Sullinger thrives for Celtics as pestering rookie

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Sullinger thrives for Celtics as pestering rookie

WALTHAM Jared Sullinger is well liked by his Boston Celtics teammates.

Opponents? That's another story.

The 6-foot-9 rookie has indeed shown a knack for being a nuisance to opposing players which is a factor that has helped both Sullinger and the Celtics run off a season-high-tying three consecutive wins.

In fact, one of the biggest plays made in Boston's 102-96 win at New York on Monday was Sullinger's ability to bother Tyson Chandler and ultimately force him to commit an offensive foul in the third quarter.

With the score tied at 66, Sullinger's forced turnover got the ball back in the hands of the Celtics who in turn took a one-point lead after a Jeff Green free throw.

Boston would never trail for the rest of the game.

Following the play, you could see Chandler pleading his case to the officials who were in no mood to have their opinions swayed. It was clear that Chandler was upset and bothered if not the end result of the play, but also that it was a rookie doing it.

"My role is to be that nagging rookie that nobody likes," Sullinger said. "So when I check in they go, 'Ahh, this rookie!' That's my whole goal this year. Rebound, finish around the rim, knock down open shots and be a nagging rookie. That's my goal."

The 20-year-old has been all that and then some for a Celtics club that has leaned more heavily on him recently.

He's averaging 5.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game on the season. During the Celtics' current three-game winning streak, he's delivering 8.3 points and 8 rebounds per game.

The increased production is in large part due to more opportunities to play. During the current streak, he has averaged 23.7 minutes played per game which is a noticeable spike from his season average of 18.7 minutes played per game.

Despite being an All-American at Ohio State, Celtics captain Paul Pierce said he didn't know too much about Sullinger until after the Celtics selected him in the first round of last June's NBA draft.

"He was pretty much a name to me," Pierce said. "I hadn't really had a chance to watch too many college games."

But since coming to Boston, you can lump Pierce into the growing crowd of folks who have been impressed with the big man's presence and demeanor both on and off the court.

"He's a hard worker," Pierce said. "The good thing about him, he's a very coachable. He listens. He doesn't strike me as one of these new-age rookies who comes in, reading their own press articles and feeling themselves coming into the league and real arrogant. He accepts coaching; he respects the veterans. And with that type of attitude, he's only going to get better."

Added Celtics head coach Doc Rivers: "He's just a physical, tough kid."

Sullinger's solid, but far from a finished product.

A big part of his improvement will be him continuing to do the dirty work that is required of an effective NBA big man, in addition to finding ways to get underneath the skin of opposing players.

"I'm the guy that's always going for the offensive boards," Sullinger said. "I'm the guy that's putting up a fight. I see it working."

There have been too many games to count where Sullinger's play has led to more seasoned players trying to trash talk him, with the goal being to throw off his focus.

Nice try, Sullinger says.

"Everybody thinks just because I'm a rookie they say something, I'm going to back down," Sullinger said. "I grew up around basketball. I played with some of the best. Talking doesn't really affect me."

Morning Skate: Blackhawks get band back together

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Morning Skate: Blackhawks get band back together

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while knowing that nobody will ever forget the courage and zest for life that 5-year-old Red Sox fan Ari Schultz showed in his far too short life. Rest in peace, little guy.  

 *PHT writer James O’Brien has the Chicago Blackhawks adjusting to the returns of both Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp after their short stints away from the fold. It will be really interesting to see if the Blackhawks can recreate their magic by bringing some of the past Cup pieces to the scene after last year’s disappointing end.

*Ilya Kovalchuk is primed for a return to the NHL in 2018-19 after playing one more season, an Olympic season no less, in the KHL.

*Good piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Arpon Basu chronicling the day with the Cup in Montreal for Marc-Andre Fleury.

*Speaking of the Blackhawks, it sounds like Jonathan Toews is going to scale back on the “Captain Serious” approach to his hockey career this upcoming season.

*Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee is pleased with the state of his expansion team after looking at some of the pieces, and doing a little wheeling and dealing after the fact. I mean, you have to wheel and deal if you’re a hockey team in Vegas, right?

*Detroit Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar is relieved his new contract with the Winged Wheels will allow him to avoid arbitration.

*For something completely different: It remains to be seen whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but we’re completely in a culture where media entities are writing full stories about posters. Okay, I think this is a bad thing and my mind is already made up.

 


 

Andrelton Simmons slugs Angels to 7-3 win over Red Sox

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Andrelton Simmons slugs Angels to 7-3 win over Red Sox

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- When runs come in bunches, so do the wins for the Los Angeles Angels.

Andrelton Simmons drove in three runs, including a go-ahead two-run homer, Albert Pujols went 3-for-4 with two RBI and the Angels rallied for a 7-3 victory over the Red Sox on Saturday night.

Simmons hit his 10th homer of the season to left and put the Angels ahead 4-3 in the third inning after falling behind early. Pujols doubled to score Yunel Escobar and Mike Trout to start the four-run outburst.

"When we got a pitch to hit we hit it hard," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Albert got us going, that's a big double. One thing that can get you back into the game, extra-base hits tonight showed up."

The Angels improved to 38-10 when scoring four or more runs, compared to a 10-41 mark when held to three or fewer.

Battering Red Sox ace David Price even after facing a 3-0 deficit after two innings made this particular offensive eruption all the more impressive.

"We started chipping away," said Simmons, who went 2 for 4. "Guys just kept putting up good at-bats. We just didn't make it easy for them."

JC Ramirez (9-8) recorded his second win at home in 11 starts, striking out six while allowing one earned run and five hits in six innings despite struggling early.

The Red Sox got off to another fast start after scoring five runs in the first inning on Friday. Hanley Ramirez had an RBI single to start the scoring, and the Red Sox got two runs in the second after the Angels' franchise-record streak of 14 games without an error ended when Ramirez couldn't make the catch to complete a double play while covering first. Mookie Betts hit his 31st double to knock in a run and then was driven in by Andrew Benintendi for a 3-0 lead.

However, the Angels were able to respond after dropping the series opener. They added two runs in the fifth when Simmons singled, again bringing home Pujols, and he scored on a throwing error by shortstop Xander Bogaerts.

Trout picked up an RBI in the sixth, giving him five in seven games this home stand.

Price (5-3) gave up five earned runs and seven hits in five innings, allowing more than three earned runs for only the second time this year.

"The one thing that they did do well was they forced him to throw a lot of pitches," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Obviously, the third inning, two big swings were the difference."

ANOTHER PUJOLS MILESTONE

Pujols became the 26th player to score 1,700 runs when he touched home plate after Simmons went deep. Pujols joins Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Alex Rodriguez and Willie Mays in amassing at least 600 home runs and 1,700 runs.

Scioscia called Pujols' continued climb into the history books a moment of "living history."

"He's had an incredible career and he's got more in his tank," Scioscia said. "It's fun to see the guys he is connected with."

FARRELL TOSSED

Farrell got the boot for arguing with umpire Phil Cuzzi in the middle of the fifth, though his original intent was to keep Dustin Pedroia from the same outcome. But by the time Farrell got to home plate, Pedroia had ended his conversation with Cuzzi and Farrell picked up where it left off.

"Anytime you make a comment about balls and strikes, that's probably what it's going to get you," Farrell said.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: INF Josh Rutledge (concussion) is likely to come off the disabled list on Monday. ... Mitch Moreland was in the starting lineup at DH for the first time this season.

Angels: LHP Tyler Skaggs (strained oblique) pitched four innings in a rehab start for Triple-A Salt Lake, giving up three earned runs and six hits.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (4-12, 4.60 ERA) has just one win in his last 10 starts, but it came against the Angels last month. Porcello has allowed two earned runs in 14 innings over his last two starts, striking out 13 without allowing a walk in that span, and still took the loss in both outings.

Angels: RHP Parker Bridwell (3-1, 3.18 ERA) went a career-high 6 2/3 innings to pick up the win against the Red Sox last month. Bridwell has held opponents to two earned runs or fewer in five of his last six starts.