Celtics-Wizards preview: Time for Garnett to be aggressive

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Celtics-Wizards preview: Time for Garnett to be aggressive

BOSTON -- There is no player on the Boston Celtics roster that Doc Rivers seems to connect with more than Kevin Garnett. The frank nature of their communication, the mutual respect each man has for the other, has created a Teflon-like bond.

But there are times -- and we've seen quite a few of them in these first few games -- when Rivers wants his most unselfish player to be a little greedy. And Garnett, well versed on that sermon, usually responds with a strong performance.

The Celtics wouldn't mind getting one of those tonight as they host the Washington Wizards, a team they held on to beat 89-86 on Saturday.

Garnett comes into tonight's game averaging 13 points per game, the fewest he has averaged since his rookie season back in 1995. A lot of his lack of production scoring-wise stems from the fact that on too many occasions, the C's simply don't go to him. Garnett, ever the team player, rarely demands the ball despite Rivers' insistence that he demand the ball more.

"Doc Rivers is Doc Rivers, and Kevin Garnett is Kevin Garnett and I have to find a medium and a balance between that," Garnett said. "He's the captain. I listen to whatever he says. It's his ship. Within the flow of the offense, I pick and choose. I try to use my discretion and IQ to know when to be aggressive at times."

And you can bet tonight will be one of those times, especially after the Wizards made a point of going to Kevin Seraphin -- the man Garnett was guarding -- down the stretch in Saturday's loss.

During Washington's last gasp at stealing the victory, Garnett forced Seraphin into making a bad pass that sailed out of bounds, capping off a defensive stretch in which the C's kept Washington scoreless over the final 2:56.

A more assertive Garnett offensively will be a factor in tonight's outcome. Here are some other keys to tonight's game as the Celtics look to even up their overall record with what would be their first win at home this season.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Boston's first win of the season came on a night when they jumped on the opponent (Washington) with a 17-2 run behind suffocating defense and timely scoring. Being the aggressor at both ends of the floor will once again be a key to the C's beating the Wizards again.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: The Celtics bench vs. Jordan Crawford. Had it not been for an ankle injury early in the fourth quarter of Saturday's game, Crawford (21 points in 25 minutes) may have single-handedly outscored the entire C's bench. That should never happen. Jason Terry is more than due to have a breakout game. Ditto for Jeff Green.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Courtney Lee has been OK, but an intangibles player like him tends to have a breakout performance when you least expect it. With the Wizards wanting to limit Paul Pierce from having another big game, and hoping to withstand the strong play of Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo, it seems an ideal scenario for Lee to be an unexpected difference-maker.

STAT TO TRACK: Doc Rivers loves to keep the Celtics turnovers to 13 or less per game. In Saturday's win, the C's turned the ball over just nine times. That was a significant improvement compared to the first two games in which the Celtics turned it over an average of 17 times per game.

First impressions: Porcello settles in, helps Red Sox beat Rays, 9-4

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First impressions: Porcello settles in, helps Red Sox beat Rays, 9-4

First impressions from the Red Sox' 9-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays:

 

* Rick Porcello followed form.

Porcello has, throughout the season, struggled some in the early innings before making some adjustments and stabilizing as the game wears on.

So it was Monday night against the Rays.

Coming into the start, Porcello had compiled a 4.15 ERA in the first three innings with a 2.13 ERA in innings four through six.

Sure enough, Porcello allowed four straight hits and two runs in the third inning. After that, he looked like a different pitcher. He did yield a solo run in the fifth when he gave up a leadoff double and two groundouts.

But from the fourth through the seventh, he faced 13 hitters and retired 12 of them, including five by strikeout.

 

* Travis Shaw showed signs of digging out his funk at the plate.

Shaw was 0-for-6 to start the homestand, and since the beginning of August, had compiled an anemic .141/.236/.264 slash line with only four extra-base hits (two doubles, two doubles).

That resulted in Shaw losing playing time to Aaron Hill at third, and being dropped lower in the batting order.

But Monday, Shaw smacked a double to right -- the kind of extra-base power that he almost routinely flashed in the first half -- and later added two singles for a three-hit night.

It marked the first multi-hit game for him since July 26, better than a month ago.

 

* Lo and behold, the Red Sox can collect hits with the bases loaded.

The team's struggles in that department have been well-chronicled. Coming into the night, the Sox were hitting just .211 in such situations, ranking them 14th out of the 15 A.L. teams.

Time after time, the Sox have failed to come through with the bases full, sometimes even with no outs.

But that wasn't the case Monday. Twice, in fact, the Sox had innings with the bases loaded and both times, they scored.

In the second, Brock Holt's single to left scored Chris Young, though Sandy Leon was cut down at the plate when the Sox tried to get two runs out of it.

In the seventh, a sharp single to center by Sandy Leon scored two more.