Red Sox

Celtics-Magic review: C's bench big part of win

949379.jpg

Celtics-Magic review: C's bench big part of win

ORLANDO, Fla. Points are starting to pile up for the Boston Celtics' second unit.

More important than that, the C's bench is developing into a difference-making unit that the players envisioned them becoming prior to the start of the season.

Boston's Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo all played a pivotal role in Boston's 116-110 overtime win over Orlando.

But once again it was the Celtics' backups that propelled them to victory. They combined to score 36 points - the second straight game of 30-plus points from the second unit.

That kind of offensive production will bode well on nights like Sunday when the Celtics had to overcome some second-half struggles which turned a comfortable cushion into a game that was too close for comfort down the stretch and for most of the overtime session.

"It does build character and you do as a team, young and old, you do get better and you learn something from it," said Boston's Kevin Garnett.

Leandro Barbosa had 11 of his 15 points off the bench during his first three minutes on the floor. Jared Sullinger had 11 points along with six rebounds - all on the offensive glass.

And although Jeff Green only had one point scored, he too was among the players head coach Doc Rivers was pleased with following the C's victory.

"Jeff played great, he just didn't score," Rivers said. "He blocked shots, rebounded, just played a good floor game for us. He missed some makeable shots, but you can't do anything about that."

Boston's bench play was instrumental in their victory. Here are some other keys identified prior to the game and how they ultimately played out for the C's.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: There's always a delicate balance that has to be struck by the Celtics in generating points but not getting into a shoot-out. It would certainly bode well for Boston to take advantage of an Orlando team that's next-to-last in scoring (90.2) this season. But consider this: The Magic are 4-0 this season when scoring 100 or more points in a game.

WHAT WE SAW: Even though Boston was sporting a double-digit lead thorughout chunks of the second and third quarters, Orlando was way too comfortable offensively in getting the shots it wanted. That ultimately blew up in the C's face in the third quarter when the Magic mounted a rally and went up by as many as seven points. But Boston's defense clamped down, doubling up Orlando's scoring in the final 8:07 of the fourth quarter (14-7) before pulling it out in overtime by limiting Orlando to just 3-for-13 shooting.

MATCHUP TO WATCH:  Brandon Bass vs.  Glen Davis: It's one thing for childhood friends to make it to the NBA. But to be traded for one another? Small world indeed. Bass' scoring numbers are down this season, but that's in part because of the C's need for him to do more work defensively. Meanwhile, Davis is getting plenty of shots which as the Celtics know all too well, isn't necessarily a good thing.

WHAT WE SAW: These childhood friends each had strong games for their respective teams. Bass' rebounding was a major factor for the Celtics who out-rebounded the Magic by nine. In addition to his team-high 12 rebounds, Bass also had 13 points and two assists. Davis did not shoot the ball particularly well (3-for-12), but had 15 points fueled by a 9-for-10 night from the free throw line. He also grabbed seven rebounds and dished out three assists to go along with three steals.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jeff Green was impressive with a season-high 17 points against his former team (Oklahoma City) on Friday night. But can he do it against an opponent where there's no added motivation to play well? His versatility makes him a tough cover for the Magic, and you can bet the Celtics will do what they can to take advantage of this.

WHAT WE SAW: Green had a horrible night shooting the ball (he missed all nine of his shot attempts), but he nonetheless contributed to the victory with his defense and rebounding. "He ... played a good floor game for us," Rivers said. "He missed some makable shots, but you can't do anything about that."

STAT TO TRACK: One day of rest is apparently all the Boston Celtics need this season. They come into tonight's game with a record of 4-1 this season when there's a day off in between games. To give that some perspective, consider this: The 2007-2008 championship team won 75.4 percent (49-16 record) of its games played with one day off in between games.

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics keep their one day off to win stretch of play, intact. With Sunday's win, Boston improves its record in games played with a day off prior to playing, to 5-1.

As Red Sox manager, Cora must keep conviction, honesty that got him job

As Red Sox manager, Cora must keep conviction, honesty that got him job

BOSTON -- Just as a batter can subconsciously play to avoid losing, rather than to win, a manager can operate with a fear of failure. Such an unwitting approach may have contributed John Farrell’s downfall, and is an area where Alex Cora can set himself apart.

A lot has been written about the value of authenticity in leadership. It’s one thing to have the charisma and conviction needed to land a position of power. It’s another to take over a pressure-cooker job, like manager of the Red Sox, and carry the fortitude to stay true to yourself, continue to let those qualities shine.

Cora did not appear to pull any punches in his days with ESPN. The 42-year-old engaged in Twitter debates with media members and fans. And throughout his baseball life, he showed his colors.

Via Newsday’s Dave Lennon, here’s a scene from 2010 when Cora was with the Mets: 

Last year, Cora spoke out against the league office's rule requiring minorities always be interviewed.

Perhaps most interesting of all, when Chris Sale cut up White Sox jerseys, Cora was Dennis Eckersley-like in his assessment:

“What he did is not acceptable,” Cora said of Sale. “If I’m a veteran guy, I’m going to take exception. if I’m a young guy, I’m going to take exception. Because as a young guy on a team that is actually struggling right now, somebody has to show me the ropes of how to act as a big leaguer. And this is not the way you act as a big leaguer. Forget the trades, forget who you are.

“What you do in that clubhouse, you got to act like a professional. And that’s one thing my agent, Scott Boras, used to tell me when I got to the big leagues: act like a professional. Chris Sale didn’t do it. He’s not showing the veterans that you respect the game. He’s not showing the rookies how to be a big leaguer, and that’s what I take exception to.”

Take out Chris Sale’s name from the above quotation and insert David Price’s. Describes Price's incident with Eckersley perfectly, doesn't it? 

Now, no manager can say what they’re really thinking all the time. Cora’s not in the media anymore. His new job description is different. 

But when you consider the great success of Terry Francona -- and why he succeeded in this market beyond simply winning -- what stands out is how comfortable Francona appears in his own skin. How genuine he seems. 

There is a way to acknowledge, as a manager, when something is off. A way to do so gently but genuinely. A way to say what you feel -- and a way to say what you feel must be said -- while operating without fear of the players you manage. 

Ultimately, most every comment Francona makes is intended to shield his players. But Francona shows his personality as he goes (or if you want to be a bit cynical, he sells his personality marvelously). Those little self-deprecating jokes -- he charms the hell out of everyone. The media, the fans. The Cult of Tito has a real following, because he feels real. Because he is real. 

Farrell was not fake. But he did have a hard time letting his personality come across consistently, to his detriment. He was reserved, in part because that just appeared to be his nature. But the job must have, with time, forced him to withdraw even further. As everything Farrell said (and did) was picked apart in the market, it likely became easiest just to play it safe in every facet -- speaking to the media, speaking to players.

The Sox’ biggest undertaking in 2017 seemed to be a nothing-to-see-here campaign. It was all fine. No David Ortiz, no home runs, no problem. Manny Machado was loved. The media was the problem, not any attitude or attitudes inside the clubhouse. Base running was a net positive -- you name it, none of it was ever tabbed as a problem publicly by the manager, or anyone else.

A perpetually defensive stance was the public image. Issues were never addressed or poorly defused, so questions always lingered.

Maybe Cora cannot admonish Sale as he did a year ago now that he’s managing Sale. Not publicly, anyway. But even as a quote-unquote player's manager, the job still requires authority, which should be doled out just as it was earned: through authentic comments and actions.

"My job as the manager is to set the culture, the expectations, the standards, the baseball," Cora’s present boss, Astros manager A.J. Hinch, said the night the Astros clinched the pennant. "It's the players' job to develop the chemistry.

“And obviously good teams always say that, we want chemistry, and what comes first, the chemistry or the winning. But when you have it, you want to hold on to it as much as possible . . . We've got a good thing going because we have one common goal, we have one common standard, and that's to be your best every day."

Cora has to remain true to his best, too -- not what he thinks, and hears, and reads, people want his best to be.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

EX-PATS PODCAST: Why does it seem Patriots secondary is playing better without Gilmore?

ex-pats-podcast17.png

EX-PATS PODCAST: Why does it seem Patriots secondary is playing better without Gilmore?

On this episode of The Ex-Pats Podcast...

0:10 - Mike Giardi and Dan Koppen give their takeaways from the Patriots win over the Falcons including the defense coming up strong against Atlanta but New England still taking too many penalties.

2:00 - Why it felt like this game meant more to the Patriots, their sense of excitement after the win, and building chemistry off a good victory.

6:20 - Falcons losing their identity without Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator and their bad play calling and decisions on 4th downs.

10:00 -  A discussion about Matt Ryan not making the throws he needed against the Patriots and if he has falling off the MVP caliber-type player he was last season.

14:00 - How and why the Patriots secondary seems to be playing better without Stephon Gilmore and why Malcolm Butler has been able to turn up his play as of late.