Big decision for Rivers: Starters or second unit?


Big decision for Rivers: Starters or second unit?

BOSTON Up by 11 points with about six minutes to play, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers had a choice: continuing playing the backups who actually increased the lead from where it was at the start of the fourth, or bring back his starters.

Rivers chose door number 1.

The bench got cold, and he brought back the starters who were even more frigid.

End result?

Cleveland closed out the game with a 12-0 run, and the C's lost, 88-87.

You can go through all the choke-job references you want, with most being applicable to the game's unexpected ending.

But just as important, the game's final frame showcased one of the many challenges Rivers will have this season.

He has a core group of players that, understandably so, he has a tremendous amount of loyalty for who are accustomed to playing a good chunk of the fourth quarter.

But he has a hungry, talented second unit of players who on this particular night, seemed to have earned the right to be on the floor for extended minutes in the fourth quarter.

It was the kind of from-the-gut decision that Rivers has made often.

Sometimes it works.

Other times like Sunday?

Not so much.

While Paul Pierce understood the decision made by Rivers, it was clear he didn't like it.

"I'm more upset with losing, more so then not getting back in," Pierce said. "I would love to have been in there to finish off the game."

Kevin Garnett, who re-entered the game at the 3:42 to mark with Pierce and Avery Bradley, had no problem with Rivers' decision.

"I trust Doc in any decision that he makes," said Garnett, who later added that it's on the players to, "finish the game off and execute plans, and the such. As players, we have to go out and do our jobs and finish it and we didn't do that. You have to finish games, finish teams."

And that, more than anything else, is why the Celtics lost.

They couldn't make a shot or get enough defensive plays to get the win. When that happens, it doesn't matter if you're a starter or a backup. You're not going to win.

But that's the beauty of this team that still has yet to be whole because of injuries.

There's enough talent on the second unit that on any given night, you could envision Rajon Rondo, or Kevin Garnett or even Paul Pierce, sitting longer than usual.

Even with fewer minutes than usual down the stretch, the C's still had a 7-point lead which should have been more than enough of a cushion to escape with the win.

Sunday night won't be the last time Rivers has to make a call like that.

And it probably won't be the last in which one of the team's core guys sits while his backup plays more.

Whether that decision was a good one or not, there's only one way to determine that - win games.

When that happens, it doesn't matter who was on the floor when the game ended.

Julien: 'A lot of problematic things' in Bruins loss to Avalanche

Julien: 'A lot of problematic things' in Bruins loss to Avalanche

BOSTON – The Bruins simply weren’t ready to play on Thursday night when the puck was dropped against the Colorado Avalanche at TD Garden. 

They fell down quickly by a 2-0 score, had a couple of completely inept power plays in the first period that sucked all the game’s momentum away from them and received some subpar goaltending from Anton Khudobin on the way to a 4-2 loss to the lowly Avs. About the only B’s person above reproach in this one was David Pastrnak after scoring a pair of goals in the second period to get Boston back into the game, but it all fell short in a very frustrating, lackadaisical loss to a Western Conference team that isn’t very good. 


Needless to say B’s coach Claude Julien wasn’t too happy after a loss where the Bruins might have had more success with a smarter approach to holding the puck. 

“There were a lot of problematic things [in the loss]. No doubt that the power play could have helped us in the first period, and failed to do that. They’ve got to be better,” said Julien. “We needed some saves tonight, and we didn’t get them. [Anton Khudobin] has got to be better. 

“A lot of things here that we can be better at, and take responsibility [for]. But at the same time, you got to move on here.  It’s one of those nights that had we been smarter from the get go, we would have had a chance.”

Clearly it was about a lacking group effort when dissecting the loss, and the minus-3 for David Krejci on Thursday night marked back-to-back negative performances from the playmaking Czech center in big spots. The goaltending was shoddy with Anton Khudobin allowing four goals on 22 shots for Colorado, and unable to make plays on a couple of Colorado shots from outside the painted area that built up the Avs lead in the first place. 

But it was also very much about the inability of the Bruins to generate consistent offense outside of David Pastrnak’s offensive burst in the second period, and the complete breakdown of the Boston power play in the opening 20 minutes. The Bruins struggled to enter the zone in their first PP possession of the game, and then allowed a Nathan MacKinnon shorthanded goal after Torey Krug futilely dove at the blue line to try and keep the puck in the offensive zone. 

The Krug misplay at the offensive blue line gave MacKinnon a clear path the net, and he buried a wrist shot past Khudobin to get the one-sided loss rolling. Beyond the costly mistakes that ended up in the back of the net, the Bruins looked sloppy and slow-reacting in their breakouts and more than willing to settle for outside perimeter shots.

That doesn’t exactly make for a winning combo even when it comes against a flawed, underachieving team like Colorado, and especially when it comes less than 24 hours after a hard-fought road game in Washington DC. 

“I think we were still sleeping there early in the game and they were able to capitalize on their opportunities. We couldn’t claw our way back,” said Brad Marchand, who picked up an assist on David Pastrnak’s second goal of the night on a perfect dish for the one-timer. “I think it was definitely a mental [block]. You’re able to battle through that physical fatigue. It was more the mental mistakes and not being prepared right off the hop of the start of the game. Again, that’s kind of where we lost it.”

The sleepwalking Bruins lost Thursday night’s valuable two points as soon as the opening puck was dropped against the Avalanche, of course, and the Bruins never got out of lollygag mode at a time when intensity should have been automatic. 

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Chiefs hold off Raiders 21-13 to take control of AFC West


THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Chiefs hold off Raiders 21-13 to take control of AFC West

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Tyreek Hill had touchdowns receiving and on a punt return, Kansas City's defense made life miserable for Oakland quarterback Derek Carr, and the Chiefs beat the Raiders 21-13 on a frigid Thursday night to take control of the AFC West.

Charcandrick West also had a touchdown run for the Chiefs (10-3). They moved into a first-place tie with Oakland (10-3) but holds the tiebreaker with two wins over their longtime divisional rival.

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