Celtics Not Half Bad

After a tepid first half of play, the Celtics came to life in the third quarter and managed to beat the plucky Philadelphia 76ers last night 113 to 103 in Philly. Kevin Garnett had 22 points for the Celtics, who improved to 15-2 on the season.

Marc J. Spears has the Celtics adjusting to the feeling of being “an elite team with a bull’s-eye on its back” each and every night they step out onto the court. Mark Murphy has Doc Rivers getting on his team at halftime, especially the point guards.

Kevin Henkin as part two of A Celtics Blogger Christmas Carol on the BSMW Full Court Press.

Spears’s notebook has Tony Allen stepping up his game in the second half last night after Doc Rivers stuck with him following a bad first half. Murphy’s notebook looks at a strong performance from the Celtics bench as a whole, which totaled 46 points on the evening.

Patriots

Over in the Metro, I have a few problems with the telecast of the Monday Night Football game. Those frustrations are expressed in the open letter Dear ESPN. Over on Patriots Daily, there is a look at the AFC Playoff picture.

Christopher L. Gasper has a look at Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, and how he has done a good job replacing Bill Cowher in Pittsburgh. Karen Guregian has the Steelers planning on getting physical with the Patriots, especially the wide receivers. Mark Farinella has Mike Vrabel talking to the Pittsburgh media about the Patriots/Steelers rivalry, and what the Patriots need to do on Sunday. Douglas Flynn observes that the Patriots will have their hands full with Willie Parker on Sunday.

Shalise Manza Young has Anthony Smith, a second year safety for the Steelers, coming out and guaranteeing a Pittsburgh win on Sunday. John Tomase has a look back at the Baltimore game with another Tale of the Tape entry. Ian M. Clark notes that run defense is suddenly a big concern for the Patriots.

Young also has Belichick giving his players most of yesterday off – not so much for rest, but to give the coaches a chance to prepare for the Steelers. Rich Garven also has the coaches taking a little more time to gameplan for the Steelers. David Heuschkel has the Steelers as the latest obstacle for the Patriots in their quest for 16-0.

Gasper’s notebook has more on the “guarantee” from Smith. Guregian also looks at the quotes from Smith, who says that the Patriots should be worrying about them rather than the other way around. Garven’s notebook has still more on the Smith quotes. Flynn’s notebook has Smith’s word undermining the efforts of the other Steelers to not provide bulletin board material for the Patriots.

Bruins

After running out to a 3-0 lead over the Devils last night, the Bruins floundered, and eventually lost starting goaltender Tim Thomas to injury just before the end of regulation. Tuukka Rask came in and gave up the winning goal at 3:16 of overtime as the Bruins fell to New Jersey 4-3 last night.

Fluto Shinzawa has Rask coming into a tough situation after the Thomas injury. Stephen Harris says that the injury to Thomas is worse than blowing the three goal lead.

Shinzawa’s notebook has more on the injury to Thomas, while Harris’ notebook has Bruins coach Claude Julien returning to face the team that fired him with a week to go last season.

Red Sox

Gordon Edes has the Red Sox prepared to come home from the winter meetings without Johan Santana, as talks seem to have stalled between Boson and the Twins. Michael Silverman has the Twins apparently not ready to deal their ace just yet. Sean McAdam says that the Red Sox are biding their time with Santana and will likely leave Nashville without a trade for the lefthander. Marc Thaler says a Santana deal could have a New Hampshire touch.

Nick Cafardo has Larry Whiteside being honored by the Hall of Fame as the winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award. Rob Bradford has Josh Beckett not concerned about the Red Sox potentially adding Santana and his contract. Bradford also has Jacoby Ellsbury talking about possibly being part of a deal. Joe Haggerty reports that Julian Tavarez could end up being trade bait. Jeff Goldberg has more from Ellsbury as he awaits his future. Joe McDonald also talked with the young centerfielder. McAdam notes how slow these winter meetings have been in terms of trades and news.

Amalie Benjamin’s notebook has a look at the “Schilling Rule” adopted by the BBWAA yesterday, meaning that the writers will not vote for any player that has incentives in their contract for winning postseason awards, such as the Cy Young. (Schilling responded to the move with disgust on his 38 Pitches blog.) The Herald notebook has more on the rule.