Blakely's Celtics-Knicks preview

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Blakely's Celtics-Knicks preview

NEW YORK Ray Allen will return to the Boston Celtics lineup, which will give them another guy who can score from the perimeter. But lately, it has been the defense of Boston's guards that turned heads - and in many instances, turned opponents away with one empty possession after another.

Having won seven of their last 10 games (only Indiana has been better during that span in the East, winning nine of their last 10 games), the Celtics have done it in large part because of the defensive play of their guards. Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and company have been able to limit dribble penetration which has forced a number of teams to be more perimeter-oriented than they probably would want to be.

This has led to guards taking tougher, more contested shots which in turn, has meant fewer points allowed by the C's. In the last 10 games, Boston has allowed opposing guards to score 34.2 points per game which ranks just behind New Orleans (32.5) and Philadelphia (34.1).

Of course, limiting guards from scoring likely means a spike in points for frontcourt players, right? For New Orleans and Philadelphia, it does. They rank in the bottom 10 for points allowed to frontcourt players in their last 10 games played. Meanwhile, the Celtics are giving up 50.2 points to frontcourt players during he same time period, second only to tonight's opponent, the New York Knicks, who have allowed opposing frontcourts to score 48.9 points per game.

Boston's ability to keeping both guards and big men from generating lots of points, will be a primary factor in the outcome of tonight's game. But there are other keys to the game as well. We'll examine some of them now as Boston tries to move one step closer to locking up the Atlantic Division against a surging New York Knicks team that has won four of their last six games.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR The reigning Eastern Conference player of the week, Kevin Garnett, returns to the floor after C's coach Doc Rivers gave him last game off. Garnett was in a great groove scoring the ball, as well as defending and of course, rebounding. It's only one night and it shouldn't throw him totally out of whack, but Garnett is a creature of habit that does not like his routine to be disrupted. He understands the value that the Celtics place him in, knowing he has to play well and be healthy in the playoffs, for them to have any shot of making another deep playoff run. But you have wonder if missing the one game will impact his play, or possibly result in him getting off to a slow start.

MATCHUP TO WATCHBrandon Bass vs. Carmelo Anthony: With the Knicks going with a three-guard lineup, Anthony slides over to the power forward position which means he'll be matched with Bass. Look for the Celtics to switch this often on defense. But if Anthony is guarding Bass, this might be the game in which Bass displays a low-post game. Because Anthony is strong, arguably the strongest small forward this side of LeBron James. But Bass is stronger and heavier - two factors he needs to utilize often tonight.

PLAYER TO WATCHRajon Rondo will likely be guarded at times by Iman Shumpert, an athletic, defensive-minded, on-the-ball-defender cut from the same cloth as Avery Bradley. He's quick enough to get up on Rondo and strong enough to throw Rondo off stride. But to Rondo's credit, he has figured out a way to beat every kind of defense, every kind of defender, thrown his way whose mission is to limit his effectiveness which is evident by him racking up double-digit assists in 22 straight games.

STAT TO TRACKPoints will be hard to come by for both teams around the basket, a point that's drilled home when you look at the numbers in recent games. In the last 10 games, the Knicks are tops in the NBA in fewest points allowed in the paint, at 26.5. Right behind them? You guessed it. The Boston Celtics, who are giving up 27.4 points in the paint during the same period of time. It speaks to how they're defending, obviously. But it also says a lot about the opponents they have faced who rely a lot more on their perimeter shooting than pounding the ball inside or scoring off dribble penetration.

Quotes, notes and stars: Young Red Sox are 'fun to watch'

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Quotes, notes and stars: Young Red Sox are 'fun to watch'

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Boston Red Sox' 8-3 win over Colorado Rockies:

 

QUOTES

"This is a very good fastball-hitting team and his ability to change speeds tonight was very (impressive).'' - John Farrell on David Price.

"Their preparation, their understanding of what their daily routine is. They come ready to play every single night. They come ready to play every single night. They're ready every single night when that first pitch is thrown.'' - Farrell on the team's explosiveness in the first inning.

"This game is a learning process and these kids work extremely hard every day. They want to be good. It's fun to watch.'' - David Ortiz on the core of young players and their success.

"As the game went on, I got stronger and that's good. I still want to be able to finish games better than I have my last couple of outings.'' - David Price.

 

NOTES

* Jackie Bradley Jr's hitting streak was extended to 28 games with a second-inning double.

* Xander Bogaerts extended his own hitting streak to 17 games when he doubled in the first

* The Red Sox saw their team streak of 22 straight games with at least one home run snapped.

* Dustin Pedroia posted his fourth straight multi-hit interleague game.

* David Ortiz (four RBI) has 13 multi-RBI games.

* The Red Sox are 12-2 in their last 14 home games

* David Price crossed the 1,500 inning threshold for his career, one of 11 active pitchers to reach that mark.

* Christian Vazquez delivered his first career triple.

 

STARS

1) David Ortiz

Ortiz slapped a single through the shortstop hole for two quick runs in the first, then added a two-run double in the fourth for a four RBI night.

2) Dustin Pedroia

Pedroia helped set the table at the top of the batting order, reaching base four times (three hits, one walk) while scoring two runs.

3) David Price

He took the early 2-0 (and 4-1) lead and ran with it, attacking the Rockies lineup and completing seven strong innings.

 

First impressions from Red Sox' 8-3 win over Rockies

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First impressions from Red Sox' 8-3 win over Rockies

First impressions from the Red Sox' 8-3 win over the Colorado Rockies:

 

The Red Sox continue to use Fenway as their own little offensive playground.

Since April 20, the Red Sox are averaging exactly eight runs per game at home. That's just over a month of the covering 18 games.

They've also collected 10 or more hits in 16 of those 18 games, utilizing every bit of the field.

For the last two seasons, Fenway stopped being a tough place to play for opponents. But at home this year, the Sox have outscored opponents by 67 runs.

 

All of a sudden, the Red Sox are a triples team and Fenway is a triples haven.

A triple by Christian Vazquez - of all people -- gave the Red Sox a league-high 13 triples this season.

Fenway has a reputation for being a doubles park, but the ballpark has been home to 12 triples in 26 games - five by visiting teams and seven by the Red Sox. That translates into almost one every two games.

 

David Price was solid, but not spectacular.

The positives: Price got through the seventh inning for the fifth time this season. He walked just one and fanned six in seven innings.

He was hit hard a few times, with a homer into the visitor's bullpen allowed to Charlie Blackmon and a triple to the triangle for Carlos Gonzalez.

Consider it another step forward for Price, but it fell far short of dominant.

 

Koji Uehara's deception is heightened against teams that don't see him much.

Uehara allowed a leadoff single to D.J. LeMahieu, but then fanned three in a row, finishing each hitter off with his trademark split-finger fastball.

That pitch can be tough to recognize for hitters who see it a few times per season. For those in the National League who are largely unfamiliar with Uehara's splitter, it's apparently some sort of Kryptonite.