Celtics-Raptors review: What we saw

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Celtics-Raptors review: What we saw

BOSTON The game clock could not count down soon enough in Boston's 100-64 win over the Toronto Raptors. This was one of the few times this season we've seen the Celtics take control of a game from the outset and show no signs of letting up, no cracks to speak of. In games like this, there are a number of players whose game sticks out.

Among the standout performers were Avery Bradley and E'Twaun Moore, who are filling the void created by Rajon Rondo's right wrist injury that has now sidelined him for eight straight games.

Late-game execution is one of those things both young guards need to improve upon.

But to their credit -- and the rest of the Celtics -- there was no need to be precise in executing in the game's final moments.

The execution of the Toronto Raptors had long been completed before the fourth quarter rolled around.

It wouldn't be worth it go into all that went the C's way on Wednesday night.

But there is value in examining the keys identified prior to the game, and seeing how those played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Say what you want about Jermaine O'Neal, but there's no disputing the presence he provides defensively when he's healthy. When facing teams with smaller lineups, the C's need to continue to find ways to get him involved because far too often, teams forget about him at the offensive end of the floor. And the C's and O'Neal made the Cavaliers pay for that, as he tallied 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting which included three dunks.

WHAT WE SAW: Foul trouble and the fact that the game was over by halftime, both resulted in O'Neal playing limited minutes. He still had six points on 3-for-4 shooting, along with three rebounds and a blocked shot. Getting a blowout win and needing O'Neal for just under 14 minutes is the kind of game that the C's would love to have all the time.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs. James Johnson: One of Garnett's greatest strengths -- being unselfish -- could be a huge weakness in this matchup. Johnson can not guard Garnett. It's that simple. And the sooner Garnett gets it into his head that he can get pretty much whatever he wants over Johnson, the better off the C's will be.
WHAT WE SAW: Because of the lopsided nature of things, this battle never really materialized. James Johnson had seven points, but he missed eight of his 11 shots before fouling out in the fourth quarter. As for Garnett, had played just under 17 minutes and finished with seven points, five rebounds and four assists.

PLAYER TO WATCH: DeMar DeRozan is playing the small forward position, but he's really more of a shooting guard with size. With Andrea Bargnani (strained left calf) out, DeRozan has become their primary scorer which means Paul Pierce's best contributions today may not necessarily be in his scoring but how he limits DeRozan's point production.

WHAT WE SAW: Even though the absence of Andrea Bargnani means more shot attempts for DeRozan, he has to become a more efficient scorer for his points to have true value. He led the Raptors in shot attempts (12), but he misfired on nine of his attempts.

STAT TO TRACK: The magic number tonight for the Boston Celtics has to be 90. When the Raptors are held below to 90 points or less scored this season, they are 0-11.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston's defense continues to crush weak teams like the Raptors. With a lead that peaked at 40, Boston's defense never allowed Toronto to get into any kind of flow or rhythm. With injuries to key players and a roster that's not overly impressive even when at full strength, Toronto had no chance at winning let alone making the game competitive.

Price struggles in third inning, but otherwise shines in first start

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Price struggles in third inning, but otherwise shines in first start

CHICAGO -- Everything was going smoothly until the No. 9 hitter.

Protecting a 1-0 lead in the third inning Monday in his first start of 2017, David Price walked two straight batters with none on and one out in the third inning. Ninth-place hitter Adam Engel walked, as did leadoff man Tim Anderson -- who had drawn just four walks in 181 plate appearances entering the game.

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Price, whose command was in question coming off just two rehab starts for Triple-A Pawtucket, immediately paid for the consecutive free passes.

Melky Cabrera jumped on Price's first pitch, a middle-in fastball, for a three-run homer and a 3-1 lead.

The Sox got Price two runs back in the top of the fourth inning, giving him something of a fresh slate with a tie game at 3-3. He took advantage of the second chance, striking out two of the three batters he faced in the bottom of the inning and keeping the game tied, and was rewarded when Mookie Betts homered to lead off the fifth and put the Red Sox back on top, 4-3.

He immediately put himself back in hot water by hitting the first two batters in the bottom of the fifth. But two groundballs to the left side -- the second of which, hit by Cabrera, was turned into an inning-ending double play -- got Price and the Sox out of the inning with their lead intact.

Back from an elbow injury, Price was impressive out of the gate in his first major league game since last year's playoffs. He struck out Anderson to begin his season and needed just 14 pitches in a 1-2-3 first inning.

The lefty touched 96 mph on the final pitch of the first inning, which produced an easy groundout to shortstop from first baseman Jose Abreu.

Price was staked to a 1-0 lead before he threw a pitch.

Betts' leadoff double against Chicago's David Holmberg gave way to a run thanks to some great Betts base running. He took third base on Dustin Pedroia's ground out and then scored on a foul pop up that Abreu, the first baseman, snagged in foul territory with a basket catch — a rare sacrifice fly to the first baseman.

Home runs were a big problem for Price last year. So too was the third inning, when he had a 6.03 ERA.

Pedroia lifted in second inning after hurting wrist in collision

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Pedroia lifted in second inning after hurting wrist in collision

CHICAGO -- Injury scares are finding Dustin Pedroia in all the wrong places.

The Red Sox second baseman was pulled in the second inning Monday afternoon against the White Sox because of a left wrist sprain, an injury he seemed to suffer on a collision running to first base in the top of the first inning.

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He and White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu converged on the bag at the same time on a grounder to Abreu, and Pedroia tumbled over Abreu

Pedroia had season-ending surgery on the wrist in September 2014, addressing a tendon issue. Pedroia had surgery on his left knee this year, and missed time after Manny Machado's slide caught him in that leg in April.

Pedroia during the last homestand was pulled as a precaution because of concern for that leg.

Josh Rutledge took over for Pedroia at second base.