What we saw: Celtics-Hawks preview review

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What we saw: Celtics-Hawks preview review

BOSTON The Boston Celtics are never going to be a dominant rebounding team this season. But they continue to make progress, as was the case in their 88-86 overtime win against Atlanta. Boston wound up with a season-high 56 rebounds, which is impressive. The fact that they only allowed the Hawks 39 -- a 17 rebound difference -- was remarkable.

"Well, you're not going to see it a whole bunch, but we'll take it," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "We rebounded very well."

Brandon Bass was among the C's to have a big night on the boards, finishing with 10 rebounds to go along with 21 points.

"We needed a night like that to build on," he said. "We've been struggling on the boards; that's an area we wanted to improve on. I just hope we can keep it going."

Boston's board work was a major reason for the C's winning their fourth straight game. Here we'll review other keys to the C's win identified prior to tip-off, and how those factors played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Regardless of whether the Celtics played last night, the Hawks are going to come out looking to run. It makes sense when you consider they are the younger team, and getting out in transition has been one of their best traits all season. Atlanta averages 15.8 fast-break points this season (No. 8 in the NBA), a figure that will be challenged by a Celtics defense that's giving up just 12 fast-break points per game which ranks sixth in the NBA.

WHAT WE SAW: Atlanta had some success early on getting out and running, but the C's kept them in check for most of the game. The Hawks finished the night with 12 fast-break points compared to 10 for the Celtics.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Avery Bradley vs. Joe Johnson: Once again Bradley will find himself matched up with a taller player at the shooting guard position. But what makes Johnson such a tough cover is his ability to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim, or pull up for jumpers. Give Bradley credit. He has managed to make some of the NBA's best (Dwyane Wade, for example) have off nights. He'll look to continue that trend against Johnson, one of the most efficient shooting guards in the NBA.

WHAT WE SAW: Bradley was one of several defenders on Johnson, who had just 14 points on 5-for-17 shooting. The C's defense was especially up for the challenge near the end of regulation when the Hawks made a point of trying to get Johnson to take the last shot. However, he was unable to because of the Celtics' aggressive double-team that forced him to give the ball up.

"That's why I really didn't want to run a pick-and-roll because I knew (Rajon) Rondo was going to jump out there and try and trap me to get the ball."

PLAYER TO WATCH: Atlanta's Josh Smith is a phenomenal talent except when he plays against Boston. In his lone game against the Celtics this season, he had 10 points on 5-for-20 shooting. He has faced the C's 24 times in his career, averaging 12.3 points per game. Of the teams he has played against 24 or more times, Smith's scoring, rebounding (6.7) and field goal percentage (.403), are worst against Boston than any other team.

WHAT WE SAW: Smith had one of his better games against Boston, scoring 20 points to go with 11 rebounds and five assists. But when the game mattered most, Smith failed to deliver. He failed to make a basket in the fourth quarter or overtime, which wound up being just a part of all that went wrong for the Hawks down the stretch.

STAT TO TRACK: Although both Boston and Atlanta have not been among the NBA's top scoring teams this season, both have ratcheted up their bucket-making skills of late. In the last three games by the C's, they are averaging 101.3 points per game which ranks 10th in the NBA during that span. For the season, Boston ranks No. 26. As for the Hawks, they have the 18th-best scoring team this season, but have averaged 112.3 points in the last three games which only trails Phoenix (112.7) during that same span.

WHAT WE SAW: After a fast start offensively by both teams, it became very much a defensive battle for the last three quarters. And in those type of games, the Celtics more often than not, come out ahead. Look no further than overtime, which featured a total of six points combined.

Kraft on possible Patriots reunion with Revis: 'I would love it'

Kraft on possible Patriots reunion with Revis: 'I would love it'

It was reported last week that multiple NFL executives are convinced that Darrelle Revis will return to the New England Patriots next season.

Talking with the New York Daily News, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said he’d be open to a reunion with the 31-year-old cornerback.

“I would love it,” Kraft said. “Speaking for myself, if he wanted to come back, he’s a great competitor, I’d welcome him if he wanted to come.”

Asked if the team has had discussions with Revis, Kraft said “ask my boy,” in reference to coach Bill Belichick.

Revis spent the 2014 season with the Patriots, helping them win Super Bowl XLIX. He bolted back to the New York Jets the next season, signing a five-year, $70 million contract ($39 million guaranteed).

The Jets released Revis earlier this month after the incident in Pittsburgh. A judge dismissed the charges.

Kraft says intention is not to trade Butler: 'We hope he's with us'

Kraft says intention is not to trade Butler: 'We hope he's with us'

PHOENIX -- The idea that Malcolm Butler could be traded by the Patriots before the start of the 2017 season has been floated for weeks. But if Robert Kraft had his way, he'd like for the hero of Super Bowl XLIX to stick around. 

At the Biltmore hotel on Day 2 of the league's annual meetings, Kraft was asked if he anticipated having Butler back in New England for next season.

"I sure hope so," he said. "We have [a first-round tender] out to him, and I know he has the ability to go out in the market and get someone to sign him, and then we either match it or get the first-round draft pick.

"I'm rooting, I hope, he's with us and signs his offer sheet and plays for us. I have a great affection for him. He was part of probably the greatest play in the history of our team, but there are a lot of people involved in that."

The Patriots can't trade any player who isn't under contract, and they can't talk about a trade for a player not on their roster. Therefore, even if the Patriots hoped to deal Butler and get something in return for the Pro Bowl-caliber corner before he hits unrestricted free agency in 2018, it's not something that the owner of the team would be at liberty to discuss with dozens of microphones in front of his face. 

The tender offer of $3.91 million for one season is still out there for Butler. He could sign it and play in New England. He could sign it and be traded. For now, Kraft says he's hoping for the former -- and insists that the Patriots didn't have designs on the latter all along.

"I don't want to, in any way, take away from his rights [as a restricted free agent]," he said, adding, "I want to be clear. I hope he's with us."