Celtics-Raptors: Keep your eye on . . .


Celtics-Raptors: Keep your eye on . . .

TORONTO There are certain games that, regardless of how teams actually leading up to them are, present an added degree of difficulty. Tonight is one of those games for the Boston Celtics. After a hard-fought 88-87 nationally televised loss to the Los Angeles, the C's (14-11) must turn around less than 24 hours to face a Toronto team, on the road, who has been home since Tuesday.

And when you sprinkle in the fact that Boston hosts Eastern Conference-leading Chicago (22-6) on Sunday afternoon, you can see why Celtics head coach Doc Rivers refers to tonight's matchup as a "trap" game.

Boston is the better team. You won't find any argument along those lines.

But there's no question Toronto's chances of winning are heightened by factors that have absolutely nothing to do with their own preparation.

Here are some other factors to consider as the Celtics try to get back on track against the Raptors.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - The Celtics' ball movement has actually been pretty good all season. More than 65 percent of their made baskets come via an assist, which is tops in the NBA. In the Lakers loss, 22 of their 38 made baskets, or 57.9 percent, came by way of an assist. When you talk about ball movement and assists with the Celtics, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce are the keys. Injuries have limited them to playing in just 14 games together this season, with Boston going 8-6 with them both in the lineup. In those eight wins, they combine to average 16.9 assists. In the six losses, that number drops to 12.3.

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Paul Pierce vs. DeMar DeRozan: The two best scorers for their respective teams, this is a matchup Pierce should win all day. But the thing about DeRozan is he, like a lot of young players, plays better at home. On the road, he averages 14 points per game. At home, that number jumps to 16.2. The biggest factor? He shoots the ball better. On the road, he connects on 36.5 percent of his shots. At home, he shoots 43 percent.

PLAYER TO WATCH - We all know Kevin Garnett shot the ball poorly Thursday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, and research afterward showed that it was historically bad by KG standards. In going 6-for-23 from the field, KG missed his last nine shots - the first time he missed that many consecutive shots as a member of the Boston Celtics. In addition, it was only the second time in his NBA career (at Cleveland, Jan. 29, 2002, then with Minnesota) that he missed his final nine shots of a game. Look for the C's to try and establish him down on the post early, just to get him into a better rhythm shooting the ball.

STAT TO TRACK - The Boston Celtics have been one of the NBA's worst teams at getting to the free throw line, which is another indictment of how they have a team that relies heavily - arguably, too heavily - on jump-shots. Boston averages 19.6 free throw attempts per game, which ranks 27th in the NBA. They don't necessarily have to get more attempts than that to beat Toronto, but another five free attempt night like the one we saw against the Lakers will make for yet another game in which the Celtics made harder than it needed to be.

Cubs reach first World Series since 1945


Cubs reach first World Series since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.

Krug: My play is "not something I'm proud of at the moment"


Krug: My play is "not something I'm proud of at the moment"

BOSTON -- Torey Krug has plenty of legitimate reasons why he might be getting out of the gate slowly this season.

Krug is still ahead of his initially scheduled return from major shoulder surgery on a torn labrum last spring, and has spent the last couple of games playing his “off” side on a defense pairing with Joe Morrow. It was passable on Thursday night in the win over the New Jersey Devils, but Krug wasn’t much good at all while finishing with a -3 rating in a 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden on Saturday night.

Krug was beaten in a race to the puck for a key shorthanded goal by Montreal speedster Paul Byron in the third period, and the B’s defenseman was a part of the group that allowed an insurance goal to the Habs that effectively iced the game. Krug also had five of his seven shot attempts blocked on the evening, and is still struggling to get his points through in what used to be a very effective weapon for the Black and Gold.

Clearly Krug looks like he’s still feeling his way back to full form coming back from the shoulder issues, but he wasn’t biting on that excuse after the loss to the Habs.

"There's no consistency in my game for whatever reason. I've gotta make sure I'm working to get better, so that my teammates can count on me every single shift,” said Krug. “It’s not there right now, and I’ll take the blame for that. I’ve just got to work through it.

“I have no consistency to my game at all. I make a good play and the next shift it’s a poor play. It’s not something I’m proud of at the moment, but I’ll work through it. I always have. There’s always times during the season when you play poorly and you have to work through it. Unfortunately for me it’s the start of the season, but I’ll get back to a place where my teammates can’t count on me every time I jump over the boards."

With zero points in five games, the link is also obvious between the power play’s struggles and Krug’s erratic play out of the starting gate this season. Claude Julien didn’t specifically address Krug by name, but said there is plenty of blame to go around after another in a long line of home losses to the Canadiens.

“We just lost a game here, so now we’re trying to pick on players. We lost this game tonight because we didn’t play well enough. We made mistakes that were too costly, and when you give up four goals to Montreal, and you have [Carey] Price at the other end, it’s pretty hard to beat that team,” said Julien. “So we needed to be better. I think overall, in a lot of those areas where we, like I said, we shot ourselves in the foot with some real poor mistakes. We can’t afford to do that against the Montreal Canadiens.”

The Bruins also can’t afford to go too much longer this season without Krug returning to form given his standing within a Boston back end that isn’t exactly flush with puck-moving defensemen.