Celtics-Bobcats review: What we saw . . .

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Celtics-Bobcats review: What we saw . . .

CHARLOTTE, N.C. The Boston Celtics are a team that prides itself on being able to execute down the stretch in close games, which was exactly what they did in defeating the Charlotte Bobcats, 94-82. Beating the Bobcats is nothing to brag about. Teams have been doing it - a lot - all season. But for Boston, known for playing down to the level of their competition, to get the win without Ray Allen (ankle), Paul Pierce (toe) and Kevin Garnett (rest), speaks volumes to how deep the C's are this season.

"They have so many good players," said Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson. "Toward the end of the game, we just couldn't come up with the plays and the stops to make a run."

Charlotte cut Boston's lead down to just four points with 6:55 to play following a dunk by Derrick Brown. The C's responded with a 10-2 run that put them up by double-digits, a position of control they were able to maintain for the rest of the game.

For Boston, making all the right plays in a close game isn't anything new.

But doing so without Allen, Pierce and Garnett, well that's a little different.

"It builds their confidence, and for some guys it just lets you know, be ready," said C's forward Brandon Bass. "To constantly work on your game throughout the year and on a night like tonight, your number might be called."

Indeed, the C's collectively being ready to play was a factor in Saturday's victory. Here we'll re-examine some keys to the game identified earlier, and how they actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: When facing a team like the Bobcats, it's important for Boston to establish control of the game from the outset. That shouldn't be a problem against a Charlotte team that is next-to-last in the NBA in first-quarter points, with 21.7 per game. Meanwhile, the C's boost a defense that gives up 22.6 points in the first quarter - only five teams in the league give up fewer points in the first quarter.

WHAT WE SAW: After a fairly close first quarter, Boston closed the first out with an 11-2 run to take a comfortable 34-23 lead going into the second quarter which sent a clear message that despite being without their Big Three, the C's meant business. "You could see before the game, they really wanted this game; they really did," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "They assume when you sit guys, you're just going to show up and play. And our guys, you could see in their demeanor in the locker room I didn't know if we were going to win or not, but I knew we were going to play hard and right."

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs. Byron Mullens: Bass' ability to defend and rebound at a high level, have been huge factors in Boston's success of late. In Mullens, he faces a player with the size of a true center, but with great range - even past the 3-point line - on his shot. It'll be important for Bass to use his quickness at both ends of the floor for the C's to win this matchup.

WHAT WE SAW: Mullens only played about 22 minutes off the bench, and was a non-factor with just six points and three rebounds. Bass delivered another strong game for the Celtics with 22 points along with nine rebounds. He also was a factor defensively by blocking three shots and contesting a number of other Charlotte misses. "Brandon is the unknown guy," Rivers said. "He's been doing the exact same thing, rebounding and making shots."

PLAYER TO WATCH: If Kevin Garnett does not play, that will most likely mean Greg Stiemsma will start and Ryan Hollins will become the first (and only) big man off the bench. We have all seen what Stiemsma has done when given an opportunity to play a more meaningful role. It'll be interesting to see how Hollins handles this chance to play decent minutes.

WHAT WE SAW: Arguably the one Celtic who has maximized his opportunity to play, Stiemsma was solid in the middle for Boston. Filling in for Garnett at center, Stiemsma had eight points while making all four of his shot attempts, along with grabbing five rebounds and of course, blocking a few - OK, quite a few - shots along the way. Stiemsma was credited with six blocked shots - that was one more than the entire Bobcats team. "Greg, defensively, is a force," Rivers said. "He's a great shot-blocker. I don't think the officials even know that yet because the way he goes after them."

STAT TO TRACK: Charlotte has been a team where a sizable chunk of their scoring comes from their bench. So for Boston, it'll be important to not allow the Charlotte starters to catch fire. This season, the Bobcats starters average 54.2 points which ranks 29th in the NBA. Conversely, the C's first group has averaged 68.5 points which ranks seventh in the NBA.

WHAT WE SAW: Charlotte got 61 points from its starters, although one of them - Derrick Brown - had 15 points and usually did most of his damage against Boston off the bench. The Celtics' patchwork starting lineup did a good job defensively in addition to finding various ways of generating their own scoring. Boston's starting five on Sunday tallied 83 of the team's 94 points which included the C's Big Three - on this night anyway - of Rajon Rondo (20 points), Avery Bradley (22 points) and Brandon Bass (22 points) combining for 64 points. "Those were the three guys we said we had to get points from and they did it," Rivers said. "So that was nice."

The price of being the ace

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The price of being the ace

David Price has a chance for his first “ace” moment to show Boston he’s truly the pitcher they paid for.

The bullpen is spent after giving up the game late Saturday, to go with the team dealing with a three game skid -- the longest since their three-game losing streak from April 17th – April 19th.

On top of the Sox not having lost four-straight yet in 2016, Price is back at the Rogers Centre for the first time since his playoff run with the Blue Jays last year.

So this game should have a playoff feel to it -- as much as one can in late May -- especially with the Toronto picking up steam.

And lastly for Price, he’s started to figure things out since making a mechanical adjustment following his atrocious 4.2 inning start against the Yankees earlier in the month.

But he hasn’t had to throw against a top of the line offense yet.

The lefty dominated Houston, much like everyone has this year and also did well against Colorado.

In between those two he did face a strong opponent in Kansas City, but the Royals still haven’t completely gotten things together (although they did mount a ridiculous comeback Saturday against the White Sox).

Toronto’s scored over seven runs in three of their last four, winning all four of those games and seven of the last 10 contests -- putting them four games behind Boston in the AL East standings.

Price does have a few things going for him entering Sunday’s contest.

He threw well against his old team earlier this year -- seven innings, two earned runs, nine strikeouts and zero walks -- when his mechanics weren’t where he wanted them.

Also after being traded to Detroit from Tampa Bay in 2014, Price was dominant in his returning start at Tropicana Field.

Although he took the loss 1-0, the lefty dealt, chucking a one-hitter over eight innings, striking out nine without walking a batter -- and the one run off of him was unearned.

Price has yet to pitch at Comerica Park since leaving the Tigers, so that’s something Boston may deal with later in the year, too.

Now Price has to block all of this from his mind and execute pitches, in what is his biggest test this point in the season.

A lot for him to ignore in what could’ve easily been a regular start had Boston’s bullpen done its job Sunday -- but then again, this is a part of the price of being an ace.

Haggerty's Morning Skate: Former Boston College hockey star dealing with drug addiction

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Haggerty's Morning Skate: Former Boston College hockey star dealing with drug addiction

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while feeling like I was watching the Heart of a Champion in that Golden State/Oklahoma City game last night. That Klay Thompson is something else.

 

*PHT writer James O’Brien wonders what the next step is for Troy Brouwer now that he’s ready to hit free agency, and the ride has finally come to an for the Blues this season.

 

*Excellent piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kevin Paul Dupont on the sad story of Kevin Stevens, and the drug addiction demons that have had him in their clutches for a long time. I’ve known about Stevens troubles for a while, and it’s too bad because he really is a gregarious guy when you get to know him.

 

*Allan Muir speculates on the future of Steve Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning now that the offseason has begun for both of them.

 

*P.K. Subban doesn’t sound like he’s got any hard feelings about being left off Team Canada for the World Cup of Hockey, and said he’ll still be rooting them along.

 

*Pat Hickey mentions the Subban snub, but is incredulous that Habs center Alex Galchenyuk was left off Team North America.

 

*Larry Brooks breaks down how exactly former Bruins head coach and New York Rangers assistant coach Mike Sullivan was able to emerge from John Tortorella’s shadow some 10 years later.

 

*For something completely different: sad story all around in Cincinnati where they had to had to shoot an endangered gorilla dead when a four year old child fell into his enclosure.

Highlights: Revs earn 2-1 win over Sounders

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Highlights: Revs earn 2-1 win over Sounders

Highlights from Gillette Stadium as the New England Revolution went down early but came back to get the 2-1 victory over Seattle.