Rondo, Williams ready to face off in guard-driven league

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Rondo, Williams ready to face off in guard-driven league

WALTHAM, Mass. Elite point guard in Boston versus Elite point guard in Brooklyn, take two.

And ... action!

A sprained ankle injury kept Rajon Rondo off the floor when the Celtics played the Deron Williams-led Brooklyn Nets earlier this month.

Now this made-for-the-hardwood matchup shifts to the TD Garden on Wednesday when the C's - that includes a healthy Rondo - host the Nets.

And while both teams will do their part to keep the focus on their respective teams and not the individual point guard matchup, players of their stature can't run or hide from the hype.

That's especially true when you see more and more teams build their rosters around point guards - something that was unheard of during Doc Rivers' days as a player.

Rivers believes the shift has more to do with rule changes than anything else.

"I don't know if I could have played in the league with these rules, or I could have been great," Rivers said.

Rules regarding what's allowed defensively have made the NBA game one in which players who have the ball in their hands the most - usually point guards - will have a significant impact on games.

"It's brought the quick guard back in the league, the small guard back in the league," Rivers said.

The emphasis placed on guard play now is especially apparent in watching teams almost exclusively call pick-and-roll plays.

"I watched a game last night where they ran the pick-and-roll every single possession from the first quarter on and they won," Rivers said. "It was unbelievable. And they won because the other team couldn't stop it."

The C's to a large degree are no different than others along those lines.

Rookie Jared Sullinger possesses the kind of skills that mesh well with Rajon Rondo. Sullinger's soft hands provide Rondo a prime target to pass to in half court sets.

Boston also re-signed Chris Wilcox and Jeff Green, two players known for their ability to run the floor well which provides Rondo two prime targets in transition.

The Nets have clearly built their roster around Williams with additions such as Joe Johnson along with re-signing Kris Humphries.

"It's funny now, when you are drafting, if you have a first-round pick, a first pick and you have a choice between a big and a guard it was a no-brainer," Rivers said. "It's still a no-brainer if the big's going to be dominant. But if not, you have to give serious thought, if you think that point guard is going to be special, you have to think point guard."

Players like Courtney Lee recognize how the game has evolved to one in which perimeter guards rule the day.

"The game became a lot quicker," Lee said. "Back in the day, you see guys with a lot of height, a lot of guards posting up, like (Golden State Warriors head coach and former New York Knicks guard) Mark Jackson; big guard bringing the ball down with his back to the basket. You got guys like Rondo, Deron Williams and Chris Paul playing with speed. The game has changed a lot."

First impressions: Bradley Jr.'s hit streak comes to an end

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First impressions: Bradley Jr.'s hit streak comes to an end

BOSTON - First impressions from the Red Sox' 8-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies:

 

Just when you think Clay Buchholz may be close to figuring some things out, you realize he hasn't.

The night began well for Buchholz, who retired the first nine hitters he faced, marking the first time since April 18 that he had the opposition scoreless through the first three innings.

But then Buchholz allowed a single and a two-run homers in the fourth. And then did it again in the fifth. And then again in that same inning. That's been the big tease all season -- a few innings of dominance, more than wiped out by big hits with men on base.

He's got a 6.35 ERA. It's hard to find a reason why he should make his next start.

 

You can't say that Jackie Bradley Jr. didn't go down swinging.

He swung at the second pitch of the first inning and hit to the warning track in right, where it was caught.

After a weak comebacker in the third, Bradley crushed a pitch to the center field wall, close to 400 feet. That, too, was caught.

In his final at-bat, with the crowd on its feet in anticipation, Bradley swung at the first pitch and rolled out to second base.

It was nice -- and plenty of fun -- while it lasted.

Now, the attention focuses on Xander Bogaerts, who has his own streak going at 19 games.

 

David Ortiz has had a nice month this week.

Ortiz was at it again Thursday, slamming a two-run homer into the home bullpen in the first, then doubling off The Wall in the fourth.

He finished the night 2-for-5, but for the homestand was 10-for-23. Of those 10 hits, eight were for extra bases -- six doubles and two homers -- and he knocked in 11 runs in six games.

Also, for the first time in his career, Ortiz has knocked in multiple runs in four straight games.

 

Heath Hembree continues to be an important part of the bullpen.

The Red Sox don't necessarily have a designated long man, but Hembree is the closest thing they have to one.

He came in in the sixth and turned in three innings in which he allowed just one run -- and that one was unearned.

This marked the ninth time in 12 appearances this season that Hembree has pitched more than an inning.