Green, Sullinger lead Celtics to 87-79 win over Suns

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Green, Sullinger lead Celtics to 87-79 win over Suns

BOSTON With the goal being to extend their winning streak to a season-long four in a row, there are few teams in the NBA that would have made for more obliging guests than the Phoenix Suns.
In addition to losing nine of their last 10 games overall, Phoenix had lost 10 in a row coming into Wednesday's matchup.
The Celtics controlled the action for most of the night, but a weak third quarter showing made it a closer game than it should have been.
Still, the C's are in no position to be picky when it comes to winning, which they did by the count of 87-79.
Wednesday's win extended the Celtics (18-17) winning streak to a season-long four in a row.
For the second straight game, Boston got a huge lift from its bench with contributions coming from just about every player who stepped on the floor.
Jason Terry (13 points) and Jeff Green (14 points) did a lot of the scoring. Jared Sullinger (12 points, career-high 16 rebounds) continued to do a lot of the dirty work around the glass.
And Courtney Lee continues to come into his own as a defensive spark off the bench, tallying six points, two assists and a slew of strong plays defensively.
It appeared that the Celtics were well on their way to an easy victory, fueled by a 20-8 run to close out the second quarter that gave the C's a 53-41 lead at the half.
But the C's went through one of their usual offensive lulls.
However, their defense couldn't bail them out this time.
The Celtics' offensive woes opened the door for the Suns to go on a 17-2 run that put them ahead, 58-55.
Boston didn't spend much time playing from behind -- one minute, 46 seconds to be exact -- as Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce scored back-to-back baskets, respectively, to put the C's back on top.
Phoenix had made a game that wasn't all that close, a relatively tight affair (67-64) going into the fourth quarter.
But the C's went with a hybrid second unit that worked well for them in the second quarter -- Terry, Lee, Green, Sullinger and Kevin Garnett who is a starter.
That group, just like they had did earlier in the game, provided a much-needed lift at both ends of the floor as the Celtics blitzed the Suns with a 13-4 run to start the fourth and never looked back.

Giardi: Butler's offseason may cut deep, but it's time for him to battle back

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Giardi: Butler's offseason may cut deep, but it's time for him to battle back

This hasn’t been easy for Malcolm Butler. None of it. He’s never been given anything. Hell, at times he’s pissed his future away. But with a tenacity that reminds you of a certain 199th pick in the 2000 draft, Butler has fought his way back, into college, into the pros and, in 2015 and 2016, into the upper echelon of NFL cornerbacks. He’s a two-time Super Bowl champ, making arguably the most memorable play in the history of that game.

He should be drinking in the adulation, savoring an incredible start to his career and a very lucrative future. Instead, he’s in both professional and Patriots purgatory. Free agency beckons but there’s a season to play, and as this is the only professional team he’s known, a burning desire to be recognized as an important piece, not just in the present, but the future of this organization as well.
 
One of his closest friends on the team, Dion Lewis, calls Butler a warrior. “The game means so much to him.”

Another teammate, fellow defensive back Devin McCourty said of Butler, “This is what he does. He competes.”

Duron Harmon insists that the 27-year-old corner has been the same guy he’s always been. Actually, they all say that. But clearly, the coaching staff sees something different, leading to Butler’s demotion Sunday in New Orleans. 
 
Bill Belichick has been short when talking about Butler dating all the way back to the spring. That hasn’t changed now that the games count. He’s dismissed past performance. All that matters is how you’re playing now. Butler has not established that same level. Why? There is no easy answer.
 
The lack of a new contract cuts deeply. The unsettling offseason -- was he going to be a Saint? -- left quite a mark as well. But Butler came back to Foxboro with purpose, reporting for voluntary workouts. He was hell-bent on proving to all -- Belichick included -- that he was still the lead dog, not Stephon Gillmore, despite the $31 million dollars in guaranteed money the organization forked over to the former Buffalo Bill.
 
That strategy worked for a time. Butler was one of the Pats best players in training camp, right up until the joint practices with the Texans midway through August. What happened? Butler doesn’t know. But one mistake became two. His play in the preseason game with Houston was poor. His confidence suffered. He started pressing. That didn’t help. Butler was just as bad at Detroit. The kid that had always answered a knockdown with one of his own, instead wobbled to his feet. The inconsistencies were evident in practice but the "he's-Malcolm-he'll-fix-it" thought process that teammates echoed didn’t prove true, at least not entirely.
 
According to Eric Rowe, the cornerbacks were informed of the role change at the beginning of last week. But other teammates said they didn’t realize Butler wasn’t starting until the walkthrough Saturday. The ensuing fallout wasn’t surprising -- HE’S MALCOLM BUTLER, SUPER BOWL HERO, DAMMIT -- but the worry around the team has been justified because Butler takes things to heart. His swagger comes from the game. That was stripped away prior to the game against the Saints, and even at the beginning of this week, leading into the Texans game. Butler had to get his head right. If his meeting with the media Thursday is an indication, he has.

But the proof is in the play. Butler has always known that. And while his play didn’t warrant a role reduction, another message has been sent by the powers that be in Foxboro. What happens next is all on Butler. His future depends on it.

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Patriots place Vincent Valentine on IR, promote Geneo Grissom

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Patriots place Vincent Valentine on IR, promote Geneo Grissom

FOXBORO -- Anyone hoping to see Vincent Valentine make his season debut got some bad news Friday. 

Valentine, who has been inactive for both of the Patriots' first two games with a knee injury, was placed on injured reserve. ESPN's Field Yates was first to report the news.

With Valentine on IR, Geneo Grissom was added to the roster from the practice squad. ESPN's Mike Reiss had that one first:

Valentine, whom the Pats chose 96th overall in 2016, has not been practicing with the team as he's dealt with the knee injury.

A third-round pick of the Pats in 2015, Grissom was released by the team in September and signed to the practice squad a day later.