Rivers on Dooling: 'He's just coming on'

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Rivers on Dooling: 'He's just coming on'

MINNEAPOLIS Keyon Dooling is an 11-year veteran, but he might as well be a wet-behind-the-ear rookie when it comes to gaining the trust of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers to put him on the floor during critical moments.

Dooling's presence has been a huge plus for the C's locker room, but multiple injuries along with a condensed schedule have afforded him few opportunities to prove his worth on the court.

Now that he's healthy, the 6-foot-3 guard is starting to string together the kind of play the Celtics envisioned him providing.

And the timing could not be better, with the C's (28-22) in a tightly contested race for the Atlantic Division crown all while once again dealing with injuries.

There were a number of players who stepped up in Boston's 94-82 win over Utah on Wednesday, but few delivered as big a shot as Dooling's 3-pointer in the fourth quarter that broke open a 66-all tie after the C's squandered an 18-point lead.

"Keyon, he's just coming on," said Rivers.

Boston came into the season planning to play Dooling at both guard positions off the bench, although more time would be spent as Rajon Rondo's backup at the point. That would have allowed Avery Bradley to come off the bench and play the bulk of his minutes behind Ray Allen.

But a sore right knee injury kept Dooling out for seven games in January. Less than a week after returning from that injury, he suffered a hip pointer injury that kept him out for another nine games.

With him out, Bradley played more at the point and has since blossomed into a reliable role player off the bench, or a last-minute fill-in as a starter.

Bradley, a second-year guard who played sparingly as a rookie, has indeed come a long way in gaining Rivers' trust.

And he did it the only way it can be done, and that's making the most of every opportunity to play.

Dooling is starting to follow a similar path with the C's now.

"At the end of the day, everybody's banged up this time of year," Dooling said. "But I'm starting to earn Doc's trust a little more; starting to find my niche and role on this team. I want to continue to try and execute it every night."

That means coming into the game, providing solid defense, steady play in the backcourt and when given an opportunity to make a difference, not shying away from the moment.

Dooling did just that in Wednesday's win.

In addition to the 3-pointer he hit to break a 66-all tie, Dooling would later drill a 20-foot jumper that put the C's up by five points. Boston was able to maintain a two-possession lead or greater for the rest of the night.

Boston went into the fourth clinging to a five-point lead. To see it wiped out less than a minute into the fourth, Rivers would have been justified in yanking the backups and bringing more starters back on the floor.

But Rivers stuck with the second-unit guys like Dooling, and they rewarded him with some clutch plays that went far in extending Boston's home winning streak to seven in a row.

For Dooling, it was just another example of the ebb and flow in his first season with the Celtics.

"Just because you're not a young player means you're exempt from the emotions of the game," Dooling said. "You ride the highs, and sometimes you feel the lows. We're at a point now where a team makes a run, you don't get snatched out. You being out there being able to make plays is a gratifying feeling."

Rask stops 35 shots in Bruins' 2-1 win over Sabres

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Rask stops 35 shots in Bruins' 2-1 win over Sabres

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Tuukka Rask made 35 saves to help the Bruins hold off the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 on Saturday

David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron scored to give Boston a 2-0 lead and the Bruins improved to 3-0-1 in their past four.

Evander Kane scored his first goal of the season for Buffalo. Robin Lehner returned after missing one game with a hip injury and made 32 saves.

The Sabres combined for nine goals in their previous two wins but the NHL's lowest-scoring team reverted to form from the first 21 games, when star center Jack Eichel was out of the lineup with a high-ankle sprain.

Krejci got the Bruins on the scoreboard with 5:50 left in the first when he deflected Brandon Carlo's slap shot from the point off the right post and into the net.

The Sabres appeared to tie the game late in the second period but replays determined Brian Gionta kicked the puck into the net.

Bergeron made it 2-0 at 7:10 of the second at 7:44 of the third when he knocked on the rebound of his own missed shot. Bergeron initially hit the puck with his forearm on the left edge of the crease and skated around the net to chase down the puck and slip a backhand past Lehner.

The Sabres answered two minutes later, scoring on Rask for the first time in 109:12 this season. Sam Reinhart's feed off the rear wall set up Kane for a wrist shot from the slot that bounced in off Krejci. Reinhart has five points in his last four games.

NOTES: Bruins F Matt Beleskey was escorted to the dressing room in the final minute of the first period with a lower-body injury and did not return. ... Sabres D Josh Gorges did not play after injuring his foot blocking a shot in Thursday's win over the New York Rangers. With Dmitry Kulikov (lower back) and Zach Bogosian (MCL sprain) also out, the Sabres were down three of their top four defenseman and recalled 19-year-old Brendan Guhle from the minors to make his NHL debut. Guhle hustled back to thwart a breakaway by Krejci late in the third period. ... F Anton Blidh became the seventh Bruin to make his NHL debut this season after being recalled from the minors on Friday. ... The Bruins scratched F Jimmy Hayes. D Zdeno Chara, the Bruins' captain, missed his sixth straight game with a lower-body injury. ... Rask got a shutout in Boston's 4-0 win over Buffalo on Nov. 7.

UP NEXT

Bruins: Host Florida on Monday.

Sabres: At Washington on Monday.

 

© 2016 by STATS and The Associated Press.

Gronkowski put on IR, officially ending his season

Gronkowski put on IR, officially ending his season

The Patriots have placed Rob Gronkowski on injured reserve, officially ending the injured tight end's season. 

The Patriots have added running back D.J. Foster to the 53-man roster. 

Gronkowski underwent surgery on his back Friday in Los Angeles. There was some hope he might be able to return if the Patriots reached the Super Bowl, but this move ends that.

More to come...