Celtics-Heat review: What we saw . . .

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Celtics-Heat review: What we saw . . .

MIAMI The Boston Celtics got a huge lift from their Big Three in defeating Miami 115-107.

No, the other Big three - as in, the three players that the C's now turn to off the bench - Ray Allen, Sasha Pavlovic and Greg Stiemsma.

All three played important roles in the win, delivering a little bit of everything when the C's needed it most.

They were especially effective in the first half.

"End of the first, and the second quarter, you could make a case was the biggest part of the game," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "That's when we stretched (the lead) with our bench."

Of the three, the play of Pavlovic has been the biggest surprise.

Although he played less than eight minutes, he had six points on a pair of 3-pointers in the first half in addition to one blocked shot.

"We just have to be ready to go out and play whenever coach (Rivers) calls our names," Pavlovic said. "If we do that every night, we're going to be fine."

Stiemsma, the lone big man off the Celtics bench, had a strong game with eight points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots while playing less than 20 minutes. And then there was Allen, who had nine points and three assists.

"This whole season has been about opportunities," Stiemsma said. "Tonight was just another one."

And when they're playing this well, it makes life a lot easier for the likes of Paul Pierce and the rest of, you know, that other Big Three.

"With so many games, back-to-back nights, these guys have to come up big," said Pierce who led all Celtics with 27 points. "It's going to be nights where they're going to have to save the starters, and they've been doing a good job of that lately."

The play of Boston's bench was indeed a major factor in the C's victory. Here are some of the keys identified prior to the game, and how they actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: You can bet one of the first things the Heat will try and do is get LeBron James to get his teammates involved. Of all the problems Boston presented in their 91-72 win over Miami on April 1, it was James' inability to establish scorers around him that put the Boston beat-down in motion. So it's important that Paul Pierce do a good job of not allowing James to find teammates for open or slightly contested shots. But James said he's not coming into tonight's game looking to establish any one particular style of play. "I just kind of let it flow," James said. "Throughout the course of the game, just see if guys have it going, or if I have it going, then I just play it by ear."

WHAT WE SAW: LeBron James didn't waste any time, getting an assist on the Heat's first made basket. He would finish with a team-high seven assists, but there was never a point in the game where James' ability to get his teammates involved seemed to have an impact on the game. In addition to his seven assists, he also had a game-high 36 points along with seven rebounds.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Avery Bradley vs. Dwyane Wade: You could tell this game really means a lot to Wade, who took Sunday night off against Detroit to rest (wink, wink) a sore ankle. As for Bradley, he has to be prepared for a lot of hard screens set to free up Wade. But to his credit, Bradley's ability to move without the ball and get into position to score off cuts will make Wade work hard on defense which if you're the Celtics, you hope will take away some of his offensive fire power. Needless to say, Wade has been impressed with Bradley's emergence. "One thing about Boston, they have a lot of triggers going on," Wade said. "As a defender, you're looking at (Rajon) Rondo with the ball, you're looking at all the triggers the have and he's one of the best cutters. He finds a way to cut, when the triggers are going on. So you're doing what you're taught to do - pay attention to the ball - and he's going the other way. So you just try and be aware of it."

WHAT WE SAW: Wade was better, but it was yet another game in which Bradley made him work a lot harder than he's used to. Wade finished with 20 points, but shot just 9-for-21 in doing so. Bradley only had 11 points, but he did it by shooting 5-for-8 from the field.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo has had 17 straight games with 10 or more assist, and the last time he saw Miami on April 1 he had a triple-double. Look for the Heat to try and get the ball as much out Rondo's hands as possible, which would force Paul Pierce into being more of a facilitator as opposed to the C's primary scorer.

WHAT WE SAW: Rondo continues to play at a ridiculously high level for the Celtics. He finished with 18 points and a game-high 15 assists for his 18th double-double this season in addition to extending his streak of games with 10 or more assists, to 18. "Rondo really facilitated everything," said Paul Pierce. "With the movement, with the pushing the ball, mixing it up and also I thought he did a better job offensively."

STAT TO TRACK: One of the biggest problems Miami has had following the All-Star break, has been poor rebounding. Prior to the break, the Heat ranked 10th in bench rebounding, with 43 per game. Since returning from the break, they rank 26th with 39.6 per game. If the Celtics can keep this trend going, it'll provide a huge boost to their chances of beating Miami for the second time in the span of 10 days.

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics became the latest team to give the Heat major problems on the boards, as Boston won the battle of the boards, 40-34.

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 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.