Boston Celtics Playoff Push

The Boston Celtics started their post All-Star break in Golden State, a place that had not yielded a win to the C’s for the last six seasons, and through veteran play down the stretch against a younger, quicker team, including some big shots from the Real Big 3, they managed a 22 point victory.  Two days later, with the trade deadline hours away and a game to be played later that night in Denver, Danny Ainge decided to deal Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City.  As news reached the Celtics team that their teammates (as well as Luke Harangody and Semih Erden being dealt to Cleveland) Kevin Garnett summed up the feeling of the team, especially about Kendrick Perkins, “…it feels like we lost a family member today.”  When Garnett came to the team he took Perk under his wing, and although we all thought Perk already had an attitude, Garnett taught him how to hone that attitude into something that was positive for the team and essentially made them the “Bad Boys” of the new century.  I believe what I am trying to say is that I hope the stay Perkins has in OK City is a pleasant one because I would not be opposed to the Celtics giving him the deal he deserves when the summer comes and bring him back to Boston, and they will regret not giving him that deal if Jeff Green does not pan out and we come within one game of winning the title again.

The Celtics, obviously flustered by what had transpired earlier in the day and only dressing 9, were beaten at the end of the game by the Nuggets and out rebounded by 15, continuing the trend of being in the bottom of the league in rebounds per game.  If you read my earlier post about the return of Kendrick Perkins you will see that all the words I used along with the idea of claiming a championship with him healthy and in the lineup is now obsolete, but a very encouraging thing happened on Saturday night when the West Coast trip was continued in Los Angeles against the Clippers.  Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic are the players Boston received from OKC (including a Top 10 protected 2012 First Round pick through the Clippers) and although Green was the big name, Krstic showed us something that we may not have expected and need him to continue to do…he had 6 of the Celtics 14 total offensive rebounds.  Realizing the mistake it could be to over analyze his performance on the offensive boards (he did not record a defensive rebound), Krstic had already been billed as mostly a big man perimeter shooter and not much of a threat down low banging with the big bodies.  Let us hope that he can show games like this against the Magic or Knicks (the Heat are not a problem when it comes to rebounding for Boston).

So here is the short break down for the remaining 25 games of the season.  Great news is that more than half (14) of the remaining games are against teams with losing records.  Sadly, in the “not so great” category, 15 of the games will be on the road, including trips to New Orleans, New York, San Antonio, Atlanta, Chicago, and Miami…who said it was going to be easy to secure the number one spot in the East?  Now, the most important fact of these remaining games is that Boston has 6 more back-to-backs left in the next two months, with potentially (we hope) easy ones on March 13th and 14th (vs. Milwaukee, @New Jersey), March 27th and 28th (@Minnesota, @ Indiana), a bad and good on April 7th and 8th (@ Chicago, vs. Washington) and April 10th and April 11th (@Miami, @Washington), and some real trouble spots on March 18th and March 19th (@ Houston, @ New Orleans) and March 31st and April 1st (@San Antonio, @ Atlanta).  The degree of difficulty appears to be evened out, but here in all likelihood is where the Celtics are going to lose the top spot in the Eastern Conference.  The Celtics record on the 2nd night of back-to-back’s is 6-7 this season…not so promising when you have 6 more left and you are trying the keep your position atop the Eastern Conference…I hope they make me eat my words, but I do not see them holding onto number 1 for the remainder of the season.

Follow me on twitter: @mike_ntcf

Ray Allen Making History

All week I have heard people say and seen a few write on Facebook or other social networks that they were hoping on either Sunday or Monday that Ray Allen would break Reggie Miller’s all-time 3 pointers made record.  About a month ago I kept thinking to myself about how sweet it would be for this to be done, not in some random game, but on national TV, on TNT, and in front of Reggie Miller.  For the last 2 weeks, knowing that the Lakers were coming to Boston tonight for the TNT game I was hoping above all that he would be close enough to catch and surpass Reggie tonight.  My hopes have come true.  Ray Allen needs 2 more 3’s tonight to catch and move by Reggie Miller forever, and there may not be a person in the world who will be as ecstatic as this guy when this finally happens.  Now let me briefly get into the hate I have for Reggie Miller and then I will move onto Ray Allen.  Reggie…

(If you only want to read about the great Ray Allen then feel free to skip this next paragraph.)

If you were to venture into the archives we have on this blog, and specifically search out my name, you will see that I have a sort of undying love for the greatest player to ever lace up a pair of sneakers (probably his own) Michael Jordan.  I grew up watching him play, mesmerized by the sheer ease with which he would perform.  When MJ was on the court it did not matter who you put in front of him because sooner or later he was going to get the best of any defender.  In 1998, what should have been Jordan’s final year going out poetically, the Bulls faced what some look at as their toughest opponent: the Reggie Miller led Indiana Pacers.  The Pacers were only the 2nd team to bring the Bulls to a deciding Game 7, which they eventually lost.  The thing is that this series should have been over in 5 games.  At the end of Game 4 with the Pacers trailing by one everyone knew the ball was going to Miller.  He was their go-to-guy and had hit a few big shots in his career.  The Pacers were in bounding the ball on the near-side of the court (according to camera angle on TV) about parallel to the arc of the 3 point line.  Coming off a screen Miller lowered his arms and knocked Jordan back, obvious foul, RIGHT in front of the “ref”…no call…conspiracy?  Yes, because, as you can see in the replays, it is impossible, I stress IMPOSSIBLE, for the “ref” on the far side of the court to miss what had occurred, so the only way I can justify it is that David Stern placed a discreet phone call to the room of those referees the night before the game with a message somewhere along the lines of, “This series better go 7, because everyone knows Michael (Jordan) is going to win, but I need my damn TV ratings.”  Making matters worse Miller left enough time on the clock (0.7 seconds) for Jordan to have one final shot…I would post the video of all of this and you would be able to see just how close this series was to being over a game later, but it hurts too much, just as much as when I watched it live.  So all of that can be paraphrased to say that I hate Reggie Miller.  I do not care if that is “babyish”…and I cannot wait for Ray Allen to make Reggie and his record fade into oblivion…

Now onto the star of the post…Ray Allen and some of his history leading up to tonight.

After his senior season at the University of Connecticut, a senior season in which he set the school mark for 3 pointers in one season and was named the Big East Player of the Year, Ray Allen was drafted 5th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves, but was dealt along with another player to the Milwaukee Bucks for Stephon Marbury.  In retrospect during the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest Allen looked a little out of place from the Ray that we have come to know and love, of course he was way too smooth for the judges so they did not advance him to the next round.  In 2001 he may have finally had the revelation that he was a prolific shooter and decided to pass on the dunking for the 3 Point Shootout.  He took down Peja Stojakovic in the finals and brought home that title.  What is not realized is that Milwaukee is where Ray Allen started to make his records.  He holds the Bucks record for most 3 pointers made and before LeBron James went off against the Pistons in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals, Allen had the record for consecutive points scored in a playoff game with 19, done in 2001 when he lead the Bucks to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Sixers.

Halfway through the 2002-2003 season the Bucks dealt Allen, along with a number of other entities to the Seattle Supersonics for Gary Payton and Desmond Mason.  Although he spent most of the next year on the sidelines due to injury, he bounced back in 2005 helping lead the Sonics to the Western Semifinals and was named to the 2nd Team All-NBA.  In Seattle Ray was not done making history.  In April of 2006 he achieved two amazing feats: he moved into 2nd place on the 3 pointers made list behind that other guy, and about a week and a half later he eclipsed Dennis Scott’s record of 267 three’s made in a single season, resetting the record, which still stands, at 269.  The next season was not as great for Allen, lest we forget that his season was ended prematurely because he had to have surgery on both ankles.  That 2007-2008 off season is where the story continues, but only gets better so I will jog your memory with some, “Ohhh yeeaaahhh,” reactions.

The Celtics and Sonics made a deal in the summer of 2007 that sent Ray Allen, coming off knee surgery, along with the 35th overall pick in that year’s draft to the Celtics for Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West, and the 5th overall pick, who ended up being Jeff Green.  That 35th pick we received from Seattle was…wait for it…..Glen Davis.  Hindsight is always 20/20, and with the way that deal is turning out with a possible 6th Man of the Year Award for Grown Man Davis this year the sight is approaching 20/13.  Yet, we are here tonight for Ray Allen.  While a member of the Celtics Ray Ray has reached the 20,000 point club, broke Michael Jordan’s Finals record with 7 three’s in a half and broke the game record held by Scottie Pippen and Kenny Smith by finishing with 8, and tonight, finally, he will do everything it takes to break the all-time mark set by Reggie Miller by recording the 2,560th and 2,561st 3 point field goals of his career…and it will take him about 50 less attempts than it took Miller.  I guess I could have just posted the simple line, “Ray Allen is and always will be a better shooter than Reggie Miller.”

Celtics – Lakers: Regular Season Revenge (For Now)

The Boston Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers yesterday afternoon, returning to the Staples Center for the first time since their heartbreaking defeat in Game 7 of the NBA Finals last June in the same building, yet for this fan it was really a showing that was bittersweet.  The 1st half of the game stayed rather close, of course that is what should be expected in a game between two of the league’s top 5 teams…of course those expectations were helped by Joey Crawford and company giving every call to Derek “Flops Around Like A” Fisher, and creating a new type of foul in the NBA called, “Kobe bitches, get him to the line*.” 

Going from the 1st to the 2nd half was like reading halfway through a really good book and stopping in favor of reading a much better story.  The C’s outscored their biggest rival 54-42 in the 2nd half leading to their impressive 109-96 victory, and dropping the Lakers to a sad 1-5 against the top teams in the league.  Paul Pierce hit a streak circa 2001-2006 where he just could not miss and ended with a team high 32, Ray Allen added 21 including 3 more 3’s to inch closer to Reggie Miller and his record, Rondo somehow had a quiet 16 assists and 10 points, KG did not tap anyone in the package and finished with 18 and 13, and Grown Man Davis made another push for 6th man of the year with 13 and 8 including drawing yet another offensive foul.  Everyone mentioned above played well, but our best offensive weapon was none other than Kobe Bryant, scoring 41 with 0 assists for the game, taking 7 consecutive shots late in the game, with at least two of those leading to fast breaks ending in a KG lay-up and a Ray Allen 3 pushing the lead back up to 12 and sealing the game.  If you would like you may go into the archive and see the last post I made about a week ago under my original name SAKEOFLOGIC…it was about Kendrick Perkins and the difference he would make on the glass.  That difference resulted in the Celtics, ranked in the bottom of the league in rebounds per game, outrebounding the Lakers 43-30…that is not a typo…and while I’m still on my knees in front the Celtics let us not forget that they shot 60% from the field, which will only keep them alone by far at the top of the league**.

Ok I have finally stood up and will discuss what I wanted to really mention and what I was eluding with the word “bittersweet” at the beginning of this post, and I am going to list them the way I have become accustomed to:

1 )  I just looked at the calendar and was utterly disappointed to see that it is only January 31st.  I just take a lot of joy when the Lakers perform poorly, and since it is such a rare thing I need to take my shots when I get the chance.  Trust me that I FULLY believe when it is all said and done there will be a vicious rematch between the Celtics and Lakers when we enter June, only this time we will start and finish in Boston…and by finish, I mean done in 6, banner 18.

2 ) Kobe Bryant has easily been in a certain category for 5 or 6 years now.  That category has a title that one way or another says “List of athletes whose greatness we do not truly appreciate until we do not get to see them anymore.”  If I was not in love with the Celtics, Kobe may just be one of my favorite players to watch because of what the man can do with a basketball, and many, like myself, will not appreciate it until it is gone***.

3 )  Here is the really painful one.  We lost in Game 7 last year for a few reasons****, but while watching the game the glaring difference became rebounds….rebounds, rebounds, rebounds.  That is why Kendrick Perkins has almost become as indispensable as any other member of our starting team.  Grown Man Davis hustles more than anyone, but at the end of the day he ends up being too undersized to compete for all of those boards.  There are always keys to winning titles, a healthy Perkins cleaning up the glass is the lock.

* I would love to show what should be the appropriate hand gesture for this call, but here at NTCF we think about the kids.

**The Celtics, as a team are shooting .501 from the field!  Next closest is Phoenix at .472…then the Lakers, Spurs, and Heat at .471 … that is ridiculous.

***I’m guessing because I just had a Will Ferrell “Old School” moment when he debates James Carville and then blacks out…

****No way will I get into this…after that game I took a 3 month hiatus from this blog and from thinking about the Celtics because they hurt me so badly…but I will always take them back.

Kendrick Perkins and What This All Means

Last night Kendrick Perkins returned to the Celtics line up for the first time since the devastating knee injury he suffered last year in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.  Unfortunately I was unable to enjoy watching his return because I was preoccupied with trying to be an all-pro rec league volleyball player, but from what I’ve heard, and from the limited time I was able to see him on the court, all signs point to something great.

At first we were told that the earliest Perk would be back was the January 28th game against the Suns in Phoenix.  That was pushed back to the Feruary 4th game against Dallas back in Boston.  So unless you had not been listening to the reports before the game, seeing Perk take the floor in the first quarter to a standing ovation may have come as somewhat of a shock, but it was necessary.  Neither O’Neal, Jermaine or Shaq, was going to be available last night, with visual evidence showing that Shaq may have thought he was supposed to suit up for the Bruins in goal.  That meant that the Turkish Terror (work in progress), Semi Erden, was going to be the only “big guy” in uniform.  Now I believe in Semi, but that is something frightening to hear even if you are playing the lowly Cavs (those same Cavs that beat us in the beginning of the season…you know, the kind of games that you are SUPPOSED to win…the kind of games that make the difference between having and not having homecourt in the playoffs and most importantly the Finals…I will not even get started on the Wizards).

Having Perkins back means only good things for this team:

1) The Celtics fans out there can only be satisified and appreciative of the performance that Shaq has given us so far this season when he has been able to stay on the court…as for Jermaine O’Neal, we wish he would channel his inner 2002-2004 player.  Perkins is going to give Shaq the rest that he needs at his age so that he will be serviceable when we need him most in the playoffs.  He is also going to make it so Jermaine O’Neal can start fouling out in the 4th quarter, not the 3rd…that is if he sees the court.  Ok, correction, he is going to make it so that we can see Jermaine O’Neal help us the only way he probably can; changing the Garden over after a Bruins game…although he will still obviously get hurt and miss some time.

2) As well as Semi “The Turkish Tyrannosaurus*” Erden has been playing, you have to think that he is the future center, possibly starting, more possibly back up.  We are not going to have to rely and ask to much of a rookie when it comes playoff time, that is a major relief.

3) The Lakers, Spurs, Magic, and Heat should all begin to worry.  Along with us, the Lakers know that if Perkins does not go down in that series the Celtics win their 2nd title in 3 years.

4) The Celtics are no longer go to be ranked 30th in the league in rebounds per game.  If there was one thing that Perkins did well it was go after the boards and rip them down with his brute Perk strength…now if Tommy can just teach him to keep the ball high instead of bringing the ball down and trying to dribble…why does bring the ball down and try to dribble…

5) Championship**

*I apologize for this.

**There are probably a few more points than four, feel free to comment and add, I just see these as the most important.

The NBA = LAME: Technicals & Predictable

Alright, here’s the deal.  I have never been an NBA guy.  I am a self proclaimed “pink-hat” Celtics fan and only watch when NBA rings are on the line.  Even when the Celtics lost to the Lakers in that crucial game 7 last year, I simply turned off the TV and fell asleep.  I lost more Z’s when I found out Michael Scott was leaving The Office after this current season.  Anyhow, my point is that the NBA is more lame and predictable than white rice.

As if the NBA weren’t obnoxious enough, the powers at be decided that it would be a good idea to give someone a technical foul for disrespecting a referee.  You know what, for someone who has reffed and umpired I think this a great idea.  If you curse out a ref, blow the whistle.  Make inappropriate contact? I pity the fool, get Mr. T ready.  Whip a chair onto the court or touch Lebron’s mom?  Well, you get it…

Cracking down on this kind of stuff will keep the hooligans at bay, I love it.  Is this what “Donald” (thanks Mr. Mayor) Stern and the NBA suits talking about?  Surely no.  I feel that this NBA decision was derived by way of the manatee in the South Park episode that made fun of how Family Guy gets their material.  Here’s a portion of the new rule:

“We’re going to expand the universe of unsportsmanlike actions that will be penalized,” said NBA vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson. “They will include air-punching at an official. Waving him off as a sign of disrespect. Running up to an official from across the court to voice a complaint. Flailing arms in disbelief. Jumping up and down and pirouetting in disbelief or clapping sarcastically at an official. Those are some of the types of actions that really have no place in our game.” (
Really? If you can’t handle a pirouette then turn in the zebra shirt.  The first time I heard this portion of the rule I literally thought it was a bad April fool’s joke.  I kept thinking to myself that there is no way a professional sports organization would resort to something as trivial as the above.  Boy was I wrong.  After I found out about this I vowed not to watch the NBA this season.  I’m going to stand true to this as best as humanly possible.  Tonight, I’m watching because I hate Lebron and if anyone can ruin his cute little parade to Miami, I want it to be Boston.  After tonight, who cares?
Tonight, I watched “an unnamed assistant coach” from the Miami bench get a technical because he stood up and turned his palms toward the sky after a travel call against Dwayne Wade.  Technical fouls should be reserved for game altering scenarios that are negative in nature.  Did that assistant coach change the tempo of the game?  No.  The NBA is run by a bunch of nerds who were picked on when they were in high school and now they are taking it out on bigger people “because they can.” Get real.
I’m also watching tonight to see how many Delonte West masks are in the crowd to taunt Lebron James.  This is an absolutely hilarious stunt put on by Toucher & Rich on the morning show for 98.5 the Sports Hub.  Off topic but, if you haven’t switched over to 98.5 from WEEI, do yourself a favor and get with the program.  All four programs exceed WEEI’s by leaps and bounds.  I do miss Dale and Holley a little bit but I’m over it.
To close things out, the NBA is beyond predictable.  At the beginning of the year you can pick out the top 4 teams that will contend for the title.  How many people thought back in April that Texas and San Francisco would be competing for a World Series?  Who’s the team to beat in the NFL this year?  Who is going to bring home the Stanley Cup?  Exactly, the answer to the previous questions are no one, no clue, and no clue.
The NBA can go suck eggs for all I care.  I’ll get my basketball fix from the NCAA as I prepare for March Madness glory/losing to that chick at the office who picked Butler to go a long way because her friend’s cousin’s boyfriend has a bulldog puppy and they are just the cutest thing.

What Are You Doing at 7:00?

Keep that remote ready and prepare for one of the busiest Friday nights in Boston sports!  The Bruins are trying to sweep the Flyers in Philly tonight, the Red Sox begin a 3-game series vs the Yanks, and the Celtics take on the Cavs at home in a critical game 3 matchup.

When the Semifinal Round of the Stanley Cup Finals began, I was predicting the Bruins in 5.  The Flyers are trying to prove me wrong apparently, and with their last performance on home ice, they seem to be throwing in the towel.  I doubt that Philly will totally fold and they may get a gift if the Bruins decide to not show up and clinch it on home ice.  If I were Julien I would pray the latter not happen.

Playoff hockey requires such a heightened level of play and an intensity that drains a team.  A win tonight would allow the B’s to rest their players, rest in which they desperately need. 

With yet another forward out for the playoffs, a win here would no doubt help Marc Savard in getting his legs underneath him. David Krejci will certainly be missed, however this team has shown that it can pick up the slack when someone goes down, but why couldn’t it have been Wideman?  Granted Bouchere is no Ryan Miller, but the offense is executing much better in this series and Philly defense is, in my opinion, better than Buffalo’s, who hides behind its great shot blocker.  A loss tonight will in no way shape or form hurt Boston, but a win will be a tremendous advantage moving forward.

Will the real Josh Beckett please stand up? 

The Boston Red Sox have clawed their way back to .500.  They are going into a 3-game series vs the New York Yankees and are in position to make up some key games early in the season. 

Beckett will face off against Phil Hughes who has a sub 1.5 era this season.  As the “ace” of the staff, Beckett will need to put forth a solid effort and start this series on a good note.  The offense has been starting to come around and starting pitching needs to follow suit. 

Game one is, on paper, the best matchup from a starting pitching standpoint.  Sabathia squares off against Buckholtz, the most consistent starter to this point in the season, in game 2, and Burnett will face Jon Lester in game three.  If the Sox can keep the bats swinging in this series they have the opportunity to pick up a lot of games in the division. 

After this series they will host the Blue Jays, and will face the Yanks again in a 2-game series the following week. The Tampa Bay Rays series at the end of the month could be for first place and would give the Sox a chance to start the summer on a high note.

If I hear one more “elbow update” I might go mad! 

 Tonight’s game for the Celtics is a great opportunity to keep the momentum in this series.  The Celtics need to keep the pressure on the Cavs and they need to keep playing hard.  The key to the game 2 victory was rebounding.  The Celtics outrebounded the cavs 43-32.  The key to game three in my opinion is the truth!

Paul Pierce has not been performing at a high level in this series to put it lightly.  He needs to provide a little R&R to Rajon and Ray in game 3.  Paul is shooting 33% from the field and 27% from beyond the arch.  He has been careless with the ball and had some foul trouble last game.  His scoring and rebounding are down this series and a big time performance in game 3 could be just what tis team needs to take control of this series.

Look for Rasheed to get some more time in this game after his 7-8 shooting performance in game 2.  Sheed was able to pick up the slack last game, and if he can become a fraction of the player he was during Detroit’s playoff prowess, it would free up Ray Allen on the edge and provide more passing lanes so KG and Perk can go to work inside. 

I would really love to see the Celtics take after their coaches personality when he played for the Knicks.  If Lebron were playing in the 80’s against the Celtics or the Knicks, and especially the Pistons, you can bet he would be knocked down every time he came into the lane.  With the excessive whistles in Cleveland this was obviously not possible, but I would love to see James taste some parque’ tonight. 

My attention will most certainly be on the basketball game because the Bruins will eventually win this series and I will be able to watch the baseball game after the Celts’.  This is either going to be a great start to the weekend, or a bike ride with no seat.

The Backbone of Boston Sports….

Just a few years ago, at this time, the front page of the sports section would be flooded with various articles about Red Sox baseball.  Fast forward one year, and you had the combination of the Celtics race for the championship, and the Red Sox  race to repeat.  Here we are in 2010 and what team is carrying the weight of Boston fandom on its back in the early months of Spring…?

  The Boston Bruins. 

As shocking as it sounds, the team on the upswing in this part of town is 4 years removed from being the red-headed step child of one of the most successful sports regions of the last decade.  This is not to say that they finished last every year.  The Bruins have still made the post-season here and there.  However, when you play under the shadows of the Red Sox reversing the curse, the Patriots owning the last decade, and the Celtics recent resurgence, the Bruins were an afterthought, hardcore fans aside of course Cent.

  When you take into account all that is going on with the franchises of Boston, the Bruins seems to be the most promising in the future.  Let’s not forget that they will be drafting either Seguin or Hall in the upcoming draft.

I am not going to lump the Patriots in here, as I did say Boston franchises, although they are getting a little long in the tooth, as long as you have #12 behind center you got a shot.  The Red Sox were just swept by the Baltimore Orioles, again sorry Cent, and they have reached the point where…(swallows his pride) they can’t take Varitek out of the lineup????  The Celtics have been showing their age as of late and it seems I am one of the few that believe they have a shot against Cleveland.  I do however acknowledge the fact that “the big three” will soon turn into “the old three” and you are left with Rondo running in circles passing the ball to…[insert someone worth it here].

When you look at the Boston Bruins current roster you can’t help but notice the youth on the team.  With Rask (23) in net for the next, I don’t know, decade, you have a chance to steal any game you play with his efforts.  The names you are now getting to know along with Rask; Bergeron, Boychuk, Lucic, Krejci, Ryder, and even Sabotka, may not be as explosive as the lines that the Capitals skate out every shift, but they’re average age is 24 years old.  Another fun fact; they’re STILL PLAYING.

The team play that the Bruins have exhibited this playoffs really shows you the quick learning curve that has taken place in Boston.  Claude Julien needs to be applauded for the job he has done with this team, when, with 3 games left in the season, still didn’t know their fate.

With all of the post-season upsets, the Bruins have home ice against the Flyers and find themselves up 1-0 in great position.  Regardless of the outcome this post-season, the young players on this team are getting a priceless lesson on playoff hockey, and what hockey in May is all about.