Sox face daunting opening hurdles

725670.jpg

Sox face daunting opening hurdles

DETROIT -- In each of the past two seasons, the Red Sox missed out on qualifying for the post-season. In 2010, decimated by injuries, they finished six games out of a playoff spot.

Last season, they fell a mere game short, thanks to a blown lead in the last inning of the last game of the season.

But those two seasons have something else in common: the Sox started poorly both years. The Sox kicked off 2010 by going 6-10 and didn't get get over the .500 mark until May 10.

A year ago, they were a disastrous 2-10 and didn't have a winning record until May 16.

In both seasons, the point could be made that a better start might have enabled them to reach the post-season.

This year, the need to get off to a better start is even more acute, thanks a more balanced American Leauge. But getting out of the gate strong will be made more difficult because of the early-season schedule.

The first 15 games the Sox play this year come against teams who were .500 or better a year ago. Of those 15, 12 are against playoff teams from last fall.

The gauntlet:

Three (currently) against the Detroit Tigers, who reached the ALCS last October, then added one of the game's best sluggers, Prince Fielder, to their already-formidable lineup.

Three against the Toronto Blue Jays, who finished 81-81 last season, but are considered one of the game's budding powers with a deep farm system.

Four against the Tampa Bay Rays, who overtook the Red Sox in Game No. 162 last September, qualifying for the post-season for the second straight year and third time in the last four seasons. The Rays probably boast the deepest starting rotation in either league.

Two against the Texas Rangers, who have won the American League pennant in each of the last two seasons. Enough said.

Three against the New York Yankees, who won the East last season, led the American League in victories and have capture the division title 11 times in the last 14 seasons.

If the Sox can survive the first 2 12 weeks, things do get easier in terms of competition.

Starting April 23, the schedule almost completely reverses itself, with a string of series against teams not expected to do much damage in 2012.

From that date, when the Sox begin their second road trip of the season, they'll play the next 22 games against Minnesota (three games); the White Sox (four games), Oakland A's (three
games), Baltimore Orioles (three games), Kansas City Royals (three games), Cleveland Indians (four games) and Seattle Mariners (two games).

In fact, the Sox will go 3 12 weeks matched against teams who aren't expected to contend.

Getting there in good shape, however, will be a challenge.

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

avery-bradley.jpg

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.