Milicic waiting for his chance to contribute to Celtics

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Milicic waiting for his chance to contribute to Celtics

CHICAGO The preseason brought with it such promise for Darko Milicic.

The former No. 2 overall pick in 2003 seemed to have finally found a place where he could have a meaningful role and compete for a championship.

Of all the preseason developments for Boston, the potential impact that he can make both as a shot-blocker and a passer out of the post, stood out.

But that promise appears to be nothing more than that as Milicic finds himself in a familiar place right now -- on the Celtics bench.

Through seven games in Boston, Milicic's career with the Celtics consists of one appearance of less than five minutes.

In the past, Milicic would have sulked or complained about his predicament. But today, he seems to better understand that his time to help the Celtics may not come as quickly as he would like it to. And there is a consensus among the C's and Milicic that sooner or later, an opportunity for him to contribute will manifest itself.

"I just have to stay ready," Milicic told CSNNE.com recently. "Just be ready to play when I get my chance. That's all I can do."

Although the right wrist injury Milicic suffered was indeed a setback for him, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said his health isn't the reason why he has played so sparingly.

"Other guys are just playing better right now," Rivers said matter-of-factly. "Darko will help us at some point this year. Jason (Collins) absolutely will help us as well. You just can't play everybody."

To see big men sitting on the bench or not playing at all is becoming a common trend in the NBA this season.

In Boston's season-opener at Miami on October 30, the two Heat players that were inactive for that game were the Heat's only two true centers. Celtics rookie center Fab Melo has been inactive in all seven of the C's games this season.

Rivers has been among the many coaches who has found putting his best players on the floor often means going with a lineup that's smaller than the traditional five-man unit which typically includes one center.

And while the Celtics going with smaller lineups is the new norm in the NBA, there are still some teams that still stick with having a true center in the middle.

"I just think right now, it's like the NFL," Rivers said. "Some teams pass all the time. Some teams use the running back and even the fullback, which is unheard of these days. Our league is pretty much mirroring that a lot."

Nash scores a pair of goals in Bruins 2-1 win over Islanders

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Nash scores a pair of goals in Bruins 2-1 win over Islanders

BROOKLYN, NY – The Bruins knew they needed to find stellar performances somewhere in order to come out of a must-win game vs. the Islanders with two points, and they got exactly that.

Riley Nash had his best game as a member of the Bruins with a pair of goals scored in a 2-1 win over the Islanders at the Barclays Center that snapped a four game losing streak, and pushed them back into the wild card playoff spot.

It wasn’t a perfect game for the Black and Gold by any means and it was nip-and-tuck all the way, but it was important for the Bruins to show they could pull out those kinds of games late in the season.

Things didn’t look all that great early when John Tavares cut through the Bruins defense in the first period, and whistled a wrist shot from the high slot that went through Adam McQuaid’s legs before beating Anton Khudobin. The Bruins responded, however, on the very next shift with Nash stealing the puck from Scott Mayfield in the neutral zone, and beating Thomas Greiss short side for the important game-tying goal.

It looked like the Bruins had their go-ahead score in the first period on a second-effort power play goal by Frank Vatrano, but that was wiped out by a coach’s challenge that ruled David Backes interfered with Greiss in front of the New York net.

So the Bruins needed to wait until the third period when Boston’s fourth line stepped up and won the massively important game for Boston. Dominic Moore fed Riley Nash hustling into the offensive zone, and he weaved through the Islanders defense before snapping a shot past Greiss for his second goal of the game and his seventh on the season for the Bruins. 

NCAA TOURNAMENT: Gonzaga beats Xavier 83-59 to reach first Final Four

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NCAA TOURNAMENT: Gonzaga beats Xavier 83-59 to reach first Final Four

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Nigel Williams-Goss scored 23 points while orchestrating Gonzaga's efficient offense, and the Zags finally shook their overrated tag by routing Xavier 83-59 on Saturday to reach the Final Four for the first time.

Gonzaga (36-1) has been dogged by criticism through the years despite winning consistently, in part for playing in a weak conference but also for never making the Final Four.

On the cusp of history, the Zags took it head on with a superb all-around game to give coach Mark Few the one missing piece of his resume.

Gonzaga found the range from the perimeter after struggling the first three NCAA games, making 12 of 24 from 3-point range. The defense, a soft spot in the past, shut down the underdog and 11th-seeded Musketeers (24-14) to win the West Region.

The Zags will face the winner between South Carolina and Florida in next week's Final Four in Arizona.

J.P Macura led the Musketeers with 18 points.

The Musketeers brought their turn-the-page jar of ashes to the NCAA Tournament, where they burned through a string of upsets to reach their third Elite Eight and first since 2008. They beat Maryland, Florida State and took down No. 2 Arizona in the regional semifinals, setting up a matchup of small Jesuit schools seeking their first Final Four.

The Final Four was the only thing missing on Few's resume, which includes 18 straight NCAA Tournaments, eight trips to the Sweet 16 and a third Elite Eight after surviving West Virginia's constant pressure in the regional semifinals.

The Zags struggled to find an offensive rhythm against the Mountaineers - who doesn't? - but had it flowing against Xavier.

Gonzaga came into the Elite Eight hitting 29 percent of its 3-point shots after making 37 percent during the season. The Zags found the range early against Xavier, hitting 8 of 13 from the arc in the first half, mostly against the Musketeers' zone or on kick-outs from center Przemek Karnowski.

Xavier got off to a good start offensively by working the ball around, but hit a dry spell and made 1 of 5 from 3-point range as Gonzaga stretched to lead to 49-39 by halftime.

Halftime did little to slow the Zags, who pushed the lead to 59-42 on 3-pointers by Williams-Goss and Jordan Mathews. Gonzaga kept the machine rolling in the second half, continuing to make shots while its defense prevented the Musketeers from making any kind of run.