Celtics blaze Portland, 96-78

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Celtics blaze Portland, 96-78

BOSTON Within the first three minutes, the Boston Celtics had delivered a hard foul, blocked a shot courtesy of good help-side defense and opened with a 7-1 run.

Physical play. Good defense. Efficient offense.

It was the kind of balanced attack Doc Rivers has been searching for all season, the kind of performance this team badly needed.

When the Celtics play like that, few teams can beat them.

And if you're one of the Western Conference's weaker clubs - a team like Portland - things could get ugly real quick.

That's exactly what happened on Friday as the Celtics delivered a decisive 96-78 whipping to the Blazers.

Making the win even more impressive was it came without the C's floor leader Rajon Rondo, who served the first game of his two-game suspension for an incident involving himself and Brooklyn's Kris Humphries on Wednesday.

Replacing Rondo in the starting lineup was Courtney Lee, who had a Rondo-like first quarter with four points, three rebounds and three assists. He would finish with a near triple-double of 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Boston's victory was indeed a team-wide success, as contributions poured in from just about every Celtic in uniform.

Jeff Green, who was a game-time decision because of a right knee injury suffered on Wednesday, had one of his best games this season with 14 of his team-high 19 points coming in the first half. Portland was led by LaMarcus Aldridge who scored a game-high 23 points to go with eight rebounds.

The Celtics' scoring was fueled in large part by a strong defensive presence at all five positions, resulting in Portland shooting just 31.3 percent in the first quarter and a pitiful 23.3 percent at the half which ended with the C's leading 56-33.

For Boston (9-7), it was the kind of first half that they needed.

With a road game at Milwaukee on Saturday, the strong first half set the stage for Boston to rest their core guys for a good chunk of the second half. It would also afford some of their end-of-the-bench guys to get some minutes, as well as rookie Kris Joseph (2 points) who was recently called up from the Maine Red Claws of the D-League and scored his first NBA points.

And maybe most significant, it was an opportunity to win without Rondo who will not play on Saturday against the Bucks as well.

As for Portland, Friday's loss only adds to what has been a miserable road trip for the Blazers that includes a loss to the then-winless Washington Wizards.

Even Portland's talented rookie Damien Lilliard could not get into any kind of flow or rhythm. A 19.1 points per game this season, he only had two points in the first half while missing five of his six shot attempts. He finished with eight points on 2-for-8 shooting.

But the Celtics have shown a tendency to let their guard down when things come too easy, but Friday proved to be the exception.

Boston's 23-point lead at the half remained in the 20s most of the third quarter before a mini-run by the Blazers cut Boston's lead to 75-59 going into the fourth quarter.

The Celtics increased their lead in the fourth before Rivers emptied the bench so that the entire active roster saw action, including Joseph.

Sam Travis among nine non-roster invitees added to Red Sox spring training roster

Sam Travis among nine non-roster invitees added to Red Sox spring training roster

The Red Sox have invited nine non-roster players to spring training, the team announced Wednesday. The team now has a total of 15 non-roster invitees. 

Added Wednesday to the spring training roster were outfielder/infielder Allen Craig, third baseman Rafael Devers, first baseman Sam Travis, catcher Jordan Procyshen, outfielders Brian Bogusevic and Rusney Castillo, and right-handed pitchers Kyle Kendrick, Chandler Shepherd and Ben Taylor.

In addition to 39 players on the 40-man roster, the Sox have the following breakdown of non-roster invitees: 

Pitchers: Kyle Kendrick, Edgar Olmos, Chandler Shepherd, Ben Taylor, Marcus Walden
 
Catchers: Dan Butler, Jake DePew, Jordan Procyshen
 
Infielders: Rafael Devers, Matt Dominguez, Sam Travis
 
Outfielders: Brian Bogusevic, Rusney Castillo, Allen Craig, Junior Lake

Floyd looks to improve rapport with Brady: 'Tom likes things a certain way'

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Floyd looks to improve rapport with Brady: 'Tom likes things a certain way'

FOXBORO -- Michael Floyd has been with the Patriots for about a month, and he admits he still has a lot to learn.

Specifically when it comes to his rapport with Tom Brady, Floyd knows there's room for improvement. Against the Texans last weekend, he was targeted three times. One led to a pick. Another was almost picked. One was caught for nine yards. 

On the intercepted pass and the near-interception, Floyd ran slant routes from the left side of the Patriots formation, but he appeared to run them in ways that Brady didn't anticipate. Instead of coming back toward the ball as it approached, Floyd leaked up the field, perhaps hoping to turn what would be an intermediate gain into a bigger play. 

On WEEI earlier this week, Brady took the blame for the pick. But Floyd shouldered his share of responsibility for the turnover on Wednesday.

"You just gotta come downhill," he said. "Obviously at this time of the year, a lot of guys are really checked in on film work and how you play and splits and stuff like that. You gotta make sure you're really fundamentally sound and come downhill to every single ball."

It's one of many lessons Floyd has tried to absorb since being claimed off of waivers by the Patriots in mid-December.

In the regular-season finale against the Dolphins, he looked to be learning at an impressive rate as he caught three passes for 36 yards and laid a monster block that helped spring Julian Edelman for the longest touchdown reception of his career. 

As he prepared for the AFC title game, though, he acknowedleged that he has a way to go -- particularly when it comes to understanding the nuances of how his ever-demanding quarterback wants things done.

"I've only been here a month so I think that's every single day," Floyd said of getting to know Brady's preferences. "I gotta keep my head in the playbook and ask questions. That's what I do every single day. There's nothing wrong about asking a question. They see that I'm the new guy here, and I -- for the most part -- get all the answers that I need."

He added: "Tom likes things a certain way. Me being the new guy, or any of us, we make sure that we do it that way."