Red Sox

Celtics-Mavericks review: C's get to Mayo

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Celtics-Mavericks review: C's get to Mayo

BOSTON The Boston Celtics didn't exactly shut down Dallas' O.J. Mayo, who had 24 points on 10-for-19 shooting.

But the C's did force him into making a slew of miscues all game which factored heavily in Boston squeaking out a 117-115 double overtime win.

While Mayo was extremely efficient shooting the ball, his game-high nine turnovers would prove costly in Dallas' attempt at rallying from a double-digit deficit in the second half.

"Nine turnovers just doesn't cut it," Mayo said. "When you get the ball you want to make a play, make a positive play for our team so turnovers really killed us."

Dallas came into Wednesday's game averaging 15 turnovers per game which ranked 16th in the league.

The Mavericks had 17 by the end of the third quarter, and finished with 28 that were converted into 32 points for the Celtics.

For Dallas, figuring out what went wrong was not that difficult to pin-point.

"We had turnovers that throughout the game, killed us," said Mavs forward Shawn Marion who returned to the lineup after missing a couple games with a groin injury. "We can't beat anyone with that many turnovers."

Boston's defense on Mayo was indeed a key factor in the Celtics stringing together back-to-back wins for the first time this month. Here are some other keys identified prior to the tip-off, and how they ultimately played out for the C's.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Dallas wants to get into an uptempo game that will generate at least 100 points for them. When they reach triple digits scoring this season, they're 8-1.

WHAT WE SAW: The Mavericks shot 51 percent from the field, scored 115 points in double overtime and still came up short courtesy of 28 turnovers that the Celtics converted into 32 points.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs. Chris Kaman: These are the kind of games when Garnett's ability to stretch the floor from the center position should pay huge dividends for the Celtics.

WHAT WE SAW: Garnett got off to a fast start by making his first three shots from the field and finished with 16 points to go with just two rebounds. Kaman had a good but not great night as well, scoring 12 points to go with five rebounds.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo has a mismatch most nights, but Derek Fisher presents a different kind of challenge. He doesn't have the athleticism to hold his own against Rondo, but he is a crafty veteran who knows how to play the game at the highest levels and be successful with it.

WHAT WE SAW: Rondo was doing what Rondo does, and that's chipping in with big numbers in all the major statistical categories. He came one rebound shy of a triple-double by tallying 16 points, 15 assists and nine rebounds.

STAT TO TRACK: Bench scoring has picked up lately for Boston, a trend they will need to continue against a Mavs team that gets a lot of point production from its second unit. Dallas' bench averages 42 points scored per game which ranks third in the league among bench units while the Celtics are just 20th with a 30.3 points per game average from their backups.

WHAT WE SAW: The Mavericks' second unit out-scored Boston's backups 41-32, but the C's got some much-needed production from Chris Wilcox (10 points, six rebounds) that was huge in softening the blow that the Celtics normally take when Kevin Garnett sits down for a rest.

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.

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

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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.