Celtics-Warriors preview: C's in search of a win

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Celtics-Warriors preview: C's in search of a win

SAN FRANCISCO The NBA and the stock market are not one in the same especially when it comes to forecasting future success based on the past.

That's too bad for the Boston Celtics, who otherwise would feel pretty good about their prospects for victory heading into tonight's game at Golden State.

The C's have dominated this series in recent years, stringing together victories in each of their last three trips to Oracle Arena.

But the Warriors, much like the C's last opponent (the Los Angeles Clippers) are a much different - and better - team now than they have been in past years.

Golden State (20-10) is off to one of their best starts in years, giving their always-rabid fan base even more to cheer about.

This is only the third time since winning an NBA title in 1975 that the Warriors have 20 or more wins after the first 30 games of the season.

Meanwhile, the Celtics (14-14) are looking for one thing tonight: a victory.

Nothing more.

Nothing less.

"That's the approach we have to take to every game on this trip," said C's guard Jason Terry. "We want to develop some consistency, obviously. But you have to starting winning games first."

Sounds good and relatively easy to do.

But as we have seen all season with the Celtics, most things are easier - much easier - said than done.

The Celtics are still licking their wounds from a 106-77 thrashing Thursday night at the hands of the Clippers, easily the worst defeat of the season for the C's and among the worst since the 2008 championship season.

Boston has tried an assortment of lineup combinations with none showing any signs of being one the C's can consistently count on to produce.

It has created a darkening cloud over this season's team, a squad that talked boldly at the beginning of the season as one that could play with the best.

Oh, they're playing with the best - just not very well.

Here are some keys to tonight's game as the Celtics look to avoid slipping below-.500 for the first time since Nov. 9.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Rajon Rondo needs to put his imprint on this game for the Celtics to be successful. That means doing what he does best - getting assists. The league's top assist man has failed to reach double digits in five of the Celtics' last six games.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs David Lee: Garnett has been solid as ever, but Lee has been on another level all season. In Golden State's win over Philadelphia on Friday, Lee had 25 points and 12 rebounds for his 13th 20-point, 10-rebound game this season - tops in the NBA.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Courtney Lee continues to gradually improve as the season goes on, but he still hasn't had that one defining moment-type game for the Celtics. They could use one tonight against a Golden State team that has quality scorers on the perimeter that he will have to contend with, in addition to a team that's playing solid defense.

STAT TO TRACK: The Celtics once again face a team whose strength will pose an even greater challenge to what has been the C's biggest weakness this season - rebounding. The Warriors are the league's fifth-best rebounding team this season while the Celtics maintain their position as the league's worst on the boards.

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Rams hold off 49ers for wild 41-39 win

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THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Rams hold off 49ers for wild 41-39 win

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Coach Sean McVay walked into the postgame news conference and immediately asked, "Anyone have a beer?"

He probably wasn't the only person who wanted a drink after watching a surprisingly thrilling Thursday night shootout between his Rams and the San Francisco 49ers that wasn't decided until Los Angeles prevented a potential game-tying 2-point try and then delivered a rare defensive stop after blowing the onside kick in a 41-39 victory.

"We talk about mentally tough, be your best regardless of the circumstance," McVay said. "I thought the players did that. They found a way in spite of some of the ups and the downs to come away with the win."

While the defense came up big late, it was the offense that carried the day for the Rams (2-1), who have gone from the lowest-scoring team in the NFL a year ago to a dynamic one through three games under McVay.

Jared Goff threw for 292 yards and three touchdowns, Todd Gurley ran for 113 yards and scored three TDs and Robert Woods (108) and Sammy Watkins (106) each topped the 100-yard mark receiving in Los Angeles' second 40-point performance of the season. The Rams have 107 points in all so far, the second-most in franchise history after three games to the 119 by "The Greatest Show on Turf" squad in 2000.

"Since I've been here we haven't been able to do that," Gurley said. "Hopefully we can keep putting points together, keep working together and keep learning from this. I think we left a lot more points off the board."

This win didn't come easy as the Rams nearly blew a 15-point lead, giving up two late touchdowns, fumbling a kickoff return and failing to recover an onside kick. But Los Angeles managed to stop a potential game-tying 2-point conversion on a deflection by Troy Hill and then used an offensive pass interference penalty against Trent Taylor and a fourth-down sack by Aaron Donald to stop the Niners after the onside kick.

The 49ers (0-3) scored five touchdowns after failing to get any the first two weeks but still came up short in part because a missed extra point by Robbie Gould forced them to try for 2 on their late touchdown.

"I just rushed it, I missed it, I made a mistake," Gould said. "Obviously, I wish I didn't do that, or we'd probably be playing in overtime right now.""

This time it was a tired defense that hurt San Francisco. After facing 79 plays in a 12-9 loss at Seattle on Sunday, the 49ers appeared to run out of gas on the short week as Goff frequently had wide-open receivers, especially on third down.

The Rams were 8 for 12 on third down, including all three of Goff's touchdown passes.

The Rams needed all that offense on a night where Brian Hoyer threw for 332 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score.

QUICK START: The Rams took just 12 seconds to get on the board as Nickell Robey-Coleman intercepted Hoyer on the first play from scrimmage and returned it to the 3-yard line. Gurley ran it in on the next play to give the Rams a 7-0 lead.

"I just told him to start over," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. "Got to go back to work. We didn't change anything, went right on with the script. But it was a tough way to start out."

DROUGHT BUSTER: The 49ers came into the game without a touchdown on the season but broke through in the first quarter with some help from the Rams. After Blake Countess jumped offside on a punt, the Niners took advantage of the second opportunity and drove to score on Hoyer's 9-yard run 126:43 into the season. That was the longest it took a team to score its first TD since 2006 when both Tampa Bay (143:03) and Oakland (127:10) took more time.

FOURTH DOWN CALLS: Both teams drove to the opposing 1 on their opening drives of the second half with help from a Willie Mays-style basket catch by Watkins and a perfect toe drag on the sideline by San Francisco's Pierre Garcon. But the Rams opted to kick a short field goal, while the 49ers went for it and converted on Carlos Hyde's 1-yard run that cut Los Angeles' lead to 27-20. Hyde added a second 1-yard run on fourth down in the fourth quarter.

INJURIES: Rams S Lamarcus Joyner left the game in the first half with a hamstring injury. ... Los Angeles C John Sullivan injured his groin in the second half and Watkins and Tavon Austin left with concussions. ... 49ers S Jaquiski Tartt (concussion), FB Kyle Juszczyk (neck), DL Tank Carradine (ankle) and LB Brock Coyle (concussion) all left with injuries in the second half.

UP NEXT: The Rams travel to Dallas on Oct. 1. The 49ers visit Arizona.

Boston Sports Tonight Podcast: Is there a blueprint to beat the Patriots?

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Boston Sports Tonight Podcast: Is there a blueprint to beat the Patriots?

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE PODCAST.

0:41 - Tom E. Curran breaks down the ‘blueprint’ to beat the Patriots and if the Texans have the talent to do it.

5:27 - Michael Holley and Kayce Smith discuss Kyrie Irving’s comments that he made on Early Edition about going back to Cleveland for the opening game. 

9:52 - We take a listen to what Malcolm Butler had to say about his role on the team and discuss how the cornerback keeps saying all the right things. 

15:18 - Michael McCann, Legal Analyst for Sports Illustrated joins BST to talk about Aaron Hernandez’s brain found to have CTE and his family now suing the NFL and the Patriots.