Celtics

Pierce leads the way over Wizards

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Pierce leads the way over Wizards

WASHINGTON This was the Paul Pierce we had been waiting to see all season.

It doesn't matter if it was against the Washington Wizards, one of the worst teams -- scratch that, the worst team -- in the NBA.

Seeing the Truth do what does best -- dominate games -- was a refreshing sight.

And with one starter down (Rajon Rondo) and another one by halftime (Ray Allen), Pierce could not have picked a better time to go into full takeover-mode for the Celtics (6-9) as the C's held on for a 100-94 win.

Pierce finished with a season-high 34 points along with a team-high 10 assists. Washington's John Wall led the way with 27 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.

"It feels good to get the win," Pierce said. "We have been struggling as a team as of late and we have to try and round up these wins and play some more consistent basketball."

Pierce added, "I just want to come in with the mindset to be more aggressive. That's when I am a better player. Having Rondo out, I over-think the game at times but I just need to focus on what's going to get me better. My legs are getting stronger and hopefully I can start developing a rhythm."

Washington (2-14) led 84-83 with 6:06 to play following a 3-point play by Nick Young. The C's responded with a rare fourth quarter run of its own, as Pierce capped off a 10-2 run with a lay-up to put the C's up 93-86 with just over three minutes to play.

With Rondo (right wrist) out and Ray Allen (left ankle) out by halftime, the C's had little choice but to ride the back of Pierce.

Winning was certainly a motivating factor for Pierce.

But according to Kevin Garnett, some of the Washington players may have fired him up a bit as well.

"They started talking a little garbage to him, a little trash," Garnett said. "We call that, 'hitting the button.' Truth (Paul Pierce) hit the button tonight. It was good to see him have a game like this. He came out very strong tonight, and we needed it."

But with Rondo and Allen out, the Wizards had to know that more of the scoring load would fall on Pierce.

It didn't matter, though, as they threw a slew of defenders on him who all struggled.

"It's tough with a player like that," said Washington's John Wall, who spent some time guarding Pierce as well. "He does a good job of picking teams apart and that's what he did to us. He's a great player and he's going to the Hall of Fame. We just tried to guard him straight up and make him take tough shots."

Added Wizards guard Nick Young, "You saw what Paul was doing out there. It's tough to stop a guy like that when he has it going."

The C's will need more of that from Pierce, as the Celtics try to build off of Sunday's success against a talented Orlando Magic team on Monday.

"That's going to be a big game for us," Pierce said. "We have to show that we can beat some of the better teams around the NBA. It's going to be on our home court. Orlando is playing good basketball. It's going to be a good challenge for us, especially on a back-to-back. We'll see."

A big summer boosts chances of Celtics trio

A big summer boosts chances of Celtics trio

BOSTON – As good as someone may look in summer league play, it should never be viewed as a sole barometer for NBA success. 

There have been countless players who dominate the floor this time of year, only to become NBA doormats when the games really count. 

More than anything else, summer league helps teams get a better feel for their bench – a place where most summer leaguers will be if they are even on a roster at all.

And the Celtics must feel pretty good about their second-unit players who were on the floor in Boston’s summer league run.

Semi Ojeleye, Guerschon Yabusele, and Jabari Bird were all reserves (or in the case of Bird, a two-way contract player), who are likely to have opportunities to play more prominent roles this season.

All were viewed as having a significant area in need of improvement heading into the offseason.

Ojeleye was essentially a talented defender who, offensively, was a catch-and-shoot guy who only took corner 3’s last season.

In summer league, Ojeleye put the ball on the floor more than we’ve ever seen in addition to finishing at the rim for lay-ups or dunks.

And Yabusele, who at times looked dazed and confused on the floor, was far more assertive in his decision-making – qualities he needs to display when camp starts in September and he’s competing for minutes off the bench.

Bird was the breakout star for the Celtics this summer, solidifying himself as a player who will be on someone’s NBA roster - if he’s not back in Boston - this season.

The athleticism that has been a hallmark of Bird’s game for years was on full display in Las Vegas. More than anything, he showed a heightened level of attention to detail while being consistent at both ends of the floor – traits he’ll need to display more of if he’s back with the Celtics and wants to compete for minutes off the bench.

So as Celtics fans are impressed with the strong play of Ojeleye, Yabusele, and Bird, keep in mind that all three are reserves who likely won’t be the first option off Boston’s bench this season.

Still, they have all shown skills that at a minimum, give Boston hope that when called upon, they will be ready to step up and contribute at a level greater than what we saw last season.

And as we know with all Brad Stevens-coached teams, players must always stay ready to play regardless of how deep they might be buried on the depth chart.

Ojeleye is a great example of this.

A second-round pick last year, Ojeleye played limited minutes most of the season only to find himself inserted into the Celtics’ starting lineup about midway through their first-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks.

And while Yabusele saw sporadic minutes, that was in large part due to him not being effective in the minutes he was allotted. Still, the Yabusele we saw last season wasn’t nearly as mobile, athletic or impactful as the one we saw that helped Boston to a 4-2 summer league record.

Bird, on a two-way contract last season, has done enough to at least warrant serious consideration for a spot on the 15-man roster.

All three players raised the level of expectations for fans, and while it was certainly a good sign, by no means does it alone mean they are ready to make major contributions this season.

A strong showing in summer league play can certainly be part of the puzzle for a Celtics team that heads into the season as the odds-on favorite to reach the NBA Finals.

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Orioles trade Manny Machado to Dodgers for five prospects

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File Photo

Orioles trade Manny Machado to Dodgers for five prospects

The Dodgers are the winners of the Manny Machado sweepstakes, acquiring the ex-Orioles slugger in exchange for five prospects.

The prospects heading to Baltimore in the deal per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic are outfielder Yusniel Diaz, third baseman Rylan Bannon, right-handed pitcher Zach Pop, right-handed pitcher Dean Kremer, and second baseman Breyvic Valera.

Machado, 26,  is enjoying another stellar season, hitting .315 with 24 home runs at the break. The Dodgers fill the void at shortstop left by Corey Seager, who is out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in May. Machado is set to be a free agent after the season.

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