Celtics continue home dominance over Raptors 107-89

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Celtics continue home dominance over Raptors 107-89

BOSTON Rajon Rondo had a triumphant return to the Boston Celtics lineup as the C's continued their home dominance of the Toronto Raptors with a 107-89 win.

Rondo, returning after a one-game absence because of a sprained right ankle, finished with six points and 20 assists as the Celtics defeated the Raptors in Boston for the ninth straight time.
It was Rondo's 33rd straight game with 10 or more assists.
"He's a rare bird," said Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. "I mean, he really is."

Toronto made things interesting in the third quarter as they cut the Celtics lead to as little as two points.

During that third quarter stretch when the Raptors made the game competitive, there was Rondo doing his part to keep the Raptors at bay.

A Rondo 20-foot jumper pushed the C's lead up to 57-53 in the third. Later in the quarter, he tossed a lob to Chris Wilcox for a dunk that once again gave the Celtics a four-point cushion, 63-59.
"He was actually made about the 20 assists," said teammate Courtney Lee. "He thought he could have gotten 30."

In addition to assists, Rondowas contributing in other ways as well.

In addition to his usual double-digit assists - 33 games and counting now - he also chipped in defensively both in terms of his individual assignment along with helping his teammates.

Kevin Garnett slipped on the floor while guarding Andrea Bargnani. Rondo quickly left his man to get in Bargnani's face. Rondo's quick reaction caught Bargnani off guard, which resulted in the 7-footer traveling.

But no Celtic victory can be viewed as a one-man mission, as multiple Celtics contributed to the C's pushing back the Raptors run.

Especially Jason Terry, who had a trio of 3s in the third quarter, the last of which capped off a 16-3 run to end the quarter and give the Celtics a 79-64 lead going into the fourth. He finished with a season-high 20 points.

With the win, Boston (6-4) extended their home winning streak against the Raptors to nine in a row.

The C's set the tone by exposing one of the (many) weaknesses in this Raptors roster - first quarter defense.

Toronto came into the game giving up more than 26 points in the first quarter of games this season.

The Celtics, behind the hot shooting of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, led by as many as 14 in the first before settling on a 30-17 lead.

It was clear that the Celtics were in a good flow offensively, courtesy of Rondo's return to the lineup.

In the first quarter, Boston had 14 field goals made, 11 coming on assists. Of those 11 assists, seven came from Rondo.

But the Raptors soon began to exploit the C's biggest weakness with a slew of second and third-shot opportunities in the second quarter.

A put-back basket by Ed Davis cut Boston's lead down to 40-33 before the Celtics called a 20-second time-out.

It didn't matter as Toronto continue to rally back into the game. A 3-pointer by John Lucas made it a 40-36 game, the closest Toronto had been since the first few minutes of the game.

And Rivers once again had to call a time-out, hoping to get his team back on track in what was suddenly a game after having the makings of a blowout earlier.

Terry did his part to stem the bleeding with a steal and subsequent jumper, but Lucas kept Toronto within striking distance as the Raptors went on a 14-7 run to trim Boston's halftime lead to 47-42.

Now a reliever, Kelly returns to Red Sox, Hembree sent down

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Now a reliever, Kelly returns to Red Sox, Hembree sent down

The Red Sox have recalled right-hander Joe Kelly from Triple-A Pawtucket, where he had been working out of the bullpen, and optioned right-handed reliever Heath Hembree back to the PawSox.

Kelly, originally in the Red Sox starting rotation this season, was plagued by injuries and ineffectiveness as a starter (8.46 ERA) but has rebounded as a reliever in Pawtucket (no runs allowed in five relief innings with one walk and nine strikeouts).

Hembree (4-0, 2.41) has been hit hard since the All-Star break, including giving up a run on three hits and allowing two inherited runners to score in a five-run seventh inning of an 11-9 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Saturday night. 

Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Twins

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Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Twins

Three things we learned from the Boston Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Minnesota Twins . . .

1) David Price isn’t having fun

Boston’s $217 million-dollar arm had another rough outing -- this time against a team that already has 60 losses.

Those are the team’s he’s supposed to dominate.

“It’s been terrible,” Price said on how his season has gone following the loss. “Just awful.”

Price’s mistakes have often been credited to mechanical mishaps this year. Farrell mentioned that following his start in New York, Price spent time working on getting more of a downhill trajectory on his pitches.

But Price doesn’t think his issue is physical.

So it must be mental -- but he doesn’t feel that’s the case either.

“Honestly I don’t think it’s either one of those,” Price said when asked which he thought was a factor. “It’s me going out there and making pitches. “

But when it comes down to the barebones, pitching -- much like anything else -- is a physical and mental act.

So when he says it’s neither, that’s almost impossible. It could be both, but it has to be one.

His mind could be racing out on the mound from a manifestation of the issues he’s had throughout the season.

Or it could just be that his fastball isn’t changing planes consistently, like Farrell mentioned.

Both could be possible too, but it takes a certain type of physical approach and mental approach to pitch -- and Price needs to figure out which one is the issue, or how to address both. 

2) Sandy Leon might be coming back to Earth

Over his last five games, Boston’s new leading catcher is hitting .176 (3-for-17), dropping his average to .395.

A couple things have to be understood. His average is still impressive. In the five games prior to this dry spell, Leon went 7-for-19 (.368) But -- much like Jackie Bradley Jr. -- Leon hasn’t been known for his offensive output throughout his career. So dry spells are always tests of how he can respond to adversity and make necessary adjustments quickly.

Furthermore, if he’s not so much falling into a funk as opposed to becoming the real Sandy Leon -- what is Boston getting?

Is his run going to be remembered as an exciting run that lasted much longer than anyone expected? Or if he going to show he’s a legitimate hitter that can hit at least -.260 to .280 with a little pop from the bottom of the line-up?

What’s more, if he turns back into the Sandy Leon he’s been throughout his career, the Red Sox will have an interesting dilemma on how to handle the catching situation once again.

3) Heath Hembree has lost the momentum he gained after being called up.

Following Saturday’s contest, the right-hander was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket after an outing where he went 1/3 of an inning, giving up a run on three hits -- and allowing some inherited runners to score.

Hembree at one point was the savior of the bullpen, stretching his arm out over three innings at a time to bail out the scuffling Red Sox starting rotation that abused it’s bullpen.

His ERA is still only 2.41 -- and this has been the most he’s ever pitched that big league level -- but the Red Sox have seen a change in him since the All-Star break.

Which makes sense, given that hitters have seven hits and two walks against him in his 1.1 innings of work -- spanning four games since the break.

“He’s not confident pitcher right now,” John Farrell said about Hembree before announcing his demotion. “As good as Heath has been for the vast majority of this year -- and really in the whole first half -- the four times out since the break have been the other side of that.”

Joe Kelly will be the pitcher to replace Hembree and Farrell hopes to be able to stretch him out over multiple innings at a time, as well.