Red Sox

Celtics-Pacers review: Rondo rises to challenge

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Celtics-Pacers review: Rondo rises to challenge

BOSTON Of the Boston Celtics' new Big Three, Rondo has the greatest track record of proven success with plenty of room to still grow as a player.

He has proven himself an elite passer and when properly motivated, a better-than-average defender.

Scoring hasn't been a strength of his, but that's exactly what Doc Rivers is asking him to provide more of moving forward.

Rondo took an important step in that direction on Friday in leading the C's to a surprisingly comfortable 94-75 win over the red-hot Indiana Pacers.

The three-time all-star finished with a team-high 18 points on 9-for-14 shooting to go along with seven assists and five rebounds as the Celtics (15-17) snapped a four-game losing skid with Friday's victory.

As good as Rondo played, he by no means was the sole reason for the Celtics pulling out an important, much-needed victory.

Here's a recap of the keys outlined prior to the game and how they actually played out for the C's.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Points will once again be tough to come by for the Celtics against an Indiana team that thrives in making life difficult for opponents offensively. Teams are averaging just 90 points per game against the Pacers, the second-best scoring defense in the NBA.

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics didn't exactly light the scoreboard up, but their steady play all game defensively allowed them to position themselves for a comfortable lead that was never really threatened in the second half.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs Paul George: Pierce will have his hands full defensively against George who has emerged as one of the most improved players this season in part because of an increased opportunity to play with Danny Granger being out.

WHAT WE SAW: Pierce didn't put up huge numbers for the Celtics, but he delivered a much, much better showing than George who had struggles at both ends of the floor. In addition to his problems defending Pierce, George only had nine points on 4-for-18 shooting.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jared Sullinger seems to keep getting better with each and every opportunity he gets to play. His emergence as a reliable option off the bench who can score and rebound, bodes well in the C's recovery efforts from what has been a disappointing start to the season.

WHAT WE SAW: Sullinger picked up two quick fouls after having played about 11 minutes. To his credit, he played through the foul trouble and finished with a solid night off the bench with 7 points and a team-high 10 rebounds.

STAT TO TRACK: Boston has to hold its own on the boards, which will allow them to get out and run against a Pacers team that isn't used to having its transition defense challenged much. They are giving up a league-low 9.8 fast-break points per game in large part because they are one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the NBA which prevents teams from getting out in transition even after they make an initial defensive stop.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston spent most of the game within a rebound or two of the Pacers, and finished with 49-47 edge.

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.