Celtics-Bobcats review: What we saw . . .

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Celtics-Bobcats review: What we saw . . .

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Paul Pierce went to the free throw line 18 times in Boston's 102-95 win over Charlotte.

As well as Pierce was at getting to the line, his play set the tone for the rest of the Celtics, too.

In fact, Boston went to the line 45 times which easily surpassed their previous season high which was 34 attempts against Oklahoma City on Feb. 22.

"He's the Captain," Celtics forward Brandon Bass told CSNNE.com. "We follow his lead . . . free throws, too."

Bass went to the line eight times (he made seven) as part of his 15-point, five-rebound night.

As you might expect, C's coach Doc Rivers was pleased with his team's ability to get to the free throw line so often.

"We've talked about that," Rivers said. "We would like to get to the line more, obviously. I thought we did a good job of driving and attacking the basket tonight. That was good."

Boston's ability to live at the free throw line - they made 34 of their 45 free throw attempts - played a big role in their win. We'll review some keys to the game outlined earlier, and see how they factored in the game's outcome.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: As bad as Charlotte has been, one of the few bright spots has been their leading scorer, Corey Maggette. His 15.4 points per game shouldn't scare you if you're the Celtics. It's how he gets a good chunk of those points that's of great concern for Boston. Throughout most of Maggette's career, he has been one of the best at getting to the free throw line. This season is no exception. He ranks fifth in the NBA in free throws made (5.8) per game, and is seventh in attempts (6.9).
WHAT WE SAW: Two early fouls limited Corey Maggette's playing time. But even when he returned and fouls weren't an issue, he wasn't getting into the lane often enough to draw contact and get to the line a lot. He missed six of his seven shots from the field, and was 3-for-4 from the line with both free throws made and free throws attempted being below his season average.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs. Tyrus Thomas: Now that he's with the starters, Brandon Bass is used to matching up against taller players. But Thomas' height advantage as well as his athleticism, will challenge Bass in ways few players have this season. Keeping his fellow LSU Tiger from having a big game scoring or on the boards, will be a bigger priority for Bass than what he has done best all year - score the ball.

WHAT WE SAW: Thomas' length or height advantage was never a factor, as Bass had little problem getting his shot off or keeping Thomas from being a dominate force on the boards. In addition to outscoring Thomas 15-4, Bass did a pretty good job of matching him rebound for rebound. Bass finished with five rebounds while Thomas had six. However, three of Bass' rebounds were on the offensive glass while Thomas had zero offensive rebounds.

PLAYER TO WATCH: All eyes will be on Avery Bradley, who is coming off a career-high 23 points against Washington. He got a lot of points off simply cutting to the basket, but he also made the Wizards pay when they left him alone on jumpers. We'll see if the Bobcats will adjust the way they defend Bradley, or will they do what most teams do and that's focus on Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo which in turn, allows Bradley the freedom to make plays.

WHAT WE SAW: Bradley didn't have a huge game offensively, but the Celtics are more than happy to take his 11 points on 5-for-10 shooting anyway. However, foul trouble limited his effectiveness defensively at times in the fourth, which was part of the reason why Charlotte's Gerald Henderson (21 points) had such a big scoring night.

STAT TO TRACK: Both of these rank among the NBA's worst in rebounding, so winning the battle on the boards becomes a toss-up. Boston ranks dead-last in rebounds per game (46), while the Bobcats aren't much better at 48.7 per game which ranks 27th in the league. Even more telling is the rebounding deficit per game for Boston and Charlotte is 5.6 and 5.1, respectively.
WHAT WE SAW: There are very few nights when the Celtics out-rebound an opponent, but Monday was one of them. The C's grabbed 37 boards compared to 33 for Charlotte.

Thomas excited for reunion with Green

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Thomas excited for reunion with Green

WALTHAM, Mass. -- When the phone rang this summer, Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas had to do a double-take when he saw the name on the caller ID.

It was Gerald Green, his ex-teammate in Phoenix.

Although they only shared a locker room for 45 games in Phoenix, the two became quick friends.

On the court they developed instant chemistry while coming off the Suns bench. And that bond spilled off the court as Green would later spend time with Thomas in the Seattle-Tacoma, Wash. area in the summer months.

They were cool with each other, cool enough to where Thomas knew it wasn’t in Green’s nature to pick up the phone and call just to say hi.

“Gerald doesn’t call anybody,” Thomas said. “When he called I knew something was up.”

Green said Boston, the team that drafted him in 2006 straight out of high school, was interested in bringing him back for a second stint with the club.

“I tried to put my two cents in and he got here,” Thomas said.

There were several factors that led Green back to Boston, with a chance to reunite with Thomas being high on that list.

Green, already in Phoenix at the time the Suns signed Thomas in 2014, was impressed with the way the 5-9 guard carried himself.

“He was a genuine guy, came in really humble,” Green said. “I saw the talent was there. I knew he had the potential to be one of the best point guards in this league.”

Thomas certainly made a case for such lofty praise with how he performed last season, good enough to earn his first all-star selection.

What really stuck out to Green was that Thomas’ mentality and approach to the game was almost a carbon copy of his own.

“When we stepped on the court we had the same mentality,” Green said. “By any means necessary, get a bucket and play harder than the next team; just try and push the first team, make the first team better every day.”

Thomas was coming off the bench, showing lots of potential and promise that he could carry a heavier load if given an opportunity to do so.

He averaged 15.2 points, 3.7 assists and 2.4 rebounds in 25.7 minutes off the Suns bench in 46 games. Even more significant was that when Thomas did play for the Suns, they were 26-20.

In the games without him, they were just 13-23.

Green was admittedly disappointed they traded away Thomas, believing that season would have had a very different outcome had they not sent him to Boston.

And just like Green recognized Thomas’ skills and how much his team could have benefited from keeping him around, Thomas speaks in glowing terms about Green and what his return to Boston means for the team.

“We needed someone like him; a guy that could shoot the ball, a guy that could space the floor; instant scorer whether he starts or comes off the bench,” Thomas said. “Where the he starts or come off the bench. He’s going to really help us.”

Green has big game as Bengals dominate Dolphins 22-7

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Green has big game as Bengals dominate Dolphins 22-7

CINCINNATI -- For most of the game, A.J. Green piled up more yards than the entire Miami Dolphins offense in a virtuoso performance. As an encore, he thrilled the crowd by juggling some Florida citrus.

The Bengals receiver followed his disappointing game with a dominating one - 173 yards and a touchdown - and a Cincinnati defense that was inspired by Vontaze Burfict's return clamped down on the Dolphins for a 22-7 victory Thursday night.

The Bengals (2-2) rebounded from a 29-17 home loss to Denver on Sunday with a solid all-around game against a depleted team.

Green led the way, beating the Dolphins (1-3) on every type of route . He was upset with himself after he dropped a pivotal third-down pass and failed to make an impact against the Broncos.

"I hold myself to a very high standard," said Green, who had 10 catches. "I know what I'm capable of. Last week I didn't perform to that level. I had to refocus on a short week."

During the first three quarters, Green had 166 yards on catches while Miami had 152 total yards. The Bengals' season-long problem of stalling out near the goal line forced them to settle for Mike Nugent's season-high five field goals.

Afterward, Green and Andy Dalton appeared on the postgame show, and the receiver entertained the dozens of Bengals fans who stayed around by smoothly juggling three oranges at the interview desk.

"Any time he was one-on-one, he was able to make the play," Dalton said.

The Dolphins were missing four starting offensive linemen, two linebackers, running back Arian Foster and tight end Jordan Cameron. They had one big play - Ryan Tannehill threw a 74-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills - but couldn't do anything else on offense.

"We've got to get it fixed and quick, and by that I mean Monday," Tannehill said. "We're kind of in a dark spot right now. It's squarely on our shoulders."

The Bengals' defense expected to get a lift from Burfict's return. The volatile linebacker was suspended by the NFL for the first three games because of his illegal hits. He got a loud ovation when he ran onto the field during introductions wearing a baseball cap. Burfict knocked down a pass and had three tackles.

"He's amazing," end Carlos Dunlap said. "Did you see the plays he made? Those aren't plays you can coach. He came off his couch and played great. It's good to have him back."

Mostly, it was Green's show. He caught a 51-yard pass off Dalton's scramble in the first half, and had a 43-yard catch that set up another field goal in the third quarter for a 19-7 lead.

REMEMBERING FERNANDEZ

A large fan banner in the upper deck at Paul Brown Stadium honored Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, who died with two friends in a boat crash early Sunday near Miami Beach. The banner read: "Jose 16 Heaven's Bright."

STILL CAN'T RUN

The Bengals rushed for 77 yards and only a 2.1-yard average against the second-worst run defense in the league, one missing two starting linebackers.

SLOPPY DOLPHINS

Miami had seven penalties for 68 yards. The most egregious was by Terrence Fede, who pushed Kevin Huber to the ground after he punted in the third quarter. The penalty gave Cincinnati the ball, and the Bengals got a field goal out of it.

INJURIES

Dolphins: LT Branden Albert and C Anthony Steen were inactive with sprained ankles. Also missing were LBs Koa Misi (neck) and Jelani Jenkins (groin). C Mike Pouncey has missed all four games with a hip injury.

Bengals: TE Tyler Eifert was inactive again, contributing to the Bengals' trouble close to the goal line. He's recovering from offseason ankle surgery and returned to practice on a limited basis last week. CB Dre Kirkpatrick was inactive with a hamstring injury suffered Sunday. G Clint Boling sat out most of the fourth quarter with an injured left shoulder.

ANTHEM STATEMENTS

Stills and Dolphins safety Michael Thomas knelt with their hands over their hearts during the anthem.

FANTASY IMPACT

Tannehill was 15 of 25 for 189 yards with a touchdown, an interception, a fumble and five sacks. Dalton was 22 of 31 for 296 yards with a touchdown and a sack.

UP NEXT

The Dolphins begin a stretch of four straight home games against Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and the New York Jets.

The Bengals have a tough two-game stretch, playing Dallas and New England on the road. They're 1-5 in Dallas, dropping their last three. They've dropped their last six at New England, last winning in 1986.