Blakely: Garnett's defensive wisdom crucial for Celtics

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Blakely: Garnett's defensive wisdom crucial for Celtics

WASHINGTON The Celtics added lots of talent this offseason that we're slowly discovering will take more time than expected to fit in -- especially in terms of the C's defense.

It's not because of a lack of effort or guys being unnecessarily stubborn, either. Simply put, they don't know better.

Which is why Kevin Garnett the player morphs into Garnett the teacher. As Garnett goes, so goes the defensive pendulum of this team. It's that simple.

We have seen how discombobulated this team is when he's not on the floor for an extended period of time. He is their defensive anchor, with no semblance of a substitute anywhere in sight. The Celtics will drift aimlessly if he's not in the mix on a regular basis.

On Saturday, Celtics fans got to see Garnett as engaged defensively as we've seen all season. And not surprisingly, the C's emerged victorious with a three-point win that came down to them needing to make four consecutive stops defensively to get the win.

"We're a defensive team that can score the basketball," Garnett said. "We have to make sure we understand who we are."

Garnett certainly made his share of big plays defensively for the Celtics, but he wasn't alone. The C's collective efforts defensively showcase just how Garnett's defense can be infectious.

I asked Paul Pierce earlier this year about how his game defensively has evolved over the years.

"A lot changed when Kevin came here, truthfully," Pierce said. "When you play with someone like Kevin, you can't help but become a better defender. He won't let you not become a better defender."

Challenging teammates constructively is one of the hidden strengths that Garnett brings to the game. So much talk surrounding last season's unexpected playoff run to the Eastern Conference finals focused on the Celtics' turn-around following the all-star break.

But it was the post-game locker room spiel by Garnett following a blowout loss to Oklahoma City right before the break, that seemed to set the C's turnaround in motion. Garnett delivered a colorful but poignant message to his teammates that night, and delivered a different but just as effective sermon following the team's loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

As much as defense is about how you fare in your individual matchup, Garnett stresses the value of team unity and how it translates into being a good team defensively.

His example of how the Celtics need to be like hyenas who feast on prey collectively, clearly struck a chord with his teammates who all seemed to ratchet up their defensive play against the Wizards.

As good as Garnett's spiels are, Tony Robbins has nothing to worry about.

Still, there is no way to get around how when KG talks -- and he talks a lot -- teammates listen, from rookies like Jared Sullinger to 14-year veterans like Jason Terry.

"His understanding of the game, and what it takes to win at the highest levels is unbelievable," Terry said. "I don't care how long you been in the NBA. When a player like Kevin Garnett talks, a future Hall of Famer who has done all that he has done both individually and for teams, you better listen. You would be stupid not to."

Red Sox’ quotes, notes and stars from 2-1 loss to Rays

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Red Sox’ quotes, notes and stars from 2-1 loss to Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Notes, quotes and stars from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Rays:

QUOTES:

* "There's not much I can do about it now. It's kind of a waiting game and hopefully, the tests come back clean.'' -Andrew Benintendi, on the uncertainty surrounding his knee injury.

* "Sometimes, I like that, sometimes I don't because I'd kind of take a couple of quick outs in place of those to get a couple of more innings out there.'' -Drew Pomeranz on his career high 11 strikeouts.

* "That's probably the spot that looms the largest. Jackie's become more aggressive early in the count, but at the same time, that aggressiveness can work against you.'' -Farrell on Jackie Bradley Jr. swinging at the first pitch following a walk with the bases loaded.

NOTES:

* Drew Pomeranz recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts

 * Since moving to the leadoff spot, Dustin Pedroia has a slash line of .397/.418/.460 in 16 games.

* Pomeranz has yielded two runs or fewer in five consecutive starts.

* On the just-completed road trip, the Red Sox led in all but one game.

* Thursday's loss was the fourth this season in which the Sox allowed two runs or fewer.

 * The past 18 Red Sox losses have come by a combined 37 runs.

* Until Thursday, the Red Sox had won 20 of their past 31 day games.

* The bottom third of the makeshift Red Sox lineup combined to go 2-for-12.

* The Sox missed out on a chance to have an eight-win road trip, which would have been their first since 2011.

STARS:

1) Jake Odorizzi

The Rays started, facing a depleted Red Sox lineup, limited the Sox to a single run over seven innings, allowing just five hits and getting out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam by allowing just one run.

2) Mikie Mahtook

Mahtook was 0-for-34 when facing Drew Pomeranz in the seventh inning, but that didn't stop him from doubling home Steven Souza Jr with what proved to be the winning run.

3) Dustin Pedroia

The Sox couldn't generate much of anything at all offensively, but don't blame Pedroia. The leadoff hitter had three hits and a walk and was on base four times for the Sox.

Benintendi's MRI inconclusive; will undergo more tests Friday in Boston

Benintendi's MRI inconclusive; will undergo more tests Friday in Boston

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Andrew Benintendi saga will continue for at least one more day, as an MRI taken here Thursday morning was, in the words of John Farrell, "inconclusive" and the rookie left fielder will undergo more tests Friday in Boston.

"Our doctors want to get him back to a full exam with (team orthopedist) Dr. [Peter] Asnis," Farrell said after the 2-1 loss to the Rays, which concluded the team's 11-game road trip. "Hopefully, when I speak to you all [Friday] afternoon (at Fenway Park, prior to the team's game against Royals), there will be a little more information on this."

Farrell said Friday's tests "will include some other imaging".

The Sox placed Benintendi on the 15-day disabled list after he injured his left night while running the bases Wednesday night. 

"We're going to do some more tests tomorrow and take it day-by-day," he said. "There's not much I can do about it now. It's kind of a waiting game and hopefully the tests come back clean.''
 
Benintendi found one sliver of hope:
 
"The more I walk on it, the better it feels. I'm going to stay as positive as I can.'' 

Branch reinstated by Patriots after week-long suspension

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Branch reinstated by Patriots after week-long suspension

Alan Branch has been reinstated by the Patriots after the team suspended him prior to last week's preseason game with the Bears, according to Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran. 

When Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked about Branch's absence last week, he replied, "It's a club matter."

What got Branch suspended by the team is still unknown, but he is expected to be a contributing player on the interior of the Patriots defensive line in 2016. He started in 17 games last season, including both playoff games, often lining up alongside fellow defensive tackle Malcom Brown. 

Through training camp the Patriots have also used Terrance Knighton, Vincent Valentine, Anthony Johnson and Joe Vellano on the interior of their defensive front. Branch, however, has consistently been used with the team's first defensive grouping. It's unclear how a week away from the team might impact his spot on the depth chart. 

Field Yates of ESPN was the first to report the news that Branch had been reinstated.