Pierce finally finding his rhythm

579448.jpg

Pierce finally finding his rhythm

BOSTON Paul Pierce has to go.

He's too old, too slow, too out of shape to give the Boston Celtics what they've come to expect from him.

Go out and get Memphis' O.J. Mayo, Atlanta's Josh Smith, somebody -- anybody -- before Pierce's trade value dips any lower, some said.

The rumblings to make a major change steadily grew as the Celtics losses mounted, but coach Doc Rivers remained committed. When Pierce's health and conditioning improved, Rivers said, he would start playing like the Paul Pierce fans have come to love.

That time appears to have arrived, as the Celtics (7-9) are in the middle of their best stretch of play this season.

Monday night's 31-point beatdown of the Orlando Magic was Boston's second straight win, and third in the last four games.

And the key to that success? Paul Pierce.

In the last four games, Pierce has averaged 18.3 points, 7.5 assists and five rebounds while shooting 45 percent from the field.

But the numbers only tell part of the story about how Pierce has willed this Celtics team back into, at the very least, what looks like a playoff contender.

Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, was not surprised that Pierce struggled to start the season.

"He had zero training camp," Ainge told CSNNE.com, referring to the right heel injury that forced Pierce to miss all but one practice in training camp as well as the first three regular season games.

"And even when he came back, he wasn't 100 percent. It's a credit to Paul that he's out there playing, and he's trying to get himself in shape and trying to do what he can to help our team."

Making matters even more complicated was a report that teams were calling the C's to see about Pierce's availability.

"You can't pay attention to that," Pierce said. "That's part of the business. You just gotta do your job as a professional each and every day. That's about it."

Lately, that's exactly what the Truth has done for the Celtics who will face Orlando Thursday -- a team that they embarrassed in every way imaginable on Monday.

The Magic scored a franchise-low 56 points, the kind of performance nobody saw coming when you consider the Celtics were without their starting backcourt of Ray Allen (ankle) and Rajon Rondo (wrist), along with three key reserves.

"They came out and just absolutely dominated us with their energy and their defensive intensity," Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy said after the loss. "That's the most dominating defensive performance I have ever had against me.

Van Gundy added, "It's the first game in my career I've been through where not one guy played well. We didn't have one guy. That was an absolute beat-down, and in most senses it was much worse than the score indicated."

And while it was the C's defense that carried the day, Pierce's play was once again instrumental in Boston getting its first win of the season over a team with a winning record.

"Throughout this short season, it's funny how people expect you to start off perfect," said Boston's Kevin Garnett. "It's really a testament to Paul, who he is and what people know him to be. You have no idea how hard it is to get ready for an NBA season, to prepare, drills, sand hills, sand dunes, lines, running, weights, beach, 4:30 a.m. workouts, two-a-days it's still not an NBA game.

Garnett added, "You can do all that stuff, you can do all the conditioning and stuff and all the shooting that you want; it's still not an NBA game."

As far as Pierce's early struggles, Garnett reiterated Ainge's thoughts on Pierce playing through the right heel injury.

"People wrote him off, which was funny," Garnett said. "But it gave some clarity to how people see him. He's in a rhythm now. He's never shy of confidence. He's the Truth. It's good to see him playing good basketball. He's always been our leader since I been here, and he will always be our leader. That's what it is."

First impressions: Buchholz finishes strong vs. White Sox

red_sox_clay_buchholz_050416.jpg

First impressions: Buchholz finishes strong vs. White Sox

CHICAGO - First impressions from the Red Sox' 5-2 win over the White Sox.

 

If this was some sort of must-win proposition for Clay Buchholz, he passed his test.

Buchholz found himself behind 2-0 just three batters in when he allowed a two-run homer to Jose Abreu, but he righted himself nicely after that.

Buchholz pitched seven innings and didn't allow another run. In fact, Buchholz only yielded two more hits after the first - both singles.

John Farrell said he wanted to see Buchholz attack the strike zone with his fastball, pitch with a quicker tempo and not rely so much on his secondary stuff. To varying degrees, Buchholz accomplished all three and finished strong - retiring the last 10 hitters in a row and 16 of the last 17.

 

Josh Rutledge had a nice night off the bench.

Rutledge was a last-minute addition to the lineup when Hanley Ramirez was scratched with the flu and Travis Shaw was shifted from third base to first base.

Rutledge reached base three times with two singles and a walk. One of the singles drove in the fourth run, scoring Chris Young with an important insurance run.

 

David Ortiz broke out of his U.S. Cellular slump in a big way.

Coming into the game, Ortiz was hitless here in his last 19 at-bats and when he hit into a double play in the first and flied to center in the third, that stretched to 0-for-21. Since the start of 2014, those first two at-bats made Ortiz 1-for-26.

But in the fifth, Ortiz hammered a pitch from Carlos Rodon into the seats in right for a two-run homer, giving the Red Sox their first lead of the series.

For all the talk about Ortiz's difficulty hitting lefties, he's now third among lefty batters in homers off lefthanded pitchers since last July 2.

 

The home run power continues to be in short supply beyond Ortiz.

Last season, the Red Sox didn't have anyone hit 20 homers other than the (then) 39-year-old Ortiz.

Might the same thing happen again this year?

Ortiz hit his sixth homer last night, again leading the club. Mookie Betts is the only other hitter on the Sox with more than three homers -- and he hasn't hit one in his last 58 at-bats, dating back a week and a half.

 

Tom Brady, Vanilla Ice look like BFFs at Under Armour event

brady.jpg

Tom Brady, Vanilla Ice look like BFFs at Under Armour event

Watch out Julian Edelman, Wes Welker and Alex Guerrero. Tom Brady just might have a new best friend. 

At an Under Armour event that took place on Wednesday, rapper Vanilla Ice snapped a selfie with the Patriots quarterback, who was grinning from ear to ear. 

In South Baltimore, "Armour Day" was held in order to celebrate Under Armour's 20th year in business. Brady was one of many athletes in attendance, including Jordan Spieth, Lindsey Vonn, Deion Sanders, Ray Lewis, Cal Ripken, Boomer Esiason and Roger Clemens. 

Brady is one of the faces of Under Armour, along with Spieth and Warriors guard Steph Curry. When he signed in 2010, he received equity in the company as part of the deal.