Pietrus feels 'extremely good' in return to action

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Pietrus feels 'extremely good' in return to action

BOSTON -- Mickael Pietrus didnt want to talk about the details of his injury. He hadnt watched a replay, either. Seeing himself crash into the paint in Philadelphia was too much to handle.

I dont really watch it because it makes me sad, he said. I fell so hard and my brain was moving. I didnt feel good and I was throwing up.

He quickly switched topics, Yeah, OK, next question. Youre trying to make me sad.

Pietrus suffered a grade 3 concussion Mar. 23 during the second half against the Sixers. While the Celtics were hopeful he would return for the playoffs, there was no timetable set for an injury of this severity.

The 30-year-old swingman first visited the TD Garden over a week ago, wearing sunglasses and a towel over his head due to light sensitivity. Then came visits with clear sight, followed by dancing on the court.

Then, on Wednesday night, came his sudden return. He missed just 10 games.

I feel good, extremely good, he said after the Celtics 88-86 overtime win against the Hawks. No more concussion. Its behind me now so I can look forward right now to just get to a level where I can help my team in the playoffs. Im just very happy to be back.

Pietrus found out Wednesday morning he would be able to play. He did not tell the media before the game, though, explaining after, It was an April Fools, with a big smile.

Before tipoff Doc Rivers said Pietrus would be limited to five-to-ten minutes. Instead, he played 29 off the bench, scoring eight points (3-5 FG, 1-2 3PG, 1-2 FT), along with six rebounds. More notably, he was on the court the final seven minutes of the game, including the entire duration of overtime.

Thats what of course hes going to say and there is nothing wrong with that, but Im going to make him play me 30 minutes, Pietrus joked, adding, I enjoy when the game is on the line and you know you have to guard the best player.

Rivers didnt plan for Pietrus to play major minutes after he was told Pietrus was tired after two minutes of workouts. He intended to take him out earlier in the game, but athletic trainer Ed Lacerte gave Pietrus the thumbs up to stay on the court.

I was going to take him out after about three minutes and Eddie said, He looks great. Let him go, let him go. Hell tell you when hes tired, said Rivers. Whats amazing is he actually never looked over and said he was ever tired. Maybe hes been working out on the sly and we never knew it.

The Celtics, who frequently reached out to Pietrus during his recovery, were happy to have their jovial teammate on the court once again. With Ray Allen (ankle) out, Pietrus gave them an extra boost.

It felt good to have Mickael back, said Kevin Garnett. Seemed energetic, seemed like the old Mickael, like nothing had happened to him. He brought good energy, not only to the locker room today but to the floor. It was good to see him.

Said Brandon Bass, He brought defensive intensity, passion. We missed him and it was great to have him back. . . . Ray went down so I was just happy we had someone step up and be ready. I knew it, even from when he walked in, he was so excited about playing tonight. I knew he was going to bring something, help us tonight in a major way.

Pietrus considers himself fortunate to be back on the court after a difficult two weeks. He knows the injury could have been worse, and he is thankful for those who offered their support during the challenging time.

I came out here tonight, 18,624 fans, I was so happy and I just forget the concussion and they were supporting me, he said. Thanks to the fans for supporting me, they tweeted me. And I want to say thanks to the Celtics organization. They looked out for me when I was down. They came to my house and made sure they talked to me and stayed positive. They took care of me from day one.

Now that hes back, Pietrus wants to return the favor by helping the Celtics reach the ultimate goal.

Playoffs are right around the corner so Im trying to help my team the best way I can, he said. Im looking right now, on my mind, even though Im trying to get my brain right, its still banner 18. I think guys are playing great right now so we have a chance to win the championship this year. And we will.

Patriots defense carried chip on its shoulder all the way to the Super Bowl

Patriots defense carried chip on its shoulder all the way to the Super Bowl

FOXBORO -- It's a list that's been cited time and again as the Patriots defense rolled into the AFC title game: Brock Osweiler, Matt Moore, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bryce Petty, Trevor Siemien, Joe Flacco, Jared Goff, Colin Kaepernick. 

Those are the quarterbacks the Patriots have faced since their last loss, a Week 10 defeat at the hands of Russell Wilson and the Seahawks. None of them ranked in the top 16 in quarterback rating during the regular season. None of them ranked in the top 19 in yards per attempt. 

PATRIOTS 36, STEELERS 17

The Patriots defense finished the season ranked No. 1 in points allowed, and since their last loss, they'd allowed just 12.9 points per game. Still, there were those who wondered if it was a unit that would hold up against Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown on Sunday night. 

Not only did Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense hold up. It dominated. 

"They held this team to nine points for 50 minutes," Belichick said after the game during the presentation of the Lamar Hunt Trophy. "Pretty good."

The 36-17 victory may have been the defense's best effort of the season due to the competition it faced.

For many, it was a performance that will legitimize the season the unit has had. But for Patriots players, it was a performance that showcased their ability, a performance that might shut up those who cited that list of mediocre (and worse) quarterbacks as an indicator of what they hadn't done this season.

"It's not validation," said corner Eric Rowe. "We hear the reports. 'Not a great quarterback. Not a great offense.' Someone said the Chiefs have a better defense than the Patriots so the Steelers should be able to have their way. We took that chip on our shoulder so that all week and we prepared . . . We definitely prepared better than we did last week against the Texans, I know that. We kind of took that chip, and it all just came together tonight."

Even when it wasn't perfect, the Patriots were able to recover quickly. At the end of the first half, they bent but didn't break as they put together a goal-line stand that held the Steelers to a field goal after they had a first-and-goal at the one-yard line. They stood firm again in the fourth quarter by recording a turnover on downs with the Steelers deep in Patriots territory. 

That "bend-but-don't-break" label that the Patriots defense wears is one they actually wear with pride. 

"I kind of like it," safety Duron Harmon said of the description. "It just shows the type of toughness and mental toughness we have. Even when the situation might seem terrible or might seem bad, we have enough mental toughness to come out and make a positive out of it. Right then and there (during the goal-line stand in the second quarter), a lot of people are thinking that's seven points. But that's a four-point turnover basically."

Execution in those critical moments, against an offense that's loaded with Pro Bowl talent, may allow the Patriots to be more widely respected. But they've known what they've had for some time, and so has their quarterback. 

He said after Sunday's AFC Championship Game victory that he's based his readiness on how well he's been able to practice against a unit that he knows is right up there with the best he's seen this season on game days. 

"There's a lot of noise, always," Brady said when asked about the chip on the defense's collective shoulder. "Sometimes you don't always have it figured out four games into the year. There's a lot of moving parts . . . I practice against those guys every day, and it's hard to complete passes.

"I know if I can complete it against our defense, then we should be fine on Sunday because our guys do a great job in the pass game. So many great pressures they got . . . They got a lot of good schemes. They got a good defense. We got a good defense. To slow down an offense like that was pretty great."