Morning Skate: Sabres, Canadiens cry over Bruins

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Morning Skate: Sabres, Canadiens cry over Bruins

WILMINGTON, Mass. Talk about the perfect storm brewing between other Eastern Conference teams earlier this week in Montreal.

The Canadiens and the Sabres played their first game against each other right out of the All-Star break, and it was a typically nasty Northeast Division affair. There were bone-crushing hits doled out and plenty of words chirped in both French and English, but there was one little wrinkle that must have amused the Bruins.

Buffalo and Montreal basically descended into a war of words over which team acted the part of the bigger punk when it comes to playing victim to the Bruins. Buffalo center Paul Gaustad starting by nonsensically yelling Wheres Chara? to Max Pacioretty, who of course was on the receiving end of a turnbuckle smash at the Bell Centre last season that left him with a fractured vertebrae and severe concussion.

But that wasnt the end of it. P.K. Subban, of all people, was among a group of Canadiens players that verbally slammed Gaustad and the Sabres for failing to defend Ryan Miller when Milan Lucic rammed into him earlier this season. It was almost like a couple of weepy ex-girlfriends on a reality show arguing about which one got dumped worse by the eligible bachelor.

But thats essentially what the Bruins have done to a pair of their Northeast Division rivals with their smash-mouth and intimidating style of play. The Bruins dont even to be on the same frozen sheet with the Sabres and the Canadiens to play the role of the schoolyard bully when it comes to their scraps.

That is true intimidation. On to the links:

Mitch Melnick from TSN 990 lays out the reasons why Pierre McGuire would make an excellent GM of the Montreal Canadiens with the esteemed franchise badly in need of leadership.

FOH (Friend of Haggs) Nick Cotsonika gets in deep with the CBA and the two opposing sides in his Three Periods column for Yahoo! Sports.

The Hockey News Adam Proteau gets hockey apologies from all 30 NHL teams with the second-half of the regular season getting underway.

The Pro Hockey Talk boys have the scoop on Dallas Stars owner Tom Gagliardi talking about his Stars club getting active at the NHL trade deadline.

The CSNNE.com creative team has come up with a trailer for a movie we like to call Hashtag: Free Joe Haggerty and its a pretty damned hilarious segment on the Great American Hockey Show.

Boston homeboy Ryan Whitney has missed the majority of the season with ankle issues, but returned with a solid game last night for an Edmonton Oilers team thats really missed him.

For something completely different: the first three minutes of the next episode of the Walking Dead courtesy of Perez Hilton.

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.