In a possible Eastern Conference Finals preview, the Celtics jumped on the Pistons early, and although Detroit made several runs in the game, tying the game at one point in the second half, Boston had enough to hold them off and emerge with a 90-78 victory. Kevin Garnett led the way with 31 points for the Celtics, while Kendrick Perkins controlled the paint with 20 rebounds.

Mark Murphy says that if this was a preview, we can only wonder what late May will be like. Marc J. Spears has the Celtics extending their lead to four full games over the Pistons with the win, and also clinching the tiebreaker by winning the season series. Bill Doyle says that these matchups have been so much fun, he wants more of them. Jeff Howe has the Celtics pulling away from the Pistons down the stretch for the win.

Jackie MacMullan says that with any luck at all, the fun has just started between the Celtics and Pistons. Tony Massarotti says that the Celtics lined up behind Kevin Garnett last night, who led them to victory – in ways beyond his scoring. Peter May says that the Pistons are by no means finished after last night’s loss. Tim Weisberg says that Celtics/Pistons is already the most anticipated postseason series in the NBA. Rich Garven also wants to see a playoff encore between these two clubs.

Steve Bulpett looks at the huge contributions from the “other two” starters, Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins, each of whom played huge roles in the win last night. Mike Fine has more on Perkins and Garnett carrying the load in the paint for the Celtics last night. Lenny Megliola reminds us that this win doesn’t mean that the Celtics can beat the Pistons in May. Bulpett has Scot Pollard suffering from an injury similar to what Curt Schilling had in the 2004 playoffs, and needing surgery, which will end his season. This makes the signing of PJ Brown even more important for the Celtics.

I have to toss in here somewhere that it is pretty disappointing that the Providence Journal has dropped Celtics (and Bruins) coverage altogether in favor of AP stories. I had thought that they might start sending people to the games after the Patriots season ended, but even last night’s game apparently wasn’t enough of a draw to get local coverage from the paper. I understand that budget constraints can limit coverage, but home games should be easy enough to send a reporter to and get an original story. The Journal might throw in a Celtics column occasionally, but the day-to-day coverage is apparently gone for good.

Murphy’s notebook examines the importance of last night’s win in the standings for the Celtics. Spears’ notebook has more on the loss of Pollard for the season with the ankle injury. This article and Bulpett’s article above differ on the salary that Pollard is receiving this season, in which he has played just 22 games for the Celtics. Doyle’s notebook says that the signing of Sam Cassell will give the Celtics a bigger, more experienced matchup on Chauncey Billups.

Red Sox

Michael Silverman has Red Sox owner John Henry glad to be able to go head-to-head with the Yankees each season. Jeff Horrigan has Terry Francona looking forward to having a friendship with Joe Torre that wasn’t possible when the latter was managing the Yankees. Gordon Edes has more on the Francona/Torre friendship.

Maureen Mullen has Manny Delcarmen feeling comfortable with the setup role. Jon Couture says that the Red Sox are going to need more from Jon Lester this season. Jeff Goldberg says that this has been a different spring for Lester than the last few. Sean McAdam has a look at Jacoby Ellsbury, who is not only fast on the basepaths, but also fast to pick up on any advice the coaches or veterans give to him. Joe Haggerty has Bartolo Colon feeling good for the Sox thus far this spring.

Alex Speier notes that young players are baseball’s most cherished commodity as they can be had cheap…which doesn’t always go over well with the players involved. Silverman has Jonathan Papelbon looking for Mariano Rivera type money from the Red Sox. Speier has Twins closer Joe Nathan urging Papelbon to let the veterans set the salary standards. Rob Bradford had examples of young players who signed deals prior to hitting free agency.

Today’s Red Sox/Dodgers game will be broadcast on ESPN and Sean McDonough will be doing the call. Bill Doyle says that calling Red Sox games is always a painful reminder for McDonough.

Speier also looks at a 9-year-old from Bedford who got to be Bat boy for a day for the Red Sox.

Horrigan’s notebook has Bartolo Colon penciled in for his first start of the spring on March 15th. Edes’ notebook has the Sox continuing their contract talks with Papelbon. Couture’s notebook has more on the Torre/Francona friendship. McAdam’s notebook also looks at Colon getting set for this first start of the spring.

Patriots/NFL

Are you sick of the media fawning over Brett Favre? I sure am.

On Patriots Daily, Scott Benson examines the Patriots moves thus far and says that it looks like they’re getting the band back together down there.

Christopher L. Gasper says that we perhaps shouldn’t rule out a Troy Brown return just yet. Karen Guregian has the Patriots adding to their secondary by signing former Minnesota and Tennessee safety Tank Williams to a one year deal. David Heuschkel has the Patriots officially hanging onto Jabar Gaffney for another season. Mark Farinella looks at the Patriots signing Gaffney and Williams to one-year deals.

Jim Donaldson says that the Patriots offense should once again soar, but the defense has plenty of holes.

Bruins

Kevin Paul Dupont says that a push to the playoffs for the Bruins will require increased intensity. Stephen Harris and Mike Loftus have Bruins coach Claude Julien making his points to his club via a video session yesterday.

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