Celtics-Clippers review: Boston derailed trying to get season on track

971069.jpg

Celtics-Clippers review: Boston derailed trying to get season on track

LOS ANGELES You can throw one more log on to the stack of 'good, but not good enough' performances by the Boston Celtics following Thursday's 106-77 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. 
It was the kind of performance that validated in many ways why the Clippers are the best team in the NBA now, and the Celtics are still trying to establish an identity other than being wildly inconsistent when it comes to winning. 
Boston (14-14) will surely see this most recent loss as another game to learn from, to build off of moving forward.
But with more than a third of the season in the books, it's becoming harder to envision that the Celtics will be anything more than what folks have seen thus far which is a team that consistently fails to string together more than a couple of wins at a time. 
The losses have clearly been disappointing, but that disappointment is trending more and more towards frustration that this team assembled with the goal of competing for a championship barely resembles a team that can get into the playoffs. 
Before the game, Doc Rivers reminded reporters that the C's are like a number of teams who are still trying to find their way this season. 
"Some team has to do what they say and take off," Rivers said. "I'm hoping it's us."
Well, Rivers -- and the Celtics -- are still in wishful thinking mode after being derailed in yet another opportunity to get their season on track.
Here are some of the keys identified prior to the C's worst loss of the season, and how they actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Keeping the game close will be essential to the Celtics' chances of winning. The Clippers are in 'show-no-mercy' mode every game which is evident by them averaging a league-best margin of victory of 9.7 points per game. During their current franchise-best 14 game winning streak, they have upped the differential to 15.4 per game. 
WHAT WE SAW: Boston found itself down 15-4 -- no, make that 16-4 after officials reviewed a 2-point shot by Willie Green and later changed it to a 3-pointer -- to start and things never really got any better. There's a reason why the Clippers have the league's best record.

MATCHUP TO WATCH:  Rajon Rondo vs Chris Paul: There's no love lost between these two, and that was before Danny Ainge unsuccessfully tried to trade Rondo to New Orleans for Paul a couple years ago. Both will play the 'it's a team game' card, for sure. But make no mistake about it; these two will do what they can to one-up the other and of course, come away with the win.
WHAT WE SAW: Both players had similar games statistically, but there was no mistaking Paul's imprint on the Clippers' strong showing. Rondo had moments, but there was never a point in the game where Rondo's play seemed to elevate the play of his teammates. 

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jeff Green is the epitome of a hot and cold player this year who on some nights dominates while on others flat-out disappears. The magic number for him is 15; as in, 15 points scored. When he does that, the Celtics are 6-2 this season. 
WHAT WE SAW: Green had a play here and there, but once again was a non-factor on a night when the C's really needed him to be great or at the very least, very good. 8 points on 3-for-9 shooting on the road against a team this good? That's not going to cut it. 

STAT TO TRACK: Boston's transition defense gets challenged every night, but few team lives on the run like the Clippers. They average 17.8 fast-break points per game which ranks third in the NBA. Meanwhile, the Celtics defense has given up 12 fast-break points per game which is the fifth-stingiest mark in the league. 
WHAT WE SAW: The C's did a decent job of limiting the Clippers' transition game to 15 points. That would prove to be the least of the C's problems as the Clippers seemed to do anything and everything they wanted, all game.

Morning Skate: Not a dry eye as Canucks draftee gets the call

Morning Skate: Not a dry eye as Canucks draftee gets the call

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while getting ready to check out GLOW on Netflix.

*This video of a Vancouver Canucks draft pick tearing up while watching the video of his brother celebrating him getting picked is all that is right with the NHL Draft.  

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Adrian Dater has Avs first-round pick Cale Makar talking about his hockey background, and why it doesn’t matter.

*The Calgary Flames are excited about their prospects and the pieces they were able to acquire last weekend.

*The Washington Capitals have re-signed Brett Connolly for a couple of years at short money and he appears to have found a home in DC.

*The Chicago Blackhawks are still in talks with Marian Hossa about how to resolve his contract and the allergic skin condition that might have prematurely ended his hockey career.

*Will the Tampa Bay sports go through a dry spell when it comes to Hall of Fame athletes now that former Lighting forward Dave Andreychuk has been called to the Hockey Hall?

*It looks like young Pierre Luc Dubois will be put in a position to contribute with the Columbus Blue Jackets this season.

*Alex Prewitt has a preview of the NHL free agency period and the stress levels that many players go through in it.

*For something completely different: This video of Drake and Will Ferrell hoop handshakes was pretty solid, and funny.

 

Drellich: Hanley Ramirez has to improve or Red Sox need to try others

Drellich: Hanley Ramirez has to improve or Red Sox need to try others

BOSTON — It doesn’t really matter what’s holding Hanley Ramirez back: his health, his desire to play through injuries, neither, both. The Red Sox need him to hit better as the designated hitter, or give someone else a chance in his place.

Tuesday is June 27. From May 27 on, Ramirez is hitting .202 with a .216 on-base percentage and .369 slugging percentage.

Putting Ramirez on the disabled list so that he can heal up, or at least attempt to, would be reasonable. If you can’t hit well — if you can’t even be in the lineup, as has been the case the last two days — you're hampering the roster.

Ramirez was out for a second straight game on Tuesday afternoon because of his left knee, which was hit by a pitch Sunday. He’s been bothered by his shoulders all season.

“He’s improved today. He’s responding to treatment,” manager John Farrell said Tuesday of Ramirez’s knee. “He’s still going through some work right now. Would get a bat in his hand here shortly to determine if he’s available to pinch hit tonight. Prior to yesterday’s game, day to day, and still in that status, but he is improving.”

The route to better production doesn’t matter. As long as the Sox get some, be it from Ramirez or somewhere else. Flat-out benching Ramirez in favor of Chris Young or Sam Travis or both for a time should be on the table.

When it comes to lineups vs. lefties, Farrell might be thinking the same way. 

Farrell was asked Tuesday if he’d consider playing someone at DH other than Ramirez for performance reasons.

“I wouldn’t rule it out,” Farrell said. “Where he was so good against left-handed pitching last year, that’s been still a work in progress, for lack of a better way to describe it. So we’re always looking to put the best combination on the field.”

A right-handed hitter, Ramirez is just 5-for-35 (.143) vs. lefties this season, after hitting .346 against them a year ago.

On the flip side: in the final three months of the 2016 season, Ramirez hit .300 with a .379 OBP and .608 slugging percentage overall. That’s from the start of July through the end of the regular season vs. all pitchers.

“You know, the one thing you can’t completely turn away from is what Hanley did last year,” Farrell said. “While I know that’s last year, we’re still working to get some increased performance from him. I think he’s still a key member in our lineup. The presence he provides, the impact that he’s capable of. And yet, we’re still working to get there.”

Farrell said the team hasn’t been able to pinpoint a particular reason for Ramirez’s struggles vs. southpaws.

“No,” Farrell said. “There’s been extensive video review. There’s been extensive conversations with him. There’s been stretches, short stretches, where he’s I think shown the approach at the plate and the all field ability to drive the baseball. That’s been hit and miss a little bit. So, we’re just trying to gain a consistency that he’s been known for.”

Mitch Moreland's been playing with a fractured big toe in his left foot. After he homered and had another impactful night Monday, Farrell made some comments that are hard to read as anything but a message to Ramirez.

“In [Moreland's] most recent stretch, he’s been able to get on top of some fastballs that have been at the top of the strike zone or above for some power obviously,” Farrell said. “But I think the way he’s gone about it given the physical condition he’s in, is a strong message to the remainder of this team.”

Asked about that comment a day later, Farrell shot down the idea he was trying to reach Ramirez or anyone else with that remark about playing hurt.

“No,” Farrell said Tuesday. “I respect the question, but that was to highlight a guy who has been dealing with a broken toe, continues to perform at a high level and to compliment Mitch for the way he’s gone about it.”

It doesn't matter why Ramirez isn't producing, at a certain point. Either he is or he isn't. If not, they need to be willing to give someone else an extended look, whether it lands Ramirez on the DL or simply the bench.