Celtics-Jazz preview: Squeaking out wins

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Celtics-Jazz preview: Squeaking out wins

BOSTON If Doc Rivers had his way, every game would be a Celtics blowout win.

But there is inherent value in winning games that come down to the wire. It strengthens the belief that the Celtics, for all the struggles they have had to start the season, are still mentally tough enough to win close games.

With a 4-3 record, the Celtics' average margin of victory has been just 4.8 points. Only two teams have a closer margin of victory: Sacramento' (2.0 points per win) and Indiana (4.7).

"We're a veteran ball club," said C's guard Jason Terry. "We thrive in situations where it's a tight ball game. We've all been in that situation plenty of times. We know what we have to do to close games out."

Strong defense in the fourth quarter, limiting turnovers and simply playing with greater effort has been vital to Boston finding a way to pull out close wins this season.

All those dynamics will be challenged when the C's host the Utah Jazz tonight. Here are some other keys for the game as the Celtics look for their fifth win in the last six games.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Every team has a flaw that the opponent wants to exploit. For the Celtics, it is rebounding. I know . . . shocking. Boston ranks dead last on the glass at 46 rebounds per game. They face a Utah team that once again is among the NBA's best on the boards. Utah hauls in 55 rebounds per game which ranks sixth in the NBA.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs. Paul Millsap. Tonight's matchup here offers up a rare treat: two power forwards who are actually ... power forwards. Bass is the better face-up scorer, but you have to give Millsap the edge when it comes to rebounding.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Chris Wilcox isn't putting up huge numbers for the Celtics, but he is contributing in ways that should help ease some of the interior pressure defensively that's squarely on the shoulders of Kevin Garnett. It's well documented how significant the drop-off is when Garnett leaves the game to take a rest. Wilcox is rounding into shape so that Garnett taking a break may not necessarily be as big an issue in the future. "I'm getting there; I'm getting there," Wilcox said. "I just have to keep on grinding man, making sure I do my part to help this team win. When I come in for KG, that means defense and rebounding."

STAT TO TRACK: Both teams have had some pretty good halftime spiels from their coaches, evident by the third quarter being so good to them offensively. Boston averages 25.6 points in the third quarter this season which ranks seventh in the NBA. Meanwhile the Jazz aren't too far behind with 25.2 points in the third quarter which ranks ninth in the league.

Scal: Once you get Jimmy Butler, you get... Kevin Durant

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Scal: Once you get Jimmy Butler, you get... Kevin Durant

Kyle Draper, A. Sherrod Blakely and Brian Scalabrine discuss the NBA free agency and how it may impact the Celtics.

“You have cap space, you have draft picks, so you should be excited moving forward,” said Scalabrine. “Now it all comes down to where the ping-pong balls drop. If they drop and we’re one, two, or three, that is a valuable asset.”

But who could the Celtics trade the pick for?

“Here’s the name if it’s one, two, or three: Chicago trades Jimmy Butler. They want to sell the idea that they can rebuild and they can rebuild with a top three pick. Once you get Jimmy Butler…then you get who!?”

Kevin Durant, right?

Watch the video for more.  

Red Sox-Yankees: Pregame news and observations

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Red Sox-Yankees: Pregame news and observations

BOSTON -- As we get ready for the first Red Sox-Yankee series of the season, some pregame news and observations:

* Eduardo Rodriguez was at Fenway, to be checked by the training staff after his rehab outing in Syracuse Thursday night. Rodriguez allowed three runs -- two earned -- in 3 2/3 innings. He allowed six hits and walked three while striking out two.

"He came through it fine from a health standpoint,'' said John Farrell. "He was probably a little rusty. He's going to need some innings.''
Rodriguez is scheduled to pitch again Tuesday for Pawtucket. The Sox are undecided about what their plans are beyond that, but it seems likely he'll make another rehab start after that.

* Blake Swihart made his debut in the outfield Thursday, and according to Farrell, had just one chance in left: a ball that he initially lost in the lights before eventually recovering.

"The first game, after some work...(he's), as we all are: a work in progress,'' said Farrell. "The footwork was initially something that we had to address (in pre-game work). We've had (minor league outfield coordinator) Billy McMillon in there to work with him. It's been about some of that first-step reads and jumps to his routes to get accustomed to. Here's a guy, for the last four or five years, the game is coming to him (behind the plate). Now, all of a sudden, he's reacting to balls off the bat. It's a completely different view of the game. This is going to take some time in the outfield.''

Farrell said the goal is to get Swihart in the outfield a couple of times per week.

* Farrell hinted that the Sox may be close to dropping a pitcher -- they currently are carrying 13 - and adding another position player. For the past week, the Sox have had just three extra position players on the 25-man roster.

"Maybe (Friday night) might have some impact on that,'' said Farrell, suggesting that as long as starter Henry Owens doesn't need relief help early, the Sox may be in a position tomorrow to swap a reliever for a role player.

As it stands, the Sox have an extra catcher, outfielder Chris Young and infielder Josh Rutledge. Not long ago, they had infielder Marco Hernandez up, but Farrell said it wasn't a given that the player added will be an infielder.

"I don't think we need to center around an infielder,'' said Farrell. "The best complement would be a left-handed bat.''

On the 40-man roster, that profile fits only two players: Hernandez and Swihart, who's a switch-hitter.

Hernandez was optioned back to Pawtucket on April 20, and rules state that a player must spend 10 days in the minors before being recalled. On Saturday, that 10-day period will have elapsed.

It's highly unlikely that Swihart would be brought back so soon, since the Sox want him to continue his development behind the plate and get more comfortable in the outfield.

"We wanted him to come up here and not play more than half the week,'' said Farrell. "I think that derails everything that we're trying to accomplished currently.''

* Joe Kelly (shoulder impingement) threw a 35-pitch bullpen Friday and will throw long-toss Sunday, with another bullpen set for Tuesday. After that, the Sox will schedule his first rehab assignment for an affiliate.

"He's going to need some innings, obviously,'' said Farrell. "We haven't gotten him to full speed yet. For any pitcher, that last five to ten percent of intensity is always the benchmark. We're going to have to build him up to 80-plus pitches.''

* The Red Sox lost lefty Edwin Escobar on a waiver claim to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Escobar was taken off the 40-man roster and designated for assignment when the Sox had to get William Cuevas onto the 40-man roster.

Report: Three NFL owners want Goodell out

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Report: Three NFL owners want Goodell out

According to a site called The Daily Caller, a news site founded by conservative pundit Tucker Carlson, there are three NFL owners who want Roger Goodell out as commissioner. 

"I don't like him," one owner said. "I think it's time for a new commissioner."

Another owner told The Daily Caller, "He's doing things to make himself known, whereas past commissioners have acted only to make the league better. He is creating too many rules that make the game uninteresting. He can be accurately compared to our massive federal government."

A third owner took umbrage with Goodell's salary, which was estimated at about $34 million for last year.

"He’s a figure head that makes a lot more than the people risking their lives and futures every snap when he’s on his couch watching the games," the third owner said.