Patriots 'D' goes according to script

598562.jpg

Patriots 'D' goes according to script

PHILADELPHIA - Early? Ugly. On their first two drives Sunday in Philadelphia, the Eagles put the Patriots on notice. A 22-yard completion on the game's first play from scrimmage, a 58-yarder two plays later and - two LeSean McCoy runs later and it was 7-0. On their next drive, the Eagles did it again. A 44-yard completion on the first play of the drive led to a field goal and New England was down 10-0. But what looked to be shaping up as a long evening, turned quickly. The Eagles didn't score another touchdown until late in the fourth quarter with the game hopelessly out of reach. What happened? "Just settled down," said Vince Wilfork. "We knew this team came in with a script (of offensive plays) and we just had to settle down. Once they got through their script, we knew how they wanted to attack us and we knew how we wanted to attack them. A lot of credit goes to the defense and sticking through it even though they went up(10) points."It wasn't that long ago that the Patriots came unhinged on the road on the regular. Remember 2009 when they only won one road game in theUnited States? That thisdefense - a patchwork one without Brandon Spikes, Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung - stayedon task andsimply fixed their mistakes says something about the mentality of this team. The Eaglesare - despite the result - a dangerous team. Running back LeSean McCoy needs to be defended in a particular way. He needs to be hemmed in and controlled. Same with Vince Young and DeSean Jackson. The Patriots did that. "It was a disciplined game," said Wilfork. "We had to stay disciplined with our rushes, in the run game with McCoy and not give up big plays. We gave up big plays on the first two drives and it cost us. Once we settled down we locked in and we focused and we started rolling. Sometimes it won't be pretty."The Patriots wound up holding McCoy, the NFL's leading rusher coming into the game, to nine carries and 33 yards. Jackson, aside from his 44-yard reception, dropped two touchdown passes and wound up benched. It's worth noting that the Patriots have now allowedthree touchdowns in the last12 quarters when the game was in the balance. Are they playing against the iron? Well, not exactly. But it's hard to tell who, outside of the Green Bay Packers, really qualifies as "iron" these days. That the Patriots are playing well defensively now and that the New England offense appears to have figured some things out on Sunday recreates some of the optimism about this team's chances that we saw in September. "We prepared well on the short week but its just one step in the right direction," cautioned Wilfork. "Everyone says football starts after Thanksgiving so it started today for us. We have to be able to win ballgames at the end of November and December. One game at a time. At the end of the day that don't mean anything. 8-3? You prepare well and the results take care of themselves."And that's what's happening right now for the Patriots.

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.