Celtics

Beckett, Sox blow away Tampa Bay, 12-2

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Beckett, Sox blow away Tampa Bay, 12-2

BOSTON -- If you're a glass-is-half-empty type, the shoulder injury to Jacoby Ellsbury is what you're going to take away from Opening Day at Fenway Park.
The glass-is-half-full types, however, will remember Josh Beckett.
Beckett bounced all the way back from his dismal start last Saturday in Detroit with a dominant eight-inning performance against the Rays, limiting Tampa Bay to five hits and one run as he pitched Boston to a 12-2 victory Friday afternoon. He retired 21 of the last 24 batters he faced and received a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 37,032 -- some of whom had booed him during pregame introductions -- when he left the field in the eighth.
It wasn't all sunshine at Fenway, though, as Ellsbury suffered what appeared to be a potentially serious shoulder injury in a second-base collision and had to leave the game in the bottom of the fourth. There was no immediate word on his condition, or how look he'll be sidelined.
The Sox fell behind 1-0 in the second when Ben Zobrist singled and came all the way around to score on a double into the left-field corner by Jeff Keppinger. But Beckett was dominant after that, shutting down the Rays on two hits the rest of the way.
He was given all the runs he would need in the third, when the Sox bled Rays ace David Price out of the game with a protracted rally that drove his pitch count into the 80s.
It began when Kelly Shoppach was hit by a pitch, and Ellsbury followed with a double to left that put runners on second and third. A walk to Dustin Pedroia loaded the bases.
Adrian Gonzalez then singled to left, scoring Shoppach and tying the game at 1-1. A sacrifice fly to right by Kevin Youkilis put the Sox ahead, 2-1 (and moved Ellsbury to third in the process), and David Ortiz beat Tampa Bay's overshift with a squib single to third base that scored Ellsbury and made it 3-1.
A walk to Darnell McDonald loaded the bases, but the Rays turned the hardest-hit ball of the inning -- a sharp grounder up the middle by Cody Ross -- into an inning-ending double play.
That was all for Price, however, who had thrown 83 pitches through three, and the Sox touched his replacement, Burke Badenhop, for another run of the game in the fourth. With one out Shoppach doubled, and he rode home on a single to center by Ellsbury.
The Sox blew it open with eight runs in the eighth, as a two-run double by Shoppach (3-for-4, 3 runs scored, 2 RBI, 2 doubles, first career stolen base), a two-run single by Ryan Sweeney, another two-run single by Youkilis, an RBI double by Ortiz and a sacrifice fly by Ross made it 12-1.
Ben Zobrist homered for the Rays in the ninth off Mark Melacon.
Elsbury suffered his shoulder injury after his RBI single, when shortstop Reid Brignac fell on his right shoulder as he slid into second in an attempt to break up a double play. He walked off the field with his right arm immobilized, and the Red Sox said later he was being evaluated.

All signs point to LeBron James playing against Celtics Tuesday

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All signs point to LeBron James playing against Celtics Tuesday

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- A sprained left ankle injury kept LeBron James out of all but one of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ preseason games, and has created a certain element of uncertainty as to whether he’ll play against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night. 
 
While it has yet to be determined for sure if he’ll play, all indications are that the 15-year veteran will be in the starting lineup as the Cavs kick off their quest to remain the team to beat in the East.

“I never hide stuff from you guys. I really don’t know,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said when asked if James would play against the Celtics. “Depending on how he feels, but I really don’t know.”
 
However, James looked pretty comfortable shooting the ball after practice with a trio of former Celtics in Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Jeff Green. 
 
And if you listen to the man who would likely start in James’ place -- J.R. Smith -- there’s nothing to worry about Cavs Nation. 
 
According to Smith, James will play. 
 
“We were talking about it, he’s never missed, since he was 8 years old and he started playing, he’s never missed a first game,” Smith said. “I’m preparing for him to play.”
 
Despite having played more than 41,000 minutes -- only 33 players in NBA history have done so -- James has been one of the game’s more durable players. Last season James he sat out only eight games, and that was the most he has missed in a single season.
 
 "He's gonna go [Tuesday]," Smith said. "He's gonna go, trust me [on] that. I don't care what he's gotta do, he's gonna play."
 

Celtics may spend a good part of the year playing 'Getting To Know You'

Celtics may spend a good part of the year playing 'Getting To Know You'

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- It’s hard to believe the Celtics are just hours away from their first regular-season game after having been together for less than a month. 
 
The quick turnaround isn't all that different than it is for the other 29 teams in the NBA.  But the Celtics, who advanced to the Eastern Conference finals last season, are returning only four players -- and just one starter -- from last year.
 
Training camp was indeed a crash course called Getting to Know My Teammates 101.
 
But listening to the players, and coach Brad Stevens, it’s clear there will be lessons learned all season long.

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“We have a good feel about how things can look, in the preseason,” said Al Horford. “But it is the preseason. Now it all starts. And right away we face a tough test (in the Cavaliers). But yeah, we’ll start learning even more. We’ve already learned a good amount, but even more when Tuesday rolls around.” 
 
That's when the Celtics kick off the regular season at Cleveland, which will once again be the favorite to advance to the NBA Finals.
 
Not too far behind (right behind them, by most accounts) are the Celts, whose season ended in the Conference finals a year ago in a five-game loss to the Cavs.
 
And the Boston players collectively feel that, despite the short amount of time together, they’ve developed a good sense of chemistry and understanding of how to play effectively with one another. 
 
Having said that, they also understand that there’s still plenty of room to grow. 
 
“I don’t expect it to be perfect by any means at all,” said Gordon Hayward. “We’ll definitely have some ups and downs this season. Like I said, one thing is we’ll be able to compete every night. We’ll be able to play together. Those things should stay the same.”
 
In many respects, the Cavaliers are going through a similar challenge this season.  They've added Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder -- and, when he recovers from his hip injury, Isaiah Thomas -- to a core group that’s led by LeBron James. 
 
While the increase in talent is undeniable, it’ll take some time before they too develop the kind of on-the-court cohesiveness that comes with time. 
 
“It’s gonna take time,” Rose said. “It’s going to be a process for everybody to learn their roles, learn everybody’s tendencies, and not think while they’re out there.”
 
And while there’s a heightened level of uncertainty as to how things will play out with the Celtics this season, Stevens embraces the unknown. 
 
“I think we're going to be learning about ourselves through the middle of the season,” Stevens said. “I think you do that with every team, but I think that's especially the case now. But this is, I've said this before, like, the first week, the first 10 days, the first few weeks, we have such great and unique challenges that it's gonna be really good for this team regardless."
 
Stevens added: “Because, to have to go into Cleveland with that level of intensity, with that level of attention, distraction, etc., is great. It's great to experience that in game one. A tremendous learning experience for our group. So, we're preparing to play as well as we can. And we know that they're really, really good. But this is, I'm looking forward to it because I want to find out where we are.”

Hayward added, “It’s a fun first game to start the year. Regardless of what happens, we’ll have some improving to do and things to get better at.”
  
 

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