Bradley, Celtics fall short against Grizzlies, lose 93-83

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Bradley, Celtics fall short against Grizzlies, lose 93-83

BOSTON The long-awaited return of Avery Bradley was one in which the third-year guard delivered a good but not great performance -- the kind that his Celtics brethren have been providing all season.
He had four points in 19 minutes, and his play and defensive intensity were certainly welcomed by the C's and to a certain degree, felt by the Memphis Grizzlies. 
But against a team as good as Memphis is this season, even a solid performance by Bradley wasn't enough as the Grizzlies defeated the C's 93-83.
It was Boston's 12th double-digit loss this season, a scary reality when you consider there's still more than half a season left to play. 
While the Celtics came in well aware that a number of players would have to step up, all eyes - and expectations - were on Bradley who had not played in an NBA game since the Eastern Conference semifinals in May against Philadelphia. 
Since then, Bradley underwent surgery to both shoulders with Wednesday's game being his first this season. 
"Honestly, with him on the floor early on, I thought the whole defense looked pretty good," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
Said Bradley: "It felt good to be out there. I'm just trying to play as hard as I can, and I feel like everything's going to be come together as a teanm. I feel like we played hard tonight."
For the Celtics, losers of four in a row, that would indeed be a step in the right direction.
Far too often this season, the C's have looked as though their effort to compete let alone win, wasn't nearly as high as their opponents which has been a factor in most of their losses being of the blowout variety. 
And that to some extent, has had an impact on the team's confidence which seems to fade in and out in most games. 
"It's hard to be confident when you are struggling," said Boston's Paul Pierce who had a team-high 17 points against the Grizzlies. "The good thing about it is we're staying positive about this stretch. It's a tough stretch for us obviously and we know we are going to get through it."
If so, they'll have to find ways to compete for longer stretches of time. Those ebbs and flows are especially problematic in the first half of games which tend to put the C's in catch-mode for the rest of the night. 
On Wednesday, the Celtics fell behind by as many as 18 points before they were able to cut Memphis' lead down to five points following back-to-back 3s by Jason Terry that made it an 83-78 game with 4:52 to play. 
But having dug themselves such a deep hole early proved too much for them to fully come back from as some of the team's most reliable scorers -- like Kevin Garnett -- came up short from the free throw line in the fourth quarter while others failed to knock down pressure-packed shots with the shot clock winding down. 
It was the kind of late-game struggles that you would not expect from a team of veterans, some of whom have won championships both in Boston and elsewhere. 
"We didn't play like a veteran team," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "We played like a really young team that was rushed. And that's what happens when you're not winning games as well."
As the final minutes were played out, the Grizzlies came up with all the big shots and clutch defensive plays to get the victory.
And with the loss, Boston (14-17) extends its losing streak to four in a row. 
And the worst part for the Celtics?
It won't get any easier with Indiana at the Garden and Atlanta on the road Friday and Saturday, respectively. 
While Bradley's presence didn't do much in terms of limiting the Grizzlies shooters, the C's were able to force six turnovers in the first that led to 10 points and maybe most important, the Celtics did something they hadn't done since Christmas -- lead after a quarter of play. 
A driving lay-up by Courtney Lee in the final seconds of the first quarter gave the Celtics a 26-25 lead to end the quarter which snapped a 12 quarter streak in which the C's had to play from behind. 
Boston's slim lead remained on the skinny jean side of things through the early stages of the second quarter. 
As they have done so many times this season, Boston went through a mini-lull offensively and the Celtics defense, even with Bradley, was unable to slow the bleeding as Memphis pulled ahead by six points (39-33) following a 3-pointer by Darrell Arthur.
Arthur's basket was part of a 21-8 run by the Memphis that catapulted them to a comfortable 50-41 halftime lead. 
The third quarter was more of the same as the Grizzlies dominated play at both ends of the floor which fueled them to continue surging ahead and taking a 75-59 lead into the fourth quarter that would prove to be too much for the C's to overcome ... again. 
But going forward, the Celtics will have Bradley back in the mix which in time should help significantly improve their defense and with that, should put a few more W's in the win column for the Green team. 
"He's going to slowly work his way back," Pierce said. "And get his legs in game shape and have a real impact out there for us on both ends of the court. He's been going through a lot, with the surgeries all summer, to finally get a chance in the new year to get back out there, I think he was real anxious and excited to be out there."
Said Bradley: "My main focus is to just go out there and play hard. I feel everything else will work its way out if I just do that."

Quotes, notes and stars: Ziegler stumbles in Red Sox' 4-3 loss

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Quotes, notes and stars: Ziegler stumbles in Red Sox' 4-3 loss

BOSTON -- Quotes, Notes and Stars from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to the Tigers on Wednesday.

QUOTES

"For maybe the first time when he hasn't put the ball on the ground consistently, that's the one spot that shows up here today.''
-- John Farrell on Brad Ziegler, who gave up the game-winning homer to Miguel Cabrera in the ninth inning.

"Unfortunately, we're one-swing-of-the-bat difference here today.''
-- Farrell

"It wasn't a horrible pitch; it just wasn't a great one either.''
-- Zieger on the pitch to Cabrera.

"Shoot, I've got to be honest. I haven't even looked at the schedule. I know there's 162 [games] on there. That's about all I know.''
-- Dustin Pedroia, when asked about the team's upcoming string of road games.

NOTES

-- The Red Sox dropped to 11-14 against teams from the American League Central.

-- The series sweep was the first of the season suffered by the Red Sox. Every other MLB team had already been swept more than once.

-- Pedroia has reached base safely in 30 straight games. It's the second-longest streak of his career.

-- Xander Bogaerts hit safely in every game on the homestand, batting .447 in that span.

-- Seven of Sandy Leon's 10 doubles this season have come in day games.

-- Aaron Hill collected his first extra-base hit (double) as a member of the Red Sox.

-- Victor Martinez reached base in all five plate appearances, becoming the first Tiger to do so at Fenway since Pudge Rodriguez in 2008.

-- The Tigers are 7-2 in their last nine Fenway games.

-- Opposing hitters had been just 1-for-22 against Brad Ziegler as a member of the Red Sox before Cabrera's homer.

STARS
 

1) Miguel Cabrera -- He was 3-for-4 with an intentional walk, including the game-winning homer in the top of the ninth.

2) Victor Martinez -- He remains one of the game's best pure hitters, which he demonstrated with four hits and two RBI.

3) Michael Fulmer -- He continued his Rookie of the Year case with 7 2/3 strong innings, allowing three runs on seven hits.

Bergeron and Marchand convinced Backes to join Bruins

Bergeron and Marchand convinced Backes to join Bruins

JAMAICA PLAIN -- For those excited about the idea of an intense, hard-hitting David Backes in a Bruins uniform for the next five years, you have Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand to partially thank.

Backes, 32, didn’t know either of them all that well prior to this summer, aside from his experiences on ice against them. But Bergeron and Marchand called Backes multiple times while recruiting him to Boston, and it was a major factor in the former Blues captain signing a five-year, $30 million deal with the B's.

“Being an outsider, we need to have a little bit of confession here that Marchand is the kind of guy that gets under everybody’s skin. I was no different,” said the 6-foot-3, 221-pound Backes, who has 206 goals and 460 points in 727 career NHL games, all with St. Louis. “But then talking to him a little bit in the interview process prior to July 1, I hung up the phone and had to take a deep breath and say to myself, ‘That little disturber, he’s actually a pretty good guy.’ Those guys end up being the best teammates.

“A guy like Bergeron, when you play against him [he's] always in the right spot, and is never making mistakes. Those types of guys, again, are guys you want on your team, and guys you want to go to war with. They’re All-World players, Bergeron is an All-World player. But he’s also a down-to-earth guy that puts his work boots on, takes his lunch pail and plays his butt off. He’s nice to the young kids, and he’s nurturing in helping them come along. I think you’ve seen in the NHL that you need a few guys on entry-level deals, or a few guys to outperform their contracts, in order to have success in the salary-cap era. That nurturing and mentorship can really foster those kinds of performances.”

While Backes went on to mention Zdeno Chara as another highly respected, formidable opponent with whom he’ll now share a dressing room, it was interesting to note that players who currently have letters on their sweaters, like Chara and David Krejci, didn’t play a part in the recruiting process. Instead it was the next captain of the team (Bergeron) and a player (Marchand) currently in the middle of negotiations entering the last year of his contract.

“I talked to both Bergeron and Marchand twice before July 1," said Backes. "Just the way that they spoke about their team mentality, and teaming up together and sharing the load of hard minutes that need to be played, and also sharing the load of the offensive necessities that a team has . . . those things just rang true to my beliefs of a team.

“You’re all equals whether you’re the top-paid guy, or the top-minute guy, or the low-minute guy, or the guy that’s playing every other game because you’re the healthy scratch in the other games.

“We all needed to be treated equal, and do whatever we can to support the next guy. When the next guy has success, we have to be just as happy as if we scored the goal. That’s the type of thing where, when you get that from the full 20 guys on the ice, it’s so tough to be beat. Those are the teams that win championships.”

It will be interesting to see just how much involvement Backes has with the Bergeron and Marchand combination. He could very easily be a right-wing fit with those two dynamic forwards next season, or he could be a third-line center behind Bergeron and Krejci and give the Bruins elite depth down the middle of the ice.

True to his team-oriented nature, Backes said he’ll be happy to play at either position and do whatever Claude Julien feels is best.

First impressions: Detroit Tigers 4, Boston Red Sox 3

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First impressions: Detroit Tigers 4, Boston Red Sox 3

BOSTON -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Detroit on Wednesday afternoon:

1) Eduardo Rodriguez pitched pretty well, but not well -- or deep -- enough.

Rodriguez has now made three starts since coming back from Pawtucket and any one of them was better than his starts from earlier this year.

He's no longer tipping his pitches, he's commanding better in general and his fastball has been more powerful.

But he's also giving up a lot of hits (19 in 18 innings) and he's gotten through the sixth inning just once in his three outings. For a team short in its bullpen, that's leaving a big workload for the relievers.

2) The late-inning comebacks have been in short supply.

Yes,  the Red Sox have scored runs by the boatload at times. And yes, they've mostly played hard this season.

But before Wednesday, the Sox had been just 3-35 when trailing after seven innings and they had enjoyed only two walkoff wins all season.

Those numbers can be misleading, of course. Teams can dig out from early holes -- as the Red Sox did Tuesday night.

But the ninth-inning rallies haven't happened much. In fact, on the current home stand, the Sox have had the top-to-middle part of the order up in the bottom of the ninth -- with David Ortiz getting an at-bat each time -- on four separate occasions, trailing by a run or two, and couldn't produce a winning rally.

3) Clay Buchholz may be pitching himself out of the doghouse

After going weeks -- literally --between appearances, Buchholz has been called upon four times in the last seven games.

Granted, in most of those games, the Red Sox have been trailing. But the games were such that they were still within reach, contradicting John Farrell's remarks late last week when he broadly hinted that he didn't trust Buchholz in games that were close.

Slowly, however, Buchholz could be earning some trust coming out of the bullpen. He had a perfect inning Wednesday with the Sox trailing by a run at the time.