Boston Red Sox

Talking Points: West tops East in All-Star nailbiter

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Talking Points: West tops East in All-Star nailbiter

ORLANDO, Fla. Like most NBA all-star games, what looked like a blowout in the making, suddenly became a close game in the fourth quarter.

Despite a furious comeback in the fourth by the East, they could not overcome a strong first half by the West which hung on for a 152-149 win.

The East had a chance to go up in the final seconds of play, but a 3-point attempt by New Jersey's Deron Williams was well off the mark. The loose ball wound up back in the hands of the East, but LeBron James' pass was picked off by Blake Griffin who was immediately fouled.

He made one of two free throws with 1.1 seconds to play.

Kevin Durant had 36 points as the Western Conference All-Stars won for the second straight year, and third time in the last four years.

After trailing by as many as 21 points, a James 3-pointer made it a one-possession game (144-141) with about three minutes to play. He also had 36 points.

But a floater by Durant and a powerful, one-handed dunk by Russell Westbrook put the West back on top 148-143.

The East weren't ready to give up quite yet.

A dunk by Dwight Howard and a Deron Williams lay-up following a steal cut the deficit to 148-147.

The East had a chance to take the lead with about 80 seconds to play, but Dwyane Wade lost control of a long pass from James that sailed out of bounds. Wade had a triple-double of 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

That would prove to be a huge gaffe, as Griffin had a put-back dunk of a Westbrook miss to make it a 150-147 game with less than a minute to play.

The tight finish was a far cry from the way the game was being played in the first half.

Look no further than the shooting percentages at the half.

The West, which had an 88-69 lead at the half, was shooting 60.3 percent from the field while the East wasn't too shabby while connecting on 49.2 percent of its shots.

One of the game's other highlights was Kobe Bryant who finished with 27 points. In doing so, he surpassed Michael Jordan for the all-time leading scorer in All-Star game history. Bryant now has 271 points, breaking Jordan's mark of 262.
HOT SHOT: Kevin Durant of the West and LeBron James of the East put on a great show scoring the ball. And while they each finished with 36 points, Durant came up with some clutch buckets in the game's closing moments. LeBron?Not so much. That's why Durant's team won and he was named MVP.

IN-N-OUT: Paul Pierce said after the game he was trying to get up some shots. Mission accomplished. Making a few of them would have been nice, though. Pierce, one of just five Celtics to be named to 10 all-star games for the Green Team, had three points while missing seven of his eight shot attempts.

SUPER SUB: Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook continues to prove he's more than just Kevin Durant's sidekick. Named to his second straight All-Star team, Westbrook came off the bench and scored 21 points - more than any other All-Star reserve - on 10-for-17 shooting. He also managed to grab five rebounds.

TURNING POINT:With the East trailing 151-149, Deron Williams attempts a 3-pointer that's off the mark, but Williams is able to get the rebound. The ball winds up in the hands of LeBron James with time running down. He tries to throw a cross-court pass to a teammate, but the pass is intercepted by Blake Griffin who is fouled with 1.1 seconds to play. Griffin made one of the two free throws to secure the win.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2: That would be the number of consecutive wins for the West, snapping a string of alternating wins that dates back to 2006.

QUOTE OF NOTE: "It's just exciting to be named an All-Star, but to step it up another level and become MVP, it's only something that as a kid you dream about. Coming from where I come from, I didn't think I would be here."-Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant, who was named All-Star MVP.

Drellich: Dave Dombrowski, at last, built an excellent bullpen

Drellich: Dave Dombrowski, at last, built an excellent bullpen

BOSTON — Congratulations, Dave Dombrowski. It’s September, and you built a certified, top-notch bullpen. 

Credit goes all around. The pitchers themselves receive the most, with the front office, John Farrell and the rest of the staff taking their slices as well.

But the success is particularly notable for an executive who perennially had terrible bullpens in Detroit. Dombrowski knows the reputation he garnered, too.

Maybe now he’ll start to shed it.

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The trouble in his old job wasn’t for lack of trying. Joe Nathan didn’t work out. Many folks didn’t.

“I think that there’s a few factors there,” Dombrowski said in 2016 of his bullpens in Detroit. “At one time we had (Jose) Valverde (from 2010-13 who) was the best closer for a couple years. (Joaquin) Benoit pitched very well as a set-up guy. We had a very solid bullpen at that point.

“We were unlucky a little bit in, for example, a guy like Joel Zumaya — who was a dominant guy, young — hurts his arm. Somebody you’re counting on. . . . Really (Bruce) Rondon never lived up to the early expectations. I know he’s still young, he’s doing better. So we got a little unlucky on those things. He got hurt too.”

So it goes. Per FanGraphs’ measurement of WAR, the Tigers had the worst bullpen in the majors from 2003-15, Dombrowski’s tenure.

The Sox’ bullpen is fifth in WAR this year, and second in ERA. Last year’s group was good, but not this good. 

One of Dombrowski’s premier pick-ups in Boston, Addison Reed, has a common refrain when asked about his own pitching: he doesn’t change a thing. 

When Reed got rocked in one of his early outings with the Red Sox, against the Yankees, he said he didn’t change. When he got in and out of trouble in the eighth inning Monday night in another extra-inning win for the Red Sox, 10-8 over the Orioles in 11, he said he didn’t change.

Same for Dombrowski, it would seem. 

He continued to go after established relievers. There was the huge trade for Craig Kimbrel. Carson Smith took a while to contribute because of arm injuries, but he had the 11th-inning save Monday, and his velocity appeared to be creeping up. 

The Tyler Thornburg situation was troubling, so Dombrowski went out and got Reed from the Mets.

Could Dombrowski have had success sooner if he had changed his approach? Well, maybe, but that’s a different argument.

It’s worked. He didn’t change a thing. 

How cliche. But cliches, we should point out, have become a central theme in all these extra-inning wins for the Sox (they're 14-3). Grit, resiliency, determination — you run the risk of drowning on those words, even if they’re well deserved.

Those relievers, though. Both throughout the season and in these marathon games the Sox too often seek, the ‘pen has been unexpectedly excellent, with a rotating cast of characters.

“It’d be nice if we started winning those games in nine and not going extras,” Reed joked, with a presumed kernel of truth. “If it takes 19, 20 innings to get that win, we’ll take it.”

The roles for the postseason are still up in the air, which is strange for a ‘pen that’s been so successful. But at the same time, it suggest an equal distribution of success (and at times, challenges).

The bottom line: Dombo did it, with his relievers making him look smart.

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Injuries piling up for Patriots

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Injuries piling up for Patriots

0:41 - Tom Curran, Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith give their main takeaways from the Patriots win over the Saints and discuss the injuries sustained during the game, specifically Rob Gronkowski's.

6:23 - Holley, Giles, and Smith talk about David Price pitching his first innings out of the bullpen for the Red Sox, but Holley thinks it is a mistake that he is not starting.

11:21 - Abby Chins joins BST for a discussion about Kyrie Irving's appearance on First Take.

14:43 - We go around the NFL for week 2 of the season and talk about the most surprising and best teams in the league.