Pietrus has a big defensive night to help stop the Nets


Pietrus has a big defensive night to help stop the Nets

BOSTON Mickael Pietrus hasn't been himself at all in Boston. Most games, you'll find him around the 3-point line all the time.

Sure, he loves to shoot 3's. But that's not the reason why he's taken up residence behind the arc.

"My knee, it wasn't feeling real good," Pietrus told CSNNE.com. "So I couldn't do some of the things I'm used to doing. But now, I feel great, my knee feels great. You see the real MP right now."

And it is indeed a sight to behold, as Pietrus displays the all-around game that the Celtics have said from the time he arrived would be on display at some point.

Celtics fans got an eyeful on Friday, as Pietrus' strong play was among the reasons for Boston beating New Jersey, 107-94.

With the win, Boston (18-17) has now won three in a row after losing their previous five straight.

And Pietrus, filling in for Ray Allen (sick), was among the standouts propelling the C's above-.500.

He had 11 points and five rebounds, but even more impressive was his defense.

Along with limiting the scoring of whoever he had to guard, his ability to force turnovers when the C's went with their full court trapping press was impressive.

New Jersey turned the ball over 11 times in the first half for 14 points for Boston, many of which were created by Pietrus' defense.

And while he had a 3-pointer made in the first half, he was even more effective scoring off the dribble, or in one instance, faking the long-range shot, stepping in and then passing to a teammate as the Nets defenders collapsed on him.

"I'm just trying to do what I can to help us win," Pietrus said. "Now that I'm healthy, my knee's feeling great, I can do more."

Pietrus underwent surgery on his right knee last July. After being traded to Phoenix from Orlando, Pietrus was then traded to Toronto. However, the trade fell through due to Pietrus apparently failing the physical.

The Suns eventually bought out Pietrus out, which allowed him to become a free agent.

Once he cleared waivers, there was no need for the C's to put on a hard recruiting job to land him.

"Boston was where I wanted to be all along," Pietrus said.

When Pietrus arrived in Boston in December, he talked about doing what he could to help the Celtics win a championship.

Although that seems a bit far-fetched right now with the C's hovering around the .500 mark, Pietrus' focus hasn't changed.

"It's a long season, and we're getting better, getting healthy," he said. "I love my team; I love being a Celtic."

Bell's style, and unique talents, present challenges to Patriots defense


Bell's style, and unique talents, present challenges to Patriots defense

FOXBORO -- There are plenty of damn good running backs in the NFL but there is only one Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers star shuffles, darts and then dashes, often with bodies crashing all around him, many of them intent on doing serious bodily harm . . . but often failing.

“He’s very unique,” said linebacker Shea McClellin. “I don’t think anyone else runs quite like he does, but it’s efficient and it works.”

Defensive end Chris Long concurred: “His style is so unique, his patience, what he’s able to do with his vision. And as far as breaking tackles, being a complete player, catching the ball, he can do all that stuff.”

Now don’t get it twisted. The Pats respect the hell out of Bell, but they’d prefer they weren’t in charge of corralling him Sunday because everyone has failed during Pittsburgh’s nine-game winning streak. Bell, who played in eight of those games, has piled up over 1,500 yards from the line of scrimmage during that stretch -- 1,172 yards rushing, 336 yards receiving -- while scoring 9 touchdowns. 

“He’s really fun to watch unless you’re getting ready to play him,” said Long.

The respect Bell commands in Foxboro is evident when talking to the Pats running backs, who spoke glowingly about the former first-rounder and in LeGarrette Blount’s case, former teammate.

“No one can do what he does,” Blount told me. “They can try, but it won’t work.”

“That’s his style,” added Dion Lewis, himself a shifty fella. “You can’t try to do that. I’m pretty sure he’s the only guy that can do that.”

So how do the Pats accomplish something no one has been able to do over the last two-plus months? How do they slow Bell down, as they did back in Week 7, limiting him to 81 yards rushing (only 3.9 yards per carry)? 

“I think defensively he really forces you to be disciplined,” said Pats coach Bill Belichick. “You jump out of there too quickly then you open up gaps and open up space. Le’Veon has a great burst through the hole. He doesn’t really need long to get through there, runs with good pad level. He’s hard to tackle so if you don’t get a full body on him then he’ll run right through those arm tackles. [He] really forces everybody to be sound in their gaps.”

“If there’s space or if there’s a gap in the defense or if there’s an edge in the defense, he’s quick to take advantage of that,” defensive coordinator Matt Patricia told us during a conference call earlier this week. “He’s going to be able to get into that open space pretty quickly so you can’t really -- I don’t think you want to sit there and guess.”

If the Pats defenders, especially at the linebacker level, do that -- guess and attack a gap aggressively in attempt to make a splash play -- they may fill one gap but open two others. And that’s where a four-yard gain can turn into 40.

“Everyone on the field, it’s their job to get to him, gang tackle and be aggressive,” said Rob Ninkovich. “It can’t be just one time but every time you’re on the field.”

“There’s no one guy that can stop him,” added Belichick. “You’re going to have to have everybody doing a good job in a number of different areas all the way across the front and then do a good job of tackling.”

The Pats are a terrific tackling team, and haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher this season (actually, not since November of 2015), but the red-hot Bell will put recent history to the test. 

Report: Bennett playing with cracked bone, bone chips in ankle

Report: Bennett playing with cracked bone, bone chips in ankle

FOXBORO -- Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett admitted last week that he has been dealing with a variety of physical ailments throughout the course of his first season with the Patriots. "I've been fighting through [expletive] the whole year," he said, "and I'm not gonna stop now."


Bennett suffered a knee injury against the Texans last week that limited him in practices leading up to the AFC title game, but he's also had to cope with ankle and shoulder issues for much of the season.

On Sunday, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport tweeted: "Patriots love Martellus Bennett's toughness. Example: He plays with a cracked bone [and] bone chips in his ankle. Surgery likely this spring."

Bennett initially showed up on the Patriots injury report with an ankle issue after having his leg twisted awkwardly during a win over the Browns in Week 5. It hampered him for much of the regular season, and he seemed to aggravate it further while being tackled during a Week 12 victory at Met Life Stadium over the Jets. The following week, a win against the Rams, Bennett admitted he had what was probably his worst game of the season.

Bennett has continually played as the top tight end on the Patriots roster since Rob Gronkowski landed on injured reserve. He played in 64 of a possible 69 offensive snaps against the Texans in the Divisional Round, and he has played at least 43 snaps each week since the Patriots' bye in Week 9. For the season, he has played in 78 percent of New England's offensive snaps.

Bennett is due to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. He'll turn 30 years old in March.