Lester does 'terrific' job against Tigers

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Lester does 'terrific' job against Tigers

DETROIT -- Just like last year, Jon Lester Thursday was the starting pitcher of an Opening Day loss for the Red Sox.
But the comparisons end there.
A year ago, Lester was tagged for three homers and allowed three homers over 5 13 innings as the Sox lost to Texas, 9-5.
On Thursday, the Sox' loss might have been more frustrating -- coming as it did in the bottom of the ninth after the Red Sox had rallied for two runs in the top of the inning -- but Lester was far better than a year ago.
Matched against last year's A.L. Cy Young and MVP winner, Justin Verlander, Lester had little margin for error. He didn't make many.
Lester pitched seven innings and allowed just one run on six hits.
"Lester was terrific,'' gushed manager Bobby Valentine. "He did just what he needed to do -- go out there and put up innings. He did a great job.''
"I kept the team in the game,'' said Lester. "Even though we lost, it's a great confidence booster to go out and go pitch-for-pitch against a great guy.''
The lefty noted that the outing represented something of a "grind,'' since he didn't have a good feel for his off-speed pitches, especially early in the game.
The Tigers put the leadoff runner on base against Lester four times in the first five innings, but on three of those occasions, Lester got double plays to get out of trouble.
"I was trying to figure out ways to put guys away,'' he said. "Obviously, Verlander's Verlander. He's tough. He didn't give us a lot of opportunities and the opportunities we had, he shut us down. Sometimes, on this side, you have to tip your hat to the other guy and say he did a great job.''
The only run off Lester came with some controversy attached. In the seventh, after two were out, Jhonny Peralta doubled to left.
Lester then got ahead of Alex Avila 1-and-2 and on a 2-and-2 pitch, believed he had struck the Tigers' catcher out. Home-plate umpire Dale Scott ruled otherwise as the count ran full.
Avila then drove Lester's next pitch the other way, just beyond the outstretched glove of left fielder Cody Ross into the corner, scoring Peralta with the first run.
"Hell, I think everything's a strike,'' said Lester with a wry smile of the pitch in question. "Then it was 3-and-2, I was trying to make him put it in play and he put a good swing on it. Sometimes that happens.
"I made one mistake. And against a guy like Verlander, that's what beats you.''

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Rose looking like his old self

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Rose looking like his old self

BOSTON – The New York Knicks have been in a massive funk of late, something the Boston Celtics had to know which, not surprisingly, would result in them playing with a heightened level of desperation.

That desperation left the Celtics a bit exasperated at the half which ended with a 10-2 run by New York that put them ahead 63-54 at the half.

After falling behind by as many as nine points in the second quarter, the Celtics rallied to within a single point (53-52) following a basket by Isaiah Thomas.

The second quarter was all-New York afterwards.

It was just a one-possession game (Boston led 34-31) for the Celtics going into the second quarter, which was exactly where Boston didn’t want to be against a Knicks team whose bench ranks among the NBA’s highest-scoring second units recently. In their last three games, the Knicks’ bench has averaged 43.0 points per game which according to hoopsstats.com, ranks sixth in the NBA during that span.

At the half, they had 33 points compared to just 12 for Boston’s backups.

Boston fell behind early 9-5, but the Celtics rallied following a time-out with a 15-4 run capped off by a 3-pointer from Isaiah Thomas.

The Celtics’ lead peaked at nine points on separate occasions in the first, but the Knicks closed out the first with a 12-6 spurt that cut Boston’s lead to 34-31 at the end of the first.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half.

 

STARS

Derrick Rose

The former league MVP looked like his old self tonight instead of just old. He led the Knicks with 14 points on 7-for-11 shooting.

Isaiah Thomas

The Knicks had great success inside the paint against all the Celtics minus Thomas who did much of his dirty work offensively on drives to the basket. At the half he had 19 points on 8-for-10 shooting.

 

STUDS

Willy Hernangomez

Boston had problems rebounding the ball, and Hernangomez was the main reason why. At the half he had 10 points and six rebounds, three of which were offensive boards.

Jae Crowder

Dealing with Carmelo Anthony is enough to keep Crowder busy tonight. But he’s doing that at a high level in addition to providing a nice punch offensively with 14 points.

Mindaugas Kuzminskas

You may not know his name, but his game was pretty impressive in the first half. At the half, he had nine points.

 

DUDS

Al Horford

We’ve seen him air-ball a 3-pointer, miss a lay-up and strguggle to get any shots to go down tonight. At the half, he had three points while missing nine of his 10 shot attempts.

Avery Bradley (Achilles) will not play vs. Knicks

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Avery Bradley (Achilles) will not play vs. Knicks

BOSTON – Both New York and Boston will take to the floor tonight minus a starter courtesy of a sore Achilles injury.

For Celtics guard Avery Bradley, tonight will be the fifth time in the last six games that his right Achilles injury will keep him sidelined.

Meanwhile, New York’s Kristaps Porzingis will miss his fourth straight game with a sore left Achilles injury.

The 7-foot-3 Porzingis averages 19.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.

Porzingis’ absence tonight was established well before tip-off.

“I’d say I’m 90 percent ready; still not there yet,” Porzingis told reporters prior to the game. “But I’m getting closer … hopefully the next game or after the next game.”

As far as Bradley is concerned, he was a last-minute matter.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was asked about his roster earlier tonight, and indicated Tyler Zeller (sinus) and James Young (ankle) would be on the inactive list tonight with injuries.

Without Bradley, the Celtics are expected to start Marcus Smart who has filled in as the team’s starter previously when the 6-foot-2 Bradley was unavailable.

 Bradley is the Celtics' second-leading scorer with 17.7 points per game this season, along with a team-high 6.9 rebounds per game and 2.4 assists.