Celtics prepare for daunting week of games

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Celtics prepare for daunting week of games

BOSTON There have been many descriptions of this upcoming schedule for the Boston Celtics which includes five games in six nights, in five different cities.

Brutal. Challenging. Grueling.

Here's another one fun!

Fun?

"I think it'll be fun," said Boston's Avery Bradley who says he's never played in a stretch of games like this. "We love the game of basketball. We're already getting ourselves mentally prepared for it."

The best way to do that is to simply win games in less-than-desirable scenarios, something the C's have been able to do during their current four game winning streak.

On Saturday, they went into Indiana and beat a Pacers team that's playing some of their best basketball now and are one of the teams Boston (34-24) is trying to catch up to and surpass in the Eastern Conference standings. The Celtics followed that victory with a blowout win at home the following night against a Philadelphia team that's right on their heels in the Atlantic Division.

As impressive as those two wins were, they pale in comparison to the Celtics' 115-107 win at Miami, a game in which the Heat delivered a slew of big blows to the Celtics all night, only for the Celtics to counter with a 1-2 punch of their own that was even more powerful. If the C's make the kind of deep playoff run they're hoping for, Tuesday's win over Miami might be viewed as the turning point in which Boston went from a team that was playing well, to one that has to be considered a legit contender to come out of the Eastern Conference.

With that kind of success, the C's appeared to be in good shape for a major letdown Wednesday night against the Atlanta Hawks. Boston was playing their fourth game in five nights, while the Hawks had not played in a game since Saturday.

There was no way to avoid mental fatigue becoming an issue for the Celtics. But to their credit, they managed to overcome it and for the most part, keep the game against the Hawks relatively close which afterward, Rivers said was the game plan coming in.

"We didn't play well," Rivers said. "I mean, we just kept hanging in there. You could see the fatigue."

Fatigue or not, Boston still managed to grind out an 88-86 overtime victory which was maybe the most impressive victory during this current winning streak when you consider the caliber of opponent, what was at stake (winning the head-to-head series) and the fact that Boston was coming off a hard-fought win at Miami just 24 hours earlier while the Hawks had not played since Saturday.

And now, the C's move on for road games at Toronto on Friday, New Jersey on Saturday and Charlotte on Sunday. After that, the C's face New York on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden and come home the following night to host the Orlando Magic.

Players are well aware that this upcoming stretch of games will go far in determining where they eventually wind up in terms of playoff seeding.

"Wish I could tell you what to expect, because I don't know," Rivers said. "I don't talk about it, don't mention it to our guys. We don't even talk about it with our staff."

With so many games congested together - not just this stretch, but this entire NBA season - it doesn't do much good to look too far down the road.

"We go one at a time," Rivers said. "That's the way you have to approach this season."

Late goal gives Orlando City 2-2 draw with Revolution

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Late goal gives Orlando City 2-2 draw with Revolution

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Carlos Rivas tied it in the 90th minute and Orlando City survived New England's late chances in a 2-2 tie with the Revolution on Saturday night.

Rivas finished Cyle Larin's cross with a left-footed shot from the center of the box, and Orlando City goalkeeper Joe Bendik saved Donald Smith's close-range shot moments later. The Revs' Juan Agudelo hit the crossbar with a header in the final minute.

Agudelo entered as a substitute in 70th and scored on his first touch a minute later to give the Revolution (1-2-7) a 2-1 lead.

The Revolution opened the scoring in the seventh minute on Diego Fagundez's right-footed blast. Kevin Molino tied it for Orlando City (2-2-4) with a left-footed smash off a loose ball in the 30th minute.

First impressions from Red Sox' 8-0 win over Yankees: Bradley on a tear

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First impressions from Red Sox' 8-0 win over Yankees: Bradley on a tear

First impressions from the Red Sox' 8-0 win over the Yankees:

* Rick Porcello doesn't seem like a weak link in the rotation now.

Porcello blanked the Yankees for seven innings and is now 5-0 with a 2.76 ERA for the season. For the fourth time in five outings, he pitched into the seventh innings.

The Yankees threatened only once - in the fifth, when they had runners at the corners and two out. But Porcello got Jacoby Ellsbury to ground out, stranding two and was never in trouble again.

Porcello's command is improved over a year ago. In his first five starts last year, covering 30 innings, he walked 10. This year, he's pitched 32 2/3 innings and issued just five walks.

* Jackie Bradley is swinging it like he did last August.

Bradley went on an extra-base tear late last summer, rocketing doubles, triples and homers for a stretch of a few weeks that was completely unexpected.

The last week has been like that stretch, with seven extra-base hits in the last seven games. He knocked in the first run of the night with a double to left, then delivered another in the sixth with a triple to the triangle and two more in the seventh with a triple into the right field corner.

In the two games against the Yankees, he's got four extra-base hits, a walk and five RBI.

* David Ortiz has started 20 games this season. He's knocked in 19 runs.

Ortiz added his second homer in as many nights, to go along with a single and walk.

It's doubtful that he's going to keep up his RBI-per-game pace, but when he's locked in the way he is now, he impacts virtually the entire lineup from the cleanup position.

* If you think Pablo Sandoval was bad, maybe you haven't been watching Chase Headley.

The Yankee third baseman was a free agent the same winter that Sandoval was and some argued that he would have been a better fit for the Sox than was Panda.

But 22 games into the 2016 season, Headley has yet to collect a single base hit and has an OPS of .405. He's hitting .153 and has virtually no range to speak of at third base.

* A lot has changed for Junichi Tazawa.

A year ago, Tazawa was overworked in the first half of the season. On Saturday night, he got an inning of work in the ninth in a blowout game because he hadn't pitched since last Sunday -- thanks to strong starting efforts from the rotation over the past two series.

Eriksson named Lady Byng finalist for 2nd time

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Eriksson named Lady Byng finalist for 2nd time

Patrice Bergeron will have some Bruins company at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas at the end of the month of June.

Loui Eriksson was named a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy on Saturday afternoon along with Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar and Florida Panthers pivot Aleksander Barkov. It’s the second time in his career that Eriksson will be named a finalist for the award given annually "to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability."

The Swedish winger finished his best season in a Bruins uniform with 30 goals (third on team) and 33 assists for the second most points (63) on the team along with 12 total penalty minutes through 82 games played. Eriksson was excited to once again be a finalist for the award, and to be lumped in with a couple of the NHL’s best players in Kopitar and Barkov.

“It is a great honor to be considered for the Lady Byng Trophy, an award that has been won by some of the best players of all time,” said Eriksson, who will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1 after three seasons in Boston. “There are many deserving candidates so to be named one of the finalists with Anze Kopitar and Aleksander Barkov is very exciting for me. Thank you to my teammates and the coaching staff and I appreciate all those who voted.”

The last Bruin to win the Lady Byng Trophy was Rick Middleton back in 1981-82, and Eriksson is the first B’s finalist for Lady Byng in more than 10 years.