No more Mr. Nice Guy: Sullinger shows nasty side on court

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No more Mr. Nice Guy: Sullinger shows nasty side on court

WALTHAM Jared Sullinger is one of the more happy-go-lucky guys you'll find in the NBA.

He answers reporters' questions. He makes sure his veteran teammates have whatever it is they need. He takes Doc Rivers' chiding him to play better with the same level-headed demeanor when Rivers is praising him.

But beyond the nice-guy demeanor is a fiesty, physical banger that doesn't mind showing his nasty side on the floor.

"You don't bring the nice guy on to the floor," said Boston's Kevin Garnett. "That's not going to get you anywhere. He understands that."

The nasty side of Sullinger has led to some pretty nice play for the Celtics who come into Friday's game against Houston riding a four-game winning streak.

And Sullinger's play has been instrumental in that run, a run that includes him tallying a career-high 16 rebounds in Boston's win over Phoenix on Wednesday.

"I always had that," Sullinger said. "I'm always aggressive especially when it comes to rebounding. That's just been me since an early age."

He added, "in between the lines I'm a little nasty."

And his teammates absolutely love the balancing act, one that many of them - Garnett included - can relate to.

Like Sullinger, those close to Garnett say the intense, menacing figure you see in games isn't anything like the eloquent, jovial, fun-loving Garnett they see off the court.

"A lot of things he wants to be in the league, I've attained some of them," Garnett said. "So I just try to give him that experience. He asks a lot of questions about ... various topics to be honest; and I share them. A lot of guys don't really open up themselves or share those experiences or stories, etc. And I try to do that."

Garnett added, "Jared's a good guy. He's a guy you want your daughter to bring home. Not saying he doesn't have a mean streak in him. We have a connection and it works."

Especially when you consider that Sullinger (plus-68) and Garnett (plus-43) have the two highest plus-minus ratios on the C's roster this season.

Sullinger attributes some of his nastiness to getting roughed up at times by older siblings.

The 6-foot-9 forward recalled a time when he was much younger and he was playing with his siblings and went up for a lay-up.

"I went up for a lay-up and Julian just pushed me into a pole," Sullinger said.

Bleeding at the time, Jared said he ran home.

"I'm crying to my mom and she said go see your father," Sullinger recalled.

After a brief conversation, Sullinger said his mom cleaned him up, patted him on the back and told him to go back out and play.

It was a tough love moment, one that Sullinger cherishes.

He learned first-hand the value in pulling yourself back up when you literally get knocked down, and keep playing.

That has translated into him being a tireless worker on the boards for the Celtics this season, a player who seems to make those around him better whenever he's on the floor.

As much as Avery Bradley has been credited with Boston's turnaround, there's no way to ignore the fact that Sullinger is seeing more playing time during this current run, either.

This season, Sullinger is averaging 5.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while playing 18.7 minutes per game. During the C's current four-game winning streak he's up to 9.3 points, 12.5 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the field in 26.8 minutes per game.

"He's very poised," Garnett said of Sullinger. "You're not going to get under his skin; you're not going to rush him. And just when you think he's backing down, he's in your face."

Talking points: Patrice Bergeron is best player on ice in Bruins' win

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Talking points: Patrice Bergeron is best player on ice in Bruins' win

Here are the talking points from the Boston Bruins' 6-3 win over the Dallas Stars where Patrice Bergeron scored two goals.

Red Sox can't rally against Rays after Chris Archer's start

Red Sox can't rally against Rays after Chris Archer's start

The appearance of Tampa Bay Rays lefty Ryan Yarbrough almost got the Boston Red Sox back in their spring training exhibition game. The Sox managed to score all three of their runs against the 25-year-old in their 7-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida on Sunday.

But the Rays, who scored runs in five different innings, managed to widen their lead in the eighth inning by beating up on Sox lefty Luis Isla, a 24-year-old who spent last season with Portland and Pawtucket. In the eighth, Rays' Joe McCarthy homered and Luke Maile managed an RBI single, which cappped off the scoring in the contest. Sox starter Hector Velazquez allowed three hits and an earned run in his two innnings. The 28-year-old, who spent 2016 in the Mexican League, still managed to amass four strikeouts.

"I was a little nervous at the start, being in the United States for the first time and playing for a big league club for the first time," Velazquez told RedSox.com through an interpreter. "But once I got the first out, all the nerves went away, and I was able to bear down."

Despite allowing two homers, Boston pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts.

With the exception of the Sox' inning against Yarbrough, Boston's veterans and prospects struggled mighltily against the Rays pitching staff. Chris Archer started for Tampa, and set the tone in the first two innings, where he threw two strikeouts, one walk and allowed one hit and no runs. Andrew Benintendi (0-for-3), Sam Travis (0-for-2) and Bryce Brentz (0-for-3) went hitless on the day. Travis, however, reached base on balls.

"I felt good. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish," Archer said, via the Red Sox' team website. "Just out there having fun, it was really fun to be out there in the spectrum with the umpire, the fans, the batter. It was fun."

Marco Hernandez's triple got the Sox' eighth-inning off to a strong start, and singles from Matt Dominguez, Deven Marrero, Rusney Castillo and Cole Sturgeon followed. The Sox' eighth inning scoring ended after Castillo got thrown out by left fielder McCarthy at third. Six Red Sox finished with one-hit outings, including Brock Holt and Blake Swihart.

The Sox will next host the St. Louis Cardinals in Fort Myers on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET.