Celtics-Warriors review: What we saw...

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Celtics-Warriors review: What we saw...

OAKLAND, Calif. For most of Wednesday's game, the Boston Celtics' usually stingy defense was nowhere to be found as Golden State seemingly got whatever it wanted to offensively.

But down the stretch, when the game mattered most, the C's got the necessary stops and much-needed shots to fall as they escaped with a 105-103 win.

It was a 21-foot jumper by Kevin Garnett that provided the game-winning margin of points.

But before that play came about, it was a series of key stops that ultimately led the C's to a hard-earned victory.

"We didn't play a lick of defense tonight," said Boston's Paul Pierce. "But we played defense when it mattered. So that was the most important thing."

Clutch plays by Garnett down the stretch and some solid team defense were among the keys to the Celtics (23-19) moving four games above-.500 for just the second time this season.

Here's a review of the keys highlighted prior to the game, and how they actually played out during the game.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Without Monta Ellis, who will pick up the 21.9 points and 19 shot attempts he had, per game? Stephen Curry is a logical choice, but with his never-ending ankle issues, Warriors coach Mark Jackson doesn't have a true feel for how much he can get on a nightly basis from Curry. Prior to the game, Warriors GM Larry Riley said Curry, who did not play on Wednesday, is out indefinitely. If Curry doesn't get the bulk of those shots, keep an eye on rookie Klay Thompson whose development was among the reasons the Warriors were willing to trade Ellis. He's averaging 8.2 points per game this season, but has reached double figures in Golden State's last five games -- his longest double figure scoring stretch this season.

WHAT WE SAW: Thompson proved why the Warriors are so high on his play with a career-best 26 points. He showed the kind of mid-range game and long-range shooting touch that seemed to have caught the Celtics off-guard.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs. David Lee: Bass' mid-range game has been strong all year, but lately he's starting to get it done defensively as well. Lee will be a good test for him. The two have comparable size and can be physical. But you have to like Bass' chances when he steps away from the basket and shoots. Not only is it a situation that plays to his strengths, but it also keeps Lee further away from the basket which for the C's, is a good thing.

WHAT WE SAW: Although Bass is a couple inches shorter than Lee, he certainly held his own on Wednesday. Both players had 22 points, with Bass having the slight edge in rebounds with nine compared to eight for Lee. Rebounding was indeed something that was on Bass' mind coming into the game.

"I go out with more of a mindset of rebounding," Bass said prior to the game.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Avery Bradley's improved play offensively has been one of the reasons the Celtics have been a better team since returning from the all-star break. He's showing that, in addition to being a strong defender, he can also make teams pay by leaving him alone on the perimeter or losing track of him cutting to the basket. With Bass now a starter, Boston will need someone to step up and become more of a scorer off the bench. Bradley appears to be up for the challenge.

"Whatever they need me to do, that's what I want to do," Bradley said. "Of course defense is always going to be my priority. But there times when my teammates will need me to score, too. I'm just trying to stay ready, be ready for whatever Doc and the coaching staff needs me to do."

WHAT WE SAW: Bradley did not play major minutes. But as he has done more and more of lately, the Celtics got great value out of his time on the floor. The 6-foot-2 guard played more than 13 minutes and scored four points on 2-for-3 shooting, in addition to dishing out three assists. Maybe just as telling was the C's were plus-nine with him on the floor. Only one other Celtic player (Keyon Dooling, who was plus-11) had a better plusminus ratio.

STAT TO TRACK: This will be one of the few nights where the Celtics, the worst rebounding team in the NBA, might actually win the battle on the boards. As bad as Boston is, the Warriors aren't that much better. In fact, they rank 26th in rebounding compared to the dead-last Celtics, at No. 30. Forget about Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass and Paul Pierce when it comes to the team's rebounding numbers. Boston has to get more from guys like Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Avery Bradley.

"It has to be more of a team effort on the boards," Bradley admitted. "I know myself, all the guards really, have to do a better job of that, than what we're doing now."

WHAT WE SAW: Boston did more than just hold its own on the boards they won the boards. It was only by four rebounds, but hey, considering most games they're out-rebounded by double figures, a four-rebound edge was huge. The strong job on the boards came on the same day the C's found out that Chris Wilcox would be out for the season due to a heart condition that will require surgery. Celtics officials said he would have surgery in Cleveland March 29. In addition to Wilcox, the C's are awaiting word on whether Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) will have season-ending surgery. But C's head coach Doc Rivers has already said the team plans to continue on without O'Neal, adding that his return would be a "bonus."

"With those guys, it still would have been tough (rebounding the ball)," said Bass. "Without them, it's going to be tougher. But that just means guys off the bench have to step up and be ready."

Beleskey, Krug missing from Bruins morning skate

Beleskey, Krug missing from Bruins morning skate

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- There were both expected and unexpected absences from Bruins morning skate on Monday morning at Warrior Ice Arena ahead of tonight’s game at TD Garden against the Florida Panthers. Matt Beleskey was the expected absence after getting knocked out of Saturday’s game with a lower body injury caused by a Tyler Fedun check to his right leg, and Torey Krug was also missing from the ice after pulling workhorse duty over the last handful of games in the absence of Zdeno Chara.

It doesn’t appear likely that Beleskey is going to play Monday night vs. the Panthers, but it’s unknown what’s behind Krug’s absence from the skate.

Both Zdeno Chara and Noel Acciari took part in practice as they come back from injuries, and it appears they both could be closing in on a return to the lineup. Frank Vatrano also shot the puck around a bit at the very beginning of Monday’s skate, but came off the ice as the team began their preparations for tonight’s game. 
Here are the Bruins projected line combos and D-pairings vs. Florida based on the morning skate with Beleskey and Krug both absent:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

Schaller-Krejci-Backes

Spooner-Nash-Czarnik

Blidh-Moore-Hayes/Acciari

Chara-Carlo

Morrow-McQuaid

K. Miller-C. Miller

Rask

Khudobin

Belichick on keeping Brady in: 'Seen those double-digit leads evaporate'

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Belichick on keeping Brady in: 'Seen those double-digit leads evaporate'

With 5:52 remaining in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game between the Patriots and Rams, and with the hosts up 26-3, quarterback Tom Brady was back on the field to lead the Patriots offense. 

It was a decision that had some scratching their heads. Why risk the health of your Hall of Fame quarterback in a game that's essentially been decided? Particularly at this point in the year? Particularly just days after the team lost it's most dynamic offensive weapon to season-ending back surgery?

"Well, after the game turns out, it's easy to go back and make those suggestions," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said on a conference call Monday. "I've seen a few games in this league. Seen those double-digit leads evaporate in a minute or two. I know that's not a big concern when it does happen and then when it does happen it's a major crisis and [there's] a lot of second-guessing about what should've been done or what shouldn't have been done. Trying to win the game."

The Patriots held the ball for a little over two minutes before punting it back to the Rams. By the time the Patriots got the ball back for the final time with 1:15 remaining, Brady was on the field to take two kneeldowns and wipe out the clock. 

He told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show on Monday morning that he wasn't looking for an early hook. The Rams have been accused of dirty plays in the past, and their coaching staff has a reputation for encouraging a reckless style, but Brady explained why he wanted to remain in the game late.

"All these games are close. I know yesterday, 26-3 at one point, but we’re playing for a lot here," he said. "i don’t think it’s ever right to take your foot off the gas pedal. We could use as many reps as possible, all the guys out there. There are different situations that come up in every game. You only get 16 weeks a year to try them out. You try them in practice, but there’s not the speed. There’s not the urgency. It’s not the decision-making because it’s unscripted.

"In practice you go and talk about these are the plays you’re going to run, these are the defenses you can get. Then you go into the game and they it’s all about decision-making really under pressure with everything on the line, so the more reps you can get with Malcolm [Mitchell] and [Chris] Hogan and Martellus [Bennett], guys that I haven’t played with, the better it gets."

Brady escaped his late-game reps no worse for the wear -- he completed three of four passes for 14 yards on his team's second-to-last drive -- but he did take one shot earlier in the game that had him ticked. Rams safety TJ McDonald got into the Patriots backfield untouched and drove Brady into the ground during a second-quarter drive. Brady got the ball away, but he was walloped, and when he got up he sought out McDonald for a few words.

"I think it was pretty emotional," Brady told Kirk and Callahan. "I didn’t see the replay yet, but he made a good clean hit. They were blitzing us. I knew we didn’t have him picked up and he put a little extra something on.”

Asked if the threat of a play like that late in a lopsided game bothered him, Brady said no.

"I said to my wife as I was driving home, she was like, ‘What was that?’ She wants to know about all these things and I was like, ‘I think it is all fair on the football field.’ You put yourself out there," Brady explained. "You’re up 20, you’re down 20. Everyone is playing hard and whatever happens out there is on the football field. I don’t think it was a dirty play.

"Guys love going in there and hitting the quarterback. They’ve been trained to hit the quarterback their entire careers, especially on defense. They get paid more hitting the quarterback. Their team is 4-8 so they are going to play hard 'til the end no matter what. They haven’t been in a lot of games this year so they are going to play hard to try and set them up for next year. I had no problem with that hit. I thought it was a real clean play. I was pretty pissed off for the most part yesterday because we weren’t executing as well as we could and that probably had something to do with it as well."