Celtics battling back after another slow start

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Celtics battling back after another slow start

ATLANTA A new season, a new hole for the Celtics to dig themselves out of.

While the reasons have varied as to why the C's have had their annual slow start, there's no denying that it has become a pattern.

Now with the momentum that comes with back-to-back defensive-fueled victories, the Celtics have a feeling that they are indeed on the verge of turning the corner on their season just like they did a year ago.

Heck, they even have an identical 16-17 record as last season's squad at this point, a team that advanced to the Eastern Conference finals and came within a game of knocking off eventual NBA champion Miami Heat.

"Last year, it wasn't like we were trying to get in a rut so we could fight our way out of it," said Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. "We just were in one. And we made a couple changes and it worked."

The most significant shift made by last year's group was the decision by Rivers to make Kevin Garnett the team's primary center.

Garnett in the middle created a matchup problem for opposing teams, and that created a major boost for the Celtics when it came to winning games.

After muddling around .500, the C's were an impressive 20-8 after the all-star break.

This season's most significant move thus far has been Doc Rivers' decision to revert back to the lineup he had to close out last season which included Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass starting games along with Boston's Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo.

That unit has two starts this season -- both wins.

And barring injuries, it's unlikely that Rivers will tinker with that group for the remainder of this season.

Bradley's recovery slowed the process of Rivers reverting back to his most successful lineup. But that was just one of the many challenges he has faced in molding together a team that looks and plays differently than last year's club.

"This year, we brought in a lot of new players," Rivers said. "I don't think people understand it. People say Rondo, Kevin and Paul and think it's the same team. It's not. It's a completely different team. It takes time. It's taken longer than I would like."

But it's coming together, slowly but surely.

"We just have to keep playing hard, playing together," Bradley told CSNNE.com. "That's what the Celtics are about. That's what we did last year and that's what we're starting to do a better job of right now."

First impressions: Buchholz finishes strong vs. White Sox

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First impressions: Buchholz finishes strong vs. White Sox

CHICAGO - First impressions from the Red Sox' 5-2 win over the White Sox.

 

If this was some sort of must-win proposition for Clay Buchholz, he passed his test.

Buchholz found himself behind 2-0 just three batters in when he allowed a two-run homer to Jose Abreu, but he righted himself nicely after that.

Buchholz pitched seven innings and didn't allow another run. In fact, Buchholz only yielded two more hits after the first - both singles.

John Farrell said he wanted to see Buchholz attack the strike zone with his fastball, pitch with a quicker tempo and not rely so much on his secondary stuff. To varying degrees, Buchholz accomplished all three and finished strong - retiring the last 10 hitters in a row and 16 of the last 17.

 

Josh Rutledge had a nice night off the bench.

Rutledge was a last-minute addition to the lineup when Hanley Ramirez was scratched with the flu and Travis Shaw was shifted from third base to first base.

Rutledge reached base three times with two singles and a walk. One of the singles drove in the fourth run, scoring Chris Young with an important insurance run.

 

David Ortiz broke out of his U.S. Cellular slump in a big way.

Coming into the game, Ortiz was hitless here in his last 19 at-bats and when he hit into a double play in the first and flied to center in the third, that stretched to 0-for-21. Since the start of 2014, those first two at-bats made Ortiz 1-for-26.

But in the fifth, Ortiz hammered a pitch from Carlos Rodon into the seats in right for a two-run homer, giving the Red Sox their first lead of the series.

For all the talk about Ortiz's difficulty hitting lefties, he's now third among lefty batters in homers off lefthanded pitchers since last July 2.

 

The home run power continues to be in short supply beyond Ortiz.

Last season, the Red Sox didn't have anyone hit 20 homers other than the (then) 39-year-old Ortiz.

Might the same thing happen again this year?

Ortiz hit his sixth homer last night, again leading the club. Mookie Betts is the only other hitter on the Sox with more than three homers -- and he hasn't hit one in his last 58 at-bats, dating back a week and a half.