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."

Brown taking opportunities with Celtics as they come

Brown taking opportunities with Celtics as they come

BOSTON -- Compared to most high draft picks, Jaylen Brown doesn’t log a ton of minutes for the Boston Celtics.
 
Playing on an experienced team with legit hopes of making a deep playoff run, rookies seeing limited minutes is a given.
 
Knowing playing time will come in a limited supply, Brown understands all too well the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity he gets on the floor.
 
He did just that on Saturday in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia, and he hopes to do more of the same on Monday when the Celtics take on the Houston Rockets.
 
When you look at Brown’s stat line, nothing about it looks impressive. He played 15 minutes, scored two points with one rebound and one blocked shot.
 
But beyond the stats was the fact that he was on the floor for seven minutes in the fourth quarter in a close back-and-forth game on the road. Rookies on the floor in crunch time is not the norm in the NBA.
 
“It means a lot,” Brown told reporters after Saturday’s win. “I try to be as best I can be for my team; try to put my best foot forward every night out.”
 
And he did just that on Saturday.
 
In the fourth quarter with the Celtics leading 87-83, Brown blocked a Gerald Henderson shot that wound up in the hands of Jae Crowder. Moments later, Jonas Jerebko hit a 3-pointer that gave the Celtics their largest lead of the game, 90-83.
 
And just two minutes prior to the blocked shot, he was out in transition following an Isaiah Thomas steal and threw down a dunk that pushed Boston’s lead to 86-83 with 7:11 to play.
 
Brown acknowledged making the most of those opportunities bodes well for him and the franchise.
 
“It’s great for our team in general; not just for me,” Brown said. “Those plays helped us to pull the game out in the end. So I’m glad we got the win. I think we should have played a little better than we did.”
 
The continued pursuit of self-improvement is a hallmark of what Brown’s focus and desire are at this stage of his pro career. He has talked often about not wanting to be just one of the best in this draft class but also one of the best in the NBA overall.
 
But he’s also learned that to get there takes time and experience developing both physically and mentally. Part of that mental growth entails having the right approach to games.
 
“Usually you try to tell yourself not to mess up,” Brown said. “Now that I’m getting more comfortable, it’s just play basketball, bring energy, things like that; come out and do what you’re supposed to do. A lot of times you try to tell yourself to not mess up and it’s counteractive; just come out and play basketball and have fun.”
 
And by doing so the minutes will come.
 
“You can’t control that. I just have to control what I can control,” Brown said. “I trust coach (Brad Stevens); I trust my coaching staff. I have to come out and in the minutes I get, play my hand as best I can and take advantage of what I do get and impact this team as much as possible.”
 
This season, Brown is averaging 4.8 points, 2.0 rebounds while shooting 41.9 percent from the field.

Zolak: Bennett helps with Gronk loss, but Pats need to manage him

Zolak: Bennett helps with Gronk loss, but Pats need to manage him

Scott Zolak said on Pregame Live Sunday that the Patriots are better-suited to survive a season-ending injury to Rob Gronkowski than they were a season ago. 

Zolak said that given the health of Dion Lewis, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and the signing of Chris Hogan, the offense has more stability at other positions to make up for the loss of Gronkowski, whose season is over due to back surgery. As for the tight end position, Zolak said he feels the Patriots traded for Martellus Bennett to protect themselves against scenarios like the one they currently face. 

“This offseason they [acquired] Martellus Bennett, I think for this very reason: to prepare for what really happens year after year, is some sort of issue comes up with Rob Gronkowski and you have to play without him,” Zolak said.

Bennett was questionable with an ankle injury for this week’s game, but is expected to play. Asked about the health of Bennett, Zolak said that he believes the tight end is good to play, but that his importance to the team with Gronkowski out means the Pats will need to be careful. 

“I think he’s healthy enough to get through about 30-35 snaps,” Zolak said. “They’ve got to balance him now moving forward.”