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Friday, November 30, 2007

Isiah Thomas, starring in Portrait of a Lame Duck Coach

The media circus that is the New York Knicks came to Boston last night on a modest two-game win streak to play the Celtics on TNT. When it was all said and done, the Knicks (4-10) left the Garden with their tails between their legs after an embarrassing 104-59 loss. You read that correctly. In fact, it could have been a Knicks team record scoring low and record low for a Celtics opponent if not for a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Nate Robinson at the end of the game. The Knicks are a complete joke and it's amazing that Head Coach/GM/sexual harasser Isiah Thomas still has a job in NYC but after this disgraceful loss that might not be the case for much longer.

Paul Pierce (29 minutes), Ray Allen (29 minutes) and Kevin Garnett (23 minutes) benefited from the blowout as they had extended time on the bench which should come in handy as the Celtics (12-2) flew to Miami following the game. Pierce had 21 points, eight rebounds and four assists while Allen had 21 points and five rebounds. Eddie House had 15 points, Glen Davis added 13 points and six boards while Rajon Rondo had 10 points and seven assists. Garnett finished his abbreviated game with eight points, 11 boards, four assists and two blocks. It broke his 67 game streak of scoring in double figures but he probably doesn't care.

This one got out of hand quickly as the Celts jumped out to a 27-16 lead after one. The lead ballooned to 23 at the half and as much as 52 points in the second half. The numbers were as one-sided as you'll ever see in an NBA game. Boston shot 46.8% while New York shot 30.3%. The Celts held the rebound lead, 51-35 and had 15 more assists (27-12). Boston only committed nine turnovers and New York had 15.

The Knicks are the epitome of the professional team that has individual talent but cannot consistently put anything close to a good product on the floor. The main reason is that Stephon Marbury (2 of 6), Quentin Richardson (3 of 12), Eddy Curry (2 of 11) and Zach Randolph (1 of 10) among others are me-first guys. They'll always take the shot themselves over passing to a more open teammate. They're all team cancers (led by Starbury) and that is only magnified by having the laughable Thomas leading them.

Boston plays Miami tonight in another primetime game (this one's on ESPN). The C's held off Miami two weeks ago at the Garden so we'll see how they do in the rematch. The Heat (4-10) are at the bottom of the Southeast Division and they probably won't catch the Magic this year.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

King James and Cavs hold off Celtics in overtime

LeBron James at the ripe old age of 22 (he turns 23 on December 30), is playing the best basketball of his life. Last night, he had a game-high 38 points and 13 assists (plus 4 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks) as his Cavs (9-6) outlasted the visiting Celtics (11-2), 109-104 in overtime.

Late in the fourth quarter, Boston actually had a great chance to at least take the lead but the normally money Ray Allen missed both free-throws to keep the game tied at 92 with 23 seconds left. The Cavs gave it to LeBron and in a typical NBA last-possession, he stood around (while everyone scattered) until about five seconds were left then he dribbled just inside the three-point line and fired up a tough jumper that didn't go in. Gotta hate those only in the NBA moments. The Celtics before this season (with Allen and Kevin Garnett) were famous for those in the last few years as Pierce would take contested last-second shots with two or three guys hanging all over him.

Cleveland is the top rebounding team in the NBA and they grabbed 47 boards to Boston's 40. Drew Gooden had a season-high 24 points and 15 rebounds while Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 15 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and four blocks. Sasha Pavlovic added 16 points and five boards. LeBron took over in the extra frame, scoring 11 points on two baskets and six free-throws.

Allen led the Celtics with a team-high 29 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals. Garnett (for him) had a quiet night with 19 points, five rebounds, five assists and three blocks. Paul Pierce notched 16 points, six boards and five assists while Kendrick Perkins and James Posey both had 11 points. Rajon Rondo had a shooting line reminiscent of last year (1 of 9) as he finished with three points, seven rebounds and six assists.

Another key for the Cavs was the free throw line as they made eight more free throws (28-20). Cleveland also outshot Boston 48.1% to 43.0% for the game.

It was a tough loss but if these teams were to meet in the playoffs, the Celtics would have to be favored. They have more depth and more scoring options. No team in the NBA puts as much pressure on one player as the Cavs do with LeBron. Obviously the guy can deliver as he almost single-handedly brought them to the Finals last season but that's still not a formula built for consistent results.

The Celtics come home to the Knicks tomorrow night. As widely reported, New York has been mostly a mess this season so it should make for some entertaining action.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A.J. Feeley has the game of his life and still loses

A.J. Feeley threw a pick-six on his second pass of the game and ended the game with two straight interceptions. Between those predictable mistakes, he picked the Patriots suddenly flawed defense apart and almost led the Eagles to the upset of the season. New England (11-0) however made just enough plays to hold down Philadelphia (5-6), 31-28 at Gillette last night.

It was clear that both teams stressed containing the other team's stars: Eagles running back Brian Westbrook had 52 yards rushing (1 TD) and 40 yards receiving while Pats receiver Randy Moss was held to five catches and 43 yards. One of the main differences between the two teams is that while Moss certainly wasn't himself, New England has enough other standouts (Wes Welker, Tom Brady and Asante Samuel to name a few) to make up for off-nights by many other teammates. Playing without Donovan McNabb, the Eagles needed a perfect game from Feeley to compete with the Patriots and he almost did the unthinkable by beating them. The Eagles just don't have enough game-breakers outside of Westbrook. And if you feel bad for Feeley, don't. He gets to come home to Heather Mitts (US women's soccer player, pictured below) every day.

Samuel took the first Feeley pick back 40 yards for a score on the game's third play and it looked like the shell-shocked Eagles would simply rollover for the Patriots. Not a chance. Philadelphia came out with their usual defensive game-plan (to blitz a ton) and the key for them was that they were able to move the ball on offense freely thus keeping Tom Brady and Co. off the field.

For instance, after the Samuel score, the Eagles took the ball 77 yards in 14 plays which took seven minutes. Westbrook punched it in from the 1-yard line to tie it up. New England answered with a 10 play, 78-yard drive (taking 5:08) that ended with a Heath Evans one-yard dive.

The Eagles would not go away as Greg Lewis caught a 28-yard TD pass from Feeley in the beginning of the second quarter. They showed unbelievable balls on the next play as they went for and recovered an onside kick. Even though they ended up punting on that drive, you could tell that on this night it was going to be pretty hard to put away this well-coached and experienced team.

The Pats had a good drive stall in the red zone so Stephen Gostowski hit a field goal from 23 yards to put New England up 17-14. Once again, the Eagles responded as Lewis caught another score, this one from 18 yards out (he finished with 4 catches for 88 yards). With three minutes left on the clock, the Eagles left too much time on the clock for the Pats offense (one of the few mistakes they made all night). Brady finished off that drive with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Jabar Gaffney, who has reappeared in the last two games after being MIA since last year's playoffs. The touchdown turned out to be Brady's only score of the game. It went to halftime with the Pats up 24-21 (the final score of the Super Bowl between these two teams).

In the second half, the Patriots changed up their offense (they had only run it twice in the first half) but went three-and-out on their first possession. Laurence Maroney got the nod from off the bench and broke a few decent runs but Gostowski missed a 32-yard field goal the next time the Pats had the ball. The Eagles had another great drive (10 plays, 78 yards) topped off by a 8-yard toss from Feeley to Reggie Brown. The Eagles were up 28-24 going into the fourth quarter.

New England went to work on offense and scored the game-winning touchdown (10 plays, 69 yards) on a Maroney 4-yard scamper. There were some tense moments as the Eagles drove down into Patriots territory looking for the tying field goal or go-ahead touchdown. Feeley made his other terrible decision as he overthrow a receiver in the end zone and Samuel picked off his second pass. Philly got it back one more time but they had no timeouts left (bad coaching) and James Sanders picked off one last Feeley pass.

Feeley was 27 of 42 for 345 yards with 3 TD's and 3 INT's. Other than Lewis, Kevin Curtis was the other receiving threat (5 catches for 71 yards). Brady finished 34 of 54 for 380 yards with the one touchdown. Maroney had 31 yards on just 10 carries. If Samuel was the defensive player of the game, Wes Welker got the game ball for his efforts on offense. He was unstoppable out of the slot, on short passes. He caught a career-high 13 passes for 149 yards, which is the second-highest total for a game in Pats history (behind Troy Brown's 16 in 2002). Gaffney had six catches for 87 yards, Stallworth had four catches for 57 yards.

Probably the only reason the Pats won was because they forced three Philly turnovers while recording zero themselves. The good that will come out of this game is plentiful. The Pats saw that while they've had an amazing start, they're not invincible. When they don't execute well (7 penalties for 44 yards) and a determined opponent comes in with a solid game-plan, they can lose. Most worrisome in the game was the Patriots secondary which looked extremely vulnerable to in-routes (as Madden pointed out) and couldn't stop a bunch of average Eagles receivers. They made Feeley look like a Pro-Bowler and not the career backup he's been. Also, while it was a function of the Pats calls in the first half, they have to make a more conscious effort to run the ball more. When the weather gets worse (ie. rain and snow), you can't pass it 50+ times and beat a good team in the playoffs.

With all that said, probably the best of both worlds happened for the Patriots in this game. They won and remained unbeaten while also giving their diligent coaches plenty to harp on in the coming weeks. This might be the kick in the pants this team needed to get through the rest of the year. It's too early to start making the DVD but if the Pats do end up winning the Super Bowl, this game has the feeling of a turning point in the action. Just a thought.

New England travels to Baltimore (4-7) next Monday for their third straight primetime game. The Ravens have looked horrible in the last few weeks and Kyle Boller is the starting quarterback. Look for the Pats to wake up with authority next week.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Celtics continue to find ways to win

In the three closest games of the season thus far, the Celtics have won two on late Ray Allen shots and lost the other when Paul Pierce missed what would have been a game-winning three. Last night, the Celtics (11-1) stole a win from the Bobcats (6-7), 96-95 in Charlotte. The Celtics were down two when Pierce missed a jumper and Charlotte controlled the rebound. The Celtics fouled but they weren't over the limit yet so the Bobcats had to inbound it. Eddie House got a piece of the inbounds pass, which deflected to Pierce, who kicked it out to Allen. He was off-balance but he got a good look and drilled it as time ran out.

By all accounts, the Bobcats should have won it. They shot 48.6% as a team to Boston's 43.6%. They also controlled the boards, 41-34. The C's though made seven more free throws (22-15) and ultimately made the plays when it mattered the most. Pierce (23 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds), Kevin Garnett (23 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks, 2 steals) and Allen (14 points on 4-for-15 shooting, 5 assists, 4 rebounds) continued to collectively play at a high level. James Posey added 14 points.
The Bobcats got a game-high 25 points and nine rebounds from Jason Richardson, while Raymond Felton (18 points, 9 assists), Emeka Okafor (15 points, 9 rebounds, 4 blocks) and former BC star Jared Dudley (11 points, 9 boards) all stood out in defeat.
The C's travel to Cleveland on Tuesday to take on LeBron and the Cavs. James is playing arguably the best basketball of his NBA career which is saying something so it should be fun to watch the Celtics try to contain him. He'll need some other guys to step up though if they're going to defeat Boston.

BC finally beats the U and now looks ahead to rematch with VT

For whatever reason, Miami had owned BC to the tune of 15 straight wins. On Senior Day at the Heights, the Eagles (10-2) finally took care of business and beat a garbage Miami (5-7) team, 28-14.

The 10 wins are the most for BC since 1940. They move on to their biggest game of the season (and probably since Doug Flutie was taking snaps) when they face Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game, next Saturday in Jacksonville. Win there and they'll be in the Orange Bowl (a BCS bid), lose and it's most likely the Chick Fil-A Bowl.

As always, BC was led by quarterback Matt Ryan, who was 26-of-43 for 369 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. BC looked about to cruise to an easy win as they scored 14 points in the second quarter to take a 14-0 lead into halftime. Ryan threw an 8-yard TD pass to L.V. Whitworth and a 5-yard TD pass to Kevin Challenger. However, the stubborn Hurricanes hung around as an interception and fumble recovery led to two scores which tied the game in the fourth quarter.

Ryan and his offense went back to work as he hooked up with Clarence Megwa for a 20-yard TD toss and running back Andre Callender sealed it with a 45-yard dash up the middle. The Eagles had big performances from Callender (95 yards rushing) and wide receiver Rich Gunnell (135 yards receiving).

BC's signature win of the season was the shocking 14-10 comeback at Virginia Tech. The Hokies have been playing very well since then, using the unconventional two quarterback system. It's a fact in any sport that it's harder to beat any team a second time in the same season so we'll see if this Eagles team is up to the task and can really make this a memorable season by getting to a quality bowl.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Blast from the Past: Beat LA chants fill the Garden

Watching the Celtics against the Lakers last night, it was obvious why Boston has high hopes for this season while LA looks like a fringe playoff team (at best) in the Western Conference. The blueprint for championship teams in the NBA this past decade has been to have a few superstars, surrounded by capable role players, who each step up at different times. The Pistons, Heat and Spurs have all won it using this model and you can't help but think, at the moment, the Celtics have one of the best mixes of that formula in the NBA. This doesn't mean much in late November but it certainly is promising. The Celtics (10-1) took care of the Lakers (7-5), 107-94 at the Garden.

Kendrick Perkins (who I bashed in the last post) had a career-high (and team-high) 21 points and nine rebounds. Rajon Rondo had 10 assists. Paul Pierce (20 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds), Kevin Garnett (21 points, 11 rebounds) and Ray Allen (18 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) all did their thing while James Posey added 10 points and six boards off the bench. It would be ridiculous to expect performances like that from Perkins and Rondo on a regular basis but you have to admit that both are proving to be better (already) than anyone would have guessed.

The Lakers seemed to have copied the Warriors game-plan from the other night as they came out clanking jump shots and as a result, were down 18 at the half. One can only imagine the gems that zen-master Phil Jackson was coming up with in the locker room at halftime, in the wake of his now-infamous Brokeback Mountain joke.

Some interesting stats from the game: Boston entered with the top rebound differential in the league while they had the fourth-highest assist total as well as holding opponents to the lowest field-goal percentage.

The Lakers woke up in the second half but it was too little, too late as they could only cut the lead to nine points. Kobe had a game-high 28 points but he was only 9-for-21 shooting with four rebounds and three assists. The next highest scorers for LA were Vladamir Radmonovic (18 points), Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmer, who both had 13. I'm not a huge Kobe fan but it is a shame to watch such a talented player on such a blah team. He's been the subject of non-stop trade rumors, you kinda hope he gets on a team that can put him in some important playoff games.

The C's shot 50.6% for the game and had 10 more assists (31-21) than the Lakers. Boston only fouled the Lakers 13 times to the Lakers 25 fouls. This is indicative of the Celtics concerted effort to drive to the hoop while the Lakers took the first shot they saw on almost every possession.

Boston travels to Charlotte tonight to take on a banged up Bobcats team. Charlotte's Adam Morrison is out for the year after tearing his ACL and their best player, Gerald Wallace, got hurt and didn't return last night. Playing back-to-back nights is never easy though so the Celtics should have their hands full for a while.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Jax comes to town; strip clubs report 95% increase in gun fights

The Golden State Warriors play the type of chaotic, up and down style that looks great when it works (see 2007 NBA Playoffs vs. Dallas) but when it's off, like last night, it's downright awful. They have little size and without Matt Barnes and Al Harrington against the Celtics last night in Boston, the Warriors seemed content to take the fastest shot it could find without considering anything else like passing or if teammates were under the basket to corral misses. Boston won 105-82 in a game that didn't even feel that close.

The Celtics (9-1) outscored the Warriors (3-7) in each quarter and the Big Three of Paul Pierce (19 points, 10 boards, 4 assists), Ray Allen (21 points, 7 rebounds) and Kevin Garnett (20 points, 10 rebounds) dominated the proceedings. Boston also got some great efforts off the bench from Eddie House (15 points, 3 steals, 3 rebounds, 2 assists) and Tony Allen (6 points, 4 assists and 3 boards). Even Kendrick Perkins, who is very limited in pretty much effort facet of the game looked good (7 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks). The 82 points was a season-low for the Warriors, who came in as the NBA's highest scoring team. The C's shot 48.1% as a team while the Warriors managed just 33.3%. The Warriors were a brutal 4-22 for three-pointers. Boston outrebounded Golden State, 52-40 and had the assist edge, 26-11.

Baron Davis only had 13 points on 3-for-13 shooting and his coach Don Nelson basically waved the white flag as he sat the injury-prone Davis for much of the second half (he played 29 minutes). Monta Ellis led the Warriors with 21 points but many of them were accumulated in garbage time when the game had long been decided.

I attended the game and the most memorable part for me was seeing a guy in a Pittsnogle West Virginia jersey get into a fight with some guy next to him. Pittsnogle ended up rolling down a few rows of seats as suburban soccer moms and belligerent dads from Southie pushed their kids out of the way. It is the first time I've ever seen a fight at the Garden and I must say it left me with some bloodlust, wanting more.

The Lakers come to the Garden tomorrow night. So far L.A. (7-4) has actually looked better than most people expected. They have the best player on the planet (Kobe Bryant) but not much else. I'm interested to see how the Celtics choose to guard Kobe. I'm guessing a combination of Pierce, Tony Allen and Posey.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Red Sox do the right thing and resign Lowell

It took just three weeks since winning the 2007 World Series as the Red Sox resigned third baseman Mike Lowell to a three-year deal worth between $36-38 million. The Sox have taken care of their two biggest free agents as they brought back both Schilling and World Series MVP Lowell.

With all the fans saying since the season ended that they wanted Lowell back, the Sox brass seemed to listen and passed on the overpriced distraction known as A-Rod. Lowell is everything that A-Rod is not. He's a great teammate, he's unselfish and he's loyal. The Yankees look to be signing A-Rod to a 10-year deal worth around $250 million. They've brought back Rivera and Posada too. However if they don't do something to get some more starting pitching (there's been rumors of acquiring Johan Santana), the Yankees will be looking up at the Red Sox for the near future.

Boston only has bit players and relievers left to either resign or let go. The entire starting lineup and rotation from the World Series Champion is coming back. This really could be the beginning of a dynasty (which is so hard to do in modern baseball). This team is a blend of youth and experience. Talent and veteran guile. With the best GM and owners in baseball, this team should compete every year.

Nobody deserved a contract more than Mike Lowell, who was a throw-in from the Marlins in the Josh Beckett deal. Everybody in baseball thought he was washed up and he's had two great years in Boston. In fact, this past season was his best ever at the plate as he set career highs in hits (191), RBIs (120), OBP (.378) and batting average (.324). He is a four-time All-Star and a one-time Gold Glover, who will turn 34 in 2008 Spring Training. In 2007 he made a career-high 15 errors but that seems like a blip especially given his resurgence at the plate. It's going to be great to see Lowell end his solid MLB career in Boston and not in some other city with another team.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Patriots will run it up and you will like it

This is just getting silly. It's like playing Madden on a difficulty level that's too easy or that friend or sibling of yours that always wants to play but no matter what, just gets buried. The Patriots are a force of nature these days as they proved last night with a 56-10 thrashing of the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, NY last night.

The Pats are now 10-0 while the Bills fall to 5-5. Buffalo had come in riding a four-game win-streak. New England had beat Buffalo 38-7 earlier in the season. Last night it was 35-7 at the half. Tom Brady and Randy Moss went to work early and often. Brady finished 31-for-39 for 373 yards and five touchdowns. Moss had ten catches for 128 yards and four touchdowns (all in the first half).

Any hope of a Buffalo win was quickly extinguished as J.P. Losman threw a pick on the first Bills possession and Randall Gay returned it 21 yards, deep into Buffalo territory (with a late-hit penalty putting it even closer). Laurence Maroney punched it in from six yards out, his first TD of the season. On the Pats next possession, Moss got open deep and caught a 43-yard pass in the end zone. The more amazing thing was that earlier in the drive, Donte' Stallworth dropped what would have been a long reception and later so did Moss. No worries though as straight cash homey delivered when it mattered most.

Buffalo answered with a prayer as Roscoe Parrish caught a 47-yard bomb from Losman to cut it to 14-7. Ellis Hobbs was in coverage, dove for the ball and missed, leaving Parrish wide open. It didn't matter as the Brady-to-Moss connection worked for three more touchdowns in the second quarter. Moss is simply unstoppable, many times he doesn't even do anything special. Brady just throws it to the end zone and Moss gets it around some helpless defensive backs.

Brady had his final touchdown on a 3-yard toss to Ben Watson to open the third quarter. The Bills went for a 52-yard field goal down 35 in the third quarter but hey, they made it. Kyle Eckel ran for a touchdown from a yard out before Hobbs added the final blow. He grabbed a Bills fumble that popped in the air along the sideline and ran 35 yards for the score.

Moss caught his 16th touchdown of the season, one shy of his career-high. With his 13th, he broke Stanley Morgan's Patriot record for a season. Brady now has 38 touchdowns and he is on pace for 59 (shattering Manning's record of 49). He broke Steve Grogan's franchise record for touchdown passes (182) as he currently sits with 185. Most impressive, Brady did it in 106 games while it took Grogan 149. Finally, Brady extended his NFL record of 10 straight games with three or more touchdown passes.

New England is a machine that cannot be stopped. The Eagles come to Gillette next Sunday night for the Patriots second of three straight primetime games. Philly shouldn't pose much of a threat as they're 5-5 and quarterback Donovan McNabb hurt his ankle in yesterday's game. He might not be able to go, leaving it in the hands of backup A.J. Feely (insert laugh track here). The biggest obstacle in the Patriots quest to 16-0 appeared to the Steelers but Pittsburgh somehow lost 19-16 in overtime yesterday to the Jets. The Patriots are the best team in the NFL by a wide margin. Right now, it doesn't appear that anyone can stop their march towards an unbeaten season.

82-0? Not gonna happen folks

The Celtics game was overshadowed yesterday by the Patriots Sunday night game. Still, the C's had an exciting game that want down to the final possession. Paul Pierce had a chance to win it but his desperation three-pointer rimmed out as the Magic (9-2) beat the Celtics (8-1), 104-102 in Orlando.

In all honesty, Boston had no business winning this game. They were down 58-41 at the half and 20 points early in the third quarter. Amazingly, they kept chipping away at the Magic lead and eventually took a one-point lead on James Posey's three with six minutes left. The Celtics couldn't hold on though as Kevin Garnett fouled out and Orlando kept making plays. Pierce finished with a game-high 28 points, six assists and five rebounds. Ray Allen struggled shooting (7-for-19) but still finished with 19 points (including a three which cut it to one with seven seconds left). Rajon Rondo continued to impress as he had 18 points and five rebounds. Garnett had 14 points and 11 rebounds. The Celts stayed in the game by outrebounding the Magic 41-28. Dwight Howard led the Magic with 24 points, six rebounds and three blocks. Rashard Lewis scored 22 and Jameer Nelson had 18 points and six assists. Finally, Hedo Turkoglu added 16 points and six rebounds for the Magic.

It's clear that the win-streak and extra attention was starting to wear on the C's as they had the bulls-eye on their back. Now they can go back to focusing on one game at a time rather than worrying about setting any record starts. They'll host the Warriors on Wednesday night at the Garden. Should be a high-scoring game, I'm psyched to be attending it.

Curses still exist in New England, just ask the Revolution

I love soccer but generally I don't pay attention to the snoozefest known as MLS. However, I couldn't help but note that my New England Revolution made their third straight MLS Cup (and fourth all-time) and just like every other occasion, they came home empty-handed. The Revs fell 2-1 to the Houston Dynamo at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. yesterday afternoon.
Both nationally and locally, not many will even notice this result but it was just too painful to completely overlook. The Revolution have been one of the top teams in MLS since it was created yet they choke in the final time after time, in more painful fashion no less. In 2002, New England lost 1-0 to Los Angeles. In 2005, the Revs lost by the same score to the same team. In 2006, the Dynamo won 4-3 in penalty kicks after the teams tied 1-1 in regulation.

The Revolution dominated play in the first half and were rewarded in the 20th minute as star forward Taylor Twellman scored off a header. As the game went on though, you had the feeling that if the Revs didn't pop a second goal, they were in deep trouble. Sure enough in the 61st minute, Houston scored a garbage goal off a scramble in front of Revs goalie Matt Reis. Like clock work in the 74th minute Houston standout Dwayne De Rosario scored on a beautiful header and you knew what the final result was, 20 minutes before it would end. New England had one more golden opportunity-a header right out front in the 87th minute but wouldn't you know, the Houston goalie somehow got a hand on it. Houston won its second straight MLS Cup as the Revolution sat on the field and wondered what else do they have to do? It was a reminder that as good as we currently have it in New England sports, you're always one painful loss away from turning into the Buffalo Bills of the new millennium.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Clemson chokes, BC headed to ACC Championship

After being left for dead by many (myself included), the No. 17 Boston College Eagles came away with a stunning 20-17 win at No. 15 Clemson last night. Clemson (8-3) was up 17-13 late in the fourth quarter but couldn't hold on. Once again, BC (9-2) quarterback Matt Ryan saved the day with some late-game heroics while the Tigers also did everything they could do to give the game away: leaving a BC wide receiver wide open, dropping a sure-touchdown and losing a game they had under control. Ryan finished 31-for-47 for 315 yards with one touchdown and one pick. BC running back Andre Callender had 75 yards rushing and 92 yards receiving.

You have to give the Eagles a lot of credit. They survived a plethora of injuries to their defense (Tribble didn't play at all while Dunbar and Pruitt were limited plus a few others were hurt last night) yet still survived against a pretty good Clemson team. Clemson was up 7-3 at halftime and 10-3 after three quarters. The fourth quarter is when everything happened. BC got a touchdown run by its fullback James Mccluskey then a field goal to go up three. Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper ran for a touchdown, putting the Tigers up 17-13 with 5:28 left. Then Ryan led BC on an eight play, 71-yard drive that ended with a 43-yard bomb to receiver Rich Gunnell. The crazy thing about that pass was that Ryan scrambled and then just lobbed it up there. I have no idea what the Clemson defensive backs were doing as Gunnell was wide open by like five yards.

Clemson got the ball back and moved into BC territory while the clock wound down. They stalled before BC's red zone thanks to multiple drops by their receivers including one that would have given them the game. Clemson's kicker had to try a 54-yard prayer with time running out but it was a few yards short. Ironically, they put themselves back five yards with a penalty, without that infraction the kick probably would have been good.

Boston College moves on to the ACC Championship in two weeks in Jacksonville against the winner of next week's Virginia-Virginia Tech battle. BC closes with Miami visiting Chestnut Hill next weekend but luckily for them the game doesn't mean anything (other than padding their resume for a bowl).

Tommy Bowden, the head coach of Clemson should be fired. His team has never won the ACC. They seem to have a Cubs like history of choking. As BC came back last night, the rowdy Clemson crowd suddenly got silent. They knew their Tigers would lose another one they could have had. Will BC win the ACC Championship? I doubt it. They either have to beat a Hokies team they were fortunate enough to squeak by the first time or a Virginia team that they haven't seen this year. If they somehow won the ACC title, would they beat the next team in a BCS bowl? Not a chance. As topsy-turvy as this year is, I can say with confidence that BC will not win three more games this season. It simply cannot happen. They've had way too many things go their way thus far to see that continue against better teams. The ACC is garbage. It's a joke that BC is one of the two best teams in the conference this year. In the Pac-10, Big 12, SEC or even Big East they would have been middle of the pack.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Celtics escape with 92-91 win over Heat

Last night had trap game written all over it. The Celtics came in 7-0 with the whole NBA and media now talking about their great start. The Heat were 1-7 but they had just gotten Wade back in the last game. For 3.5 quarters, the Celtics looked about to cruise to another win at the Garden.

Boston shot 49.3% as a team and 17-18 from the line. Most impressively, the Celtics had 29 assists to Miami's 19. That helped the C's overcome 18 turnovers. Kevin Garnett led the way with 26 points and 11 rebounds. Ray Allen had 19 points and seven assists. James Posey was huge off the bench with 13 points and five boards. Kendrick Perkins chipped in with 10 points and Rajon Rondo had one of his most complete games as a pro: nine points, 10 assists, seven rebounds.

They led by as many as 15 but the Heat fought back and eventually led. Rondo made an open jumper to put Boston up three with 1:30 left. Miami refused to give up though as Ricky Davis made a three-pointer and rookie Daequan Cook made a steal on Ray Allen and converted a layup while getting fouled by Posey. Cook missed the FT which proved to be costly. The C's got the ball with 35 seconds left and went right to Pierce who was one-on-one with Udonis Haslem. Pierce backed him down and scored on a layup but there was plenty of time left for Miami. Everyone in the building knew what would happen at the end of the game as Wade isolated on Posey (his ex-Heat teammate). Wade's jumper was too hard, hit the glass and rattled out before Posey grabbed the ball while time expired. Boston survived and moved to 8-0.

They face their biggest test of the young season tomorrow night as they travel to 8-2 Orlando. The Magic have won three in a row and have been playing especially well lately. Dwight Howard is one of the premier big men in the game, Rashard Lewis is scoring (still not enough to justify that absurd contract he signed in the off-season) and Jameer Nelson is playing well. Orlando looks to be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference so it'll be interesting to see how the teams stack up (albeit in November). It should be a great warmup act for the Pats-Bills game later tomorrow night.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Boston off to its Best Start in 35 years

Only seven games into the 2007 NBA Season, two things are becoming abundantly clear: 1) the Celtics are very good and 2) the Eastern Conference once again is by and large garbage. The Celtics improved to 7-0 with a grimy 91-69 win over the Nets last night at the Garden. Its the Celtics best start in 35 years (they started 10-0 in the '72-'73 season) and the franchise's best start was 14-0 in '57-'58.

Common sense held that last night (the second night of a back-to-back) would be sloppy and the Nets would be a good team to face since they have a real lack of depth and scoring punch now that Vince Carter is out with a sprained ankle. The Nets led 23-17 after one quarter but you had a feeling that wouldn't last for long. The C's held them to 11 points in the second quarter and Paul Pierce hit a last-second jumper to put Boston up two heading into the break.

The second half was all about defense for the Celtics as they only gave up 35 points total. For the home team, six players found double-figures including all five starters. This was especially impressive since offensive spark plug Eddie House was out with a sprained ankle from the Pacers game. Kevin Garnett led the way with 16 points and 8 rebounds while Pierce (15 points), Ray Allen (14 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 steals), Rajon Rondo (13 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds) and Kendrick Perkins (10 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks) all had solid games.

The story of the game was Tony Allen, who had 13 points in 24 minutes. He received a lot of House's minutes and played well. He's still recovering from a horrific knee injury last season (which happened just when he was playing the best basketball of his life) so he wears a huge knee brace. His main strength is that he's a great defender so if he can consistently contribute on the offensive side, the Celtics will be in great shape.

Boston shot 46.5% as a team and they forced 20 Nets turnovers (including 14 steals). The Nets shot a pitiful 33.3% as a team. They are pretty limited without Carter. Jason Kidd played well (19 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists) and Richard Jefferson had 21 points but they have a bunch of bums taking up roster space.

The Celtics host struggling Miami (1-7) on Friday. Dwyane Wade came back last night for the Heat but they still lost to the Sonics, who had been winless. Shaq is only a shell of his former self and the Heat are light years away from the team that won the NBA Championship two seasons ago.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Celtics are 6-0, Best Start in 20 Years

It seemed fitting that with Pacers GM (and Celtics legend) Larry Bird watching at Conseco Field House, the Celtics moved to 6-0 with a 101-86 win last night vs. the Pacers. After all, the last time the Celtics started a season 6-0 was twenty years ago with the Big Three of Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. Now, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are the new Big Three who have Boston already dreaming of Championship Banner #17.

It was like the last few years as Pierce carried the C's with a game-high 31 points (14-14 on free throws), 11 rebounds and 6 assists. Allen was shutout in the first half but scored 15 in the third quarter on his way to 17 points. Garnett had his automatic double-double: 18 points, 11 rebounds. The Pacers hung around for awhile but Boston outscored them in every quarter and eventually wore out the less-talented squad. Boston also shot 42.5% from the floor while Indiana struggled, shooting 34.9% as a team. The C's also took advantage of the free throw line, going 33/44. The Pacers were 20/26 from the charity stripe. Finally, the Pacers had 22 turnovers and the Celtics only had 13. Boston is doing all the little things that they couldn't do the last few years. They are the marks of a great team, finding ways to win even when its stars don't have their typical production.

The Celtics look to continue the unbeaten streak tonight as they take on the Nets at the Garden. The Nets will be without Vince Carter, who is out indefinitely with an ankle sprain he suffered on Saturday against Boston.

This is Getting Too Predictable

On Monday, as expected Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia was named the 2007 AL Rookie of the Year. Yesterday, C.C. Sabathia of the Cleveland Indians was named the AL Cy Young. The surprising part was that Sox ace Josh Beckett was such a distant second (Sabathia got 18 first-place votes while Beckett had 9). C.C had 119 total points, Beckett had 86 points. Two writers even left Beckett out of the top-three which is a joke but thankfully, that didn't decide the vote for Sabathia. Much like David Ortiz in 2005 (who should have won the AL MVP), Beckett was the best. Regardless, the Red Sox won the World Series (for the second time in four years, thanks in large part to a lights out Beckett) so crying about losing out on these regular season individual awards is pointless.

Beckett's 2007 numbers: 20-7, 3.27 ERA, 30 starts, 194 strikeouts, 200.2 innings, opponents hit .245, 1.14 WHIP, 8.7 K's per 9 innings. He was the majors only 20-game winner and the first since 2005. Sabathia's 2007 numbers: 19-7, 3.21 ERA, 34 starts, 209 strikeouts, 241 innings, opponents hit .259, 1.14 WHIP, 7.8 K's per 9 innings.

As you can see from the numbers, it was very tight between those two guys. It seems like the thing that really swayed voters was the innings pitched. Sabathia went 40.1 more innings than Beckett. The ironic thing is that Beckett most likely would have had slightly better numbers if he had made as many starts. He missed two starts in May with an avulsion on his pitching hand. This award is solely based on the regular season therefore making it rather useless if said pitcher also makes the postseason. If the playoffs had been taken into account, Sabathia probably would have finished third behind Beckett and his teammate Fausto Carmona. The sheer amount of innings seemed to catch up with Sabathia in the playoffs as he was completely worn out and as a result served as batting practice against the Yankees and Sox. Beckett on the other hand was the best starting pitcher in the playoffs. It wasn't even close. Beckett has two World Series rings and he is at the top of his game while also banging a neverending line of hot chicks. I don't think he's too worried about losing out to Sabathia, his life is just fine.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Still perfect, Celts roll to 5-0

The Celts moved to 5-0 (the last unbeaten team in the NBA) last night with a 112-101 win over the Nets in Jersey. It was the first game since the opener that I saw a majority of and I must say Boston is a pretty fun team to watch. All three of the superstars have their own skills and the role players are stepping up each game and making timely hoops, pulling down rebounds and playing defense. The Celtics best ever start was 6-0 in the '87-'88 year campaign.

Last night, Garnett probably had his worst game as a Celtic (18 points, 14 boards, 6 assists, 3 steals) but he still stepped up when it counted most, including a deep jumper as the first half ended. The guy is just a winner, what a pickup. Pierce led the way with 28 points while Ray Allen had 27 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists. Is there a better 3-point combination than those two? The thing about both is that they're so much more than just long-distance shooters in the Peja Stojakovic, Bruce Bowen mold. They can put it on the deck and get to the hoop and earn free throws where they're both solid (Allen is nearly automatic).

The unsung hero of the game was definitely rookie forward Glen Davis. Big Baby was great in limited minutes. He fouled out in 17 minutes but he was a force when he was on the court. He had 6 points, 8 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block. When the Celtics traded for him (in the Allen deal), I thought they were getting a steal. He's such a unique player with his build and abilities. He was money for LSU in their Final Four run two years ago then was forgotten last season as they badly underachieved. Eddie House continued to impress off the bench with 13 points. The Celtics were up comfortably in the third quarter but the Nets made a spirited run in the fourth quarter, oddly enough after Vince Carter left with an ankle injury. New Jersey was dominated on the glass: 49-34 and in assists: 27-19. The Celtics just continue to play very well, they have already become must-see TV. Boston travels to Indiana to take on the Pacers Tuesday night.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Big Ticket-Better than Advertised

So many times in sports, players fail to live up to the hype. When free agents are given big money, they have almost impossible expectations to fulfill. With Kevin Garnett, you can throw any assumptions out the window. Put the guy on a basketball court and he's a beast. He had been one of my favorite NBA players for years but since he played on a bad Timberwolves team, I rarely saw him on tv the last few seasons. He is a game changer and even more impressive, its on both sides of the ball. I don't think there's a more complete player in the league today. He is a force on the defensive end, blocking and altering shots and pulling down every rebound in his area. On offense, he doesn't take bad shots and always looks for the open teammate. You can't say enough about him; it's clear already why he'll be a Hall-of-Famer.

Last night at the Garden, KG and the Celtics moved to 4-0 with a 106-83 win over the young Atlanta Hawks. It's the C's best start in 20 years, dating back to the days of Bird, McHale and Parish. Garnett had 27 points, 19 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks. Pierce had 23 points, Eddie House had 19 off the bench and Ray Allen added 14. Rondo notched seven assists.

As a team Boston shot 61.2% for the game and had 30 assists. Scalbrine got hit by Al Horford's hand on a follow-through and he left the game with a concussion. With James Posey (back) already out and Scal likely to be out tonight, the Celtics will be short-handed as they travel down to the Garden State to face the New Jersey Nets. It's the first of four games between the Celtics and Nets this season.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Pretty, Pretty Good

The Boston Celtics absolutely smoked the Denver Nuggets last night at the TD Banknorth Garden, final score was 119-93 but it wasn't even that close. Boston was up 77-38 at halftime. The Green and White scored 38 in the first quarter and 39 in the second quarter to ice this one. Kevin Garnett (23 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals), Paul Pierce (26 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals) and Ray Allen (22 points, 6 assists) completely dominated the Nuggets trio of Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson and Marcus Camby.

Weren't the Nuggets suppose to be good or something? While their chemistry looks shot, the C's are making people look stupid who thought this wouldn't work. Sure this will not be easy and yes they'll lose some games but when you have three guys on the top of their games like this, what can go wrong? They're looking unselfish and the role players are even stepping up. Rondo had 14 points, 4 assists and 4 steals while Eddie House had 11 points and Kendrick Perkins had 7. Boston played some great defense last night, forcing 24 Denver turnovers. That's a great sign of things to come since total lack of defense has been the Celtic's biggest problem over the last few seasons. The scoring will be there but if this team can consistently get stops, look out NBA. The Celtics are for real. Boston next hosts Atlanta on Friday night.

One down, One to go

After all the partying and parades died down, the Red Sox 2007 off-season has officially begun. Going into the winter, there were two priorities which trumped everything else: 1) sign Schilling to a incentive-laden deal so he can finish out his career in Boston and 2) resign World Series MVP Mike Lowell and avoid A-Rod like the plague that he is. I'm happy to report that the Sox can check objective one of their list: Schilling got a one-year deal for a base salary of eight million. If he reaches all the incentives in the package, he will earn $14 million.

Say what you want about Curt (and by now everyone in the region has built their own detailed opinion about him) but I think everyone would agree that he deserved this. It would be an absolute joke to see him waste one last year in some other city (he couldn't have honestly been serious during the year when he mentioned Tampa Bay as a possible landing spot). He is no longer the dominant pitcher he once was but as we saw in the playoffs, he is still quite effective, particularly on the biggest stage: October baseball. The guy has now been a World Champion three times and they've all come in the last seven seasons. He's the greatest big game pitcher of his generation. Along with all his personal accomplishments, he's becoming more and more of a leader, teacher and motivator to the young pitchers around him. Think he had anything to do with Beckett making such a gigantic leap from his first year in Boston to this year? Beckett has all the talent in the world but there's no doubt Curt helped him out with all the little things that the media and common fan isn't privy to.

While I certainly don't agree with his political views, I have to say that Curt Schilling is a breath of fresh air in this day and age of Sportscenter soundbites and YouTube. Yes, he can be a blowhard and self-important but I'll take that with everything else he does. He's a pillar of the community, he talks to the media (and even beats them to the punch by writing his own blog) and he is one of the only professional athletes I can think of in Boston or anywhere in the US that gets it. He understands how lucky he is to be paid ridiculous sums of money to play a child's game for a living. He might always have an agenda but he has a heart. How many other athletes are consistently interesting? Most have rocks for brains and couldn't care less about anything outside their little bubble. For all of his quirks, Curt Schilling will always be one of my favorite Red Sox players. He's helped deliver two World Series titles in four years and who knows what will happen next season?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Sugar Ray to the Rescue

The Boston Celtics escaped Toronto with a 98-95 overtime win on Sunday. Ray Allen had a game-high 33 points including a tie-breaking 3-pointer with time running out in OT. Kevin Garnett was held in check in regulation (23 points, 13 boards, 6 assists, 3 steals) but he scored 10 in the extra session.

James Posey played his first game in a Celtics uniform (after being suspended for the season-opener) and contributed 11 points off the bench. Pierce had a bad game as he was held to 13 points while Eddie House added 10. The beauty of this Celtics team is that its about so much more than Pierce. If he had 13 points any other time in the last five seasons, odds are the C's would fall.

The Celtics could not stop T.J. Ford all game as he had 32 points. Boston also blew an 11 point lead in the fourth quarter and only put up 12 in the final frame. No problem though as they did just enough in OT to win it. Boston comes home to the Nuggets on Wednesday. It'll be interesting to see how Pierce, KG and Allen matchup with AI, Carmelo and Marcus Camby.

We Salute You Our Patriots Overlords

After dispatching of the Colts 24-20, the Patriots (9-0) are the best team in the league, period end of story. The script can certainly change as the season and postseason goes on but without overstating a game in Week 9, this win was huge. Indianapolis (7-1) is clearly the second best team in the league as they had the New England on the ropes for much of the game but failed to deliver the knockout blow.

The offensive explosion that most talking heads predicted never really materialized. The Colts had a field goal in the first quarter and the Patriots were held scoreless for the first time in a first quarter this season. The Colts (particularly Robert Mathis) had relentless pressure on Brady and as a result, the Pats couldn't sustain any long drives. Joseph Addai was also killing the Pats, more on that in a moment.

New England finally got near the goal-line and Brady threw a jump ball to Moss for a TD. Indy got another field goal but the game looked to be headed to the locker room with the Patriots up 7-6. However, Addai took an innocent dump off pass and went 73 yards for a score. The Patriots tackling on the play was abysmal.

New England hit a field goal in the third accounting for the only scoring. The fourth quarter fittingly is when all the action took place. Manning scored on a QB sneak and the Colts went up 20-10 with 9:42 left. Brady and the offense couldn't move the ball all game so hopes of an undefeated season were fading fast. If this was the Patriots team of last year they would have lost. Same with the year before that. Different story this year though as the talent shines through at the most opportune times. First Brady hit Moss with the now obligatory bomb (55 yards) to get it down near the Colts end-zone. Welker hauled in a nifty 3-yard pass to bring it within three.

Then the Patriots defense went to work as they forced Indy to punt it. New England promptly marched down the field and Brady hit Faulk with a 13-yard touchdown pass. The Patriots were up 24-20 with 3:15 left but there seemed to be too much time for Manning and Co. However, Peyton simply couldn't deliver as he was sacked by Ty Warren and fumbled it into the arms of Rosevelt Colvin. With one more first down, the game was over. What a comeback.

Numerous guys stepped up when it mattered most for New England. Rodney Harrison had an interception of Manning. Stallworth had a 32-yard catch along the sideline. Brady shook off two picks and finished with the three TD's and 255 yards (after entering the fourth with under 100). And Moss solidified his position as the most dangerous wide receiver in football. If the Patriots want to go to him, he will almost always catch it. It's unbelievable.

It was a gut check win. The Colts were playing without Marvin Harrison and they missed him dearly, no question about it. New England finally woke up in the fourth quarter and they now have the fire power to make a quick comeback (even against a very good defense, at home). This win will most likely mean even more down the road when it comes to home-field in the playoffs. You'd have to like the Patriots chances in Gillette after they snapped the Colts three-game win streak over the Pats.

The bye week couldn't come at a better time as New England will get to relax and gear up for what should be an awesome stretch run. They'll next play a week from Sunday night at Buffalo. Moreover, the questions will only increase as to whether the Patriots could go 16-0, 19-0?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Let's all move on with our lives

Saturday night, everybody turned their clocks back. Another routine was followed by the BC football team as they choked once again, losing to a pretty average Florida State team, 27-17 in Chestnut Hill. Let's be honest, you didn't really think the Eagles were one of college football's best teams. In a season that started out so crazy, most things seem to be bouncing back into place as the major powers (Ohio State, LSU) are surviving while the pretenders (South Florida in a big way and now Boston College) are showing their true colors. Seeing BC in a BCS bowl is a pipe dream, plain and simple. I honestly don't think it'll ever happen. If not this year, then when? Everything was lining up perfectly for them and they still couldn't do it. It's true, they have three more games left but do you really think they'll win all three? I guarantee they drop at least one more and find themselves in another pre-New Years garbage bowl that nobody watches or goes to.

From the beginning on Saturday night, I had a feeling like this was the night Boston College would lose its first game of the season. There was a monsoon all day and the remnants were still around in the first half. Eagles senior middle linebacker and defensive leader JoLonn Dunbar hurt his leg in the second quarter and didn't return. His absence was huge as FSU kept getting big plays through the middle-right where he would have been. The Seminoles got a touchdown pass late in the second quarter and went into halftime up 7-0. Florida State added a field goal before BC finally woke up with a 30-yard TD pass from Matt Ryan to Brandon Robinson.

The teams traded kicks before Florida State got the backbreaker, a 42-yard pass from Drew Weatherford to De'Cody Fagg. It was 20-10 with 8:11 left in the fourth. It looked like BC might have some more magic for the second week in a row as Ryan found tight end Ryan Purvis for a one-yard toss. Florida State was able to get a few more first downs and more importantly chew up the clock before punting back to BC. Ryan threw one last pick (his third of the game) which 'Noles linebacker Geno Hayes took to the house, 38-yards.

Turnovers were the story of the game. BC: 4; Florida State: 0. FSU quarterback Drew Weatherford, who is a complete stiff went 29-for-45 for 354 yards and 2 TD's in the game of his life. Ryan was 26-for-53 for 415 yards and 2 TD's with 3 INT's.

With the play of Oregon QB Dennis Dixon in their big win over Arizona State on Saturday, I think it's safe to say its his Heisman to lose now. Ryan is still a great quarterback but he's just been asked to do too much week in and week out. Not enough other people stepped up for BC against Florida State. If they win out and then take the ACC Championship they'll still make a BCS bowl. However, there's no chance BC will win four more games. They've had enough good luck to start 8-0. The dream is over, welcome back to earth Boston College. I hope you had fun while it lasted. They are now #8 in the BCS and the latest polls.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Celtics are back on the map

I have been to countless Celtics game in the past few years but nothing can compare to the atmosphere last night for the 2007 season opener. For one thing, it was sold out and the crowd was electric from the beginning. A "Let's Go Celtics" cheer broke out, something which I'm pretty sure I've never heard before when I've been at the Garden. All in all it was a great opening night as the Celtics rolled over the Wizards, 103-83.

The Celtics came out a little too amped up as Garnett threw up a brick for his first shot. Both teams traded misses before KG sunk two free throws. Boston opened up a lead in the second quarter which ballooned to 22 by halftime. They cruised in the second half as the Wizards could never pull it down to single digits. The Big Three all played well: Pierce had a game-high 28 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists; Ray Allen had 17 points; Kevin Garnett had a monster double-double: 22 points, 20 rebounds, along with 5 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks. KG submitted the top highlight as he completely stuffed Gilbert Arenas, right back in his face.

Rajon Rondo was the surprise of the game as he had 15 points and 4 steals. He consistently showed the ability to get to the basket and finish. If he can score in double digits, more than once every few weeks, this team will be hard to beat. Even Scalabrine got into the act as he had 9 points (including back-to-back three pointers). Pierce, Allen and KG came out with a few minutes left to a standing ovation.

This was just one game. It's pointless to read into anything beyond this particular performance against an overmatched Wizards team. Lots of Patriots in the house: Bob Kraft and his wife, Seau, Welker, Adalius Thomas, Wilfork (haha, wearing a Wilfork#75 Celts jersey), Maroney and Chad Jackson. It was cool to see a Beat the Colts message for the Pats on the jumbotron during a break. Ellsbury and Wakefield also made an appearance with the World Series Trophy. It looks like it should be a fun season, seeing how this Celtics team develops. There's very few dominant teams in the NBA and arguably none in the Eastern Conference so it's wide open. I'm psyched that I already have tickets to four other games. With the Sox done for a while and the Pats in mid-season, it'll be nice to have another team to get into during the long winter months. I love college basketball but it'll be a bonus to have a competitive NBA team. The Celts hit the road tomorrow to face the Raptors.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Feeling Green All Over

The 2007 NBA season has begun and tomorrow is the start of easily the most-anticipated Celtics regular season for as long as I can remember. After finishing with the second-worst record in the league last year (including an 18-game losing streak), the Celtics looked to be headed on a fast train to nowhere. Boston pulled off a draft day deal for perennial All-Star guard Ray Allen but the move was met with little enthusiasm. However, things changed immediately when the C's landed Kevin Garnett in a massive swap with the Timberwolves. Suddenly, Boston was back on the map.

To go anywhere in the NBA, you need at least two stars. Better make that three. With a high-scoring trio, you can write yourself a ticket to the playoffs and hopefully dream of even bigger things. At this moment, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are the top three in the league. I know, I know. It's certainly close with Duncan, Parker and Ginobli fresh off a ring while Nash, Marion and Stoudamire are breathing down their necks. The Celtics big three just edges them out since each are in their prime for the next 2-3 years. They're all hungry too since none have appeared in the NBA Finals.

Rajon Rondo will be the starting point guard while Kendrick Perkins will be the center. Neither of these guys will be a first team All-NBA pick anytime soon but that's fine. All they have to be is OK and things will work out. Rondo is extremely athletic. He's a great defender and can get to the rim with some good distribution to teammates. His big liability is the jumper. It's non-existent. If he can develop any sort of outside threat or mid-range shot to keep defenders honest, he'll be golden. Perkins has shown flashes of being a good defender and solid rebounder. He brings some toughness to a team that has been a doormat in the Eastern Conference the last two seasons. Perks' problem is staying on the court. He is a foul-machine. He'll need to be more careful as his only real backup will be Scot Pollard, who is pretty much employed these days for comedic purposes.

Eddie House and James Posey are two other much less hyped pickups but they'll each play important roles. House is a great scorer and Posey is a capable defender and 3-point shooter. Tony Allen was just coming into his own last season before a freak injury put his career in jeopardy. He's back this season but all reports say he's still somewhat hobbled by the knee injury. Again, he doesn't have to be a star. He just needs to fill a role. Same story with Leon Powe, Brian Scalabrine and Glen Davis. Rookies Gabe Pruitt and Brandon Wallace probably will pick up a bunch of DNP's unless an injury thrusts them into the spotlight.

Who's the class of the East? Detroit and Chicago seem like the top teams. Miami, New Jersey and Cleveland have a ton of questions. The Celtics could be right there at the end of the season. It'll be interesting to see how Garnett, Allen and Pierce each respond to being the No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 guy on different nights. Nobody else in the league can match the scoring potential of these three if they're on their games. Bottom line, the NBA is actually back in our city. The glory days are long gone but we're excited for a new era to begin.