Celtics-Suns preview: Looking for consistent bench play

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Celtics-Suns preview: Looking for consistent bench play

BOSTON It's only three games, not nearly enough consecutive victories for the Green Teamers to go out and get fitted for championship rings. But there's no question the Celtics are playing their best basketball of the season right now.

It's true that their success has been led by the starters, as it should be. But what has ultimately gotten them over the top of late has been a multitude of strong performances from the bench that for most of this season has been a disappointment.

What we're finding throughout the course of the season is how they seem to respond better facing some form of adversity.

Take Monday's win at New York, a game in which Rajon Rondo (suspension, his fourth in less than a year) did not play. In addition to his absence, the Celtics also had to deal with leading scorer Paul Pierce being in foul trouble.

Although Pierce finished with a team-high 23 points, it was the 16 points off the bench by Jeff Green that was just as important, considering most of it came while Pierce was on the bench.

Playing without Rondo, Avery Bradley had a season-high 13 points while three different Celtics (Bradley, Pierce and Jason Terry) each had five or more assists.

"Our bench as a whole has been big," Pierce told CSNNE.com. "You can't just point one guy out when you look at our bench."

That's how it was supposed to be when Danny Ainge assembled this group during the offseason. While it hasn't quite come together as quickly as many would have hoped, they have left little doubt that they can be the difference-makers that the C's envisioned at the start of the season.

"We just have to be consistent with it," Lee told CSNNE.com. "That's all. Just be more consistent."

They will get another opportunity tonight against Phoenix which has lost nine of its last 10 games.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The days of scoring a ton of points seems to be a thing of the past in Phoenix. They come into tonight's game averaging 96.4 points per game which ranks 16th in the league. They haven't finished outside of the top 10 in scoring since the 2003-2004 season.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs Luis Scola. Bass isn't scoring as much as he did last season, but his defense and rebounding has been solid during Boston's current three-game winning streak. Scola is a high-energy, multiple-effort kind of player so keeping him off the boards -- especially the offensive ones -- will be key for the C's.

PLAYER TO WATCH: It seems playing against the Boston Celtics brings out the best in Marcin Gortat, a player the C's may have some interest in as we get closer to the trading deadline. In the three games he has played against Boston since joining the Suns, he has averaged 18.7 points and 14 rebounds while shooting 56 percent from the field.

STAT TO TRACK: The third quarter has been decisively positive for the C's lately, and quite devastating to the Suns. In its last three wins, Boston outscored its opponents in the third quarter each game, by an average of 12.3 points per game. Meanwhile, Phoenix is giving up a league-high 25.6 points in the third quarter this season.

Belichick: Pats see Garcia as left tackle

Belichick: Pats see Garcia as left tackle

FOXBORO -- The bullet points from Bill Belichick on the team’s second pick in this year’s draft, Troy left tackle Antonio Garcia:

- He’s a person.
- He’s a left tackle. 
- He has played tackle and will play tackle. 
- He visited with the Patriots. 
- We’re not sure if he’ll play guard at any point. 
- We’ll see how it goes. 

That’s generally as forthcoming as Belichick was regarding Garcia, a player for whom the Pats moved up from No. 96 to No. 85. Garcia’s selection came two picks after the team made Youngstown State pass-rusher Derek Rivers their first selection of the draft at No. 83. 

“He was here last week; [we] had a good visit with him,” Belichick said of Garcia. “So we’ll see how that goes, but we think he’ll be competitive. He’s done a good job for them down there.” 

Asked whether the lanky 6-foot-6 player could play guard, Belichick was noncommittal. 

“I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes,” he said. “He’s played tackle. He’s got the length and I think the athleticism to play tackle, but we’ll see how he does. I don’t know.” 

As for which side, Belichick viewed Garcia “primarily” as a left tackle.  
 

Stars, studs and duds: Bradley delivers another two-way gem

Stars, studs and duds: Bradley delivers another two-way gem

CHICAGO – Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s series-clinching 105-83 Game 6 win over the Chicago Bulls.
 
STARS
 

Avery Bradley

He delivered yet another two-way gem for the Celtics, scoring nine of his 23 points in the first quarter that set the tone for Boston’s win.
 
Jimmy Butler

Gutsy performance by Butler whose sore knees didn’t allow him to be as explosive as he’s accustomed to at both ends of the floor. He still managed to score a team-high 23 points along with grabbing seven rebounds.
 
Al Horford

It’s almost to the point where you expect Horford to deliver a balanced scoring line. In Game 6 he had 12 points, 7 assists and six rebounds.
 

STUDS
 
Isaiah Thomas

His shot wasn’t falling (he was 4-for-12), but Thomas still managed to make his presence felt. He finished with 12 points, six assists and five rebounds.
 
Robin Lopez

He has had better games, but he still finished with a decent stat line with 10 points and five rebounds.
 

DUDS
 
Dwyane Wade

Absolutely brutal night for Wade who may have played his last game for the Bulls if he decides to opt-out of his contract and become a free agent. He had just two points, missing nine of his 10 shots from the field.