Celtics fall to Knicks in season opener, 106-104

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Celtics fall to Knicks in season opener, 106-104

NEW YORK Most would agree that the Boston Celtics' reign atop the Atlantic Division is near its end.

But before you call in the pastor to read the Celtics their last rites, they have a message for you they're still very much alive and kicking.

Still, their fight was not enough as the New York Knicks rallied in the fourth for a 106-104 win.

Carmelo Anthony led all scorers with 37 points, including a pair of game-winning free throws with 16.3 seconds to play.

The down-to-the-wire finish was a bit surprising when you consider the Celtics trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half before rallying to take control in the third and most of the fourth quarter.

"We were as soft as we could be in the first quarter, and then I thought we joined into the 2011-2012 season," said Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. "From that point on, I was pretty happy with the way we played. I thought we competed well."

So well, that even after the Knicks gave up a big lead and the Celtics in turn did the same in the fourth, the C's were well positioned to still escape with the victory despite not having their leading scorer, Paul Pierce (right heel), available to play.

After Anthony's free throws gave the Knicks the lead with seconds remaining in the fourth, Marquis Daniels launched a potential game-winning 3-pointer that was off the mark.

Fortunately for Boston, Rajon Rondo -- the best player on the floor for Boston all game -- was able to haul down the loose ball and call a timeout with 4.4 seconds to play.

He finished with a team-high 31 points to go along with 13 assists, the most assists by a Celtics player on Christmas Day.

The previous record holder?

That would be Rondo, who set the mark of 12 assists in 2008 at the Los Angeles Lakers' Staples Center.

Boston had one more shot at forcing overtime or winning it with a 3-pointer.

Kevin Garnett, defended by former Celtic Billy Walker at the time, pulled up for a lightly contested jumper that was off the mark as time expired.

Garnett and Walker exchanged some words after the game, and Garnett grabbed Walker's neck briefly as players separated the two.

It is unclear if the NBA will fine or suspend Garnett for his actions, but they are expected to review the incident on Monday.

"Next question!" was Garnett's response after the game when asked about the incident involving him and Walker.

As for the actual game played, the Celtics almost came up with a Christmas Day miracle if they were able to win without Pierce.

Keeping the Celtics in the game was Rondo, who proved the Celtics don't need a 'Paul' -- Pierce or Chris Paul -- to at least compete.

Rondo led all Celtics with 31 points. He also tallied 13 assists and five steals.

Boston also got a strong game from Brandon Bass, who was making his Celtics debut.

The 6-foot-8 forward finished with a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds.

But the Knicks, having squandered a lead that peaked at 17 points in the first half, were on the comeback trail in the fourth.

Leading the way was Anthony, who was limited in the third quarter because of foul trouble.

He scored the first five points of the fourth, which cut the Celtics' lead to 89-84.

But the Celtics countered with a 3-pointer from Ray Allen to give them some added cushion.

The Knicks continued to surge back into the game, and went ahead on a running jumper by Anthony that gave New York a 104-102 lead.

Sunday's loss was Boston's first to open a season since 2006. And the schedule doesn't get any easier with road games at Miami on Tuesday and New Orleans the following night.

"We're not gonna go down because we lost," said Celtics forward Sasha Pavlovic, who got the start in place of Pierce. "It's just gonna make us stronger."

First impressions: Longoria makes Buchholz pay in Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Rays

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First impressions: Longoria makes Buchholz pay in Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Rays

BOSTON - First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay:

* There's a steep learning curve for a set-up man, as Clay Buchholz discovered.

Although he's pitched out of the bullpen for the last couple of months, most of those appearances weren't of the high leverage variety. More often than not, the Sox had a sizeable lead, or Buchholz was brought in earlier in the game. Or they were behind and he was mopping up.

But Tuesday was different. The Rays had battled back to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, and after Matt Barnes got the final out in that inning, Buchholz came in to start the eighth.

After getting Kevin Kiermaier on a groundout to lead off the inning, Buchholz threw a four-seamer to Evan Longoria that the Tampa Bay third baseman launched toward the Charles River, clearing everything and putting the Rays up by a run.

It was a reminder that in late innings of close games, one pitch, with missed location, can really hurt.

 

* Hanley Ramirez knocked in two runs. He was sort of lucky.

In the fifth inning, Ramirez hit a twisting opposite-field fly ball down the right field line. It landed just past the Pesky Pole in right, measured at 326 feet, the shortest homer in baseball this season, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

Then, an inning later, Ramirez hit a pop fly that drifted into shallow right. Three Rays defenders converged -- first baseman, second baseman and right fielder -- and somehow the ball dropped in between all three for a run-scoring single.

Two cheap hits, two RBI.

At times, you'll see hitters mash the ball, only to have it hit right at someone for an out. Rotten luck, and all.

Tuesday night, Ramirez got to experience the flip side of that.

 

* Drew Pomeranz had an excellent outing -- until his final pitch of the night.

Through 6 2/3 innings, Pomeranz had allowed a single run on four hits while walking two and striking out eight.

He had retired 10 of the previous 11 hitters he had faced, and while he was approaching his 100th pitch, showed no evidence of tiring.

Then, Pomernaz hung a curveball to No. 9 hitter Luke Maile -- with two strikes, no less -- and Maile hit into the Monster Seats for a game-tying, two-run homer.

It was the first homer on a curveball allowed by Pomeranz in 153 innings this season, and all of a sudden, the outing wasn't so special.

 

Gronkowski presented with 2016 Ron Burton Community Service Award

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Gronkowski presented with 2016 Ron Burton Community Service Award

At Tuesday night’s Patriots Premiere event, tight end Rob Gronkowski was presented with the 2016 Ron Burton Community Service Award.

Gronkowski is the 14th player to have received the award that is named for the late Ron Burton. The first player the Patriots organization ever drafted, Burton was well-known for his charitable work.

“Ever since I’ve been here, following the Krafts, the whole Kraft family, from Myra Kraft, Mr. Kraft, all his sons, seeing everyone lead by example, how they give back to the community every single week was just an honor to see,” said Gronkowski, “I just wanted to be a part of it and give back to the community in a positive way.”

Those who have received the award in the past include Nate Solder (2015), Devin McCourty (2014), Matthew Slater (2013), Zoltan Mesko (2012), Jerod Mayo (2011), Vince Wilfork (2010), Kevin Faulk (2009), Larry Izzo (2008), Ty Warren (2007), Jarvis Green (2006), Matt Light (2005), Troy Brown (2004) and Joe Andruzzi (2003).

"Rob is just as fun to watch at a community event as he is on the game field," said Kraft. "Giving back to the community is a big part of being ‘Gronk.' He is engaging with fans of all ages. His gregarious personality makes him one of our greatest ambassadors, especially when spreading cheer to children at local hospitals or schools. We love the devotion and enthusiasm that he shows in the community and are proud to present him with this year's Ron Burton Community Service Award."

Gronk, never shy about cracking a joke, entertained the crowd like only he can.

“Who would have ever thought five years ago when I was on ESPN every weekend drunk that I’d be accepting this award?”

Expect Red Sox call-ups to come in two waves when rosters expand

Expect Red Sox call-ups to come in two waves when rosters expand

BOSTON - On Thursday, rosters will expand for major league teams, enabling them to add as many as 15 more players -- if they so choose.

The Sox, of course, won't be adding nearly that many. In fact, they'll probably only promote three or so players by Sept. 1, with additional players added after minor league seasons end on Labor Day.

The Sox call-ups will come in two waves. A look at who might be called up and when.

FOR FRIDAY: (the Red Sox are off Thursday)

* catcher Ryan Hanigan

* reliever Joe Kelly

* outfielder Bryce Brentz.

Hanigan is finishing up a rehab assignment and will provide the Sox with a third catcher, enabling John Farrell to either pinch-hit or pinch-run for one of his two catchers (Bryan Holaday and Sandy Leon) without worrying that he's putting himself in a potential bind.

Kelly would give the Red Sox another swing-and-miss bullpen option, though he's yet to establish himself as big league reliever.

Meanwhile Brentz would give the Sox another outfield option with the injury to Andrew Benintendi and further free up Brock Holt for infield duties.

FOR TUESDAY: (Day after International League season ends):

* reliever Heath Hembree

* infielder Deven Marrero

* reliever Noe Ramirez

Hembree has been effective in spurts and could offer some match-up options against righthanded hitters.

Marrero was a September call-up last year and could be a late-inning defensive replacement for Travis Shaw at third, or spell Xander Bogaerts at short if the Sox want to rest Bogaerts in one-sided games.

In the bullpen, Ramirez would serve as a long man in games in which a starter is knocked out early.