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Monday, March 31, 2008

Does this even count?

Fielding a team with only nine healthy players (including six who have played in the D-League this season), the Miami Heat didn't put up much of a fight against the Celtics last night at the Garden, losing 88-62.

Miami (13-60) was held to 17 field goals, a record low in the shot clock era. 18 points in the third quarter was the high for the Heat in this one.

Boston (58-15) played well early and got the starters out before anyone was hurt. Leon Powe came off the bench with a game-high 17 points and 13 rebounds. Kevin Garnett had 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists in 22 minutes while Paul Pierce and Ray Allen both scored 10 points. Sam Cassell had nine points and Rajon Rondo added eight.

Ricky Davis and Chris Quinn (8 assists) led the Heat with 14 points apiece while Blake Ahearn notched 12 points in the loss.

The Celts magic number is now three, to secure the top seed in the Eastern Conference and home-court throughout the playoffs. Boston is six games up on Detroit with each team having nine games remaining.

This contest was never in question as Boston jumped out to a 32-13 lead after the first quarter and 50-30 at the half.

The Celtics travel to Chicago tomorrow night to take on the Bulls, who are out of the playoff picture and most likely will stay that way.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Bring on the Washington Generals

With last night's 112-92 win over the New Orleans Hornets at the Garden, the Boston Celtics (57-15) have now beaten every team in the NBA this season. They join the Utah Jazz as so far, the only two teams to have accomplished that impressive feat.

Paul Pierce flirted with a triple-double, 27 points, nine assists and six rebounds, Kevin Garnett had 21 points, 13 rebounds and four assists. Rajon Rondo scored 17 points with four assists, once again holding his own against MVP candidate Chris Paul.

The Celts blew out New Orleans (49-22) in the second half, outscoring them 56-32. Paul led the Hornets with 22 points, 10 assists and three steals. Peja Stojakovic had 17 points, David West was held to 14 (after torching Boston for 37 last Saturday), Tyson Chandler had 11 points and eight boards while Bonzi Wells had 13 points and seven rebounds.

New Orleans actually led 60-56 at the half but completely fell apart in the second half and couldn't match the C's superior defense.

Leon Powe was still hot with 12 points and seven boards while Ray Allen added 12 points.

Boston shot 59.5% as a team, holding New Orleans to 43.6%. The C's were great at the line (20 of 22) while the Hornets (15 of 26) left something to be desired. The glass was owned by Boston (40-29) and they had nine more assists (26-17). Amazingly, New Orleans had only seven turnovers for the game and Boston had six.

This was the last marquee game of the regular season for the Celts. The remaining ten games are against mostly weak teams in the Eastern Conference. The Miami Heat-who can hardly be termed an NBA squad these days-limp to the Garden on Sunday for their expected beating.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Celtics smoke Suns with spectacular second half

The Boston Celtics proved once again that they're the best team in the NBA, defeating the Phoenix Suns, 117-97 last night at the TD Banknorth Garden.

A game that was tied at 57 at the half was blown open as the Celts (56-15) locked down the Suns (47-24) in the second half, outscoring them 60-40.

All five Boston starters scored at least 13 points, led by Kevin Garnett's 30 points, six assists, two steals and two blocks and Paul Pierce's 27 points, six rebounds and four assists. KG was the constant force all night while Pierce heated up in the fourth to put it away.

Ray Allen added 14 points and eight assists while Rajon Rondo notched 14 points, six rebounds and six assists. Kendrick Perkins did a good job guarding Shaq and posted 13 points and 10 boards.

For Phoenix, Amare Stoudemire led the way with 32 points (22 in the first half) and six rebounds while Boris Diaw had 15 points, five rebounds and five assists. Shaq was actually pretty decent with 16 points and seven boards while Steve Nash was held to 12 points and nine assists. Raja Bell (5), Grant Hill (4) and Leandro Barbosa (2) were all MIA as they combined for 11 points.

Even with the addition of Shaq, the Suns still don't stand much of a chance of winning that elusive title. They have too many terrible defenders (Nash and Amare) that they need out there for their scoring.

The difference between the teams was pretty clear as the Celtics can play some defense while the Suns can't. That's one of the C's greatest strengths, they can adapt to whatever style they face this season and still win.

Phoenix shot 55.9% and still lost by 20 which is hard to do. Boston was 52.3% but they made five more free throws and outrebounded Phoenix by 14 (41-27), including 13 more offensive boards (17-4). The Suns also turned it over 21 times leading to 30 Celtics points. You're never going to beat Boston when you turn it over that much.

It was a nice win for Boston after two consecutive losses. Next, New Orleans comes into the Garden Friday. The Hornets are the only team the Celtics haven't beaten this season (although they've only played that one game). New Orleans won another close one last night in Cleveland as David West hit a jumper with less than a second left. Tomorrow night should be great.

Harden excels before inevitable DL trip

The second Red Sox-A's game in Japan wasn't much of a contest as Rich Harden completely outpitched Jon Lester in a 5-1 A's win.

The injury-prone Harden pitched six innings, giving up only three hits, one run, three walks and striking out nine. When healthy, he is one of the top pitchers in baseball but that has been a big if as he's missed most of the last two seasons with injuries.

Lester (as he is prone to do) got into too many jams, walked too many guys and eventually left too early. Hopefully, he can curb this problem early in his promising MLB career but this is almost all we've seen since he debuted two summers ago. Lester went four innings, giving up five hits, four runs, three walks and four strikeouts.

The big hit of the game was provided by Emil Brown (surprise!), who cranked a three-run homer of Lester in the third. Manny had a solo homer in the sixth off Harden but that was about the only highlight for the Sox from the game.

Former Red Sox Keith Foulke and Alan Embree combined to pitch the final two scoreless innings for the A's, kicking a little more dirt on the Sox's grave. Oh well, the odds of both of those guys lasting through the year without getting injured are slim at best.

So now, the teams come back to the United States and have another exhibition series with other teams before meeting in Oakland next Tuesday for another Opening Day, kind of. The memories from the last two days will last Red Sox fans a lifetime, or maybe until next week. Who knows.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Manny For All Lands

It figures that Manny Ramirez seemed to be least effected by the change in scenery for the Red Sox season-opener in Japan. We've known for a long time that Manny is not from this planet.

Down 2-0 to the A's in the first then 4-3 going into the ninth, the Sox were bailed out by rookie Brandon Moss, who hit a tying home-run off closer Huston Street. Moss was a last minute addition to the lineup after J.D. Drew hurt his back in warmups (too easy).

That laid the groundwork for a crazy 10th. First, Manny added his second two-run double of the game (but thinking it was gone, he stood and admired it at home plate). Papelbon came on for the save but was shaky as the A's kept getting on. He lucked out when Emil Brown doubled but tried to advance to third. He was promptly gunned down.

Oakland's next batter got a hit (meaning Brown would have tied the game) but Papelbon eventually got Kaz Suzuki to ground out to end it.

Not surprisingly after the game, Manny was named MVP-which in Japan is accompanied by a check for a million yen (10,000 dollars). A man could get used to that.

Dice-K was brutal through two innings, needing 60 pitches to get the weak A's lineup out. He somewhat settled down, going five innings, giving up two runs, two hits, five walks and six strikeouts. He gave up a solo homer to Mark Ellis.

We'll give him a pass since it was opening day and the pressure he faced coming back to Japan was insane.

Dustin Pedroia-hitting leadoff-had two hits and Moss had two hits and two RBIs. The home run was the first of his major league career. Jacoby Ellsbury made a sweet catch in center in the eighth.

Oakland third baseman Jack Hannahan hit a two-run bomb off Kyle Snyder in the sixth, giving the lead back to the A's.

Hideki Okajima got the win after pitching a scoreless ninth before his old home fans.

The win was a nice, albeit strange way to start the 2008 season.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What the phuck!

I admit, I didn't see much of the Celtics-Sixers game last night. Every time I paid attention, Boston seemed to have a comfortable 6-12 point lead. I thought it was in the bag.

Obviously, I was surprised when I looked up late in the fourth and saw the Celtics were down eight. The Sixers held on to win 95-90 at the TD Banknorth Garden. Philly (36-35) put it away by going on a 19-0 run in the fourth that the Celts (55-15) couldn't recover from.

The 76ers love to run and they've been playing really well lately with Andre Iguodala (game-high 28 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals) and Andre Miller (20 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists) setting the tone. Rookie Thaddeus Young (16 points, 9 rebounds) and Samuel Dalembert (12 rebounds) also contributed to the win.

Amazingly, this is the first time all season Philly has been over .500. They could be dangerous in the Eastern Conference playoffs (something you can't say of some of the teams jockeying for the 6-8th spots). The Sixers could end up as high as fifth seed.

Kevin Garnett (18 points, 5 rebounds) played well but the same can't be said for the rest of his teammates, except for Leon Powe (16 points and 7 rebounds in 22 minutes). Ray Allen was held to 14 points (6 assists) and Paul Pierce only managed 12 points. Rajon Rondo had seven assists and three steals but just six points, way down from his recent scoring binge. Eddie House added 11 points in the loss.

The C's led 28-22 after the first quarter and 52-48 at the half. After beating the Sixers in all three of their earlier meetings, the Celts seemed to be in good shape. Boston outscored Philly, 19-18 in the third but they crashed and burned in the fourth, getting dominated, 29-19.

The stat of the game was the 76ers advantage at the line: 15 more free throws made (30-15). Philly also outrebounded Boston by eight (42-34) which nullified the Celts crisp passing (28 assists on 34 baskets).

Boston has now lost two in a row, a rare occurrence this season. They'll have their hands full on Wednesday too as the Phoenix Suns (who had won seven in a row before losing to the Pistons in OT last night) come to Boston. The C's will be looking to knock off the Suns after Phoenix beat Boston on its West Coast trip (right after they acquired Shaq).

Monday, March 24, 2008

Are you ready for some baseball? Me neither.

With March Madness heading into the Sweet 16 and the NBA regular season ending soon, who has had time to notice baseball?

The fact that the Boston Red Sox won the World Series last fall and start this season with two games in Japan vs. the A's (tomorrow morning at 6 a.m.) makes it feel like the off-season flew by.

Don't get me wrong, I love baseball. It's just that it doesn't feel like baseball time on March 25. I think baseball really arrives when the weather in the barren Northeast cracks 60 degrees regularly and every other sport has wound down.

Nothing says summer like watching a baseball game on TV with your favorite beverage. Or even better, attending said game in shorts and a t-shirt (what a concept). Although, the first month of the baseball season is truly the only time you care about your fantasy team until you quickly realize they're hopeless.
I'm not going to do a straight team preview-mostly because I'm sick and my mind is too clouded to think of anything half-original.

I will say that I think baseball is the hardest professional sport (currently) to repeat as champions. Sure, the NFL-the model of parity-can make that claim too but no season is as chock full of unexpected injuries, slumps and breakout seasons as baseball. We can agree a 162-game regular season is crazy, right?

With all that said, the Sox enter this season with probably the best chance in my lifetime to repeat. They brought back nearly every influential piece of last season's team while addressing minor needs (getting rid of Mirabelli and picking up Sean Casey).

It seems to have the perfect blend of youth (Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Papelbon, Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Bucholz), superstars (David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Josh Beckett) and veterans (Mike Lowell, Tim Wakefield, Jason Varitek).

Sure expectations are at a nearly unreachable level (World Series or bust!) but how many times do you go into a season this loaded with so few questions. The Boston Red Sox enter the 2008 season as the team to beat in MLB. It's all come full circle.

With cold medicine hopefully in full effect, I probably won't make the 6:07 a.m. first pitch tomorrow morning with Dice-K on the mound but when the Sox come back to the States on April 1st (for the A's home-opener), give me a call.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Hornets are for real

In a game where Rajon Rondo (23 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals) outplayed MVP candidate Chris Paul (19 points, 7 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals) it was surprising that the Hornets still found a way to win, 113-107 in New Orleans.

Paul got into foul trouble (5 fouls) and had to sit for much of the fourth quarter. Still, when he came back in he hit the two biggest shots of the game, a desperation jumper and a 3-pointer to keep New Orleans (47-21) in front. David West was unstoppable all game, scoring a game-high 37 points on a variety of jumpers and drives.

Boston (55-14) lost because it fell apart in the fourth quarter, getting outscored 37-17. Paul Pierce had a team-high 28 points and six rebounds while Kevin Garnett posted a double-double with 19 points, 12 rebounds and four assists. Ray Allen was the other high-scorer with 17 points and six boards.

The Celts jumped out to a 36-23 lead after one, quieting the biggest crowd of the season at a Hornets game. Boston led by 10 (65-55) at the half.

The two players that sparked the Hornets when Paul was out where Bonzi Wells (12 points, 8 steals) and Jannero Pargo (15 points, 6 assists). Peja Stojakovic had 13 points but he shot just 3 of 13 from the floor.

Turnovers were the story of the game as Boston committed 21 turnovers, which led to 32 Hornets points. New Orleans' nine turnovers only led to nine points for Boston. This negated all the great numbers the Celtics had (55.4% shooting, 44-29 rebound advantage). The Hornets made eight more free throws (25-17) and nine more steals (13-4).

It was the last stop on the Celtics five-game road trip and they finished an impressive 4-1. The Hornets come to Boston next Friday for the rematch. Make no mistake, New Orleans was impressive. They won despite their best player having (for him) an off-night. Next time out, I'm sure the Celts will pay more attention to West though who is deadly from anywhere inside the 3-point line.

Philadelphia comes to the Garden tomorrow night.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Suck It Cuban

Regardless of what happens tomorrow night in New Orleans against the Hornets, the Celtics road trip has to be considered wildly successful.

With last night's 94-90 win over the Mavericks (44-25), the Celtics (55-13) completed the extremely rare sweep of the dreaded Texas Triangle. In doing so, they became the first team since the Kings in Nov. 2001 to complete the task.

After missing the last three games, Ray Allen came back with a vengeance last night, hitting the biggest shot of the game (a 3-pointer with 30 seconds left that put the C's up two). Allen sat for a good portion of the fourth but he still managed 21 points. Paul Pierce (22 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks) and Kevin Garnett (20 points, 13 rebounds, 3 steals) also did some fine work all game.

The key to the win for Boston was its defense. Josh Howard led the Mavs with 24 points and six rebounds while Dirk Nowitzki had 22 points, 19 boards and six turnovers. Jerry Stackhouse added 17 points while Erick Dampier and Brandon Bass both notched 10. Oh and since the Mavericks picked up Jason Kidd (2 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals), they're 0-7 against teams over .500

For the game, Boston held Dallas to 39.3% from the floor. The C's are now 24-2 when they hold opponents under 40%. Even though Boston couldn't shoot (34.5%), they got to the line more (30-35 vs. 18-24) and took advantage.

Nowitzki was having a great game until the fourth quarter-a common theme to him this season. He was 0-6 in the fourth and only scored on two free throws while the C's continually harassed him into forced, tough shots.

Boston also made the most of its steals advantage (10-2) and only turned the ball over eight times which is amazing on the road.

All of this offset some terrible shooting by almost every Celtic. Rajon Rondo (0-7) and Sam Cassell (1-9) combined to go 1-16, Pierce was 6-14, Allen was 7-17 and KG was 7-22. James Posey was another standout, with 12 points (including a clutch 3-pointer) and four rebounds.

The road trip comes to a close tomorrow night as Boston travels to New Orleans to take on the only team they haven't played yet in the NBA this season. Everyone keeps waiting for the Hornets to fade but they're back in the top spot in the West so they seem pretty legit. It'll be fun to see Chris Paul (currently the best point guard on the planet) up close. I feel like he should be getting much more MVP consideration for the job he's done so far.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

March Madness

You can smell it in the air friends, March Madness is almost upon us. And with this wonderous occasion, I thought it'd be clever (and no I'm not drunk at the moment but now that you bring it up, I kinda wish I was....) to share my picks while also indicating which kind of beer the particular team would be.

College and beer, they're about as synonamous as peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese, chips and salsa, buffalo chicken subs and blue cheese, you get the picture.

Guinness beer: with St. Patrick's Day this past Monday, all your Irish friends probably had this pumping through their veins as much as blood since last weekend. A beer that has a complicated presentation when you're at a bar (the cans are badass too), it is truly a treat to have a Guinness. These are your top of the line teams that you can bank on. They're going deep in the tournament.

Harpoon beer: a regional beer that's brewed in Boston, it's slowly gaining some momentum as fratboys (and the girls they rufee) realize Sam Adams isn't the only beer to come out of Beantown. You expect a few wins out of these teams just like you expect a good night if you're drinking Harpoon.

Yungeling: the most underrated beer I can think of. People in Upstate NY, NJ and PA are all about this stuff and you would be too if you weren't stuck without this affordable lager. Similarly fans of this team know they have something special on their hands. These are the underdog teams that can hang with the big boys. Get a few in you and they taste like something even better.

Bud Light: an everyman beer, no doubt you've had one in your collegiate career, you're probably watching an ad on TV for Bud Light as we speak. The point is, Bud Light is not a terrible beer, it's just omnipresent. You can't avoid seeing it just like you can't miss these big conference teams that are shoved down your throat all season. They might get a win or two but they're not going anywhere except that late-night party next weekend, they'll be free by then.

Red Dog: sure there are worse beers in the world but not many. Just like these teams aren't that bad (they are in the tournament stupid, though probably because of an automatic bid from a joke conference) but you'd have to be a toothless hillbilly or a college freshman/lush to seriously choose Red Dog or these teams with a straight face over anything else short of your own urine. Red Dog is always a stop on the blackout express.

East Region
(1) North Carolina vs. (16) Mt. St. Mary's-Psycho T and his homeys roll
(8) Indiana vs. (9) Arkansas-the definition of an 8-9 game, neither team is good
(5) Notre Dame vs. (12) George Mason-Patriots start two guys from the Final Four
(4) Washington State vs. (13) Winthrop-Eagles have made it four years in a row
(6) Oklahoma vs. (11) St. Joseph's-such an obvious upset, it makes you hesitate
(3) Louisville vs. (14) Boise State-where's Jared Zabransky when you need him?
(7) Butler vs. (10) South Alabama-should be one of the best first-round games
(2) Tennessee vs. (15) American-one can only hope Erin Andrews is nearby

Guinness: UNC, Louisville
Harpoon: Notre Dame, Washington State
Yungeling: St. Joseph's, Butler, South Alabama, George Mason, Winthrop
Bud Light: Indiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee
Red Dog: Mt. St. Mary's, Boise State, American

Midwest Region
(1) Kansas vs. (16) Portland State-Portland State could be in for a whoopin'
(8) UNLV vs. (9) Kent State-two very solid teams that you've never seen
(5) Clemson vs. (12) Villanova-two underwhelming choices
(4) Vanderbilt vs. (13) Siena-a trendy upset pick, Vandy is as soft as they come
(6) USC vs. (11) Kansas State-Mayo scores under 15 and still declares for NBA
(3) Wisconsin vs. (14) Cal-State Fullerton-should set offense back 20 years
(7) Gonzaga vs. (10) Davidson-it's a shame one of these teams has to go out early
(2) Georgetown vs. (15) UMBC-Hibbert takes dumps bigger than UMBC's biggest player

Guinness: Kansas, Georgetown
Harpoon: Wisconsin
Yungeling: Kent State, Siena, Davidson
Bud Light: UNLV, Clemson, Villanova, Vanderbilt, USC, Kansas State, Gonzaga
Red Dog: Portland State, Cal-State Fullerton, UMBC

South Region
(1) Memphis vs. (16) UT Arlington-thanks for playing Mavericks
(8) Mississippi State vs. (9) Oregon-the Ducks are a 9-seed, really?
(5) Michigan State vs. (12) Temple-don't be surprised when the Spartans fold
(4) Pittsburgh vs. (13) Oral Roberts-can Pitt. make a run in the tourney?
(6) Marquette vs. (11) Kentucky-for the love of God, don't let Wildcats advance
(3) Stanford vs. (14) Cornell-if you're that smart, who wouldn't choose Cali?
(7) Miami (FL) vs. (10) St. Mary's-Hurricanes are complete frauds, even Irvin knows
(2) Texas vs. (15) Austin Peay-Augustin is filthy

Guinness: Texas
Harpoon: Memphis, Pittsburgh, Marquette
Yuengling: Temple, St. Mary's, Oral Roberts
Bud Light: Mississippi State, Oregon, Michgan State, Kentucky, Stanford, Miami
Red Dog: UT Arlington, Cornell, Austin Peay

West Region
(1) UCLA vs. (16) Mississippi Valley State-over by halftime
(8) BYU vs. (9) Texas A&M-Mormans can ball says Mitt Romney
(5) Drake vs. (12) Western Kentucky-Drake could be exposed here
(4) UConn vs. (13) San Diego-will the real Huskies show up?
(6) Purdue vs. (11) Baylor-where have I been, Purdue is good again?
(3) Xavier vs. (14) Georgia-don't kid yourself, Bulldogs have no shot
(7) West Virginia vs. (10) Arizona-can you say, toss up?
(2) Duke vs. (15) Belmont-teams could combine for 25+ 3-pointers

Guinness: UCLA, Xavier
Harpoon: Drake, UConn
Yungeling: Western Kentucky, San Diego, Baylor
Bud Light: BYU, Texas A&M, Purdue, Georgia, West Virginia, Arizona, Duke
Red Dog: Mississippi Valley State, Belmont

The Final Four
UNC, Kansas, Texas, UCLA

The Title Game
Kansas vs. UCLA

And the Winner.......

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

How the hell did the Rockets win 22 in a row?

Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster and aliens (not including Sam Cassell), just a few examples of life's great mysteries. To that distinguished list you can add the now completed 22-game winning streak by your Houston Rockets.

The thing is while the first three parts of that list are hard to prove to anyone except rubes, hippies and shit for brains scientists, somehow the Rockets really did win all those games.

I guess I'm missing something because after watching the Celtics (on the second night of a back-to-back) dominate the host Rockets, 94-74, I'm wondering if Houston (46-21) will even make the playoffs.

Before you start suspecting that I'm smoking crack, check out the Western Conference standings. Houston is the top seed but they're only 4.5 games in front of No. 8 Golden State. And how could a team that just had the second longest win-streak in NBA history fall apart? Well, after last night's whipping, they go to New Orleans tonight, then Golden State and Phoenix. Sure, Yao Ming went out during game 13 of the streak but there is no way this team makes any noise for the rest of the season. Let's not forget what fraud is leading them-Tracy McGrady (8 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds)-who has won as many NBA playoff series' as me (none).

Oh yeah, the game. It was pretty entertaining from start to finish as Rafer Alston (12 points, 2 steals, 1 assist, 4 turnovers) had a cat fight with Rajon Rondo (8 points, 2 assists) before the game had even started. Uh OK. I guess Skip thought he was back on the And-1 tour or something. Charles Barkley not surprisingly had a great line about it after the game. "Two guys fighting that don't know how to fight."

It was clear from that auspicious start that the Rockets came out tight, most likely since they knew Boston (54-13) was a far superior team and therefore their win-streak was cooked.

The two halves were completely different. And from the way the Celts have come out after halftime the last two nights, Doc Rivers must be giving some real inspiring speeches.

The C's doubled up the Rockets, 32-16 in the third before taking the fourth, 22-18. Ray Allen missed his third straight game with the ankle injury and his namesake Tony Allen (6 points, 3 rebounds) didn't fare much better as he left in the third after being suplexed by Luis Scola (15 points, 8 rebounds) onto his back.

Kevin Garnett (22 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks) didn't have his shooting touch (9 of 21) but he was still the best player on the court. The surprise of the game was how much Leon Powe (21 points, 4 rebounds) dominated on the inside. Without Yao, Houston starts Mutombo (2 points, 6 rebounds), who was around when the pyramids were built.

Paul Pierce (20 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals) had another nice game while James Posey was scoreless but grabbed 10 rebounds.

The Rockets rely way too much on 3-pointers but in the first half they made a few so they were right in it. Houston was up 22-21 after one and it was tied at 40 at the half.

Some guy named Mike Harris that I'd never heard of had 12 points, six rebounds and two blocks while Aaron Brooks had 10 points in garbage time. Smoke and mirrors people, this team is a complete joke, particularly in the West.

The Celts get tonight off before going into Dallas tomorrow night for another TNT primetime game. The Mavs are 0-6 against teams that are above .500 since they traded for Jason Kidd. If Boston can defeat the Mavs, they'd be the first team since the Kings in 2001 to win all three games in the Texas Triangle.

Furthermore, in these two games (and hopefully the next two), Boston has proven without a doubt that they're the best team in the league. The Lakers were right there but Pau Gasol just got hurt and Andrew Bynum isn't coming back until the playoffs. The Spurs look old and not deep, the Suns still can't play defense, the Hornets have no experience and the Mavs choke in the fourth quarter of close games.

Everything can change in the blink of Big Baby's eye but if all goes well, the Celtics should be in the NBA Finals come June.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Did you really think the Celtics would lose on St. Patrick's Day?

Last night could not have started any worse for the Celtics but nobody will remember that as they eventually came away with a thrilling, 93-91 win at the San Antonio Spurs.

Watching championship week on ESPN last week, I remember former Vermont men's basketball coach Tom Brennan talking about how a team getting out to a big lead too early can strangely enough be the kiss of death as they get complacent.

That theory was on display last night as the Spurs (44-23) couldn't do anything wrong for the first quarter and a half. They led Boston (53-13) 28-11 after one quarter and by as much as 22 points in the second before the Celtics fought back to cut it to 10 at the half.

The win was a complete team effort as Sam Cassell (17 points, 5 rebounds) settled down Boston in the second with 10 points while Rajon Rondo (20 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals) had his best quarter in the NBA: 12 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists in the third. Paul Pierce (22 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists) took over in the fourth and Kevin Garnett (21 points, 8 rebounds) was steady all game. Ray Allen missed his second straight game as he recovers from an ankle injury.

The Celts used a 15-2 run to start the third and take the lead. From there, the game was back and forth the rest of the way.

Manu Ginobili (game-high 32 points, 4 rebounds) was unstoppable all game while Tony Parker (17 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds) and especially Tim Duncan (10 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks) were shut down when it mattered most.

The fourth quarter had the look and feel of a playoff game. There were big plays all around. Eddie House hit a 3-pointer, Cassell hit a three (prompting Kendrick Perkins on the bench to imitate Sam's big balls dance which Sam obliged him with) and Rajon Rondo turned in the hustle play of the game as he gathered a Garnett miss and was fouled. He calmly hit the two free throws and put Boston up four with under a minute left.

Parker got a layup then KG threw away the ensuing inbounds pass (he was about to be called for 5-seconds) and Bruce Bowen intercepted it. Wouldn't you know, Big Shot Bob-Robert Horry-got a decent look at a 3-pointer (which would have won it) but it hit the side of the rim at the buzzer.

The Celtics also got a break in the fourth when Ginobili's attempt at an And-1 lay-in somehow rimmed out after being down (it spun around for a good two seconds, just wild).

San Antonio was desperate for a win as they've now lost four in a row which is a death sentence in the Western Conference. Impressively, since the end of last season the C's are now 3-0 against the Spurs. Tim Duncan had never lost to them until last St. Patrick's Day.

Things don't get any easier as the Celts go to Houston tonight to take on the Rockets, winners of their last 22 in a row. It's the second-longest streak in NBA history. No guarantees but a win against the Rockets would be another notch on the belt of this team that can once again claim the moniker of best in the league.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Thanks for Playing Bucks, Drive Home Safely

I was away on vacation in the Outer Banks for the last week so I missed the Celtics games (but I did read about them online and check the scores on the bottom line).

To catch us up to speed, the Celtics (52-13) had four comfortable wins, stretching its win streak to 10 in a row before falling to the Utah Jazz on Friday at the Garden (110-92). Ray Allen hurt his heel in the loss and as a consequence, sat out last night at the Bucks.

It didn't really matter though as the Celtics dominated, 99-77. The Bucks (23-43) completely rolled over and gave a pathetic performance for an NBA team. With March Madness almost upon us, this being Selection Sunday and all, it made you wonder why the NBA even bothers playing games in March? Maybe the league could take a vacation or something because nobody will be paying attention for the next few weeks.

With that said, the Celts have their toughest road trip of the season (not including last night) this week which should make for some great games. They play the Spurs Monday, Houston on Tuesday (who will hopefully be looking for their 23rd straight win), Dallas on Thursday and finally the Hornets on Saturday. 2-2 is a realistic expectation as Boston is going up against four of the best in the West (records not withstanding). They can win every game or they could lose each one.

A little more about the Bucks game. Kevin Garnett led the way with 19 points while Eddie House of all people had 17 points. Paul Pierce had 13 points and seven boards while Rajon Rondo added 13 points, four boards and four assists. The newest members of the team looked good: Sam Cassell had 10 points, five assists and three steals while P.J. Brown had four points, nine boards (six offensive) and four assists.

The outcome was never in doubt as Boston led 25-19 after the first quarter and 53-35 at the half. Nothing changed in the second half with the Celtics taking a 75-52 lead into the fourth.

The Bucks received 16 points from Charlie Bell (one of the Flintstones!), 15 from Michael Redd and 10 from Charlie Villanueva. Speaking of the Flintstones, where do you think Mateen Cleeves is these days? My first two gueses would be working at McDonald's or at Tom Izzo's house, cleaning his toilet and waxing his car.

Milwaukee's season is down the tubes (even in the East which is saying something) with Andrew Bogut and the immortal Yi currently sidelined. This forced Dan Gadzuric (0 points, 4 rebounds in 16 minutes) into the starting lineup while Michael Ruffin and Jake Voskuhl came off the bench. Three of the great stiffs of the last ten years, on the same team, simply amazing.

Boston shot 51.9% while the one-shot and out Bucks were 34.1%. The Celts had 13 more assists (28-15).

In the grand scheme of things, last night meant nothing. It was one of those useless NBA games that dot each team's schedule. Oh well, the real fun starts tomorrow night in San Antonio.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Can't Wait Until May

We can't get too ahead of ourselves: It is still the regular season but you have to admit, last night's 90-78 Celtics win over the Pistons was pretty awesome. Boston (47-12) not only clinched the season series with Detroit (44-17), 2-1, they also wrapped up a playoff spot (on March 5!) and put the Pistons five games back in the loss column as the teams vie for the top seed in the East.

Is their any doubt that the Pistons and Celtics will meet in the playoffs, most likely in the Eastern Conference Finals? Sure, the Cavs will always have a chance with LeBron in the lineup (who dropped 50 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists on the hapless Knicks last night) but Boston and Detroit are two of the best teams in the game. Plus, the East is a joke.

After the game, the veteran Pistons-who have been to five straight Eastern Conference Finals (including two NBA Finals and one title), downplayed this loss and why wouldn't they? There's still plenty of time left before the games really matter. Even though Detroit is so tough, Boston would obviously prefer to have home-court since the Pistons are very hard to beat at the Palace.

Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, Detroit came out real flat in the first quarter as Boston jumped out to a 23-13 lead after one. The teams both put up 24 in the second and the C's held a 47-37 lead at the break.

Everyone knew the Pistons would find a way to climb back and not surprisingly they did just that in the third quarter (30-22). The Celts deserve a ton of credit though for hanging tough and shutting down the Pistons in the fourth quarter (21-11).

Kevin Garnett scored a season-high 31 points (including 12 straight in the second quarter), grabbed six boards and dished out three assists. The other star of the game was Kendrick Perkins, who had 10 points, a career-high 20 rebounds and two blocks. Rajon Rondo scored 16 points with five assists while Paul Pierce scored 15 points, grabbed five rebounds and had three assists. The Truth also hit the biggest shot of the game: a 3-pointer which put Boston up four late in the fourth. Ray Allen had just three points but submitted eight rebounds, five assists and no turnovers so he wasn't completely useless.

Chauncey Billups (7 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks) and Rasheed Wallace each had a team-high 23 points. Billups took over in the third, scoring 18 points as he abused Rondo while also getting some help from the officials who gave him an absurd 12 free-throws in the frame. Richard Hamilton scored 15 but the Celts held Tayshaun Prince to seven points (10 rebounds, 5 assists) and Antonio McDyess to five.

Outside of KG and Perk, and thinking about the possible playoff matchup, the biggest storyline to take from the game was the weakness of the Pistons bench. The Celtics bench (on not their best night by any means) outscored them 15-5 for the game. Obviously, Detroit will usually get more production than that but it bodes very well for the C's (especially with Sam Cassell and P.J. Brown waiting to debut)chances of getting out of the East. Glen Davis had seven points and four rebounds, he was by far the best player off either bench.

Boston shot 46.1% and held Detroit to 36.4%. The Celtics owned the glass (50-38) and were more unselfish (23-16). Even in a relatively low-scoring game, turnovers were at a premium, Boston had 11 and Detroit only had eight.

Unfortunately, the two teams won't meet again in the regular season which is a shame given how weak the Eastern Conference is this year. There's something about this Celtics team that makes you love their chances in their playoffs. They have the right combination of young guys and hungry veterans. It should be an exciting final six weeks of the season and playoffs (for the first time in three seasons).

Chicago comes to the Garden tomorrow night. It's also the last game of the season series (Boston is up 2-0) and the C's should beat the disappointing Bulls.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Bad Timing

I had meant to write something about those lovable Boston Bruins the other day but I forgot. Of course, last night they went to the Washington Capitals and got an old-fashioned dick-stomping, 10-2. The loss snapped the Bruins six game win streak. The good thing for the B's is that they don't have much time to think about that dreadful performance as they come home tonight to face the Florida Panthers.

Still, the Bruins who are overlooked by almost everyone deserve a little attention. As boring as they are and similarly the NHL, they're 35-24-6, good enough for the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference with 76 points. With only 17 games remaining until the playoffs start (when the NHL actually gets interesting), the Bruins look like a good bet to make the playoffs.

Sure, they could choke and just miss out on the playoffs. Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised at all given their recent pathetic team history but the fact that they didn't make any moves during the trade deadline, have dealt with a ton of injuries and yet are now playing their best hockey of the year is almost inspiring. Almost. I read about their games the next day but have to say that I can barely sit through more than three minutes of action, even with the esteemed Jack Edwards going bananas over something as mundane as a blocked shot or face-off win.

Marco Sturm is the leading goal-scorer with 23 while Marc Savard leads the team with 74 points (60 assists!). Goaltender Tim Thomas has been solid, he's 23-15-4 with a 2.49 goals against average. Super-sized defenseman Zdeno Chara has had a great season, racking up 15 goals and 31 assists. Many say he's been the best defenseman in the league. The biggest surprise has been rookie left wing Milan Lucic, who has unimpressive numbers-seven goals and 14 assists-but has endeared himself to Bruins fans with his willingness to throw down with any NHL tough guy.

After two years absence, it would be fun to see the Bruins back in the playoffs. Maybe that would slightly help NHL hockey come off life support in the Boston-area.

Straight Cash Homey for Three More Years

Did you really think Randy Moss was going to bounce after one season? He set the NFL record for touchdown catches in a season but came up one game short, losing the Super Bowl to the Giants and a chance at history with a perfect season.
After a few tense weeks (since the Patriots didn't franchise him), New England resigned Moss yesterday to a 3-year, 27 million dollar deal. 15 million is guaranteed and 12 million is part of a signing bonus.

It's been a busy few weeks in Foxboro as mostly they've been losing guys, rather than bringing them in or back. Donte' Stallworth got an absurd seven-year deal from the Browns, Randall Gay received a laughable four-year deal from the Saints and Asante Samuel followed the money to the Eagles. Plus, New England released effective but injury-prone Rossevelt Colvin and Eugene Wilson but resigned Tedy Bruschi to a two-year deal. Kelly Washington also got a two-year deal while Lonie Paxton and Larry Izzo signed one-year deals.

The Samuel move was predictable, there didn't seem to be any hope he'd be back. He's a very nice player but all he cares about is his bank account. The Stallworth and Gay deals were jokes and the Pats were shrewd to stay out of that. A great quote and teammate, Colvin leaving was sad but you could see the writing on the wall after he missed the end of this season (again). He also had a huge contract which he could never live up to. Wilson was M.I.A. since his first two seasons when they won the Super Bowl. Bruschi coming back for two years was a little surprising. If they had won the Super Bowl, I really thought he might retire, along with Junior Seau (who's status is up in the air).

At least with Moss back, the Patriots are assured that they're offense is set for the next couple of seasons. There were reports that he wanted to go somewhere with Daunte Cullpepper (his ex-Vikings teammate) but that might have been typical ESPN talking head bullshit. Supposedly, the Eagles made a bigger offer to Moss but he backed out at the last minute. Who knows and at this point, who cares.

Addressing all the holes in the defense is the big issue for rest of the Pats off-season. They own the No. 7 pick in the draft and where they go with that is anyone's guess. I'm just glad Moss woke up and made the right decision for his career. The best quarterback and wide receiver in the game deserve a couple more years together.

Hide the Old School Coors Lite

We have an alien sighting at the Garden. As expected, the Boston Celtics signed veteran point guard Sam Cassell yesterday after he had been waived by the Los Angeles Clippers.

It's a great move by the C's as they desperately needed a backup point guard going into the end of the season and more importantly the playoffs. Rajon Rondo has had an outstanding season but since he's only in his second year (and first in charge of a certified contender), it's smart to have somebody come in who has won two championships in Houston and seen it all in his 15-year career.

At 38-years-old, it's Sam's eighth NBA team: he's been on the Rockets, Suns, Mavericks, Nets, Bucks, Timberwolves, Clippers and now Celtics. He's played 115 games in the playoffs and has career numbers of 45.4% field goal percentage, 33.0% on 3-pointers, 86.1% free throw shooter, 15.9 points per game, 6 assists and 3.3 rebounds.

He's a winner, plain and simple. The Clippers made some noise two years ago in the playoffs but since then, they've completely fallen back to their losing ways with injuries, feuding and uninspired play. Boston now has insurance if Rondo isn't playing well, gets in foul trouble or for late game free throw shooting situations. Plus, it'll give him an extra tutor as his career continues to develop. Eddie House will get less minutes but that's OK since he was playing out of position. He's a scorer, not a distributor. And Gabe Pruitt shouldn't be in the NBA, he ain't ready.

Cassell is scheduled to have a physical today and join the team at the shootaround tomorrow before the Pistons game. His status for that game is up in the air but don't be surprised if he and P.J. Brown make their Celts debut tomorrow night.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Celtics firing on all cylinders

The Celtics beat the Hawks, 98-88, last night at the Garden. With Boston (46-12) likely to finish No. 1 or 2 in the Eastern Conference and Atlanta (24-33) looking like a safe bet to slide in at No. 7 or No. 8, these two teams could meet in the first round and no joke, the Hawks aren't a pushover anymore.

With recently acquired point guard Mike Bibby (14 points, 9 assists), emerging star Josh Smith (22 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks), all-star Joe Johnson (9 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals) and rookie of the year candidate Al Horford (14 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks), the Hawks are a young and dangerous team.

The Celtics fifth win in a row wasn't easy but Paul Pierce (game-high 30 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks), Kevin Garnett (20 points, 16 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals) and Ray Allen (17 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals) all played well. Kendrick Perkins continued his stellar play of late with 11 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and four blocks. Last night and the Bobcats win on Friday might have been the best back-to-back performances by Perk in the NBA.

Boston jumped out to a 26-22 lead after the first quarter but Atlanta went into halftime up 44-41 thanks to a sad 15-point second frame by the home team.

Pierce, who only had seven points in the first half went to work in the third quarter, scoring 17 points as he was on fire from everywhere. It was also KG's most complete performance since coming back from the abdominal injury. He was a force on both ends and had a sick behind the back pass down low to Glen Davis (6 points) for a reverse layup.

The Hawks never really went away but the C's took the third (29-23) and the fourth (28-21). Josh Childress (12 points, 4 rebounds), who still has the exact same goofy 'fro for the Hawks was decent. Rajon Rondo had six points, eight assists and two steals but he was just 2-of-11 from the floor, a vintage performance from last season's nightmare.

Boston shot 44.6% for the game to Atlanta's 39.5%. Neither team did much from downtown as the Hawks were a woeful 3-for-16 and the Celts were 7-for-21. Atlanta (21-28) curiously got to the line more (17-21) but the C's had eight more assists (26-18) and five more steals (9-4).

The Celtics practice the next few days before what has been called their regular season game of the year with the Detroit Pistons at the Garden on Wednesday. It's the third and final matchup of the season between the two top teams in the East. The first two contests were great with each team winning on the road.

Boston likely will have some reinforcements too as Sam Cassell was released by the Clippers on Friday and is expected to join the C's today as long as he clears waivers. P.J. Brown could also make his Celtics debut against the Pistons. It should be another classic and with the Celts up 3.5 games on Detroit, a win on Wednesday would go a long way towards wrapping up the top seed in the playoffs.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Rondo is my Dad

It's a proven fact in sports that for whatever reason, some teams always seem to give you trouble, even when they have less talent. Such is the case with the Boston Celtics this season and the Charlotte Bobcats. The Celts (45-12) held off the pesky Bobcats (19-39), 108-100 at the Garden.

It was the third time the teams have met this season. Boston won the first on a Ray Allen buzzer-beating 3-pointer and lost the rematch in the Garden.

Charlotte only had nine players last night since Gerald Wallace and Sean May were out. The C's were up all game, by as much as 17 but they had a hard time putting the visitors away.

Rajon Rondo had one of the best games of his young career with nine points, a career-high 16 assists, six rebounds and two steals. Kendrick Perkins added 19 points, nine boards and five blocks. Ray Allen scored 23 points and pulled down five rebounds.

Boston led 33-28 after the first quarter and 61-46 at the half. Jason Richardson had a game-high 30 points and six rebounds for the Bobcats and Raymond Felton flirted with a triple-double: 22 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds.

Charlotte took the last two frames, 26-25 and 28-22. Former Big East standouts starred for Charlotte as Matt Carroll had 16 points and Emeka Okafor contributed 11 points and seven boards. Rookie Jared Dudley from BC even got into the action with nine points, seven rebounds and three steals.

For the C's, Kevin Garnett had 17 points and nine boards while Paul Pierce's cold-streak continued as he managed just 13 points. Leon Powe scored nine and Glen Davis tossed in seven.

The Celts shot 47.7% for the game to the Bobcats' 40.2%. Charlotte made a few more 3-pointers (11-9) and free-throws (23-17). Assists were the story thanks to Rondo's remarkable performance, the Celts had 11 (33-22) more dimes.

Up next, the Hawks come to the Garden tomorrow night. The Celts haven't seen Atlanta yet this season and there's a decent chance they could see each other in the first round of the playoffs (don't laugh).