Bruins

Celtics-Lakers: Keep your eye on . . .

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Celtics-Lakers: Keep your eye on . . .

BOSTON The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers look to renew one of the NBA's oldest rivalries tonight.

And they'll do it with teams that have quite a few new faces.

Getting those new bodies up to speed has been challenging for both teams.

The Celtics (14-10) seem to have found that groove they were looking for, winning their last five games, and nine of the last 10.

Meanwhile, the Lakers (14-11) come in trying to avoid a third straight loss which would match their longest losing streak of the season.

Winning is important for both teams, but they understand that the condensed schedule makes it challenging to develop the kind of rhythm teams seek in a short period of time.

"To find the continuity, to find out where we need to be at this point in the season, it's gonna take some time," said Lakers first-year coach Mike Brown. "We're Ok where we're sitting now. I wish we had a few more wins. But we're still in learning mode, and I'm sure most teams are."

Tonight's game will be another opportunity for both teams to not just win a game, but improve moving forward.

Here are some of the factors that will likely impact tonight's outcome.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - Tonight's game should be a low scoring affair. Now normally that's a good thing for Boston, which comes in giving up an NBA-low 86.5 points per game. The Lakers have started to buy into new coach Mike Brown's defensive principles, and the result has been a Lakers squad that's No. 4 in the league in fewest points allowed (91) per game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Kevin Garnett vs. Pau Gasol: Garnett has been on an incredibly hot streak at both ends of the floor, providing the Celtics with the kind of end-to-end game that they desperately need for him to deliver. Meanwhile, Gasol continues to be the subject of trade rumors. And while he says he tries not to let it affect, he's averaging a career-low 16 points per game. It's hard to imagine that the one year where he's a focal point of trade talk, just so happens to be the same year in which he struggles offensively.
PLAYER TO WATCH - Rajon Rondo has steadily regained the form we saw prior to his right wrist injury. But he hasn't had the breakout-type game he's so overdue to have. Tonight could be that night, especially against Derek Fisher who is still a solid defender, but has clearly lost a step or two.
STAT TO TRACK - One of the Celtic's strengths of late has been their ability to score in the paint. During their current five-game winning streak, Boston has outscored opponents by 4.8 points per game, in the paint. With the Lakers' Twin Towers of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, points in the paint will be hard to come by for Boston.

Pastrnak on B's loss: "We kind of stopped playing"

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Pastrnak on B's loss: "We kind of stopped playing"

BOSTON – At the end of the day, it was simply a game where the Bruins allowed themselves to get outworked in the third period and overtime. 

The B’s held a three-goal lead in the second period and still enjoyed a two-goal lead in the third period, but eventually dropped a frustrating, futile 5-4 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden on Saturday night. It was clear to most speaking after the game that the Bruins eased up on the gas pedal once they’d scored their fourth goal of the game in the second period, and simply watched as the Sabres stomped all over them in the game’s second half. 

“I think we might have been a little bit too scared to play [in the third period], you know? We tried to just flip the pucks away, and didn’t make any plays trying to get it in the zone. Instead we should have just kept going like we did in the first two periods,” said David Pastrnak, who scored a pair of goals early in the loss to allow the Bruins to build up the three-goal lead. “Obviously we’re disappointed. We got one point. I think we didn’t play our game in the third period. We kind of stopped playing and they were all over us, and you know, it’s on us. We were the ones that gave them their point, but the first two periods were good. It’s just another learning session.”

To Pastrnak’s point, the Bruins were outshot by a 15-6 margin in the final 20 minutes of regulation and 21-6 overall in the third period and overtime prior to Ryan O’Reilly’s game-winner during 3-on-3 play. It was at this point the Bruins certainly missed stalwart stay-at-home defensemen Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller in the D-zone, and fell short of qualified penalty killers while trying to burn off a Brandon Carlo interference call at the end of the third period. 

All of that caught up to them once the Bruins loosened their grip on the Sabres, but certainly the feeling is that the loss should’ve been avoidable even if some of the circumstances made it difficult for the Black and Gold. It also should have been avoidable against a Sabres hockey club that was dreadful last season, and is again one of the doormats in the Atlantic Division in the early going thus far. 

“Those are the games you can’t lose. We obviously didn’t do the job there in the third and close it out, but we’re going to have to regroup and work on our game and be better for the next one,” said Brad Marchand. “We didn’t play the game we needed to play. We relaxed a bit and we started losing a few battles in the wrong areas, and you know, they just played better than we did.”

It’s mystifying that any team would need a crash-and-born loss like Saturday night in order to learn any lessons moving forward, and it certainly might have been a different story for the Bruins if they weren’t missing a few big defensive pieces. But that’s not how it went down for the Black and Gold as they sagged under rising pressure from the Sabres, and simply stopped working when the chips were on the table late in Saturday night’s game. 

Astros beat Yankees in Game 7 to advance to World Series, 4-0

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Astros beat Yankees in Game 7 to advance to World Series, 4-0

HOUSTON - Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers combined on a three-hitter, Jose Altuve and Evan Gattis homered and the Houston Astros reached the World Series, blanking the New York Yankees 4-0 Saturday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Just four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, the Astros shut down the Yankees for two straight games after dropping three in a row in the Bronx.

Next up for the Astros: Game 1 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Houston aces Dallas Keuchel and ALCS MVP Justin Verlander will have plenty of rest, too, before the matchup begins at Dodger Stadium.

Houston has never won even a single World Series game. The only previous time the Astros made it this far, they were a National League team when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Now, manager A.J. Hinch's club has a chance to win that elusive first title, while trying to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

Houston improved to 6-0 at Minute Maid Park in these playoffs and became the fifth team in major league history to win a seven-game postseason series by winning all four of its home games.

Morton bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to allow two hits over five scoreless innings. Starter-turned-postseason reliever McCullers limited the Yankees to just one hit while fanning six over the next four.

Combined, they throttled the Yankees one last time in Houston. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and their New York teammates totaled just three runs in the four road games.

CC Sabathia entered the game 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts this season after a Yankees loss. But he struggled with command and was gone with one out in the fourth inning.

Houston was up 2-0 in fifth when former Yankees star Brian McCann came through for the second straight game by hitting a two-run double after snapping an 0-for-20 skid with an ground-rule RBI double to give Houston its first run on Friday night.

The Yankees, trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 2009, lost an elimination game for the first time this season after winning their first four in these playoffs. New York struggled on the road this postseason, with this loss dropping the team to 1-6.