Blakely: Celtics in the market for bigs . . . badly

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Blakely: Celtics in the market for bigs . . . badly

LOS ANGELES For the Boston Celtics, rebounding has been an issue all season.

It becomes an even greater concern with Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) not expected back, and Chris Wilcox out indefinitely while waiting to have additional tests performed sometime this week on his heart after the findings from an earlier cardiac test raised a red flag that warranted further testing.

Without those two, the C's best (and only) big man off the bench is Greg Stiemsma.

And with the NBA trading deadline at 3 p.m. Thursday, it's no secret that the Celtics are indeed in the market to add another big man.

Rivers acknowledges the need, adding that he hopes a big man can be added without disrupting the team's current roster.

"You don't want to do anything silly, you really don't," Rivers said. "We're building for this year and the future. We're not going to do anything that's going to hurt either one of those. Obviously, we're looking to grab a big from somewhere; hopefully by not giving away a player, doing it another route."

The Celtics have a pair of first-round picks to dangle out there as possible trade bait. Boston may also dangle out a player or two off their bench, such as Keyon Dooling or Marquis Daniels who both have expiring contracts and have limited (Dooling) to non-existent (Daniels) roles off the Celtics bench currently.

Rivers has already said that the team is working under the assumption that O'Neal won't be back, and if he does return it would "be a bonus."

As for Wilcox, who has been one of the team's top reserves the past couple of weeks, his uncertain status has made it difficult for the C's to figure out what their next move should be, roster-wise.

"We don't know if he's coming back or not, and the (trading) deadline is coming up," Rivers said. "So the quicker we find out, obviously that helps us."

But even if Wilcox were healthy, the need for size remains.

"We need another one, regardless," Rivers said. "So we'll be out there. But I don't think there are a whole bunch of teams out there lining up to help the Celtics."

Rivers and Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, have said tapping into the D-League is also under consideration.

"Of course, they're in the D-League and there's probably a reason for that," Rivers said. "And usually there aren't a lot of bigs floating around the D-League. But we're going to look everywhere, wherever we can."

Sunday's game only reinforced how badly the Celtics need help on the boards if they are to have any shot at making a strong surge during the second half of the season and potentially make some noise in the playoffs.

The Lakers had an eight-rebound edge, which was a key to Los Angeles enjoying a 17-8 advantage in second-chance points.

Boston tried to counter the Lakers' size with speed, and at times it worked.

But late in the game, a time when the game tends to slow down and half court offense is the norm, Boston's greatest weakness - lack of size - shined brightly.

Even Kobe Bryant, who is as clutch a player to ever play the game, looked to 7-footer Andrew Bynum in the game's closing seconds instead of getting shots for himself.

To see Bryantlook for Bynum did not come as a surprise to Rivers.

"Listen, they looked at our team and saw our size," Rivers said. "I think they knew exactly where they were going before the game. They won't say it, but the two places they wanted to go was Bynum and (Pau) Gasol. Kobe's going to get his, regardless."

STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

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STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh rookie Jake Guentzel beat Nashville's Pekka Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a 5-3 victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.

Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach's challenge in finals history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37:09 at one point without a shot.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.

The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday.

Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year.

Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions.

All the guys from the place dubbed "Smashville" have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.

The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn't happen, mostly because Nashville's forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.

Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.

Sullivan used his coach's challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg's right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.

It temporarily deflated Nashville and gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge.

Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Nick Bonino's innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.

It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa, when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout.

Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn't bail. Instead they rallied.

Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second. Though Nashville didn't get another one by Murray, they also kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn't manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it's happened in a playoff game in franchise history.

Nashville kept coming. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.

No matter. The Penguins have become chameleons under Sullivan. They can win with both firepower and precision.

Guentzel slipped one by Rinne with 3:17 to go in regulation and Bonino added an empty netter to give Pittsburgh early control of the series.

Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

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Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

SAN FRANCISCO - An enraged Bryce Harper charged the mound, fired his helmet and traded punches to the head with San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland after getting hit by a fastball, setting off a wild brawl Monday during the Washington Nationals' 3-0 win over the Giants.

Drilled in the right hip by a 98 mph heater on Strickland's first pitch in the eighth inning with two outs, none on and Washington ahead 2-0, Harper didn't hesitate. The slugger pointed his bat at Strickland, yelled at him and took off.

No one got in Harper's way as he rushed the mound. His eyes were wide as he flung his helmet - it sailed way wide of Strickland, it might've slipped - and they started swinging away. The 6-foot-4 Strickland hit Harper in the face, then they broke apart for a moment before squaring off again. Harper punched Strickland in the head as the benches and bullpen emptied.

Giants teammates Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided hard as they tried to get between the two fighters. Three Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the pack all the way into the dugout, while a teammate held back Harper.

Harper and Strickland were both ejected. They have some history between them - in the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland, and the All-Star outfielder glared at the reliever as he rounded the bases after the second shot in Game 4.