The Knicks are a familiar foe, but Sunday will be different

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The Knicks are a familiar foe, but Sunday will be different

BOSTON Whenever the New York Knicks come to town, it's always a big deal.

But when the Boston Celtics face the Knicks on Sunday, well, let's say it'll be a bigger deal than usual.

Both teams are in a relatively tight race for the top spot in the Atlantic Division, and then there's . . . Jeremy Lin.

Much has changed for the Knicks' fortunes since the Harvard graduate burst onto the scene just a few weeks ago.

He has taken a Knicks team that was seemingly headed nowhere in a hurry on a run of success that now has them thinking beyond simply getting to the playoffs.

"They're playing with spirit," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "When you watch them, the ball is moving and all that stuff. But they're playing now, like they have a chance. They believe."

And Lin, more than any other Knicks player, is the reason for that.

Since he was inserted in the starting lineup against Utah on Feb. 6, the Knicks are 9-3.

"Lin has obviously taken over the world; that's dope," said Boston's Kevin Garnett. "You always like to see someone succeed at what they love. He plays with a lot of passion. But he's given not just that team, but that city, life. I haven't really followed him much or jumped on the bandwagon. That's not my style. But I keep an eye on it."

Garnett added, "He's definitely put a spark in the city, and there's no better city to spark up than New York."

Rivers hasn't seen too much of the Knicks this season, but when it comes to Lin . . .

"I have watched him," Rivers said. "Because you have no choice. He's fantastic. He's scoring the ball at a high rate; double-digit assists every night."

But if he were all the Celtics had to worry about, they'd be in pretty good shape.

In addition to Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks also have Baron Davis, who is healthy enough to play now, and they picked up J.R. Smith, who rejoins the NBA after spending most of this past season in the Chinese Basketball Association.

"That's an impressive amount of talent on one team," Rivers said.

And the team that the C's have faced twice this season will be much tougher to put away on Sunday.

"They're definitely a lot different based on what they're doing with Jeremy Lin, getting some healthy bodies back . . . they've been playing really well of late," said Celtics Captain Paul Pierce.

The same can be said for the Celtics, who remain undefeated following the break after Friday night's 10794 win. The 107 points equaled the Celtics' season-high for points scored (at Miami, Dec. 27, 2011) this season.

And with both coming in separated by just a half game, you can expect this game will be like most Boston-New York games and won't be decided until the final minute or two of play.

Pierce expects the game to be challenging, primarily because both teams have so much at stake.

"We're both aiming for the same thing; we're aiming for position right here," Pierce said. "We're both seventh and eighth seeds now. We're playing for the Atlantic Division. We got a lot to play for. They'll come with it, but we'll be ready."

Quotes, notes and stars: Ziegler 'a Godsend' for Red Sox bullpen

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Quotes, notes and stars: Ziegler 'a Godsend' for Red Sox bullpen

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Minnesota Twins:

 
QUOTES

“We’ve come off a couple of days where we’re a pitch away or a swing of the bat away from being in a spot where we’re possibly looking at four consecutive in this series. But to pressed as we were -- give them credit they didn’t give in. They kept coming back -- they mounted some threats late.” - John Farrell said on the Red Sox the third consecutive in which they’d blown the lead.

“He’s been a Godsend to be honest. It’s a comfortable inning. The ball’s on the ground . . . He’s very calm, he’s experienced it . . . His addition here has given us a huge boost in line with the injuries to Koji [Uehara] and Craig [Kimbrel]” -  Farrell said on having Ziegler as an option.

“I’ll be honest, I get nervous when I’m watching, sixth, seventh, eighth inning of the game. I’ve picked my fingernails down too low one night. It’s a lot easier for me when I’m on the mound.” - Ziegler on dealing with his adrenaline and excitement when entering a game.

“That’s baseball. I mean, over the course of 162 games those sort of things are going to happen and you just keep battling and doing your job.” - Rick Porcello said about things not going entirely his way, despite feeling good on the mound.

“Yes. Because he threw me a changeup first pitch in my first at-bat. Sometimes you guess right.” - Hanley Ramirez said on why he was expecting a changeup from Tommy Milone that he turned into a three-run home run in the third inning

“I even didn’t know -- to be honest – that he threw over. When I was halfway I think I didn’t see like the catcher get up to throw the ball or anything so I figured maybe he threw to first. Once I saw Dozier catch it [one] way, I tried to [go] the other way. ” - Xander Bogaerts on avoiding the tag when he stole second in the fifth.

 

NOTES

* Xander Bogaerts finished 3-for-4 and has had multiple hits in nine of his last 11 contests. He leads MLB with 17 three-hit games.

* The Red Sox have now homered in 15 straight games, slugging 28 in that span.

* Hanley Ramirez has five home runs in his last five games, eight in his last 23. Over those 23 games, Ramirez is batting .337 (28-for-83) with 18 runs, seven doubles and 21 RBI to go with the eight homers.

* Three of Travis Shaw’s last four hits have been for extra bases -- 10 of his last 14 -- with the most recent being his three-run homerun Sunday. Shaw has also homered in four the last five series.

* Rick Porcello has won seven straight decisions and now has ten wins at home -- remaining undefeated at Fenway Park.

 

STARS

1) Hanley Ramirez

Ramirez slugged his fifth home run in his last five games, knocking in three runs. Sunday's DH finished 2-for-4 and scored two runs in the game.

2) Juan Centeno

Minnesota’s catcher finished 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBI in the losing effort

3) Rick Porcello

Despite giving up five runs (four earned) in his 6.2 inning of work, Porcello did what he needed to do to keep Boston in the lead. Had it not been for some shaky fielding, Porcello’s numbers might have been a better representation of how he looked and felt.

Kimbrel's knee 'feels great,' pushing himself towards return

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Kimbrel's knee 'feels great,' pushing himself towards return

BOSTON -- Just before the All-Star break, it almost seemed like the Red Sox were bound to lose Craig Kimbrel for six weeks potentially with the knee damage.

However, prior to Saturday’s game, John Farrell sounded optimistic about Kimbrel return more towards the three-week timetable.

The closer has gotten back to what he was working on prior to his injury, including his breaking ball.

“I’m out there spinning the ball right now,” Kimbrel said. “My knee feels great, so I’m just working on getting back into my mechanics. Staying compact and before I hurt my knee I was working on a few things. Just getting back to focusing on [those things].”

Kimbrel also stated that his arm “feels great” which was originally a concern for the Red Sox Front Office when he was injured -- fearing the knee would somehow lead to arm problems later.

Although things seem to almost be moving too fast for Kimbrel, he feels like the process has taken too long.

“It may look like a pretty fast recovery but it feels like forever,” Kimbrel said. “I think the way some people may look at it, it might be a little fast, but I’m not doing anything that is uncomfortable. I’m pushing myself, but I’m not pushing myself to a point where it doesn’t feel good. Testing everything out, that’s kind of where it is.

“Went in there and we didn’t really fix anything. Just kind of cut some cartilage out and right now it’s [about] getting my muscles firing like they’re supposed to. That’s coming back pretty fast because we were able to keep the swelling down right after surgery, so I was able to get back into the weight room and get back to the range of motion pretty quick.”

The righty will throw his first bullpen since the surgery and his confident he’ll feel good on the mound.

In fact, he thinks he could’ve thrown off the mound Sunday, but still hasn’t tested one important responsibility of a pitcher.

“I think I could throw off the mound,” Kimbrel said. “I don’t know if I can run in from the bullpen yet. Tomorrow we’re going to get off the mound, throw a bullpen and then can start pushing off and running.

“Fielding my position and cutting -- things like that. The kind of things where if a guy bunts on me [or] if I’ve gotta cover first -- I’ve gotta be able to do things like that.”