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Thursday, December 30, 2010
If you want to blame Kevin Garnett's injury on me, I'll accept it.
It has not been a banner week for myself since my cable went out on Tuesday night which means no DVR and it won't be fixed until Friday. FML! I knew the karma from that was bad since I had seen almost every Celtics and Bruins game this season up until the other night.
So obviously I was covering a high school basketball last night when I scanned Twitter for a few minutes and noticed it was blowing up. What was the cause? Oh just another possible serious injury to KG. No matter where I was when I found that out, I wouldn't have been happy but sitting in a rotten mood at a boring high school game was about the most helpless feeling I can remember in a while.
Watching the endless replays when I got back to the office, it happened in the first quarter when he went up for a dunk. He wasn't touched by anyone but as he elevated, something clearly got tweaked in his right leg. It was eerily similar to the injury in Utah two seasons ago that ended that campaign. He was also kicked in the leg by Monte Ellis last season which made him miss some time.
More than anything, I feel bad for KG since he's worked so diligently to return to form at a time when most had all but written him off. The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn wrote a column today about how Jermaine O'Neal and Shaq have to take control inside now with KG out. What planet am I on? That was one of the dumbest things I've ever read, doesn't Washburn watch this team every night? This isn't 2001, no matter how much time Garnett misses, his production falls to Glen Davis, not the two fossils we have at center.
After the game last night, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers and the journalists that cover the team tried to calm everyone's fears by saying it was a calf injury, not a knee injury. Garnett is scheduled to have an MRI today, fingers crossed.
There was a game last night in the Palace of Auburn Hills and the Detroit Pistons beat the Boston Celtics 104-92.
The Pistons (11-21) received a team-high 21 points and eight assists from Tracy McGrady (I can hardly believe it), Tayshaun Prince had 18 points, Charlie Villanueva scored 14 points while Ben Gordon (12 points), Austin Daye (12 points) and Chris Wilcox (10 points) all reached double figures.
The Celts (24-6) were led by Paul Pierce (33 points, 8 assists, 4 steals) but Ray Allen (12 points, 7 rebounds) and Glen Davis (12 points) seemed to be the only Cs to do anything outside of the Truth.
I don't feel the need to rehash this forgettable game and poor performance.
Boston comes home to host the New Orleans Hornets tomorrow afternoon in a New Year's Eve special start time (3 p.m.). Rumors are swirling that Rajon Rondo - who's been out six straight games - might return to take on Chris Paul but we shall see.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
I can't put a finger on it as to the exact reason why (which doesn't matter) but the Boston Bruins are back to playing good hockey.
They won their third straight game, 4-3 last night over the Tampa Bay Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum, in what will definitely go down as one of their most start-to-finish exciting contests of 2010-2011.
Three times the Bruins (20-11-4) went ahead by a goal, only to have the Lightning (21-11-5) respond each time by tying it up.
However, Mark Recchi wouldn't let Boston go to overtime for the second consecutive night as he scored a clutchtastic goal on a snap shot with 20 seconds left in regulation.
None of that would have been possible without more top-notch goaltending by Tim Thomas (31 saves). Conversely, Tampa Bay goaltender Dan Ellis (25 saves) is the weak link that will hold back one of the NHL's most dynamic, explosive teams from reaching their full potential (sound familiar Washington Capitals?).
Michael Ryder got the party started early for the Bs he notched a power-play goal 28 seconds into the game, from Recchi and Dennis Seidenberg.
Steven Stamkos, the savior of my terrible fantasy hockey team, answered with a power-play strike of his own less than seven minutes later from Brett Clark and Ryan Malone.
A nice moment occurred in the second period as Bruins rookie defenseman Steve Kampfer scored his first NHL goal, from Marc Savard and Nathan Horton.
Back from a broken hand, Vincent Lecavalier tied it at 2 at 14:02 in the second period from Sean Bergenheim and Pavel Kubina.
That set the stage for a thrilling third period as Brad Marchand (returning after missing 3 games) scored from Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell. Yes, it is annoying how much Julien chooses to play the fourth line at times but you have to admit that they've been great so far this season.
Thomas' old UVM teammate Martin St. Louis tied it one last time at 3 with help from Stamkos and Kubina.
Recchi's game-winner was assisted by Patrice Bergeron and Seidenberg.
Tomorrow night is the middle game of the Bruins' five-game road trip and it could be a messy one: vs. the Atlanta Thrashers, who had a wannabe MMA battle in Boston last Thursday night.
No doubt Milan Lucic will be at the center of it all after he was targeted last week and later fined for a punch on Freddy Meyer while he was held by the referees.
Don't forget to tell all your friends in Atlanta that love hockey, oh nevermind.
Marquis Daniels got off to a good start last season (his first with the Boston Celtics) but then injuries and inconsistent minutes led to him being buried on the bench by the end of the season and especially in the playoffs.
Fast forward to this season and outside of Glen Davis (the de facto center with Shaq/the Ghost of Jermaine O'Neal out constantly), I'd say that Daniels has become the Celtics' most important reserve. He's quiet but he lets his countless tattoos and solid, versatile all-around game speak for themselves.
With Rajon Rondo out for the fifth straight game and my Twitter buddy Nate Robinson playing terribly, it was up to Daniels last night to take over and change the complexion of the game as the Celts (24-5) won 95-83 over the Indiana Pacers (13-16) at Conseco Fieldhouse (isn't it precious that the lemmings of Indiana call their NBA building a Fieldhouse?).
In 31 minutes, Daniels had 12 points, five rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal as he took advantage of the six inches he had over Pacers point guard T.J. Ford.
Indiana was ahead by small margins for most of the game but since they're not very good, you had a funny feeling that the Celts would turn it on at some point, particularly coming off their bad performance on Christmas vs. the Magic.
Paul Pierce had a game-high 21 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Ray Allen scored 17 and Kevin Garnett added 11 points, 13 rebounds and three assists. Davis posted 14 points off the bench, Shaq had nine points before fouling out for the second straight game and Robinson had eight points despite receiving six stitches above his eye after butting heads with Mike Dunleavy (9 points).
Brandon Rush led Indiana with 17 points and seven rebounds. Star Danny Granger was held to 15 points on 5 of 21 shooting. Darren Collison (10 points) was the only other Pacer to score in double figures.
The Pacers jumped out to a 26-19 lead after one quarter and were up 47-45 at halftime. Boston cut it to one point after three quarters (67-66) before doing work in the fourth quarter (29-16).
For the game, Boston shot 50.7% to Indiana's 37.2%. Neither team made many 3-pointers (6-5 Boston), the Pacers hit five more free throws (20-15) and grabbed two more rebounds (41-39). Three more assists (18-15) and four more blocks (5-1) were enough for the Celtics to walk away with the win, likely the start of another win streak.
Tonight the Cs are in Detroit to take on the hapless Pistons. Boston pounded them early in the season (Nov. 2) and even though this is a back to back (ie. meaning any wacky shit can happen in the NBA), I expect more of the same.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
The Florida Panthers are one of those special franchises in pro sports that is too easy to make fun of. Between their location, non-existent fan base and pathetic jerseys, you almost feel bad for them.
Despite a slow start to their five-game road trip, the Boston Bruins (19-11-4) did just enough to come away with a 3-2 shootout win over the Panthers (16-17-1) last night at the BankAtlantic Center, for their first shootout victory of the season.
As always this season, this win started and ended with Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas (32 saves). He not only leads the NHL in goals against but also save percentage which I believe pushes him to the front of the line in terms of most valuable player in the league at the moment (sorry Sidney Crosby).
The two points simultaneously vaulted Boston into a first-place tie with Montreal in the Northeast Division while also carrying over their fine play from last Thursday against the Thrashers.
Other than Thomas, the stars for the Bruins were David Krejci (2 goals), Michael Ryder (2 assists) and Blake Wheeler (1 assist, only shootout goal). Yes, I just wrote that sentence. Perhaps Boston's most frustrating trio have been reunited on a line (they were great together in 2008) and so far, the returns are very positive.
After a scoreless first period, Panthers forward David Booth scored at 1:02 of the second period thanks to a misplayed pass from Bs defenseman Steven Kampfer. Michael Frolik assisted on Booth's shot which was a snipe from close range that Thomas didn't have much time to react to.
Krejci responded with the tying goal at 9:05 in the second. After fine work and shots from Zdeno Chara and Ryder, Krejci was able to get his backhander past Florida goaltender Scott Clemmensen (40 saves).
Panthers forward Mike Santorelli scored a controversial goal later in the second period when he seemed to tip Frolik's shot from the point with an obvious high stick. Surprisingly, the goal stood with Bryan Allen picking up the other assist.
It looked like a classic Bruins road no-show as more than half of the third period had gone by and Florida still led 2-1. However, Krejci stepped up (for one of the only times so far this season) and scored a pretty backhander off an equally gorgeous feed from Wheeler and Ryder at 10:35.
Boston carried play in overtime but couldn't pot the winner. Thomas stopped all three Panthers shooters he faced in the shootout (of course) and Wheeler scored after Tyler Seguin was stuffed.
The Bruins will need to play much better tonight as they travel to Tampa Bay to face the high-scoring Lightning, co-leaders of the Southeast Division with the Washington Capitals.
Monday, December 27, 2010
The New England Patriots just made things much easier for themselves moving forward by absolutely humiliating the hapless Buffalo Bills in front of their sad-sack fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium yesterday in Buffalo.
The 34-3 beating thrown by the Pats (13-2) to the Bills (4-11), their seventh straight victory, clinched another AFC East title for them. More importantly, it ensured they would have home field throughout the AFC playoffs and the No. 1 seed.
So all the Patriots have to do is win two home playoff games and then they'll be in the Super Bowl, February 6 in Dallas. Let's not get too ahead of ourselves though, they've still got plenty of work to do before we're talking Duck Boats and rolling rallies. However, they've done everything they possibly could do in the regular season.
Buffalo had actually come into yesterday winners of four out of their last six but as usual for the last couple years, they gave the Patriots one tough game (38-30 on Sept. 26) at Gillette then laid down at home late in the season.
Tom Brady (15 of 27, 143 yards, 3 touchdowns) set the NFL record for consecutive pass attempts without an interception. Bernie Kosar had the old mark (308) but Brady is already well ahead of it (319). He hasn't thrown an interception since his two vs. Baltimore (Oct. 17) which is insane.
Equally impossible to wrap your mind around is the fact that it's been nine games since New England has had a turnover. They only have nine total this season; the NFL record for fewest in a season is 13.
The Bills lost yesterday because they had seven turnovers (4 fumbles, 3 interceptions). Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (18 of 37, 251 yards, 3 interceptions) has had a nice season but you wouldn't know it from yesterday's debacle. He looked like he was back at Harvard if the Ivy Leaguers had traveled to face an SEC school, just completely overmatched.
Buffalo received the opening kickoff and marched down the field, mostly behind Fred Jackson (13 carries, 81 yards), but they had to settle for a 26-yard field goal by Rian Lindell. Ironically, that would turn out to be the only points for the Bills.
Danny Woodhead (93 yards rushing, 32 yards receiving) answered with a 29-yard rushing touchdown later in the first quarter.
New England sewed up the game and the AFC East with 17 straight points in the second quarter. Buffalo native Rob Gronkowski hauled in his first of two touchdown catches (8 yards), Shayne Graham kicked a 34-yard field goal and veteran Alge Crumpler added a 4-yard touchdown catch (his first of the season). It was nice to see the former All-Pro, who is primarily a blocking machine for the Patriots, get rewarded with a goal-line look.
Gronkowski's second 8-yard touchdown grab, in the third quarter, tied him with Ben Coates for the Patriots' rookie tight end touchdown record (9). With Aaron Hernandez sitting out yesterday with a hip injury, Gronk took advantage and helped boost his candidacy for NFL offensive rookie of the year.
Graham's 26-yard kick in the fourth quarter was the game's final points.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis had 104 yards rushing on 19 carries. Patrick Chung, Dane Fletcher and Jarrad Page registered interceptions while Jerod Mayo, Sergio Brown, Eric Moore and Fletcher recovered fumbles.
The Pats host the Dolphins on Sunday in the regular season finale. The game means nothing at all to either team so it'll be interesting to see how much New England's stars (Brady, Branch, Welker, Wilfork, McCourty, Mayo, etc.) play. As you'll remember, Bill Belichick hates to sit anybody that is healthy and with a bye week in the playoffs, expect everyone to play a decent amount.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
We all enjoyed the Boston Celtics' 14-game win streak but it came to a crashing halt yesterday afternoon as they went ice cold in the fourth quarter and lost 86-78 to the new-look Orlando Magic at the Amway Center.
At least it happened on Christmas so you either didn't watch, didn't really pay attention or were too drunk on egg nog and gift giving to care.
As bad as both teams played for most of this game, this was one that the Celtics (23-5) let get away. Other than going down 13-0 in the first quarter (which they quickly answered with a 13-0) spurt of their own, they led for almost the entire game until they couldn't hit a shot or make a play in the fourth quarter and the Magic (18-12) suddenly couldn't miss.
The reason I don't fear the Magic is that we beat them in the Eastern Conference Finals last season and that was with a severly limited Kevin Garnett (22 points). Everything that Orlando does is built around Dwight Howard (6 points, 11 rebounds, 5 blocks) but he still is in his infancy as far as post moves and his offensive game (outside of dunks) is concerned. Shaq fouled out in 13 minutes yesterday and zombie Jermaine O'Neal returned and we still completely shut him down.
Paul Pierce added 18 points and Glen Davis had 16 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
For the Magic, Brandon Bass (21 points, 9 rebounds) was the spark for them when Howard was in foul trouble and generally couldn't get anything done offensively. Hedo Turkoglu had 16 points and Jameer Nelson added 12 points.
Off the bench, J.J. Redick (11 points) and Ryan Anderson (10 points) did a solid job.
In all the games that Rajon Rondo has missed, it is easy to point to this one as the game in which they missed him the most. Nate Robinson (7 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 of 15 shooting) was miserable and without Delonte West, the Celts offense was out of whack.
Boston led 20-19 after the first quarter and 46-36 at halftime. The Celts were up 63-57 after three quarters before they fell apart in the fourth (29-15 Orlando).
The Magic shot 39.4% which is normally grimy but it was more than enough yesterday. Boston shot a pitiful 34.6% and even worse, the Magic hit seven more 3-pointers (11-4). Orlando had six more rebounds (45-39) and six more blocks (9-3).
The Cs will try to start a new win streak on Tuesday when they travel to Indiana to take on the Pacers.
Friday, December 24, 2010
With all the dark clouds surrounding the team and head coach Claude Julien, it's hard to imagine a much more promising result than they one the Boston Bruins turned in last night at TD Garden: a 4-1 beating of the Atlanta Thrashers.
Whatever happens, this will go down as one of the best games of the season as an unsung hero (Shawn Thornton) netted two goals and even better, the whole team stood up for each other late in the third period when Atlanta scrub Freddy Meyer took a run at Bruins star Milan Lucic.
After losing four of five and looking mostly terrible for the last month, it was a good sign that the players haven't tuned out Julien and for once, they played with a little heart and didn't stand by idly when an opponent took a cheap shot at one of their teammates.
Patrice Bergeron got the game off to a rousing start when he potted a short-handed goal just three minutes into the contest. Dustin Byfuglien couldn't keep the puck in the offensive zone so Bergeron stole it and skated in on Thrashers (19-13-5) goaltender Ondrej Pavelec (32 saves) and waited him out before tucking it behind him.
Boston (18-11-4) exploded for two more goals early in the second period. Michael Ryder joined Lucic and Nathan Horton in double digits with his 10th goal of the season. It was a rocket snap shot on the power play from Bergeron and Dennis Seidenberg.
From there, it was the Shawn Thornton show. He had begun the night by fighting Eric Boulton two seconds into the game (really). The only true old school tough guy on the roster reached his career high in goals with a pair of sweet ones. First he one-timed a pass from Adam McQuaid (and Daniel Paille) at 5:00 (less than a minute after Ryder's goal).
Byfuglien got Atlanta's only goal a few moments later, from Evander Kane and Bryan Little.
This was Thornton's night (and he could have had a hat trick since he almost tapped one in during the first period) and he capped it with a goal-scorer's move (forehand to backhand) to make it 4-1 Bruins 4:54 into the third period.
Tim Thomas made 26 saves in a relatively quiet night by his standards. Truth be told, if Pavelec hadn't stood on his head, this could have easily been 6-1 or 7-1.
Go to hockeyfights.com if you didn't catch the insane ending of the third period. It will probably go down as Boston's biggest fight of the season. Kane fought Lucic in a heavyweight bout. Little and Marc Savard (who had his best game since last season pre-concussion) squared off. Andrew Ference took on Anthony Stewart and got a face full of blood but earned plenty of respect.
Looch could get suspended since he took a late shot at Meyer while he was tied up with the refs. Although as Jack Edwards hilariously pointed out, "his legs were jelly right there." Indeed, Meyer seemed to embellish it, with any luck the NHL agrees.
All we can hope is that this intensity and passion carries over to after Christmas. They begin a five-game road trip in Florida on Monday night.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
There's no other way to explain the Boston Celtics' latest win streak (their fifth longest in the franchise's glorious history) besides the health and remarkable play by the Big Three: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
Boston (23-4) didn't even play well last night other than a key stretch in the fourth quarter and that was enough to get by the Philadelphia 76ers, 84-80 at TD Garden. The Celtics won their 14th straight game, the longest streak in the NBA so far this season.
Ray Allen led the Cs with a game-high 22 points and six assists. Shaquille O'Neal added 13 points and nine rebounds, Kevin Garnett had 12 points and seven rebounds while Paul Pierce notched 11 points and Nate Robinson (still subbing for Rajon Rondo) had nine points.
Based mostly on their young talent and athleticism, the 76ers (11-18) are a tough matchup for the Celtics these days. Forget their record, they've played them as close as you can in the first two meetings this season.
Elton Brand led Philadelphia with 16 points and 12 rebounds, Jrue Holiday added 15 points, Louis Williams notched 12 points and ex-Celtic Tony Battie (yes, he still plays in the NBA) had 10 points, six rebounds and four blocks.
Philly shot 43.1% to Boston's 38.8%. 3-pointers were rare (6-2 for Celtics) and the Sixers made six more free throws (22-16). Boston had five more assists (19-14), four more steals (0-4) and three more rebounds (43-30). The Cs doubled up the Sixers on fastbreak points (14-7) and almost twice the amount of points in the paint (34-18).
The Celts get a couple days off before their Christmas meeting with the Magic in Orlando. It'll be a totally different look team since the Magic traded for Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas last week in two massive deals. They needed to shake something up since they're really starting to lag in the Eastern Conference behind the Celtics and (gulp) Miami Heat.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
It's a good thing most people were stuck in traffic last night during this winter's first snowfall (haha only two or three inches) or simply forgot the Boston Bruins had a home game against the Anaheim Ducks (on Versus).
Hopefully you missed the latest horrorshow in a season that is totally resembling last season in terms of its lack of consistency. The Ducks blanked the Bruins 3-0 at the TD Garden in front of a lifeless crowd, Boston's (17-11-4) fourth loss in its last five games.
I brought it up last Thursday when they lost to the Canadiens but it's time to really examine whether Bruins head coach Claude Julien is the right man for this job anymore. The team appears lost and there's no excuse because they have too much talent (especially in goal) to be this average.
Anaheim (18-15-4) scored a goal in the first period and two in the second period but the real hero was goaltender Jonas Hiller (45 saves), who played the best game by an opposing goalie so far this season.
Boston goaltender Tim Thomas made 22 saves in one of his most invisible performances of his epic season thus far.
Something named a Brandon McMillan gave the Ducks a 1-0 lead off a rebound at 5:57 of the first period. Luca Sbisa and Teemu Selanne assisted on that tally.
Gregory Campbell fought Kyle Chipchura early in the second period but it didn't get the Black and Yellow fired up or anything.
Anaheim defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky made it 2-0 (from Saku Koivu and Selanne) while Corey Perry ended it with a short-handed goal from McMillan and Andy Sutton.
Short sidenote: the Ducks top line of Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan is the NHL's best. Just three young studs that can do it all.
We shall see if the Bs will bounce back on Thursday night when they host the red-hot Atlanta Thrashers (who kicked their ass in Atlanta a few weeks ago). Another no-show by his team and Julien is one step closer to a long vacation.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Every season in the NFL, your favorite team will undoubtedly have a what the fuck type of game. Last night, it was the New England Patriots' time to play terrible yet still limp away with a bizarre 31-27 win over the Green Bay Packers at Gillette Stadium.
Who could have predicted that with star quarterback Aaron Rodgers out and Matt Flynn starting that Green Bay (8-6) would give the Patriots (12-2) everything they could handle? That is before the third-year backup predictably choked when it mattered most.
Without question, no play summed up this strange game more than a 71-yard (NFL record) kickoff return by Patriots offensive lineman Dan Connolly. Yeah the Dan Connolly that is like 315 pounds and a nondescript backup lineman. That play (which is unlike anything we'll ever see again, even if we figure out how to live forever) fired up the Pats and helped them cut it to a 17-14 deficit at halftime.
In truth, this was a game that the Packers deserved to win. They had a nearly flawless gameplan, controlling the clock for 40:48 and keeping Tom Brady (15 for 24, 163 yards, 2 touchdowns) off the field. Where they failed is that they had to depend on Flynn (24 for 37, 251 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception) to thrive in situations he hasn't faced in a real game since his college days at LSU.
You knew Green Bay was playing for keeps when they attempted and recovered an onsides kick to start the game. New England held them to a 31-yard field goal by Mason Crosby but that showed the Packers wouldn't be deterred with their leader on the sidelines in one of those ugly camo team jackets.
On New England's first drive, BenJarvus Green-Ellis broke loose for a career-long 33-yard touchdown run.
Brandon Meriweather did what he does best - screwing up plays - as he ran into Devin McCourty (10 tackles) in coverage and allowed James Jones (5 catches, 95 yards) to catch a 66-yard touchdown to start the second quarter.
Greg Jennings' 1-yard touchdown catch gave the Packers a 17-7 lead with 2:17 left in the second quarter but that's when Connolly struck. If the Patrots win the Super Bowl, you know that improbable play will be front and center. It was insane. Not only did he throw a stiff arm, he also found the edge on the sideline and went all the way down to the 4-yard line.
Brady hit Aaron Hernandez for a 2-yard touchdown with 1:08 left in the half.
Another invisible player made a game-changing play for the Patriots early in the third quarter as Kyle Arrington picked off a terrible pass by Flynn, broke four tackles and returned it 36 yards for the score.
Down 21-17, you had to think maybe Flynn and the Pack would start to fold then but to their credit they didn't. They left that to the more epic moment.
John Kuhn's 6-yard touchdown catch gave Green Bay a 24-21 lead in the third quarter then Crosby added a 19-yard kick early in the fourth quarter (not going for it on fourth-and-1 proved costly).
Shayne Graham hit a 38-yard kick to cut it to a 27-24 Green Bay advantage. Then the Patriots defense finally got a three and out Brady hit Hernandez for another touchdown (10 yards).
The ending was ugly (how else would it be?) but a Dane Fletcher sack and a Tully Banta-Cain sack and forced fumble (recovered by Vince Wilfork) ended it.
Brandon Jackson had 22 carries for 99 yards as the Packers ran much better than they should with the bums they used.
Danny Woodhead led New England with 59 yards rushing on just nine carries. Green Bay was the first team to shut down both Wes Welker (3 catches, 42 yards) and Deion Branch (2 catches, 33 yards).
Jerod Mayo led the Patriots defense with 16 tackles.
With two games left (at Buffalo and vs. Miami), the Patriots just need one more win to clinch the AFC East and home-field throughout the playoffs.
The steamroller known as the Boston Celtics continues to find ways to win (even without Rajon Rondo).
Yesterday afternoon, Paul Pierce notched a triple-double (18 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds) as the Celtics (22-4) won their 13th straight game, 99-88 over the Indiana Pacers (12-14) at TD Garden.
Nate Robinson and Glen Davis (off the bench) also added 18 points apiece for Boston. Ray Allen notched 17 points, six rebounds and six assists while Shaquille O'Neal had 11 points (all in the first quarter) and Kevin Garnett put up nine points and nine rebounds. Marquis Daniels had eight points off the bench for the Celtics, who are pretty much rotating eight healthy players (Semih Erden has a hurt groin and Von Wafer's back is acting up).
You have to give former Celtics head coach Jim O'Brien credit, the Pacers are no longer a pushover. They have some legitimate young talent and I wouldn't be surprised if they snuck into the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Danny Granger led Indiana with 19 points, Roy Hibbert added 17 points and 14 rebounds, Darren Collison had 15 points while T.J. Ford (13 points) and Mike Dunleavy (10 points) had nice games off the bench.
Boston led 30-23 after one quarter and 51-48 at halftime. Neither team could make shots in the third quarter (18-17 Celtics) which can be attributed to the early start and the Cs got it done in the fourth quarter (30-23).
The Celtics shot 53.9% to Indiana's 35.4%. Boston had six more assists (23-17) but five more turnovers kept the Pacers in it (18-13). The Cs had nine more fastbreak points (23-14) and 10 more points in the paint (40-30).
They are currently riding the seventh-longest win streak in franchise history and they'll look to extend it on Wednesday when they host the Philadelphia 76ers, who have been playing well since they took Boston to the limit a few weeks back in Philly.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
I can't remember a better off-season haul for the Boston Red Sox then the one they are currently dominating.
After inking Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, Theo Epstein has addressed their final big need: help for their terrible bullpen.
Once again, Theo and the minions came through, signing former White Sox closer Bobby Jenks and former Rays set-up man Dan Wheeler.
Jenks was signed to a two-year deal, worth $12 million on Thursday and yesterday, Wheeler (a Warwick, RI native) signed a one-year deal with a team option for 2012.
The best parts about these deals is that they're low risk (less than three years) and pretty minor money for some legitimate guys that are not coming off major injuries.
If you watched the Red Sox last season, you know that closer Jonathan Papelbon had a miserable year and you have to be worried about how he'll bounce back this season. Thankfully, Boston has not only Daniel Bard but now Jenks (27+ saves every season since 2006) to throw in the mix.
It's clear that the Red Sox are probably going to dump Papelbon after this season since some team will overpay him when he's obviously on the downslope of his career. The life of a top-notch closer is a short one unless you're not human (looking at you Mariano Rivera).
The thinking with Wheeler is that he'll be a sixth or seventh inning guy. Now all the Red Sox need is a decent veteran lefty and I'd say they're set (although a better catcher would also be nice) for what should be a fascinating 2011 season.
It was not pretty and they only played one good period (a superb first) but it was just enough for the Boston Bruins to escape with a 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals last night at the TD Garden.
The win snapped Boston's (17-10-4) three-game losing streak and also extended Washington's (18-12-4) skid to eight straight losses.
If you even a passing interest in hockey, please check out HBO's 24/7 about the Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. It debuted last week and it's a buildup for their Winter Classic on New Year's Day. It's hard to imagine how Caps head coach Bruce Boudreau is acting in the locker room and at practice now that his team is completely off the rails. If they lose a couple more games, right or wrong he'll most likely be unemployed.
There are two reasons the Bs won: 1) they went up 3-0 in the first period and 2) they have Tim Thomas (39 saves) who is still playing absolutely bananas and is the top goaltender in the NHL, it's not even debatable.
Patrice Bergeron gave Boston a 1-0 lead at 3:27 off assists from Blake Wheeler and Adam McQuaid.
Andrew Ference scored his first goal in 99 games (really) as the Bs took a 2-0 lead less than five minutes later. Brad Marchand and David Krejci assisted on that one.
After a Washington timeout, McQuaid fought Capitals forward Matt Bradley.
At the time, it didn't help the Caps at all as Wheeler capped his incredible period with a goal from Bergeron and Johnny Boychuk.
Given the urgency of the game and the opponent (who was even more desperate), this was one of Boston's best periods of the season.
Bradley got Washington on the board in a second period off assists from David Steckel and Matt Hendricks.
Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth (18 saves) looked really shaky in the first period but Boudreau stayed with him and he was rewarded as he didn't allow another goal.
Some scrub named Karl Alzner scored off a shot from the point in the third period as Washington made it 3-2 Boston but they couldn't force overtime as Thomas made countless crazy saves.
It's a big week for Bs as last night was the start of a three-game homestand against quality teams: Washington, Anaheim and Atlanta. The Bruins host the Ducks tomorrow night.
Friday, December 17, 2010
Sitting at the TD Garden last night with my girlfriend as the Boston Celtics took on the Atlanta Hawks, there was only one thing to say after Boston's balanced 102-90 win: this team is a machine.
With Rajon Rondo out for a few weeks nursing his ankle injury, Nate Robinson (14 points, 5 assists, 3 steals) and Paul Pierce (15 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists) took over ball-handling duties and did a fine job as the Celts (21-4) won their 12th straight.
Clearly, not having Rondo for a prolonged period of time is not a recipe for success but this squad has more depth than they did two years ago or last year and most importantly, Kevin Garnett (17 points, 14 rebounds) is back to being the Big Ticket and not another washed up veteran.
Ray Allen added 18 points and five assists, Semih Erden scored 10 points (as Shaq took another night off) and Glen Davis - Mr. Sixth Man of the Year - notched 18 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.
When Von Wafer exited with a back injury, the Celtics were left with nine healthy players. Yikes. That meant some run for Avery Bradley, who got abused repeatedly by Jeff Teague (18 points) and Luke Harangody, who did hit two jumpers.
The Hawks (16-11) hung around for awhile but with two of their studs - Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford - out and Josh Smith (1 point in 34 minutes) looking like Ben Wallace's dad, they were bound to fail.
Marvin Williams had a career-high 26 points for Atlanta, Mike Bibby had 11 points and Zaza Pachulia was the only other guy in double-figures with 10 points which is always a good sign.
Boston was up 22-20 after one quarter and 44-43 at halftime. It only took one real run in the third quarter (31-26) for the Celtics to build enough of a lead to hang on. They also played well in the fourth quarter (27-21).
For the game, both teams shot at a high percentage (Boston 53.0% to Atlanta's 50.0%). The Cs had three more 3-pointers (6-3) but the Hawks made way more free throws (19-8) and four more rebounds (37-33). Boston won because of their passing (28-16 in assists), two more steals (12-10) and six less turnovers (18-12). A 50-36 points in the paint advantage also helped their cause.
The Celts will try and get a little more healthy (can't believe I have to worry about Wafer) before they host the Indiana Pacers on Sunday afternoon.
Oh god damn it, why must the Boston Bruins torture us so much?
After sleepwalking through the start of last night's game at the Bell Centre in Montreal, that was enough to give the Canadiens a 4-3 win.
The Bruins (16-10-4) scored each goal as they frantically tried to scramble from an early 2-0 deficit but it wasn't enough as they suffered their third straight loss.
At this point, I'm with Mike Felger - the Bruins need to seriously shake this up and there's only two ways to do that: 1) make a big trade or 2) fire head coach Claude Julien. Since you know they won't do the first choice, I'll take door number two.
This team has no balls and they're on cruise control as per usual. They'll make the playoffs but then they'll fall apart as they always do in the spring. After all, they've lost three straight Game 7s.
Ok, end of rant. Losing to Montreal (19-11-2) is never fun but especially on a night like last night when a win would have vaulted the Bs to a first-place tie (and theoretically snapped them out of this latest funk).
Unfortunately nobody gave Boston the memo that it was a big game. Michael Cammalleri earned a bogus penalty shot just 1:04 into the game and deked Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas (37 saves) for the 1-0 lead.
Maxim Lapierre (from Mathieu Darche, Alexandre Picard) increased it to 2-0 Montreal with a goal at 6:24 of the first period.
Blake Wheeler benefited from a lucky goal on Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (34 saves) to give Boston some life at 15:52 from Mark Recchi and Patrice Bergeron.
With 30 seconds left in the first period, the wheels fell off as a harmless pass from Max Pacioretty banked into the Bruins' net off defenseman Andrew Ference's skate. Scott Gomez and Jaroslav Spacek assisted on the complete gift which signaled serious trouble for the Bs.
This team is stubborn though and they cut it to 3-2 in the second period on Marc Savard's first goal of the season. He tipped a shot from Ference, Tyler Seguin also assisted by firing it back to Ference at the point.
Of course, nothing is simple right now for Boston so they had to give up another back-breaking goal late in the second period. Brian Gionta tipped a shot by Pacioretty with Gomez also notching an assist.
Milan Lucic tallied a power-play goal at 15:10 in the third period, from Bergeron and Savard. Lucic tipped Bergeron's shot from the point, for his team-leading 16th of the season.
Believe it or not, Thomas actually played well and garbage like weak penalty shot calls and tough bounces just didn't go his way. He made a bunch of A+ saves that would not have gone most goaltenders' way.
If you've watched 24/7 Capitals-Penguins on HBO which premiered on HBO on Wednesday, you know what a mess the Caps are at this time. With that said, the Bruins are starting to go over the cliff too so Saturday night's game at the TD Garden is a really important one for both teams.
Time for the Bruins to step up or continue to spiral backwards in the Eastern Conference.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
There were a million reasons why the Boston Celtics should have lost to the New York Knicks last night at Madison Square Garden.
Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal were out, Rajon Rondo sprained his ankle badly and oh by the way, with Amar'e Stoudemire (39 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks) the Knicks (16-10) are a legitimate team for the first time in more than a decade.
New York showed why they came in riding an 8-game winning steak as they led virtually the entire game. However, when it counted (are you listening Bruins?) Paul Pierce (32 points, 10 rebounds) hit a patented jumper over Stoudemire with 0.4 seconds left giving Boston (20-4) a 118-116 win, their 11th straight victory.
Sure Stoudemire hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer but even Spike Lee (who has suddenly reappeared now that the Knicks are relevant again) couldn't possibly believe his new boy could hoist a shot in 0.4 seconds, it's impossible!
So there we go, the Celtics survived and it was thanks to their veteran moxie oozing from Kevin Garnett (20 points, 13 rebounds), Ray Allen (26 points), Rondo (10 points, 14 assists) and Glen Davis (11 points). Even Nate Robinson (9 points) made some plays in his return to MSG, but undoubtedly his most lasting contribution will be the face plant he took after he jumped on Pierce following the Truth's game-winner.
Since they've been down for so long, it is honestly nice to see the Knicks be important again in the NBA. New York is a great basketball city and they deserve a worthy franchise, not the smoldering wreck they've been for the last decade.
Stoudemire's MVP caliber play has led to the emergence of Raymond Felton (26 points, 14 assists) and Wilson Chandler (18 points, 12 rebounds). Danillo Gallinari is also a budding star, dropping all 20 of his points in the second half.
New York led 32-24 after one quarter after a hot start and 58-51 at halftime after Felton's running 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Both teams scored 32 points in the third quarter and the Celts got it done in the fourth quarter (35-26).
The Knicks shot 53.1% to the Celtics' 52.3%. New York hit more 3-pointers (9-7) and they each hit 21 free throws. Boston had four more rebounds (39-35), seven more assists (26-19) and six more steals (11-5).
The only thing that will hold New York back is their allergy to defense. Sure Mike Dantoni's style is fun to watch but when they get to the playoffs, it's been proven time and again that tempo doesn't work (Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors).
Bad news today that Rondo could be out for weeks with the ankle sprain. The Celts host the Hawks tonight in a TNT game.
After beating the Buffalo Sabres the first three times they met this season, you had to know that streak would end at some point.
Sabres forward Drew Stafford scored a hat trick last night at the HSBC Center as Buffalo (13-14-4) beat Boston (16-9-4) 3-2.
The frustrating part of the game (and the reason for the headline) was that the Bruins choked away two leads (1-0 and 2-1) and completely turtled when it mattered, stop me if you've heard that before with this team.
They had a goal by Brad Marchand (correctly) called back in the third period on which Shawn Thornton received a penalty for goaltender interference. Worse than that, Milan Lucic was called for a unsportsmanlike penalty late in the third period when the Bruins were scrambling for the tying goal. I don't know which is more sad, that the ref called it on Lucic for saying he was "a joke" while he was sitting on the bench or the fact that the Bruins' robot head coach Claude Julien didn't go crazy on that Bantam League call.
David Krejci opened the scoring at 17:29 in the first period when he tipped in a shot from Dennis Seidenberg. In what turned out to be a pattern, the Sabres quickly responded. Stafford followed up Derek Roy's shot off the post and got a power-play goal at 18:41. Tyler Myers also assisted.
Michael Ryder gave the Bs a 2-1 advantage with a pretty individual effort at 6:21 in the third period on the power-play.
Just 32 seconds later, Stafford scored his second on a one-timer from the slot. Roy assisted on that one too.
Next, Stafford had another power-play goal at 10:55 after a feed from Roy and Jason Pominville.
Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask had 32 saves while his Buffalo counterpart Ryan Miller also had 32 saves.
Tim Thomas should be in net tonight as the Bruins travel to Montreal. The Canadiens have lost three in a row so Boston needs to get two points to wipe away the bitter taste from last night's fiasco.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Why do we put up with Bill Belichick's boring interviews and personality and Tom Brady's ridiculous hair and sponsorships (Uggs, really?), because the two happen to be the best in the NFL and when it's all said and done, they will be on the short-list of all-time greats in NFL history.
The New England Patriots clinched a playoff spot yesterday and took two steps forward to winning the AFC East (thanks Dolphins) with a 36-7 blowout at Solider Field against the Chicago Bears, who were supposedly one of the NFC's top contenders.
Embarrassing a team that's led by quarterback Jay Cutler (12 for 26, 152 yards, 0 touchdowns, 2 interceptions) is not surprising at all but absolutely shredding Chicago's good defense in the wind, snow and freezing temperatures was unexpected.
However, after winning five in a row, smoking the Jets on Monday Night Football and going into Chicago and absolutely tearing the Bears apart (33-0 at halftime), nothing short of a Super Bowl victory will be tolerable in this season of amazing improvements.
Brady (27 for 40, 369 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions) continued his MVP landslide with more Madden numbers and efficiency (he hasn't thrown a pick in two months). Deion Branch (8 catches, 151 yards, touchdown) and Wes Welker (8 catches, 115 yards) have become the league's most formidable receiving duo while New England (11-2) still possesses plenty of other weapons: BenJarvus Green-Ellis (87 yards rushing), Danny Woodhead (rushing touchdown) and Rob Gronkowski (5 catches, 43 yards, touchdown) just to name a few.
It was enough to make you feel bad for the Bears (9-4) and the fine folks of Chicago until you remembered Cutler and Brian Urlacher are the two meatheads leading them to nowhere.
New England's defense is perhaps its biggest surprise since they've gone from a complete liability to dependable and capable of making big plays at any turn. They had four turnovers yesterday (2 interceptions by Gary Guyton and Brandon Meriweather and 2 fumble recoveries by Guyton and Jerod Mayo).
Gronkowski started the hit parade with a 7-yard touchdown catch from Brady at 5:47 in the first quarter.
The second quarter was when the Patriots put this one away with authority. Woodhead had a 3-yard touchdown run then Devin McCourty forced a fumble by Bears receiver Johnny Knox and Guyton returned it 35 yards for a score. Shayne Graham added two field goals (30, 25) and the final nail was a 59-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Branch on the last play of the first half. Lovie Smith is apparently a defensive genius but why his secondary wasn't playing prevent defense is beyond me. 33-0 Patriots at halftime after Graham missed the last point after.
The entire second half was elongated garbage time that basically revolved around whether the Bears would ever score (barely) and if Brady would come out at some point (yes). Graham had a 29-yard field goal and Chester Taylor finally got Chicago on the board with a 1-yard touchdown run.
From here, New England gets set for another prime time game: Sunday at Gillette vs. the Green Bay Packers. They might have caught a break (not that they need it) when Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers picked up his second concussion of the season yesterday in a loss to the Lions. Green Bay's only hope of winning (and making the playoffs) is if Rodgers is healthy enough to play. Matt Flynn was not good at LSU and I'm pretty sure that hasn't changed in the NFL.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Gotta love the NBA, where a bad team can outplay you for most of it and then you can steal the win with a last-second shot/defensive breakdown.
That was the story as old as time that unfolded last night as the Boston Celtics escaped with a 102-101 win over the 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Kevin Garnett (14 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks) took a lob pass from Rajon Rondo (19 points, 14 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals) and scored a lay-in with 1.4 seconds left, giving the Celtics (18-4) their ninth straight win. For good measure, KG stole the inbounds pass that followed that to ice it.
The Sixers (7-15) looked good as their young talent was thriving and sometime star Andre Iguodala (14 points, 11 assists, 5 rebounds) made two late baskets that appeared like it would equal a win.
Jodie Meeks led Philadelphia with 19 points (starting in place of rookie Evan Turner who was awful). Elton Brand played more like himself (13 points, 14 rebounds) than the ghost of the last few seasons. Jrue Holiday had 12 points and six assists while Spencer Hawes added 11 points and seven rebounds.
Thaddeus Young and Louis Williams (a certified Celtics killer) both had 16 points off the bench.
Ray Allen led Boston with a game-high 23 points, his second great game in a row. Paul Pierce (10 points) was silent all game but Glen Davis (16 points, 7 rebounds) continued to ball with both Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal out last night.
Boston shot 55.9% to Philadelphia's 45.7%. The Sixers owned the glass (39-33 overall, 15-5 in offensive boards) but three more steals (8-5) and blocks (6-3) helped the Celts clinch this tight one.
The Celtics go to Charlotte where they'll take on the Bobcats tomorrow night, a team they typically own, as they go for ten consecutive victories.
Is there a more irrelevant franchise in the big four pro sports than the New York Islanders? When you take out pointless expansion teams, I'd say the Isles are on the short list of that painful group.
As I predicted two days ago, last night was the optimal time to get two points (check) and give Tuukka Rask some real ice time (check).
The 5-2 win for the Boston Bruins (16-8-3) at the TD Garden looks good on paper but in truth, it was much uglier than that since the Bs had two empty-net goals.
It was a weird game, Boston had two power-play goals, a short-handed goal and the two empty-netters.
I guess it's only fitting that New York (5-16-15) also has one of the worst contracts of all-time in the NHL for Winthrop native Rick DiPietro hanging around Strong Island like an albatross (thanks English classes in college).
In case you forgot how bad DiPietro (32 saves) is (when he can actually get on the ice), he gifted Brad Marchand a short-handed goal at 14:40 of the second period. DiPietro cleared it right to Marchand, who just had to corral the puck behind the net and stuff it in. That gave Boston a 2-1 advantage that they would not lose.
It was Marchand's fourth goal of the season, his third short-handed tally of the year (tying him for the NHL lead).
Milan Lucic had given the Bruins a 1-0 lead in the first period with a power-play goal at 14:00 from Marc Savard. The face-off win by Savard allowed Looch to take a quick shot that hit the post, DiPietro's skate then slid in.
The Islanders tied it at 1 early in the second period when Patrice Bergeron (on a power-play) tripped Frans Nielsen on a breakaway. Nielsen was awarded a penalty shot and tucked it behind Rask (33 saves) with a nifty backhander.
Michael Ryder gave Boston some breathing room with a power-play goal at 14:16 of the third period from Andrew Ference and Zdeno Chara. Ference hit a slap pass that Ryder perfectly deflected into the net, his eighth of the season.
New York made it interesting as Rob Schremp poked it in after some traffic in front of Rask at 16:27. Travis Hamonic and Zenon Konopka assisted on that one.
From there, the Islanders pulled DiPietro and Lucic (15th of the season, 4th empty-netter) from Johnny Boychuk and Patrice Bergeron (4th of the season) from David Krejci and Zdeno Chara put it away.
Two more fights for the Bruins as Adam McQuaid squared off with Konopka in the first period and Shawn Thornton traded blows with Trevor Gillies. Also, rookie defenseman Steven Kampfer made his NHL debut with Mark Stuart shelved for 4-6 weeks (broken finger). Kampfer seemed like a carbon copy of Matt Hunwick, undersized, right-handed puck-moving defenseman. All in all, a solid start for him with the big team.
Boston will have to play much better tomorrow night though, expect Tim Thomas in net, as the Philadelphia Flyers come to town. They faced off in Philly last week (with the Bruins winning) but this will be their first time in Boston since last spring when you know what happened.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
You have to admire the stubbornness of the Denver Nuggets. They refuse to play defense or any semblance of team basketball and they won't change for their head coach George Karl or just about anybody.
Sure they got to the 2009 Western Conference Finals (where they got smoked by the Los Angeles Lakers) but does anyone not named Lala actually think they have a prayer to get anywhere close to there again? Superstar/dope Carmelo Anthony should be traded any day now (please so we can stop listening to all the rumors) and then they'll go back to the basement of the Western Conference.
Denver (13-8) came to Boston (17-4) last night but were not at full strength as Carmelo sat out with a knee injury (wink wink, sure big guy). Not surprisingly, the Celts rolled to their eighth straight win (the eighth such streak of the Big 3s illustrious tenure in Boston) 105-89.
I'm just glad I didn't shell out money to see Anthony and be left with former UMass star Gary Forbes starting in his place, what a letdown.
Ray Allen led the Celtics with a game-high 28 points while Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett (9 rebounds) both notched 17 points. Rajon Rondo was clearly not himself (limited to four points) but he still had 13 assists against Denver's variation of the Swiss cheese defense.
Boston head coach Doc Rivers had to protect his starters too since they were in the first leg of a back to back. Glen Davis, who should be considered a front-runner for sixth man of the year if he keeps this up, added 16 points, six rebounds and three steals off the bench.
It was good to see college stars can still do things in the NBA as Ty Lawson paced the Nuggets with 24 points and seven assists. J.R. Smith also had 16 points off the bench. The only Denver starters that did anything (and that's being kind) were Arron Afflalo (16 points) and Nene (12 points), who has to be Giselle's favorite NBA player.
The Cs jumped ahead right away, 35-21 after one quarter. Even without Melo, the Nuggets can put up points with the best of them so they closed it to 59-52 at the half.
It wasn't a pretty second half but Boston did enough in the third (21-17) and fourth (25-20) quarters to hop on their charter flight with few worries.
For the game, the Cs shot 55.9% to 42.3% for the Nuggets. Boston made eight more free throws (25-17), rebounds (42-34) and assists (26-18). Denver had five more steals (13-8) but the Celts had a whopping edge in blocks (10-1).
I have no idea why TNT agreed to this game in prime time (favor to their boy Doug Collins?) but the Celtics go to Philadelphia tonight to take on the still terrible 76ers.
For me, the choice to finally jump on the Twitter bandwagon (I might have been the last person on Earth) has paid off handsomely in the last few months.
Tonight was its finest hour as far as I'm concerned as I saw the Boston Red Sox make one of their biggest free agent moves ever almost in real time: signing Carl Crawford to a seven-year, $142 million dollar deal.
I mean wow Theo, just wow. You finalized Adrian Gonzalez two days ago and now you've doubled your haul with the best outfielder that was on the market (sorry Jayson Werth, enjoy last place with the Washington Nationals).
I will admit that I was hoping the Red Sox would get Werth until I took a closer look at his numbers. Plus, he was in a hitter's park (Citizen's Bank) in the weak National League so he just seemed more ripe to be a bust once he got paid and complacent.
With Crawford, we know what to expect since we've seen him grow up before our eyes. From a standout on bad Devil Rays teams, to an All-Star MVP and the leader of a serious contender in the AL East that appeared in the 2008 World Series.
All along we've heard that the Los Angeles Angels coveted Crawford and he seemed like a good fit for the small ball garbage that's good enough to win the sisters of the poor AL West.
Another left-handed bat, Crawford is a four-time All-Star who won his first Gold Glove this year. He hit .307 this season with Tampa Bay, setting career-highs with 19 home runs and 90 RBIs. He has led the American League in stolen bases four times (47 this past season) and also was tops in the AL with 13 triples.
He apparently will play left field with Jacoby Ellsbury or Mike Cameron in center field and J.D. Drew in right. More than anything, this coupled with Gonzalez more than makes up for Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre's departure. Yes, I was not happy with either leaving and clearly V-Mart is the one that stings more since our catching possibilities are nothing short of a nightmare.
However, a lineup of 1) Crawford, 2) Dustin Pedroia, 3) Adrian Gonzalez, 4) Kevin Youkilis, 5) David Ortiz, 6) J.D. Drew, 7) Marco Scutaro, 8) Jared Saltalamacchia/Jason Varitek and 9) Ellsbury/Cameron is straight up filthy.
2011 Red Sox tickets go on sale Saturday. Last week, I thought there was absolutely no reason to buy any but now I can't wait. How lucky are New England sports fans at this moment? Next season just got a whole lot more interesting.
Now all we need is a couple bullpen upgrades which are typically a dime a dozen and we should be locked into quite a battle with the New York Yankees for AL East and American League supremacy.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
It's hard to imagine a more anti-climatic way to clinch an overtime victory than the one turned in by the Boston Bruins last night.
Dennis Seidenberg's shot from the point on a power-play clearly went in the net past the Buffalo Sabres' Ryan Miller but popped out right away and play continued. After the next whistle, the referees reviewed it and in probably the shortest replay ever they called it a goal.
It was actually credited to Mark Recchi as the shot hit his old man pants then deflected into the upper part of the goal for a strange 3-2 win at the TD Garden.
Bruins (15-8-3) goaltender Tim Thomas (28 saves; 14-2-2) played just a smidge better than Miller (33 saves), his teammate on the 2010 U.S. Olympic team.
Nathan Horton had a goal and an assist for Boston while linemate David Krejci notched two assists.
Milan Lucic got the party started with a goal at 13:21 in the first period, his team-leading 13th. He squeezed it by Miller from a tough angle with Krejci and Horton assisting.
Sabres rookie Luke Adam tied it up in the second period at 12:57, his first NHL goal from Jason Pominville and Mark Mancari.
Thomas Vanek gave Buffalo a 2-1 lead at 4:07 in the third period when he banked a shot off Thomas from behind the net. Tyler Myers and Jordan Leopold had the helpers on the tally that looked like it might make for a bitter game-winner.
Thankfully, Horton got a gift as Sabres defenseman Mike Weber who put it right on his stick in front of Miller. Horton knew what to do from there and tied it at 13:39 with his tenth goal of the season, the second game in a row with a goal after nine straight without any.
Recchi's OT strike made up for him hitting the post in the second period on a breakaway. Horton also hit the post in a frantic end to the third period. Recchi's sixth goal of the season was assisted by Seidenberg and Krejci.
The Bruins host the dreg of the Eastern Conference and the NHL as a whole tomorrow night, the New York Islanders. It's a perfect time to get two more points and hopefully get Tuukka Rask some confidence by giving him the spot start.
Boston will have to deal with another injury as defenseman Marc Stuart broke his hand last night. Marc Savard looked decent in his third game back although it's obvious that he's still trying to find his form. Meanwhile, Marco Sturm is still technically on the team but he might as well be staring in Dead Man Walking, because I'd be shocked if he gets into another game with the Bs.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
In a million years, I never would have dreamed that the biggest game of the regular season last night would turn out the way it did.
With likely an AFC East title on the line and a No. 1 spot in the AFC playoffs hanging in the balance, the New England Patriots absolutely destroyed the New York Jets, 45-3 at cold Gillette Stadium on Tedy Bruschi night.
Just like last year where the Jets (9-3) won the first game of the series and then the Patriots (10-2) won the one later in the season that really counted (which help them win the AFC East), Bill Belichick's squad showed up when it mattered.
Nothing changes more than the NFL from week to week so I'm not going to make too big a deal of this result (taking a cue from my beloved Patriots) since after all, it was only Week 13.
That being said, hot damn. This was the first complete game the Pats have played all season and possibly the best performance (in the regular season) that I've ever seen from them given the stakes.
Tom Brady continued to play at an MVP level, coming through with his second straight game of four touchdowns and no interceptions. He was 21 of 29 for 326 yards.
Mark Sanchez looked like the second-year quarterback that he is, throwing three interceptions and going 17 of 33 for 164 yards.
More shocking than that was how easily the Patriots' picked apart the Jets' excellent defense and conversely, how New England's bad defense completely flummoxed Sanchez and his head coach Rex Ryan.
Not to pile on here (but if not now, when?) but Rex looked way over his last night from the start. He challenged a spot on fourth and 1 (lost it), got the first down but eventually had erratic kicker Nick Folk try a 53-yard field goal in swirling winds. How do you think that went? Not so well friends.
Other than Brady, would you guess who was the biggest star for New England? Danny Woodhead, the pint-sized ex-Jet. He had four catches for 104 yards and two carries for 11 yards. Wes Welker (7 catches, 80 yards, 1 TD) and Deion Branch (3 catches, 64 yards, TD) also shredded the Jets' secondary despite Brady never throwing in the direction of Darrelle Revis.
The Patriots received the opening kickoff and moved down the field until stalling outside the Jets' red zone. Shayne Graham's 41-yard kick gave the Pats a 3-0 lead.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis (18 carries, 72 yards) increased it to 10-0 with a 1-yard run later in the first quarter.
When Branch had a 25-yard catch and run for a score, making it 17-0 New England late in the first quarter, it was clear the Jets were rattled (and they never recovered from there).
Folk hit a 39-yard field goal early in the second quarter but that turned out to be New York's only points in the miserable night for Gang Green.
Brandon Tate hauled in a 4-yard touchdown from Brady in the second quarter and strangely enough, Ryan didn't challenge it even though Tate looked to only get one foot and one arm down. 24-3 Patriots.
After halftime, the Jets moved the ball down field and looked like they might make it competitive but Sanchez threw a bad pick on the goal-line to rookie linebacker (and amateur porn star) Brandon Spikes.
Welker's 18-yard touchdown in the third quarter (where he hauled a Jets defender the last five yards or so) was proof that this might be the same old big talking but no substance Jets.
The blowout was complete in the fourth quarter with Aaron Hernandez (3 catches, 51 yards) adding a 1-yard touchdown catch and Green-Ellis notched another touchdown, this time from five yards out.
Rookie cornerback Devin McCourty had his sixth interception as this one started to get ugly and James Sanders wrapped it up (sound familiar Peyton) with one last pick.
Part of the reason you have to move on fast from this one is that the Patriots have two very good NFC teams up next: at Chicago on Sunday and hosting the Packers a week from Sunday night.
Not to get all footie pajamas on you but that's why you have to feel good with Belichick and Brady on our side. They're still the best in the business and there's no debate.
Monday, December 6, 2010
It was nice of the New Jersey Nets to completely lay down yesterday afternoon as they hosted the Boston Celtics at a time and day reserved for NFL football and nothing else.
Rajon Rondo didn't play and Shaquille O'Neal only got some run in the first half but none of that mattered as the Celts (16-4) rolled to a 100-75 victory at the Prudential Center.
Nate Robinson led Boston with 21 points, six rebounds and six assists. In extended minutes off the bench, Glen Davis added 16 points and nine rebounds while Marquis Daniels notched 10 points. In total, the bench scored 42 points (which has to be a season high). Von Wafer had eight points and Avery Bradley looked like a serviceable NBA player at least defensively.
Kevin Garnett had another double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds while Ray Allen notched 13 points.
Jordan Farmar led the Nets (6-15) with 16 points, off the bench no less. Anthony Morrow was the only New Jersey starter that scored double-digits (10 points) and rookie Derrick Favors had 10 points off the bench.
This barely resembled an NBA game, the Celtics figure to be challenged more on Wednesday night when they host the Denver Nuggets, one of the most Jekyll and Hyde teams around.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
I'm not saying that the Boston Bruins really deserved to win last night since the Toronto Maple Leafs outplayed them for most of the game but still, the B's were 42 seconds away from wrapping up a nice road win at the Air Canada Centre.
Instead, they gave up the tying goal to Kris Versteeg (with 19 seconds left on Patrice Bergeron's penalty) with 42 seconds left in the third period and then they lost in a shootout 3-2.
Boston (14-8-3) still gets the bogus point from making it to the shootout but the fact that Phil Kessel had the deciding goal in that dumb format makes this one tougher to swallow. Oh and we have Toronto's (9-12-4) first round pick for next season too (hell of a trade there Brian Burke) so the more losses the better, much like the New England Patriots and the Oakland Raiders.
Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas (40 saves; 13-2-2) did not earn a loss by any means. As usual this season, he stood on his head and made as crazy uncle Jack Edwards termed them a flurry of "ridiculous saves."
Nathan Horton broke out of his 10-game scoring slump with an unassisted goal at 4:48 of the first period.
Shawn Thornton got his sixth fighting major of the season after he squared off with AHL callup Jay Rosehill less than four minutes after Horton's goal.
The Leafs' Carl Gunnarsson tied it up at 15:53 of the first period after a lucky bounce and nice passing from teammates Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri.
After a scoreless second period, Gregory Campbell looked to be the hero for the Bruins (his dad must have been so pumped) in the third period when he finished a nice feed from Tyler Seguin (who got it from Johnny Boychuk). Campbell started the play by keeping the puck in the Toronto defensive zone then Seguin hit him with a tidy backhander and he whipped in a wrist shot at 6:08.
In the shootout, Kadri led off and scored but Seguin answered it (he is awesome at shootouts). After Nikolai Kulemin and David Krejci were stopped, Kessel scored and Michael Ryder did not.
The Bruins will try to recover from this swift kick in the balls with a few days off before they host the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday, the start of a three-game home set.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
In something that was long overdue, the Boston Red Sox finally made a big move.
They acquired San Diego Padres superstar first baseman Adrian Gonzalez in a trade. The Padres receive three highly-rated Red Sox prospects: pitcher Casey Kelly, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and outfielder Reymond Fuentes.
There will reportedly be another player to be named later in the deal going to San Diego.
Wow, you have to love this move if you care at all about the Red Sox. After a terrible season in 2010 following a terrible off-season, they needed to show their fans and the region that they still care about putting a true contender on the field.
All the nickel and dimeing they've done in the last year plus is quickly forgotten now that they have an affordable, left-handed, 3-time All-Star who is just starting to be in the prime of his career at 28.
Last season in San Diego (at Petco Park, one of MLB's toughest hitter parks) with no protection around him in an awful lineup, he hit .298 with 31 home runs and 101 RBIs. He finished fifth in the National League in OBP (.393), ninth in slugging (.511) and first in hitting with runners in scoring position (.407).
He received 35 intentional walks, second only to Albert Pujols. If that's not enough he's a two-time Gold Glover at first base meaning Kevin Youkilis will slide back to third base (and Adrian Beltre is probably gone).
He's hit 30+ home runs the last four seasons with 99+ RBIs in each one of them.
This is the biggest move the Red Sox have made since they acquired Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell from the Florida Marlins in 2005 for Hanley Ramirez and other prospects.
If they couple this with the signing of either outfielders Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth, the Red Sox will put themselves right back at the top of the American League East and all of baseball. This is a hell of a start.
Coming into the 2010-2011 season, nobody and I mean nobody could have expected Kevin Garnett to be playing at the level that he is right now.
KG is 34-years-old and after limping through last season following knee surgery, he looked like a shell of his former self that was on a real downslope near the end of his career.
You can put off writing your KG obituary just yet, the dude can still ball. Last night he helped the Boston Celtics beat the Chicago Bulls 104-92 at the TD Garden.
It was the second time Tom Thibodeau and Brian Scalabrine returned and this time, the Celts (15-4) were able to get it done in regulation.
Garnett (20 points, 17 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals) and Rajon Rondo (12 points, 19 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals) were the main ingredients in Boston's sixth straight triumph.
Paul Pierce added 18 points, Ray Allen chipped in 14 points and Shaquille O'Neal rounded out this balanced attack with 12 points.
Derrick Rose led Chicago (9-8) with 20 points and eight assists. Luol Deng had 15 points, Joakhim Noah added 14 points and 10 rebounds while Carlos Boozer (12 points) and Taj Gibson (10 points) also reached double figures.
Boston led 31-19 after the first quarter and 53-48 at halftime. However, just like whenever they play the Atlanta Hawks, the Bulls matchup so well with the Celtics that you never really feel comfortable until the game is over.
A strong third quarter by the Celts (29-22) helped them survive a not so great fourth (25-22 Bulls).
For the game, Boston shot 53.1% to Chicago's 41.9%. The Bulls made five 3-pointers to just one for the Celtics. Chicago made eight more free throws (25-17) but Boston had 10 more free throws (44-34) and 11 more assists (29-18). The Cs also had three more steals (7-4) and two more blocks (4-2). Finally, they continued their positive trend of owning the paint, outscoring Chicago 56-40 inside.
Boston will look to keep up the win streak as they go to New Jersey tomorrow afternoon to face the still miserable Nets.
Friday, December 3, 2010
In the recent history of Boston sports, there's no local pro athlete that I have felt worse for than Boston Bruins center Marc Savard.
Not only did he miss much of last season on a dirty hit by Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke (which went unpunished by Colin Campbell - and now we might know why given his e-mail history) but he also missed 23 games this season while he recovered from the lingering effects of that pesky concussion.
Finally, Savard returned to the ice last night as the Bruins absolutely skated circles around the Tampa Bay Lightning, 8-1 at the TD Garden.
Savard didn't even have a point in the game which saw seven different Bruins (14-8-2) score goals but that's not the point (no pun intended). With him back, Boston has way more depth offensively and can boast a center combo of Savard, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Gregory Campball. Not bad at all.
After losing in Tampa Bay last week, this blowout was quite unexpected since the Lightning (14-9-3) are one of the NHL's most up and coming young teams.
With Tim Thomas (13-2-1; 37 saves) in goal, this was never really a contest as the Bruins led 2-0 after one period and 4-1 after two periods before pumping in four in the third period. Cue the youth hockey coaches and assorted douchebags saying something dumb like wish those goals carried over.
Krejci opened the scoring with a goal from Milan Lucic and Andrew Ference at 10:51 in the first. Dennis Seidenberg made it 2-0 with 20 seconds left in the frame when his snap shot from the point went past Tampa Bay goaltender Mike Smith (17 saves). Smith completely misjudged the play as he thought Seidenberg was going to wrap it around the boards, instead he put it on goal and was lucky enough to get his first tally of the season.
Lucic increased the Boston lead to 3-0 at 6:48 in the second period from Krejci and Nathan Horton (who lately had been the invisible man).
Victor Hedman broke Thomas' bid for another shutout at 15:14 on a one-timer from Ryan Malone and Sean Bergenheim. That would be the Lightning's only highlight of a forgettable night.
Shawn Thornton answered with Boston's second cupcake goal. A Lightning defenseman and Smith fumbled with the puck and it ended up right on the goal-line where Thornton just had to skate up and tap it in. Brad Marchand and Thomas assisted.
It might be because I was watching it a bar with no sound on but the third period was nuts. It seemed like every shot the Bruins threw at the Tampa Bay net went in.
34 seconds into the third Krejci potted his second, unassisted. That prompted Smith to get pulled but it didn't matter as Dan Ellis (7 saves) certainly wasn't the solution to Tampa Bay's myriad problems.
1:16 after Ellis entered, Michael Ryder greeted him with an unassisted goal of his own. Later, Mark Recchi scored on a power play (from Ryder and Zdeno Chara) and Blake Wheeler (who else?) closed it out with a goal from Recchi.
Boston looks to be playing good hockey once again so ideally they can keep it going as they travel to Toronto tomorrow night to meet Phil Kessel and the still-shitty Maple Leafs.
PS. The Marco Sturm trade to the Los Angeles Kings for a conditional draft pick didn't happen, at least not yet. Not sure why it fell through but apparently it wasn't because he failed a physical. Uh ok then.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Nothing will ever change the all-time choke job that the Boston Bruins had last spring against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Being up 3-0 in a series and 3-0 in Game 7 and somehow losing is unprecedented stuff so there's nothing left to say.
Thankfully, it's a new season and while we'll never forget what happened, it's time to move on since this is a new team.
Last night's 3-0 win in Philadelphia by the Bruins was a nice first step in putting that nightmare on the backburner. It was the first time the teams had met since then.
The story of the game was Bruins goalie Tim Thomas since he stopped 41 shots for his NHL-leading fifth shutout of the season.
It also ended a bad skid (four losses in its last five games) for Boston (13-8-2) against a quality team in Philly (15-7-4), who they could very well see again in the 2011 playoffs.
Patrice Bergeron opened the scoring (first time in six games the Bruins had done that) with a power play goal at 5:40 in the first period. After Milan Lucic's backhander was stopped by Sergei Bobrovsky (29 saves) it popped out to Bergeron, who fired it before the Flyers goaltender could fully react in time.
Even sweeter than that was Tyler Seguin's goal less than ten minutes later which gave Boston a 2-0 lead. He collected a nice feed from Michael Ryder and roofed it, his fifth of the season and a good sign for the youngster who has been ice cold lately. Brad Marchand also assisted on the goal.
Flyers goon Jody Shelley squared off with Shawn Thornton late in the first period.
Philadelphia clearly got frustrated as Thomas repeatedly made absurd stops on them. He also stopped a penalty shot by Scott Hartnell in the second period. Andrew Ference tripped Hartnell but he still got a shot off. On his penalty shot, Hartnell seemed to run out of room and could only muster a weak backhander that was smothered by Thomas.
Lucic put it away with 1:48 left in the third period as he scored an empty-netter from David Krejci.
Good news for the Bs today as they reportedly traded Marco Sturm for a conditional pick to the Los Angeles Kings. It will be a fifth round pick but could go as high as second depending on how Sturm does. The deal is dependant on him passing a physical.
Boston hosts the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight at the TD Garden. Steven Stamkos and Tampa Bay beat the Bruins in Florida right before Thanksgiving so Boston will need to play better to get two points.
You have to give the Celtics credit, when you come to the TD Garden, they want you to get your money's worth.
That's nearly impossible with the overpriced tickets and lame atmosphere (most of the time) but the Celts do their best to never let opposing teams out of the game.
Take last night for example. Boston was up 16 points on the Portland Trailblazers in the fourth quarter and moments later, the Blazers were only down one point.
Thankfully we still have one of the best pure shooters in NBA history - Ray Allen - and he came through with a clutch 3-pointer that gave Boston (14-4) a 99-95 win over Portland (8-10).
Allen's greatness was illustrated by the fact that he was having a terrible night, he was 3 of 12 for nine points.
Paul Pierce carried the team with a game-high 28 points and seven rebounds. Kevin Garnett added 17 points and eight rebounds despite getting stitches in his chin during the third quarter. For the second night in a row, Glen Davis was great off the bench with 16 points and seven rebounds.
Shaquille O'Neal had 14 points and Rajon Rondo added 10 points and 10 assists.
The Blazers are floundering right now having lost five in a row while the Celtics won their fifth straight.
Wesley Matthews shot lights out early on his way to a team-high 23 points for Portland. Andre Miller added 20 points and six assists while LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy both scored 18.
Boston shot 57.1% to Portland's 45.9%. The Celtics kept the Blazers in the game with six more turnovers (17-11).
The Celtics welcome the Chicago Bulls (and Carlos Boozer, who debuted last night) back to the TD Garden tomorrow night. In the first matchup this season, Boston won a tight one in overtime.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
You can't blame the poor, miserable souls of Cleveland and their NBA team from overlooking last night's game against the Boston Celtics.
Naturally, with LeBron James' first return to town scheduled for Thursday night, you can understand why the locals are gathering the pitch forks and flaming torches.
Sure the Celtics (13-4) waxed the Cavaliers (7-10) 106-87 last night at Quicken Loans Arena but nobody cares about that. How will they react to LeBron, that's all anybody is talking about.
So it goes with a franchise that was kicked to the curb by its homegrown superstar. Even in the Eastern Conference, Cleveland will struggle to make the playoffs, they just don't have that much above average (if any) talent.
Rajon Rondo led the Celts with 23 points and 12 assists. Two other Cs had double-doubles: Glen Davis 17 points, 11 rebounds off the bench and Kevin Garnett 11 points, 10 rebounds, who shook off a major scare when he stepped on Paul Pierce's foot and twisted his right ankle.
Marquis Daniels had his best game of the season with 16 points, Ray Allen added 12 points and Pierce had 11 points.
Anderson Varejao, Sideshow Bob's bastard son, led the Cavs with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Daniel Gibson (16 points) and Ramon Sessions (14 points) had big games off the bench for Cleveland which is now strictly a jump shooting team, always a recipe for mediocrity. Mo Williams and Anthony Parker both notched 13 points.
Things started out well for the Cavs as they jumped out to a 12-4 lead but Boston immediately responded and only trailed 23-21 after one quarter. At halftime, the Green were up 56-45 so you knew which way this one was going.
Cleveland is so bad that they couldn't even take advantage of the Celtics in the second half like most other teams. Boston won the third quarter (24-20) and fourth quarter (26-22), drive home safely Cavs fans.
Boston shot 50.6% to Cleveland's 39.0%. The Cavs made five more free throws (18-13) but the Celts had four more rebounds (49-45) and most importantly 10 more assists (29-19). Would you believe me if I told you that Boston outscored Cleveland 60-26 in the paint? True story.
The Celts return to Boston tonight to host the Portland Trailblazers at the TD Garden, who lost last night in Philly so they'll be smarting from losing to such a terrible team.