Celtics-Rockets review: What we saw . . .


Celtics-Rockets review: What we saw . . .

BOSTON The Boston Celtics' 97-92 overtime win over the Houston Rockets Tuesday night was filled with missed layups, missed free throws and some untimely turnovers in ways seldom seen - and Doc Rivers couldn't have been any happier.

"We're starting to play good basketball and we're starting to win basketball games when we don't play good basketball," the Celtics coach said. "And that may be more important."

Boston appeared to have the game under control in the closing seconds of regulation, but the ball seemed to slip out of Rajon Rondo's hands as he missed an uncontested breakaway layup. Moments later, the Rockets were able to tie the game and force overtime.

The C's had more miscues that came out of nowhere in the overtime period, such as Kevin Garnett - an 84.3 percent free-throw shooter - missing a pair, and Paul Pierce turning the ball over on an eight-second violation.

"That was a crazy game," Rivers said. "The whole game - it wasn't even just the ending."

Said Rockets forward Luis Scola: "The fact that we are in overtime is very lucky. What are the chances that Rondo misses a wide open layup when nobody's close to him? The fact that we played overtime was a bonus, a present. We lost the game before that. We could have won in overtime, but the reality is that we lost before."

And now the Celtics' focus will immediately shift to an Atlantic Division matchup in Philadelphia Wednesday night with first place in the division at stake. But before we get too ahead of ourselves, let's review some of the factors highlighted prior to the Celtics' victory, which extended their winning streak to five in a row.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Although the Celtics are scoring more with Brandon Bass in the starting lineup, the increase in scoring has a lot to do with their defense. The C's are forcing more turnovers, which has allowed them to get out in transition and get easy baskets. For the season, Boston is forcing 15.1 turnovers per game. During their current four-game winning streak, the C's have increased their forced turnover number to 17.3 per game.

WHAT WE SAW: For the third straight game, Boston forced its opponent to commit 20 or more turnovers. The Celtics were able to generate 19 points off of the 20 miscues by the Rockets. Boston's defense was particularly effective in the fourth quarter, after falling behind by double-digits. "The defensive energy picked up," said Ray Allen. "When they went on a run we weren't getting any stops, they kind of dictated how the game was being played, and we changed that by pushing them away from the basket. And everything that they had was contested, and we got rebounds and were able to run and score."

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo vs. Kyle Lowry: While Lowry doesn't have the kind of media sizzle of a Jeremy Lin or Deron Williams, Rondo's defense of Lowry will have to be good. Lost in the Celtics' recent run of success has been the fact that all but one of the four point guards Rondo has faced (with the exception being Cleveland's Kyrie Irving) since returning from the All-Star break, have had subpar performances against the C's. And Lowry is having arguably his best NBA season, averaging 15.8 points, 7.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game.

WHAT WE SAW: Lowry became the latest victim of a Celtics defense that continues to make a non-factor of one point guard after another. Lowry had 18 points, but was just 4-for-17 from the field. He grabbed seven rebounds, but his seven assists were just one more than his six turnover total. "Night-in and night-out, it's going to be a good guard you face and try to contain them as much as possible," Rondo said.

PLAYER TO WATCH: The role of Ray Allen continues to fluctuate from one game to another. Some nights, he'll be looked upon to drive more to the basket. Other nights, he'll be needed to shoot. And then there was the win over the New York Knicks on Sunday, a game in which Allen was more of a decoy who set lots of picks. It'll be interesting to see how the Rockets approach defending Allen, and how Allen and the C's respond.

WHAT WE SAW: Once again, Ray Allen answers the call when the C's needed a clutch basket. His 3-pointer late in the fourth positioned the Celtics for the victory. And in the five-minute overtime period, only Paul Pierce (7 points) scored more than Allen who had 4 of his 21 points in the overtime period. "Ray is one of the best conditioned athletes in our league," said Boston's Keyon Dooling. "He puts the time in, he still does the same routine he's had for years and obviously, he's the greatest shooter in the history of the game. We wouldn't expect anything less from him."

STAT TO TRACK: If you see a 3-pointer go in tonight, cherish the moment because there probably won't be many made 3s tonight. The Boston Celtics defend the 3-point shot better than any team in the NBA, with opponents shooting just 30.2 percent on 3s against them. The Houston Rockets are literally right behind Boston in 3-point defense, with their opponents connecting on 31 percent of their 3-point tries.
WHAT WE SAW: Indeed, 3-point shots made were few and far between for both teams. Although Houston had more made 3s than the Celtics (five to four), Boston shot a slightly higher percentage in connecting on four of its 14 attempts (28.6 percent) compared to the Rockets' 5-for-19 (26.3 percent) shooting on 3s.

Bruins sign restricted free agent Acciari to two-year deal

Bruins sign restricted free agent Acciari to two-year deal

The Bruins have locked up a potential fourth-line piece for next season at a bargain basement price.

The B's signed Rhode Island native and Providence College alum Noel Acciari, a restricted free agent, to a two-year deal worth $1.45 million, a contract that breaks down to a very affordable $725,000 cap hit for each of the next two seasons. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound bowling ball of a forward finished with two goals and five points in 29 games for the Bruins last season, and has appeared in 48 games at the NHL level over the last two seasons in Boston. It was also encouraging that Acciari seemed to be tapping a bit more into his offense toward the end of the season, and was building some confidence for whatever modest offense he’ll end up bringing to the NHL table once he’s reached his potential ceiling as a player.

Clearly the two-year, one-way deal portends that Acciari, 25, will be counted on as a high energy, hard-hitting fourth-line player who does a good job of aggravating opponents while playing at full tilt. The real question is whether his body can hold up with his maximum effort style of playing, and whether he can avoid serious injuries with some of the car-crash level of violence he puts in his hitting.

Acciari has battled several different injuries over the last couple of seasons, but managed to be healthy enough to log time in the playoffs for both Boston and the P-Bruins.

Either way it’s a low-risk, affordable contract for the Bruins for a young player who, if healthy, will be a large piece on their fourth line as a diligent worker and excellent teammate. So that’s a good proactive signing for Don Sweeney as he continues to work on a more complicated contract for a higher profile player like David Pastrnak.

Francona misses second game this month because of health issues

Francona misses second game this month because of health issues

CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona missed Tuesday night's game against Texas after his second trip to the hospital this month.

The Indians said doctors for now have ruled out major health issues and Francona will be monitored the next several weeks.

Francona, 58, left Monday night's game because he wasn't feeling well. He spent several hours at Cleveland Clinic and underwent a series of tests.

Francona was released from the hospital on Tuesday and spent the rest of the day at home. He was expected to return to the dugout Wednesday when the Indians host the Rangers. Cleveland lost to Texas 2-1 on Tuesday.

Bench coach Brad Mills ran the team in Francona's absence. Cleveland began the day in first place in the AL Central after rallying for a 15-9 win Monday.

"Tito actually wanted to come back to the ballpark today," team president Chris Antonetti said Tuesday. "I told him he can't come back to the ballpark today. He only got a couple hours of sleep last night, so despite his desire to want to be here, I thought it was best that he gets some rest tonight and just come back tomorrow. His plan when he was getting released from the hospital was to come over here."

"I don't think he was exceedingly happy with me," Antonetti said with a laugh. "That's OK."

Francona was hospitalized June 13 following a game at Progressive Field. He underwent tests and was released a few hours later, returning to work the following night. Last August, he missed a game after experiencing chest pains but was back the next day.

"Thankfully, we've got some great doctors that are coordinating his care," Antonetti said. "They've done every test they can possibly imagine. They've all come back clean. They're now working to try to figure out what are some of those things that are causing him to not feel so well."

Francona, a close friend of Mills for several years, has retained his sense of humor through his health issues.

A statement released by the team Tuesday read, "Mr. Francona also wanted to express that medical personnel have not yet ruled out an allergy to Bench Coach Brad Mills."