Celtics continue to struggle with turnovers


Celtics continue to struggle with turnovers

BOSTON -- In baseball, players are often instructed to put the ball in play instead of swinging for the fences.

So in basketball it would only make sense to keep the ball in motion instead of looking for the home run play, right?

Sometimes a simple approach doesnt seem so, well, simple.

The Boston Celtics have struggled this season with execution and turnovers. Flashy passes have landed out of bounds or in the hands of defenders. Basic fundamentals have fallen to the wayside at times, with the Celtics averaging 15.6 turnovers per game this season.

The Cs look to clean up these frustrating errors in the second half of the season.

I think too often were trying to make the home run play, said Ray Allen. We just have to be simple out there, just moving the ball to the guy in front of you and that guy moving and penetrating and moving. For us, you might have one home run play out of ten and we just have to know that we have to take care of the ball and weve got to make the simple play, the simple pass 90 percent of the time.

The Celtics committed 14 turnovers on Wednesday night in their 102-96 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, two less than Tuesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers and four less than last weeks game against the Oklahoma City Thunder before the All-Star Break.

Allen believes the turnovers are related to the Celtics offensive struggles this season, with errors preventing them from getting the ball in the basket. While the Celtics entered Wednesday's game ranked third in the NBA in opponents scoring (88.4 points per game allowed), they also ranked 26th overall in scoring (89.3 points per game).

Our struggles are a source of aggravation for me because I know we have a lot of scorers on this team and a lot of time we just are in our own way, Allen said. You over dribble or you turn the ball over, those are two things that keep us from putting the ball in the hole. We can play defense but we have to score.

Even though it is a team effort, Rajon Rondo looks to himself to set the execution in motion as the point guard. This season he is averaging 3.8 per game, up from 3.4 last season.

It starts with me, he said. I try to keep my turnovers down. When theyre high, my team is high. Tonight I think I only had three, which is ok except for the turnover in the fourth quarter. We want to get better.

Kevin Garnett believes one way to help solve the Celtics problem is by having more practices. Those opportunities have been hard to come by in this shortened season, and players have had less chances to run through plays and fix their errors on the practice court.

Its being smart, Garnett said. One of the things we talk about is cutting our turnovers down. I think we have a lot of times to blow a lot of teams out, but the reason why teams are in some games is because we turn the ball over.

Im going to continue to say this in another outfit, as you rewind the tapes and see it again, you just cant step on the floor without practice. Practice cleans all this up. It gives you a rhythm as a whole and it makes you better. It makes you a lot more confident in your teammate and knowing where his spots are and just a different kind of continuity.

When you know you turn the ball over, some of those fancy passes are not so motivating. Weve just to continue to take care of the ball and win these games and continue to see just how many games we can win through all this.

Now in the second half of the season, how can the Celtics focus on simple basketball and cut back on turnovers without having the luxury of practice time to do so? It has to be a concerted effort each and every game.

If I had that (answer) then I dont think wed be going through what were going through, said Garnett. I know Doc (Rivers), if he had it, he would put it in a jar and give it to everybody to drink.

Haggerty: Bruins sinking fast with nothing to hang on to

Haggerty: Bruins sinking fast with nothing to hang on to

So, what do the Bruins do now amidst a three-game tailspin that could easily devolve into a six- or seven-game losing stretch if they’re not too careful?

The goaltending has been predictably porous with Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin out of commission with injuries. The Black and Gold allowed 11 goals in the past two games despite Zane McIntyre battling in tough conditions at Madison Square Garden. The bottom line is McIntyre and Malcolm Subban don’t look ready for NHL prime time and there are legitimate questions as to whether Subban ever will become an NHL goalie.

Beyond that, the Bruins defense has been downright atrocious just as the goaltending situation has deteriorated. Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug have struggled individually and as a pairing that the B’s coaching staff had hoped would complement Zdeno Chara and Brandon Carlo in Boston’s top-four. McQuaid is a minus-3 in his first two games back from an upper body injury and Krug is a minus-4 with a surprising zero points in his first seven games this season.

In fact, every Bruins defenseman not named Chara or Carlo is a combined minus-16 on the season and, of that group, only currently-in-the-AHL rookie Rob O’Gara has a positive plus/minus for the season. Both the defensive zone coverage and the compromised ability to break the puck out of their own end have been problematic and Boston’s opponents have enjoyed way too easy of a time getting into the slot area for juicy scoring chances.

In other words, the defense looks very much like last season for the Bruins with – surprise, surprise – nearly the same cast of characters returning from that subpar crew.

Then there’s the forward group, which has enjoyed great production from David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand in the early going and from David Backes before his elbow injury that was at least partially caused by the hard miles the 32-year-old brawny center has logged over the years. 

Patrice Bergeron has just one point in four games since returning from a lower body injury and opposing defenses in recent games have been able to key on that top line of Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak while mostly neutralizing them. 

That’s because the other Bruins forward lines are doing nothing offensively from a production or puck possession standpoint. Sure, Austin Czarnik had his first NHL goal Wednesday night against the Rangers and Dominic Moore has a couple of goals for a fourth line that’s been decent for Boston this season.

But David Krejci has no goals and three points in seven games with a minus-4 rating while looking slow and tentative coming back from hip surgery, Ryan Spooner is off to a slow start bouncing between wing and center and the third line winger combo of Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes have zero points and a ghastly combined minus-14 rating on the season.

So, basically the Black and Gold have nothing to hang their hat on with the goaltending, the defensemen and the forwards all working at far less than full capacity right now, and that’s making them hockey road kill for opponents. To make matters worse, the Bruins find themselves in the middle of a six-game stretch where they’re playing quality teams that made the playoffs last season, and can expose all of their weak spots.

A prolonged losing streak could knock the Bruins far out of the playoff picture over the next few weeks and leave them more than a handful of points out of the postseason cut by Thanksgiving. Once that happens, the odds would be against the Bruins turning things around and there would zero margin of error for a team that needs leeway based on the glaring roster weaknesses.

So, what are the Bruins to do right now?

There’s not much they can do aside from simply play better, hope that Backes and Rask can return rather quickly and avoid buckling and quitting in games like they did against the Wild and Rangers over the past few days. The Bruins will try to ramp Rask up potentially for this weekend against the Red Wings in Detroit and perhaps that will be enough time for his reported hamstring and groin issues to have healed up.

But if not, the Bruins will need to look on the goaltending market for possible answers rather than asking rookie goalies to thrive behind a struggling, substandard defensive group. Ondrej Pavelec out in Winnipeg would be too expensive in terms of cap hit and there may not be a chance to snag Mike Condon on waivers from Pittsburgh as the Penguins look like they want to hold onto the Massachusetts native with Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury also in the fold.

That leaves the Bruins with a number of retread goalie options like Kari Ramo, Kevin Poulin, Ray Emery, Dan Ellis and Yann Danis, who might have to become a reality if Rask suffers a dreaded setback in the coming days. Bringing in a veteran goalie with NHL experience certainly makes some sense on paper if things are left to Subban and McIntyre, but the bottom line is that Boston will continue to resemble an imploding hockey club until some of their other deep-seated issues are fully addressed.

Gerry Cheevers isn’t walking through that door anytime soon, and if he did, he’d smartly walk back out rather than get hung out to dry by a Bruins team that’s playing embarrassingly poorly in front of a couple of young goalies that need their best.  

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Titans roll to 36-22 victory over Jaguars


THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Titans roll to 36-22 victory over Jaguars

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - There's nothing like a visit from the Jacksonville Jaguars to make the Tennessee Titans remember how to protect their home field.

Marcus Mariota threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns to end his home struggles and the Titans had their highest point total of the season in a 36-22 victory over the Jaguars on Thursday night.

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