Bench delivers first-rate performance for Celtics

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Bench delivers first-rate performance for Celtics

BOSTON The Boston Celtics' second unit delivered a first-rate performance in Friday's 96-78 win over Portland.

With Rajon Rondo out serving a two-game suspension along with a few other players whose health status made them game-time decisions, the C's took control of the game in the first half with their bench playing a prominent role.

"I don't care who doesn't play," Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said earlier. "The guys that play have to be ready to play and ready to win."

That was indeed the case, with Jeff Green leading all Celtics scorers with 19 points off the bench.

For the game, the C's second unit outscored Portland's backups, 41-22.

Not only were they scoring, but their play was also important on the defensive end as the C's limited Portland to just 34.8 percent shooting and extended their losing streak to four in a row.

In addition to strong play from its bench, here are some other keys identified prior to the tip-off that played a role in the Celtics victory over the Blazers.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Boston and Portland are two of the most rebounding-challenged teams in the NBA. The C's are dead-last while the Blazers are 25th in the league.

WHAT WE SAW: Although Boston lost the rebounding battle 37-36, the C's controlled the action around the glass most of the night with a number of Portland's rebounds coming in the game's final moments when the outcome had already been well established.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs. LaMarcus Aldridge: Garnett's ability to stretch the floor won't do him much good against Aldridge who brings that same skillset to the floor. Both have strong all-around games, although Garnett's defense is better.

WHAT WE SAW: Garnett's 10 points and five rebounds was well short of equalling Aldridge's game-high 23 points, but there was no mistaking that Garnett's impact was greater. He set the tone with an early blocked shot that was among several plays made by the C's defensively. Aldridge's impact was minimal, at best.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Without Rondo, Courtney Lee will have more opportunities to score. That's exactly how things played out in the lone game Rondo missed this season. Lee had a season-high 13 points which is his only double-digit scoring game this season.

WHAT WE SAW: Lee was sniffing at a Rondo-like triple double before finishing with 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists. He has had just two double-digit scoring games this season - both coming with Rondo out of the lineup.

STAT TO TRACK: The second quarter has seen the Celtics at their worst far too often. They average an NBA-low 21.9 points per game in the quarter. That wouldn't be that big a deal if opponents weren't scoring an average of 24.8 points per game.

WHAT WE SAW: Not only did the Celtics play better than usual in the second quarter, the 31 points scored by the C's in the second was their highest-scoring quarter of the game. Fueled by the defense, Boston took a commanding 23-point lead in the half that was never threatened afterward.

Lionel Messi says he is quitting Argentina national team

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Lionel Messi says he is quitting Argentina national team

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Lionel Messi says he is quitting Argentina's national team.

Argentina and Messi lost a final for the third year in a row, with Chile winning the Copa America 4-2 on penalty kicks following a 0-0 tie Sunday night.

His nation's career scoring leader with 55 international goals, Messi sent Argentina's first penalty kick over the crossbar.

Messi tells the Argentine network TyC Sports "the national team is over for me. It's been four finals, it's not meant for me. I tried. It was the thing I wanted the most, but I couldn't get it, so I think it's over."

Messi and Argentina lost to Brazil in the 2007 Copa final and to Germany in extra time in the 2014 World Cup final. They lost last year's Copa final to host Chile on penalty kicks.

The 29-year-old Messi has led Barcelona to four Champions League titles.

Perry's Patriots 53-man roster projection

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Perry's Patriots 53-man roster projection

With New England Patriots organized workouts finished until next month, Phil Perry puts together another 53-man roster projection.

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