Bruins

Celtics-Wizards preview: Time for Garnett to be aggressive

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Celtics-Wizards preview: Time for Garnett to be aggressive

BOSTON -- There is no player on the Boston Celtics roster that Doc Rivers seems to connect with more than Kevin Garnett. The frank nature of their communication, the mutual respect each man has for the other, has created a Teflon-like bond.

But there are times -- and we've seen quite a few of them in these first few games -- when Rivers wants his most unselfish player to be a little greedy. And Garnett, well versed on that sermon, usually responds with a strong performance.

The Celtics wouldn't mind getting one of those tonight as they host the Washington Wizards, a team they held on to beat 89-86 on Saturday.

Garnett comes into tonight's game averaging 13 points per game, the fewest he has averaged since his rookie season back in 1995. A lot of his lack of production scoring-wise stems from the fact that on too many occasions, the C's simply don't go to him. Garnett, ever the team player, rarely demands the ball despite Rivers' insistence that he demand the ball more.

"Doc Rivers is Doc Rivers, and Kevin Garnett is Kevin Garnett and I have to find a medium and a balance between that," Garnett said. "He's the captain. I listen to whatever he says. It's his ship. Within the flow of the offense, I pick and choose. I try to use my discretion and IQ to know when to be aggressive at times."

And you can bet tonight will be one of those times, especially after the Wizards made a point of going to Kevin Seraphin -- the man Garnett was guarding -- down the stretch in Saturday's loss.

During Washington's last gasp at stealing the victory, Garnett forced Seraphin into making a bad pass that sailed out of bounds, capping off a defensive stretch in which the C's kept Washington scoreless over the final 2:56.

A more assertive Garnett offensively will be a factor in tonight's outcome. Here are some other keys to tonight's game as the Celtics look to even up their overall record with what would be their first win at home this season.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Boston's first win of the season came on a night when they jumped on the opponent (Washington) with a 17-2 run behind suffocating defense and timely scoring. Being the aggressor at both ends of the floor will once again be a key to the C's beating the Wizards again.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: The Celtics bench vs. Jordan Crawford. Had it not been for an ankle injury early in the fourth quarter of Saturday's game, Crawford (21 points in 25 minutes) may have single-handedly outscored the entire C's bench. That should never happen. Jason Terry is more than due to have a breakout game. Ditto for Jeff Green.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Courtney Lee has been OK, but an intangibles player like him tends to have a breakout performance when you least expect it. With the Wizards wanting to limit Paul Pierce from having another big game, and hoping to withstand the strong play of Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo, it seems an ideal scenario for Lee to be an unexpected difference-maker.

STAT TO TRACK: Doc Rivers loves to keep the Celtics turnovers to 13 or less per game. In Saturday's win, the C's turned the ball over just nine times. That was a significant improvement compared to the first two games in which the Celtics turned it over an average of 17 times per game.

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.