Julien still holding out for down-sized equipment

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Julien still holding out for down-sized equipment

TAMPA With all of the talk of raising the red line from the dead and allowing obstruction back into the game during this weeks NHL GM Meetings in Boca Raton, Claude Julien is sticking to his guns.

The Bruins coach like many of the NHL GMs doesnt see the benefit of inserting the red line back into the game, and its admittedly difficult to see how thats going to significantly reduce the head injuries rampant throughout the league. Hes got a wish list of things hed like to see tweaked just like everybody else.

If you think deep about it for long enough youll always come up with a couple of things, said Julien. Those delay of game penalties are tough calls when the puck is rolling off your stick and its not deliberate. Maybe suddenly youre killing a penalty in the final minute of the game. If you eliminate that or leave it to the refs discretion it puts a little more pressure on them because who says its deliberate.

Much to Juliens expected chagrin the NHL general managers plan to keep the delay of game rules intact for pucks fired over the boards under duress or even accidental in nature.

Julien also thinks theres a healthy level of legal obstruction currently in a game thats moving faster by the year, and players can impede the speed by simply holding their ground on the ice.

According to NHL Vice President of Hockey Operations Kris King, the leagues statistics say that head injuries in the NHL have stabilized over the last two years even if players like Chris Pronger and Marc Savard may be done playing forever because of too many concussions.

The anecdotal evidence is compelling, but the raw numbers say that the NHLs efforts to root out headshots are slowly having the desired impact.

Instead the Bs coach is in the camp that wants to reduce the size and potential danger of shoulder pads worn by all players. Basically the philosophy goes a little something like this: its better for a player to have a separated shoulder from throwing a hellacious hit than a head shot victim knocked out by a shoulder to the noggin.

Its hard to argue that one.

The biggest thing for me is always the safety of the players. How do we deal with that? said Julien. Part of me feels that the game has really picked up its pace, and the equipment along with the strength of the guys has helped cause injuries. Im one of those people encouraging the league to look at the upper body equipment: the shoulder pads and the elbow pads.

The shots are so hard these days that you really need the legs pads and shin pads just to protect you. But when it comes to shoulder pads and elbow pads Id rather see a guy out with a separated shoulder than a concussion. Thats my opinion. If you minimize the padding then youre going to minimize the injuries because guys are going to slow down before they come in for a hit in the corner. Id take that trade-off by subtracting some of the hardness from the shoulder and elbow pads. Thats something Id like to see and its logical to at least have a good look at.

Julien isnt alone in his suggestion of downsizing the upper-body equipment for NHL players, and NBC hockey analyst Mike Milbury has been another vocal critic of the hard shoulder pad shell that looks more like armor than athletic equipment. But that wasnt expected to be on the GMs agenda for discussion amid the hybrid icing and raging trapezoid debate.

Part of that may be because the NHLPA would have to sign off on any radical equipment changes and it appears theyve put away their rubber stamp with collective bargaining with Gary Bettman scheduled for this summer. But downsizing the shoulder and elbow pads seems to no longer even be considered as the NHL moves on to other yeah or nay decisions on issues facing the league.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Wizards shoot ridiculous 65 percent from field

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Wizards shoot ridiculous 65 percent from field

After Boston’s last game against Portland – a loss – Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said he was encouraged by some of the things his team did defensively.

It’s safe to say Stevens won’t be singing that tone if the Celtics continue along the path they’re on defensively right now as the Washington Wizards went into the half with a 66-59 lead.

Washington, donning all-black clothes when they arrived at the Verizon Center, were very much looking as though they were digging a basketball grave for the Boston Celtics who allowed the Wizards to shoot a ridiculous 65 percent from the field in the first half and 61.5 percent (8-for-13) from 3-point range.

The Wizards scored the first four points of the game and spent all of the first half playing with a lead.

But the Celtics showed some fight late in the second quarter, going on a 14-6 run to cut Washington’s lead to 55-52 with 3:39 to play in the quarter.

Boston would later have a chance to tie the game, but Marcus Smart’s 3-pointer was off the mark.

And the Wizards, as they had done all game, made the Celtics pay as Bradley Beal drained a jumper that made it a two-possession game.

Here’s a look at the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half.

 

STARS

Bradley Beal

It was his idea to go with the all-Black look, and he backed up his talk with a strong first half of play. He has a team-high 14 points at the half along with five assists.

Isaiah Thomas

Thomas delivered yet another all-star caliber scoring performance in the first half for Boston. He led all scorers with 17 points on 5-for-9 shooting along with a game-high eight assists.  

John Wall

After scoring just nine points when these two met on Jan. 11, Wall has 13 points at the half on 6-for-9 shooting to go with five rebounds and three assists.

 

STUDS

Al Horford

It was an extremely efficient game offensively in the first half for Horford. He had 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting with three assists.

Markieff Morris

He’s one of four double-digit scorers in the first half for the Wizards. In addition to his 10 points, he also has five rebounds and three assists.

 

DUDS

Celtics defense

At this end of the floor, the Celtics were absolutely atrocious in the first half. The Wizards shot a ridiculously high 65 percent from the field, and were just as lethal (8-for-13, 61.5 percent) from 3-point land. They have no shot at competing let alone winning tonight’s game, if they don’t turn things around and do so soon!

Beyond the numbers: 'Game is slowing down' for Isaiah Thomas

Beyond the numbers: 'Game is slowing down' for Isaiah Thomas

Just about every part of Isaiah Thomas’ game offensively has seen tremendous growth this season.

But what has really separated him from earlier versions of himself, has been his 3-point shooting.

He comes into tonight’s game against the Washington Wizards shooting a career best 38.4 percent from 3-point range.

When asked about how he has elevated his game this season, the answer isn’t that simple.

“I don’t know” he told reporters prior to tonight’s game. “The game is slowing down for me. My teammates put me in position, my coach does … and I’m just knocking down shots.”

Because of his shot-making, Thomas has made it difficult for defenses to give him a steady diet of any style of play in trying to limit him.

And because they have to change things up with regularity, that has created more scoring opportunities.

“Sometimes they forget what they want to do (defensively) and leave me open for a three,” Thomas said. “Those are the the types of shots I need to knock down and I’m being aggressive.

He added, “I need to get to the free throw line, trying to make plays for my teammates. It’s one of those things where I’m in a really good zone now; a really good rhythm.”

A good rhythm?

According to NBA statistics guru Dick Lipe, Thomas is the first Celtic ever to make at least four 3-pointers in five straight games. Taking it a step further, he has made at least three 3-pointers in seven straight games which equaled Antoine Walker’s streak in 2001.

Thomas has also attempted 11 three-pointers in five straight games which is a franchise record. There have only been three longer streaks in NBA history - Golden State’s Stephen Curry (7 straight games, 2016); Washington’s Gilbert Arenas (7 straight games, 2005) and Dallas’ George McCloud (6 straight games, 2006).

He’s also averaging 3.1 made 3’s per game which would be a franchise record that’s currently held by Antoine Walker who averaged 2.7 during the 2001-2002 season.

And all those 3’s have added up to Thomas scoring at least 27 points in seven straight games, something that hasn’t been done by a Celtic since Larry Bird had eight such games in March 1988 as well as the 1987-1988 season.