Doc: 'Our execution the whole game was terrible'

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Doc: 'Our execution the whole game was terrible'

BOSTON The assumption is that if you have a veteran team that has played hundreds of games together, they develop an innate understanding of how to play off one another, especially in close games.

But the Boston Celtics are living proof of how no amount of time spent in the past playing with one another can replicate the benefits of having practice time working on how to close out games, which the C's could not do on Thursday in losing 88-87 to the Los Angeles Lakers in overtime.

The C's had a chance to put the game away on two separate occasions, but failed to do so.

Near the end of regulation, the Celtics' Paul Pierce couldn't get a shot off for himself or Ray Allen. Pierce stopped his dribble too soon, which threw off the play's timing. The ball eventually wound up in the hands of Mickael Pietrus, who had to fire a desperation heave that just barely left his hands prior to the final horn of regulation sounding.

And in overtime, Pierce once again had a chance to lift the Celtics to victory. His fade-away jumper rimmed in and out, but the loose ball managed to wind up in the hands of Allen. He quickly got a shot up, only to have it rejected by Pau Gasol.

You have to give the Lakers defense their due. They did a really good job of making life tough as possible for all of Boston's shooters, which isn't all that surprising when you consider their scoring defense is ranked fourth in the NBA, while the C's are No. 1.

But there were too many opportunities, too many chances for Boston to win had they made a play or two down the stretch -- something their fans have grown accustomed to seeing.

"Our execution the whole game was terrible," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "This was an awful game, except for they won. If we had won it, it would've been an awful game that we had won. That's how I felt."

"For the most part," Kevin Garnett added, "I thought when we needed to get stops, we got stops. It came down to overtime. If you're in your building, that's what you want."

While there's no rhyme or reason as to why the Celtics seemed so off their game, Rivers isn't the least bit worried or ready to panic.

"It's called basketball," Rivers said. "Really. It happens. It happens in a playoff game. So I am disappointed, and I'm not happy with it, but it's not like it's been a trend."

Pierce, who led the Celtics with 18 points, said the C's had trouble getting into the kind of sets they wanted to, and having the ball where they wanted it to go.

"We were somewhat helter-skelter," said Allen. "But we still felt we had good control."

"We played too much random pick-and-roll basketball," said Pierce.

And that was among the contributing factors to the team's offensive woes.

"We weren't able to get to the hole," Pierce said. "We tried to get to the foul line. We only shot five free throws."

And all those free throws -- all five of 'em -- came in the first half.

Fortunately -- or unfortunately depending on how you look at it -- the Celtics have no time to lick their wounds after a disappointing loss.

The Celtics are in Toronto for tonight's game against the Raptors.

"That's the good and bad thing about our league right now; you have so much time to get over it," said Rivers, sarcastically.

Does uncertainty for Carson Smith mean Red Sox need bullpen help?

Does uncertainty for Carson Smith mean Red Sox need bullpen help?

BOSTON — Tyler Thornburg’s gone for the season and there’s really no telling when the other set-up man the Sox expected to help in 2017, Carson Smith, will be back.

The Sox have already made inroads, if minor ones, in bolstering their third-base situation and rotation. Smith’s situation leaves a question of whether the Sox will need to pursue help in the bullpen as well.

There's not an easy answer to settle on at this point.

For one, the timetable with the right-hander Smith — whose shoulder has bothered him on the way back from Tommy John surgery — isn’t clear.

“He's in a no-throw [time] through the weekend,” Sox manager John Farrell said Friday afternoon at Fenway Park. “He'll be reevaluated on Monday to hopefully initiate a throwing program. He's responding favorably to the treatment. He continues to rehab as he's been. We have not closed the book in a sense on anything Carson can contribute this year.”

What does this year mean, though? Will they be able to know by July, by the trade deadline?

“Still too early to tell,” Farrell said. “We thought he was days from starting his rehab assignment after his last live BP session in New York [on June 6]. Unfortunately, that was put on hold for the time being. To get into any kind of timeframes, timetables, I don't know that any of us can predict that right now.”

The Sox relievers have done extraordinarily well without either Thornburg or Smith. Can that continue without reinforcements? The bullpen’s ERA entering Friday was 2.94, the second best mark in the majors. Its innings total, 217, was the second. lowest in the majors. 

So it’s not like the entire group is about to collapse from fatigue. But a guy like Joe Kelly, for example, isn’t someone the Sox want to use back to back.

It’s a young group and ultimately an inexperienced group. But Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has already fallen into the trap of trading for premium set-up men twice, and that’s a dangerous road to pursue again. Perhaps a smaller trade makes more sense.

“Well, at this point, we’re open minded to help,” Dombrowski said when asked if he was targeting either third-base or relief help. “I’m not going to get into specifics at this time on what else we’re looking for. Keep an open mind on a lot of ways on which we can improve. We have guys coming back and both the spots, I think Carson Smith is very important to us and our bullpen has pitched great. The other day, we struggled but that was one of the few times we really struggled all year. 

“I think Carson still has a chance to come back and help us this year.”

 

Pedroia returns

Dustin Pedroia (ribcage) was out of the initial Red Sox lineup on Friday but was later added. Farrell said in the afternoon that Pedroia would be available by emergency Fridayand expected to be back in the lineup Saturday, but clearly, something changed.

Blake Griffin opts out of Clippers contract, becoming free agent

Blake Griffin opts out of Clippers contract, becoming free agent

According to multiple reports, Blake Griffin has opted out of his contract with the Clippers, making him a free agent. 

Griffin is considered one of the top free agents in a class that will also include Utah’s Gordon Hayward. The Celtics have been reported as possible suitors for both players. 

The first overall pick in the 2009 draft, the 28-year-old Griffin is a five-time All-Star, though injuries have limited him over the last three seasons. 

Over 61 games, the 6-foot-10 power forward averaged 21.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game last season. Between numerous injuries and a suspension for hitting a member of the Clippers’ equipment staff, Griffin was limited to just 31 games in the 2015-16 season. 

Adrian Wojnarowski said recently that Boston’s reception for Clippers teammate Paul Pierce made a very strong impression on Griffin. Though there might not necessarily be a connection between the two, Griffin said on Barstool Sports’ “Pardon My Take” that Boston is on his Mt. Rushmore of NBA cities.