Allen likely to return, start Wednesday vs. Spurs

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Allen likely to return, start Wednesday vs. Spurs

WALTHAM You know Ray Allen is going to be back in the Boston Celtics lineup at some point, with the only real question -- besides when -- is: Will he start, or will he come off the bench behind Avery Bradley?

Celtics coach Doc Rivers put all those questions to bed following a rare practice, indicating that Allen would likely be back in the starting lineup on Wednesday against San Antonio.

Rivers was pleased that Allen made it through Tuesday's practice, but he was quick to add, "that still doesn't mean he'll play tomorrow. Because the practice could affect his ankle and he can't practice tomorrow. Right now, he's playing."

Allen said he had a cortisone shot prior to Sunday's game against Miami and, "had all day to let it maneuver through my body. I came in today and felt like I had two new wheels."

A healthy Allen certainly makes the Celtics a deeper team, which is important this time of year. But his return comes at a time when the C's are playing their best basketball of the year. And the man that replaced him, Avery Bradley, has been an instrumental figure in the Celtics' strong play of late.

Now that Allen is on the verge of returning, Bradley goes back to being a guy that the C's look to for bench support. It'll be worth keeping an eye on whether the transition will be a relatively smooth one for both players.

More important than the transition is whether the Celtics can continue on their winning ways now that they are positioned atop the Atlantic Division with less than a month left in the regular season.

"Whatever we need to do as a team, the effort that I've seen over the last week-and-a-half, two weeks, has been great," Allen said. "That's all we need to make sure we keep up. Whatever combinations we work out there, we're all good enough and professional enough to understand it. But when we're out there playing . . . we're at a point in the season where everybody knows who each other are."

That's true.

Still, having missed so many games due to his right ankle injury, Tuesday's practice should go far in helping them re-establish timing within that first unit.

"You can see it," said Celtics forward Paul Pierce. "Whenever somebody got hurt and they come in, sometimes things . . . you're kind of off because you're used to playing every other day and then you go from playing every other day to sitting for five or six games, so definitely a practice is much-needed."

If there's a player to keep an eye on with Allen coming back to the lineup -- besides Allen -- it is Rajon Rondo.

Rondo was asked following Tuesday's practice how Allen's return to the starting lineup -- and Bradley's benching -- would affect his game.

"It's hard to say," Rondo said. "They're two different type of players. It doesn't matter really. As long as guys play hard, that's what it's about."

Bogaerts hitting at a record-setting pace

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Bogaerts hitting at a record-setting pace

A change of scenery is a must for the Red Sox after the rough series in Texas, where they were lucky to walk away with one win.

The pitching staff's struggles were the most apparent, but Xander Bogaerts had arguably his worst series of the season -- 2-for-12 at the plate and two errors in the field.

Although Bogaerts now finds himself three points behind José Altuve (.347) for the American League batting lead, he still leads the major leagues with 108 hits. He has more hits than Daniel Murphy, who’s at .349 in the National League.

And despite his weekend struggles, the Boston shortstop is in position to make a run at history  -- the single-season hits record.

Bogaerts is already in a comfortable spot to break Wade Boggs’ Red Sox record of 240 hits, set in 1985. Through 74 games, Bogaerts has 10 more hits than the Hall-of-Famer had at that point in the season.

He's also ahead of the pace set in 2004 by Ichiro Suzuki, who established the MLB record for most hits in a season with 262 that year. Bogarts has five more hits than Ichiro had through 74 games.

There's no guarantee he'll reach 262, or anything close. Ichiro had a strong finishing kick in '04, batting .418 with 159 hits after his 74th game. In fact, in his final 74 games, he hit .433 with 141 hits. He's left challengers in the dust before: Altuve was equal to Ichiro's pace in 2014 -- both had 105 hits in their first 76 games -- but wound up with "only" 225 hits.

So, admittedly, Bogaerts is facing an uphill battle.

He does have a one advantage over Ichiro, though. In 2004, Suzuki -- still playing for the Mariners -- usually had Randy Winn hitting behind him. Although Winn was a respectable player, he doesn’t command the respect of the hitter who's usually behind Bogaerts: David Ortiz.

Opposing pitchers still don’t plan to attack Bogaerts, but it’d only be worse if pretty much anyone other than Ortiz was coming up next.

And there’s one last set of statistics to consider:

Suzuki finished 2004 with 80 games in which he had at least two hits. That’s 49.7 percent of the games he played in.

Bogaerts has done that 33 times -- 44.6 percent of his games. So he needs to string together some big games if he intends to make an improbable run at the 12-year-old record.

Improbable, yes.

But definitely not impossible.

Lionel Messi says he is quitting Argentina national team

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Lionel Messi says he is quitting Argentina national team

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Lionel Messi says he is quitting Argentina's national team.

Argentina and Messi lost a final for the third year in a row, with Chile winning the Copa America 4-2 on penalty kicks following a 0-0 tie Sunday night.

His nation's career scoring leader with 55 international goals, Messi sent Argentina's first penalty kick over the crossbar.

Messi tells the Argentine network TyC Sports "the national team is over for me. It's been four finals, it's not meant for me. I tried. It was the thing I wanted the most, but I couldn't get it, so I think it's over."

Messi and Argentina lost to Brazil in the 2007 Copa final and to Germany in extra time in the 2014 World Cup final. They lost last year's Copa final to host Chile on penalty kicks.

The 29-year-old Messi has led Barcelona to four Champions League titles.

Perry's Patriots 53-man roster projection

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Perry's Patriots 53-man roster projection

With New England Patriots organized workouts finished until next month, Phil Perry puts together another 53-man roster projection.

View the gallery here