Celtics' Bradley, Blazers' Williams establishing selves


Celtics' Bradley, Blazers' Williams establishing selves

WALTHAM Injuries have forced Portland, much like the Boston Celtics, to play some younger players sooner rather than later.

Among the young Blazers making the most of his opportunity to play more, has been rookie guard Elliott Williams who missed all of last season with surgery to both of his knees.

But the Boston Celtics won't have to worry about Williams after he suffered a left shoulder injury during Portland's practice at Emerson College on Thursday. He is expected to miss tonight's game in addition to Saturday's matchup at Washington.

Williams has worked his way into the rotation, and has become a player that Portland looks to provide energy and toughness off the bench.

"He's certainly earned the right to get some minutes," Blazers coach Nate McMillan told the (Portland, Ore.) Oregonian. "I think he can play. I like his energy, his scrap, his aggressiveness on both ends of the floor. It's something fresh ... and I like what he's giving us."

While his numbers this season - 3.7 points in 6.2 minutes per game - don't exactly jump out to you, he has averaged 5.2 points in just 7.9 minutes, while shooting 56.4 percent from the field. He was taken by the Blazers with the No. 22 pick in the first round - three spots behind Boston's selection of Avery Bradley.

And Bradley, like Williams, has established himself as a player Celtics coach Doc Rivers can feel good about having in the regular rotation.
It didn't take Bradley long to establish himself as a player who could impact the game with his play defensively. One of the highlights of this season for the C's was their 31-point win over Orlando on Jan. 23, a game in which Bradley completely overwhelmed Magic guard Jameer Nelson with his defense.
Shortly before that breakout performance, Celtics coach Doc Rivers had talked about how rookie E'Twaun Moore had moved ahead of Bradley in the pecking order.
That didn't last long.
Whether he's battling an opponent or fighting for playing time, Bradley continues to be the best up-and-comer on the C's roster this season.
"At the end of the day, I'm going to come in and I'm always going to grind," Bradley said. "And I'm always going to work hard."

Bruce Cassidy: Bruins 'have got to have a stronger mental capacity' in times of adversity

Bruce Cassidy: Bruins 'have got to have a stronger mental capacity' in times of adversity

BOSTON – While there were some warning signs over the last few weeks that the Bruins might be getting away from their game, it didn’t really hit home until Thursday night’s frustrating loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

The Bruins blew through three different one-goal leads in the second period in the 6-3 loss to the Bolts at TD Garden, and each time surrendered a tying goal to Tampa in less than two minutes after initially scoring. It was a clear indicator that the Bruins weren’t fully focused on the task at hand despite having already lost three games in a row, and that their ability to bounce back from adversity is going away from them again. 

That much was obvious when the bottom dropped out in the third period, and Jonathan Drouin and Nikita Kucherov turned into a two-man Lightning wrecking crew outscoring the Bruins by a 3-0 margin in the final 20 minutes. 

“I think the frustration is more in-game, where we’ve got to have a stronger mental capacity to handle those [challenging] situations in-game. Let’s face it, when you get on a bit of a losing streak, all those things creep in, whether it’s in October or whether it’s in March,” said Bruce Cassidy. “You have doubts, you start pressing, and again, it’s my job to alleviate the kind of attention in those situations.

“But, as I told you, we all have to be accountable and be responsible for ourselves, and that’s where we just need to have better focus and better discipline in those areas. It was there when it was 3-3 [on the scoreboard]. We’ve got to push back after they score, and that’s where I thought we started to come apart a little bit where we should’ve stuck together and stuck with the program. [We needed to] get ourselves slowly back into the game. We had 10 minutes to even the score, and we weren’t able to do it.”

Clearly this wasn’t just the coach alone in his pointed observations, however, as the lack of focus showed unfortunately in a rudderless second period for the Black and Gold where they couldn’t gain any separation from Tampa Bay despite scoring three goals. 

“[It’s] not being focused, not being sharp, and obviously at this time of the year it’s unacceptable, and it’s up on us to be better,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “Those kinds of situations shouldn’t happen. So, for sure, we need to address those things and hold each other accountable.”

One thing is clear: The Bruins have a lot of work to do if they hope to avoid the same kind of late season tailspin that doomed them each of the last two seasons, and already seems to be happening over their last four losses to varying levels of hockey talent. 

Talking points: Tuukka Rask wasn't good enough vs. Lightning


Talking points: Tuukka Rask wasn't good enough vs. Lightning

Here are the talking points from the Boston Bruins' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.