Celtics re-discover defensive dominance

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Celtics re-discover defensive dominance

BOSTON At the end of the first quarter, the Boston Celtics had almost twice as many made field goals (11) as the Sixers (6).

That, combined with a slight rebounding advantage (10-9) at that point positioned them to do what Doc Rivers has been patiently waiting to see all season - a sustained night of good defense.

Rivers got his wish on Saturday as the Celtics defeated Philadelphia 92-79 in a game that they led from the beginning until the final horn sounded.

Focusing on the Celtics' 53.3 percent shooting as being the key to their win over the Sixers is easy.

But knocking down all those shots had little to do with one of the Celtics delivering one of their more dominant defensive performances this season.

"Our defense is why we won," Rivers said.

And it wasn't your typical, man-to-man garden variety, either.

There was a lot of that, but Rivers also used some zone defense along with an occasional double-team just to keep the Sixers off balance.

It worked.

Evan Turner, who lit the C's up for 26 points and 10 rebounds on Friday night, had just 13 points and three rebounds on Saturday.

And Jrue Holiday, a player Rivers has pointed out repeatedly as a likely all-star this season, had just 11 points on 4-for-13 shooting from the field.

"When you play defense like that, you usually win games," Rivers said.

And that is where the Celtics should be at right now.

There's no denying that they have made progress on several fronts in the past couple of weeks.

But that progress at some point has to result in victories which have been few and far between for Boston (11-9) this year.

"We see we're getting better day-in and day-out on tape," said Celtics wing Courtney Lee. "But when we see it when we lose, we kind of look back at it like, 'are these things working for us? But like I said, you can see us coming together. Our rotations (defensively) and everything is getting better so we just have to stick with it."

For veterans like Paul Pierce, the idea of committing to being a defensive-minded team is easy to do.

Under Doc Rivers, there's really no choice in the matter.

Players understanding this principle isn't the issue. It's how they go about applying that knowledge to their actual play.

Part of his job as a leader on this team is to remind some of the new guys and some of the returners too, that they are making progress towards becoming the type of team defensively they have to evolve into in order to be successful.

"We know when we commit to that end of the floor and we're all on the same page, that's what we are," Pierce said. "We saw glimpses of that (Friday night in Philadelphia) for most of the game and I told the guys after the game if we continue to play like that, then we're going to win a lot of games than we have. So we have to stick to our principles and stay consistent with that and continue to improve."

And win ... don't forget to win, Celtics.

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox lose, but 'celebrate anyway'

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox lose, but 'celebrate anyway'

NEW YORK - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 5-3 loss in New York.

 

QUOTES:

"I feel pretty good. Let's put it this way: Where we are now, I wouldn't want to play us going into the playoffs." - Red Sox principal owner John Henry

"I wanted to celebrate on that field so bad, but it is what it is. We end up being the first place team in the American League, and we're going to celebrate anyway." - David Ortiz, after the Red Sox lose on a walkoff, but clinch the division anyway.

“I’ll still be trying to hit the next four games, but if it just happens to be my last one (homer of his career), it’ll be pretty special." - Mark Teixeira, who's retiring Sunday and hit the walk-off grand slam.

 

NOTES:

* Joe Kelly became the first Red Sox pitcher to allow a walkoff grand slam since Julian Tavarez in 2006.

* Craig Kimbrel failed to record an out -- in 28 pitches -- marking the third time in 410 career appearances that that happened.

* Koji Uehara posted his 14th straight scoreless appearance.

* Brad Ziegler hasn't allowed an earned run in his last 19 appearances.

* Dustin Pedroia has scored five runs and knocked in seven in his last five games.

* Mookie Betts posted his major league-leading 66th multi-hit game.

* Clay Buchholz has a 2.63 ERA in his last seven starts.

* The one hit allowed by Buchholz marks the fewest hits allowed by him in a non-injury-shortened game since his no-hitter in 2007.

* The win marked only the second time the Red Sox have clinched the A.L. East away from home. The other time was in Cleveland in 1998.

 

STARS:

1) Mark Teixeira

The first baseman is going out in style. In the final week of his career, he hit his second game-winning homer of the week, with Wednesday's being a walk-off grand slam.

2) Clay Buchholz

Buchholz was brilliant, allowing three baserunners -- an infield hit and two walks -- in six shutout innings.

3) Mookie Betts

Betts delivered what appeared to be the game's biggest blow -- a two-run chopped double in the eighth to break open a scoreless tie.

 

Clay Buchholz: David Ortiz retirement served as motivation to Red Sox

Clay Buchholz: David Ortiz retirement served as motivation to Red Sox

Clay Buchholz talks with Trenni Kusnierek about the Red Sox motivation from David Ortiz announcing it was his last year.