C's band together, shut down Orlando offense

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C's band together, shut down Orlando offense

BOSTON Avery Bradley made life miserable as can be for Orlando's Jameer Nelson. Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O'Neal delivered the kind of 1-2 defensive punch that left Dwight Howard stunned most of the night.

Even seldom-used Sasha Pavlovic was making things happen defensively.

Pick a Celtics player, any player and chances are they were part of a historically dominant night as the C's pummeled the Magic, 87-56.

"They came out and just absolutely dominated us with their energy and their defensive intensity," said Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy. "That's the most dominating defensive performance I have ever had against me."

Van Gundy added, "It's the first game in my career I've been through where not one guy played well. We didn't have one guy. That was an absolute beat-down, and in most senses it was much worse than the score indicated."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers has been saying for weeks that the C's were improving, making the kind of strides that he believed would pay off sooner or later.

Rivers anticipated his team would give the Magic a fight, but he had no idea that they would dominate the Magic in such emphatic fashion.

The 56 points Boston gave up tied a franchise-low for points allowed in the shot clock era.

Boston also set a franchise record for allowing a franchise-low 20 points in the second half, in addition to limiting the Magic to just 16 made field goals which is also a franchise record.

And by limiting Orlando to just 24.6 percent shooting from the field, that was the second-lowest field goal percentage a team has shot against the C's in the shot clock era.

"That was great," Rivers said of his team's play. "I mean, defensively that was as good as you can get."

With their starting backcourt of Ray Allen (ankle) and Rajon Rondo (wrist) out, along with Keyon Dooling (knee), Chris Wilcox (calf) and Mickael Pietrus, there was clearly the potential for the Magic to have a major letdown.

"You know human nature," Rivers said. "Sometimes they see no Ray, and no Paul I mean no Rondo, and no Keyon. You never know how that affects a team. But, I mean, great win for us."

And it came about largely because of the defense, a defense that has shown flashes of being good but not this good.

Celtics Kevin Garnett talked about how the C's success defensively had a lot to do with their ability to execute the game at a higher rate than they have most games this season.

"It was just one of those grind games," Garnett said. "Everyone knew their assignments. And I can say for the first time in a long time, I think we carried out assignments to the perfection."

And while the Celtics are a better team when they have their roster intact, the fact that their roster was so depleted because of injuries had, in a strange way, helped bond the C's in a way that brought about Monday night's record-setting performance defensively.

"When you go into a fight undermanned, it's not more so the weapons; it's more so the fight," Garnett said. "Tonight, we just started fighting."

Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32

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Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32

NEW ORLEANS - Devonta Freeman practically wore out the Superdome turf with one long gain after another, Tevin Coleman wouldn't be denied near the goal line and the New Orleans Saints hardly looked like the team that made an emotional homecoming nearly 10 years ago to the day.

Cheers turned to boos, and many fans filed out early.

Coleman rushed for three touchdowns, Matt Ryan passed for two TDs and Deion Jones returned an interception 90 yards for a score to help the Atlanta Falcons beat the winless New Orleans Saints 45-32 on Monday night.

"It was real fun. Everybody was doing their job and everybody was playing for each other," Coleman said. "Everything clicked, and we got it done. It's a real big win for us to beat this team here."

The game coincided with New Orleans' celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the Saints' memorable return to the Superdome on Sept. 25, 2006, 13 months after Hurricane Katrina. But there would be no reprise of New Orleans' dominant and emotional 23-3 triumph over Atlanta a decade ago.

The Saints' depleted defense struggled to slow Freeman, who rushed for 152 yards and caught five passes for 55 yards. Coleman also was effective in the passing game out of the backfield, with three receptions for 47 yards to go with his 42 yards rushing.

"We have to stop the run better," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "They were over 200 yards in situations where you knew the run was coming, even at the end of the game."

Ryan finished with 240 yards passing for Atlanta (2-1), which did not turn the ball over and moved into sole possession of first place in the NFC South.

Drew Brees put up his usual big numbers - 376 yards and three TDs passing - and hit tight end Coby Fleener seven times for 109 yards and a TD. But Brees' tipped pass that resulted in Jones' TD return early in the fourth quarter gave the Falcons a 45-25 lead that proved too much for New Orleans to overcome.

Hayes knows he's a good player, wants to silence the critics

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Hayes knows he's a good player, wants to silence the critics

BOSTON, Mass. – There’s a long way to go toward a complete resurrection from last season’s misdeeds, but Jimmy Hayes made a nice little statement that he’s learned some lessons in Boston’s preseason debut. The Bruins lost the game, 3-2, in the shootout to the Columbus Blue Jackets, but Hayes scored one of the two goals for the Black and Gold as one of the few veterans in a very youthful lineup for Boston.

The Hayes goal was a nice give-and-go with Jake DeBrusk at the end of a nice transition play in the second period, and was the highlight of a night playing on the right wing with DeBrusk and center Austin Czarnik. The score and a team-high four shots on net for Hayes represent a good start for what he hopes is a gigantic rebound season after last year’s disappointment.

Clearly Hayes heard some of the unflattering chatter about him on sports talk radio and otherwise last season, and may even understand how his difficult season in his home city of Boston -- whether he actively expressed it to him or not -- might have been a factor in his buddy Jimmy Vesey ultimately choosing New York over Boston.

It appears the former Boston College standout is looking to change the conversation in Boston. 

“Yeah, sure am. I’ve got a lot to come out here and…[there were] a lot of comments about myself, but I know I’m a good player. I got to this level for a reason,” said Hayes, who dropped from 19 goals and 35 points with the Panthers to 13 goals, 29 points and a career-worst minus-12 for the Bruins last season.

“To be able to play at the NHL level and continue to play at that level on a consistent basis is what I expect out of myself. I do it for myself and our teammates, and to help our team win. I’ll continue moving forward.

“It’s funny being the old guy on the line. It’s nice to see those young guys and see how excited they are, and how excited I am to get back out there. That’s what I said to the guys, they still have the jitters and they still have them for the first preseason game. It shows that these guys want it and it’s been a lot of fun skating with those guys. They’ve got a lot of speed and to keep pushing the pace. Trying to keep up with them has been a lot of fun.”

There is still a long way to go for the 26-year-old winger, and his willingness to stick around the danger areas on Monday night was a welcomed one for a Bruins team that needs his 6-foot-6 body in front of the net. Hayes paid the price with stitches and a fat lip after taking a Dalton Prout high-stick to the mouth in front of the Columbus net that went uncalled on a Bruins PP at the end of the second period.

That’s all part of the big man’s game on the ice, however. It’s also the kind of battle and determined fight that Hayes will need to show much more consistently in his second season with the hometown Bruins if he’s truly looking to bounce-back from last year’s mediocre performance.