Red Sox

Celtics crash the boards in win over Magic

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Celtics crash the boards in win over Magic

BOSTON Rebounding was once again a hot topic of postgame discussion for the Celtics.

But instead of the usual lamenting about how the C's were getting beat up on the boards, the talk Sunday night was instead all about how Boston pushed, poked and punished the Orlando Magic. The end result was a surprisingly comfortable rebounding margin (plus-9) that catapulted the C's to a 116-110 overtime win against the Magic.

Boston was particularly effective on the offensive boards by grabbing 17 which was instrumental in the C's generating a season-high 21 second-chance points.

The Celtics big men like Brandon Bass have been hearing all season about how bad Boston is when it comes to rebounding. And with good reason: Boston came into Sunday's game as the worst rebounding team in the NBA.

Even though that won't change following Sunday's performance, it did serve as a blueprint of sorts for what the C's have to do in order to be better on the glass moving forward.

"We have to be more assertive as a group to be more aggressive as far as rebounding," said Brandon Bass who grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds for the Celtics. "I was just trying to do my part."

As good as Bass was rebounding the ball, he was by no means the lone player helping Boston deliver their most lopsided rebounding margin this season. In addition to Bass, Boston also got six boards -- all on the offensive end of the floor -- from Jared Sullinger off the bench.

Point guard Rajon Rondo barely missed his first triple-double of the season as he tallied 15 points, 16 assists and nine rebounds.

The biggest difference was that, for a change, Boston made a conscious decision to attack the offensive glass early and often.

"It was just a team effort as far as continuously crashing the glass, the offensive boards and defensively," Rondo said. "We all crashed the boards."

While the crashing of the boards certainly stood out, the ability of Rondo and Boston's other guards to limit dribble penetration was just as important to the dominate board play.

"Doc made an emphasis on just rebounding the ball as a team collectively," Rondo said. "Try to keep guards out of the paint which allow the bigs to stay on big's bodies and rebound the basketball."

Not only did it prevent the Magic from having multiple opportunities to score, but it also resulted in the Celtics getting a season-high 105 shots.

"We were running a lot more; we got up a lot more shots," Rondo added. "I don't know if we got up that many since I got here, even including overtime. We pushed the pace. It was a good win."

Here's the Red Sox 2018 playoff schedule

Here's the Red Sox 2018 playoff schedule

The Red Sox locked up the 2018 American East on Thursday night with a 11-6 victory in New York. It is Boston's thrid straight division crown, something no other Red Sox team has done.

WATCH: Celebration from the locker room

Here's the playoff schedule for the Division Series, where Boston will most likely play the winner of the Wild Card game (currently Oakland vs New York).

SCHEDULE

Game 1: Friday, Oct. 5, at Fenway Park

Game 2: Saturday, Oct. 6, at Fenway Park

Game 3: Monday, Oct. 8, away

Game 4: Tuesday Oct. 9, away (if necessary)

Game 5: Thursday Oct. 11, at Fenway Park (if necessary)

MORE RED SOX COVERAGE

Mookie Betts proves MVP case in AL East clincher

Mookie Betts proves MVP case in AL East clincher

NEW YORK — With either a phone or a camera or a beer in hand, most everyone in the room at some point gravitated to Mookie Betts. Media members formed a semi-circle in front of the outfielder in the visitor’s clubhouse at Yankee Stadium, while teammates snuck up behind him.

A handful of Red Sox teammates staged what amounted to a small procession. Just a little respect to be paid to one of the greatest talents they’ll ever play with: a beer down the back, move out, and let someone else do the same. Bathe and repeat. How everyone in the world shows gratitude, of course.

By now, everyone in the baseball world should understand what the numbers highlight, and what the eighth-inning home run that put the division to bed further validated.

Betts is the best player in a room full of the best. He should be the 2018 American League Most Valuable Player. 

As the Red Sox make their plans for the postseason as division champs for a third straight year, Betts is finishing what the best season in baseball — for a position player, at least — and the home run that sealed the Yankees’ fate as a Wild Card team in 2018 should be newly added to his highlight reel. An 8-6 lead grew to 11-6, and the champagne that the Sox waited two nights in New York to pop was finally ready with his blessing.

Maybe J.D. Martinez is the best pure hitter in baseball. Mike Trout fans can stomp their feet all they want in an MVP conversation, and they have a case. Jose Ramirez and Matt Chapman deserve nice things and words. But the Betts of 2018, the one that went 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles Thursday and became only the second leadoff hitter in franchise history to hit 30 home runs, tops them all.

Betts tied a season-high with five runs driven in, three of them on the moonshot to left off Aroldis Chapman, close enough to the line to make you pay close attention, high enough that you knew it was gone as long as it was fair.

Even Alex Cora has told Betts time and again that he is the best in the broadest sense. Cora, as has often been the case in the manager’s first year, is correct. 

“He repeatedly tells me, there is no doubt you're the best player in the league,” Betts said.

There are always pockets that develop in locker-room celebrations, friends standing with friends. The 2018 Red Sox didn’t lose their minds in jubilation once they secured the East with an 11-6 win on Thursday night in the Bronx. But everything about this third straight division title, about the victory that sealed it and the season was a reminder of what changed. Cora and the culture and Martinez and hitting coaches Tim Hyers and Andy Barkett and the new swing philosophy and the environment that helped Betts prove 2016 was not a fluke. That he really belongs in a conversation about the best anywhere.

A lot of focus Thursday night was on the message that always exists in these moments, particularly given the Sox recent run of East titles: there’s more to do.

“We haven't won anything yet. Well, we haven’t won what we want to win yet,” Betts said. “I think you just have to take things in stride. We’ll enjoy tonight tonight, then be ready to get ourselves ready for the postseason.”

Betts can continue to add to his stats in the final days here, playing the field and DH’ing. The latter was his position on Thursday. But the final week, barring an insane barrage of home runs from Trout or something really abnormal, shouldn’t change anything. 

This is Betts’ year, whether fWAR is your thing or not. Look at the numbers, then look to the middle of the room on the best team in baseball when the champagne is flowing. When they show the same person, the math becomes easy.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE