Celtics-Bucks review: What we saw

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Celtics-Bucks review: What we saw

BOSTON The Boston Celtics were able to withstand a late surge by the Milwaukee Bucks to hold on for a 102-96 win. It's Boston's second straight win, with each coming down to the Celtics making just enough plays at both ends of the floor, to get the win.

While the game certainly proved to be closer than the C's would have liked, a win is still a win for a team that's trying to stockpile as many victories as possible with the goal being to improve their playoff seeding.

The Celtics' bench play continues to provide a lift that in the last two games, allowed them to have a shot at winning. Chris Wilcox grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds. Keyon Dooling had arguably his best game with the C's, scoring eight points off the bench.

Boston also got contributions off the bench from Mickael Pietrus (four points, two rebounds) and Avery Bradley (two points, three assists).

We identified a number of factors coming into the game that might contribute to it outcome. Let's see how we did.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: With Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) not expected to play, the Bucks will be tough to keep off the boards. Their frontline starters include a pair of 6-10 big men in Drew Gooden and Ersan Ilyasova. Like Boston, they too have had their share of injuries. And like the Celtics, they too have had problems rebounding the ball this season. Boston comes into tonight's game ranked dead-last in rebounds (46.6) per game, while the Bucks aren't that much better, grabbing 50.1 per game which ranks No. 22 in the league.

WHAT WE SAW: Rebounding has been a point of emphasis with all of Boston's players, but especially the team's big men. To their credit, the C's had some early trouble on the boards but seemed to only get stronger as the game progressed. The Celtics finished Wednesday's game plus-three on the boards. In addition, it was Boston making the most of their second-chance scoring opportunities as they outscored Milwaukee, 21-17, in second-chance points.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs Ersan Ilyasova or Drew Gooden. Defensively, Garnett will likely start off defending Ilyasova. But when the Celtics have the ball and Garnett is looking to score in the post, don't be surprised to see Gooden matched up with Garnett. How Garnett handles the cross matchup will go far in determining how well the Celtics play tonight.

WHAT WE SAW: Garnett was defended by both Ilyasova and Gooden at different times on Wednesday, showcasing the kind of game that has made him one of the greatest of all time. He finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds for his ninth double-double this season. As for the Bucks, both Ilyasova and Gooden played well on Wednesday in finishing with 25 and 23 points, respectively.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo went into the all-star break struggling, and he didn't look any better in his return on Tuesday. In his last two games, Rondo has missed 11 of his 12 shot attempts. Against Cleveland on Tuesday, he had 11 assists but was scoreless. Rondo became just the fourth Celtic (C's president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was one of the others) to have a double-digit assists game without scoring a single point. The C's have proven they can win without Rondo scoring, but the poor shooting and high turnovers -- he's had at least five turnovers in six of the 10 games he's played in this month -- is a disturbing trend for both him and the Celtics as they try to get on track and improve their playoff position.

WHAT WE SAW: What a way to bounce back. After going scoreless on Tuesday, Rajon Rondo bounces back with a 15-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist night for his third triple-double of the season.

"Rondo did a good job of pushing the ball, knowing when to get us in our sets, giving it to the hot guys, whether it be Kevin, Rondo," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "On both ends of the court Rondo played tremendous."

STAT TO TRACK: Well we can say this for Milwaukee. Whatever they're not doing offensively, it has nothing to do with getting up shots. In fact, they take 84.9 shots per game, which is more than any team in the NBA this season. Their problem is they can't make shots, evident by them shooting 42.5 percent from the field which ranks 25th in the NBA. Meanwhile, the Celtics are literally at the other end of the spectrum, taking a league-low 75 shots per game but shooting 45.4 percent which ranks 7th in the NBA. The C's can live with the Bucks getting up a lot of shots -- most teams have all season. But it's their field goal percentage that Boston must not allow to veer too far away from their season average.

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics allowed the Bucks to get up a ton of shots -- OK, 96 to be exact. That's the most field goal attempts Boston has given up this season, a mark of distinction previously held by the Indiana Pacers (94 field goal attempts on Jan. 14). However, Boston had the kind of second half defensively against Milwaukee that most teams have had against the Bucks this season. For the game, Milwaukee shot 40.6 percent from the field, but was held to just 34 percent in the second half. In addition to clamping down defensively in the second half, Boston also got a lift in terms of shot attempts by taking 87 which is 12 more than they average this season.

Deal is done: Patriots announce they've traded Stork for conditional 7th rounder

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Deal is done: Patriots announce they've traded Stork for conditional 7th rounder

FOXBORO -- The Patriots didn't release third-year center Bryan Stork, though they informed him they would do so early on Wednesday. Instead, they traded him to the Washington Redskins. 

The deal was announced on Wednesday afternoon. In return for the former fourth-round pick out of Florida State, the Patriots received a conditional 2017 seventh-round pick from Washington.

Stork is reportedly mulling retirement. If he does not report to the Redskins, and the conditions of the deal are not met, the Patriots would not receive compensation.

The seventh-round pick would provide the Patriots with a seventh-rounder in 2017 that they didn't have when the day began. The team traded its original seventh-rounder to the Lions last season in exchange for tight end Michael Williams.

(The Patriots could, in theory, receive a seventh-rounder from the Lions since they received a conditional seventh in a trade for linebacker Jonathan Bostic, who was sent to Detroit in May. But because Bostic is recovering from foot surgery, the conditions of that trade may prevent the pick from ever making its way to New England.)

The Patriots informed Stork of his release early Wednesday, but before that move was processed, the Patriots and Redskins were able to work out a deal. 

Stork has had difficulty staying healthy as a pro, his emotions sometimes got the best of him on the field, and teammate David Andrews had beaten him for the starting center role with the Patriots. Still, Stork's teammate and friend Jimmy Garoppolo said it was tough to see Stork move on.

Despite the question marks that accompany Stork's arrival in Washington -- that is, if he decides to report -- the Redskins were more than willing to pay the modest price to acquire him. They are desperate for help at the center position.

Sandoval happy to return to the field after shoulder surgery

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Sandoval happy to return to the field after shoulder surgery

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- For the first time in months, Pablo Sandoval met up with his Red Sox teammates Wednesday, breaking from his rehab program two hours away in Fort Myers.

Sandoval, who underwent shoulder surgery in April to repair a torn labrum, has been working out six days per week at the club's spring training complex and appeared noticeably lighter.

"I just starting taking ground balls two days ago,'' said Sandoval. "I feel a little better. I'm happy to be back here with my teammates and happy that I'm starting to work in the field.'' 

Sandoval said his surgically repaired left shoulder is "not back to normal, but it's feeling a lot better. I've started doing a lot of things in the field -- ground balls, playing catch, handling the ball, working out.''

He plans to see Dr. James Andrews soon, and hopes to get clearance to start swinging a bat.

Sandoval appeared to make some veiled references to his weight and conditioning, saying "you learn a lot. You learn from all the mistakes you make, all the things in the past. I have good people around me, supporting me every single day.''

He added that he feels "way different'' than he did in spring training.

"Now that I've learned my lesson,'' he said, "I can do a better job out there. Everything out there is not easy. You have to work hard to learn all the things you were doing wrong. I'll keep working hard and do everything I can to be a better person on the field and off the field.''

As he grinds through conditioning and rehab, Sandoval said he's motivated by "my little boy (Leon). Every time I wake up, I want to do everything for (him), so he can see me back on the field, playing baseball.''

He deflected a question when asked what role he envisioned for himself next February at the start of spring training.

"Whatever,'' he said. "I'm just going to do best that I can. I just want to prepare myself to be better next year.''

Sandoval met with John Farrell Wednesday afternoon.

"He's in good spirits,'' Farrell said. "I think he feels good with all the work he's done. To date, he's done a good job with what he's been capable of doing. The one thing that's clear in getting to know Pablo, I see a guy who's got a lot of pride. Maybe things haven't worked out the way he anticipated through the first two years.

"But it's clear through my conversation with him that he's motivated, he feels like he's got a lot to prove. And I think when you combine his ability with the drive and motivation, this has got a chance to prove to be a productive player here in Boston.''

Meanwhile, Sandoval acknowledged that the Red Sox had not seen him at his best in his two seasons with the club.

"I know that I can prove more and do a better job out there,'' he said. "Things happen for a reason. I'm happy, but I'm not satisfied with the things I'm doing. I'm just going to keep working hard, continue my rehab and be better for next year.''

Sandoval said he misses the game, but watches the Red Sox on TV "every single day.''

"This (time down) is a bonus for me,'' he said. "I want to play, but at the same time, I (get) to see my baby growing up.''

 

All signs point to Rodriguez returning to rotation Sunday, Buchholz to bullpen

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All signs point to Rodriguez returning to rotation Sunday, Buchholz to bullpen

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It won't be made official until Thursday, but all signs point to Eduardo Rodriguez returning to the Red Sox' starting rotation Sunday night against the Kansas City Royals.

That, in turn, should also result in Clay Buchholz going back to the bullpen after three spot starts recently.

Rodriguez, who pulled himself out of his last scheduled start Sunday in Detroit when he wasn't confident that he could compete with a strained left hamstring, threw a three-inning simulated game Tuesday and emerged from that session convinced that he was heading toward a return to the rotation.

But just to make sure, the Sox want Rodriguez to test himself physically Thursday morning before the Sox complete their road trip with a game here Thursday afternoon.

"He went through some aggressive long toss today,'' said John Farrell of Rodriguez, "and came out that feeling fine, no restrictions in the hamstring. We'll take this each work day at a time. Once we get through tomorrow, we'll have a little bit more clarity going forward.''

Buchholz threw 94 pitches while allowing a run on five hits over 6 1/3 innings Tuesday night, so he wouldn't be available out of the bullpen for a few days.

"He's going to need a couple of days down regardless,'' noted Farrell.