CelticsNets Review: What we saw

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CelticsNets Review: What we saw

BOSTON The Boston Celtics continued on their winning ways with a 10794 win over New Jersey, a game that was much more lopsided than the final score might indicate. A big reason for the victory was Boston's full court pressure defense, which gave the Nets major problems in the second quarter.

For the game, New Jersey turned the ball over 20 times seven of those miscues came in the second quarter. "We weren't able to cover from there," said Nets coach Avery Johnson.

One of the key players to Boston's pressure defense was Mickael Pietrus, who got the start in place of Ray Allen, who was under the weather.

Pietrus had 11 points, five rebounds and a steal, although his pressure, along with Rajon Rondo, played a role in the C's getting steals on 10 of the 20 turnovers they forced.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers knew Pietrus was a good defender, but acknowledged that "he's better than I thought; his energy is better," Rivers said.

There were a handful of factors we previewed before tonight's game. Here's how they played out as the C's won their third straight to move above-.500 for the season.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR One of the big reasons for New Jersey's struggles this year has been because they have played most of the year without their big man, Brooke Lopez. The 7-foot center, out with a broken foot, has steadily improved in the three games since returning to the Nets lineup. His scoring and rebounding have both increased from one game to the next. He comes into tonight's game coming off a 38-point effort in New Jersey's 93-92 win at Dallas. Kevin Garnett has done a good job at the center position for Boston, but Lopez presents a much greater challenge because of his ability to score around the basket something most of the centers Garnett has matched up with lately can't do nearly as well as Lopez.

WHAT WE SAW Lopez was indeed a load for Kevin Garnett and company, as he tallied a game-high 28 points. But his scoring had very little impact on the game's outcome. In fact it's what Lopez didn't do rebound that continues to be the biggest knock on him. In New Jersey's 9392 win at Dallas, he had 38 points and just six rebounds. Against the C's, he only tallied five rebounds.

MATCHUP TO WATCH Rajon Rondo vs Deron Williams: It's a team game, but there's no way of ignoring the fact that two of the NBA's elite point guards will square off against one another. As much as the C's need Rondo to facilitate the offense and occasionally get a basket, they'll need him to step his game up defensively tonight. In Williams, Rondo's facing arguably the most complete point guard in the NBA. Williams has size (6-3, 209), speed, court vision and a better-than-average perimeter game. Whichever of these two that plays better, will go far in determining tonight's winner.

WHAT WE SAW This was a closely contested matchup, but the edge and the win have to both go to Rondo. He had his seventh double-double of the season with 14 points and 13 assists along with a game-high five steals. As for Williams, he had a decent night of 12 points and eight assists, although the 12 points scored is about 10 below his season average.

PLAYER TO WATCH Former Celtic Gerald Green is back in the NBA following an MVP effort in the D-League All-Star Game during All-Star Weekend. In his first game with the New Jersey Nets, Green came off the bench to score 10 points. It was his first NBA game since April 8, 2009, when he played with the Dallas Mavericks. The former slam dunk champion spent his first two NBA seasons with the Celtics after they selected him with the 18th overall pick in the 2005 NBA draft.

WHAT WE SAW You knew at some point, Green would wow the crowd with an impressive dunk. After all, that's kind of what slam dunk champions, past and present, do. But it's clear that Green's game has matured from his days with the Boston Celtics. He had 11 points off the Nets' bench on 5-for-10-shooting.

STAT TO TRACK Defending the 3-point shot will be vital for Boston to win tonight. Despite their struggles this year, the Nets rank second in the NBA in 3-pointers made (8.8) and 3-pointers taken (24.8). Meanwhile, the C's have been among the league's leaders in their defense of the 3-ball. Boston ranks second in opponent 3-pointers made per game (4.8), and are fourth in opponent 3-pointers attempted (16) per game.

WHAT WE SAW This was yet another area in which Boston's play was superior. The C's limited the Nets to 19 3's taken, and only five were made.

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.