Rivers admits flawed gameplan


Rivers admits flawed gameplan

TORONTO Part of the game plan on Friday was to find a way to get his starters some in-game rest by subbing some of them out early, and bringing them back into the game late in the second quarter.

Needless to say, that plan is likely to find a place on the playbook scrap heap following the Boston Celtics' 84-79 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday.

C's coach Doc Rivers acknowledged his plan to rest some of his players may have been a contributing factor to the team's less than stellar play against a Raptors team that has had very little success this season.

"I messed their rhythm up a little bit in the first half," Rivers said. "I told them I wasn't going to play them a lot of minutes and give them rest, and then try to make a charge in the second half. I don't think we handled that very well."

The starters pulled ahead by as many as nine points in the first quarter, and the bench helped extend the lead to as many as 13 points in the second quarter. Rivers then brought back most of his starters to close out the second quarter.

And that's when trouble arrived.

The double-digit lead was cut all the way down to just six points, 36-30, at the half. And the momentum gained by Toronto to end the half, carried over into the third quarter.

"We knew we had this game in the first half," said Toronto's DeMar DeRozan who had a game-high 22 points. "It was a six-point game at halftime and we knew if we turned it up and just started to be aggressive on both ends, we could win this game and that's what we did."

For Rivers, it was yet another lesson that he hopes both he and the C's can move forward from and maybe most important, build off of tonight against New Jersey.

"Again, you keep learning your team," Rivers said. "I thought we came out almost in a slow, cool mood, and I thought I activated that somehow."

Although most of his players were on the floor for their usual allotment of minutes, it was how those minutes were doled out that Rivers, in hindsight, saw as being problematic.

"By sitting them that long and not playing them a lot in the first half, I thought I may have lost their rhythm."

There was no question that from the C's perspective, there was a lack of fire from the very start of the third quarter. And even as the Raptors steadily pulled away, the urgency was still missing up until the last couple of minutes.

"We should have come out with better urgency in the third quarter," said Paul Pierce. "When you give a team like this some confidence, anything can happen in an NBA game. I thought we gave them a lot of confidence in the third quarter and it carried over."

Said Rajon Rondo: "Give them credit. We dug a hole too deep and we couldn't get out of it."

Fortunately for the Celtics, there's no time to dwell on what went wrong against the Raptors, not with a road game at the New Jersey Nets Saturday night.

The C's will certainly try and get back on track, and they'll look to do so with Rivers likely to go back to playing and resting his starters the way he has done for most of this season - a quick but necessary departure from the plan implemented on Friday that by all accounts - Rivers included - simply did not work.

"I won't do this," Rivers said. "That's for sure."

Blount powers his way to new career-high in return to Pittsburgh


Blount powers his way to new career-high in return to Pittsburgh

LeGarrette Blount's performance at Heinz Field was an ironic one because the 24 carries he received in New England's 27-16 win over Pittsburgh was more than twice the number of carries he got during his busiest days as a member of the Steelers in 2014.

Blount signed with Pittsburgh as a free agent in 2014, believing he would be a significant part of the organization's plans. He found out relatively quickly that he was not -- not as long as Le'Veon Bell was in town and running well, at least. He averaged just six carries in his 11 games with the Steelers, and he was cut after he walked off the sidelines, frustrated by his lack of playing time, before a Monday night win over the Titans was over.

The Patriots quickly moved to sign Blount, and the match between player and organization has been a fit ever since. There are days where the football is in quarterback Tom Brady's hands for long stretches, and there are days where Blount is leaned on.

"As a running back, you always want the football," he said. "If we have 80 plays, you're going to want 80 carries. You just gotta be patient. When the opportunity presents itself, you just gotta make the most of it."

Sunday presented Blount with his share of opportunities and he capitalized. He ran for 127 yards (a 5.3 yards-per-carry average) and two scores against the Steelers, helping keep an aggressive defense at bay, and punishing his former coach Mike Tomlin for flooding the field with defensive backs when Patriots tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett were on the field.

"LG ran hard," Bill Belichick said. "Good ball-security. Good pad level. Made some tough yards, and he made a couple big-play, kind of explosive runs . . . He gave us some explosive plays, and we needed that, particularly when they cut it to a four-point game."

The Steelers made it a four-point game with a field goal before halftime, and then they made it a one-point game when they got another Chris Boswell kick to make the score, 14-13. That's when New England's 250-pound back came up large.

He ripped off gains of 11 yards, then 25 yards. Three plays later, Gronkowski was in the end zone on a 36-yard strike from Tom Brady.

"I thought we ran the ball great on that drive," Brady said. "We really got a hat on a hat and it gave LeGarrette some space to run. He's just so deceptive with his quickness. He's a big back but he's got great agility. He makes yards after contact. He gets guys in space and does a great job attacking the creases there. He had a great day today."

Belichick said those long carries helped "settle" things down as it kept the Steelers pass-rush on its heels when the Patriots were pressing to extend their lead.

"He gave us a couple of big runs there to . . . settle things down where it wasn't just a pass-rush game for them all day," Belichick said. "They had some good pressure early in the third quarter, kind of got us in some long-yardage situations. Holding penalties. Hit the quarterback. Forced the ball out quick. So his runs were able to settle us down. I thought our offensive line came through with some good blocking, as well as our receivers and the tight ends, obviously. We ran behind Marty and Rob a lot."

Through seven games, Blount already has a career-high for rushing touchdowns with eight. He's on pace to find the end zone 18 times, which would best Curtis Martin's franchise record of 14 scores in a single season. 

"We went in there with a game plan," Blount said. "We stuck to it, and we came out with a win."