Celtics

Lester does 'terrific' job against Tigers

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Lester does 'terrific' job against Tigers

DETROIT -- Just like last year, Jon Lester Thursday was the starting pitcher of an Opening Day loss for the Red Sox.
But the comparisons end there.
A year ago, Lester was tagged for three homers and allowed three homers over 5 13 innings as the Sox lost to Texas, 9-5.
On Thursday, the Sox' loss might have been more frustrating -- coming as it did in the bottom of the ninth after the Red Sox had rallied for two runs in the top of the inning -- but Lester was far better than a year ago.
Matched against last year's A.L. Cy Young and MVP winner, Justin Verlander, Lester had little margin for error. He didn't make many.
Lester pitched seven innings and allowed just one run on six hits.
"Lester was terrific,'' gushed manager Bobby Valentine. "He did just what he needed to do -- go out there and put up innings. He did a great job.''
"I kept the team in the game,'' said Lester. "Even though we lost, it's a great confidence booster to go out and go pitch-for-pitch against a great guy.''
The lefty noted that the outing represented something of a "grind,'' since he didn't have a good feel for his off-speed pitches, especially early in the game.
The Tigers put the leadoff runner on base against Lester four times in the first five innings, but on three of those occasions, Lester got double plays to get out of trouble.
"I was trying to figure out ways to put guys away,'' he said. "Obviously, Verlander's Verlander. He's tough. He didn't give us a lot of opportunities and the opportunities we had, he shut us down. Sometimes, on this side, you have to tip your hat to the other guy and say he did a great job.''
The only run off Lester came with some controversy attached. In the seventh, after two were out, Jhonny Peralta doubled to left.
Lester then got ahead of Alex Avila 1-and-2 and on a 2-and-2 pitch, believed he had struck the Tigers' catcher out. Home-plate umpire Dale Scott ruled otherwise as the count ran full.
Avila then drove Lester's next pitch the other way, just beyond the outstretched glove of left fielder Cody Ross into the corner, scoring Peralta with the first run.
"Hell, I think everything's a strike,'' said Lester with a wry smile of the pitch in question. "Then it was 3-and-2, I was trying to make him put it in play and he put a good swing on it. Sometimes that happens.
"I made one mistake. And against a guy like Verlander, that's what beats you.''

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics streak comes to an end

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics streak comes to an end

0:41 - Tom Giles, Kayce Smith, and DJ Bean discuss the Celtics 16-game winning streak being snapped by the Miami Heat.

6:05 - Tom Curran and Mike Giardi talk about Tom Brady missing practice due to an Achilles injury and Randy Moss’ chances to make the Hall of Fame.

11:15 - A. Sherrod Blakely joins BST to discuss the mental and physical fatigue that the streak had on the Celtics and if there is a sense of relief that the streak is over.  

16:11 - With it being the 5th anniversary of the Butt Fumble, we compare it to other embarrassing sports moments in history. 

Little things prove costly for Celtics as streak comes to an end

Little things prove costly for Celtics as streak comes to an end

When you reflect upon Boston’s 16-game winning streak which came to an end with Miami’s 104-98 win on Wednesday, there were moments in just about every game that played a major factor in their success.

So it was only fitting that in the Miami loss, it would be a whole lot of little things that ultimately brought the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history to a screeching halt.

  • Al Horford missed a pair of free throws.
  • Marcus Smart split a pair that had he made both, would have tied the game up in the fourth quarter.
  • Jayson Tatum had his only turnover of the game, in the fourth.
  • Terry Rozier had a rebound that he could not corral and bounced off his hands out of bounds.

And that doesn’t even factor in the missed open shots and unforced turnovers that collectively played a major role in Boston’s winning streak being a thing of the past now.

“I turned it over, we missed some free throws . . . we had some unfortunate things happen,” Tatum told reporters following the loss.

MORE:

Even with the loss, the Celtics (16-3) still boast the best record in the NBA.

Kyrie Irving has elevated his all-around play to a level to where he’s legitimately in the conversation as a league MVP candidate.

Jayson Tatum has established himself as one of the league’s top rookies from his draft class.

“As you could see, they kept hitting us, hitting us, until we were knocked out,” Irving said. “They deserved that win tonight.”

Disappointed with the loss, but it was not at all surprising to head coach Brad Stevens who has been raising concerns about his team’s attention to detail for the past few games and sensed it would catch up to them sooner or later.

“I told you, we’re not as good as the 16-game win streak,” Stevens said. “But we do have a lot of resolve. I can’t say enough about our guy’s will to come back. It’s incredible we were able to erase that lead that quickly and give ourselves a chance.”

Indeed, the Celtics rallied from a double-digit deficit to come within a single point in the fourth quarter. But unlike previous games, Boston couldn’t find a path to victory.

“We’re just going to continue to learn and continue to get better,” Irving said. “It’s the same things echoed when we were winning. Just continue to get better and understand, there’s still a lot for us to accomplish going forward.

He added, “It was a good streak, and it’s finally come to an end.”

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