Celtics-Hawks review: Bradley's effort sparks Celtics

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Celtics-Hawks review: Bradley's effort sparks Celtics

ATLANTA Avery Bradley like most of his Boston Celtics teammates, didn't come out playing well to start the game.

"That first half, I didn't have any energy," he told CSNNE.com. "But I came at halftime and told myself, I have to find that energy somewhere and that's what I did; I played as hard as I could."

And Bradley's effort is indeed becoming contagious with his Celtics teammates stepping up their play defensively as well in the second half as Boston rallied for an 89-81 win over Atlanta.

Bradley had six points and four rebounds, but numbers do little justice when it comes to explaining the impact he has made on the C's in just his second game back.

His ability to pick up ball-handlers the full length of the court has a tendency to wear down opponents, evident by Atlanta's guards turning the ball over six times in the second half after not committing a single turnover in the first half.

"I just wanted to give everything I could give. That's what I did," Bradley said.

For all that went right for the C's in the second half, Celtics coach Doc Rivers pointed out that the play of his perimeter players defensively was instrumental.

"We pressured the ball with our two guards (Bradley and Rajon Rondo) and that made a huge difference," Rivers said.

Here are some other keys highlighted prior to the game, and how they actually played out as the Celtics (16-17) string together back-to-back wins for the first time in nearly a month (Dec. 8 and Dec. 12).

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: A big part of Boston's success against the Pacers on Friday was their ability to hold their own on the boards. In fact, Boston was plus-2 on the boards which is a major coup for them. They will look to be just as good or better tonight.

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics pulled off a rare feat in out-rebounding an opponent two games in a row. Boston was plus-8 (44-36) on the boards against the Hawks who have also had their struggles on the board. Like Boston, the league's worst rebounding team, Atlanta is also ranked in the bottom 10 (No. 24) with 49 rebounds per game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs Al Horford: Both have the ability to score around the basket as well as facing the basket. But Horford's experience and youthfulness give him a slight edge over the future Hall of Famer.

WHAT WE SAW: Garnett was an efficient scorer (14 points, 7-for-12 shooting) who did a much better job on the boards than his five rebounds would indicated. Meanwhile, Horford's impact was never felt offensively (6 points, 2-for-8 shooting) and his nine rebounds didn't do much to help the Hawks' efforts, either.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jason Terry could use a stretch of consistent play which isn't coming anytime soon for the Celtics. Against the Pacers, he missed six of his eight shots from the field and finished with six points.

WHAT WE SAW: Terry had another less-than-stellar night shooting the ball, scoring four points on 2-for-8 shooting despite the Celtics making an effort to free him up for shots. Still, he was part of a perimeter defensive unit that stymied the Atlanta guards in the second half.

STAT TO TRACK: Boston should capitalize on an Atlanta team that sends opposing teams to the free throw line - a lot. Hawks opponents are averaging 14.5 free throws made and 18.4 free throw attempts - both league highs.

WHAT WE SAW: Free throw shooting was never a factor in tonight's outcome, although the Celtics know they have to do better than 8-for-12 from the line.

Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza take their place among legends in Cooperstown

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Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza take their place among legends in Cooperstown

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Two players who began their careers at opposite ends of the spectrum nearly three decades ago ended up in the same place on Sunday — with their names etched on plaques at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

For Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza, the culmination of their long journeys was tinged with tears all around.

"I stand up here humbled and overwhelmed," Griffey said, staring out at his family and tens of thousands of fans. "I can't describe how it feels."

The two became a piece of history on their special day. Griffey, the first pick of the 1987 amateur draft, became the highest pick ever inducted. Piazza, a 62nd-round pick the next year —No. 1,390 — is the lowest pick to enter the Hall of Fame.

Griffey played 22 big-league seasons with the Mariners, Reds and White Sox and was selected on a record 99.32 percent of ballots cast, an affirmation of sorts for his clean performance during baseball's so-called Steroids Era.

A 13-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove Award winner in center field, Griffey hit 630 home runs, sixth all-time, and drove in 1,836 runs. He also was the American League MVP in 1997, drove in at least 100 runs in eight seasons, and won seven Silver Slugger Awards.

Griffey, who fell just three votes shy of being the first unanimous selection, hit 417 of his 630 homers and won all 10 of his Gold Gloves with the Seattle Mariners. He played the first 11 seasons of his career with the Mariners and led them to the playoffs for the first two times in franchise history.

"Thirteen years with the Seattle Mariners, from the day I got drafted, Seattle, Washington, has been a big part of my life," Griffey said, punctuating the end of his speech by putting a baseball cap on backward as he did throughout his career.

"I'm going to leave you with one thing. In 22 years I learned that one team will treat you the best, and that's your first team. I'm damn proud to be a Seattle Mariner."

Dubbed "The Natural" for his effortless excellence at the plate and in center field, Griffey avoided the Hall of Fame until his special weekend because he wanted his first walk through the front doors of the stately building on Main Street to be with his kids, whom he singled out one by one in his 20-minute speech.

"There are two misconceptions about me — I didn't work hard and everything I did I made look easy," Griffey said. "Just because I made it look easy doesn't mean that it was. You don't become a Hall of Famer by not working, but working day in and day out."

Griffey's mom, Birdie, and his father, former Cincinnati Reds star Ken Sr., both cancer survivors and integral to his rise to stardom, were front and center in the first row.

"To my dad, who taught me how to play this game and to my mom, the strongest woman I know," Junior said. "To have to be mom and dad, she was our biggest fan and our biggest critic. She's the only woman I know that lives in one house and runs five others."

Selected in the draft by the Dodgers after Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, a close friend of Piazza'a father, Vince, put in a good word, Piazza struggled.

He briefly quit the game while in the minor leagues, returned and persevered despite a heavy workload as he switched from first base to catcher and teammates criticized his erratic play.

Mom and dad were foremost on his mind, too.

"Dad always dreamed of playing in the major leagues," said Piazza, just the second Hall of Famer depicted on his plaque wearing a Mets cap, after Tom Seaver in 1992.

"He could not follow that dream because of the realities of life. My father's faith in me, often greater than my own, is the single most important factor of me being inducted into this Hall of Fame. Thank you dad. We made it, dad. The race is over. Now it's time to smell the roses."

Piazza played 16 years with the Dodgers, Marlins, Mets, Padres and Athletics and hit 427 home runs, including a major league record 396 as a catcher. A 12-time All-Star, Piazza won 10 Silver Slugger Awards and finished in the top five of his league's MVP voting four times.

Perhaps even more impressive, Piazza, a .308 career hitter, posted six seasons with at least 30 home runs, 100 RBIs and a .300 batting average (all other catchers in baseball history combined have posted nine such seasons).

Though the Dodgers gave him his start, Piazza found a home in New York when he was traded to the Mets in May 1998.

Three years later, he became a hero to the hometown fans with perhaps the most notable home run of his career. His two-run shot in the eighth inning at Shea Stadium lifted the Mets to a 3-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves in the first sporting event played in New York after the 9/11 terror attacks.
Piazza paid tribute to that moment.

"To witness the darkest evil of the human heart ... will be forever burned in my soul," Piazza said. "But from tragedy and sorrow came bravery, love, compassion, character and eventual healing.

"Many of you give me praise for the two-run home run in the first game back on Sept. 21st, but the true praise belongs to police, firefighters, first responders that knew that they were going to die, but went forward anyway. I pray that we never forget their sacrifice."

Attendance was estimated at around 50,000 by the Hall of Fame, tying 1999 when George Brett, Nolan Ryan and Robin Young were inducted, for second-most all time behind 2007 (Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn).

Copyright The Associated Press

 

First impressions of Red Sox' 8-7 win over Twins

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First impressions of Red Sox' 8-7 win over Twins

BOSTON -- First impressions of the Red Sox' 8-7 win over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday at Fenway Park:
 
Rick Porcello did all he needed to do.

Although he’s still undefeated thus far at home (10-0), Porcello’s start could have easily gone better for him -- especially if Brock Holt catches a few fly balls hit his way.

Regardless, he's 13-2 with a 3.57 ERA and still maintained the title of Boston’s “most reliable pitcher.”

Yes, he gave up five runs -- but four were earned. And Juan Centeno’s “double” that was lost in the sun by Holt should’ve been caught -- accounting for at least one more run.

Porcello had another start where the bullpen was overworked the previous day in a tough loss. Furthermore, his teammates were expected to perform a little more than 12 hours after a rough four-hour contest.

This is a game where the numbers don’t do his performance justice -- but at the same time, Porcello left the bullpen to hold a three-run lead in the final 2 1/3 innings.
 
The Red Sox need Mookie Betts back in right.

If that wasn’t made evident with Michael Martinez’s play Saturday night, Holt made it clear when he couldn’t corral Max Kepler’s deep fly to right in the fourth.

Although the sun could’ve played a factor, Holt got there in time. So the ball has to be caught. Instead, he was too worried about the hip-height wall that he was heading toward at full steam.

Not too mention the fly ball he dropped looking into the sun in the seventh -- which was somehow ruled a hit. As much as the Green Monster is a difficult beast to master, right field at Fenway can be just as difficult.
 
Hanley Ramirez continues to take advantage of pitcher’s mistakes.

The best part about Ramirez’s third-inning, three-run blast was it came on a first pitch changeup -- not exactly something hitters are sitting on out the gate.

Additionally, Tommy Millone’s changeup ran in on Ramirez, instead of away from him -- given Millone is a lefty and Ramirez a right-handed hitter.

If Ramirez gets that pitch a month ago, he rips in foul or rolls over the top of it. Instead, he keeps displaying that he can still pull the ball with power.