Bruins

Rondo a 'sore loser' as C's struggle with trust defensively

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Rondo a 'sore loser' as C's struggle with trust defensively

WALTHAM The losing ways of the Boston Celtics has impacted the entire team - even if they all don't necessarily show it.

Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers has been around the game too long to get too caught up in how players are expressing their disappointment in the team's lackluster play thus far.

"I don't notice," Rivers said. "I don't know what that does. You still have to learn from losing and learn from winning at the same time. Clearly there are guys who are more emotional than others. That doesn't mean the other guys take it just as poorly. I've learned you don't read into that."

One player who isn't taking the Celtics losing too well is Rajon Rondo, who will be the first to acknowledge that he's a "sore loser."

The C's (14-17) are very much a team in search-and-recovery mode as far as searching for an identity that they hope will recover some of the success they anticipated having this season.

Rondo said the search for who they are as a team isn't the most frustrating aspect of what's happening this season.

"The frustrating part is we're losing," he said. "Regardless of how many combinations we've had, how many different starting lineups we've had, we're still losing. I'm a sore loser. It's tough to lose."

Avoiding that feeling won't get any easier with the Indiana Pacers coming to town on Friday and a road game at Atlanta the following night.

"I'm a confident player. We're a confident team," Rondo said. "We just haven't found our way now."

In some ways, the Celtics' struggles this year are similar to what they dealt with a year ago when they advanced to within one game of getting to the NBA Finals.

Sitting on a 14-16 record now, the Celtics were just 15-15 at this same point last season.

But as players and coaches will attest to, this is a different season and the Celtics are a different team.

"Right now, we're at a tough point in the season," Rondo said. "We've lost four in a row. We have some big games coming up. It's not an easy stretch."

For the Celtics' season-worst four game losing skid to end, it will require something that we haven't seen much of this season - trust defensively.

Rondo breaks it down.

"Say a guard gets beat off the dribble and KG comes to help. And the other guard, the weak-side guard, is supposed to crack back down on his big," Rondo explains. "Say KG tries to contest the shot, his man gets the offensive rebound for a lay-up. It's kind of hard to trust. He might be hesitant to help the guard when he gets beat off the dribble because he's worried about his man who the opposite guard didn't crack back on.

Professor Rondo's not done.

"Or say me and Paul are in a pick and roll, and I'm thinking he'll switch and he doesn't switch, then my man turns the corner ... there's a lot of different roles they can play in, breaking down trust defensively. It all comes with being on the same page. And right now, all five guys on the court are not. Maybe two or three guys know the rotation and what we're doing, but the other two may not and it leads to easy buckets."

Regardless of the reason, the end result far too often has been the Celtics coming up short which has Rivers continuing his search for the right buttons to push to get the C's back on track.

"You look at some of our seasons, we've had some great ones and some rocky ones and turn out to be good at the end," Rivers said. "But there's no guarantee. You can't push the button from last year or past years and assume that it's going to come. So every year it's hard in that way. You fight to get the guys back in their roles and this year, new guys to buy into their roles and your system; buy into less minutes. I don't think any year is any harder."

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.