Red Sox

Celtics continue to stumble in 112-100 loss to Spurs


Celtics continue to stumble in 112-100 loss to Spurs

BOSTON NBA championships are not won or lost in the first month of the season, which is a good thing for the Boston Celtics.
Because where the C's are now isn't anywhere close to that of a title contender, a point driven home by the San Antonio Spurs who handed the C's a 112-100 loss on Wednesday.
Tony Parker led all scorers with 26 points to go with six rebounds. Tim Duncan had a solid night as well with 20 points and 15 rebounds.
Boston (6-6) has now lost three of its last four games, and are in serious jeopardy of falling below-.500 with the Oklahoma City Thunder invading the TD Garden on Friday.
Rajon Rondo led a Celtics' rally in the fourth quarter which trimmed San Antonio's 16 point lead down to as little as six points. But the Spurs, as they had done all night, responded with a surge of their own to leave no doubt as to who the better team was on this night.
Rondo finished with a team-high 22 points along with 15 assists. The 15 assists extends his franchise record for double-digit assist games to 35 which is the third-longest such streak in NBA history.
The Celtics' problems began in the first quarter, and they were essentially a carbon copy of what has plagued them throughout this season -- poor rebounding and too many easy baskets given up.
Boston was especially bad on the offensive board where they only grabbed a single offensive rebound.
Not one.
Despite those issues, the C's held their own for most of the first half. But the offensive lulls this team tends to go through, creeped up at the worst time - at the end of quarters.
And that kept the Celtics in perpetual catch-up mode.
In the first, Boston led 25-20 with 2:36 to play. San Antonio closed out the quarter with a 10-2 run to lead, 30-27.
It was more of the same in the second quarter.
After a 16-foot, step-back jumper by Paul Pierce tied the game at 42, the Spurs finished the half with a 14-6 spurt to lead by eight.
San Antonio spent the entire third quarter with the lead, but the Celtics had their chances.
Trailing by two points with the ball, Courtney Lee was called for traveling. On the ensuing Spurs possession, Danny Green hit a 3-pointer.
It was that kind of game for the Celtics who continued to get close, but failed to get that one big stop or knock down that one big shot to take over control of the game.
Meanwhile, the Spurs seemed to ratchet up their play at both ends of the floor whenever they needed to, which was a big part of their 82-74 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers


Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

BOSTON — There is a world outside of Giancarlo Stanton. 

Stanton, at this point, simply doesn’t appear likely to end up in Boston. That should feel obvious to those following along, and so should this: it can change. 

But there are other pursuits. Besides their search for a bat or two, the Red Sox have been actively pursuing left-handed relief options. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is a fast mover, but this year’s market has not been.


Robbie Ross Jr. and Fernando Abad are both free agents, leaving Robby Scott as the lone incumbent southpaw from last season's primary group. Brian Johnson is bound for the pen, with Roenis Elias as a depth option too.  Still, even if Johnson’s transition pans out, the Sox still have an opening for a late-inning reliever with the departure of free agent Addison Reed. 

Reed is a righty, but between Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, Carson Smith, and Craig Kimbrel, the Sox have more right-handed choices than left. Coming back from surgery, Tyler Thornburg, should be in the mix eventually too, but it's difficult to expect too much from him.

What the Red Sox should do: sign one of each for the bullpen, one righty, and one lefty. And then trade a righty or two. Turn some of that mishmash into an addition elsewhere. Be creative. 

Because inevitably, come midseason, the Sox will want to add another bullpen arm if they sign just one now. Why wait until you have to give up prospect capital when you can just add the piece you want now?

Go get a near-sure thing such as Pat Neshek, a veteran who walks no one and still strikeouts a bunch. At 37 with an outgoing personality, Neshek also brings leadership to a team that is looking for some. He walked just six guys in 62 innings last season. Entering his 12th season in the majors, he’s looking for his first ring.

All these top of the market relievers may be handsomely paid. But relievers are still something of a bargain compared to position players and starting pitchers. One of the key words for this winter should be creativity. If there’s value to be had in the reliever market, capitalize on it. 

Comeback kid Mike Minor, Jake McGee and Tony Watson headline the crop of free agent lefties available. Brad Hand of the Padres could also be had by trade but his market isn’t moving too quickly (and he won’t come cheaply).

Minor, 29, who posted a 2.55 ERA in 2017 after health issues kept him out of the majors in 2015-16, is expected to be paid handsomely. He is also open to the idea of potentially starting if a team is interested in him doing so. The Royals reportedly could give him that shot.

McGee’s American League East experience could be appealing.

He's 31 and had a 3.61 ERA with the Rockies in 2017 and has a 3.15 ERA lifetime. He’s not quite the strikeout pitcher he was earlier in his career — he had an 11.6 K/9 in 2015 — but a 9.1 K/9 is still very strong, particularly when coupled with just 0.6 homers allowed per nine.

For what it’s worth: McGee has also dominated the Red Sox, who have a .125 average, .190 on-base percentage and .192 slugging against him in 117 regular-season plate appearances. 

McGee throws a mid-90s fastball with a low-80s slider. He can operate up in the zone, and he actually has been even more effective against righties than lefties in his career, including in 2017. McGee’s been a closer, too, with 44 career saves.

The Sox had the second-best bullpen in the majors by ERA in 2017, at 3.07. Yet, come the postseason, there wasn’t a sense of great confidence or even a clear shape to the pecking order behind one of the absolute best relievers in the game, Kimbrel. 

Patriots missing Brady, Gronkowski from start of Wednesday's practice


Patriots missing Brady, Gronkowski from start of Wednesday's practice

FOXBORO -- Tough day in terms attendance at Patriots practice. 

Several starters were missing from the start of the session, including two of the team's most important players, that took place in the rain on the fields behind Gillette Stadium. 

Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan, Marcus Cannon, David Andrews and Patrick Chung were all absent from the start of the practice. 

Hogan (shoulder), Cannon (ankle) and Andrews (illness) were all unable to play against the Raiders last weekend. Chung left the Raiders game briefly with an undiclosed injury but returned later in the game and met with media afterward. The reasons for Brady and Gronkowski's absences are unknown. 

Matthew Slater (hamstring) did not play last weekend in Mexico City, but he was back on the practice field. Newly-acquired defensive lineman Eric Lee -- who took Cassius Marsh's spot on the 53-man roster -- was also present. 

It appeared as though new practice squad return man Bernard Reedy was on the field as well. P-squad defensive lineman Mike Purcell was missing from the session so it looks like he was released in order to make room. 

Finally, Malcolm Mitchell was not on the field for Wednesday's workout. He's eligible to come off of injured reserve and begin practicing, as is defensive lineman Vincent Valentine, but both remain out.