Must be Tough to be a Celtics Fan

I wasn’t going to write a post today about the Celtics because some of my co-bloggers are much more into the NBA than I am.  But, after logging on to Facebook this morning and seeing countless statuses all saying the same general, “It’s ok that Boston lost because they weren’t expected to go that far anyway,” I felt a rant coming on.

The now “Mediocrely sized three” (MST) were brought to Boston for one purpose and one purpose only, to win championships.  They certainly lived up to those lofty expectations in 2008, but have failed to regain that same form since then.  Granted they are two years older, but their all-star point guard is two years smarter, their bench is two years more experienced, and they have added Rasheed Wallace and Nate Robinson.  So, maybe the MST aren’t what they were in 2008, but I would argue that the talent level of the two teams (2008 vs. 2010) is similar.  That being said, to accept anything less than a championship as being a good season is an irrational act.  Since 2004, the Boston Red Sox are expected to compete for a World Series on a yearly basis.  Anything less that getting those rings would be considered a disappointment.  Since 2001, the New England Patriots are expected to compete for a Super Bowl on a yearly basis.  They went 18-1 in 2007 and people were pissed that they didn’t win the title.  Anything less than a Super Bowl is a disappointment.  Since 2008, the Celtics are expected to compete for an NBA Championship, and until Garnett, Pierce, and/or Allen are no longer a member(s) of the team, anything less than a championship IS a disappointment.  I don’t want to hear any more of this shit about how we are still happy for the Celtics that they just made it to the Championship game.  I don’t want to hear how we are happy that the “old guys” mustered up the courage to push the series to seven games.  And I certainly don’t want to hear how it’s ok that the Celtics lost because they still beat Dwight Howard and Lebron James.  You know last night you were pissed that the Celtics lost.  You know that their lack of offensive production in the 4th quarter was the sole reason they lost.  You know that they looked old last night.  But, you know they could have easily won that game.  So, cut the shit…anything less than a championship is unacceptable…and as we all know, the second place finisher is the first place loser.

Another thing that is pissing me off this morning is people complaining that the NBA fixes games.  The referees blatantly made calls all series to force a seventh game.  Cut the shit!  David Stern knows that if word ever got out that he was fixing games, the NBA would cease to exist.  On the court last night was probably 13 of the 100 best players in the world (may be a bit bold, but not too far from the truth).  To expect the series, with that level of talent, to not go to at least six, if not seven games, is pretty outrageous.  The so-called experts were even saying all along that it would be tough for teams to win back to back games, many predicting a seven game series.  On top of the level of talent, NBA referees have by far the toughest officiating job in all of sports.  NBA officials are forced to be very subjective.  In the MLB, a strike is a strike, an out is an out, a homerun is a homerun.  Granted there is a little wiggle room with strike zone size, or the occasional missed call, but the duties/job of an umpire is pretty clear cut.  In the NFL a hold is a hold, a fumble is a fumble, and a personal foul is a personal foul.  Again, there is a little wiggle room with what is and is not allowed, but it again is pretty cut and dry.  Not to mention that the MLB started implementing replay, and the NFL has been doing it for several seasons now.  In the NBA, 75% of whistles (if not more) are dedicated to fouls.  Your idea of a foul is much different from my idea of a foul, which is even more different than Joey Crawford’s idea of a foul.  These referees are put in a position where they need to make an instantaneous judgment call in front of 25,000 screaming fans, where undoubtedly they are going to get one fan base pissed off at a call.  So, to even entertain the idea that the referees blew the game for the Celtics is outrageous.  To even entertain the idea that the NBA rigged game to force the series into seven games is ridiculous.  To even entertain the idea that David Stern told Joey Crawford that the Lakers should win the series in game seven is downright stupid.  The referees made as many bad calls against the Celtics as they did against the Lakers.  The series was lost by the Boston Celtics and their inability to capitalize on the Lakers’ mistakes, and their unwillingness to show up in the fourth quarter.  Any explanation other than that is a true display for your inability to accept defeat and innate desire to create an excuse to lessen the pain that failure brings.

Celtics V Lakers Game 7

The title says it all.

The best rivalry in all of sports has reached its zenith.  A game seven between the Celtics and the Lakers is what David Stern and basketball purists across the nation had hoped for at the start of this season.  Anyone with a pulse and an affliction for the game of basketball will be glued to their television sets tonight. 

There is an interesting contrast between the two teams playing tonight.  The Celtics play a more team-oriented brand of basketball, the Lakers ebb and flow are dictated by Kobe Bryant.

The whole team for Boston must contribute in order to win this game.

 I fully believe that we are going to see something special from Paul Pierce tonight.  Game five was great to see, and I think game 7 will be a similar performance from the pulse of this team.  Rajon Rondo needs to be mindful to get Pierce involved early so that he can get into a groove.  If Pierce starts hot it will open up the rest of the offense.  Spacing is so important, and if Pierce can get going early it will open up passing lanes for everyone else. 

I think Ray Allen needs to be special.  He has proven that he likes the rims in LA better this series, tonight, he will need to love them.  KG will need to be on with his long-range jumper.  He needs to get Gasol out of the paint on defense so that there are second chance opportunities for the C’s.  Davis will need to knock down jumpers when he gets his chance.  I think that LA will make him prove he can hit a few before he sees any pressure.  With Garnett and Davis possibly pulling out the bigs for LA, the second chances could prove huge throughout the game. 

The glaring hole in the paint tonight for the Celtics in the absence of Kendrick Perkins will not be filled by one man.  It is going to take some minutes from players who have not seen much of the floor, one who hasn’t put on a jersey in weeks.  After Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis, the Celtics will need Sheldon Williams and Brian Scalabrine to step up tonight, frankly they need them to not screw up.  I feel more comfortable putting in Scal before Williams personally from a pure effort standpoint.  As awkward as he is he has shown in the past that his hacking mentality can be disruptive and his effort is something I believe the team can feed off of. 

Rasheed Wallace could very well be the X-factor in this game.   As I said earlier I see Davis getting the start tonight.  However, I think Sheed’s contributions on defense will be crucial to the Celtics winning the battles down low. Wallace has proven he can play solid defense in the post and his experience in big playoff games should serve him well to keep an even keel mentally, ( even keel for him of course).   The key is how long can he stay on the court and be effective.  I am not as worried about the fouls as everyone else seems to be, I know I should be, but I’m not.  I think the refs let the payers play a little more than normal given the levity of this game.  Wallace isn’t used to playing big minutes, and this is the concern I have versus the foul-trouble argument.  Back in January he was playing 30-35 minutes in games, so it can be done. 

I think that Doc has done a masterful job managing his veterans minutes down the stretch of the regular season.  With one game left I think he will run them all ragged.  I think they are all aware of that fact.  The experience on this roster should allow them to keep mindful not to get too high too early and to stay within the flow of the game.

 The Celtice are 6-1 after a loss this year in the playoffs.  This team needs to be resilient, it needs to be fierce, it needs an outright herculean effort from every man in green tonight.  There are no more second chances, no more second guessing, no more we’ll get em next time.  This is what all athletes dream about when they are children.  A chance to play in this kind of game does not come along that often.  You can look at the Celtics roster for prime examples.  Ray Allen has never been in a game seven, nor has Garnett, not even Pierce.  Not in the finals, not on this stage.  The last game seven in the finals was in 2005 between the Spurs and Pistons (Wallace was on that roster), before that it was 1994  between the Rockets and Knicks. 

Tonight I am looking to see the Celtics fly to loose balls, take care of the ball, and rebound.  The team that wins the rebounding battle has won every game so far this series.  Without Perkins this will no doubt be tough,  but it can be done.  Boston needs to work hard down low and make every shot difficult.  The defense will need to eliminate second chance scoring from the Lakers every chance they get.  The defense needs to set the tone for this team, it needs to be the focus of every Celtic to play above his ability tonight.  Something special will happen tonight, history will be made, and in order for Boston to be on the right side of that, they need to play as a team. 

Ode to the Bench!-The Story of Game 4

BOSTON -96—- LOS ANGELES-89

GAME 4- Boston, Massachusetts

*The first three quarters of last night’s Game 4 might have been the most miserable 3 quarters of basketball I have ever seen.  The first three quarters of last night’s game rivaled any CYO game ever played.  The game was downright ugly.  The Celtics missed several lightly contested layups and many open look jumpers.  The offense of the Celtics has left a lot to be desired through four games, but their defense has been relentless.  Thank Thibodeau for that!

*The Celtics also got a huge pick me up from the bench.  Words will never do justice to describe exactly what they accomplished last night.  Glen Davis plays with heart and sometimes that is even better than having any talent.  He battles for every ball, crashes the glass, and hustles on every play.  I can’t even make fun of him for drooling and slobbering on himself after a huge and one put back.  He got me fired up to the point where I was screaming and yelling, jumping up and down, and fist pumping in my own living room.  I love seeing players play with emotion and The Ticket Stub has it.  Of course the line of the night came from Mark Jackson: “What do babies do? They drool, babies do that.”

*Eddie Who?  Doc Rivers has said all along that Nate Robinson would win a playoff game for the Celtics.  He did that in Orlando for Game 6, and along with his partner Shrek (Big Baby) they won Game 4 for the Celts.  In case you missed it, Nate the Great referred to he and Baby as Shrek and Donkey.  Ya gotta love it!  Nate provides that same spark that Davis does off the bench.  They play with all the emotion and heart in the world.  Nate banged 2 quick 3’s and then was able to penetrate into the paint and get some buckets there as well.  I didn’t even mind the technical he got for getting in Odom’s face.  That got the crowd into a frenzy and picked up the team as well.  It helped the Celts get that swag back.  It didn’t hurt that D-Fish missed the free throw as well.

*While Tony Allen can be somewhat frustrating on offense, he has played lockdown defense all playoff long.  When called upon he has played Kobe Bryant as good as anyone can play the greatest player on the planet.  He has forced Kobe into taking difficult shots and Kobe hasn’t had anything easy.  Tony has come a long way from the days of biting on every single upfake causing him to foul someone in the act of shooting.  I am really going to hate to see Tony leave for a higher pay day at the end of this season.  I love his ADHD mentality on the court and also on the bench when he simply can’t sit down for more than 3 minutes.  He is constantly up screaming and yelling encouragement to those on the floor.  He is the consummate team player.

*There was no bigger shot in last night’s game then Sheed nailing the three from the top of the key to ice the game.  I have been hard on Rasheed all year long and I stick by that.  However, the truth is the man knows how to win and his experience in the post season has been invaluable to this team.  He has played in your face defense on the big pansy known as Pau Gasol.  More importantly he hasn’t done anything to hurt the team which was characteristic of him throughout the regular season.

*Huge props to Doc for staying with the bench in the 4th quarter.  The man can coach and he showed that last night.  The bench wasn’t looking to “get anyone going” which has been the problem with the starters.  The bench just ran the offense and took what the Lakers gave them.  This needs to translate to the starters for the rest of the series.  If that happens the Celtics will take the title.

From the Outside Looking In

As tough as it is for me to admit, I confess to watching the majority of the Celtics vs. Lakers game last night.  For those of you that regularly follow this blog, you know how I feel about the NBA.  Last night did little to dissuade my hatred for the brand of basketball that the NBA presents on a nightly basis, but I felt obligated to at least pay a moderate amount of attention to the game.  That being said, I certainly didn’t limit myself to one sporting event, that just wouldn’t be right (looking forward to seeing Strasburg vs. Heyward for the next 6-10 years)…

-Consider these statistics:

fg: 11-33, 3pt fg: 8-19, ft: 4-4, reb: 7 total, ast: 4, pts: 34

For those of you who haven’t figured it out yet, those are Ray Allen’s stats over the last two games.  Not great, but not overly terrible either.  Granted, all 11 fg’s, 8 3pt fg’s, and 32 of 34 points were scored on Sunday…but did you really expect a repeat performance?  We have all come to know and love Ray Allen, and know and love the fact that when he’s hot the man is unstoppable (see Sunday night).  But, we have also consequently come to know and…accept that when Ray is off his game it’s pretty damn ugly.  If you showed me that stat line above for Ray and told me over those two games the Celts would be 1-1, that would be just about what I have expected.  All Celtics’ fans should be thankful that Ray Allen won game two (with a moderate amount of assistance from Rondo), but it would be (or have been) very unrealistic for fans to expect him to continue that performance throughout the course of the series.

-I do have some real concern regarding Allen though.  Despite his dreadful performance for the first 40-44 minutes of game 3, I always expect Ray to hit at least one big three down the stretch…which never happened.  May this possibly be a sign that 34 year old legs on a jump shooter need more than one day off in between games to fully recover?

It was nice to see Kevin Garnett show up to the game.  I actually began to miss his consistent barrage of F bombs a bit.  But, despite Garnett’s improved performance offensively, I still wasn’t happy with his play.  Garnett ended the game with only 6 rebounds and 1 block (while only managing to get to the line 4 times).  In order for the Celtics to be successful, they need Garnett to impose his will underneath.  Perkins is trying to battle underneath, but he’s overmatched against two seven footers.  Garnett needs to stop doing his best Misty May-Treanor impression and start grabbing some boards.

-Rasheed Wallace has been the Celtics’ best post defender so far in this series…no wonder why they are down two games to one.

-As I said when I commented on Scotty’s 2010 NBA Finals Preview, If Pierce doesn’t get the best of Ron Artest, the Celtics would have a tough time winning this series.  So far it’s Artest 2 – Pierce 0, with 1 no decision (considering Artest was in foul trouble almost all of game 3).  Doc needs to find a way to get the catalyst going.  Whether is implementing screens for Pierce to run off of (similar to the offense run for Ray), or maybe going with a different lineup to create some match up issues, something needs to be done to get Pierce into this series.

-Glen “Big Baby” Davis essentially defines the term “leave it all on the court.”  On a nightly basis he is clearly hardest working Celtic on the court, diving after rebounds, flopping all over the place, taking elbows to the face, doing whatever it takes to try and grab a victory for his team.  Sadly, Baby’s inability to finish at the rim has really hurt Boston this series.  Countless time his size underneath has hindered his offensive performance by either his shots getting blocked or not being able to get his shot off at all.  He’s a great role player, but to rely on him to contribute consistently on offense is unrealistic, and has hurt the Celtics in this series.

-Tony Allen is doing a pretty good job playing tight defense on Kobe, but every time Allen touches the ball I cringe at the possibility of him committing a turnover or taking a stupid shot.

-When Nate Robinson enters the game, the offense falls apart completely.  The ball doesn’t rotate, players are not moving, and before you know it Robinson is throwing up a three pointer because there are three seconds left on the shot clock.  I know Rondo needs a breather on occasion, but the Celtics can’t afford to have periods of offensive stagnancy.  I wouldn’t mind seeing Nate get some time alongside Rondo and see what kind of spark that would give the offense (granted then you need to determine who is going to cover Kobe).

-Thank god Lamar Odom has yet to show up or this series would be over.

-Rondo has improved his game dramatically even from the beginning of the season.  He has recently shown the ability to consistently knock down the 15-18 foot jump shot.  He is getting to the hoop with relative ease, and while his ability to finish at the hoop is questionable at times, he has a knack of finding the open man in a crowded paint.  Sadly for Rajon, the open man has been unable to finish the play consistently throughout this entire series.  Too many times has Garnett and Perkins either missed bunnies or didn’t even attempt to take the shot at all and kick the ball out to the three point line.  What happened to the days when KG was stuffing the ball down Gasol’s throat after he slammed it through the rim?  What happened to the Perkins of March that kept the ball above his shoulders when he caught it?  Rajon has supplanted himself in the discussion as one of the top point guards in the game (although I’m still saying he’s maybe top 5), but he’s not yet good enough to carry this team through the Los Angeles Lakers on their way to an NBA Championship.  Rondo needs help, and I have yet to see where it is going to come from…

Ubuntu over Stars

This post season has been spectacular thus far for the Boston Celtics.  They have taken down 2 superstars in Dwayne Wade and LeBron James.  They are up two games on Dwight Howard.  If I had of been told this between January and February, I would have laughed in your face.  But like a light switch the Celtics were able to turn it on at the right time.  Not because anyone player has stepped up, but because the synergy of the Celtics has reigned supreme.

Sure, Rajon Rondo has played out of his mind and has proven that he is in fact a top five point guard in the League.  But the ability of the team to play around him and for him to set everyone up has been the key to success.  In 2008 Rondo had to learn how to play with The Big Three, and they took home the title that year.  In 2010, The Big Three have learned to play around Rondo, and that has made the difference.  The most telling stat of the Celtics post season thus far is that not one player has led the team in scoring in back to back games.  Its not that the Celtics have too many weapons, they are just a well oiled machine.

The bench play has been spectacular as well.  I am eating my words watching Rasheed Wallace be the defensive stopper I once thought he was.  If he continues to hit his 2 threes a game off the bench and goes down in the post every so often like he has, I have zero reason to complain.  Glen Davis has been able to draw his 2 charges a game by sacrificing his body under the basket and taking away lanes to the basket.  He has played Dwight Howard as well as Perk and Sheed have and that is all the more surprising.  His occasional jumper from 15-18 feet seems like a post season fixture for Davis.

The only unfortunate thing I have seen in these playoffs is that after 5 years in the league, Tony Allen has finally learned his role.  He has played lock down defense on the opposing team’s best scorer and has gotten into the flow of the offense.  Watching him and Rondo run a fast break is a thing of beauty.  Why is this unfortunate?  In comparing 2008 to 2010 Tony Allen is James Posey.  I hate to see Tony go but he is playing himself into a nice contract for himself next season.  But i guess I will take the good with the bad.  In the case the good is far greater than the bad.

The Celtics are 2 wins away from a berth in the NBA Finals hopefully against the Lakers.  6 wins from an NBA title.  All because they are the best team in the world up to this point.  A team that will refuse to lose.  A team that when it is all said and done will have taken down, DWade, King James, Superman, and Kobe.

April Mumbles

*In my effort to broaden my horizons and experience new things, I actually sat down and watched the third round of the Masters from beginning to end.  I tuned in to see how my main man Tiger would do and if he could keep up his stellar comeback going into moving day.  In all honesty it was one of the most exciting sporting events I have witnessed and I am talking about golf here.  Not because of Tiger, but seeing Phil Mickelson play unconscious for 3 straight holes, eagling 2 of them, one being a 149 yard shot, and missing a 3rd eagle in a row by mere inches.  Seeing 50 year old Fred Couples hang tough with a few chip in’s for below par scores and staying in contention. And seeing leader Lee Westwood hear roar after roar from the patrons all over the course and being able to maintain his focus to keep the lead going into Sunday.  I tuned into see Tiger and left marveling at everything else.

*The Red Sox season is a week old and we have already learned a few things.  1) Count me as one of the Papi nay-sayers.  Not because he is hitting below .200. I understand slow starts happen in baseball.  My problem is that it seems that in every at bat he has been ahead 3-1, 2-1, and 3-0, has gotten batting practice fastballs in those counts and has more often than not swung and missed.  I am usually very patient with my athletes, however it is time for Francona to call a spade a spade and platoon Lowell and Ortiz.

2) To no one’s surprise the starting pitching has come as advertised.  It is the bullpen that is the concern.  Daniel Bard can’t pitch with runners on base and Papelbon can no longer throw a clean inning.  Delcarmen’s velocity is way down from 96 a year ago to 90-91 this season.  On a positive note I like what I have seen from Scott Schoenweis and Scott Atchison.  I admit I am rooting hard for both of them because of different family situations they have faced, but they have pitched well in their roles.

3) The bottom 3 in the order are not Nick Green, Jason Varitek, or David Ortiz from a year ago which seemed to be automatic outs at times.  Newcomers Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron, and Marco Scutaro have shown that there is at least hope that they will get on base when they come to the plate.

*After getting into the NHL playoffs in thrilling fashion yesterday with a 4-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes, it is fair to say that any damage the Bruins do in the playoffs should be seen as an added bonus.  But I must give them props for the way they won yesterday; 3 short handed goals and a great hustle play by Patrice Bergeron saving the game by preventing an empty note goal off of a delayed penalty.

*While I am excited for the Bruins, I could really give a damn about the Celtics.  Maybe my expectations are too high for them. But then again, my only expectations are that they play quality basketball and they can’t even do that.  It should be noted that the team has been diagnosed with a rare cancer known as "Rasheed Wallace."  It symptoms include laziness, slow motion, and aging 10 years faster than what you actually are.

*If you havent seen Law Abiding Citizen yet you are doing yourself a great disservice.  I also have come to believe that Jaime Foxx is one of the most underrated actors of this generation.  No, he is not Leo, Denzel, or Hanks.  But he always delivers a quality performance.

*With the NFL Draft fast approaching, I am still unsure which way I’d like to see the Pats go.  The most obvious need is a pass rusher but I have long been a fan of drafting the best player available.  I think that at 22, there will be slim pickings at pass rusher positions.  Check back in throughout the week as the Mattyoshow will have his mock draft up.  After all he is the better looking Mel Kieper.

*With the Yankees missing Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and Melky Cabrera, their lineup is less scary to me for some reason.  I understand Granderson is solid but he is still a sub .250 hitter.  But it is entirely possible the Yankees might have improved over last year simply because they are doing what fans would have done all along.  Put Joba in the bullpen as the eighth inning guy.

*Count me as one that is excited that LOST is coming to an end.  The buildup to the last episode has been great and I think that the producers realized that while it as quite a following, it was time to wrap up the sensation.  After all there was only so much more they could do without providing answers through 6 seasons.  Michael Emerson (Benjamin Linus)  is my runaway pick for best actor on a television show.

*John Lackey approached Dustin Pedroia status with me when he drilled Derek Jeter earlier this week.  I don’t care what anyone says.  It was a purpose pitch after Pettite dinged Youkillis in the dome.  The pitch prior to hitting Jeter, Lackey missed way inside as well.  Lackey showed he will be a great teammate and I was excited to see that out of him.  I have been waiting for 3 years to see some sort of retaliation for this nonsense.  If he could have done it differently however, I hope he’d hit Teixeira instead of Jeter.  Lackey has earned his "B" if you ask me.

Wanted: A Big Man with Experience in Rebounding and Defense

All the trade talk hovering around the Celtics, specifically Ray Allen, really has me thinking. Do the Celtics really need Monta Ellis or Kevin Martin? Not really. Yes it would be nice to get a little more youthful at a high energy position, such as shooting guard, but it isn’t what they need, and it won’t necessarily make them better. If the C’s make even one of those trades, they’ll only be adding another shooter, which they already have plenty of. Will that put them over the edge? You could argue yes, because this team looks tired and they could use some young legs.You could also argue no, it won’t help on the defensive side of the ball or the rebounding category.

They need another big man, one with experience whose not afraid to bang down low, and rebound. If you watch every Celtic game, like I do, then you see them getting out rebounded virtually every night, especially  offensive rebounds. Rasheed Wallace almost looks afraid to make an offensive rebound (when he’s actually in the paint). Kevin Garnett isn’t 100 percent, so we can’t really expect much from him. The only one hustling to rebounds is Big Baby. Oh I’m sorry, Glen Davis.

The Celtics defense this year has been good, not great, like we’ve seen the past 2 years. With the exception of Kendrick Perkins it looks like they lost some physicality.  You could credit that to Garnett not being 100 percent and Rasheed Wallace being as soft as the toilet paper I just used. It looks like Garnett will never get to 100 percent, and Wallace won’t toughen up. This is not a good sign especially with Perkins being in foul trouble virtually every night. Are the Celtics able to add this piece? There really isn’t anyone on the free agent market now. Unless you want Michael Olowacan’tplay back. So you would have to look to trade, and ask who would be available to trade. Ray Allen? then you would lose a shooting guard. Rasheed Wallace? Yes, please. Would you be willing to give away young talent like Bill Walker or J.R. Giddens. Maybe Tony Allen, maybe Eddie House, however you do that you lose energy off the bench. Then you gotta ask, who would be available to trade for? The only guy I can really think of that’s been mentioned is Amare Stoudamire. I think his price would be a little high. There’s no one else really out there. But if the C’s can somehow make something happen and add a rebounding/ defensive minded big man like a P.J Brown type player, they’ll make a big run in the playoffs.