Hawks soar past Celtics, 97-92

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Hawks soar past Celtics, 97-92

ATLANTA Avery Bradley will be the first to admit that part of his success as a starter for the Boston Celtics has been the talented threesome of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo, that he gets to play with every night in the starting lineup.

But for one night, Bradley was on his own or so we thought.

He may not have been playing with the Celtics usual cast of starters, but the C's proved once again that they're deep enough to compete with the top teams in the East - regardless of who they have available.

Despite being without most of their starters and their top two scorers off the bench, Boston put quite a scare into the Atlanta Hawks before ultimately losing, 97-92.

Trailing 92-88 with less than a minute to play, a turnover by Marquis Daniels ultimately led to a put-back basket by Josh Smith that all but ended any hopes of a Celtics comeback.

Bradley finished with a career-high 28 points, his third game of 20 or more points in Boston's last four.

Atlanta was led by their six-time all-star Joe Johnson, who came up with a slew of big shots for the Hawks who moved one step closer to clinching home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs with the Celtics most likely being their first-round opponent.

Johnson led all scorers with 30 points.

Despite the lack of bodies, it certainly didn't take away from the Celtics' fight as they found themselves within one possession early in the fourth quarter.

Boston had multiple chances to take the lead, too.

First there was Daniels missing a wide open 3-pointer when the C's were down 74-73.

A lob pass to Ryan Hollins was ruled basket interference with the Celtics trailing 77-76 at the time.

Boston got three more shots at taking the lead within a two-minute period of time, coming up short in each instance.

The Hawks eventually made them pay as Willie Green drilled a 3-pointer to put Atlanta ahead, 82-78, with 5:44 to play.

It was that kind of night for the Celtics, who gave Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett the night off.

In addition, Boston was also without Allen, Rondo and Mickael Pietrus who were all back in Boston nursing injuries.

With so much offensive firepower out of the lineup, someone had to pick up the slack in comes Bradley.

Despite averaging 7.1 points per game this season, Bradley has been a nice offensive flow of late, Big Four or no Big Four.

In the Celtics' last four games prior to Friday night, Bradley averaged 20 points per game while shooting 62.7 percent from the field.

At the half on Friday, Bradley had 17 points on 8-for-13 shooting, well on his way to surpassing his career-high which is 23 points against both Orlando on Wednesday and earlier on March 25 against Washington.

Despite being without a slew of core players, the Celtics clawed their way to within a point, 72-71, late in the third quarter following a 3-pointer by E'Twaun Moore.

A jumper by Josh Smith gave the Hawks a 74-71 lead going into the fourth quarter, a position the C's were more than happy to be in.

Red Sox celebration quickly washes away walk-off loss

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Red Sox celebration quickly washes away walk-off loss

NEW YORK -- It had the potential to be the most awkward celebration ever.

In the top of the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium, before their game was complete, the Red Sox became American League East champions, by virtue of one other division rival -- Baltimore -- coming back to beat another -- Toronto -- in the ninth inning.

That eliminated the Blue Jays from the division race, and made the Sox division champs.

But that ninth inning reversal of fortune was about to visit the Red Sox, too.

Craig Kimbrel faced four hitters and allowed a single and three straight walks, leading to a run. When, after 28 pitches, he couldn't get an out, he was lifted for Joe Kelly, who recorded one out, then yielded a walk-off grand slam to Mark Teixeira.

The Yankees celebrated wildly on the field, while the Red Sox trudged into the dugout, beset with mixed emotions.

Yes, they had just lost a game that seemed theirs. But they also had accomplished something that had taken 158 games.

What to do?

The Sox decided to drown their temporary sorrows in champagne.

"As soon as we got in here,'' said Jackie Bradley Jr., "we quickly got over it.''

From the top of the eighth until the start of the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox seemed headed in a conventional celebration.

A two-run, bases-loaded double by Mookie Betts and a wild pitch -- the latter enabling David Ortiz to slide into home and dislodge the ball from former teammate Tommy Layne's glove --- had given the Sox a 3-0 lead.

Koji Uehara worked around a walk to post a scoreless walk and after the top of the ninth, the Sox called on Craig Kimbrel, who had successfully closed out all but two save opportunities all season.

But Kimbrel quickly allowed a leadoff single to Brett Gardner and then began pitching as though he forgot how to throw strikes. Three straight walks resulted in a run in and the bases loaded.

Joe Kelly got an out, but then Teixeira, for the second time this week, produced a game-winning homer in the ninth. On Monday, he had homered in Toronto to turn a Blue Jays win into a loss, and now, here he was again.

It may have been a rather meaningless victory for the Yankees -- who remain barely alive for the wild card -- but it did prevent them the indignity of watching the Red Sox celebrate on their lawn.

Instead, the Sox wore the shame of the walk-off -- at least until they reached their clubhouse, where the partying began in earnest.

It had taken clubhouse attendants less than five minutes to cover the floor and lockers with plastic protective sheets. In a matter of a few more minutes, the air was filled with a mix of beer and bubbly.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski wore a goggles and only socks on his feet.

As the spray reached every inch of the clubhouse, David Ortiz exclaimed: "I'm going to drown in this man.''

Defeat? What defeat?

 

Czarnik 'playing bigger' while looking to secure job with Bruins

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Czarnik 'playing bigger' while looking to secure job with Bruins

It’s not difficult to see why Austin Czarnik might have been a little overlooked headed into this Bruins training camp when forecasting favorites among the forwards to win a roster spot on the big club. After all he’s only 5-foot-9 and 167-pounds coming off just one very solid season at the AHL level for the Providence Bruins, and there are bigger, stronger forwards candidates that maybe rank a bit higher on the prospect list than him.

But the 23-year-old Czarnik put together an excellent training camp last fall before finishing with 20 goals and 61 points for the P-Bruins last season, and now he’s doing the exact same thing again this time around.

“Yeah, I feel more comfortable. I think we could have been a lot better in a lot of areas. Overall I think everyone is just happy to be back on the ice,” said Czarnik, who along with Frank Vatrano was one of the real starts of camp last season. “You know that type of mentality and you know mistakes are going to happen, and you’ve just got to move forward from it so everyone’s happy to be back.”

The former Miami University star is clearly happy to be back, and it’s showing on the ice with each chance he gets to show his tenacity, withering fore-check and his willingness to crash the net despite his smallish stature.

Czarnik was one of the most dangerous forwards on the ice for the Black and Gold in their preseason opener, and collected a key assist on Boston’s first goal of the game when he pushed a puck through the neutral zone before setting up on odd man rush for Jimmy Hayes and Jake DeBrusk.

This time around Czarnik scored the game’s only goal on a nifty rush during four-on-four play through the offensive zone by Ryan Spooner, who drew in the defense and dished to Czarnik for a wide open tap-in chance.

So it’s a couple of big plays in each of the first two preseason games that led to goals, and a genuinely excellent level of play throughout both contests. It’s something the Bruins coaching staff has taken note of along with his skating speed and hardnosed mentality, and now they have to figure if it fits in with their other NHL pieces.

“We were just talking about it. Everybody has that same feeling. He’s playing well. He moves well. He’s on the puck. He competes, and that’s the thing you’re looking for really,” said Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco. “Like right now, we know there’s going to be mistakes made by a lot of our players, especially the younger ones.

“We’re looking to see who’s got that competitive, you know, that competitive fire. [We’re looking for] who’s going to go out there and who can compete at a high level. I know he’s not big in stature, but he plays bigger than he is. He’s had two pretty good games so far.”

Czarnik had a couple of good games early in B’s camp last year before flat-lining a bit at the end when the NHL jobs were seriously on the line, and the 23-year-old wants that story to change endings this time around. It remains to be seen where he’s going to fit as yet another center among Boston’s group of training camp players this month, but Czarnik might just force the Bruins to make a tough decision if he keeps playing at his current high level.