Celtics hold off Wizards for first win of season

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Celtics hold off Wizards for first win of season

The Celtics promised to come out Saturday night against the Wizards in a completely different way than they did on Friday night against the Bucks.

And when Paul Pierce drained the first shot of the game a three-pointer it was a good sign that they were going to keep that promise.

While they certainly didn't end the game with the offensive showing they started it, the Celtics held on for an 89-86 win.

With Boston leading by as many as 16 points in the beginning of the game, the Wizards came all the way back to take a one-point lead -- albeit for just a few seconds -- in the fourth quarter.

But it was that same Pierce -- the one who opened the game with a three-pointer -- that closed it for Boston, draining another three, his fourth of the game, in the closing minutes that gave Boston a lead for good.

"It was good to finally get a win under our belt, obviously we know we have to play better," Pierce told CSNNE's A. Sherrod Blakely after the game. "We got off to a good start so we gotta be able to maintain. I thought late there in the third when we got up about 12 or 13 points that's the time where you have a chance to put teams away. We didn't do that, so we still got a long way to go but I'm happy with a win."

He ended the night with a game-high 27 points on 10-for-22 shooting from the field and seven rebounds.

As it turned out, Pierce's three-pointer to start the game was the start of an 17-2 run that spanned roughly eight minutes to start the game, and all of a sudden it was the Celtics playing spoiler for the oppositions' home opener.

It wasn't just Pierce who came to play early on. Kevin Garnett, who finished with 15 points and seven rebounds, didn't appear to be bothered by playing the second night of a back-to-back, factoring into the team's offense early on with a couple made baskets and viscous block that was actually ruled to be goaltending.

He also did it on the defensive end with his teammates who looked to be ready for battle. Boston held the Wizards without a point for over six minutes in the first quarter. Paired with Celtics rookie Jared Sullinger who got his first start of his career, the Celtics held the Wizards to just 32 points in the paint (Boston scored just 26).

"He understands his role," Pierce said of Sullinger. "We don't give him a lot of touches but he's a great rebounder and the touches he gets he has to take advantage of it. but he really fills that middle well, puts his body in the way to get rebounds and that's what we need."

But while it appeared as though the Wizards starters didn't come to play, the same couldn't be said for the Wizards bench.

And that's an understatement

Led by Kevin Seraphin, who finished with 19 points on 7-for-8 shooting and seven rebounds, and Jordan Crawford, who finished with 21 points, the Wizards clawed back into the game. Boston's 17-point lead was nearly cut in half by halftime, as they led 49-42.

Every time the Celtics pushed it to double-digits, the Wizards responded with baskets of their own, and both Seraphin and Crawford were in on the mix.

In fact, trailing 65-52 with just under six minutes to play in the third, it was Seraphin and Crawford who scored every Wizards point to end the quarter on a 13-4 run and close the C's lead to 69-65. It was also those two who gave the Wizards a 43-20 bench scoring advantage through three quarters and eventually a 62-27 advantage (Washington starters scored just 24 points).

With Boston holding on to a slim lead with just under ten minutes to go, Crawford left the game due to a sprained ankle (he later returned). In that short time, Boston rattled off back-to-back three-pointers on consistent possessions courtesy of Jeff Green and Paul Pierce.

But again, the lead wouldn't last. The Wizards' Jannero Pargo, Cartier Martin, and of course, Seraphin, brought the Wizards all the way back.

Rajon Rondo did his best to stave off the comeback, somehow converting on a hoop after his shot was initially blocked just before the shot clock expired.

Rondo finished with another double-double, 12 points and 12 assists, in a game-high 40 minutes, but nonetheless the Wiz took a one-point lead on a Seraphin jumpshot.

That's when Pierce stepped up and took the lead right back.

As it turned out, that would be the last shot Boston needed. Both sides exchanged bricked jumpers and turnovers for the remainder of the game. Boston played the type of defense they're more than capable of playing, and it showed down the stretch at time.

"That's how we gotta play every night," Pierce said. "That type of intensity. We have to come out like that, we have to finish like that. Kevin with some huge stops down the stretch, challenging shots and rebounding and that's how we play. When we don't shoot the ball well we have to depend on our defense."

Jason Terry hit both free throws in the closing seconds to stretch the lead to three points.

A Pargo desperation three-quarter-court shot fell short, and Boston got its first win of the year. It wasn't pretty, but they'll take it.

Bogaerts hitting at a record-setting pace

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Bogaerts hitting at a record-setting pace

A change of scenery is a must for the Red Sox after the rough series in Texas, where they were lucky to walk away with one win.

The pitching staff's struggles were the most apparent, but Xander Bogaerts had arguably his worst series of the season -- 2-for-12 at the plate and two errors in the field.

Although Bogaerts now finds himself three points behind José Altuve (.347) for the American League batting lead, he still leads the major leagues with 108 hits. He has more hits than Daniel Murphy, who’s at .349 in the National League.

And despite his weekend struggles, the Boston shortstop is in position to make a run at history  -- the single-season hits record.

Bogaerts is already in a comfortable spot to break Wade Boggs’ Red Sox record of 240 hits, set in 1985. Through 74 games, Bogaerts has 10 more hits than the Hall-of-Famer had at that point in the season.

He's also ahead of the pace set in 2004 by Ichiro Suzuki, who established the MLB record for most hits in a season with 262 that year. Bogarts has five more hits than Ichiro had through 74 games.

There's no guarantee he'll reach 262, or anything close. Ichiro had a strong finishing kick in '04, batting .418 with 159 hits after his 74th game. In fact, in his final 74 games, he hit .433 with 141 hits. He's left challengers in the dust before: Altuve was equal to Ichiro's pace in 2014 -- both had 105 hits in their first 76 games -- but wound up with "only" 225 hits.

So, admittedly, Bogaerts is facing an uphill battle.

He does have a one advantage over Ichiro, though. In 2004, Suzuki -- still playing for the Mariners -- usually had Randy Winn hitting behind him. Although Winn was a respectable player, he doesn’t command the respect of the hitter who's usually behind Bogaerts: David Ortiz.

Opposing pitchers still don’t plan to attack Bogaerts, but it’d only be worse if pretty much anyone other than Ortiz was coming up next.

And there’s one last set of statistics to consider:

Suzuki finished 2004 with 80 games in which he had at least two hits. That’s 49.7 percent of the games he played in.

Bogaerts has done that 33 times -- 44.6 percent of his games. So he needs to string together some big games if he intends to make an improbable run at the 12-year-old record.

Improbable, yes.

But definitely not impossible.

Lionel Messi says he is quitting Argentina national team

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Lionel Messi says he is quitting Argentina national team

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Lionel Messi says he is quitting Argentina's national team.

Argentina and Messi lost a final for the third year in a row, with Chile winning the Copa America 4-2 on penalty kicks following a 0-0 tie Sunday night.

His nation's career scoring leader with 55 international goals, Messi sent Argentina's first penalty kick over the crossbar.

Messi tells the Argentine network TyC Sports "the national team is over for me. It's been four finals, it's not meant for me. I tried. It was the thing I wanted the most, but I couldn't get it, so I think it's over."

Messi and Argentina lost to Brazil in the 2007 Copa final and to Germany in extra time in the 2014 World Cup final. They lost last year's Copa final to host Chile on penalty kicks.

The 29-year-old Messi has led Barcelona to four Champions League titles.

Perry's Patriots 53-man roster projection

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Perry's Patriots 53-man roster projection

With New England Patriots organized workouts finished until next month, Phil Perry puts together another 53-man roster projection.

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