Sweeney making his mark quickly

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Sweeney making his mark quickly

TORONTO -- It''s admittedly a short sample size, but outfielder Ryan Sweeney has made a quick impact for the Red Sox -- especially when it's mattered most.
On Opening Day, Sweeney tripled home the tying run as the Sox came back against the Detroit Tigers and closer Jose Valverde.
Monday night, Sweeney came through again in the ninth, singling home the go-ahead run as the Sox rallied against the Toronto Blue Jays and closer Sergio Santos.
"I think everybody wants to be in those situations,'' said Sweeney. "In those situations, I'm just trying to do whatever the job presents. The last couple of times, it's been having a guy on second base and trying to get him in with two outs and fortunately I've had that happen.''
Sweeney said he's benefited from watching fellow left-handed hitters like David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez.
"Just the way they go about it and the way they approach certain pitchers helps,'' said Sweeney. "Just having a game plan going up there helps.''
After hitting in one of the league's worst lineups the last few years in Oakland, Sweeney feels fortunate to be surrounded by some of the game's better hitters.
"I think anybody would like to hit in this lineup,'' he said. "I said at the beginning of the spring, just put me at the end of the lineup and let me do little things to help us win. Having their presence in the lineup -- pitchers want to face me rather than having to face guys like that.
"One thing I've noticed with those guys, when they get their pitch and they're looking for it, they don't miss it. To see that and hopefully develop into one of those players, eventually that could be something that could happen.''
Manager Bobby Valentine noticed Sweeney's swing coming together in the final week of spring training and has watched him carry that into the first four games of the season.
Sweneey has hit safely in all four games at a .467 (7-for-15) clip.
"He's getting big hits late in the game and swinging well against left-handers and hitting the ball all around the ballpark,'' said Valentine.
Valentine said Sweeney worked with hitting coach Dave Magadan early in camp on finding a better rhythm.
"He was a little still,'' said Valentine. "I think it took him a little while, but now, it looks like he's right on time.''

WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics play the Raptors in Toronto. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by McDonald's on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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Celtics-Raptors preview: Ibaka is 'capable of changing the game'

Celtics-Raptors preview: Ibaka is 'capable of changing the game'

TORONTO – The decision to stand pat at the trade deadline for the Boston Celtics was made in part because they felt that as their roster is constructed, they can hold their own with anybody.

We’re going to find out just how true that is tonight as they face a revamped Toronto Raptors team that added a couple of notable players via trade, chief among them being Serge Ibaka from Orlando.

“That was a really good trade for them,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “Bringing in a guy like Serge Ibaka; a defender, a four-man that can switch out on guards. A guy that can space the floor, shoot the 3.  So that was a good addition. I’m excited to see how that’s gonna work other than tomorrow.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was also impressed with the Ibaka trade.

“That’s an improvement; there’s no question about it,” Stevens said. “Now you can play a number of different ways. He’s a really good player; he’s very agile. He’s a very good shooter. You can play him or (Patrick) Patterson at the four (power forward) the entire game now. You can play them together as a small-ball four and five (center). It gives them a lot of options on offense and defense.”

While praise for Ibaka is nothing new, you have to remember there were reasons as to why the Magic decided to give up on him so quickly, something even more hard to understand considering the assets they gave up (Victor Olidipo and a 2016 first-round pick used to select Domantas Sabonis, among others) to acquire him.

The Magic decided that they would not be in the running to re-sign Ibaka when he hits the free agent market this summer; this coming after the Thunder traded him primarily because they did not plan on giving him the near-max contract he’ll be seeking. So rather than play out this season and lose him for nothing, the Magic decided to trade him while they still could get something (Terrence Ross) in return.

While in Orlando, Ibaka averaged a career-high 15.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots per game. For his career (all prior to this season spent in Oklahoma City), he’s averaging 11.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.

But he never seemed to provide the kind of impactful, difference-making play that Orlando was seeking.

And while the Celtics speak highly of Ibaka, he hasn’t been much of a problem for the Celtics this season.

In two games against Boston, Ibaka has averaged 6.0 points and 4.0 rebounds.

Jae Crowder believes the struggles Ibaka has endured against the Celtics, are not a clear reflection of what he’s capable of doing as a player.

“For sure it makes them better,” said Crowder in describing the Raptors with Ibaka. “He’s a guy that can stretch the floor and rebound at a high rate. We know what he brings to the table.”

And those struggles we saw of him with the Magic?

“I think it was him more so than us,” Crowder said. “I give him credit because he wasn’t playing with the energy and passion he usually brings. I’ve been able to line up against him a quite a few times.  He didn’t have that passion like he did when he was in O-K-C (Oklahoma City). Maybe he’ll have it now. I know exactly what he’s capable of doing; he’s capable of changing the game with his play.”