Celtics get aggressive on glass in win over Wolves

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Celtics get aggressive on glass in win over Wolves

BOSTON The final score highlighted 104 points, an impressive performance with 52.6 percent field goal shooting.

Beyond the offensive stats against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, the Boston Celtics prided themselves on an even more noteworthy effort on the boards.

We were pretty good, said Doc Rivers after the Celtics 104-94 win. Thats a hard team to rebound against, and we held our own.

The Celtics ranked last in the NBA with 37.8 rebounds per game while allowing 42.0. The Timberwolves, on the other hand, held the fifth spot with 45.2 boards, led by Kevin Love with 14.4 per game.

By the end of the game, the Celtics had outrebounded the Timberwolves, 45-41. Kevin Garnett drove the team with 10 boards while power forwards Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger contributed eight and seven, respectively.

We have to be that way every night, said Paul Pierce. Were challenged rebound-wise and a majority of these games we havent rebounded well. So thats mainly what the last couple days of practice have been is to put bodies on people, go after rebounds, box out, those little things that are going to help us win games.

The Celtics will look to continue improving their rebounding efforts in back-to-back games against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday and Saturday. The Celtics are 0-1 against the Sixers this season (0-2 in preseason action) and were outrebounded 38-31 in their first meeting on November 9. 6-7 Evan Turner led all players with 11 boards, one more than Garnett.

Id like to beat them both times but theyre playing well against us and were going to have to deal with that., said Rivers. They must have great confidence against us, so those are going to be hard games. I do like it, especially in this stretch. Coming into it I think were starting to play a little bit better. Weve struggled playing Philly so I love all that stuff because thats good, the way I look at it in my demented way. I think those are all good things.I think its a good challenge for us, so itll be a lot of fun.

Butler earns praise from Belichick, Patricia after wire-to-wire performance

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Butler earns praise from Belichick, Patricia after wire-to-wire performance

FOXBORO -- Malcolm Butler left Sunday's win over the Texans feeling pretty good about himself. One week after being relegated to the No. 3 corner role on the Patriots defense, he played every snap and allowed just two catches for 10 yards.

“I think I’m building,” Butler said afterward. “I think I’m taking it a step at a time. There’s a lot of football to be played, so whatever you see, judge me.”

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And we have. There was the pass-interference penalty in Week 1. There was the botched pick-play coverage with Patrick Chung in Week 2. But even with those mishaps mixed in, Butler's energy and effort did not seem to wane on film.

He caught Chiefs speedster Tyreek Hill for a tackle from behind to prevent a first down in the season-opener. Against the Saints, his hard pass breakup on top Saints wideout Michael Thomas was a bright spot for the Patriots secondary.

In Week 3, that effort was there again. Targeted twice while in coverage on DeAndre Hopkins, Butler did well to jam Hopkins at the line of scrimmage and then limit the game's highest-paid receiver to zero yards after the catch.

When asked about Butler on Tuesday's conference calls, both Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia struck tones that were strikingly different than the ones that made headlines when discussing Butler the week prior.

"Yeah, I think Malcolm did a good job," Belichick said. "I mean, all of our defensive backs I thought were pretty competitive. We had some scramble yardage and loose plays and things like that. But I mean, the normal passing game we were pretty competitive on. But like anything else, there are certainly a lot of things we can do better."

That goes for Butler, too, who admitted last week that he hadn't been playing up to his standards.

On one of those scramble-drill plays Belichick referenced, Deshaun Watson found tight end Ryan Griffin for a 35-yard gain, which included several yards after the catch when Butler was among the defenders who missed the chance to try to wrestle Griffin to the ground.

There were occasions though -- like Watson's first-quarter third-down scramble that Butler helped to stop, forcing the Texans to kick a field goal -- when Butler's want-to was evident.

"I thought Malcolm played really well," Patricia said. "We certainly didn’t play great at all as a defense. I’m not saying that but I think the guy really tried to go out and play extremely hard. 

"This is a very competitive guy. Malcolm steps up to the challenges that you place in front of him. He goes out and competes, he works hard, he tries to do it the right way and he really tries to get better every week. Look, we had a productive week last week for him and working through. But it’s a new week and we’re going to try to get the same consistency every single week and that’s what we’re trying to do."

A week ago, when asked about Butler's performance, Belichick and Patricia weren't quite as glowing.

"I don’t think anybody’s performance this season is really where it needs to be or where it will be," Belichick said at the time. "We all need to do a better job."

"I think with Malcolm, he’s kind of in a boat with everybody else," Patricia said. "We’re trying to get better."

Part of the reason Butler may have been relied upon as much as he was could have been due to the fact that fellow corner Eric Rowe -- who started in Week 2 opposite Stephon Gilmore -- was inactive with a groin injury. 

How Butler will factor in against the Panthers in Week 4 remains to be seen, but if his work against the Texans improved his confidence, then that would seem to benefit the Patriots defense as a whole. 

"Things that we're confident in," Belichick said, "we do more aggressively, we do quicker, we do with probably better overall execution than things we're not confident in . . . 

"It’s a fine line there between confidence and overconfidence and taking it for granted, as opposed to just being right in that sweet spot of having an edge, having confidence, being alert and aggressive."

Report: Dwyane Wade close to reuniting with LeBron James in Cleveland

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Report: Dwyane Wade close to reuniting with LeBron James in Cleveland

The LeBron James-Dwyane Wade reunion is happening in Cleveland.

Wade, 35, who won two championships with James with the Miami Heat, is "nearing a commitment" to sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported. 

Wade, bought out by the Chicago Bulls after one underwhelming season in a return to his hometown, will clear waivers Wednesday, become an unrestricted free agent and can sign for the $2.3 million veterans minimum with the Cavs. 

Wojnarowski reported that Wade considered offers from the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and a return to Miami, where he won two titles with James in 2012 and '13 and one with Shaquille O'Neal in 2006. 

The Cavs, of course, have remade James' supporting cast significantly since reaching the NBA Finals for the third consecutive season in June. 

Kyrie Irving was traded to the Celtics in a deal that sent Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder to Cleveland. Thomas' injured hip is expected to keep him from playing until January, giving Wade, who averaged 18 points for the Bulls last season and 23.3 points, 5.7 assists and 4.8 rebounds in his career, an opportunity for more minutes.