Celtics-Nets review: What we saw

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Celtics-Nets review: What we saw

NEWARK, N.J. Make no mistake about it, Boston Celtics forward Brandon Bass has heard the chatter about the team's struggles to rebound the ball. He doesn't dispute that this season, it has indeed been an issue for the Celtics.

But it is an issue that lately, hasn't been as big a deal with the team showing significant improvement and maybe just as important, consistent play, in its board work.

Saturday's 94-82 win at New Jersey was yet another strong night for the Celtics on the boards, as they out-rebounded the Nets, 51-42.

The Celtics have been at or near the bottom of the rebounding charts all season. But in the last 10 games - the C's have won seven of those games - Boston ranks 15th in the NBA in rebounds per game. Making Saturday's performance even more impressive was that the Nets came into the game ranked 12th rebounding in the last 10 games.

"Doc (Rivers) has told us time after time that we need to be better rebounders and we hear it from the media that we're struggling and you know that's something that, you know, we want to be a championship team," Bass said. "To win a championship, you have to defend and rebound."

Rebounding was important in Saturday's win and it will be integral to the Celtics' success moving forward. Here we'll re-examine some of the keys in tonight's game pointed out earlier, to see how they actually played out as Boston defeated New Jersey 94-82 after a disappointing loss at Toronto on Friday night.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR Boston's scoring defense has been solid as a rock, win or lose. It will be put to the test tonight against a New Jersey team that's showing signs of improvement in every area, notably scoring. They have a 6-4 record in their last 10 games, which has been fueled in part by their improved scoring. Although they rank No. 22 on the season in scoring, they're actually up to No. 13 over the last 10 games. Meanwhile the Celtics have the No. 3 scoring defense (89.5 points) this season, but have given up a league-low 84.1 points per game over the course of the last 10.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston's defense really turned up the pressure in the second half, limiting New Jersey to just 34 second-half points on 11-for-47 (23.4 percent) shooting. "The defense finally kicked in, in the third quarter," said Paul Pierce. Nets guard Deron Williams added, "you definitely have to credit their defense. They are a good defensive team and our offense wasn't very good, our execution wasn't very good, not screening really you are not going to get any easy looks or good shots from that."

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Rajon Rondo vs. Deron Williams: You have two of the NBA's top point guards which is sure to bring out the best in both players. Rondo is coming off a 12-assist, zero-turnover night which has run his consecutive game streak with double-digit assists, to 20. And Williams, who will be a free agent this summer, is the seventh-highest scoring point guard over the past 10 games, with a 17.4 average. He has also averaged 11 assists in that span, second only to Rajon Rondo (14.2).

WHAT WE SAW: This was a very well-played matchup between two of the NBA's premier playmakers. Statistically, these two put up comparable numbers in assists with Rondo having 15 and Williams tallying 14. The difference was in scoring, with Rondo having just four points compared to 12 for Williams. When you throw in the fact that Rondo had more rebounds (4 compared to zero for Williams) and the fact that the C's emerged with the victory, you have to give the slight edge to Rondo.

PLAYER TO WATCH: The Celtics were out-worked on the boards by Toronto, and it will again be a concern heading into tonight's game. As much as the Celtics will key in on Derrick Williams, they might want to keep close tabs on former Celtic Shelden Williams. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, 41 percent of Shelden Williams' rebounds come off the offensive end which means multiple scoring opportunities for Celtic opponents. Only five players with 300 or more rebounds, have a higher percent of their rebounds being offensive, than Williams.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston never allowed Shelden Williams to be a factor. He was the only starter for either team to not score a single point. In addition, the one thing that he has done a good job at most of this season for the Nets - offensive rebound - was an area in which the Celtics managed to keep him from doing any damage. Along without scoring a single point, Williams grabbed just three rebounds - all defensive.

STAT TO TRACK: When the Celtics reflect on what went wrong in the Raptors loss, you can bet that they count not scoring more points in the paint as one of the problems. Fortunately for them, they face a New Jersey teams whose points-in-the-paint woes are just as bad. Boston is averaging an NBA-low 33.6 points scored in the paint. Right behind them are the Nets with a 34.6 points in the paint average.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston was better at looking for points in the paint on Saturday compared to Friday's loss at Toronto, but not by much. The Nets had 36 points in the paint compared to 30 for Boston.

Isaiah Thomas: 'I didn't think Boston would be this cool when I came'

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Isaiah Thomas: 'I didn't think Boston would be this cool when I came'

Mike Gorman and Brian Scalabrine sit-down with Celtics All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas to talk about the high expectations for the season, the addition of Al Horford, and getting married this offseason.

Also, Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely talk about Thomas, including his very team friendly deal will ever become an issue.

Look for new podcast versions of our media day interviews in the coming days, plus videos and other content as the Celtics get ready for the season.

Pats exploit 'element of unknown' with Garoppolo or Brissett at QB

Pats exploit 'element of unknown' with Garoppolo or Brissett at QB

There’s no way to spin rookie Jacoby Brissett starting a game rather than three-year NFL veteran Jimmy Garoppolo or future Hall of Famer Tom Brady as preferable.
 
But can the disadvantages be mitigated? Can the fact there is no “book” on a player be helpful?
 
“I think there’s always an element of the unknown when you’re dealing with a player or something you haven’t seen or scouted as much,” said Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on a conference call Monday afternoon. “I don’t know if there’s an advantage there, it’s just that you don’t have as much information on a player or on some scheme that they may use, which then forces you to figure some things out as the game goes along and do some quick self-scouting as you move through the first cquarter, the first half, whatever it is, just to make sure that if it is something new you haven’t seen before, if it is a player that you haven’t played against and don’t have a lot of volume of tape on, that you have an opportunity to evaluate quickly what is going on.

"What’s happening in the game? How much of an impact is that player having? Are they trying to  do something that’s disrupting what you’re trying to do with their scheme? I think that happens a lot of weeks during the course of the year based on health and availability, new players, guys being called up, someone that just got signed and you don’t really have a lot of experience watching them play in their system. I would say that’s a common occurrence for us.”
 
With a fullback or UDFA guard pressed into duty, there’s not a helluva lot that will be altered in terms of scheme. With players like Garoppolo and Brissett, though, the Patriots' long-established offense can take on an entirely different look if different areas are emphasized.
 
For instance, jet sweep is a play the team won’t use much with Tom Brady except as a “keep ‘em honest” on the edges kind of play. With Garoppolo, quickness when he gets outside the pocket has to be respected so if he fakes that jet sweep and rolls to the outside, he’s a run-pass threat with speed and downfield accuracy. With Brissett, he’s a threat with elusiveness, size and power as a runner. Additionally, if the Patriots wanted to try the old Elway Throwback to the opposite sideline, Brissett may have more arm power than either Brady or Garoppolo.
 
McDaniels said the Patriots aren’t looking necessarily for ways to “surprise” opponents as much as they are looking for ways to accentuate players’ strengths.  
 
“We’ve got to take the guys that we get to play with, based on health and other factors, and then we consider the defense that we’re getting ready to play against, and the great players and the scheme that they use, and then we try to formulate the right plan to allow our players to go out there and play fast, play well, and do the things that suit their talents the best,” McDaniels explained. “I don’t think that our mindset has changed.

"Some of the variables have changed from one week to the next, which is always the case,  and of course, when you get a group of guys a plan and then you work so hard to get ready for Sunday or Thursday night and go out there and watch them play and execute and take care of the ball and do the things you need to do to try to win, and then they enjoy it so much, that’s really the thing that you take the most satisfaction from as a coach.”