Bradley: 'We're on our way there'

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Bradley: 'We're on our way there'

BOSTON Through a season filled with injuries, illnesses and failed trades before and during the season, the Boston Celtics find themselves in a familiar place now - on top of the Atlantic Division standings.

Monday's win at Charlotte improved the Celtics' record to 27-22, identical with Philadelphia which has been alone atop the Atlantic for much of this season.

The C's record isn't nearly as good as they would want it to be, nor what they expect.

But when you look at all that has not gone their way, being able to see the Atlantic from the top for the change is pretty cool.

"That's one of our goals, to be first place in our division," said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. "We're on our way there. We just have to keep working hard every single game."

Boston's success of late has been fueled by their ability, more than anything else, to simply out-work teams.

They've had little choice when you consider the cut-and-paste lineups and rotations that head coach Doc Rivers has had to implement.

Consider this.

The Celtics went into Philadelphia last week without Ray Allen who was out because of an ankle injury. By halftime, his replacement Mickael Pietrus suffered a concussion and is out indefinitely. Boston didn't win that game, but their absence since then has afforded second-year guard Avery Bradley a chance to play with the starters.

In his first start filling in for Allen (his 10 previous starts were in place of Rajon Rondo), he responded with a career-high 23 points against Washington. Two of Boston's biggest road wins were at Atlanta and Milwaukee, games in which the Celtics identified the need to have a better effort on the boards.

Brandon Bass did just that, giving the C's a much-needed boost on the boards with 10 rebounds in each game - the first time this season he had back-to-back double digit rebounding nights.

"We're just hanging in there," C's coach Doc Rivers said. "I think since the all-star break, we haven't played well every night but we're winning some of the games that we don't play well in. We're grinding games out."

Bass knows the Celtics have been playing some of their best basketball of the season lately.

But he had no idea that Monday's win put them in a tie with Philadelphia for the best record in the Atlantic.

"I haven't been keeping up with the standings, to be honest with you," Bass toldCSNNE.com. "I don't care who we play. It's going to be a tough series, either way. It's going to be eight good teams, and we're just gonna have to grind."

Rivers knew what the ramifications of a Celtics victory on Monday, but said he didn't bother to mention it to his players.

"For us, we just gotta keep plugging along. I really don't focus on it right now," Rivers said. "It is important (to win the Atlantic). What do we have, 17, 16 games? So it would be nice to get."

Bradley, Green and Jackson to miss Celtics' game Tuesday against Wizards

Bradley, Green and Jackson to miss Celtics' game Tuesday against Wizards

WALTHAM -- The team flight to Washington for tomorrow night's game against the Wizards will be a little lighter than the Celtics would like. 
 
Boston continues to be cautious with Avery Bradley and his right Achilles strain injury. Coach Brad Stevens confirmed that the 6-foot-2 guard won't travel and will sit out for the seventh time in the last eight games. 

Stevens added he didn't anticipate Bradley returning to the court anytime this week, which means he's likely not to return until next week's game against Detroit on Jan. 30. 
 
Bradley won’t be the only Celtic not making the trip for health-related reasons. Gerald Green and Demetrius Jackson are both not traveling due to sickness. 
 
However, the Celtics did get a bit of good news on the health front. Jonas Jerebko and Tyler Zeller, both having missed games with sickness, will take the trip to D.C. with the rest of their teammates.

Super Bowl appearances aren't old hat to all the Patriots

Super Bowl appearances aren't old hat to all the Patriots

FOXBORO -- It’s old hat to plenty of the Patriot, but certainly not all of them. A whole lot of players who joined the team since 2015 haven’t been to a Super Bowl. That says an awful lot about the personnel department headed by Nick Caserio with Dave Ziegler heading up pro personnel and Monti Ossenfort doing college personnel. 

Two of them -- cornerback Eric Rowe and linebacker Kyle Van Noy -- figured in the two Steelers turnovers in Sunday night’s AFC Championship Game. Both joined the team via in-season trades. 

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So in the afterglow of the Patriots postgame locker room, we asked a few of them what their emotions were upon realizing they were going to the Super Bowl

Eric Rowe (acquired via trade with Eagles, September 6): "It’s been a long road. Everyone has their own journey and how they got here but just for me, it’s been a long road. During OTAs and training camp down in Philadelphia, it was frustrating. I didn’t understand why I was sliding down the depth chart but I just kept my head down and kept working and once I got traded here I had to learn a whole new culture and defense and then I got hurt. Through those ups and downs it’s been all worth it. My parents, my girlfriend, my agent, all through training camp with the Eagles kept telling me, ‘Just keep your head up, there’s always something greater on the other side. Don’t stop working, keep working because you never know when you’ll get your chance and, ‘Boom’ I got traded so that was the way around that obstacle. And now I know what’s on the other side. 

Kyle Van Noy (acquired via trade with Lions, October 26): “I took a lot of heat [in Detroit]. I wasn’t living up to what I was capable of doing, even for myself. I had high expectations and I just wasn’t fitting in right away and it was great to get a fresh start and I’m really blessed to have them trust in me to come in and contribute. I don’t know if you ever get comfortable here. You better learn or they’re gonna pass up on you. I’m just grateful for the opportunity. Eric and I are holding it down for the Utah schools (Rowe went to Utah; Van Noy to BYU). We’re here to represent. It hasn’t sunk in yet. I am truly blessed and the man upstairs is looking out.”

Chris Long (signed in March as free agent): "I honestly didn't know they did the confetti thing after. Because I'm usually at the bar with these games are going on. And maybe it's a little later at night. I've turned it off. I didn't know they did the confetti thing after the AFC Championship. That was a real plus . . . because I love confetti. There's no bad situation where there's confetti. I can't think of one. I certainly feel like I’m in the right place at the right time. I’m on a helluva football team and lucky to be a part of it and we’ve earned the right for one more opportunity. It means something different to everybody. We come from different backgrounds, we come from different teams but we’ve all earned this together. It’s a melting pot in that way."

David Andrews (signed as undrafted free agent, 2015) whose great uncle is former Atlanta coach Dan Reeves: "When the Falcons went [in 1998], my parents couldn't take me, but they went." (Is he still sore about that?) "Not anymore. Not at this moment."

Joe Thuney (drafted in third round in May): "It's just a great opportunity. You've got people like Marty [Bennett] and Chris Long that have played so long and just don't get the opportunity. You just got to take advantage of it, and soak upevery minute, and just prepare as best you can, I think. Just go out there and do the best you can."

Malcolm Mitchell (drafted in fourth round in May): "I have no idea [what to expect]. I'm pretty sure I'll be debriefed. And guys will tell me everything I need to know walking into it."

Jabaal Sheard (signed as free agent, 2015): “Great feeling. Unreal. Just an awesome feeling. We gotta get this ring, man and go finish this thing off. It’s exciting, obviously. I’ve heard the stories from the guys who’ve been here. It’s huge. We have to go out there and take care of business.” 

Phil Perry contributed to this report.