Slater: 'We're a team that's very hungry'

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Slater: 'We're a team that's very hungry'

FOXBORO -- The shine of Lombardi Trophies past has dulled for some New England fans.
After all, the Patriots have won three Super Bowls since 2001, but have most recently lost two, in 2007 and 2011. The Patriots have gone 16-6 in playoff games since 2001, but have gone 6-6 after starting 10-0.
There have even been two seasons in the last 12 where no playoff berth was achieved at all.
The horror.
But in all seriousness, one shouldn't be too hard on those getting antsy to add to New England's hardware -- winning does create an expectation of greatness.
Just ask Vince Wilfork.He, quarterback Tom Brady, and receiver Deion Branch are the only players who remain (or were brought back, as in Branch's case) on the last Patriots team that won on Super Sunday. It was the 2004 season, Wilfork's rookie year.
Eight years later, his first title remains the only title.
Wilfork was reminded of that fact Tuesday in advance of New England's Divisional Playoff against Houston.
"Winning one early in my career, you kind of get the sense that it happens like this all the time, but it doesnt," he admitted. "Its very, very hard to win at this level at any level. We all play this game for one goal: to be champions, plain and simple. You cant take a situation and overlook it. And the situation for us is the Houston Texans."
Teammate and special teams captain Matthew Slater feels the urgency.
A Patriot since 2008, Slater has experienced a decent share of success: Five seasons with 10 or more wins, five trips to the postseason, two Super Bowl berths.
But he'll say it like everyone else on the roster, they expect to win every time they take the field. To glimpse a championship and be shut out . . .
It only intensifies the bloodlust."I think the sole reason that you play this game is to be the best and you want to be the best team," Slater said. "This is the ultimate team sport. To be able to come as close as we did last year and have past failures in my previous seasons here, it just drives you and motivates you more.
"I think that were a team thats very hungry. We dont feel like weve accomplished anything, we dont feel like weve arrived at all because its all for naught unless you do something in the postseason. Were very driven, very motivated, very focused myself personally and my teammates. We feel like we have a lot left to accomplish and hopefully were able to do that."

Celtics miss an opportunity in first half with LeBron in foul trouble

Celtics miss an opportunity in first half with LeBron in foul trouble

CLEVELAND – There are 240 minutes of play in an NBA game, but Boston’s 112-99 Game 4 loss to Cleveland came down to seven (six minutes and 46 seconds to be precise).

That would be the amount of time left in the second quarter that LeBron James spent on the bench with four personal fouls (a first for him in the first half of an NBA playoff game ever) and Boston ahead by 10 points.

Boston could not have asked for a better scenario than that, especially considering how well they had played up to that point in the game and again, knowing that James wasn’t about to set foot back on the court until the third quarter.

But here’s the problem.

Boston’s 10-point lead when James left with four fouls.

Halftime rolled around and Boston’s lead was still at just 10 points.

Celtics players agreed that not finding a way to increase their lead with James out was among the more pivotal stretches of play in Game 4.

“They did a really good job of not letting it (the 10-point lead) get out of control while he was on the bench,” Boston’s Marcus Smart told CSNNE.com. “Every time we scored, they came back and scored.  They answered back with everything we answered.”

While many will point to that stretch as a time when the Celtics failed to make the necessary adjustments to increase their chances of winning, it wasn’t as if the Cavs are a one-man team.

“They still have two All-Stars out on the court,” said Boston’s head coach Brad Stevens, referring to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. “With the best player in the world they go to unreal, but they’re still a pretty darned good team when those guys are out there.”

Irving had a playoff career-high 42 points which included him scoring 12 of Cleveland’s 14 points in the final 6:46 of the second with James on the bench.

“He’s one of the best point guards in the NBA, and you know, you can tell he puts in a lot of work in his game, a lot of respect from myself, my teammates,” said Avery Bradley. “We have to do a better job at defending him as a unit, trying to make everything hard on him. He definitely got a great rhythm going tonight, and I felt like we had a chance to make it harder on him.”

James still finished with a strong stat line for the night – 34 points, six assists, five rebounds and a blocked shot.

As good as he was on the court, the Celtics have to be kicking themselves for not doing more with the time James on the bench in the second quarter which in hindsight, was among the bigger factors in them now returning home facing elimination as opposed to being tied at two games apiece in this series.

“What are you going to do?” said Cleveland’s Kevin Love. “You have to continue to fight through it. At halftime, we were down 10. We made some adjustments on the defensive end and we just fought; we needed to. They got everything out of us tonight in that second half, but we played more inspired basketball as well.”