Pierce answers the bell with a ringing peformance


Pierce answers the bell with a ringing peformance

BOSTON Doc Rivers was a bit antsy all day, unsure if Paul Pierce was going to play against the Orlando Magic.

Pierce's left big toe has bothered him since he jammed it at New Jersey on Saturday, not to mention that knee to the thigh he took from Tyson Chandler in Tuesday's loss to New York.

Rivers was waiting to hear word from trainer Ed Lacerte as to whether Pierce had contacted him to say if he was going to play or not.

No word.

"Up until when we got here, we didn't know if Paul was going or not," Rivers said. "But we assumed he was because when he didn't respond that means, 'Why are you texting me? I'm fine.' Then he came in and he just played great basketball for us."

That's vintage Paul Pierce, leaving everyone guessing - coaches and opponents alike - as to what his next move will be until he's already done it.

His game certainly kept the Orlando Magic off balance on Wednesday as the C's clinched the Atlantic Division with a 102-98 win.

And it was Pierce leading the way with a game-high 29 points along with a career-high 14 assists.

"He has a good feeling on when to distribute and consolidate the ball," said Kevin Garnett. "And he has a good feel for when to be a lot more aggressive."

With Rajon Rondo (back) out, Pierce knew going into the game that his role would be expanded to include play-maker duties.

No problem.

"Tonight it was in my hands, I got to do a lot of playmaking," Pierce said. "At the end of the day I just wanted to be aggressive, look to score, but when they collapse I just wanted to make the easy pass."

Down the stretch, Pierce showed the ability to hurt the Magic both with his passing and shot-making prowess.

The Celtics ended the third quarter with a 10-0 run that included a much-needed jumper from Brandon Bass - Pierce on the assist - that put the Celtics ahead, 78-70.

And the game's final moments, his 16-foot jumper over former Celtic Glen Davis with 7.6 seconds to play would later prove to be the game-winning points. With 2.9 seconds to play, Pierce made a pair of free throws to ice the victory.

"That's called a good basketball player," Rivers said.

First impressions: Red Sox lose to Yankees, still clinch AL East


First impressions: Red Sox lose to Yankees, still clinch AL East

NEW YORK -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 5-3 loss to the Yankees:


* The Red Sox couldn't have asked any more from Clay Buchholz.

Buchholz turned in what was likely his best start of the season, tossing six shutout innings while yielding just one hit -- an infield hit at that.

Brett Gardner was the only New York hitter to solve him. The leadoff hitter walked twice and reached on a slow roller to third, the only hit Buchholz allowed.

Twice, Buchholz retired eight Yankees in a row. He consistently pitched ahead in the count and showed a good rhythm on the mound.

Only a few months ago, the notion of Buchholz being part of the Red Sox' postseason rotation was laughable. Now, the Red Sox view him as a dependable, consistent starter.

And why not? Over his last seven starts, Buchholz is 4-0 with a 2.63 ERA.

Funny how quickly things can change in baseball.


* Don't invite Craig Kimbrel to your celebration.

Kimbrel came on for the bottom of the ninth, with a 3-0 lead and needing just three outs.

He barely threw a strike, allowing a leadoff single and three straight walks, the latter of which forced in a run.

Fortunately for the Red Sox, Toronto had already lost, clinching the division title for the Sox before the bottom half of the inning began.

Still, it was troubling to watch Kimbrel. This was, after all, a save situation, even if some of the adrenaline was taken away by the Blue Jays' loss.

Kimbrel seemed completely incapable of throwing a strike. At all.

Hardly the way you want your closer to be a week before your first post-season game.


* The Red Sox lineup poses all sorts of problems for opposing managers.

In the eighth, Joe Girardi had a choice to make -- pitch to David Ortiz with two on and first base open. Or walk Ortiz and pitch to Mookie Betts, with Hanley Ramirez waiting on deck.

Pick your poison.

Girardi picked incorrectly, though there might not have been a correct one.

That's what happens when you face three hitters in a row with 110 RBI or more.


Red Sox clinch AL East with Orioles victory over Blue Jays


Red Sox clinch AL East with Orioles victory over Blue Jays

NEW YORK -- The Boston Red Sox have won the AL East, clinching the division championship when the Toronto Blue Jays lost to Baltimore.

David Ortiz and the Red Sox, who had already secured at least a wild-card spot in the playoffs, will open their postseason schedule Oct. 6 seeking a second World Series crown in four years. The team's first opponent has not been determined yet.

Boston's game against the New York Yankees in the middle of the ninth inning Wednesday night when the Orioles finished off their 3-2 victory at second-place Toronto. The Red Sox began the night needing a win or a Toronto loss to wrap up their eighth AL East title.