Celtics bench finds strength in sum of parts

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Celtics bench finds strength in sum of parts

WALTHAM In Boston's last two games, we have seen both the promise -- and problems -- that come about when you have a bench like the Boston Celtics.

As you go through the roster, you won't find a single player that you can turn to and know you'll get major production every night. But collectively, they do more than enough good things to validate their use.

We saw just how big a difference they can make, with their play in Sunday's win over Washington being one of the keys to Boston's 12-point win.

Because they don't have that one guy off the bench who delivers steady, consistent production, there will be nights when the group as a whole doesn't play well and no one player has the type of game to change that.

Their play had little to do with Boston's seven-point win at Charlotte the following night.

"That's what's so great about back-to-backs when your bench plays well," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "If they just play well in one of the two (games), you're good."

Despite their record which is currently the seventh-best in the East, the Celtics' goals of going deep into the playoffs have not changed.

This isn't like four or five years ago when the C's starting five was so much better than the opposing team that there was no great need for a deep and talented bench.

"Bench is key," said Brandon Bass, who began the season coming off the bench but is now a full-time starter. "If you want to be successful in this league, you need to have a strong bench that'll come through. You need them."

And like the C's as a whole, the bench understands a big part of their success will be on their ability to play more consistently.

"Just getting the chemistry out there . . . we're just trying to keep building our chemistry," said Celtics reserve Marquis Daniels.

Developing that chemistry is challenged somewhat when you have a slew of injuries and illnesses to starters. That forces players who normally come off the bench into roles with the first unit.

"We're all professionals," Daniels said. "They know when they come in, it doesn't really change much. If you're in with the starters, you're doing more of a role, and with the second group you're doing more of your role. It's not much of a difference. They're all professionals. They do a good job."

Belichick explains matching in the secondary

Belichick explains matching in the secondary

FOXBORO – Here’s a leftover from last week I’m dredging up because it’s really instructive in giving insight to something we all flap our arms about: how the Pats decide whether to play zone, man-to-man or match receivers with their secondary.

The jumping off-point was asking about Trumaine Johnson -- a long-tall corner for the Rams. As Belichick about Johnson and the difficulties he poses, at 6-foot-2, it brought to mind the team’s acquisition earlier this season of Eric Rowe. The 6-2 corner they got from the Eagles filled a need in that the Patriots other corners are not very tall, headlined by 5-9 Malcolm Butler.

So I asked Belichick if the team strives to have different sized players in the secondary.

“That’s if you move them around,” he explained, meaning size only matters if you intend to put size-on-size. “If you don’t move them around, if you play a guy at one positon and he plays on the right side or the left side, you cover the guy that’s over there, which I’d say is more the situation than not. There are some teams or some situations where you’ve got him, he’s got the next guy, you’ve got somebody else, but I’d say that’s by far the lower percentage of the plays, by far. Generally, you see a corner play – some games are different. We’ll match to this guy and somebody else matches to that guy. Teams will do that. There’s some of that, but by and large, most teams play at one position and whoever is in that spot, that’s who they cover.”

With matching receivers being the exception rather than the rule, the next logical question is why? Why would you let a little guy cover a big guy if you also have a big guy who could cover?

Because offenses make it complicated, Belichick answered.

“The easiest thing in the world is for one player to match another,” he explained. “‘OK, you go cover this guy.’ Alright, great. But what do the other 10 guys do? That’s the problem. It’s easy to matchup one guy. That’s simple. What do the other 10 guys do? What if he’s here? What if he’s there? What if he goes in motion? What if he’s in the backfield? What if it’s this personnel? What if it’s that personnel in the game? Then how does all the rest of it matchup? That’s where it gets tricky.  You can be spending all day, literally, on that. OK yeah, you take this guy but what are you going to do with the other 10?”

Belichick also delved into other options including a coverage concept the Pats used when Darrelle Revis was here. Giving Revis the opponent’s so-called No. 2 receiver and doubling the No. 1.

“You can matchup and put your best guy on their best guy, or you can matchup and put your best guy on let’s call it their second best guy and put your second best guy on their best guy and double him,” Belichick said. “If you’re going to put your best guy on their best guy and double him anyway then you kind of lessen the matchups down the line. It’s like setting a tennis ladder, or whatever. If you put your bad guy at one and you win two through seven, great. If you put your best guy at one and he gets beat by their one and then your two versus their two, you know. That’s what you’re doing. You have a three to four-man ladder there with the receivers and your DB’s [defensive backs], except we don’t have to match them that way. You can match them however you want.”

It’s a fascinating discussion and it comes into play the next two weeks as the Patriots will see a true test with receivers like the Ravens Steve Smith and Denver with Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas.

The Patriots will have decisions to make. Chances are they’ll use a little bit of everything. But these are some of the the things they weight when doing so.

Players, analysts weigh in on Chris Sale trade

Players, analysts weigh in on Chris Sale trade

The Red Sox made a major splash with Tuesday’s Chris Sale, the second swap of the day after acquiring Tyler Thornburg from the Brewers. 

MORE ON THE TRADE

While Boston had to give up top prospect Yoan Moncada and three other legitimate prospects in the trade, the deal gives them a very deep starting rotation that figures to see last offseason’s big acquisition -- David Price -- end up as Boston’s No. 3 starter. 

Here’s what the reaction looked like as the trade came down: 

CSN baseball analyst Lou Merloni gave the deal his stamp of approval. 

Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan cautioned against thinking the Red Sox at a discount. 

Blake Swihart was not one of the four prospects involved in the deal, and he’ll have a heck of a team to work with going forward. 

In Tampa, Chris Archer realized the AL East has a new ace. 

And one Sox fan pointed out that Dave Dombrowski has absolutely dumped out what was once a large and top-heavy chest of prospects.