Celtics Fade Down the Stretch

The Celtics looked like they had New Jersey right where they wanted them, as they built a double-digit lead in the second half, thanks to some hot shooting. However Jason Kidd and Vince Carter soon took control of the game, leading the Nets back and beating Boston 106-103 at the Garden.

Shira Springer says it was only a matter of time before the Nets showed up and “took advantage of the Celtics’ defensive miscues and other on-court indiscretions.” Steve Bulpett admits that the Celtics had some good stretches last night, but that they were “still young and fragile enough to let the advantage, and the game, slip through their grasp like a handful of sand.” Scott Souza looks at the Celtics playing “arguably their best game of the season for long stretches of the night,” but letting it slip away from them in the end. Bill Doyle says that the Celtics don’t have to be embarrassed about being in first place with a losing record anymore.

Peter May looks at the Nets early struggles, noting that they’ve been unable to get off the ground this season…and sometimes that has literally been the case, such as yesterday when they had to fly into Boston on game day. Tony Massarotti can’t figure out if he should praise the Celtics for playing well much of the night, or bury them for blowing the game in the end. Gary Fitz says there is a lot not to like about this Celtics squad. Mike Fine looks at how Rajon Rondo’s minutes have been limited, and that his playing time will likely depend on the opposition.

Check the coverage from the New York area on the New York Sports Pages.

Springer’s notebook looks at a disagreement between Doc Rivers and Wally Szczerbiak, which was ironed out at halftime. Bulpett’s notebook has Rivers seeming to finally come up with a rotation. Souza’s notebook has an injury update on center Theo Ratliff, who remains out with a herniated disc. Doyle’s notebook has Rajon Rondo nailed to the bench while the man selected a pick after him, Marcus Williams, plays a large role for the New Jersey Nets.

Patriots

Mike Reiss looks at how the Patriots linebacker corps will be reshuffled now with the season ending injury to Junior Seau. Chris Ryan has more on the Patriots adjusting to life without Junior. Chris Kennedy notes that making adjustments is nothing new or out of the ordinary for Patriots players. Dan Pires says that the shuffling of positions isn’t something that concerns the players, who look at themselves as interchangeable parts. Rich Garven says that the Patriots defense has been stout for the most part this season, but still needs to improve on third down.

John Tomase attempts to call out Bill Belichick for his statements on the Lions, saying that the Patriots coach is hyping up a squad that is not worthy of what he attributes to them. What would Tomase like Belichick to say about the Lions, exactly? Trash them? Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t. Granted, Tomase isn’t exactly ripping Belichick in this piece, but some have in this area, and you get the idea of the point I’m making. Joe McDonald has Belichick and the Patriots stressing the importance of taking the Lions seriously, which McDonald points out, obviously works for them. Albert Breer looks at the challenge that a Mike Martz coached offense brings to an opposing defense. Michael Parente has the Patriots on guard against the unpredictability of a Martz offense.

Steve Buckley looks at Ken Walter, who is taking a totally business-like approach to his return to the Patriots. Alan Greenberg says that the distance on Walter’s punts Sunday may not have been that impressive, but his hangtime held the Bears without a return. Eric McHugh has a thorough Patriots report card for their game against the Bears. Ian Clark has Kevin Faulk as a reliable, quiet weapon for the Patriots. Mark Farinella notes that Faulk has once again been on a bit of a roll with the Patriots offense as of late. Christopher Price examines Faulk and the rest of the Patriots running backs and their ability to pick up blitzes and block. Glen Farley says that Richard Seymour made a huge statement – more like a paragraph – with his play against the Bears.

Jeff Howe looks at Lions receiver Roy Williams and his “Friday Night Lights” background in Texas high school football. Check the coverage from the Motor City in the pages of the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News. The latter has a mini-feature on Tom Brady, as it says that the former Michigan quarterback is motivated only by championships.

Reiss’ notebook has Bill Belichick working his squad hard in practice yesterday in an effort to avoid any post-Bears letdown. Tomase’s notebook says that the calendar with turn to December tomorrow, which mean it is Tom Brady’s time. McDonald’s notebook has Asante Samuel garnering the AFC Defensive player of the week award. Parente’s notebook has Mike Vrabel having no problems with making the move to inside linebacker. Garven’s notebook has more on Vrabel making the move inside. Farinella’s notebook has the Patriots aiming to stay focused and take care of business this week against the Lions.

Red Sox

Gordon Edes has a look at a tight-lipped Theo Epstein on a conference call yesterday. The Red Sox did announce that Lowell Spinners manager Luis Alicea has been named as their new first base coach. The conference call was noteworthy for an exchange that Bob Ryan had with the GM, which has been played several times on WEEI yesterday and today. The Globe columnist first asked what the fascination with J.D. Drew was, Epstein declined to answer, Ryan then asked why they were there, to which Epstein replied that Ryan’s colleagues had requested that Epstein be made available periodically in the offseason, and then Ryan closed things up by saying on behalf of the fans that he hoped the Drew rumors were not true. It was a humorous exchange, but at the same time Ryan could be criticized for the approach. “Curt in the Car” called Dennis and Callahan this morning to criticize Ryan for the exchange that he had with Epstein. Jeff Goldberg has more on the call.

Rob Bradford says that the offseason is starting to get a little crazy for the Red Sox, and he looks at the top issues facing the club heading into the Winter meetings. Sean McAdam has a look at the Red Sox latest target, Japanese lefty reliever Hideki Okajima. Michael Silverman and Tony Massarotti team up to report that the Red Sox could announce the signing of Okajima as soon as today. Alex Speier notes that in recent years, the Red Sox have seemed to have been “on the wrong side of market analysis.” Noting that they’ve seemingly misjudged the market on a number of occasions. David Borges has a Red Sox notebook, where he looks at Mark Loretta, who appears to have had a one-and-done stay in Boston.

Bruins

Steve Conroy notes that the Bruins have turned to an old mantra – teamwork – in order to make improvements on the ice. Bob Duffy looks at Paul Mara sitting out practice after an encounter with the glass in Toronto. He also reports that coach Dave Lewis just finished “Patriot Reign.” Douglas Flynn examines how much the Bruins have changed in the year that has passed since they traded Joe Thornton. Bud Barth looks at Tim Thomas answering all questions in net.

College/Misc

Michael Vega and Jeff Goodman report on BC’s 65-58 win over Michigan State last night. Lenny Megliola has more on the effort put forth by the Eagles last night. Bob Ryan says that BC’s Jared Dudley is the best forward in the country right now. Ryan also has a look at Spartan coach Tom Izzo, who he describes as college basketball coaching royalty.

Karen Guregian has a mini-feature on Ayla Brown the Boston College womens basketball freshman, who finished 13th in the most recent “American Idol” competition.

NESN has Bruins/Lightning at 7:00. NFL Network has Ravens/Bengals at 8:00. TNT has Pistons/Heat at 8:15 and Jazz/Lakers at 10:30.

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