Wakeup Call: Teo fesses up . . . kind of

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Wakeup Call: Teo fesses up . . . kind of

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Thursday, January 24:

BASEBALL
Sammy Sosa thinks he and Mark McGwire belong in the Hall of Fame. He also thinks the Cubs should retire his number. He also thinks he may someday run for president of the Dominican Republic. Your choice as to which of those is most delusional. (AP)

Will Pete Rose be part of the hoopla when the 2015 All-Star Game is held in Cincinnati? Bud Selig won't say. (NBC's Hardball Talk)

The Braves are attempting to become the Upton capital of the world. (CSN Washington)

The Cubs are close to a two-year agreement with Scott Hairston. (CSN Chicago)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Duke reached all kinds of milestones in its 90-63 loss at Miami: Third-worst loss ever for a No. 1 team, biggest loss by a Duke team since 1984 . . . (AP)

Don't worry, Blue Devils, it could be worse. You could be NIT-bound, which may be Kentucky's fate. (NBC's College Basketball Talk)

This is quite the run for Philadelphia teams: One night after Villanova upset Louisville, La Salle toppled No. 9 Butler. (CSN Phllly)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Now Manti Te'o says, well, yes, he lied about the phony dead girlfriend. But only after he found out she was phony. (CSN Chicago)

The NCAA found problems during its investigation of Miami. Trouble is, the problems were with its own investigators. (AP)

HOCKEY
The hits just keep on coming for the struggling Flyers: Scott Hartnell is out indefinitely because of a foot injury. (CSN Philly)

Also out indefintely: The Maple Leafs' Joffrey Lupul, who has a broken arm. (AP)

And out for the season: The Avs' Steve Downie, who torn his ACL -- the Associated Press didn't say in which knee -- against the Kings on Tuesday night. (AP)

The Leafs spoil the Penguins' home opener. (AP)

After being discarded by the Canadiens -- and vilified by the Montreal fan base -- Scott Gomez lands on his feet in San Jose. (AP)

The Oilers are building a new home in Edmonton, with some help from the city. (AP)

PRO BASKETBALL
What was it Sparky Lyle said about the 1978 Red Sox? "I don't feel sorry for them, but I pity them"? That's how I'm starting to feel about the Lakers. (AP)

The Heat hadn't played for nearly a week, and it showed for a while. But they were able to come back from a 15-point deficit and beat the Raptors in overtime. (AP)

The Spurs didn't let the absences of Tim Duncan (sore left knee) and coach Gregg Popovich (illness) prevent them from rolling to their 15th straight home win. (AP)

This may end better than we all feared: Royce White says he's close to returning to the Rockets. (CSN Houston)

PRO FOOTBALL
Just when you think the Jets have reached the limits of organizational weirdness, word comes that Woody Johnson is working to trade Darrelle Revis . . . at a time when Revis' value couldn't possibly be lower, and before the team's new GM has started work. (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

Tony Sparano is no doubt happy to be away from that circus. Trouble is, he may have landed in a bigger one. (AP)

Speaking of weirdness: Colin Kaepernick has applied to trademark the term "Kaepernicking". First of all, what in the world is "Kaepernicking"; second of all, doesn't he have more important things to focus on these days? (CSN Bay Area)

The 49ers win the first battle of the Super Bowl: They'll arrive in New Orleans before the Ravens. (AP)

Frank Gore could have saved 500 by pulling up his socks and kicking somebody. (AP)

Tim Brown now says he didn't say what everybody heard him say about Bill Callahan sabotaging Super Bowl XXXVII. (Pro Football Talk)

Brandon Weeden's reign as the Browns' starting quarterback may not last very long now that Cleveland has a new coach and new offensive coordinator. (AP)

Sensing -- correctly -- that their free trips to Hawaii are in jeopardy, the players vow to take the Pro Bowl seriously this time. (AP)

TENNIS
So, at the Australian Open, we have Roger Federer in the men's semis . . . (AP)

. . . defending champ Novak Djokovic in the men's finals . . . (AP via nbcsports.com)

. . .and defending champ Victoria Azarenka and Li Na in the women's final. (AP)

Sloane Stephens may be eliminated, but her victory over Serena Williams gave tennis its first "buzz" moment of the year. (tennis.com via nbcsports.com)

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

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Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

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.”

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

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Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

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.

STARS

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.

STUDS

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.

DUDS

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.