From Comcast SportsNetCINCINNATI (AP) -- Reds manager Dusty Baker had a mini-stroke in addition to his irregular heartbeat last week and will need another week of rest before he's able to rejoin the team for the final regular season series and the playoffs.The 63-year-old manager disclosed his condition to his players on Tuesday before the start of a series against the Milwaukee Brewers.Bench coach Chris Speier and players said Baker was upbeat and visibly thinner."He's lost a lot of water weight," Speier said. "He was anxious (to get back). It was great to see him. Again, he looks really, really good. We're all anxious to get him back in charge."Speier will manage the three-game series against the Brewers and a three-game series in Pittsburgh over the weekend. Baker could return for the final three games in St. Louis starting Monday, followed by the playoffs.The Reds clinched their second NL Central title in the last three years while Baker was still in a Chicago hospital on Saturday night."I'm feeling much better, and it's great being back here in Cincinnati," Baker said, in a statement released after he met with owner Bob Castellini and his players. "Chris Speier and my staff are doing a terrific job, and I look forward to getting back to the dugout."Baker's had an irregular heartbeat for some time. He felt sick while the team was in Chicago for a series last Wednesday and was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for treatment.Baker revealed that when he was being released from the hospital on Friday, he suffered a mini-stroke."He had some slurred speech," pitcher Bronson Arroyo said, describing the symptoms Baker experienced on Friday. "The diagnosis was a slight stroke. The stroke team was right there and got after it. He said they said they see it all the time. They took care of it."Baker said the immediate treatment "minimized the effects of the stroke." His cardiologists said in the statement that his condition has "improved dramatically" and a full recovery is expected.The Reds beat the Dodgers 6-0 to clinch their second title under Baker on Saturday night. He was released on Sunday and went to the clubhouse briefly after batting practice to talk to his players.He had more appointments with doctors in Cincinnati on Monday, the team's day off. They developed the plan for his return to managing."He looked fine," Arroyo said. "He looked like he'd been on a diet the last two months. He was holding a lot of water. He looks like he went on Jenny Craig. They want him to rest. He said he's ready to go now."Third baseman Scott Rolen said Baker's health is the only consideration as the team prepares for the playoffs. The Reds opened the day with a 92-61 record, a game behind Washington for the best mark in the majors and the top playoff seed in the NL."You take care of each other," Rolen said. "We're a team and friends and could even go as far as family at times. We're concerned about him and his health. We're worried about Dusty. That's the bottom line. You take care of life first."The series against Milwaukee had more importance for the Brewers, who opened the day 3 games behind St. Louis for the final NL wild card.The Reds rested four of their regulars on Sunday, a day after they clinched, but had their usual lineup on the field for the start of the series on Tuesday. Only left fielder Ryan Ludwick, slowed by a sore groin, was out."I think the main thing is you want your team healthy," Speier said. "To me, that's the first and foremost importance. We want to go into the playoffs as healthy as we can and be as ready as we can. That's the fine line."We're trying to win as many ballgames as we can. That's how I look at it as manager."
Avery Bradley was a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive first team a year ago. And Al Horford has been among the league’s best interior defenders for a number of years.
But as talented defensively as they may be, the Celtics are still learning how to play with each other as well as off of one another.
Injuries have slowed down the chemistry developing as quickly as some might expect. Horford missed nine games due to a concussion, and another game due to wife giving birth to their second child, Alia Horford.
And in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia on Saturday night, defensive chemistry -- not only among Horford and Bradley, but with all of the players -- remains a work in progress for sure.
Boston had a number of defensive issues in the first half which factored in the Sixer shooting 46.1 percent from the field while shooting 9-for-18 from 3-point range.
But the second half was an entirely different story as Boston’s defense picked up his intensity and focus level which would prove to be just enough to beat a scrappy Sixers team.
The Celtics (12-8) are four games over .500 for the first time this season currently have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland (13-5) and Toronto (14-6).
And while the players point to a handful of games that they felt they gave away, Avery Bradley reminds all that the success of this team this season has for the most part come with key players out of the mix or limited in some capacity.
“We haven’t played that many games with the full roster,” Bradley told reporters after the win. “We’re still learning how to play with each other.”
Bradley pointed out a moment in Saturday’s victory where a miscommunication between him and Horford led to a defensive miscue.
Boston has had similar mistakes made on offense this season, too.
“We haven’t really been in pick-and-roll that much,” Bradley said. “Every single game we need to improve.”
And that improvement has to continue evolving on the defensive side of things for this team to achieve its goals this season which include being among the last teams standing in the East.
Doing that will likely mean Boston re-establishing itself as a defensive force, something that should come with time and experience playing with each other.
Horford, who signed a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston in the offseason, says it’s an ongoing process for all involved.
“I have to learn to play with our concepts, the guys have to learn to play with me,” Horford told reporters after Saturday’s win. “We just have to make sure we keep playing the right way, be more consistent with that. I feel like we’re getting better but there’s still some work that we need to do.”
The pressure that comes with a tight game in the fourth quarter can be a weighty proposition for some NBA players.
Then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who continues to save his best work for the fourth quarter.
Saturday’s 107-106 win at Philadelphia had yet another Thomas-like finish for the Celtics as the 5-foot-9 guard was at his most dominant state in the game’s final minutes.
Thomas finished with a season high-tying 37 points which included a stretch in the fourth in which he scored 12 straight.
“I just love the fourth quarter,” Thomas told reporters following the win. “I just want to win. Whether it’s making plays for myself or making plays for my teammates, it’s about making the right play. I get ultra- aggressive in that fourth quarter. That’s what I’ve always done.”
And his teammates appreciate how Thomas elevates his play in the game’s most pivotal moments.
“A lot of the credit is to Isaiah, how he was able to finish the game tonight,” said Avery Bradley. “He was able to make shots when we needed him to.”
And while Thomas knows his shots won’t fall all the time down the stretch, his fourth quarter mentality does provide him with a level of confidence that no matter what the defense does to him or what the score may be, he can swing the game’s momentum in his team’s favor.
“Some guys get a little tight, they get a little timid (in the fourth quarter),” Thomas said. “I embrace it. I want to be great. I want to be somebody my teammates can call on when the game is close.”
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Saturday night’s game.
Isaiah Thomas: There was no more dominant player on Saturday night than Thomas. He finished with a game-high 37 points along with seven assists.
Dario Saric: It was a breakout game for the 22-year-old rookie who led the Sixers with 21 points as well as 12 rebounds for his third double-double this season. Both his points and rebound totals tied his career highs in those categories.
Avery Bradley: Boston’s surge towards victory did not kick in until the third quarter which is when Bradley elevated his play offensively. In the third he scored 10 of his 20 points on the night, to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.
Ersan Illyasova: He finished with 18 points which included a pair of three-pointers in the closing seconds of the game. He also grabbed six rebounds and two assists.
Celtics first half defense: There wasn’t much to like about Boston defensively in the first half. The Celtics struggled to take away or limit Philadelphia’s only strength Saturday night which was three-point shooting. The Sixers nailed nine of their 18 three-point attempts in the first half in addition to hurting the Celtics’ transition defense which gave up seven fast-break points to Philly compared to Boston scoring just one point in transition.