Rivers' dilemma: Better to start Allen or Bradley?

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Rivers' dilemma: Better to start Allen or Bradley?

BOSTON Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers has a dilemma of sorts on his hands now.

Ray Allen, who has missed the Celtics' last six games with a right ankle injury, is going to be healthy enough to play soon.

His replacement, Avery Bradley, seems to be getting better and more comfortable with every start.

So what does Rivers do? Put Allen back in the starting lineup when he returns, or stick with the strong play of Bradley with the first unit?

When you look at Rivers' reluctance to make any changes involving the Big Four, it would seem as though Allen's place with the starting unit is secure, right?

Not really.

Rivers acknowledged following Boston's 91-72 blowout win over Miami on Sunday that he has not made his mind up about which of the two will start when Allen returns to the lineup.

This season, the Celtics are 10-1 without Allen in the lineup, and 20-21 with him.

"We're playing well, but we've also played well with Ray, by the way," Rivers said. "I think people forget that part. The good thing is that we have options. And we have players with confidence; we have a lot of them."

The emergence of Bradley as a starter speaks to his growth this season into one of the NBA's most improved players.

He doesn't shoot the ball nearly as well as Allen, but his ability to defend seems to fit in well with the C's and their defensive mindset.

And with him now cutting to the basket often -- and Rondo finding him -- he's no longer an offensive liability when he's on the floor.

Bradley filled in for Rajon Rondo earlier this season, and the Celtics were successful.

But this stint in place of Allen has been different.

As Rondo's replacement, Bradley often deferred the play-making duties to Paul Pierce.

But in place of Allen, Bradley's clearly more comfortable at the off-guard position. And his defense, combined with Rondo's instincts for forcing turnovers by getting into passing lanes, has given the Celtics the kind of defensive-minded backcourt that the C's have not had under Rivers.

To his credit, Bradley has avoided making his newfound status with the Celtics an issue, maintaining that he plans to continue playing hard whether he's starting or coming off the bench.

"The veterans on this team have taught me so much since I've been here," Bradley told CSNNE.com. "It doesn't matter if I'm in the game at the start or coming off the bench. I just have to make sure I'm always ready to play, and when I do play, I'm helping my team win."

While Bradley has certainly played well enough to warrant the starting nod when Allen returns, folks have to remember that Allen's best play typically comes this time of year.

Bradley's defensive prowess has been impressive, but playoff games often come down to one or two big shots -- Ray Allen's specialty.

Whichever way Rivers decides to go, one thing is clear: The Celtics bench will get a boost with the addition of either player.

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 6-2 win over the Angels

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Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 6-2 win over the Angels

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 6-2 win over the Angels:

QUOTES

* “He just had very good command the entire night. Stayed ahead in the count [and] pitched to all quadrants of the strike zone. He used his four-seamer in on some powerful right-handed hitters in their lineup.” John Farrell on Rick Porcello’s performance.

* “We needed a win bad and swung the bats well and played good defense. That’s a big win for us.” Rick Porcello said after his win in an interview with NESN.

* “24 hours ago we were probably in a much different place mentally after a ball game like tonight.” Farrell on the win.

“That was probably the first time I sat on off-speed pitches this whole year. I took a chance, took a gamble.” Jackie Bradley Jr. said on his home run.

NOTES

* Rick Porcello completed his first game in a Red Sox uniform in the 6-2 win. The CG was the fifth of his career and his first since he threw three in 2014. The righty has 14 wins, one win shy of tying his career high.

* Xander Bogaerts had his first multi extra-base hit performance of the season since June 11. He’s only done that twice this season. He extended his hitting streak to 11 games.

* David Ortiz logged his 85th RBI of the season in the win and Mookie Betts his 67th. Heading into Friday night’s game, the two were one of five pairs of teammates ranking in the top 20 in RBI. The list includes Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson, Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story, Adam Duvall and Jay Bruce and Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

* Dustin Pedroia has now reached base safely in 32 straight games.

STARS

1) Rick Porcello

Porcello had his first complete game in a Red Sox uniform, stopping Boston’s losing skid at four games.

2) Xander Bogaerts

Bogaerts finished with a double and a home run -- the only Boston hitter with multiple hits. He also led the Red Sox with three RBI and scoring twice in the win.

3) Dustin Pedroia

In addition to walking in his first two at-bats, Pedroia had a base hit -- and another walk -- scoring twice on the night.

First impressions of the Red Sox' 6-2 win over the Angels

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First impressions of the Red Sox' 6-2 win over the Angels

First impressions of the Red Sox 6-2 win over Los Angeles:

Rick Porcello is not fazed by his fellow staff members’ struggles.

Although his teammates continue to deal with frustrations on almost a nightly basis, Porcello got the job done and put Boston in a position to win once again.

The second-inning double by Daniel Nava should have been a single, had Jackie Bradley Jr. not misplayed a funny hop. If that hit is a single, the next ground ball is a double -- and the following grounder ends the inning.

One of the most impressive components of his outing was dealing with Cole Kalhoun, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols to finish his outing after already facing them three times on the night.

Xander Bogaerts had his first multi-hit game in a week.

Which in the grand scheme of things isn’t a long time -- but that can feel like a long time given the shortstop’s output this year.

It was also his first multi extra-base hit performance since June 11.

Oddly enough, those are his only two games of that kind this season.

In addition to the win, Porcello did the bullpen a favor.

Not necessarily because the relievers needed rest, but with Ziegler’s last two rough nights, they could use a break.

Although Joe Kelly and Clay Buchholz got warm late, it was more so to keep them fresh for the coming games since they haven’t thrown much.

Additionally, he gave an example for the Red Sox starting rotation that they are in fact capable of going the distance.

Tim Lincecum is barely a shell of what he used to be.

That first inning was hard to watch. The former Cy Young Award-winner threw eight straight balls, and somehow managed to work past. Even his final throw to first base in he opening frame looked like it was going off the mark.

Just hard to watch in general, which made it all the more shocking that the Red Sox couldn’t score against him.

Good for them that he never adjusted, and they took advantage of it in the ensuing innings.