Boston Bruins

Celtics-Timberwolves review: What we saw

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Celtics-Timberwolves review: What we saw

MINNEAPOLIS Good defense leads to great offense. You hear it all the time, but rarely does it smack you in the face the way it did on Friday as the Celtics had little trouble in defeating Minnesota, 100-79.

Boston has had good stretches of defense all season, but Friday's win was arguably their best defensive showing from the opening tip-off to the final horn sounding.

"Our defense is who we are," said C's coach Doc Rivers.

While the C's defense wasn't flawless - they gave up four, 3-pointers in the second quarter - Rivers was pleased with the steady play most of the night.

In addition to limiting Minnesota to just 34.7 percent shooting, Boston also managed to break even - 45 to 45 - with the Timberwolves on the boards.

After the game, aside from the talk about Kevin Garnett getting the better of Kevin Love, most of the chatter was about the Celtics defense which in addition to helping Boston win, has also helped catapult them into the top spot in the Atlantic Division with Friday's win and Philadelphia's loss to Washington.

"They are a good defensive team and that is why they won the championship a few years ago," said Timberwolves guard Luke Ridenour. "You can tell they are very defensive minded and they play well together as a team."

Indeed, Boston's defense was a major factor in Friday's win for the Celtics. We'll review other keys highlighted prior to the game, and see how they played out as Boston extended its winning streak to four in a row.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR As much as rebounding is an issue for the Celtics, it won't do them much good if they do a good job on the boards and don't get out and take advantage of scoring opportunities in transition. The C's average 12.2 points per game in fast break points, which ranks 19th in the NBA. But in Minnesota, they're facing one of the most "fast-break friendly" teams in the NBA. Timberwolves opponents are averaging 16.2 fast-break points per game which ranks 29th in the NBA.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston did a nice job of taking advantage of most of their opportunities to score in transition. The C's had 15 fast-break points that came on 7-for-10 shooting.

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Kevin Garnett vs. Kevin Love: The face of franchise past meets the face of franchise present in this duel. The Love-for-league-MVP chatter might have seemed a pipe dream a couple weeks ago, but it isn't that big a stretch now. He's averaging 26.3 points and 13.9 rebounds, numbers the NBA hasn't seen since Moses Malone averaged 31.1 points and 14.7 rebounds during the 1981-1982 season which, by the way, ended with Malone being named league MVP. Garnett, who has delivered strong play for the C's at both ends of the floor all season, recently talked about finding added motivation in facing superstars of the future. "Playing against younger talent that's supposed to be prolific and supposed to be above-average but I'm old though, you know?" said Garnett, who was speaking about talented, young players in general and not specifically Kevin Love. "It don't take much to motivate me."

WHAT WE SAW: You have to score this one for the ghost of franchise past. Not only did Garnett have more points than Love (24 to 22), He also went about it in a much more efficient manner in addition to holding his own on the boards (Garnett had 10 rebounds to Love's 11). All the C's recognized that Garnett, who spent his first 12 NBA seasons in Minnesota, was a little more amped up on Friday night - which is kind of scary when you consider how fired up Garnett is for most games. "I think KG took it personal tonight," said Minnesota forward Anthony Tolliver. "I'm sure he's been hearing a lot of stuff that Love is the best power forward in the league and everything else. One night doesn't change it, but he's a competitor and we knew he was going to come in here and bring it straight to Kevin (Love). He (Garnett) looked like his old self tonight."

PLAYER TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo has been quietly putting together one of the greatest seasons by a Celtics playmaker ever. He comes into tonight's game with double-digit assists in 11 straight games, a franchise record. He had a nine-game stretch last year. To put his numbers in perspective, no Celtics player prior to Rondo had ever had more than seven straight double-digit assist games.

WHAT WE SAW: Rondo's string of double-digit assist games was kept alive by halftime, which is when he tallied 12 of his game-high 17. "We got a good rhythm," Rondo said. "It starts defensively. When we get stops like that it's been a good team effort as far as guys spreading the ball around, but it starts with defense."

STAT TO TRACK: Keeping the Timberwolves off the free throw line will be huge for the Celtics tonight. Minnesota averages 25.6 free throw attempts per game which ranks sixth in the league. And when you throw in the fact that they rank in the top 10 in free throw percentage (77.9 percent, ninth in the NBA), the C's can't bank on them missing too many.

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics didn't do as good a job as they would have liked in keeping the Timberwolves off the free throw line, as Minnesota connected on 21 of its 25 free throws compared to the C's who were 8-for-11 from the line. But with the Celtics pulling ahead by double digits in the first quarter and maintaining that edge for most of the game, the Timberwolves' advantage at the line was never a factor in the game's outcome.

Morning Skate: Star players must get more involved in CBA negotiations to make Olympics a reality

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Morning Skate: Star players must get more involved in CBA negotiations to make Olympics a reality

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while marveling that we’re just now learning about the massive rap skills of the brotherly duo of Andrew and Pete Frates. 

 

*Ken Campbell from the Hockey News says that if influential players, like Connor McDavid, want to go to the Olympics then they need to get more involved in the CBA negotiations

 

*Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang shows what a class act he is by taking the Stanley Cup to a children’s hospital in Montreal.

 

*PHT writer James O’Brien has the Minnesota Wild looking to find long term deals for both restricted free agents Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter. That was pretty clear when they chose to deal off Marco Scandella in order to clear up some cap space to afford both of them. 

 

*The Edmonton Oilers are going to face higher expectations for next season, and are willing to embrace that kind of pressure.

 

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Craig Custance wonders aloud whether there will be any offer sheets coming for restricted free agents. I appreciate Craig wanting to add a little more intrigue to the NHL’s offseason, but it isn’t going to happen as long as GMs are treated like they have small pox once they go that route with an offer sheet. Take a look at the future job prospects for general managers that went with offer sheets in the past, and you’ll see why GMs simply don’t do them. This is why the Bruins are uncomfortable with David Pastrnak sitting unsigned as a restricted free agent, but not overly concerned that he’s going to sign a mega-offer sheet elsewhere.  

 

*The CCM hockey brand is apparently changing hands from its former home at Adidas

 

*For something completely different: Speaking of Pete Frates, MLB has announced a fundraising drive for ALS research in his name. 

Postcard From Camp, Day One: Gronk puts on a show

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Postcard From Camp, Day One: Gronk puts on a show

FOXBORO -- Day 1 of Patriots training camp practice featured a little bit of Rob Gronkowski news before the session. During the session, Gronkowski put on a show.

In shells and shorts, the Patriots tight end put his trademark style on display by catching touchdown passes during 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 work and then hamming it up -- perhaps practicing for the regular season when the restrictions on celebrations have been pulled back a bit by the NFL.

Before the session, Bill Belichick said that Gronkowski had "no limits" in practice. The 6-foot-6, 265-pounder certainly seemed to be feeling just fine.

WHAT WE SAW
* Rob Ninkovich, Kony Ealy and Joe Cardona were not spotted at practice. Dont'a Hightower and Alan Branch began camp on the PUP list and did not participate Thursday.

* With two of the roster's perceived top defensive ends not present, the representatives for that edge group on Day 1 were Trey Flowers, Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise, Geneo Grissom and Shea McClellin.

* During 3-on-4 drills at the goal line, Gronkowski put on a show. The drill may have been only semi-competitive at times but when Gronk caught a touchdown, he celebrated with gusto and the crowd ate it up.

* Jimmy Garoppolo took off for an early lap alongside backup center Ted Karras after a fumbled quarterback-center exchange. Working out the kinks. It's early yet.
 
* Austin Carr had a good release and then caught the "period-winner" to make defensive backs do pushups at the end of a 2-on-2 drill at the goal line. The undrafted rookie receiver from Northwestern earned plaudits from Jimmy Garoppolo and the rest of his offensive teammates for his performance. Even receivers coach Chad O'Shea was fired up, telling the rookie to celebrate after the fact. Carr's in the running for more reps with Andrew Hawkins now out of the mix.

* Justin Coleman made a nice pick with his hands to start things in a positive direction for the defensive backs during 2-on-2 work. Undrafted rookie Kenny Moore also made an impressive pass breakup while in coverage of Malcolm Mitchell.

* Cyrus Jones dropped a kickoff very early in the practice. He looked more smooth during punt-return work. He worked alongside undrafted rookie Will Likely during a punt-return drill.

* During kickoff work later in the session, Dion Lewis and Danny Amendola were the first two returners taking reps. Matthew Slater was also back there in his traffic-cop role. Rex Burkhead, James White, Jones and Likely also took part.

* Cooks ran one around the edge off of motion during 11-on-11 work. It'll be interesting if the Patriots try to implement him in that fashion during the season. He took occasional sweep handoffs while with the Saints with varying levels of success.

* Following the first 11-on-11 period of the day, Tom Brady and Garoppolo worked a side-session with Josh McDaniels and Dion Lewis. Brandin Cooks and Julian Edelman also had a quick conversation with Brady.

* Another side session came later that featured Edelman, Cooks, Dwayne Allen, Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Hogan and Devin Lucien.

* Grissom appears to be one of the primary beneficiaries when it comes to playing time with Ninkovich and Ealy out. Rookie Derek Rivers also saw work with regulars. At the linebacker level, Jonathan Freeny appear to be one of the first off-the-ball options, along with Shea McClellin.

* Late in the practice, Brady and Garoppolo worked with a group of centers that included Karras, David Andrews, Joe Thuney and Jamil Douglas. Douglas spent much of last season on the Patriots practice squad.

11-on-11
* Brady incomplete for Cooks down the middle. 0-for-1.
* Brady complete for Gronkowski short. 1-for-2.
* Brady incomplete for Cooks. Broken up by Butler. 1-for-3.
* Brady complete to Gronkowski in the back of the end zone with Freeny on him. 2-for-4.

* Garoppolo complete to Gillislee short. 1-for-1.
* Garoppolo incomplete to Edelman. Broken up by Rowe. Thrown behind a bit. 1-for-2.
* Garoppolo complete to Edelman with Cyrus Jones in coverage. 2-for-3.
* Garoppolo complete to Mitchell. 3-for-4.

* Brissett complete to Foster. 1-for-1.
* Brissett complete to Cody Hollister. 2-for-2.
* Brissett complete to Lucien. 3-for-3.
* Brissett complete to LeShun Daniels. 4-for-4.

* Garoppolo complete to Allen down the seam. 4-for-5.
* Garoppolo complete to Allen with Harris in coverage. 5-for-6.
* Garoppolo incomplete to Edelman with Butler in coverage. 5-for-7.
* Garoppolo complete to White with McClellin in coverage. 6-for-8.

* Brady complete to Cooks deep with C. Jones in coverage. 3-for-5.
* Brady complete to Burkhead with Van Noy in coverage. 4-for-6.
* Brady complete to White. 5-for-7.
* Brady complete to Edelman with C. Jones in coverage. 6-for-8.

* Brissett complete to Foster deep with Thompson in coverage. 5-for-5.
* Brissett incomplete to Lucien. Pass breakup by Kenny Moore. 5-for-6.
* Brissett incomplete. 5-for-7.
* Brissett complete to Lucien. 6-for-8.

11-on-11 HURRY
* Brady complete to Cooks. 6-for-9.
* Brady complete to Cooks. 7-for-10.
* Brady complete to Cooks. 8-for-11.
* Brady complete to Burkhead. 9-for-12.
* Brady complete to Burkhead. 10-for-13.
* Brady complete to Hogan. 11-for-14.
* Brady complete to Hogan. 12-for-15.

7-on-7 HURRY-UP
* Brady complete to Cooks on low throw. 1-for-1.
* Brady incomplete for Gronkowski. Broken up by Van Noy. 1-for-2.
* Brady complete for Gronkowski. 2-for-3.
* Brady complete for Edelman. 3-for-4.
* Brady incomplete for Hogan in back of the end zone. Broken up by J. Jones. 3-for-5.
* Brady incomplete for Edelman. 3-for-6.

* Garoppolo complete to Mitchell. 1-for-1.
* Garoppolo complete to Carr. 2-for-2.
* Garoppolo complete to Lewis. 3-for-3.
* Garoppolo incomplete to Mitchell. Broken up by Ebner. 3-for-4.
* Garoppolo intercepted by Richards. Intended for Develin on scramble drill. 3-for-5.
* Garoppolo intercepted by Rowe. 3-for-6.

* Brissett incomplete for Slater. 0-for-1.
* Brissett complete for Slater. 1-for-2.
* Brissett complete to Lucien. 2-for-3.
* Brissett incomplete. Broken up by...the paddle guy. Defense loves it. 2-for-4.

LATE 11-on-11
* Brissett complete to Foster.
* Brissett incomplete to Washington.
* Brissett complete to Jacob Hollister.
* Brissett incomplete out of the back of the end zone.
* Brissett incomplete. Batted down by Wise . . . and Wise wasn't trying.