Talking Points: West tops East in All-Star nailbiter

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Talking Points: West tops East in All-Star nailbiter

ORLANDO, Fla. Like most NBA all-star games, what looked like a blowout in the making, suddenly became a close game in the fourth quarter.

Despite a furious comeback in the fourth by the East, they could not overcome a strong first half by the West which hung on for a 152-149 win.

The East had a chance to go up in the final seconds of play, but a 3-point attempt by New Jersey's Deron Williams was well off the mark. The loose ball wound up back in the hands of the East, but LeBron James' pass was picked off by Blake Griffin who was immediately fouled.

He made one of two free throws with 1.1 seconds to play.

Kevin Durant had 36 points as the Western Conference All-Stars won for the second straight year, and third time in the last four years.

After trailing by as many as 21 points, a James 3-pointer made it a one-possession game (144-141) with about three minutes to play. He also had 36 points.

But a floater by Durant and a powerful, one-handed dunk by Russell Westbrook put the West back on top 148-143.

The East weren't ready to give up quite yet.

A dunk by Dwight Howard and a Deron Williams lay-up following a steal cut the deficit to 148-147.

The East had a chance to take the lead with about 80 seconds to play, but Dwyane Wade lost control of a long pass from James that sailed out of bounds. Wade had a triple-double of 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

That would prove to be a huge gaffe, as Griffin had a put-back dunk of a Westbrook miss to make it a 150-147 game with less than a minute to play.

The tight finish was a far cry from the way the game was being played in the first half.

Look no further than the shooting percentages at the half.

The West, which had an 88-69 lead at the half, was shooting 60.3 percent from the field while the East wasn't too shabby while connecting on 49.2 percent of its shots.

One of the game's other highlights was Kobe Bryant who finished with 27 points. In doing so, he surpassed Michael Jordan for the all-time leading scorer in All-Star game history. Bryant now has 271 points, breaking Jordan's mark of 262.
HOT SHOT: Kevin Durant of the West and LeBron James of the East put on a great show scoring the ball. And while they each finished with 36 points, Durant came up with some clutch buckets in the game's closing moments. LeBron?Not so much. That's why Durant's team won and he was named MVP.

IN-N-OUT: Paul Pierce said after the game he was trying to get up some shots. Mission accomplished. Making a few of them would have been nice, though. Pierce, one of just five Celtics to be named to 10 all-star games for the Green Team, had three points while missing seven of his eight shot attempts.

SUPER SUB: Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook continues to prove he's more than just Kevin Durant's sidekick. Named to his second straight All-Star team, Westbrook came off the bench and scored 21 points - more than any other All-Star reserve - on 10-for-17 shooting. He also managed to grab five rebounds.

TURNING POINT:With the East trailing 151-149, Deron Williams attempts a 3-pointer that's off the mark, but Williams is able to get the rebound. The ball winds up in the hands of LeBron James with time running down. He tries to throw a cross-court pass to a teammate, but the pass is intercepted by Blake Griffin who is fouled with 1.1 seconds to play. Griffin made one of the two free throws to secure the win.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2: That would be the number of consecutive wins for the West, snapping a string of alternating wins that dates back to 2006.

QUOTE OF NOTE: "It's just exciting to be named an All-Star, but to step it up another level and become MVP, it's only something that as a kid you dream about. Coming from where I come from, I didn't think I would be here."-Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant, who was named All-Star MVP.

Quotes, notes and stars: Swihart flashes power and speed

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Quotes, notes and stars: Swihart flashes power and speed

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 10-3 win over the Colorado Rockies:

 

QUOTES

"I felt a little cramp. I'm fine. I appreciate John and everybody looking out (for me). We obviously don't want anything to happen like last year, but I'm good.'' - Dustin Pedroia, who left the game in the fifth after experiencing some tightness in his right hamstring.

"It's nice to be able to get deep into the game. That's my goal every time. My goal is nine innings, so if I don't get nine innings, I'm a little disappointed because I want to be able to go out there and pitch as many innings as I can.'' - Steven Wright.

"I think my release point was just a little off. That definitely makes it hard, especially when it's moving, because it's not a consistent release point.'' - Wright on the early-inning unpredictability of his signature pitch.

"Even when I was catching, I pride myself on running. I want to be an athlete back there. I want to run the bases, steal bases, things most catchers aren't known to do.'' - Blake Swihart, who hit two triples.

 

NOTES

* Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his hitting streak to 29 games.

* Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 18 games.

* David Ortiz tied Paul Molitor for 12th on the all-time doubles list with 605.

* Ortiz has driven in multiple runs in three straight games

* Dustin Pedroia has a career batting average of .340 in interleague play, the highest ever for someone with 500 or more at-bats.

* Travis Shaw drove in three runs and now has 68 RBI in his first 111 games since Fred Lynn and Jim Rice in 1974-75.

* Blake Swihart became the third Red Sox hitter this season to post two triples in the same game.

* The Red Sox clinched their fifth straight home series win.

* The Sox are 21-8 since April 24 and are 13-2 in their last 15 home games.

 

STARS

1) Steven Wright

Backed by some rare run support, Wright evened his record at 4-4 with seven-plus innings and his eighth quality start this season.

2) Travis Shaw

Shaw produced two hits and knocked in three runs, making him the fourth Red Sox player this season to reach 30 RBI.

3) Blake Swihart

Swihart got to flash both his power and his speed by hitting two triples to the triangle, motoring around the bases.

 

Some questions and answers when it comes to Miller contract

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Some questions and answers when it comes to Miller contract

A day after the Bruins announced a much-maligned four-year contract extension for defenseman Kevan Miller, B’s general manager Don Sweeney held court with the media to equal parts explain/defend the $10 million deal. Sweeney pointed to the very high character of a hardnosed player in Miller, and the relatively low mileage given that he’s played only 159 games at the NHL level.

There was also mention made of the room to grow in Miller’s game, though it’s difficult to imagine a much higher ceiling for a 28-year-old player than what the former UVM produced showed in 71 games last season.

“Kevan brings incredible character. His signing provides us with the necessary depth on our defense that all teams need. His relative low-mileage, having just played 160 games, we identified that we think Kevan has room for continued growth and development,” said Sweeney. “We certainly saw that in his play this year when he had an expanded role. Relative to the free market place, very, very comfortable with where Kevan fits into our group, and this provides us with the opportunity to explore the marketplace in every way, shape, or form, in having Kevan signed.”

Here’s the reality: Miller is a 5-6, bottom pairing defenseman on a good team, and a top-4 defenseman on a team like last year’s Bruins that finished a weak 19th in the league in goals allowed. The five goals and 18 points last season were solid career-high numbers for a player in the middle of his hockey prime, but he barely averaged 19 minutes of ice time per game as a front top-4 defenseman. Miller struggles with some of the fundamental needs in today’s NHL if you’re going to be a top-4 D-man: the tape-to-tape passes aren’t always accurate, there’s intermittent difficulty cleanly breaking the puck out of the defensive zone and Miller was exploited by the other team’s best players when paired with Zdeno Chara at points last season.

Certainly Miller has done some good things racking up a plus-55 rating during his three years in Boston, but executives and officials around the league were a bit surprised by the 4-year, $10 million contract extension. It’s viewed as a slight overpay in terms of both salary and term, but it’s more the redundancy of the contract that’s befuddling to some.

“Miller is certainly a rugged guy, but you already had one of those at roughly the same value in Adam McQuaid. I believe that you can’t win if you have both McQuaid and Miller in your top 6 because they are both No. 6 D’s in my mind,” said a rival NHL front office executive polled about the Miller contract. “You look at the playoffs and the direction that the league is headed in, and you need to have big, mobile defenseman that can quickly move the puck up the ice. You have too much of the same thing with Miller and McQuaid, and I think you can’t win with that in this day and age.”

The one facet of the four year Miller contract that might make it okay for some Bruins fans: the tacit connection to the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes. According to several sources around the league, the Bruins taking care of Miller now will very likely have a positive impact on their chances of landing Vesey when he becomes a free agent on Aug. 15, and makes them the front-runner for the Harvard standout’s services. Both Miller and Vesey are represented by the same agent in Peter Fish, and those are the kinds of behind-the-scenes connections that many times factor into free agent signings and trades around the NHL.

So many, this humble hockey writer included, may owe Sweeney a slight apology if paying a $10 million premium for a bottom-pairing defenseman in Miller now pays dividends in landing a stud forward like Vesey that’s drawing interest all around the league.