Celtics-Warriors preview: C's in search of a win

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Celtics-Warriors preview: C's in search of a win

SAN FRANCISCO The NBA and the stock market are not one in the same especially when it comes to forecasting future success based on the past.

That's too bad for the Boston Celtics, who otherwise would feel pretty good about their prospects for victory heading into tonight's game at Golden State.

The C's have dominated this series in recent years, stringing together victories in each of their last three trips to Oracle Arena.

But the Warriors, much like the C's last opponent (the Los Angeles Clippers) are a much different - and better - team now than they have been in past years.

Golden State (20-10) is off to one of their best starts in years, giving their always-rabid fan base even more to cheer about.

This is only the third time since winning an NBA title in 1975 that the Warriors have 20 or more wins after the first 30 games of the season.

Meanwhile, the Celtics (14-14) are looking for one thing tonight: a victory.

Nothing more.

Nothing less.

"That's the approach we have to take to every game on this trip," said C's guard Jason Terry. "We want to develop some consistency, obviously. But you have to starting winning games first."

Sounds good and relatively easy to do.

But as we have seen all season with the Celtics, most things are easier - much easier - said than done.

The Celtics are still licking their wounds from a 106-77 thrashing Thursday night at the hands of the Clippers, easily the worst defeat of the season for the C's and among the worst since the 2008 championship season.

Boston has tried an assortment of lineup combinations with none showing any signs of being one the C's can consistently count on to produce.

It has created a darkening cloud over this season's team, a squad that talked boldly at the beginning of the season as one that could play with the best.

Oh, they're playing with the best - just not very well.

Here are some keys to tonight's game as the Celtics look to avoid slipping below-.500 for the first time since Nov. 9.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Rajon Rondo needs to put his imprint on this game for the Celtics to be successful. That means doing what he does best - getting assists. The league's top assist man has failed to reach double digits in five of the Celtics' last six games.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs David Lee: Garnett has been solid as ever, but Lee has been on another level all season. In Golden State's win over Philadelphia on Friday, Lee had 25 points and 12 rebounds for his 13th 20-point, 10-rebound game this season - tops in the NBA.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Courtney Lee continues to gradually improve as the season goes on, but he still hasn't had that one defining moment-type game for the Celtics. They could use one tonight against a Golden State team that has quality scorers on the perimeter that he will have to contend with, in addition to a team that's playing solid defense.

STAT TO TRACK: The Celtics once again face a team whose strength will pose an even greater challenge to what has been the C's biggest weakness this season - rebounding. The Warriors are the league's fifth-best rebounding team this season while the Celtics maintain their position as the league's worst on the boards.

Quotes, notes and stars: Swihart flashes power and speed

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Quotes, notes and stars: Swihart flashes power and speed

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 10-3 win over the Colorado Rockies:

 

QUOTES

"I felt a little cramp. I'm fine. I appreciate John and everybody looking out (for me). We obviously don't want anything to happen like last year, but I'm good.'' - Dustin Pedroia, who left the game in the fifth after experiencing some tightness in his right hamstring.

"It's nice to be able to get deep into the game. That's my goal every time. My goal is nine innings, so if I don't get nine innings, I'm a little disappointed because I want to be able to go out there and pitch as many innings as I can.'' - Steven Wright.

"I think my release point was just a little off. That definitely makes it hard, especially when it's moving, because it's not a consistent release point.'' - Wright on the early-inning unpredictability of his signature pitch.

"Even when I was catching, I pride myself on running. I want to be an athlete back there. I want to run the bases, steal bases, things most catchers aren't known to do.'' - Blake Swihart, who hit two triples.

 

NOTES

* Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his hitting streak to 29 games.

* Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 18 games.

* David Ortiz tied Paul Molitor for 12th on the all-time doubles list with 605.

* Ortiz has driven in multiple runs in three straight games

* Dustin Pedroia has a career batting average of .340 in interleague play, the highest ever for someone with 500 or more at-bats.

* Travis Shaw drove in three runs and now has 68 RBI in his first 111 games since Fred Lynn and Jim Rice in 1974-75.

* Blake Swihart became the third Red Sox hitter this season to post two triples in the same game.

* The Red Sox clinched their fifth straight home series win.

* The Sox are 21-8 since April 24 and are 13-2 in their last 15 home games.

 

STARS

1) Steven Wright

Backed by some rare run support, Wright evened his record at 4-4 with seven-plus innings and his eighth quality start this season.

2) Travis Shaw

Shaw produced two hits and knocked in three runs, making him the fourth Red Sox player this season to reach 30 RBI.

3) Blake Swihart

Swihart got to flash both his power and his speed by hitting two triples to the triangle, motoring around the bases.

 

Some questions and answers when it comes to Miller contract

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Some questions and answers when it comes to Miller contract

BOSTON -- A day after the Bruins announced a much-maligned four-year contract extension for defenseman Kevan Miller, B’s general manager Don Sweeney held court with the media to equal parts explain/defend the $10 million deal. Sweeney pointed to the very high character of a hardnosed player in Miller, and the relatively low mileage given that he’s played only 159 games at the NHL level.

There was also mention made of the room to grow in Miller’s game, though it’s difficult to imagine a much higher ceiling for a 28-year-old player than what the former UVM produced showed in 71 games last season.

“Kevan brings incredible character. His signing provides us with the necessary depth on our defense that all teams need. His relative low-mileage, having just played 160 games, we identified that we think Kevan has room for continued growth and development,” said Sweeney. “We certainly saw that in his play this year when he had an expanded role. Relative to the free market place, very, very comfortable with where Kevan fits into our group, and this provides us with the opportunity to explore the marketplace in every way, shape, or form, in having Kevan signed.”

Here’s the reality: Miller is a 5-6, bottom pairing defenseman on a good team, and a top-4 defenseman on a team like last year’s Bruins that finished a weak 19th in the league in goals allowed. The five goals and 18 points last season were solid career-high numbers for a player in the middle of his hockey prime, but he barely averaged 19 minutes of ice time per game as a front top-4 defenseman. Miller struggles with some of the fundamental needs in today’s NHL if you’re going to be a top-4 D-man: the tape-to-tape passes aren’t always accurate, there’s intermittent difficulty cleanly breaking the puck out of the defensive zone and Miller was exploited by the other team’s best players when paired with Zdeno Chara at points last season.

Certainly Miller has done some good things racking up a plus-55 rating during his three years in Boston, but executives and officials around the league were a bit surprised by the 4-year, $10 million contract extension. It’s viewed as a slight overpay in terms of both salary and term, but it’s more the redundancy of the contract that’s befuddling to some.

“Miller is certainly a rugged guy, but you already had one of those at roughly the same value in Adam McQuaid. I believe that you can’t win if you have both McQuaid and Miller in your top 6 because they are both No. 6 D’s in my mind,” said a rival NHL front office executive polled about the Miller contract. “You look at the playoffs and the direction that the league is headed in, and you need to have big, mobile defenseman that can quickly move the puck up the ice. You have too much of the same thing with Miller and McQuaid, and I think you can’t win with that in this day and age.”

The one facet of the four-year Miller contract that might make it okay for some Bruins fans: the tacit connection to the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes. According to several sources around the league, the Bruins taking care of Miller now will very likely have a positive impact on their chances of landing Vesey when he becomes a free agent on Aug. 15, and makes them the front-runner for the Harvard standout’s services. Both Miller and Vesey are represented by the same agent in Peter Fish, and those are the kinds of behind-the-scenes connections that many times factor into free agent signings and trades around the NHL.

So many, this humble hockey writer included, may owe Sweeney a slight apology if paying a $10 million premium for a bottom-pairing defenseman in Miller now pays dividends in landing a stud forward like Vesey that’s drawing interest all around the league.