Celtics' small lineup comes up big


Celtics' small lineup comes up big

BOSTON At one point in Wednesday's loss to San Antonio, the Celtics had a lineup on the floor that had four guards 6-foot-5 or shorter and an undersized power forward in 6-8 Brandon Bass, at center.
If you missed it, no need to worry.
There's a good chance that you'll see some incarnation of Boston's "small ball" lineup tonight against Chicago.
"The Bulls go small as well," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
But they do so as part of their game plan, which allows them to be effective with a big lineup as well as a small one.
With so few big men on the roster, Boston has no choice most nights but to go with an undersized unit from time to time.
And while it does leave the C's vulnerable to getting clobbered on the boards, having a floor full of guards has its positives as well.
That was certainly the case in the Spurs loss, with the guard-oriented unit helping Boston chip away at a 17-point deficit and ultimately take the lead late into the fourth quarter.
"The small lineup saved us against the Spurs," said coach Doc Rivers. "Because the big lineup was killing us."
Kevin Garnett also spent some time on the floor with a small lineup that had him at center.
"I thought it made us quicker, and more scrappier," Garnett said. "We got more loose balls."
And it was desperately needed against a San Antonio Spurs team that seemed on the verge of making it a blowout until the C's small-ball unit returned the game to a more competitive state.
"On a night where we needed to do something different, because we weren't getting any stops and we weren't getting out in transition," said Keyon Dooling, who saw action with the C's small-ball units. "It was a great changeup for us. Everybody came in and played well."
Among the Celtics who probably flourishes most with the smaller lineup is Rajon Rondo. Already one of the better rebounding guards in the NBA, having a floor full of guards allows him to get out and play at a tempo more to his liking.
"We're a lot faster," Rondo said. "We want to run and score in the first six seconds. With guards on the court with you, they can get down and spread the floor; Avery Bradley going to basket, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce stretching with the three."It was a good time for the C's small-ball group to have some success with the playoffs right around the corner.
"Just to be able to have that versatility and to be able to get some regular season experience in the playoffs, it could be all kinds of lineups out there," Dooling said. "So it's good to get that small ball experience because we may run into a team that plays small lineups. Not only is it good for us and what we do, but also good to be able to match up with teams and not miss a beat."

Butler imitates Brown with post-interception dance: 'Nothing personal'


Butler imitates Brown with post-interception dance: 'Nothing personal'

Malcolm Butler didn't mean any disrespect. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. 


When the Patriots corner picked off a Landry Jones pass in the first quarter -- one that was intended for receiver Antonio Brown -- Butler stood up in the end zone, faced the Heinz Field crowd, stuck one arm in the air But and gyrated like someone had attached jumper cables to his facemask. 

He was doing his best to mimick one of Brown's well-known touchdown dances.

"Me and Brown had conversation before," Butler said, "and it was a joke to him once I showed him how I do it. Much love for that guy. Nothing personal."

For Butler, it was the highlight of what was a productive afternoon. The third-year corner was asked to shadow Brown for much of the day, and he held Brown to five catches on nine targets for 94 yards. He also broke up a pair of passes intended for Brown's teammates.

“Stopping Antonio Brown, that’s impossible," Butler said. "You can’t stop him. You can only slow him down. I just went out there and tried to compete today . . . Great players are going to make plays but you have to match their intensity.”
Even on the longest throw from backup quarterback Landry Jones to Brown, a 51-yarder, it appeared as though Butler played the coverage called correctly. 

Butler lined up across from Brown and trailed him underneath as Brown worked his way from the left side of the field to the right. Butler was looking for some help over the top in that scenario, seemingly, but because Brown ran across the formation, it was hard for the back end of the defense to figure out who would be helping Butler. 

Coach Bill Belichick admitted as much after the game. 

"He was on [Brown] a lot the way we set it up," Belichick said. "Look, they've got great players. They're tough to cover. They hit us on a couple over routes, in cut where they kind of ran away from the coverage that we had. 

"The plays were well designed. Good scheme, good thorws and obviously good routes by Brown. They got us on a couple, but I thought we competed hard. We battled all the way. We battled on third down. We battled in the red area. They made some. We made some, but they're good. They have a lot of good players."

And Brown, in particular, is about as close as it gets to unstoppable in the NFL. Butler found that out in Week 1 of last year when he matched up with Brown in his first game as a starter, giving up 9 catches for 133 yards to the All-Pro wideout. 

Though Sunday might not have been perfect for Butler, it was better than that day about 14 months ago. And at times, it was worth dancing about. 

SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Seahawks, Cardinals miss OT FGs, tie 6-6


SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Seahawks, Cardinals miss OT FGs, tie 6-6

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Seattle's Stephen Hauschka and Arizona's Chandler Catanzaro missed short field goals that would have won the game in overtime and the Seahawks and Cardinals settled for a 6-6 tie Sunday night.

Hauschka's 27-yard field goal was wide left with seven seconds left after Catanzaro's 24-yarder bounced off the left upright.

The tie was the Cardinals' first since Dec. 7, 1986, a 10-10 draw at Philadelphia when the franchise was based in St. Louis. It was the first for the Seattle since entering the NFL in 1976.

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