noah Vonleh.

Brad Stevens had seen enough of his team getting pushed around, as he called a time-out with 5:31 to play in the quarter.

It didn’t help as Portland continued to bully their way around the rim for second and third-shot opportunities with their lead peaking at 78-72 following a put-back basket by  Plumlee.

But the Celtics responded with a 7-2 spurt capped off by an end-to-end, driving lay-up by Rozier that cut Portland’s lead to 80-79 with 2:44 to play in the quarter. Boston continued to be within striking distance as the third quarter ended with the Celtics trailing 88-86.