Celtics-Bucks: What we saw . . .


Celtics-Bucks: What we saw . . .

MILWAUKEE After giving his players a couple days off, Doc Rivers had no idea what to expect when the Boston Celtics took to the floor against the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Celtics looked alive and refreshed, and clearly had a little more bounce than normal as they pulled away in the fourth for a 100-91 win that snapped a six-game winning streak for the Bucks (21-25).

With the win, Boston (25-21) is guaranteed to do no worst than .500 on their eight game road trip that ends Friday night at Philadelphia.

But for the C's, there's no time to think about how good this trip has been, until it's over.

For Boston, it's their second straight win over a team that they could potentially see in the playoffs.

"These last two wins have been big," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "We'll be ready tomorrow."

Strong defensive play in the second half, great help-side defense and an active bench all factored into the Celtics' win on Thursday. Here we look back at a few keys identified prior to the game, and how they actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: A big part of Milwaukee's run of late has been their ball movement. The most telling barometer for that is assists. And the Bucks have been racking them up in bunches lately. Milwaukee has had at least 30 assists in each of their last four games, something that hasn't happened in the NBA since Phoenix did in during the 2007-2008 season. And a five-game assist binge of 30 or more hasn't happened since Orlando did it during the 1994-1995 season. That ball distribution success will be put to the ultimate test by Boston, which allows a league-low 18.5 assists per game.

WHAT WE SAW: Milwaukee had another good game in terms of assists, but the Celtics really took them out of what they wanted to do, in the second half. The Bucks finished with 23 assists (snapping a four game run of 30 or more assists), but only six came in the second half.

"We were struggling to even handle the ball," said Bucks coach Scott Skiles. "We weren't sharp in any area of the game."

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs. Drew Gooden: Like Garnett, Gooden is also a power forward playing center. And like Garnett, Gooden has the ability to score facing the basket although he doesn't have Garnett's range on his shot. This is going to be one of the few games that Garnett will play at the center position where he doesn't have a clear-cut advantage over his matchup. And when you throw in the fact that Gooden is playing the best basketball of his career (he was Eastern Conference Player of the Week earlier this month), it makes for what should be a great duel.

WHAT WE SAW: This matchup wasn't even close. Garnett ratcheted up the defensively intensity all game on Gooden, who had six points after missing 10 of his 12 shots from the field. Meanwhile, Garnett had his team-leading 15th double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, in addition tallying six assists and three blocked shots as yet another example of how he's one of the most versatile players in NBA history.

PLAYER TO WATCH: It has to be Paul Pierce, who has been in foul trouble each of the last two games for the Celtics. He didn't fare so well when the two teams met on Feb. 29, scoring just 10 points on 5-for-12 shooting. He'll be defended by Carlos Delfino, which is one of the few matchups that clearly favors Boston. Don't be surprised if the C's try to get the Captain going early and often.

WHAT WE SAW: The Truth delivered the kind of big-game performance fans have come to expect from him in games like Thursday night's tilt. He came out attacking, and scored 11 points in the first quarter. After a quite second quarter, he erupted for another 14 in the second half before finishing with a game-high 25 points.
"That's what a couple days off will do to you, give you some fresh legs," Pierce said. "I had a little zip in my step tonight."

STAT TO TRACK: If Boston emerges with a win, the turning point will most likely be the third quarter. This season, Boston averages 24.3 points per game in the third, the 10th-best scoring mark for that quarter, in the NBA. The Bucks' third-quarter scoring defense ranks 19th in the league, with opponents averaging 24.1 points scored. But complicating matters some for Milwaukee in the third is that they average just 23.2 points scored in the third which ranks No. 23 in the NBA in third quarter scoring which, as you might expect, is their worst scoring quarter.

WHAT WE SAW: True to form, Boston's ability to close out the third quarter playing well positioned them for a strong fourth quarter push. After Milwaukee went on a 5-0 spurt to lead, 71-70 in the third, a pair of baskets by Kevin Garnett gave the C's a 74-71 lead going into the fourth. From there, they opened with a 14-6 run and never looked back. Although Boston only scored 18 points in the third, they were still plus-5 in the quarter by limiting the Bucks to 13 points on 6-for-21 shooting in the quarter.

Geno Smith has torn ACL; Ryan Fitzpatrick to start for Jets


Geno Smith has torn ACL; Ryan Fitzpatrick to start for Jets

The Jets’ quarterback situation took a comically typical turn Monday, as Ryan Fitzpatrick will be under center after an MRI revealed that Geno Smith has a torn ACL. 

After starting New York’s first six games of the season, Fitzpatrick was demoted to backup for Sunday’s game against the Ravens. Smith was injured on a sack by Baltimore’s Matt Judon, forcing Fitzpatrick back into action. 

After leading the Jets to a 24-16 win, Fitzpatrick made his dissatisfaction with being benched known. 

“The biggest thing in this game in order to last, is to have belief in yourself,” Fitzpatrick said in his postgame press conference. “Because when the owner stops believing in you and the GM stops believing in you and the coaches stop believing in you, sometimes all you have is yourself. That’s something that I’ve had to deal with before. That’s something I’m dealing with now.”

On the season, Fitzpatrick has completed 136 of 237 passes for 1,561 yards with six touchdowns and a league-leading 11 interceptions. 

McQuaid cleared to play, nearing return to Bruins lineup


McQuaid cleared to play, nearing return to Bruins lineup

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- It was a bitter pill for Adam McQuaid to sit out the first five games of this season, but it looks like the veteran Bruins stay-at-home defenseman is nearing a return to the lineup. McQuaid was cleared to potentially play in Saturday’s loss to the Montreal Canadiens after an upper body injury kept him shelved for the team’s first four games, and could be approaching a return in the next few days as Claude Julien mulls a number of possible lineup changes.

“It was obviously frustrating, but I’m where I’m at now and trying to move on from it. Looking forward to getting back into the lineup hopefully as soon as possible here,” said the 30-year-old McQuaid, who had a goal and nine points in 64 games for the Black and Gold last season. “The excitement level is high for me, and it is for everybody after a loss when you’re looking forward to getting back out there.

“It would have been nice to have started the season with the guys, but you can’t change that now. I’ve had some good practices, and I’m just trying to my game as simple as possible, and take it as it comes. Obviously guys have played some games and it’s been a couple of weeks for me, so I’ll just have to keep my game simple.”

The B’s bench boss indicated it was only a matter of time before McQuaid makes his 2016-17 regular season debut, but that he’s got plenty of things to decide prior to dropping the puck against the Wild.

“[McQuaid] was cleared last game. I haven’t made any decisions based for [Tuesday night vs. Minnesota]. There’s a lot of things that are up in the air, and I’ve just go to juggle those things,” said Julien. “Who knows? Hopefully tomorrow morning I’ve got a better picture [of injury situation], and if not then it will be game-time decisions. I wish I could have a better answer [on if McQuaid will play], but I’ve got no answers right now.”

With Colin Miller (minus-4), Joe Morrow, Torey Krug (a rough minus-3 against Montreal) and John-Michael Liles all minus players after the first five games of the season, there are ample options for Julien on which potential blueliner to bump up to the press box. McQuaid is just happy he’s getting closer to a return while skating with 23-year-old Rob O’Gara at practice, and he can get back to helping a B’s team that’s smack dab in the middle (ranked 15th allowing 3.0 goals per game) of the NHL for team defense this season.