McAdam: No more outside help for Red Sox

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McAdam: No more outside help for Red Sox

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
Somehow, in this bizarro September, the Red Sox lost Wednesday night -- again -- and still managed to gain ground in the American League wild card race.

For that, the Red Sox can thank, the New York Yankees, who beat the Tampa Bay Rays twice in a day-night doubleheader.

That sort of gift-giving, however, is likely to stop Thursday. After clinching the American League East title with their nightcap win over the Rays, the Yankees are out of the competition business.

They've clinched. They've done their part. The rest is up to the Red Sox, which is hardly encouraging news.

While the Yankees were doing all the heavy lifting Tuesday and Wednesday, beating the Rays three straight, the Red Sox were busy twice losing late-inning leads, as if they couldn't be bothered to do any of the work themselves.

Why break a sweat when the Yankees were doing it all for you?

The Rays have one game remaining with the Yankees Thursday night, but the rules have changed. Now that the Yankees know they've clinched, their motivation has changed.

It doesn't matter how many more games they win over the next week -- the Yanks are going to finish first in the division no matter what, and in all likelihood, with the best record in the American League (they have a five-game lead over fellow division-leaders Detroit and Texas), giving them home field advantage in the ALCS, too.

Joe Girardi is as old-school as they come and no doubt will take into consideration the integrity of the game. Girardi's Yankees won't roll over Thursday night, over the weekend when they host the Red Sox or in the final three games of the season when they travel to Tropicana Field.

But they have their priorities, too, and winning isn't necessarily at the top of that to-do list. The Yankees are more interested in resting some veterans and getting their pitching staff in order for the postseason. And they've earned that right.

The Red Sox? They've earned nothing except the mess in which they currently find themselves.

They finished the final homestand of the season with a 3-7 mark, including an embarrassing final series that saw them drop three-of-four to last-place Baltimore.

(Don't think that Buck Showalter didn't enjoy every minute of the last three days, given his comments in Men's Health, published during spring training, in which he said he took particular satisfaction out of beating the deep-pocketed Red Sox.)

In the last two games, the Red Sox had leads in the seventh and eighth innings respectively -- and lost both. Wednesday night, they went down without much of a fight. After the Orioles went ahead in the top of the seventh, the Red Sox went in order, no fuss necessary, in each of their final turns at bat.

As they left the field Wednesday for what should have been a sendoff to the post-season, they were instead booed lustily by the frustrated fans.

It was hardly a storybook ending to the home half of the season.

What happens from here on out is anyone's guess. Thanks to the Yankees, the Red Sox' Magic Number was reduced to five games with six to play.

Should they figure out a way to win five of their last six games, the Sox could clinch the wild card outright. By winning four of their last six, they would assure themselves of no worse than a tie.

But given the way they've been playing, the Red Sox will probably need some help. And here's where things get tricky.

The Yankees have no responsibility to the Red Sox Thursday night or next week in St. Petersburg. And while the Red Sox were fumbling through the last two weeks -- and the Rays, the last few days -- the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim joined the wild card race, pulling even with the Rays with seven games remaining.

After one more game in Toronto Thursday night, the Angels return home to host Oakland, then have Texas for the final three games.

Not long ago, that series was supposed to determine the A.L. West title, but the Rangers have a five-game lead over the Angels for the division crown. That means that the Rangers will have likely clinched the division before Monday. And that means the Rangers won't have much motivation for the final three games, either.

Like the Yankees, they'll have their own agenda: resting position players and putting their post-season pitching in order.

So, if the Red Sox know what's good for them -- and frankly, there's little evidence of that -- they'll take care of business for themselves over the weekend.

"We're going to have to fight for everthing we get the rest of the way,'' acknowledged Terry Francona, "and make it happen to get where we want to go . . . We have our work cut out for us.''

And, obviously, no one to blame but themselves.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Wizards shoot ridiculous 65 percent from field

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Wizards shoot ridiculous 65 percent from field

After Boston’s last game against Portland – a loss – Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said he was encouraged by some of the things his team did defensively.

It’s safe to say Stevens won’t be singing that tone if the Celtics continue along the path they’re on defensively right now as the Washington Wizards went into the half with a 66-59 lead.

Washington, donning all-black clothes when they arrived at the Verizon Center, were very much looking as though they were digging a basketball grave for the Boston Celtics who allowed the Wizards to shoot a ridiculous 65 percent from the field in the first half and 61.5 percent (8-for-13) from 3-point range.

The Wizards scored the first four points of the game and spent all of the first half playing with a lead.

But the Celtics showed some fight late in the second quarter, going on a 14-6 run to cut Washington’s lead to 55-52 with 3:39 to play in the quarter.

Boston would later have a chance to tie the game, but Marcus Smart’s 3-pointer was off the mark.

And the Wizards, as they had done all game, made the Celtics pay as Bradley Beal drained a jumper that made it a two-possession game.

Here’s a look at the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half.

 

STARS

Bradley Beal

It was his idea to go with the all-Black look, and he backed up his talk with a strong first half of play. He has a team-high 14 points at the half along with five assists.

Isaiah Thomas

Thomas delivered yet another all-star caliber scoring performance in the first half for Boston. He led all scorers with 17 points on 5-for-9 shooting along with a game-high eight assists.  

John Wall

After scoring just nine points when these two met on Jan. 11, Wall has 13 points at the half on 6-for-9 shooting to go with five rebounds and three assists.

 

STUDS

Al Horford

It was an extremely efficient game offensively in the first half for Horford. He had 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting with three assists.

Markieff Morris

He’s one of four double-digit scorers in the first half for the Wizards. In addition to his 10 points, he also has five rebounds and three assists.

 

DUDS

Celtics defense

At this end of the floor, the Celtics were absolutely atrocious in the first half. The Wizards shot a ridiculously high 65 percent from the field, and were just as lethal (8-for-13, 61.5 percent) from 3-point land. They have no shot at competing let alone winning tonight’s game, if they don’t turn things around and do so soon!

Beyond the numbers: 'Game is slowing down' for Isaiah Thomas

Beyond the numbers: 'Game is slowing down' for Isaiah Thomas

Just about every part of Isaiah Thomas’ game offensively has seen tremendous growth this season.

But what has really separated him from earlier versions of himself, has been his 3-point shooting.

He comes into tonight’s game against the Washington Wizards shooting a career best 38.4 percent from 3-point range.

When asked about how he has elevated his game this season, the answer isn’t that simple.

“I don’t know” he told reporters prior to tonight’s game. “The game is slowing down for me. My teammates put me in position, my coach does … and I’m just knocking down shots.”

Because of his shot-making, Thomas has made it difficult for defenses to give him a steady diet of any style of play in trying to limit him.

And because they have to change things up with regularity, that has created more scoring opportunities.

“Sometimes they forget what they want to do (defensively) and leave me open for a three,” Thomas said. “Those are the the types of shots I need to knock down and I’m being aggressive.

He added, “I need to get to the free throw line, trying to make plays for my teammates. It’s one of those things where I’m in a really good zone now; a really good rhythm.”

A good rhythm?

According to NBA statistics guru Dick Lipe, Thomas is the first Celtic ever to make at least four 3-pointers in five straight games. Taking it a step further, he has made at least three 3-pointers in seven straight games which equaled Antoine Walker’s streak in 2001.

Thomas has also attempted 11 three-pointers in five straight games which is a franchise record. There have only been three longer streaks in NBA history - Golden State’s Stephen Curry (7 straight games, 2016); Washington’s Gilbert Arenas (7 straight games, 2005) and Dallas’ George McCloud (6 straight games, 2006).

He’s also averaging 3.1 made 3’s per game which would be a franchise record that’s currently held by Antoine Walker who averaged 2.7 during the 2001-2002 season.

And all those 3’s have added up to Thomas scoring at least 27 points in seven straight games, something that hasn’t been done by a Celtic since Larry Bird had eight such games in March 1988 as well as the 1987-1988 season.