Celtics-Mavericks review: What we saw . . .

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Celtics-Mavericks review: What we saw . . .

DALLAS For a number of stretches during Monday's 89-73 loss at Dallas, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers used the kind of lineups you'd only expect to see in practice. With a rash of injuries and players unavailable for non-basketball related reasons, Rivers has had no choice but to get creative with his roster. "If we could've stolen the game, it would have been great," Rivers said. "Playing five guards on the floor, we just tried to mess the game up."

And in doing so, it looked liked you guessed it, a big old mess.

Not having Kevin Garnett (personal matter) and Brandon Bass (left knee injury) hurt. Learning hours before tip-off that Rajon Rondo would be suspended for two games (he threw a basketball at an official in Sunday's loss at Detroit) only made matters worst.

What else could go wrong?

Injuries to Jermaine O'Neal (left wrist) and Chris Wilcox (groin) which has both players questionable for Wednesday's game at Oklahoma City.

It's obvious that all of those players being unable to play, were among the reasons for Monday's loss.

We identified a handful of other factors that might come into play in determining the game's outcome. We'll examine just how they played out in the Celtics' loss which drops them below-.500 for the first time since Jan. 29.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - The Dallas Mavericks are one of the best teams in the NBA at getting out the gates quickly. They average 25.8 points scored per game in the first quarter, which ranks No. 2 in the NBA. And the last thing the Celtics need to deal with is a team that comes out scoring early. One of the keys to the Celtics scoring defense being ranked No. 2 in the NBA, has been how they've handled themselves in the first quarter. Teams are scoring 22.8 points per game against the C's in the first quarter, which ranks eighth in the NBA in first quarter scoring defense.

WHAT WE SAW - Once again, the Boston Celtics defense came out playing well enough to give them a chance at winning. But scoring continues to be a major, major struggle for the Celtics as they could only muster up 15 first-quarter points while limiting the Mavericks to 20.

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Jermaine O'Neal vs Brendan Haywood: O'Neal is coming off one of his strongest performances of the season with the Celtics, grabbing 11 rebounds to go with eight points while blocking five shots. With so few bigs available either because of injury or non-basketball related matters, the C's need JO to step his game up. Haywood doesn't present nearly as many challenges as Tyson Chandler (now with the New York Knicks) did last season, but he is a serviceable big man that if you're not careful, can cause problems either scoring or rebounding the ball.

WHAT WE SAW - Neither player made much of an impact tonight, although you'd have to give the nod in this one to Haywood. Not only did he have more points (4-0) and rebounds (8-3), he also did it in fewer minutes (17-19) which speaks to how he did a better job of maxing out his playing time in comparison to O'Neal who actually had to leave the game in the third quarter and was unable to return after suffering a left wrist injury. His status for Wednesday's game is uncertain.

PLAYER TO WATCH - Mickael Pietrus is a streaky player who can get hot at any time. The dude is overdue - WAY OVERDUE - to have one of those big scoring binge-type nights. Boston has lost five of its last six games. In that span, Pietrus has averaged 4.2 points while shooting 32.1 percent (9-for-28). And in his last three games, he's missed 11 of his 12 shots which includes missing all 10 of his 3-point shots.

WHAT WE SAW - This was a much better performance, but not because of what he's expected to do which is to make 3-pointers. Pietrus has the reputation of being a 3-point shooter who can defend. But he also showed that he can contribute on the boards as well, finishing with a team-high 12 rebounds. "Of course I can shoot, everyone knows I can shoot," said Pietrus, who was 2-for-6 on 3s Monday. "But I can help the team in other ways too, like rebound, block shots, other things besides scoring."

STAT TO TRACK- As has been the case in most of their games this season, turnovers will go far in determining whether the Celtics can pull off an upset tonight. Their turnover numbers this season mirror their struggles just to maintain their current middle-of-the-pack status. Boston averages 15.4 turnovers per game which ranks 19th in the league. The Mavericks are led by former Celtic Rick Carlisle, whose teams dating back to his days as the Detroit Pistons head coach, have always been strong defensively. The Mavs are forcing 15.9 turnovers per game which ranks ninth in the league.

WHAT WE SAW - Turnovers were indeed a factor, but not one that had a huge say in the game's outcome. Boston turned the ball over 17 times which led to 25 points for the Mavericks. However, the bigger issue was talent. The Mavericks had lots of it, healthy and ready to play. The C's have some, but a significant amount of it wasn't on the floor - or the American Airlines Arena for that matter.

Celtics-Cavaliers preview: Game 5 is about respect for Boston

Celtics-Cavaliers preview: Game 5 is about respect for Boston

BOSTON – From the outset of this season, the Boston Celtics were swimming upstream when it came to getting respect. 

No matter how many wins they racked up, no matter how many upsets they managed to pull off, they were never going to do enough to satisfy the court of public opinion which wanted one thing and one thing only from the NBA: A third installment of Golden State against Cleveland in the NBA Finals. 

The Warriors did their part by running through the West with 12 wins in as many playoff games. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics will try to not just stave off elimination tonight, but continue to delay what so many believe is an inevitable Golden State-Cleveland Final.

Boston’s Al Horford understands that while the league this season has seen lots of individual success as well as teams that have overachieved, the thirst for Golden State versus Cleveland remains stronger than ever. 

“We understand that’s what everyone has been talking about since the beginning of the season,” Horford said. “For us it’s just to focus … and play the Celtic way. And just come out here and fight and we’ll take it from there.”

The Celtics did that in Game 3 with Avery Bradley delivering one of the more memorable shots in the Brad Stevens era, a game-winning three-pointer that hit the rim four times before falling with 0.1 seconds to play as Boston squeaked out a 111-108 win.

Boston did a lot of good things in Game 4 and seemingly went into the half sensing that maybe just maybe they would even up the series at two games heading back to Boston for tonight’s Game 5 matchup. 

But Kyrie Irving picked up the slack for a foul-plagued LeBron James, lifting the Cavaliers to a 112-99 win which puts them now just a win away from advancing to the NBA Finals. 

Not only have folks both in the media as well as fans who have rooted for this series to be over, even merchandise sellers like Dick Sporting Goods have anticipated this series as already being over.

“It is what it is,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “It’s been like that all year; a lot of guys counting us out. At the same time, we’re trying to put ourselves in position to win each and every game.”

While that has been the goal, it certainly hasn’t worked out that way in this series. 

Despite Games 1 and 2 being at the TD Garden, the Celtics lost both games by a total of 57 points. 

And while they won Game 3 and had the Cavaliers on the ropes in Game 4 before losing, they know their chance to play NBA Finals spoiler is just about up. 

“We know that’s the Finals that everybody wants to talk about, what everybody is looking forward to,” said Boston’s Marcus Smart. “We understand it. But we work just as hard as these guys. We just have to keep going out there and working. We’re not going to give it to them, and stuff like that. We just have to make it tough on them.”

Red Sox' seven-run rally in seventh keys 9-4 win over Rangers

Red Sox' seven-run rally in seventh keys 9-4 win over Rangers

BOSTON -- Chris Sale was perfectly happy to sit back and watch the Red Sox hitters do the work this time.

Sale cruised into the fifth inning, then was rewarded in the seventh when the Boston batters erupted for seven runs on their way to a 9-4 victory over the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night.

Sale (5-2) struck out six, falling short in his attempt to become the first pitcher in baseball's modern era to strike out at least 10 batters in nine straight games in one season.

But he didn't seem to mind.

"It was fun," said the left-hander, who received more runs of support in the seventh inning alone than while he was in any other game this season. "You get run after run, hit after hit. When we score like that, it's fun."

Dustin Pedroia waved home the tiebreaking run on a wild pitch, then singled in two more as the Red Sox turned a 3-1 deficit into a five-run lead and earned their third straight victory. Sam Travis had two singles for the Red Sox in his major league debut.

"I was a little nervous in the first inning," he said. "I'd be lying to you guys if I said I wasn't."

Mike Napoli homered for Texas, which has lost three of four to follow a 10-game winning streak.

FOR SALE

Sale, who also struck out 10 or more batters in eight straight games in 2015 with the White Sox, remains tied for the season record with Pedro Martinez. (Martinez had 10 straight in a span from 1999-2000.)

After scoring four runs in support of Sale in his first six starts, the Red Sox have scored 27 while he was in the game in his last five. He took a no-hitter into the fifth, but finished with three earned runs, six hits and a walk in 7 1/3 innings.

"Guys pulled through for me when I was probably pretty mediocre," he said.

NO RELIEF

Sam Dyson (1-5) faced seven batters in relief of Martin Perez and gave up four hits, three walks - two intentional - and a wild pitch without retiring a batter.

"Martin threw the ball really well and I came in with two guys on and couldn't get an out," Dyson said. "Sometimes they hit them where they are, and sometimes they hit them where they aren't."

Asked if he felt any different, he said: "Everything's the same.

"If I get my (expletive) handed to me, it's not like anything's wrong," he said. "Any more amazing questions from you all?"

SEVEN IN THE SEVENTH

It was 3-1 until the seventh, when Andrew Benintendi and Travis singled with one out to chase Perez. Mitch Moreland singled to make it 3-2, pinch-hitter Josh Rutledge singled to tie it and, after Mookie Betts was intentionally walked to load the bases, Moreland scored on a wild pitch to give Boston the lead.

Pedroia singled in two more runs, Xander Bogaerts doubled and Hanley Ramirez was intentionally walked to load the bases. Dyson was pulled after walking Chris Young to force in another run.

Austin Bibens-Dirkx got Benintendi to pop up foul of first base, but Napoli let it fall safely - his second such error in the game. Benintendi followed with a sacrifice fly that made it 8-3 before Travis was called out on strikes to end the inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Rangers: 2B Rougned Odor was shaken up when he dived for Betts' grounder up the middle in the third inning. He was slow getting up. After being looked at by the trainer, he remained in the game.

Red Sox: LHP David Price made his second rehab start for Triple-A Pawtucket, allowing six runs - three earned - seven hits and a walk. He struck out four in 3 2/3 innings, throwing 89 pitches, 61 for strikes, and left without addressing reporters. 3B Pablo Sandoval also played in the game, going 2 for 4 with two runs.

"He felt fine physically," said Red Sox manager John Farrell, who added he would talk to Price on Thursday morning to determine how to proceed. "We had a scout there who liked what he saw."

UP NEXT:

Rangers: Will send RHP Nick Martinez (1-2) to the mound in the finale of the three-game series.

Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz (3-3) looks to snap a personal two-game losing streak.