Celtics prove they're still a defensive power

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Celtics prove they're still a defensive power

BOSTON Doc Rivers found himself doing something he hasn't been able to do in quite a while - praise his team's play defensively.

For all that went the Boston Celtics' way in their 96-78 win over Portland - and there were a lot of things working for them - it was the C's defense that stood out.

"Our defense was fantastic," Rivers said.

Boston's defensive success was due in part to some tweaking on Rivers' part in terms of their coverage schemes in addition to more trapping.

After Wednesday's loss to Brooklyn, the C's came into Friday's game looking to not just win but win on their terms.

And around here, that means putting teams away with strong play defensively.

The C's did just that, especially in the first half when they limited the Blazers to just 33 points on 23.3 percent shooting.

So much for the Celtics being "soft," huh?

That four-letter word - Rivers' description of his team after their loss to the Nets on Wednesday - resonated with the players in the hours leading up to Friday's victory.

"Me individually I took that personal," said Courtney Lee. "I feel that I'm far from being soft. And I think our team took it personal, too."

Especially on defense where the Blazers simply had no breathing room to speak off inside the paint or on the perimeter.

Portland coach Terry Stotts was well aware of how the C's were probably going to play with an extra bit of motivation following Rivers' comments.

"Boston came out really aggressive," Stotts said. "Doc called them a soft team and they came out aggressive."

In addition to limiting the Blazers shooting (they connected on just 34.8 percent of their shots for the game), the Celtics also forced 23 turnovers which led to 18 points.

"We did a couple things different, trapping, it was great," Rivers said.

But maybe most significant, the Celtics were playing Celtics basketball which starts with strong play defensively.

Rivers had a relatively hard practice on Thursday and the C's went pretty hard during Friday morning's shoot-around which is a bit unusual.

But when you look at the result, an impressive win at home, it's hard to argue with Rivers' method of motivation.

"We've got to get our culture right in that way," he said. "And we've got a long way to go, but we're getting better. You can see it, for sure."

Quotes, notes and stars: Wright "today was tough"

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Quotes, notes and stars: Wright "today was tough"

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 10-3 loss to the Rangers:

 

QUOTES

* “On a night when he didn’t have the consistency to the knuckleball that we’ve seen from many of his starts, he went to his fastball a little bit more. [Against] a good fastball hitting team . . . He’s typically made good adjustments staying over the rubber to get his release point out front -- that wasn’t the case [tonight].” John Farrell said about Steven Wright struggling with his knuckleball in his 4.2 inning outing.

* “The ball was spinning a lot out of my hand. It was a little bit hard to grip the ball because the humidity. But it was the opposite -- it was real sticky. That’s the first time I’ve had that ever. But I still felt like I should have figured that out. It was one of those things where I think I started trying to hard . . . I was trying to the throw the kitchen sink at them but it wasn’t working.” Steven Wright said about struggling to find his knuckleball in the 10-3 loss.

* “It’s hard for me because you want to go out there and try and go as deep as you can to try to help the bullpen, but, you know, today was tough, a tough day for me.” Wright said on his disappointment with only going 4.2 innings.

 

 

NOTES

 

* Hanley Ramirez laced his fourth homerun in his last 11 games. In his nine career games at Texas, Ramirez has six homeruns.

* David Ortiz went hitless for the first time since June 12th. Boston’s designated hitter also hasn’t hit a home run since June 17th -- his third longest homerless spell of 2016.

* Xander Bogaerts scored his 57th run of the season, putting him one run behind Ian Kinsler -- the fourth highest total in the majors.

 

 

STARS

 

1) Adrian Beltre

The ex-Red Sox third baseman finished 2-for-4 with an RBI, a walk -- scoring the team high three runs.

 

2) Ian Desmond

Desmond laced his 13th homer of the season in his second at-bat of the game, sparking Texas’ offense with its first run of the game.

 

3) Elvis Andrus

Andrus ended Steven Wright’s day quickly with a three-run triple in the fifth inning, finishing 1-for-2 with two walks and a run.

First impressions from Red Sox' 10-3 loss to Texas

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First impressions from Red Sox' 10-3 loss to Texas

First impressions of the Red Sox 10-3 loss to Texas:

 

Steven Wright can’t be stellar every night.

Although it’s seemed like it lately, it’s just not possible -- especially with a knuckleball.

He wasn’t even that bad Saturday night. He just didn’t get any help from his defense in the fifth frame.

But there’s no denying he didn’t have his best stuff. But whatever the reason, he couldn’t find consistent command or movement from his knuckler and he gave up some hard hits as a result.

Did he receive a fate worse than he pitched? Yes. But what Boston saw from Wright in his Saturday start is there will be times his go-to pitch is off -- and there’s really no way to work around that.

 

Hanley Ramirez’s “timing issue” seems to be coming around.

Although he hasn’t necessarily caught fire, Ramirez hit another home run -- once again to right field.

He’s shown more patience at the plate, and not trying to pull every ball out of the yard.

Ramirez doesn’t have everything completely figured out, but his homeruns have been plenty valuable at this point.

 

Ian Desmond is no joke.

The newly converted centerfielder is 5-for-10 against Boston pitching this series with a run and two RBI.

The ex-Nationals shortstop has good pop and good speed still. He seems to be a lot more comfortable in his new home after hitting .233 for Washington last year with 19 homeruns -- hitting his 13th Saturday night.

 

For all the criticisms Boston’s bullpen has received, the Rangers’ is definitely worse.

Although there wasn’t the same miraculous comeback witnessed Friday night -- and Boston’s pen wasn’t particularly stellar in the loss -- the Ranger relievers did not look good in the second game of the series.

They put themselves into deep counts right away -- and was lucky Boston’s offense was off.

Boston’s bullpen has its faults -- no question -- but it’s not nearly as bad as the one in Texas.

 

The Red Sox unfortunately have to rely on Clay Buchholz Sunday.

The bullpen is beaten down once again. The righty is still fighting for his job, so this would be the best time for him to pitch competitively into the sixth inning -- and maybe even longer.

DC United tops Revolution 2-0

DC United tops Revolution 2-0

WASHINGTON -- Lamar Neagle had a goal and an assist to give D.C. United an early lead that stood up in a 2-0 victory over the New England Revolution on Saturday night.

D.C., after being shut out in its two previous games and four of six, opened the scoring in the 20th minute when Luciano Acosta chipped a perfect pass over the defense to the foot of Neagle, who volleyed it in from 10 yards out.

Sean Franklin scored the second goal, his first of the season, when he knocked in Neagle's cross. Albaro Saborio sent a long ball down the right sideline that Neagle ran down and crossed to Franklin for the easy counter.

D.C. (5-6-5) leapfrogged the Revolution (4-5-7) into fifth in the Eastern Conference with its fourth shutout in the last seven games and improved to 2-0-1 in the series this season.