Rivers hopes to get Celtics on right track soon

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Rivers hopes to get Celtics on right track soon

If you want to know Doc Rivers' take on the season so far, you'll have to wait.

It's too early to tell, but you can assume that Rivers wasn't hoping his team would at any point sit at 4-7. He wasn't necessarily happy prior to the last three losses.

"I don't know what my take would be. I don't know if I'm happy. I don't know if I'm upset," Rivers told CSNNE's Greg Dickerson.

At the time of the interview, the C's were hovering around .500, prompting Rivers to claim he's 50-50 on the season so far. But he didn't stop there.

"We have not played as well as I thought we would out of the gates," he said.

But "out of the gates" has turned into the first 11 games of the season, where the C's find themselves at 4-7 going into Monday night's tilt against the Oklahoma City Thunder (11-2).

The product the Celtics have put on the court is certainly not one they plan on putting out there down the road.

"We're going to be a good team I think, but we're just not there yet," Rivers said. "And I think our group is starting to understand that it's just not going to happen because we have bodies in the gym. It's going to require a lot of work."

But regardless of the small roster heading into the lockout, the short time they had to assemble a team, and the money available to bring in talent, Rivers in no way "prepared" himself for losses to start the season.

"That's probably why I'm not happy," he said.

One key to success for the Celtics will be to get Kevin Garnett shots, something Doc Rivers has tried to engrave in the mind of the C's power forward since he got here, but especially now.

In Saturday's loss to the Pacers, Garnett took a season-high 19 shots and converted on a season-high ten of them. That's one bright spot to be taken out of the C's fourth straight loss.

"You just keep pleading, and keep getting him there," Rivers said. We have to do a better job too, it's not just Kevin, and I want to make that clear. We have to look for him more, we have to run more sets for him,and we have to execute more sets for him."

But Garnett isn't the only player the C's look to for scoring. One place they haven't had much luck with in the scoring department is the bench unit. In fact, through the first ten games of the season (Indiana excluded) the C's are averaging just 27.6 bench points per game, putting them at 24th out of 30 NBA teams.

The newest member of the bench, Mickael Pietrus, looks to change that.

"He can make a shot," Rivers said. "And that's what our bench needs to do. Our bench is playing great defense and no offense; really struggling offensively. And I have to do a better job, I have to figure out a way."

Rivers is right about the C's bench defense too. While you can't assume that the C's bench goes in against the opponent's bench, you can often find members of both sides in at the same time.

The C's lead the NBA in stopping opponent bench points, coming in at a measly 24.6 points per game.

Three things we learned from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Twins

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Three things we learned from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Twins

Three Things we learned from the Boston Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins:

1) It only seems like David Ortiz can come through every time.

When Ortiz comes to the plate as he did Friday night -- bases loaded, no out, bottom of the ninth, Red Sox trailing by a run -- it seems like a win is a fait accompli.

"I think everybody in the ballpark just assumed this one might have a chance to be ended right there,'' said John Farrell. "He's been so big for us that everybody in the dugout felt the same way -- confident that the stage was set for him to come through with another dramatic moment.''

Instead, Ortiz rolled over a ground ball to second, and with the Twins infield drawn in, it was enough to turn a 4-2-3 double play that took the starch out of the inning for the Sox.

If anything, though, the inning revealed how remarkable Ortiz has been so often. It's not easy to come through even most times, and it's certainly far from automatic.

"The pitcher (closer Brandon Kintzler) made good pitches,'' said Ortiz. "That's the name of the game. I'm always looking forward to something happening. It just doesn't work out all the time.''

2) Eduardo Rodriguez has his slider back.

When Rodriguez endured a rough stretch in late May and June, he seemed to all but abandon his slider, relying almost exclusively on his two-seam fastball and changeup.

But since returning from a stint in Pawtucket, Rodriguez has flashed the slider that made him so effective as a rookie last season.

"Since he's come back,'' said Farrell, "he's added much more depth. He's able to get to the back foot of some righthanders for some swing-and-miss. He was on the plate with three quality pitches for strikes tonight.''

"I feel like I can locate it better, where I want it,'' confirmed Rodriguez. "Outside, inside corner...I'm getting more confident in it. I think I got out of my mind the tipping (pitches) stuff and all that stuff and I'm just working to throw the ball right where I want it.''

It's almost impossible for a starter in the big leagues to survive with just two pitches, as Rodriguez was attempting to do earlier this season. And it seems foolish to even try, given that Rodriguez's slider can be a plus-pitch for him at times.

3) If Mookie Betts has to miss some time, the Red Sox have options in right field.

Farrell said Betts has been dealing with soreness and stiffness in his right knee since after the All-Star break and has been undergoing treatment.

There's no evidence that this is serious, and he's considered day-to-day. But even if Betts needs some time off, or in a worse-case scenario, has to go on the DL, the Sox can do some things with their outfield.

Michael Martinez's best outfield position is right, as he demonstrated Friday night after taking over for Betts in the top of the fifth. Martinez ran a long way to grab a ball in foul territory for the final out in the sixth, then turned in a fine, tumbling catch in the eighth to take extra bases away from Adam Grossman.

Bryce Brentz, who's been in a platoon of sorts in left with Brock Holt, has played a lot of right field in the minors and has the arm strength to play there.

Finally, there's the matter of Andrew Benintendi. The Sox raised some eyebrows with the news that they were having Benintendi move over to left field at Double A Portland, perhaps in anticipation of playing the position for Boston at some point later this year.

Benintendi is a natural center fielder and even though he doesn't much experience in right, if you're athletic enough to play center, you can usually move to either corner spot.

Quotes, Notes and Stars from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Twins

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Quotes, Notes and Stars from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Twins

Quotes, Notes and Stars from the Boston Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins:

QUOTES:

"I think everybody in the ballpark just assumed this one had a chance to be ended right there.'' - John Farrell on David Ortiz's at-bat with no out and the bases loaded in the ninth inning.

"I feel like I can locate it better - outside, inside corner -- so it's given me more confidence.'' - Eduardo Rodriguez on the improvement with his slider.

"I always look forward to something (good) happening; it just doesn't work out all the time.'' - David Ortiz on his ninth-inning at-bat.

NOTES:

* The Red Sox saw a seven-game winning streak at Fenway -- their longest of the season -- snapped.

* Boston has homered in 13 consecutive games.

* The Red Sox bullpen has posted a 1.17 ERA since July 6.

* Mookie Betts became the first Red Sox hitter to hit 20 homers in a season before he turns 24 since Nomar Garciaparra.

* Dustin Pedroia has reached base in 30 straight games.

* The eight strikeouts posted by Eduardo Rodriguez were a season high and one shy of his career high.

* The loss was only the 15th this season in games in which the Red Sox score first.

* Rodriguez has not allowed an opposing baserunner to steal a base since July 5, 2015.

STARS:

1) Kyle Gibson

Don't let the 5.12 ERA he had coming in fool you. Gibson worked out a little jam in the first, then completely shut the Red Sox down the rest of the way, allowing just one hit and one walk after the first.

2) Brian Dozier

Dozier homered in the second to tie the game, singled in the fourth, walked in the sixth and singled again in the eighth -- reaching base in all four plate appearances.

3) Miguel Sano

Sano invited trouble when he dropped a routine pop-up to allow the Red Sox to put the potential tying run on base in the eighth. But he had three base hits on the night, including a run-scoring double that put the Twins ahead to stay in the sixth.

Sean McAdam can be followed on Twitter: @Sean_McAdam