Bruins unstoppable in the third period

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Bruins unstoppable in the third period

BOSTON -- Want one statistic that practically screams the Bruins will once again be hoisting the Stanley Cup this spring?

They've outscored their opponents 60-23 inthe third period this year.

The Bruins made their reputation last year by wearing down other teams through overwhelming depth and grinding physicality, and then dominating their weary opponents once the third period rolled around. The finish up strong mentality worked wonders for them on their way to a Stanley Cup victory in Vancouver last June, and disheartened a bevy ofverycountry strongteams along their journey.

But they're taking it to a new level this year, and its the kind of closingdomination that can make a team feel bulletproof. It could lead some hockey clubs to slack in the first 40 minutes as the Bruins did in victory over the Winnipeg Jets, but that's the exception rather than the rule this year.

We have always been a pretty good team in the third when we are leading, said Tuukka Rask, who won his sixth game in a row with 29 saves against Winnipeg in a 5-3 win Tuesday night . . . a game in which the B's entered the third period trailing, 3-2, but outscored Winnipeg 3-0 in the final 20 minutes. We have been able to get these comebacks and its huge for the teams confidence."

Leading the league in goals against is something the Bruins have done multiple times under Claude Julien, but being first in goals scored is an impressive new wrinkle. The structure and discipline has always been there, but the Bs are at a whole different stratosphere offensively these days. The two-way strength shows a mighty hockeyteam full of skill and smarts.

Tuesday night was the third time this season the Bruins have come from behind in the third period or overtime, and the fourth time theyve taken points out of one of those seeminglyuntenable situations.

Its a mental mindset. Today, we told ourselves we sucked in the first two periods and we have to get out there to win, said Dennis Seidenberg, painting quite a picture of the dressing room discussions between the second and third period. We just cant sleep through the whole game, but it shows that were mentally strong enough to turn it up in the third period when it counts and to get the win.More than just mental resolve, the Bruins have become stone cold killers in the final 20 minutes when they sense weakness in the enemy team on the other side of the ice. One sloppy turnover or one careless rebound turns into the backbreaking goal that cinches the game. Couple that with Boston's comeback ability, and there is some kind of confidence being brandished in those pivotal final minutes.

Its kind of developing a killer instinct, said coach Claude Julien of the thought process in the third period. Our guys really want to finish strong, and they dont want to give the other team an opportunity to get themselves back into it when we do have the lead. I just think they want to finish strong.

For the most part, I think our teams been pretty committed to playing 60-minute games, and tonight was obviously one of those, I would say, rare games where two of the periods were not up to our standards, but overall, I think our guys have done a pretty good job trying to put in a full-game effort.

The full-game effort has been commendable and the Bruins are outscoring their opponents by a healthy margin in each of the three periods in an NHL hockey game, but theres something about Bostons third periods that bodes well for their future.Some might even call their third period domination a Stanley Cup stat in the making.

Stars, studs, and duds: Bradley lone bright spot in Celtics' Game 5 loss

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Stars, studs, and duds: Bradley lone bright spot in Celtics' Game 5 loss

BOSTON –  The Boston Celtics’ season is officially over following their 135-102 Game 5 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the game. 

 

STARS

LeBron James

He was indeed the ultimate closer once again, leading all players with 35 points on 13-for-18 shooting with eight rebounds and eight assists. 

Avery Bradley

Not the way he would have liked the season to end, but Bradley once again showed great leadership in the face of adversity. He led the Celtics with 23 points on 10-for-20 shooting with four rebounds and an assist. 

Kyrie Irving

Boston continued to struggle keeping him from being extremely efficient scoring the ball. He had 24 points on 9-for-15 shooting with seven assists. 

 

STUDS

Kevin Love

Most of his points came early in the game, a trend we saw most of this series with him. He finished with a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds along with three assists. 

Deron Williams

His scoring in the first half was among the keys to Cleveland pulling away and never looking back. He had 14 points for the game on 5-for-6 shooting.

Jae Crowder

He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well (3-for-8 shooting), but you had to love his toughness and rugged play not just in Game 5 but in this entire series. He had 11 points and six rebounds to go with three assists. 

 

DUDS

Kelly Olynyk

They needed him to have a “Game 7 versus Washington” kind of night, and that just never materialized. He had seven points while missing six of his eight shot attempts.

Marcus Smart

Aside from Game 3 when he made seven 3’s, Smart didn’t maximize his opportunity to be a suitable replacement for the injured Isaiah Thomas. Game 5 was another rough one for Smart who had six points on 2-for-7 shooting with five rebounds and two assists with five turnovers.

Celtics season comes to an end with Game 5 loss to Cavs

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Celtics season comes to an end with Game 5 loss to Cavs

BOSTON – The final horn sounded and for the second time in three years, the Celtics faithful saw their team’s season end at the TD Garden at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But this was different.

Two years ago, the Celtics were just lucky to be on the floor with the Cavaliers who had no problem sweeping them out of the postseason.

This time, things were different.

Cleveland had their way with Boston, but had to work harder – much harder – than they did a couple years ago.

And that more than anything else, is clear and undeniable evidence that the Celtics are on the come-up even after their season ended with a 135-102 Game 5 drubbing.

They lost the series four games to one, most of which were played without their most dynamic player, Isaiah Thomas (hip) who came into the postseason as the top scorer in the Eastern Conference.

Boston did lots of good things in this series, but it served as a reminder that the Celtics aren’t quite ready for the bright lights and big-game performances needed consistently this time of the year to win.

LeBron James’ reign in the NBA is far from over, but it’s clear as day that the Celtics are positioning themselves to be one of the favorites to eventually unseat the Cavs.

Boston’s regular season record (53-29) was the best in Brad Stevens’ four years on the job, good enough to go into the postseason with the top overall seed.

But as we saw time after time after time, regular season records mean little if it comes void of the superstars most of the elite teams have in waves.

The Cleveland Cavaliers did as expected in eliminating the Boston Celtics and in doing so, move on to the NBA Finals for the third straight season where they will face a well-rested Golden State Warriors club.

Celtics Nation serenaded the players as they walked off the floor who were disappointed but should have walked off with heads held high.

Why?

Because in the end, they gave the fans exactly what they wanted – everything they had to offer.

And for most of this season, it was good enough to not just compete but win a lot of games that few outside of the Celtics’ payroll anticipated would result in a victory.

In Cleveland, the Celtics ran into the ultimate buzzsaw.

Not only were the defending champions playing their best basketball in the playoffs, but they were healthy both mentally and physically – something they could not lay claim to during several stretches during the regular season.

Meanwhile, the Celtics dealt with injuries throughout the season.

There were the usual bumps and bruises.

And then there was Isaiah Thomas’ right hip injury which he played through after re-aggravating it at the end of Boston’s second-round series with Washington.

But it proved to be too much for him to deal with which led to the Celtics shutting him down for the playoffs at halftime of Game 2.

Boston managed to win Game 3 and had opportunities galore to get Game 4 only to come up short in large part because they didn’t have an offensive closer – a player who could fill the void left by Thomas’ absence.

In Game 5, the Cavaliers managed to find areas to exploit most of the first half as they pulled ahead to dominate the action.

And the Celtics, a team that without Thomas relies heavily on ball movement, timely cuts to the basket and the need to knock down open shots, simply failed to once again take advantage of the opportunities – and there weren’t many – the Cavs afforded them.

Game 5 had the look and feel of Games 1 and 2, when Cleveland came into the TD Garden and had their way with the Celtics with a pair of wins by a combined 57 points.

Cleveland began Thursday night’s game with a 28-12 run, capped off by an emphatic dunk by LeBron James who blew past Terry Rozier.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens called his second time-out of the quarter, a clear sign of his concern – and justifiably so – that the game could quickly get out of hand as was the case in the first two games.

And with more than two minutes to play, the Cavaliers had a commanding 36-26 lead after a Kyrie Irving lay-up in which he was fouled by Rozier.

Cleveland continued to pull away in the second and third quarters as Boston’s defense showed little resistance.

And when they did, the Cavs just went around and over them, resulting in an overwhelming performance that Boston had no answer for, home court or not.

It was another beatdown at the hands of the Cavs, but there was a different vibe following this one.

Two years ago, there was no telling what the loss meant to a Celtics team that at the time, was lucky to be in the playoffs.

This season, there was no luck at all in Boston being one of the last four teams with games on the docket.

They deserved to have this opportunity, one that’s likely to come around a few more times in the near future as Boston continues to strengthen a young core with more talent and experiences like what they went through during this Conference Finals against Cleveland.