Ortiz only Red Sox named to All-Star Game

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Ortiz only Red Sox named to All-Star Game

SEATTLE -- David Ortiz was selected for his eighth All-Star Game appearance Sunday, but the honor never gets old.

"It's always exciting," said Ortiz. "It's the one time of the season where (some) fans who never get the opportunity to watch you play and they take the time to come and enjoy their favorite players. Being voted to the All-Star Game is something that a lot of never get a chance. There's an appreciation from the players to the fans for voting us and wanting to come and watch us play.

"It's an honor to go back to the All-Star Game and put on a good show for the fans that's the most important thing."

Ortiz is the lone representative from the Red Sox, marking the first time since 2001 (Manny Ramirez) that only one Red Sox player made the roster.

Said Bobby Valentine: "David's played like an All-Star. Maybe it's fitting that he's the only All-Star (from the Sox) because he's played so consistently well the entire time and he could get the notice, get the spotlight. David's been consistently excellent. When he comes to the plate, everything stops and usually something good happens. For the first part of the season, there's nothing more that anyone could ask out of any one player."

"We've been dealing with a lot of things," said Ortiz of the Sox. "The guys that haven't been able to do what they normally do, they're dealing with injuries, too. It's hard. This is my first time going to the All-Star game by myself. Hopefully, it doesn't turn out boring. I always like to hang out with my (teammates).

"You don't see this ballclub having just one player going. But like I said, there's been a lot of injuries and a lot of stuff that we've been dealing with. That's the major reason why, because we have a lot of All-Star players, through the years, always representing this ballclub. This is my first time going myself; we always go as a group and we always have so many guys playing well, doing their thing and being voted by the fans. So, hopefully, this is the last time (only) one player will be going."

Ortiz went into Sunday's action batting .305 with 21 homers and 53, leading his team in most offensive categories, while leading all American League hitters in extra-base hits and ranking second in the league in OPS.

At 36, he's shown no signs of slowing down.

"Age is a state of mind," shrugged Ortiz. "Age, if you take care of yourself and do the right things, age isn't going to matter. In baseball, I really believe that the longer you prepare youself to play and if you take care of yourself and you have the ability to play the game, you're going to put up numbers."

Ortiz, who was the captain of the American League team for last year's Home Run Derby, will sit out the competition this month.

"I'm going to enjoy myself now, just watching the guys performing out there," said Ortiz. "I always enjoy the guys hitting bombs. My dad always tells me, 'You look like a little kid out there when you see guys going deep.' It's fun. But I'm going to be like the Godfather now -- I'm just going to sit down and watch.

"I got worn out last year, man. I got so tired and I think it caught up with me later on during the season. I ran out of gas. For the
first time, I felt like I was really tired. I guess age was catching up with Papi. I guess I need to save my energy for the second half now."

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.