Celtics-Rockets review: What we saw . . .


Celtics-Rockets review: What we saw . . .

BOSTON The Boston Celtics' 97-92 overtime win over the Houston Rockets Tuesday night was filled with missed layups, missed free throws and some untimely turnovers in ways seldom seen - and Doc Rivers couldn't have been any happier.

"We're starting to play good basketball and we're starting to win basketball games when we don't play good basketball," the Celtics coach said. "And that may be more important."

Boston appeared to have the game under control in the closing seconds of regulation, but the ball seemed to slip out of Rajon Rondo's hands as he missed an uncontested breakaway layup. Moments later, the Rockets were able to tie the game and force overtime.

The C's had more miscues that came out of nowhere in the overtime period, such as Kevin Garnett - an 84.3 percent free-throw shooter - missing a pair, and Paul Pierce turning the ball over on an eight-second violation.

"That was a crazy game," Rivers said. "The whole game - it wasn't even just the ending."

Said Rockets forward Luis Scola: "The fact that we are in overtime is very lucky. What are the chances that Rondo misses a wide open layup when nobody's close to him? The fact that we played overtime was a bonus, a present. We lost the game before that. We could have won in overtime, but the reality is that we lost before."

And now the Celtics' focus will immediately shift to an Atlantic Division matchup in Philadelphia Wednesday night with first place in the division at stake. But before we get too ahead of ourselves, let's review some of the factors highlighted prior to the Celtics' victory, which extended their winning streak to five in a row.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Although the Celtics are scoring more with Brandon Bass in the starting lineup, the increase in scoring has a lot to do with their defense. The C's are forcing more turnovers, which has allowed them to get out in transition and get easy baskets. For the season, Boston is forcing 15.1 turnovers per game. During their current four-game winning streak, the C's have increased their forced turnover number to 17.3 per game.

WHAT WE SAW: For the third straight game, Boston forced its opponent to commit 20 or more turnovers. The Celtics were able to generate 19 points off of the 20 miscues by the Rockets. Boston's defense was particularly effective in the fourth quarter, after falling behind by double-digits. "The defensive energy picked up," said Ray Allen. "When they went on a run we weren't getting any stops, they kind of dictated how the game was being played, and we changed that by pushing them away from the basket. And everything that they had was contested, and we got rebounds and were able to run and score."

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo vs. Kyle Lowry: While Lowry doesn't have the kind of media sizzle of a Jeremy Lin or Deron Williams, Rondo's defense of Lowry will have to be good. Lost in the Celtics' recent run of success has been the fact that all but one of the four point guards Rondo has faced (with the exception being Cleveland's Kyrie Irving) since returning from the All-Star break, have had subpar performances against the C's. And Lowry is having arguably his best NBA season, averaging 15.8 points, 7.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game.

WHAT WE SAW: Lowry became the latest victim of a Celtics defense that continues to make a non-factor of one point guard after another. Lowry had 18 points, but was just 4-for-17 from the field. He grabbed seven rebounds, but his seven assists were just one more than his six turnover total. "Night-in and night-out, it's going to be a good guard you face and try to contain them as much as possible," Rondo said.

PLAYER TO WATCH: The role of Ray Allen continues to fluctuate from one game to another. Some nights, he'll be looked upon to drive more to the basket. Other nights, he'll be needed to shoot. And then there was the win over the New York Knicks on Sunday, a game in which Allen was more of a decoy who set lots of picks. It'll be interesting to see how the Rockets approach defending Allen, and how Allen and the C's respond.

WHAT WE SAW: Once again, Ray Allen answers the call when the C's needed a clutch basket. His 3-pointer late in the fourth positioned the Celtics for the victory. And in the five-minute overtime period, only Paul Pierce (7 points) scored more than Allen who had 4 of his 21 points in the overtime period. "Ray is one of the best conditioned athletes in our league," said Boston's Keyon Dooling. "He puts the time in, he still does the same routine he's had for years and obviously, he's the greatest shooter in the history of the game. We wouldn't expect anything less from him."

STAT TO TRACK: If you see a 3-pointer go in tonight, cherish the moment because there probably won't be many made 3s tonight. The Boston Celtics defend the 3-point shot better than any team in the NBA, with opponents shooting just 30.2 percent on 3s against them. The Houston Rockets are literally right behind Boston in 3-point defense, with their opponents connecting on 31 percent of their 3-point tries.
WHAT WE SAW: Indeed, 3-point shots made were few and far between for both teams. Although Houston had more made 3s than the Celtics (five to four), Boston shot a slightly higher percentage in connecting on four of its 14 attempts (28.6 percent) compared to the Rockets' 5-for-19 (26.3 percent) shooting on 3s.

Brady allows himself to enjoy win: '[Bleep], you've got to be happy now'

Brady allows himself to enjoy win: '[Bleep], you've got to be happy now'

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady can be his own worst critic. That's why last week, after beating the Texans in the Divisional Round to move on to the AFC title game, he wasn't thrilled. He didn't play up to his standards. The offense struggled at points. He wore his frustration like a five o'clock shadow.

Winning is not everything for Brady, most weeks. He has an idea of how he should perform, how the Patriots offense should perform, and when those ideals aren't met, he's generally displeased. 


On Sunday, after beating up on the Steelers, 36-17, that wasn't the case. It was a sound performance, but it wasn't perfect. It was explosive at times, but it shined a light on areas where the Patriots will need to continue to improve. 

Despite its imperfections, Sunday was no time to brood about plays missed or lessons learned the hard way. Screw it, Brady seemed to say. They were going to the Super Bowl. It was OK to smile.  

"It was a good day," Brady said. "I mean, we're going to the Super Bowl, man. [Expletive], you've got to be happy now."

The Super Bowl berth is the ninth in franchise history -- more than any other club -- and the seventh with Brady and coach Bill Belichick. By throwing for 384 yards and three touchdowns on 32-of-42 passing, Brady tied Joe Montana for the most postseason games (nine) with three touchdown passes. 

Brady will also claim the record for Super Bowls played when he and the Patriots head to Houston. And if they win, he'll tie Charles Haley for most Super Bowl wins for a player (five).

Those are lofty numbers made even more significant, perhaps, due to the fact that Brady wasn't allowed to start this season as his team's quarterback. He was asked during Sunday's postgame press conference if it was personally satisfying to get back to the Super Bowl despite having to serve a four-game suspension due to Deflategate.

"Well, that's because of the hard work of a lot of people from my coaches to my teammates to our families that support us," he said. "It takes a lot of people, a lot of hard work and a lot of effort over the course of many months. This didn't start at 6:40 tonight.

"This thing started in April. It really started before that in free-agency when we were picking up guys like [Chris] Hogan and drafting guys like Malcolm Mitchell and guy who were in rehab like [LeGarrette Blount] and [Dion Lewis] and [James Develin] and Nate [Solder]. It's a lot of hard work. There are only two teams left standing, and I'm happy we're one of them."

They're going to the Super Bowl. He has to be happy now.