Boston Red Sox

Celtics-Pistons review: What we saw . . .

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Celtics-Pistons review: What we saw . . .

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. Just when it seems the Boston Celtics can't possibly sink any lower with their play, they find a new way to stink up the place. Losing 96-81 to the Detroit Pistons in itself isn't too bad.

It's how they lost that's disturbing.

Boston's Paul Pierce probably said it best.

"We just pretty much gave them everything they wanted tonight," Pierce said.

Points in the paint. Second-chance points. Fast break points.

The Pistons got all of that, seemingly whenever they wanted to.

And so lies the Celtics, searching for direction in a season that's going nowhere fast.

We take a look at some of the factors - and there were a ton of them - that played a role in Boston dropping to .500 status for the first time since Jan. 31.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - Forcing Detroit rookie point guard Brandon Knight into making mistakes has to be part of the Celtics' game plan. Like most rookies - especially point guards - Knight has had his share of up and down moments. Certainly one of the highlights of his season was Friday night when the Pistons beat Sacramento, and he had 10 assists without a single turnover. Indeed, his assist to turnover ratio in many ways, will be a key to tonight's outcome. In Detroit's 10 wins, he's averaging 4.4 assists to just 1.5 turnovers per game. In the 22 losses, his assist numbers dip to 3.2 per game, but there's a sizable jump in his turnovers, to 3.1 per game.
WHAT WE SAW - Knight came out looking to score, and found success with a couple of early 3-pointers. Because Detroit dominated the game in so many other facets of play, Knight's playmaking skills were never really much of a factor. That's a good thing too for Detroit, with Knight having just two assists while turning the ball over four times.

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Ray Allen vs. Rodney Stuckey: This was the matchup to watch when the two played last week, a matchup that was won decisively by Stuckey. Ray Allen showed signs in the second half of the Bulls loss on Thursday that he's on the verge of breaking out of his annual shooting slump. He had 12 points which included 3, 3-pointers. "It was good to see him make some," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "When it's not going in, you need to see it going in." That hasn't been an issue for Stuckey, who has scored at least 23 points in each of Detroit's last three games - his best scoring stretch of the season.

WHAT WE SAW - Although their scoring numbers are comparable - Allen had 13 points while Stuckey chipped in with 16 - this was a matchup once again won by Stuckey. His 16 points scored came on 2-for-10 shooting. His attacking style of play led to a 15 free throw attempts - the same number of attempts taken by the entire Celtics team. Not only did that result in a bunch of points from the line, but also put the Celtics in foul trouble which was the last thing they needed.

PLAYER TO WATCH - The Celtics have been in "strategic rest" mode with Kevin Garnett all season, but it's clear the condensed schedule is starting to impact the 16-year veteran. He missed his first game of the season last week with a hip flexor injury, and the C's are limiting what he does on the rare days when they practice. So far, the C's '5-5-5' plan with KG's minutes has been working. But Boston may consider modifying that slightly, depending on if they think a change will allow him to play with less pain.

WHAT WE SAW - Garnett did not play (personal matter), and once again his absence was evident. Despite not being nearly as dominant a player as he was just a couple years ago, there's no mistaking that "Big Ticket" is still a big part of this team's chances to win games. "I'm a skilled player that knows how to play, that looks forward to making other guys better," Garnett said following the C's loss at Chicago on Thursday. "I make the sacrifices for the betterment of the team. That's (who) I am."

STAT TO TRACK - The Pistons are a middle-of-the-pack 3-point shooting team, with a significant number of their long-balls coming from Ben Gordon. He single-handedly willed the Pistons to victory over Boston last week, connecting on 4-of-6 3-pointers in the fourth. Mind you, the rest of the Pistons were 0-for-6 on 3s. And when he's on from 3-point range, the Pistons win. In victories, he has connected on 50 percent of his 3-point shots. In losses, he's down to 39 percent.

WHAT WE SAW - This was yet another area in which the Pistons got exactly what they wanted. Detroit had a guard hurting them from 3-point range, but it wasn't Ben Gordon. It was Brandon Knight, who took a pair of 3s in the first quarter and made them both. As a team, Detroit shot 55.6 percent on 5-for-9 shooting. Meanwhile, the Celtics connected on 37.5 percent (6-for-16) of their 3s.

Sale gets strikeout No. 300 as Red Sox shut out O's, 9-0

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Sale gets strikeout No. 300 as Red Sox shut out O's, 9-0

BALTIMORE - Chris Sale struck out 13 to become the first AL pitcher in 18 years to reach the 300 mark, and the Boston Red Sox moved to the brink of clinching a playoff berth by beating the Baltimore Orioles 9-0 on Wednesday night.

Sale (17-7) reached the milestone on his last pitch, a called third strike against Ryan Flaherty to end the eighth inning. The last AL pitcher to fan 300 batters in a season was Boston's Pedro Martinez in 1999, when he set a club record with 313.

Mookie Betts and Deven Marrero homered for the Red Sox, who reduced their magic number for reaching the postseason to one. If the Angels lost to Cleveland later Wednesday night, Boston would be assured no worse than a wild-card spot in the AL playoffs.

The Red Sox, of course, would prefer to enter as AL East champions. They hold a three-game lead over the second-place Yankees with 10 games left.

After winning two straight 11-inning games over the skidding Orioles, Boston jumped to a 6-0 lead in the fifth and coasted to its 11th win in 14 games.

Sale notches his 300th strikeout of the season

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Sale notches his 300th strikeout of the season

BALTIMORE — One of the greatest seasons for a pitcher in Red Sox history saw a milestone toppled Wednesday night. 

In a dominant start vs. the Orioles at Camden Yards, Chris Sale became the first American League pitcher this century to strike out 300 batters in a season. He also put himself in striking distance of the Red Sox single-season record for Ks, 313.

Sale is the 14th different pitcher since 1920 to reach the 300 mark. The only other pitcher to do so in a Red Sox uniform was Pedro Martinez, who set the club record of 313 in 1999.

Sale was at 12 strikeouts and 99 pitches through seven innings Wednesday night with the Sox ahead 6-0. The offense added two more runs in the top of the inning, prompting Sox manager John Farrell to warm up righty Austin Maddox.

But Sale nonetheless took the mound. The first two batters of the inning grounded out. On a 2-2 pitch to the left-handed hitting Ryan Flaherty, Sale threw a front-door slider that caught Flaherty looking. It was his 111th pitch of the night.

Sale has two more scheduled starts, although he may only make one more. 

His final appearance of the regular season projects to be Game No. 162 against the Astros. If the Sox have the American League East wrapped up, Sale could well be held out of that game. 

The Sox and Astros meet for four games to end the regular season at Fenway Park, and may be first-round opponents if the Indians maintain the best record in the AL and therefore home field advantage.

The last time a pitcher in either league struck out 300 was 2015, when Clayton Kershaw did so for the Dodgers.

Sale was in line for his 17th win Wednesday, tying his career high.