Celtics-Bucks: What we saw . . .

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Celtics-Bucks: What we saw . . .

MILWAUKEE After giving his players a couple days off, Doc Rivers had no idea what to expect when the Boston Celtics took to the floor against the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Celtics looked alive and refreshed, and clearly had a little more bounce than normal as they pulled away in the fourth for a 100-91 win that snapped a six-game winning streak for the Bucks (21-25).

With the win, Boston (25-21) is guaranteed to do no worst than .500 on their eight game road trip that ends Friday night at Philadelphia.

But for the C's, there's no time to think about how good this trip has been, until it's over.

For Boston, it's their second straight win over a team that they could potentially see in the playoffs.

"These last two wins have been big," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "We'll be ready tomorrow."

Strong defensive play in the second half, great help-side defense and an active bench all factored into the Celtics' win on Thursday. Here we look back at a few keys identified prior to the game, and how they actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: A big part of Milwaukee's run of late has been their ball movement. The most telling barometer for that is assists. And the Bucks have been racking them up in bunches lately. Milwaukee has had at least 30 assists in each of their last four games, something that hasn't happened in the NBA since Phoenix did in during the 2007-2008 season. And a five-game assist binge of 30 or more hasn't happened since Orlando did it during the 1994-1995 season. That ball distribution success will be put to the ultimate test by Boston, which allows a league-low 18.5 assists per game.

WHAT WE SAW: Milwaukee had another good game in terms of assists, but the Celtics really took them out of what they wanted to do, in the second half. The Bucks finished with 23 assists (snapping a four game run of 30 or more assists), but only six came in the second half.

"We were struggling to even handle the ball," said Bucks coach Scott Skiles. "We weren't sharp in any area of the game."

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs. Drew Gooden: Like Garnett, Gooden is also a power forward playing center. And like Garnett, Gooden has the ability to score facing the basket although he doesn't have Garnett's range on his shot. This is going to be one of the few games that Garnett will play at the center position where he doesn't have a clear-cut advantage over his matchup. And when you throw in the fact that Gooden is playing the best basketball of his career (he was Eastern Conference Player of the Week earlier this month), it makes for what should be a great duel.

WHAT WE SAW: This matchup wasn't even close. Garnett ratcheted up the defensively intensity all game on Gooden, who had six points after missing 10 of his 12 shots from the field. Meanwhile, Garnett had his team-leading 15th double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, in addition tallying six assists and three blocked shots as yet another example of how he's one of the most versatile players in NBA history.

PLAYER TO WATCH: It has to be Paul Pierce, who has been in foul trouble each of the last two games for the Celtics. He didn't fare so well when the two teams met on Feb. 29, scoring just 10 points on 5-for-12 shooting. He'll be defended by Carlos Delfino, which is one of the few matchups that clearly favors Boston. Don't be surprised if the C's try to get the Captain going early and often.

WHAT WE SAW: The Truth delivered the kind of big-game performance fans have come to expect from him in games like Thursday night's tilt. He came out attacking, and scored 11 points in the first quarter. After a quite second quarter, he erupted for another 14 in the second half before finishing with a game-high 25 points.
"That's what a couple days off will do to you, give you some fresh legs," Pierce said. "I had a little zip in my step tonight."

STAT TO TRACK: If Boston emerges with a win, the turning point will most likely be the third quarter. This season, Boston averages 24.3 points per game in the third, the 10th-best scoring mark for that quarter, in the NBA. The Bucks' third-quarter scoring defense ranks 19th in the league, with opponents averaging 24.1 points scored. But complicating matters some for Milwaukee in the third is that they average just 23.2 points scored in the third which ranks No. 23 in the NBA in third quarter scoring which, as you might expect, is their worst scoring quarter.

WHAT WE SAW: True to form, Boston's ability to close out the third quarter playing well positioned them for a strong fourth quarter push. After Milwaukee went on a 5-0 spurt to lead, 71-70 in the third, a pair of baskets by Kevin Garnett gave the C's a 74-71 lead going into the fourth. From there, they opened with a 14-6 run and never looked back. Although Boston only scored 18 points in the third, they were still plus-5 in the quarter by limiting the Bucks to 13 points on 6-for-21 shooting in the quarter.

Quotes, notes and stars: Donaldson dominates Kelly

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Quotes, notes and stars: Donaldson dominates Kelly

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 7-5 loss to the Blue Jays:

 

QUOTES

 

* “He had quality stuff, but the story of this one is not being able to contain (Josh) Donaldson. Big night for him . . . I though Joe had quality stuff . . . [He] wasn’t as sharp with the overall location as he was the first time out for us.” John Farrell on Joe Kelly’s second start since his return from the disabled list.

 

* “He’s such a good player and does it in critical moments.” Farrell on Josh Donaldson after his two-homerun, 4-5 performance for Toronto.

 

* “He throws hard and has a lot of sink on his ball. Not much you can do with it. Just try to put it in play and see what happens.” Xander Bogaerts on facing Toronto’s start Aaron Sanchez.

 

* “Bottom line is the results. I think there’s been a strong precedent set with that,” Farrell before the game on moving Clay Buchholz to the bullpen to make room for Eduardo Rodriguez.

 

 

NOTES

 

* Following Friday night’s performance, Josh Donaldson is now 12-20 in his career against Joe Kelly with a double, two home runs and nine RBIs.

 

* The Red Sox’ five runs brings their season total to 38 on the road, averaging 3.8 per game through ten road games. At home, Boston has averaged 7.8 runs through 18 games.

 

* Despite a rough start, Joe Kelly still didn’t record a loss. He hasn’t been on the wrong side of a decision since 7/22/15.

 

* Xander Bogaerts extended his streak to 20 games in his second at-bat against Aaron Sanchez. Boston’s shortstop now has the longest active streak in the league.

 

 

STARS

 

1) Josh Donaldson

Toronto’s third baseman dominated not only Joe Kelly, but Koji Uehara, launching two balls over the fence in a 4-5 day.

 

2) Aaron Sanchez

Although he got tired late, Toronto’s starter only had three earned runs through 6.2 innings against one of the most potent offenses in the league.

 

3) Xander Bogaerts

After teammate Jackie Bradley, Jr. saw his streak die Thursday night, Bogaerts squeaked one up the middle, bringing his streak to 20 games, against a starter who’s caused problems for him before.

Marchand: Selection to Canada World Cup 'on a different level'

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Marchand: Selection to Canada World Cup 'on a different level'

Bruins left wing Brad Marchand definitely altered a lot of people’s perceptions about him as a hockey player when he scored 37 goals this season, and embraced more of a leadership role on a B’s team getting younger by the year. The B’s agitator started to reap the rewards of those changed opinions with a gold medal at the IIHF World Championships in Russia earlier this month, and on Friday with his inclusion on a ridiculously talented Team Canada roster set for the NHL and NHLPA-organized World Cup of Hockey in the fall.

Marchand will join linemate Patrice Bergeron and head coach Claude Julien as part of the Team Canada contingent, and could even be part of a reunited Marchand-Bergeron-Tyler Seguin line if Mike Babcock and Co. are looking for instant chemistry.

Either way Marchand was excited about suiting up for his country, and being part of a World Cup tournament that will include Bruins players Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara, David Pastrnak, David Krejci (who may not be available to play due to his hip surgery), Loui Eriksson and Dennis Seidenberg along with the Team Canada contingent.

“It’s an incredible honor to play for Team Canada. It’s something that I think we all take a lot of pride in, and something that is…it’s not an easy accomplishment,” said Marchand. “It’s not something you get to do very often, and to have that opportunity twice this year is very special and it’s not something I take for granted

“I think being part of a team like this is on a different level, and people may give a little more respect to that fact and may look at more of the kind of player I am, other than just the stuff they’ve seen in the past, with the hits and being a pest and stuff like that. Maybe those people will realize that I’m an OK hockey player, and I do play the game as well. But regardless, that’s not why I play the game. I play it to help our team win and just because I love the game, so however they feel, then that’s their opinion. But [earning more respect league-wide] is a possibility.”

This is the fifth time Marchand has been selected to compete for his home country of Canada in international play. The 5-foot-9, 181-pound forward tallied four goals and three assists in 10 games while helping Canada earn a gold medal at the aforementioned 2016 IIHF Men’s World Championships, held earlier this month in Russia. Marchand previously won gold with Team Canada at the U-20 World Championships in 2007 and 2008. He also earned a bronze medal with Team Canada Atlantic at the 2005 World U-17 Hockey Challenge.

The 2016 World Cup of Hockey will take place from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1, 2016 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, home of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs. The two-week tournament, featuring eight teams comprised of more than 150 of the best players in the NHL, will progress from the Preliminary Round to the Semifinals and ultimately the Final. 

The involvement of so many Bruins players along with Julien will make for a spare NHL camp in Boston come September with so many important pieces out for what is traditionally the first two weeks of camp. 

First Impressions: Kelly’s setback unsettling

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First Impressions: Kelly’s setback unsettling

First impressions of Red Sox 7-5 loss to Toronto:

 

Joe Kelly still has to prove he can be trusted to start for the Red Sox.

With the demotion of Clay Buchholz to the bullpen after Kelly’s lockdown start in his return from the DL, Kelly went back to his old ways.

After mixing pitches well in his first outing, Kelly threw 94 pitches -- 70 fastballs -- in 4.2 innings. In his previous start, he threw 66 fastballs over 104 pitches.

That approach won’t fly, especially if his fastball command is as subpar as it was against Toronto.

The Blue Jays’ batters seemed very comfortable in the box, despite Kelly throwing as hard as he does with so much movement. That can’t become the norm for opposing hitters.

 

The Red Sox offense can handle any starting pitcher -- but they can’t do it alone.

After Jon Gray shut down Boston in the final game of the Colorado series, Red Sox hitters faced a familiar foe that had already had success against them earlier in the year in Aaron Sanchez.

Despite using his curveball much more than his start earlier in the season, Boston’s hitters made adjustments. He did hold them down for much of the early going, but Red Sox hitters still scraped out four runs in his seven innings.

But the pitching staff didn’t hold up it’s end, essentially letting Josh Donaldson beat Boston by himself.

 

Xander Bogaerts made sure Sanchez didn’t ruin the streak.

Now hitting safely through 20 games, Bogaerts extended his streak against the starter who had him baffled when they faced off earlier in the year. The biggest difference from their last matchups was Bogaerts put good swings in against Sanchez mistakes -- and he didn’t appear off-balance after every swing.

 

Matt Barnes will not be Carson Smith’s replacement in 2016.

Despite his upper 90s fastball and 12-6 curveball, Barnes still can’t put together dominant appearances. His lack of command -- with a straight fastball -- is the big reason. Boston will have to look elsewhere -- internally or from another organization -- to give the bullpen another reliable set-up man given Koji Uehara’s age and durability.

 

The baseball gods are on Boston’s side -- for now.

As if Jose Bautista sitting out after appealing an earlier suspension wasn’t enough, the Red Sox scored their first run without a hit. Then the red Sox tied the game in the eighth on an error, after Dustin Pedroia had reach on a double that landed because Michael Saunders and Kevin Pillar had a communication breakdown.