Box Score Bank: Clay Day

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Box Score Bank: Clay Day

BREAKING NEWS: Clay Buchholz is having an awful season.

Actually, I'm sure you already knew that, but just for fun let's provide a few details.

For one, he's given up more earned runs (28) than any pitcher in baseball. Not surprisingly, he also has the league's worst ERA (8.69) and is tied for the second-worst WHIP (1.90). The fact he also sports a 3-1 record defies most logic and only supports the claim that WL record is one of the more bogus statistics in sports (right up there with NBA -).

Yup, Clay's been horrendous. So it wouldn't hurt to throw a little positivity his way. (It wouldn't help either, but lay off, I needed a segue). And with the Orioles in town, I've got the perfect thing.

So let's set the Box Score Bank for

September 1, 2007

Beautiful Girls by Sean Kingston was the No. 1 song in America. Spider-Man 3 was tops at the box office. The Pats were eight days away from Week 1 of their undefeated regular season; Will Middlebrooks was nine days shy of his 19th birthday.

And over at Fenway Park, rookie Clay Buchholz, in his second Major League start, was spinning a no-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles.

Final Score: Red Sox 10, Orioles 0

To be honest, I figured that Baltimore's line-up would be a lot more pathetic than it actually was. I mean, they weren't the 1999 Indians or anything, but

Brian Roberts, Corey Patterson, Nick Markakis, Miguel Tejada, Kevin Millar, Aubrey Huff, Jay Payton

Those are real Major Leaguers and Clay was simply dominant. He needed only 115 pitches to get through the nine innings, with nine strikeouts, three walks and an HBP sprinkled throughout.

And the bats did their part, as well. The Sox line-up collected 14 hits on their way to scoring 10 runs thanks in large part to three-run homer by Kevin Youkilis and a three-run double from David Ortiz. With two outs in the eighth inning, young Jacoby Ellsbury pinch hit for Bobby Kielty with the bases loaded and hit a two-run double. It was the second two-bagger and second and third RBI of Ellsbury's Major League career.

But the story was Buchholz.

The kid's star shined so bright that night, and we all just assumed it would keep shining for the extent of his Red Sox career.

Almost five years later, and we're still waiting for him to consistently tap into all that potential. Let's see if the Orioles can't help him get back on that track.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

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Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Avery Bradley was a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive first team a year ago. And Al Horford has been among the league’s best interior defenders for a number of years.

But as talented defensively as they may be, the Celtics are still learning how to play with each other as well as off of one another.

Injuries have slowed down the chemistry developing as quickly as some might expect. Horford missed nine games due to a concussion, and another game due to wife giving birth to their second child, Alia Horford.

And in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia on Saturday night, defensive chemistry -- not only among Horford and Bradley, but with all of the players -- remains a work in progress for sure.

Boston had a number of defensive issues in the first half which factored in the Sixer shooting 46.1 percent from the field while shooting 9-for-18 from 3-point range.

But the second half was an entirely different story as Boston’s defense picked up his intensity and focus level which would prove to be just enough to beat a scrappy Sixers team.

The Celtics (12-8) are four games over .500 for the first time this season currently have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland (13-5) and Toronto (14-6). 

And while the players point to a handful of games that they felt they gave away, Avery Bradley reminds all that the success of this team this season has for the most part come with key players out of the mix or limited in some capacity.

“We haven’t played that many games with the full roster,” Bradley told reporters after the win. “We’re still learning how to play with each other.”

Bradley pointed out a moment in Saturday’s victory where a miscommunication between him and Horford led to a defensive miscue.

Boston has had similar mistakes made on offense this season, too.

“We haven’t really been in pick-and-roll that much,” Bradley said. “Every single game we need to improve.”

And that improvement has to continue evolving on the defensive side of things for this team to achieve its goals this season which include being among the last teams standing in the East.

Doing that will likely mean Boston re-establishing itself as a defensive force, something that should come with time and experience playing with each other.

Horford, who signed a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston in the offseason, says it’s an ongoing process for all involved.

“I have to learn to play with our concepts, the guys have to learn to play with me,” Horford told reporters after Saturday’s win. “We just have to make sure we keep playing the right way, be more consistent with that. I feel like we’re getting better but there’s still some work that we need to do.”

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

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Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

The pressure that comes with a tight game in the fourth quarter can be a weighty proposition for some NBA players.

Then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who continues to save his best work for the fourth quarter.

Saturday’s 107-106 win at Philadelphia had yet another Thomas-like finish for the Celtics as the 5-foot-9 guard was at his most dominant state in the game’s final minutes.

Thomas finished with a season high-tying 37 points which included a stretch in the fourth in which he scored 12 straight.

“I just love the fourth quarter,” Thomas told reporters following the win. “I just want to win. Whether it’s making plays for myself or making plays for my teammates, it’s about making the right play. I get ultra- aggressive in that fourth quarter. That’s what I’ve always done.”

And his teammates appreciate how Thomas elevates his play in the game’s most pivotal moments.

“A lot of the credit is to Isaiah, how he was able to finish the game tonight,” said Avery Bradley. “He was able to make shots when we needed him to.”

And while Thomas knows his shots won’t fall all the time down the stretch, his fourth quarter mentality does provide him with a level of confidence that no matter what the defense does to him or what the score may be, he can swing the game’s momentum in his team’s favor.

“Some guys get a little tight, they get a little timid (in the fourth quarter),” Thomas said. “I embrace it. I want to be great. I want to be somebody my teammates can call on when the game is close.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Saturday night’s game.

STARS

Isaiah Thomas: There was no more dominant player on Saturday night than Thomas. He finished with a game-high 37 points along with seven assists.

Dario Saric: It was a breakout game for the 22-year-old rookie who led the Sixers with 21 points as well as 12 rebounds for his third double-double this season. Both his points and rebound totals tied his career highs in those categories.

STUDS

Avery Bradley: Boston’s surge towards victory did not kick in until the third quarter which is when Bradley elevated his play offensively. In the third he scored 10 of his 20 points on the night, to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.

Ersan Illyasova: He finished with 18 points which included a pair of three-pointers in the closing seconds of the game. He also grabbed six rebounds and two assists.

DUDS

Celtics first half defense: There wasn’t much to like about Boston defensively in the first half. The Celtics struggled to take away or limit Philadelphia’s only strength Saturday night which was three-point shooting. The Sixers nailed nine of their 18 three-point attempts in the first half in addition to hurting the Celtics’ transition defense which gave up seven fast-break points to Philly compared to Boston scoring just one point in transition.