Celtics turn it on too late, fall to Raptors

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Celtics turn it on too late, fall to Raptors

TORONTO This should not have happened to the Boston Celtics.

Not with something to play for (higher playoff seeding, Atlantic Division crown), not with the need to build on their already strong momentum (they came in with four straight wins), not with the opponent being... the woeful, lottery-bound (again) Toronto Raptors.

But there were the Boston Celtics, dead as can be, well on their way to a disappointing loss to the 20-win Raptors.

And then came a Celtics lay-up, followed by a 3-point play by Paul Pierce.

Suddenly, more than three quarter's worth of putrid play just might be washed away by two minutes of stellar basketball.

But it was not meant to be, as the Raptors made all their free throws down the stretch to pull off a shocking 84-79 upset win over the Celtics.

Sooner or later, the Boston Celtics were due for the inevitable let-down game. That's the only way to explain what happened Friday night in Toronto.

The Raptors, with nothing to play for but pride, took advantage of a lethargic effort.

After falling behind by double digits, the Celtics' finally started playing Celtics-like defense in the game's final minutes, as they frantically fought back to cut Toronto's lead to single digits.

But as much as they needed to get stops, they also had to make shots with the latter proving to be a problem on multiple occasions.

Mickael Pietrus had a number of good looks at the basket, only to see his shot rim in and out - and with it, out went Boston's chances at winning.

The loss did nothing to Boston's chances at winning the Atlantic Division, as Philadelphia lost at home to New Jersey.

Boston (34-25) led by as many as 13 points in the first half, but appeared to morph into what Doc Rivers refers to as "cool Celtics" with an abysmal showing in the third quarter.

There was bad defense, worse offense and it provided just the fuel Toronto needed.

Boston led most of the first quarter with Rajon Rondo once again shredding a team's defense to pieces, racking up seven first-quarter assists as the C's led 20-13 after the first.

C's coach Doc Rivers has talked about finding ways to give his core guys more rest heading down the homestretch of the regular season.

Going to his bench earlier with more bodies is one way to achieve that. In the first half, Boston played 11 players which is a bit unusual considering they've gone with an eight-man rotation for the past few games.

Regardless, the Celtics' main guys played more than enough minutes to off-set any points lost by the backups.

Because truth be told, the Celtics' problems all night had to do with a lack of aggression on the part of all.

Rondo was getting his usual share of assists, but very few came with him attacking the lane.

And eventually, that lack of aggression caught up with the Celtics.

When it did, the Raptors got hot, gained more confidence and before you know it, they were rolling along to an unexpected win.

The Celtics seemed to show some signs of life in the fourth quarter when Rajon Rondo stole the ball and coasted in for a lay-up that cut Toronto's lead to 68-57.

But on the ensuing possession, Alan Anderson nailed a 3-pointer from in front of the C's bench while being fouled by Avery Bradley to give the Raptors a 71-57 lead with 5:56 to play.

Boston responded by getting the Toronto lead down to 10 points following a short jumper by Rondo.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey knew his team was starting to falter, so he called a time-out to get his best scorer - DeMar DeRozan - back into the game with 4:01 to play.

Curran: Patriots' success during Brady suspension is deliciously ironic

Curran: Patriots' success during Brady suspension is deliciously ironic

FOXBORO -- Bob McNair seems like a nice man. 

But the 27-0 prime-time embarrassment his team was handed Thursday was particularly tasty given the moronic observations McNair offered last summer regarding Deflategate. 

Showing the inch-deep knowledge of the case that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the league’s operations people courted with their slanted or flat-out incorrect information leaks, McNair said in September of 2015: "What escalated the whole thing is that [Tom] Brady and the Patriots were going to cooperate fully, and then when it came down to it, they didn't. If it was J.J. Watt, I think he would have been cooperative, and it wouldn't be a question . . . I don't think J.J. would destroy his cellphone.

"I support Roger," McNair added. "I think he’s done a good job. He’s got the toughest job. Imagine the amount of stress he’s placed under, the people pulling from different directions. He’s got 32 bosses. I’m sure there are a few who aren’t happy with some of his decisions. He’s got to do, in his opinion, what’s in the best interests of the league."

This wasn’t a case of McNair just politely offering an opinion and moving on. He went on for a good long while. 

"Is there anything conclusive there? No, you don't have any conclusive evidence," McNair said. "But the whole idea is we want to make sure we have a competitive playing field that's level for everybody ... don't want people breaking the rules. In the minds of somebody in that organization, they thought it was important. They thought it would give them a competitive advantage, and that's why they did it . . . You just want to eliminate that kind of situation if you can.

"You know, when you look back on it, if Brady had just said, 'Look, my guys know I like a softer ball, and that's what I like, and so they do it. But I don't go out and check the pressure of the balls.' . . . I don't think there would have been an issue," McNair continued. "It would have been a problem with the guys on the training staff who deflated the balls, and the Patriots would have got some kind of minor penalty; it wouldn't have been a big deal."

The Patriots smashed Houston in Texas during the 2015 season with Brady at the helm. But there’s irony in Thursday’s 27-0 shutout while the Patriots were in the midst of a penalty McNair obviously was approved of. And the irony is magnified with the news the Texans lost J.J. Watt in the process. 

The first three Brady-less games proved to be revelatory as well. 

Sunday, two weeks after his Cardinals lost to the Patriots at home on a yanked field goal in the closing seconds, Arizona head coach Bruce Arians chose to mock and belittle his long-snapper, Kameron Canady. 

Arians is a pet of the national media because of his glibness and accessibility. But there was no chastising to be found after he said Canady needed to “grow the hell up” and that Canady’s problems had “nothing to do with anything but what’s between his ears.”

Not a peep about Carson Palmer throwing picks on every single one of the Cardinals final four drives -- the second time in four games dating back to last year’s playoffs that Palmer ran Arizona into the ground with picks. No singling out All-Pro Patrick Peterson, who got walked through by LeGarrette Blount on the Patriots' game-winning field goal drive and failed to scoop up a turnover against the Bills. No, Arians went hard after the long-snapper. And then cut his ass. Not that Canady didn’t deserve the release and maybe the tongue-lashing as well. But it’s revealing that Arians skates while there would the national media would have been seeking safe spaces if Bill Belichick suggested a player was a little mentally fragile. 

It was amusing last year to watch three franchises that were at the forefront of the torchlit stampede against the Patriots -- Indianapolis, Baltimore and the Giants -- faceplant to varying degrees. 

But no one could have expected the schadenfreude to continue even with Brady down. We’ve pointed this out before, but it’s worth circling back to now: If the Patriots deal Jimmy Garoppolo, the team will have recouped the first-round pick the Patriots the league confiscated and they’ll be able to do so because of the showcase that came as a result of Brady’s suspension. Meanwhile, Jacoby Brissett has given feedback that he’s very much on the right track and Brady’s avoided a month of wear-and-tear on a 39-year-old body.  

The league’s last desperate hope for seeing the Patriots lose at least one damn game during this suspension is . . .  Rex Ryan. And Rex has to get it done at Gillette in the third of three straight home games for the Patriots. 

It’s like the league ordered their whole damn Deflategate plan from ACME

Garoppolo, Brissett prove they are physically able to throw

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Garoppolo, Brissett prove they are physically able to throw

FOXBORO -- The Patriots have two injured quarterbacks on their roster at the moment, but they aren't so injured that they can't throw the football around a little bit. 

Both Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder) and Jacoby Brissett (thumb) threw passes early on in the team's practice on Wednesday. They worked with offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels, as well as with assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski, and floated throws toward stationary targets. Starting out with quick-hitters, they eventually opened things up briefly and pushed the ball about 30 yards down the field. 

The practice had barely begun, and the passes were warm-ups, but it was clear that both players were physically able to throw. 

The entire 53-man roster and all 10 practice-squad players were present and in full pads for Wednesday's on-the-field work.