Celtics-Bobcats review: What we saw . . .

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Celtics-Bobcats review: What we saw . . .

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Paul Pierce went to the free throw line 18 times in Boston's 102-95 win over Charlotte.

As well as Pierce was at getting to the line, his play set the tone for the rest of the Celtics, too.

In fact, Boston went to the line 45 times which easily surpassed their previous season high which was 34 attempts against Oklahoma City on Feb. 22.

"He's the Captain," Celtics forward Brandon Bass told CSNNE.com. "We follow his lead . . . free throws, too."

Bass went to the line eight times (he made seven) as part of his 15-point, five-rebound night.

As you might expect, C's coach Doc Rivers was pleased with his team's ability to get to the free throw line so often.

"We've talked about that," Rivers said. "We would like to get to the line more, obviously. I thought we did a good job of driving and attacking the basket tonight. That was good."

Boston's ability to live at the free throw line - they made 34 of their 45 free throw attempts - played a big role in their win. We'll review some keys to the game outlined earlier, and see how they factored in the game's outcome.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: As bad as Charlotte has been, one of the few bright spots has been their leading scorer, Corey Maggette. His 15.4 points per game shouldn't scare you if you're the Celtics. It's how he gets a good chunk of those points that's of great concern for Boston. Throughout most of Maggette's career, he has been one of the best at getting to the free throw line. This season is no exception. He ranks fifth in the NBA in free throws made (5.8) per game, and is seventh in attempts (6.9).
WHAT WE SAW: Two early fouls limited Corey Maggette's playing time. But even when he returned and fouls weren't an issue, he wasn't getting into the lane often enough to draw contact and get to the line a lot. He missed six of his seven shots from the field, and was 3-for-4 from the line with both free throws made and free throws attempted being below his season average.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs. Tyrus Thomas: Now that he's with the starters, Brandon Bass is used to matching up against taller players. But Thomas' height advantage as well as his athleticism, will challenge Bass in ways few players have this season. Keeping his fellow LSU Tiger from having a big game scoring or on the boards, will be a bigger priority for Bass than what he has done best all year - score the ball.

WHAT WE SAW: Thomas' length or height advantage was never a factor, as Bass had little problem getting his shot off or keeping Thomas from being a dominate force on the boards. In addition to outscoring Thomas 15-4, Bass did a pretty good job of matching him rebound for rebound. Bass finished with five rebounds while Thomas had six. However, three of Bass' rebounds were on the offensive glass while Thomas had zero offensive rebounds.

PLAYER TO WATCH: All eyes will be on Avery Bradley, who is coming off a career-high 23 points against Washington. He got a lot of points off simply cutting to the basket, but he also made the Wizards pay when they left him alone on jumpers. We'll see if the Bobcats will adjust the way they defend Bradley, or will they do what most teams do and that's focus on Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo which in turn, allows Bradley the freedom to make plays.

WHAT WE SAW: Bradley didn't have a huge game offensively, but the Celtics are more than happy to take his 11 points on 5-for-10 shooting anyway. However, foul trouble limited his effectiveness defensively at times in the fourth, which was part of the reason why Charlotte's Gerald Henderson (21 points) had such a big scoring night.

STAT TO TRACK: Both of these rank among the NBA's worst in rebounding, so winning the battle on the boards becomes a toss-up. Boston ranks dead-last in rebounds per game (46), while the Bobcats aren't much better at 48.7 per game which ranks 27th in the league. Even more telling is the rebounding deficit per game for Boston and Charlotte is 5.6 and 5.1, respectively.
WHAT WE SAW: There are very few nights when the Celtics out-rebound an opponent, but Monday was one of them. The C's grabbed 37 boards compared to 33 for Charlotte.

BRITISH OPEN: Spieth, Kuchar, Koepka in lead with 65s after Round 1

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BRITISH OPEN: Spieth, Kuchar, Koepka in lead with 65s after Round 1

SOUTHPORT, England -The wind off the Irish Sea pushed away the rain clouds and bathed Royal Birkdale in sunshine, Stars and Stripes.

The British Open began Thursday with an All-American flavor.

Jordan Spieth, chomping away on gum as he watched one putt after another pour into the center of the cup, worked some bunker magic of his own late in the round to keep his card filled only with birdies and pars for a 5-under 65.

U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka, with no competition and barely any practice since capturing his first major a month ago, ran off three straight birdies and holed a tough shot from a pot bunker for eagle on the par-5 17th hole for a 5-under 65.

Joining them was Matt Kuchar, who first endeared himself to these British fans as a 19-year-old amateur in 1998 at Royal Birkdale. Kuchar tied the course record with a 29 on the front nine, only to fall into a routine of pars the rest of the way. He still shot 65, his best score ever in a major.

They had a one-shot lead over Paul Casey and Charl Schwartzel on a day that started nasty and ended with 39 players breaking par. The biggest question after a long day on the links was what was in store for Friday, when high wind and occasional showers were in the forecast.

"I thought today's round was extremely important, as they all are," Spieth said, atop the leaderboard at a major for the first time since last year's Masters. "But given the forecast coming in, I thought you really needed to be in the red today. You can certainly make up ground in a round tomorrow, and we'll see it happen. But being able to kind of play with shots, or play a little more conservative because you don't try to do too much on a day like tomorrow, that's nice and very helpful."

Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy fall into that category.

Johnson, the No. 1 player who hasn't played the weekend at a major since the British Open last year, managed only one birdie on a decent day for scoring and shot 71. McIlroy also shot 71 and was relieved. Coming off three missed cuts in his last four events, he was 5 over through six holes when his caddie gave him a pep talk. McIlroy closed with three birdies over the last four holes to stay in the game.

Phil Mickelson failed to make a birdie, the first time that has happened in a major in five years, and shot 73.

Kuchar was the only one at 65 who played in the afternoon. The wind remained strong, though the course was manageable for everyone who stayed out of bunkers and deep grass and who holed putts.

"I watched some of the golf this morning on TV. It looked awfully challenging," Kuchar said. "It looked like anything under par was going to be a good score. Seemed like the later your tee time, the better draw you got. ... For me, to start my British Open with a 29 on the front nine is a great way to start."

Charley Hoffman had the best start of all, holing out from the rough on the daunting opening hole for an eagle. He was poised to join the leaders when he reached 5 under with a birdie on the 15th, only to drop shots on the next two holes. Hoffman shot 69 and was in a group that included Ian Poulter and Rafa Cabrera Bello.

Defending champion Henrik Stenson, who played with Spieth, had a 71. Stenson also played with Spieth the first two rounds of the 2015 Masters that the Texan won wire-to-wire and knew what to expect.

"He was rolling it superbly that week, and I don't think it was that far behind today," Stenson said.

But his best shot was with his feet in the sand. Spieth was in thick rough to the right of the 16th fairway when his shot crept into the back of a pot bunker. Not only was the ball on a slight slope, the rake marks left his ball between two ridges.

"This is dangerous," he said to his caddie.

He aimed to the right of the hole to avoid it going off the green on the other side and into another bunker, and it came off perfectly about 10 feet away.

"That was awesome," were his next words to his caddie.

He made the par putt - Spieth made a lot of putts on picked up a two-putt birdie on the 17th and narrowly missed a 7-foot birdie putt on the last. It was his best start in a major since he shot 66 at the Masters a year ago. Spieth rated it among the top five or six rounds he has ever played in a major, not bad for someone who came close to the Grand Slam two years ago.

"I couldn't have done much better today," he said.

Royal Birkdale was much more kind than it was nine years ago in raging wind and rain. The 146th Open began in cool temperatures, a light rain and a strong wind. Mark O'Meara, a winner at Royal Birkdale in 1998 who is playing in his last British Open, hit the opening tee shot.

And then he hit another one.

O'Meara's first shot was lost in the gorse, he made a quadruple-bogey 8 and was on his way to an 81. His threesome required 18 shots to play that hole. But the weather settled down a few hours later, and the scorecards filled up with plenty of birdies and eagles.

Just not for McIlroy until late in the round, or Johnson and Mickelson all day.

"With the weather we're expecting tomorrow, I still feel I'm in the golf tournament," McIlroy said. "If I can go out and play a good, quality round of golf in the morning and try to get in the clubhouse somewhere around even par, under par, I'll still be around for the weekend."