Celtics rout Magic, 87-56, thanks to stingy defense

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Celtics rout Magic, 87-56, thanks to stingy defense

BOSTON It doesn't make any sense.

No starting backcourt. Down three of your top reserves.

Facing an Orlando Magic team that's among the top teams in the NBA this season, and is led by the most dominant inside force in the game, Dwight Howard.

So what do the Celtics do?

Blow them out, of course.

In what may be one of the NBA's biggest upsets of the season - not only because of the outcome, but the lopsided nature it came about - the Celtics had a shockingly easy go of things in beating the Magic, 87-56.

For Boston (7-9), it was their second straight win, and third in their last four games. More important, it was the Celtics' first win over a team with a winning record.

Setting the tone on Monday, just like he did in Sunday's win at Washington, was Paul Pierce.

His ability to score while creating scoring opportunities for his teammates, gave the Magic problems all game.

Pierce finished with 19 points, sharing game-high scoring honors with Brandon Bass.

Defensively, Boston had statistically maybe their greatest game in franchise history, holding the Magic to just 24.6-percent from the field -- the second-lowest opponent field goal percentage allowed ever by the C's. Not coincidentally, the Magic's 56 points was a franchise worst (previously 57), and tied a Celtics franchise-best for points allowed in the shot clock era. Magic Superstar Dwight Howard had 18 points and 14 rebounds for the Magic (11-5), but on 4-15 shooting.

In addition to Pierce, it was clear from the outset that the C's were the aggressor, the team that was on the attack.

Avery Bradley, making his third straight start for Rajon Rondo at the point, went into Honey Badger mode defensively in locking down Jameer Nelson which included stripping him, forcing a backcourt violation and blocking one of his shots.

Former Celtic Glen Davis made his first appearance at the TD Garden since the sign-and-trade that sent him (and Von Wafer) to Orlando, for Bass.

Davis had a Davis-like game, finishing with six points and nine rebounds. Bass had an even better game for the Celtics, scoring 19 off the bench to go with eight rebounds.

Figuring out the key to Boston's success was clear: it was their defense. Orlando, which came into the game as the 11th-best shooting team from the field this season, was off - way off - all night.

At the half, Orlando was shooting a frigid 28.9 percent from the field and the second half was just as bad.

Friday, Aug. 26: Coyotes keep taking on dead money in latest deal

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Friday, Aug. 26: Coyotes keep taking on dead money in latest deal

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while finally catching up on “The Man in the High Tower” on Amazon.

*The Coyotes and Panthers executed a trade sending Dave Bolland to Arizona, and it’s not exactly great news for Gary Bettman with Arizona continuing to take on a lot of dead money.

*Alex Pietrangelo was appropriately humbled to be named the 21st captain in the history of the St. Louis Blues.

*The Colorado Avalanche have a new head coach, and his name is Jared Bednar, who it is said will get the players to play hard for him.

*The footage of somebody in full goalie equipment running away from a burglary scene is something out of a movie.

*The New York Rangers can never have enough depth, and that’s why they added Brandon Pirri to the mix on Thursday.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker says Lawson Crouse brings the total package in the trade from Florida to Arizona, and he also brings a player that can take a hell of a hit as he was the guy that got rocked by Charlie McAvoy at the World Junior Showcase earlier this month.  

*It’s only 15 days until the US National Team Development Program gets going with their 2016-17 schedule: here it is in full.

*For something completely different: can you see David Ortiz’s face in this corn maze? This could be like an ink blot test.

 

Foster playing catch-up, could help his cause vs. Panthers

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Foster playing catch-up, could help his cause vs. Panthers

FOXBORO -- When DJ Foster took the field for Patriots OTAs, he looked as advertised: quick, a crisp route-runner, and the owner of a pair of dependable hands. But that was back when players wore shorts to every practice. Since then, the undrafted rookie running back out of Arizona State hasn't had the opportunity to do much other than work on his conditioning while the majority of his teammates practiced. 

That could soon change. Though Foster has dealt with what he calls a "nagging" injury throughout much of training camp, he felt well enough this week to return to practice, and on Friday night he is likely to see preseason game action for the first time this summer.

The reason Foster's preseason debut could carry some importance is that he happens to play a position that may qualify as the thinnest on the Patriots roster right now. Because sub back extraordinaire Dion Lewis will not be healthy enough to start the season, and because coach Bill Belichick opted to part ways with veteran Donald Brown recently, the team is low on numbers in their running back room.

If Foster can capitalize on the opportunities he's given, he may make a case for a roster spot. James White, who is expected to be Lewis' primary replacement, is the other lone true sub back on the roster. Brandon Bolden can fill in at that role on an emergency basis, and Tyler Gaffney has shown he can catch the football when asked, but neither has the kind of pass-catching upside of Foster, who played receiver for the Sun Devils as a senior and racked up 222 receptions during his four-year college career. 

Foster has only so much time to prove he's worthy of a job. The Patriots have to reduce their numbers to 75 by Aug. 30. They need to be down to 53 by Sep. 3. Foster could be a tantalizing prospect to stash on the practice squad, but surely he'd like to make a push for a greater role. 

He explained this week that, despite his recent physical limitations, he won't be holding back whenever he does get a chance to prove himelf. 

"The coaches do a great job at just kind of making sure I'm OK and stuff," he said. "For me, when I'm in there, do what I can, give everything I got -- every rep, every chance I get with the reps. Stay in the playbook, stay involved in the meetings, and just try to learn as much as I can. Whenever I do get an opportunity, go out there and make the most of it."

Against the Panthers, the Patriots coaching staff will have to balance the need to evaluate players like Foster against good competition versus getting the entire team ready for Week 1. For example, they'd like to get a good look at Foster, whose practice reps were next to nil before this week. They'd also probably like to get White as many reps as possible so that he's prepared for the Cardinals. 

Who should play when? And how many snaps do they need? 

"You can’t see D.J. Foster play in this league. You have Arizona State film but that’s all you have, and some of the spring work that he did which is obviously encouraging," Belichick said earlier this week. "We still have him, but there’s just no body of work. Donald Brown, you can see Donald Brown . . . Players like D.J., it’s hard. You don’t have much to go on. But maybe he’ll be able to do more. We’ll get an evaluation of him soon, hopefully."

Friday night could be the night.