Valentine likes what he sees in Lars Anderson

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Valentine likes what he sees in Lars Anderson

FORT MYERS, Fla. Lars Anderson appears to be stuck. With first baseman Adrian Gonzalez entering the second year of a seven-year, 154 million contract, Anderson, 24, has little hope of being the Red Sox starting first baseman in the foreseeable future.

It seemed he had found a quicker route to the big leagues in July. But the trade that would have brought right-hander Rich Harden to Boston and sent Anderson to Oakland, near his northern California home, was scuttled when the Red Sox were not satisfied with Hardens medical reports.

Instead, Anderson, who was the teams most highly rated prospect two years ago, remains with the Sox, likely headed back to a third season with Triple-A Pawtucket.

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said, while Anderson is close to being ready for the big leagues, hes not quite there yet. Anderson, who made his big league debut in 2010 and has appeared in 24 major league games, hit .265 with 14 home runs, 78 RBI, a .369 on-base percentage, and .422 slugging percentage in 136 games for Pawtucket last season.

I agree totally with him, when he says that hes in a developing stage of his career, Valentine said. But hes up toward the height of development, that he feels that hes ready to take some really imp steps. That wouldnt be, in my mind, at the big league level. Those steps would be getting to the big league level. Hes close. Hes not there. I like what Ive seen and I like what I hear. I like him.

Anderson has appeared in six of the teams 10 games (Grapefruit League and B games) this spring, all at first base. But manager Bobby Valentine said Anderson, who has only played first base in his five-year career, could add some time in the outfield this spring to his resume.

Hes going to play some outfield, Valentine said. Hes going to run around a little. Im not sure that nows the time. It could be, but dont think it will be. Therell be other situations that will make it his time. I dont think its his time, independent of other things happening.

Valentine would also like Anderson to understand himself more as a hitter, his approach and his plan at the plate.

I think he could play first base at the big league level, Valentine said. I think he could play definitely at first base. I think he has to learn a little more about himself as a hitter, as to how hes going to hit that ball high and far in this direction. How hes going to be able to do it, and hes learning that.

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.