What we saw: Celtics-Spurs preview review

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What we saw: Celtics-Spurs preview review

BOSTON Paul Pierce got the shot that he wanted. Whether it was the best shot he could have taken is debatable.
At this point, it's a moot point as the Celtics saw their season-best winning streak end at five games following an 87-86 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
In a game in which the Celtics had plenty of chances to make plays, their fate once again rested in the hands of Pierce whose step-back jumper with no time remaining hit the back of the rim and bounced out.
C's coach Doc Rivers would have liked Pierce to attack off the dribble earlier in the shot clock so that if he missed, they would have a chance at a tip-in for the win.
But with a few ticks on the game clock, Pierce was more concerned with getting off a shot that he's comfortable with.
A step-back jumper from the elbow?
That's a shot that Pierce loves to take -- and make. And with Tim Duncan switching out defensively to guard him, Pierce felt with so little time to play, that was the best shot he could get off in that situation.
"This type of stuff is not really scripted; you don't have an idea of what's going to happen in those type of situations," said Pierce, who had 15 points. "You get in those pressure situations and sometimes they work and sometimes they don't; but the thing is I'm not going to second-guess my decision. I thought I got a great shot, created some space right there at the free throw line. It's just some days they fall, some days they don't."
Pierce's last-second miss was just one of the many factors that contributed to the C's loss. We'll review keys to the game outlined earlier, and see how they actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Boston's best shot at beating the Spurs is to do what they did against Miami -- make sure it's not a game that comes down to the wire. This season, there are few teams that are better at putting away close games in the final couple minutes of play. In games in which San Antonio is ahead or behind within the last two minutes of play, they are 16-9. Only the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers have a higher winning percentage in such games.
WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics put up a valiant effort in the game's closing minutes, and had their chance to steal a win when Paul Pierce missed a jumper at the buzzer.
"The game came down to big plays, really," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "Think about it: they had two seconds, side out-of-bounds, and guy was falling out of bounds gives it to another guy, the guy makes a three. Get along offensive rebound, (Gary) Neal makes a three. They got two loose balls down the stretch. And we missed some -- we had some great looks."

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo vs. Tony Parker: In the Big Three era, Rondo has been fairly consistent with strong play against the Spurs. In the six games against them since 2008-2009, Rondo has averaged 14 assists with at least 12 in each game. In addition, he's averaged 12.3 points and 5.7 rebounds. Parker has emerged as the best scorer for San Antonio this season, averaging a team-high 19.3 points per game this season. And like Rondo, he relies on having jet-like quickness to get to the basket. But Parker is more of a finisher, while Rondo's dribble-penetration is usually to set up a teammate to score.
WHAT WE SAW: Rondo once again came out in attack mode, and the results were indeed impressive. He had 17 points on 8-for-15 shooting along with 11 assists and four steals. Parker's impact wasn't nearly as great, tallying 10 points on 5-for-14 shooting with only two assists and one rebound.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Brandon Bass is looking more and more like an X-factor for the Celtics. When he's on top of his game both as a scorer and a rebounder, the Celtics are an extremely tough team to beat. Bass has had five double-doubles scoring and rebounding this season. In those games, the C's are 4-1 with the lone loss coming in the season-opening loss at New York on Christmas Day.WHAT WE SAW: Bass didn't have a bad game, but he's played better -- a lot better. To beat the Spurs, they needed him to deliver both as a scorer and a rebounder. He had nine points on 3-for-6 shooting, but was just 3-for-6 from the free throw line. And his seven rebounds were important for the Celtics, again, they needed him to be a difference-maker tonight instead of a guy who had a good, but not-great performance.

STAT TO TRACK: There are a number of statistics that show how good Boston's defense has been this year, one of which is how they are giving up a league-low 36 made field goals per game. Keeping the Spurs at or below that total will not be easy, especially when you realize that they average a league-best 39 made field goals per game which is a big reason why they rank third in the NBA, in points scored (101.9) per game.
WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics didn't look particularly good defensively in the first half, but in the second? Completely different team.
"It was unbelievable," said Rivers, who held the Spurs to just nine points in the third quarter which is about 16 below their season average in the third quarter of games.

Quotes, notes and stars: Buchholz in 'attack mode'

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Quotes, notes and stars: Buchholz in 'attack mode'

CHICAGO -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 5-2 win over the White Sox:

 

QUOTES

"I think the most encouraging thing was after a couple of hard-hit balls early on, he was still in attack mode.'' - John Farrell on Clay Buchholz.

"The biggest thing centers around his fastball. First inning, he might have been up a little bit. But after that, he was down in the zone and the curveball was a good compliment to that.'' - Farrell.

"Man, I tell you what -- he does it in such big moments.'' - Farrell on David Ortiz.

"If you could paint a picture, I think tonight would be just about what everybody would want to do.'' - Buchholz on his outing.

"I think everybody would be lying if they said they didn't see your numbers; you see them every day. (Being) 0-3 with a six-something (ERA) is obviously not where you want to be.'' - Buchholz.

"Hopefully, this is the start of something good coming out of him.'' - Ortiz on Buchholz.

"You feel like the luckiest man on planet earth - finally hitting the ball where no one's at!'' - Ortiz on beating the shift with a single through the shortstop hole in the seventh

 

NOTES

* When the Red Sox homer, they're 11-6.

* Clay Buchholz's win was his first since last July 10.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his hitting streak to 10 games.

* Mookie Betts has scored at least one run in 10 of his last 14 games.

* David Ortiz is now one homer from tying Carl Yastrzemski for second-most homers in franchise history at 452.

* Ortiz tied Gary Sheffield for 25th place all-time in homers with 509.

 

STARS

1) Clay Buchholz

After five straight poor outings, Buchholz turned in a gem, giving up two runs in the first, then nothing else for the next six innings.

2) David Ortiz

As he so often does, Ortiz delivered when the Red Sox needed him most, clocking a two-run homer in the fifth to turn a one-run deficit into a two-run lead.

3) Jose Abreu

The White Sox slugger belted a two-run homer in the first to give him five RBI in the two games in this series.

 

First impressions: Buchholz finishes strong vs. White Sox

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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.