Celtics-Rockets preview: C's look to keep rolling

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Celtics-Rockets preview: C's look to keep rolling

BOSTON When the Boston Celtics step on the floor tonight, their biggest competition won't be the Houston Rockets.

It'll be complacency which can be an extremely difficult foe to beat when you're riding high like the Celtics are these days.

They come into tonight's game against Houston with a four-game winning streak, their longest stretch of success this season.

But helping keep their edge should be the fact that the Rockets have been one of the hottest teams in the NBA as well, winning 10 of their last 13 games.

And on top of that, Boston wouldn't mind a little payback for the 101-89 loss they suffered in Houston earlier this year, a game that wasn't nearly as close as the final score might indicate.

"We can't get too comfortable and think we finally arrived," said Paul Pierce. "We just have to be consistent with everything we do; understand why we are winning these games and continue to do that."

Just as they have done in past years, Boston's defense has fueled their success during this current winning streak.

This season, Boston is giving up 96.8 points per game which is the eighth-fewest points allowed. During their four-game winning streak, opponents are just barely cracking the 80-point plateau with the C's giving up 82.8 points per game.

"We have to continue to do that," Pierce added. "It starts in practice and that carries over into the game."

The C's certainly hope so with tip-off just a few hours away. Boston's defense will certainly be a key factor in tonight's game. Here are a few others to keep an eye on as Boston tries to keep on its winning ways against another team that's playing well of late.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Rockets will look to get out and run and run and ... did I mention they like to run? The NBA's youngest team is also its highest scoring club, with Houston averaging a league-high 106 points per game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs Chandler Parsons: This is a matchup that on paper you would think is lopsidedly in favor of the Celtics. But Pierce has to go at Parsons as if he's Quentin Richardson from a couple years back to avoid a repeat of Houston's win over Boston in November in which Parsons had a near triple-double of 15 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jared Sullinger is starting to make a name for himself, which means teams will start to pay a lot more attention to the 6-foot-9 rookie. He's been a significant part of the C's current winning streak, and he'll look to keep it going tonight as both a rebounder and scorer around the basket.

STAT TO TRACK: Boston has been among the NBA's better teams at forcing turnovers, which has been a major weakness of the Rockets all season. They come into tonight's game averaging a league-high 16.6 turnovers per game while the C's are forcing teams to commit 15.7 turnovers which ranks fourth in the league.

Quotes, notes and stars: Ziegler 'a Godsend' for Red Sox bullpen

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Quotes, notes and stars: Ziegler 'a Godsend' for Red Sox bullpen

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Minnesota Twins:

 
QUOTES

“We’ve come off a couple of days where we’re a pitch away or a swing of the bat away from being in a spot where we’re possibly looking at four consecutive in this series. But to pressed as we were -- give them credit they didn’t give in. They kept coming back -- they mounted some threats late.” - John Farrell said on the Red Sox the third consecutive in which they’d blown the lead.

“He’s been a Godsend to be honest. It’s a comfortable inning. The ball’s on the ground . . . He’s very calm, he’s experienced it . . . His addition here has given us a huge boost in line with the injuries to Koji [Uehara] and Craig [Kimbrel]” -  Farrell said on having Ziegler as an option.

“I’ll be honest, I get nervous when I’m watching, sixth, seventh, eighth inning of the game. I’ve picked my fingernails down too low one night. It’s a lot easier for me when I’m on the mound.” - Ziegler on dealing with his adrenaline and excitement when entering a game.

“That’s baseball. I mean, over the course of 162 games those sort of things are going to happen and you just keep battling and doing your job.” - Rick Porcello said about things not going entirely his way, despite feeling good on the mound.

“Yes. Because he threw me a changeup first pitch in my first at-bat. Sometimes you guess right.” - Hanley Ramirez said on why he was expecting a changeup from Tommy Milone that he turned into a three-run home run in the third inning

“I even didn’t know -- to be honest – that he threw over. When I was halfway I think I didn’t see like the catcher get up to throw the ball or anything so I figured maybe he threw to first. Once I saw Dozier catch it [one] way, I tried to [go] the other way. ” - Xander Bogaerts on avoiding the tag when he stole second in the fifth.

 

NOTES

* Xander Bogaerts finished 3-for-4 and has had multiple hits in nine of his last 11 contests. He leads MLB with 17 three-hit games.

* The Red Sox have now homered in 15 straight games, slugging 28 in that span.

* Hanley Ramirez has five home runs in his last five games, eight in his last 23. Over those 23 games, Ramirez is batting .337 (28-for-83) with 18 runs, seven doubles and 21 RBI to go with the eight homers.

* Three of Travis Shaw’s last four hits have been for extra bases -- 10 of his last 14 -- with the most recent being his three-run homerun Sunday. Shaw has also homered in four the last five series.

* Rick Porcello has won seven straight decisions and now has ten wins at home -- remaining undefeated at Fenway Park.

 

STARS

1) Hanley Ramirez

Ramirez slugged his fifth home run in his last five games, knocking in three runs. Sunday's DH finished 2-for-4 and scored two runs in the game.

2) Juan Centeno

Minnesota’s catcher finished 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBI in the losing effort

3) Rick Porcello

Despite giving up five runs (four earned) in his 6.2 inning of work, Porcello did what he needed to do to keep Boston in the lead. Had it not been for some shaky fielding, Porcello’s numbers might have been a better representation of how he looked and felt.

Kimbrel's knee 'feels great,' pushing himself towards return

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Kimbrel's knee 'feels great,' pushing himself towards return

BOSTON -- Just before the All-Star break, it almost seemed like the Red Sox were bound to lose Craig Kimbrel for six weeks potentially with the knee damage.

However, prior to Saturday’s game, John Farrell sounded optimistic about Kimbrel return more towards the three-week timetable.

The closer has gotten back to what he was working on prior to his injury, including his breaking ball.

“I’m out there spinning the ball right now,” Kimbrel said. “My knee feels great, so I’m just working on getting back into my mechanics. Staying compact and before I hurt my knee I was working on a few things. Just getting back to focusing on [those things].”

Kimbrel also stated that his arm “feels great” which was originally a concern for the Red Sox Front Office when he was injured -- fearing the knee would somehow lead to arm problems later.

Although things seem to almost be moving too fast for Kimbrel, he feels like the process has taken too long.

“It may look like a pretty fast recovery but it feels like forever,” Kimbrel said. “I think the way some people may look at it, it might be a little fast, but I’m not doing anything that is uncomfortable. I’m pushing myself, but I’m not pushing myself to a point where it doesn’t feel good. Testing everything out, that’s kind of where it is.

“Went in there and we didn’t really fix anything. Just kind of cut some cartilage out and right now it’s [about] getting my muscles firing like they’re supposed to. That’s coming back pretty fast because we were able to keep the swelling down right after surgery, so I was able to get back into the weight room and get back to the range of motion pretty quick.”

The righty will throw his first bullpen since the surgery and his confident he’ll feel good on the mound.

In fact, he thinks he could’ve thrown off the mound Sunday, but still hasn’t tested one important responsibility of a pitcher.

“I think I could throw off the mound,” Kimbrel said. “I don’t know if I can run in from the bullpen yet. Tomorrow we’re going to get off the mound, throw a bullpen and then can start pushing off and running.

“Fielding my position and cutting -- things like that. The kind of things where if a guy bunts on me [or] if I’ve gotta cover first -- I’ve gotta be able to do things like that.”