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.

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

When it comes to Pablo Sandoval and his weight, a picture is worth a thousand words.

During spring training it wasn’t a good thing. Sandoval made headlines when a number of photos revealed significant weight gain for the Red Sox third baseman.

But the last two images have been more positive for Sandoval.

In October, a noticeably thinner Sandoval was photographed at an FC Barcelona game.

On Monday, Dan Roche of WBZ tweeted a more recent picture of the new-look Sandoval.

Sandoval, 30, is entering the third season of a five-year, $95 million contract. In his lone full season in Boston, 2015, Sandoval hit .245/.292/.366 with 10 homers and 47 RBI.

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The newly agreed upon Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement features higher taxes and additional penalties for exceeding the competitive balance threshold -- and don't think the Red Sox haven't noticed.

The Red Sox went over the threshold in both 2015 and 2016, and should they do so again in 2017, they would face their highest tax rate yet at 50 percent. Additionally, there are provisions that could cost a team in such a situation to forfeit draft picks as well as a reduced pool of money to sign its picks.

None of which means that the Red Sox won't definitively stay under the $195 million threshold for the upcoming season. At the same time, however, it remains a consideration, acknowledged Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

"You would always like to be under the CBT (competitive balance tax) if you could,'' offered Dombrowski. "And the reason why is that are penalties attached for going over, so nobody likes to (pay) penalties.

"However, the Red Sox, if you follow history, have been up-and-down, right around that number. We were over it last year and the year before that. So I would prefer (to be under in 2017). However, a little bit more driving force in that regard is that there are stricter penalties now attached to going over. And some of them involve, for the first time, differences in draft choices and sacrificing money to sign players and that type of thing. So there's a little bit more drive (to stay under).

"But I can't tell you where we're going to end up. Eventually, does it factor (in)? Yeah. But until we really get into the winter time and see where we are, will I make an unequivocal (statement about staying under the CBT)? Maybe we won't. But there are penalties that I would rather not be in position to incur.''

Dombrowski stressed that he's not under a "mandate'' from ownership to stay under the CBT.

"But I am under an awareness of the penalties,'' he said. "Last year, I would have preferred to be under, too, but it just worked for us to be above it, because we thought that would be the best way to win a championship at the time.''

He added: "I think we're going to have a good club either way.''

But it's clear that the CBT is part of the reason the Red Sox aren't being more aggressive toward some premium free agents such as first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion, who is said to be looking for at least a four-year deal at an annual average value of more than $20 million.

Currently, the Red Sox have nearly $150 million in guaranteed contracts for 2017, plus a handful of arbitration-eligible players, some of whom (Drew Pomeranz, Jackie Bradley Jr.) will see significant raises.

Together, with insurance premiums and others costs tallied, the Sox stand at nearly $180 million, just $15 million under the 2017 tax.

"I've said all along I've wanted to stay away from long-term contracts for hitters at this point,'' Dombrowski said of the current free agent class, "(especially) with some of the guys we have in our organization coming. I just haven't felt that that's a wise thing to do.''

The Sox saw two potential DHs come off the board over the weekend, with Carlos Beltran signing a one-year $16 million deal with Houston and Matt Holliday getting $13 million from the Yankees. Either could have filled the vacancy left by David Ortiz's retirement, but Dombrowski would also be taking on another another eight-figure salary, pushing the Sox well past the CBT.

"I figured we would wait to see what ends up taking place later on,'' said Dombrowski, "and see who's out there.''