Celtics-Nets preview: How will KG hold up?

776848.jpg

Celtics-Nets preview: How will KG hold up?

BROOKLYN, NY - The health of Kevin Garnett is always a major concern for Doc Rivers.

It's an even bigger issue now that the C's are on the back end of a stretch in which they play eight games within a 12-day span that includes tonight's nationally-televised matchup at Brooklyn.

Aware of this, Rivers went into Wednesday's game against Utah wanting to limit Garnett's minutes.

Instead, he wound up playing just under 30 minutes, his norm this season. That tally included playing every minute of the fourth quarter which was a first for Garnett this season.

"Honestly, Kevin talked me into that," Rivers said. "I had no intention of playing him more than 25 minutes (against Utah)."

Garnett's presence in the fourth quarter was a key to the win, especially on the boards where he grabbed six of his team-high eight rebounds.

But having gone such a long stretch with no break and then turning around just 24 hours later to play on the road against one of the Eastern Conference's better centers, it leaves Rivers unsure of what he'll get from his defensive anchor tonight.

"We won the (Utah) game, so I'm happy about that," Rivers said. "Check with me after the (Brooklyn) game."

In addition to Garnett's impact, here are a few other keys to tonight's game as the C's try to extend their current winning streak to four in a row.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Nets coach Avery Johnson has the reputation of being a defensive-minded coach, and it's certainly looking that way early on with the Nets. One of the reasons they rank in the league's top 10 in fewest points allowed, is because of the way they defend 3-point shots. Simply put, nobody is doing it any better. Opponents are getting off just 16.5 3-point attempts per game which is the second-fewest in the league. Even more important? Brooklyn opponents are making a league-low 5.3 per game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs Keith Bogans: With Rondo (right ankle) questionable and Garnett potentially gassed after last night, Pierce has to dominate this matchup. Bogans is filling in for Gerald Wallace who suffered a left ankle sprain and has missed Brooklyn's last five games with the injury.

PLAYER TO WATCH: For the potential highlight-worthy dunk is reason enough to keep an eye on Jeff Green. But he's starting to show more consistency in his play of late, especially on offense. He's coming off a season-high 16 points which played a pivotal role in Boston extending its winning streak to three straight following Wednesday's victory over Utah.

STAT TO TRACK: Getting into the paint early and often will once again be a chief objective for the Boston Celtics in tonight's game. More often than not, that leads to a nice run of free throws. This season, Boston ranks third and fourth in free throws made (20.5) and taken (25.8), respectively. Meanwhile, Boston faces a Brooklyn team that has limited opponents to just 13.8 free throws made per game on 18 attempts which ranks second and third, respectively, in the NBA.

First impressions: Red Sox bullpen picks up the slack in 7-3 win

henry-owens-red-sox.jpg

First impressions: Red Sox bullpen picks up the slack in 7-3 win

CHICAGO -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 7-3 win over the White Sox:

* Henry Owens doesn't throw enough strikes to remain in the rotation.

Owens's time was coming to an end anyway, what with the imminent return of Eduardo Rodriguez.

But Owens may have pitched his way out of another start with his outing Thursday night. He faced 16 hitters and walked six hitters.

In every inning he began, he allowed the leadoff hitter to reach. This, despite his teammates scoring runs for him in every previous half inning.

* For a team without a lot of homers, the Red Sox hit their share Thursday night.

The Sox came into the game tied for 11th in homers in the American League, then hit three in the first six innings.

Each one of the homers -- by Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez and Jackie Bradley - came with the bases empty, but together, they helped the Red Sox hold off the White Sox.

Ramirez's homer was particularly encouraging, since it was his second in the last three nights, and like the one he hit on Tuesday, was hit to the opposite field.

* The bullpen picked up a lot of slack.

When the Henry Owens Walkfest mercifully ended in the fourth inning, the Red Sox still had 18 outs to get.

Heath Hembree stumbled some, allowing a run on five hits -- the first run he's allowed this season -- but Matt Barnes, Junichi Tazawa, Robbie Ross. Jr took it from there, chipping in for the final 4 1/3 innings, all scoreless.

Thus far this season, the Red Sox have won four games in which their starter failed to get to the fifth inning. Some of that is a tribute to the offense, which has rallied a few times to make up early deficits.

But it's also due in part to the bullpen, which has provided quality relief and bought time for the offense to catch up.

* The Sox continue to play well on the road.

Through the first four road series, the Red Sox are 4-0-1, having done no worse than a split in their road sets to date.

Learning to win on the road now can be a useful trait for this team in the second half, when the schedule has them playing far more games away from home in the final two and a half months of the season.

* Boston had a balanced offensive attack.

Every member of the starting lineup except one Thursday had either an extra-base hit or a sacrifice fly. Leadoff hitter Mookie Betts, who continues to run hot and cold, was the only starter without one or the other, though he did have a single, walk twice and score a run.

In all, seven different players recorded one RBI.

Grab Bag: Who’s the best Boston sports athlete to wear No. 5?

grabbag5051462499380116_3450k_1280x720_680429123827.jpg

Grab Bag: Who’s the best Boston sports athlete to wear No. 5?

In a game of Grab Bag, Trenni Kusnierek and Gary Tanguay discuss the best player to wear No. 5 in Boston sports history. They also touch on what the biggest rip-off is in Foxboro: Tom Brady’s $200 cookbook or $40 parking at Gillette?

“I hate that cookbook so much. It’s just emblematic of everything that’s wrong with the top one percent,” said Trenni Kusnierek. “Take that avocado ice cream and shove it. I’m gonna go eat some thick, fatty custard.”

Brady might say Trenni will 'feel the burn' in her arteries if she doesn’t follow the rules of his cookbook. But, sorry Tom, the far majority of Americans can’t afford to spend a whole paycheck on a book, of all things, nevermind support the diet the book teaches.

At least at Gillette you get to enjoy a football game.