C's continue skid, lose again to Pistons

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C's continue skid, lose again to Pistons

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. And to think, this was supposed to be the "easy" game on this road trip for the Boston Celtics.

But the more we watch this Celtics team, the more nothing by them can be taken for granted - especially when it comes to winning games.

The struggles of the Green Team continue, as they stumbled and bumbled their way to yet another disappointing performance in losing, 96-81, to the Detroit Pistons.

Boston (15-15) has now lost three in a row, and five of its last six games.

Like most of the C's games this season, the night began with them being even more short-handed than expected.

Kevin Garnett, who did not play in last week's loss to the Pistons, was not with the team for Sunday's game to attend to a personal matter. Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said there was a chance that Garnett might re-join the team in time for Monday's game at Dallas.

In addition to Garnett, the Celtics were also without Brandon Bass (left knee) who isn't expected back on the floor until after the all-star break.

"It's tough, especially when you go on this road trip, and you just want to be healthy," Rivers said prior to the game. "And you just haven't had that opportunity. This is a road trip I've really been looking forward to. We thought a week ago, Kevin was going to be good and Brandon was going to be healthy and now you don't have either one for at least one of the games, maybe two. That makes it a tough trip."

And with all the injuries, it means some players are being called upon to play roles that frankly, might be too much for them to handle.

JaJuan Johnson has shown promise, but it's clear that he's just not ready to be a player who can give them quality minutes over an extended period of time.

And Greg Stiemsma, who has also shown promise, has been decent in spot duty. But when asked to play a prominent role which was the case on Sunday due to all the injuries and foul trouble it's going to make for a long, long night.

While the Celtics are quick to say that they don't want anyone feeling sorry for them, no worries about that.

Teams are showing them absolutely no sympathy.

Instead, they're simply attacking them in every way imaginable.

Detroit began the game on the attack, which led to them absolutely dominating the free throw game. At the half, they had 29 free throw attempts compared to just 10 by Boston.

It didn't matter that the Pistons missed 12 of those free throws.

The message was clear:

They were going to attack. They were going to be the aggressor.

And when those two things happen, it usually means that team is going to win.

Boston didn't do itself any favors in giving the Pistons multiple second and third-shot opportunities.

The Pistons had 40 points off of Boston's 24 turnovers, while the Piston's 15 turnovers led to 13 points for the C's.

So now the Celtics find themselves needing road wins at the defending NBA champions (Dallas) and the best team in the Western Conference record-wise (Oklahoma City), in order to avoid falling at or below-.500 for the first time since they were 9-10 following a loss on Jan. 29 to Cleveland.
HOT SHOT: Rodney Stuckey missed eight of his 10 shots from the field, but there was little doubt that he had the hot hand - from the free throw line. Stuckey finished with 16 points for the Pistons, which included him making 12 of his 15 free throw attempts. Just to put that in perspective, Stuckey's 15 free throw attempts was equal to the number of free throws the Celtics had as a team. "Just getting out on the break, attacking, getting into the bonus early really helped us and that's what we need to continue to do; keep attacking the basket and getting out on the break. It's really helping us right now."
IN-N-OUT: It was that kind of night for Rajon Rondo, who had five points on 1-for-6 shooting, to go along with 10 assists prior to being ejected - a first for him - in the third quarter. It remains to be seen if Rondo will have to serve some type of suspension for his actions in the third quarter that led to official Sean Washington kicking him out with three minutes to play in the third quarter.
SUPER SUB: Detroit's Jonas Jerebko was a force off the bench for the Pistons. He had 13 points, six rebounds and two steals in about 22 minutes.
TURNING POINT:Trailing Detroit 59-54 in the third quarter, Jermaine O'Neal was fouled with 6:50 to play in the quarter. A 72.4 percent free throw shooter this season, O'Neal missed both free throws. From there, the Pistons closed out the quarter with a 16-7 spurt and were able to maintain a double-digit throughout the entire fourth quarter.
BY THE NUMBERS: 40: That would be the number of points Detroit got off of the 24 turnovers made by the Celtics.

QUOTE OF NOTE: "We can't be a fragile team and get frustrated with the calls that they (officials) make. Some way, some how, we have to be mentally tougher than that."- Celtics forward Paul Pierce.

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.