Celtics-Heat review: Bass does his part

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Celtics-Heat review: Bass does his part

MIAMI Brandon Bass was among the handful of Boston Celtics players who spent time trying to guard LeBron James during the C's 120-107 loss.

James, who left the game in the second half with cramps, still managed to score a game-high 26 points to go with 10 rebounds.

Prior to the game, Bass spoke about the challenges that a player like James presents.

"Being that he's 6-8, 6-9 he can basically do it all," Bass told CSNNE.com. "He's quick, he's explosive. He's a tough cover, man."

And while Bass didn't exactly shut him down (who does?), there's was little doubt that Doc Rivers made the right call in deciding to start Bass at power forward ahead of Jared Sullinger.

Bass opened the season with a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds.

"I was happy with Brandon," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "He was terrific. Brandon had a great game. Hell, he should have played 40 minutes."

Rivers was disappointed that a number of his players did not come out and play with the kind of aggression needed to win.

Bass, according to Rivers, was one of the few exceptions.

"He was one of the aggressive ones," Rivers said.

Said Bass: "I just want to play my role to the best of my ability. There were some things I felt I needed to improve on, and I just wanted to do my part. I know without me being aggressive, I can't do that."

An aggressive Bass was certainly one of the keys to Boston keeping the game against the Heat relatively close. Here's a look back on some keys discussed prior to the game, and how they actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Injuries forced Boston to go with small lineups more than they would have liked last season. Now, it's being done out of necessity. Even though Boston has the kind of size to go with more traditional lineups, their approach - and most of the NBA for that matter - is to go with your three best frontcourt players and not necessarily your top two forwards and a center. Boston's resurgence after the all-star break was fueled in part by Kevin Garnett spending more time at center. And the Heat's title run a year ago was aided during the playoffs by head coach Erik Spoelstra's decision to put Chris Bosh - a power forward in the same mold as Garnet - at center.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston's small lineup didn't really make much of an impact until the fourth quarter. With Rajon Rondo, Leandro Barbosa, Jason Terry, Jeff Green and Kevin Garnett on the floor, Boston cut a 16-point deficit down to just four points with just over two minutes to play. Leading the strong surge was the last guy to the team, Barbosa. He had 16 points in less than 16 minutes of playing time off the Celtics bench. "If you get into a scoring contest and Barbosa is on the floor, you feel pretty good," Rivers said.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo vs. Ray Allen: It's unlikely they will be matched up against each other tonight, but the friction that developed between them that factored in Allen's decision to leave Boston, makes any chance they are on the floor at the same time a must-see moment.

WHAT WE SAW: The two did match up with each other for a few possessions, but nothing of great significance erupted from those brief encounters. But in this first meeting, you have to give the edge to Allen. Although Rondo had more points (20) and assists (13) than Allen, the former Celtic who hit clutch shots in the first half that helped Miami take control. Allen had 19 points for the game, 13 of which came in the first half.

PLAYER TO WATCH: It has been an emotional year for Jeff Green who will play in his first regular season game in more than a year. His ability to continue showcasing the skills he displayed in the preseason can have a major impact on the outcome from tonight's game.

WHAT WE SAW: Stage fright. First-night jitters. LeBron James. There are so many plausible reasons that could help explain why Jeff Green struggled so mightily against the Heat. He finished with three points - all from the free throw line - while missing all four of his shots from the field. "I didn't think he was very aggressive," Rivers said. "Maybe we have to do a better job."

STAT TO TRACK: Balancing the highs of getting championship rings with the level-headed demeanor needed to win a game, will be a challenge for the Miami Heat tonight. If recent history is any kind of indicator, the odds are stacked in Miami's favor. Since 2000, teams that win NBA championships are 9-3 in the first game of the following season. Among those wins was a 95-90 win by the C's over a Cleveland team that was led by current Heat star LeBron James. Of the three losses, Miami was involved in two of them. The first came in 2006 after they won the franchise's first championship and were blown out by the Chicago Bulls. The second time was last season when they opened at then-defending champion Dallas and came away with the win.

WHAT WE SAW: Miami showed great composure most of the game while the Celtics looked like the nervous ones. "Our guys did, I thought, a good job of compartmentalizing and turning the switch as soon as it went to the warm-ups and competing and concentrating on the most important thing, which was playing this game to win and giving our fans something to cheer about," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.

Johnson beats Mariners 6-0 for Red Sox' 6th straight win

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Johnson beats Mariners 6-0 for Red Sox' 6th straight win

BOSTON - Brian Johnson pitched a five-hitter in his first big league appearance at Fenway Park, and the Boston Red Sox stretched their winning streak to a season-high six games with a 6-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

Brought up from Triple-A Pawtucket, Johnson (2-0) gave up five singles, struck out eight and walked none. The 26-year-old left-hander's only previous big league starts were at Houston on July 21, 2015, and at Toronto on April 18 this year.

Johnson became the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a shutout in his first Fenway start since Pedro Martinez on April 11, 1998. In Johnson's first start in Fenway - his fourth as a professional - he sustained a season-ending facial fracture when he hit by a line drive while pitching for Class A Lowell in 2012.

Johnson was helped by a semi-leaping catch by center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. at the wall in the sixth, Bradley's diving grab of Nelson Cruz's sinking liner in the ninth and Bradley's game-ending running catch of Kyle Seager's drive.

Xander Bogaerts' RBI single triggered a three-run first inning and Bradley hit a two-run homer in the sixth

Shut out for the second straight day, Seattle has lost seven of eight.

Rob Whalen (0-1) gave up five runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings in his Mariners' debut, his first big league start since Aug. 23 for Atlanta. He is Seattle's 12th starting pitcher, the most in the major leagues.

Andrew Benintendi and Sandy Leon also had RBI singles in the first, when the Red Sox had two batters hit by pitches, two walks and two runners thrown out on the bases - Dustin Pedroia at third for the first out and Hanley Ramirez at the plate for the last.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: RHPs Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez, both on the DL with right shoulder inflammation, threw bullpen sessions. Hernandez said he "felt really good."... LHP James Paxton (strained forearm) is set to come off the DL and pitch at home Wednesday.

Red Sox: Pedroia was back at second base after getting Friday off to rest his sore left knee and not play on a wet field. He was hit by a pitch on the right forearm his first time up and went 1 for 3. ... 3B Pablo Sandoval, on the DL with a sprained right knee, was expected to play nine innings Saturday night in a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket. Manager John Farrell didn't rule out that he could be activated next week.

UP NEXT

Mariners: RHP Christian Bergman (1-2, 6.30 ERA) gave up 10 runs and 14 hits over four innings in a 10-1 loss Tuesday at Washington.

Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (3-4, 4.35) has gone at least six innings in eight of nine starts.

How dominant has Craig Kimbrel been? The numbers are eye popping

How dominant has Craig Kimbrel been? The numbers are eye popping

Remember that infield hit by Jonathan Villar of the Brewers off Craig Kimbrel on May 11 in Milwaukee?

Don't worry, nobody does. That's the last hit off the Red Sox closer. That's right. One hit this month.

How dominant has Kimbrel been? Going into Saturday, right-handed hitters don't have a hit off him in their past 39 at-bats. Opponents are hitting .083 against him. Move the decimal point and 0.83 happens to be his season ERA, too, to go with 13 saves. 

Here's more via @SoxNotes:

Kimbrel, 28, has been one of baseball's best closers for years with the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres. His first year in Boston last season was solid with 31 saves and a 3.40 ERA, but his walks climbed (30 total and 5.1 per 9 innings, the second-highest totals of his career). He also struggled in non-save situations.

There's been no struggling lately. The last run Kimbrel gave up was a home run by Kendrys Morales of the Blue Jays in the ninth inning on April 20 in Toronto that tied the score at 1 in a game won by the Red Sox 4-1 in 10. Kimbrel got the win and his only blown save of the season.

His three-out save Friday night was his first outing without a strikeout since a one-out save April 23. That followed his four-strikeout inning Thursday night.