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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

How the Mighty Have Fallen


A lot can change in two years. Want proof, just ask the Miami Heat. I can't believe it either but this team that recently lost 15 in a row and appears destined to land a Top-3 pick in the next draft actually won the NBA championship two summers ago. Yowzer. Pity Dwyane Wade. Once his contract runs out, he'll have to get the hell out of Miami. The place is a wasteland right now. Coach Greasy Hair will be gone by the end of the season-you can book that-and Shaq will follow suit as his beaten down body finally gives in.

With Kevin Garnett out with that abdominal injury and Ray Allen also out with the flu, the Celtics smoked the Heat in Miami, 117-87. Four Celtics (35-8) scored over 20 points and none of them bore a resemblance to Beetlejuice from the Howard Stern Show (Paul Pierce). Leon Powe had a career-high 25 points and 11 rebounds, Rajon Rondo had 23 points and six boards, Tony Allen scored 20 points with six assists, two blocks, two steals and Eddie House notched 20 points and five rebounds.

The Heat (9-34) lost Udonis Haslem to injury in the game and Wade left in the third cause he was sick (he was 1 of 9 with 7 points). Former Celtics con-man Mark Blount led the Heat with 20 points and five rebounds. The only other guys to get double figures for Miami were Luke Jackson (14 points) and Earl Barron (10).

This one was never a contest as Boston jumped out to a 33-14 lead after the first quarter. The C's held a 64-42 halftime advantage.

A 30-19 third quarter made it a complete laugher for the Celts. James Posey had nine points, seven boards, two assists and two steals in his return to Miami. Great move getting rid of him by Riley. Pierce had seven points, five boards, four assists and two steals while Glen Davis scored seven.

Boston shot 51.3% for the game, Miami just 35.9%. The Celts made 10 of 21 3-pointers, 15 more rebounds (51-36), seven more assists (22-15) and five additional steals (12-7).

Things figure to get much harder as one of the NBA's best teams-the Dallas Mavericks (31-13, winners of their last four)-come to the Garden on Thursday for a TNT game. Without KG, the Celts will have little chance for the W so hopefully he can go.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Game Without KG Isn't Worth Playing

I don't know if I jinxed him or what, titling the last post (Where Would We Be Without KG?) but that question was predictably answered yesterday afternoon in Orlando. Answer: not that far from where we've been the last few seasons (ie. the gutter). Oh sure, the Celts played admirably without their unquestioned leader and most valuable player and it took a fadeaway 3 by Hedo Turkoglu (the pride of Turkey) at the buzzer to beat them, 96-93 but you knew they weren't going to win this one from the start.

The Magic (28-18) are good, not great and they have enough talent to beat the Celts (34-8) in any game, especially one without Garnett. Paul Pierce (team-high 24 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals) was up to his usual ballhog ways from the last few seasons and Ray Allen (17 points on 7 of 18 shooting) looked awful on almost every shot. But then he drove to the hole and slammed one and with the Celts down three late, he hit a tying 3-pointer. Go figure.

I don't know if Doc was drinking Pina Coladas before the game or what (it is his hometown after all) but for some unknown reason he started Brian Scalabrine once he found out KG couldn't go (cause of the abdominal strain from the other night). Insert laugh track here. Scal did nothing but impress as he somehow played 22 minutes in an NBA game and his only recorded stats were a missed 3 and he made 1 of 2 free throws. He had nothing else, which takes some serious game.

Leon Powe (9 points, 9 rebounds) ending up playing 27 minutes anyway so I guess it doesn't matter but why even bother throwing Scal out there at that point. Just mystifying. Rajon Rondo (15 points, 6 steals, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) had a real nice game despite getting hurt in the third quarter. He came back shortly after. He took 16 shots which has to be a record for him. After missing the last three games, James Posey (16 points, 6 rebounds) also played well.

Boston led 23-19 after the first and 46-43 at the half. The third quarter was the turning point as Orlando bum Brian Cook came off the bench cold and proceeded to drop 11 points in his only 10 minutes of work. The Magic outscored Boston 32-19 in the quarter.

Quietly Turkoglu (game-high 27 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists) has become an All-Star caliber player while Rashard Lewis (15 points, 6 rebounds) continues to laugh on his way to the bank. Overrated doesn't to him justice. Dwight Howard had a good game (18 points, 16 rebounds, 5 blocks), the most surprising part being that he made all six of his free throws.

Orlando almost blew it late as their putrid guards, Carlos Arroyo (2 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 6 turnovers), Maurice Evans (11 points, 4 turnovers) and Keyon Dooling (8 points, 2 turnovers) did their best to hand it to Boston. Jameer Nelson is out but even with him back, the Magic stand no chance in the playoffs against teams with good guards (Boston, Detroit, Washington, Toronto, etc.).

Boston travels to Miami tomorrow night and it sounds like Garnett might be out for that one too. The Heat just broke their 15-game losing streak on Saturday so I hope the C's could still take them regardless of the Big Ticket's status.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Where Would We Be Without KG?


When the Minnesota Timberwolves came to the Garden last night, the team with the worst record in the NBA was meeting the team with the best. None of this seemed to matter as the Celtics were extremely lucky to come away with a 87-86 win.

The T-Wolves have count 'em six former C's: Al Jefferson, Antoine Walker, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair and Theo Ratliff (who by this point is a mummy). True Boston fans (and not the ones who are Johnny Come Lately bandwagon fillers) will remember them all, especially the young guys and 'Toine.

The Celts made the Eastern Conference Finals in 2002 led by 'Toine, Pierce and a team that shot about 45 threes a game. Not surprisingly, they came crashing to a halt against the Nets. The young guys who were here last year (Bassy) or the last two (the rest) were part of a rebuilding project that never really went anywhere. That is until they were packaged along with two No. 1 picks for Garnett last summer. Jefferson is an absolute beast and at 22-years old is destined to be a star but as we've seen all year, and fittingly last night, KG is a winner that makes plays few others can.

Things weren't looking good as Boston (34-7) was down one with under a minute. They got a stop and the rebound but Pierce travelled. The T-Wolves (7-35) though shot themselves in the foot as they failed to get the ball inbounds in time. Ray Allen drove to the basket on the next possession but his layup rimmed out. Kendrick Perkins was there for the putback slam. Minnesota had one last chance but they couldn't get anything off. KG ended up out on Telfair near midcourt. No surprise who ended up with the ball as time ran out. Garnett pounded his chest and held up the Boston part of his jersey. A memorable moment in what could have been a disastrous game.

In terms of one-on-one matchups, there were a couple of surprises in terms of final results. Perkins (game-high 21 points, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks) actually outplayed Jefferson (15 points, 5 boards, 2 steals, 2 assists, 2 blocks). Telfair played great (18 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals) while Rajon Rondo (4 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 block) was invisible.

Pierce had 19 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. Ray Allen shot 4 of 18 for 12 points and four rebounds. KG left in the fourth with an abdominal strain but finished the game with 10 points and 16 rebounds. Tony Allen (6 rebounds) and Leon Powe each added seven points off the bench.

Gomes had 13 points while Rashad McCants had 12 points and seven boards. Green had nine points, three boards and two assists. Corey Brewer had eight points and 'Toine had only three.

The C's got to the basket much more and were rewarded by making 25 of 30 from the line. Minnesota was just 12 of 16. Boston dominated the glass (47-35) while the T-Wolves got more steals (13-7).

The rematch in Minnesota in a few weeks should be even more emotional for Garnett since he had spent his whole career there. The Celts hit the road to face Orlando tomorrow afternoon. The teams split the first two games (with the home team winning both) so it should be a tight contest.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

"He's on Fire!"


Remember back in the day playing NBA Jam with the hot spots? Once you started hitting a few 9-pointers, the game was yours. The NBA still only has 2 and 3-pointers but last night the performance put on by the Toronto Raptors reminded me of someone tearing it up on NBA Jam. Toronto won 114-112 over the Celtics last night at the Garden.

The Raptors (23-19) shot 58.0% from the floor, 71.8% from 3 (15 of 21) and a perfect 19 of 19 from the line. I don't even know how the Celts (33-7) almost stole this one.

Everyone on Toronto seemed to be draining shots from any part of the court, with a hand in their face. Jose Calderon led the way with 24 points, 13 assists and three steals. Calderon made a layup and the ensuing free throw to give Toronto the two point lead at the end. Chris Bosh (7 rebounds) and Anthony Parker both had 23 points while Andrea Bargnani (7 assists, 7 rebounds) had 20 points. Even Carlos Delfino hit all five of his threes for 15 points.

Down 47-45 at the half, the C's played a great third quarter, outscoring Toronto (36-27). The fourth quarter was their doom as they simply couldn't match the Raptors who were scoring on nearly every possession. Ray Allen hit a jumper to put the C's up one with 18 seconds left but then Calderon got the And-1. Boston tried a 3-pointer by Eddie House to win it which missed and Allen missed a short jumper that would have tied it at the buzzer.

Kevin Garnett had 26 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals in the loss. When the final totals come out today, he's expected to be the top vote-getter for the All-Star game. Paul Pierce submitted 19 points, nine assists and five rebounds while Allen had 19 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals. It looks like Pierce will make the Eastern Conference All-Star team too while Ray Allen is an outside possibility. Tony Allen had 15 points, four boards, two assists, two blocks and two steals off the bench and Rajon Rondo had 14 points, six rebounds and four assists. Glen Davis showed off his great hands around the rim as he had eight points in 12 minutes of action.

The Timberwolves come to town tomorrow night, the first regular season meeting since Garnett was dealt from Minnesota to Boston. The T-Wolves are the worst team in the NBA but they just won their second game in a row (first time all season) last night against the Suns so they should be fired up. Al Jefferson not surprisingly has been putting up huge numbers there and Ryan Gomes has been steadily improving as he finds his role on such a young team. The other former C's include Sebastian Telfair, Antoine Walker and Gerald Green. Should be fun.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Celtics Visit the Circus and Come Home with a Win


As long as Isiah Thomas is still coaching up the Knicks and the team is filled with overpaid bums, they are a national joke. What negative thing hasn't happened to the Knicks in recent memory? Brawls, front office lawsuits, dogged play, coach-player disputes. In the 90's, they used to be one of the best teams in the NBA year in and year out.

The Celtics traveled to the Big Apple yesterday afternoon for an early game thanks to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Boston (33-6) came away with a 109-93 win in a game filled with trash-talking.

The offensive star for the C's, especially in the first half was Kendrick Perkins. He had 24 points (22 in the first half) which is a new career-high and eight rebounds. Kevin Garnett had 20 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists while Ray Allen (17 points, 8 boards) and Rajon Rondo (14 points, 4 steals) were some other notables.

Down 59-45 at the half, New York (13-28) resorted to some pretty bush league tactics in the second half to try and get under Boston's skin. Quentin Richardson (0 points) has had a long running feud with Paul Pierce (10 points, 7 assists) and things boiled over as they both got two technicals in the third quarter and were subsequently tossed. Pierce was having a great game distributing the ball, it was a shame to see him get caught up jawing with a scrub that had only one motive: get Pierce out.

The Knicks have some great numbers guys. Players that put up good statistics but never seem to be on good teams with any chemistry. Zach Randolph had a double-double with 24 points, 15 boards and four steals and Jamal Crawford had 22 points and five assists. Eddy Curry posted 19 points and six boards while Nate Robinson had 15 points off the bench.

Eddie House added nine points and Leon Powe built off his last game by scoring six and pulling down four rebounds.

Boston outshot New York, 54.7-43.2%. The Knicks made only 1 of their 15 3-point attempts and both teams were solid on the line (New York was 28 of 33, Boston was 23 of 29). Finally, the C's grabbed six more rebounds (42-26).

The Toronto Raptors come to the Garden tomorrow night in what should be a good contest. When healthy, the Raptors have a quality team. Chris Bosh has been lighting it up of late so no doubt, the Celts main priority will to be stop him.

Monday, January 21, 2008

It Never Gets Old


For as long as you live, when your favorite team in any sport wins a big game, it gives you an incredible rush that simply cannot be duplicated (sex, drugs and rock and roll not withstanding). When said team advances to the Super Bowl for the fourth time in the last seven years and is now just win away from an unprecedented 19-0 campaign, what can you say? You've been there every step of the way but now that it's so close, you almost can't believe it. Such is the situation facing my New England Patriots, 21-12 winners over the spirited but ultimately undermanned San Diego Chargers yesterday in the AFC Championship game at Gillette Stadium. A week from Sunday, the Patriots face the New York Giants in Arizona for Super Bowl 42.

The story of the game was the Patriots red zone defense and the clutch play of the running back duo of Laurence Maroney (25 carries, 122 yards, 1 TD; 1 catch, 9 yards) and Kevin Faulk (8 catches, 82 yards; 1 carry, 8 yards).

Without LaDainian Tomlinson (2 carries, 5 yards; 1 catch, 1 yard) for most of the game and with Antonio Gates (2 catches, 17 yards) and Philip Rivers (19 of 37, 211 yards, 2 INT's) hobbled, nobody in the world was picking the Chargers to knock off the Patriots. Then again, nobody expected San Diego to go into Indy last weekend and knock off the Colts.

Nate Kaeding (4 field goals) was San Diego's best offensive player and when that's the case, odds are you're not going to beat the Patriots. You have to match them touchdown for touchdown, something that nobody has done so far this season.

Tom Brady (22 of 33, 209 yards, 2 TD's, 3 INT's) had his worst game of the season, Randy Moss (1 catch, 18 yards; 1 carry, 14 yards) was a complete non-factor for the second straight playoff contest and yet the Pats still found a way to win.

San Diego corner Quentin Jammer made a leaping interception of Brady in the first quarter, leading to the first Kaeding kick, putting San Diego up 3-0.

New England finally started to move the ball at the end of the first quarter and into the second as Maroney dove in from a yard out, giving New England a 7-3 lead.

Vincent Jackson (6 catches, 93 yards) killed the Pats on the next drive with three catches but once again, the Chargers offense was stuffed inside the red zone. Ellis Hobbs made a big tackle on third down as he tackled Chris Chambers (7 catches, 90 yards) on an underneath route. Kaeding's kick cut it to 7-6.

After a punt, the Pats capitalized on a Rivers mistake as Asante Samuel stepped in front of a pass intended for Chambers and returned it 10 yards to the San Diego 24-yard line. Two plays later, Brady found Jabar Gaffney over the middle with a 12-yard catch and run for a score.

Ellis Hobbs (8 tackles) picked off Rivers on the next San Diego possession but the Pats couldn't do anything and were forced to punt it back to the Chargers.

Going into yesterday, Kaeding had been 2 for 6 in his postseason career so it was surprising when he nailed his third field goal of the day (from 40 yards) just before halftime. The Pats held a 14-9 lead.

The third quarter was a nightmare for Brady as he was intercepted twice. The first one was on New England's opening drive of the second half. Brady's pass for Donte' Stallworth went off the receiver's hands and into Chargers cornerback Drayton Florence's waiting arms. Taking over at the New England 49-yard line, the Chargers settled for another red zone field goal (24 yards). Junior Seau (6 tackles, 1 sack) made the defensive play of the game for the Pats on third-and-1 from the Pats 4. He shot through the line and tackled Michael Turner (17 carries, 65 yards) for a two-yard loss.

The game was effectively sealed early in the fourth as Brady found Wes Welker (7 catches, 56 yards, 1 TD) with a six-yard touchdown strike. The o-line gave Brady plenty of time and he looked at Moss, Ben Watson and finally Welker before throwing the ball.

Not to state the obvious but there are many reasons why Norv Turner is the coach he is and Bill Belichick is a three-time Super Bowl winner (currently 14-2 in the playoffs with New England). Exhibit A: San Diego choose to punt the ball away facing a fourth-and-10 at the Pats 36 with 9:21 left in the fourth quarter and down two scores (21-12). The Chargers never got the ball back as New England grinded the clock away. Faulk made three catches for 32 yards and two first downs on the drive, proving once again that he is the most underrated Patriot. Maroney was a bull, rushing eight times for 37 yards and three first downs. It was his fourth 100-yard performance in the last five games as he matched his impressive rushing total from last week. The guy is a stud, plain and simple. Any questions about his ability have been put to rest weeks ago.

Now the Pats face the Giants, a team that they barely beat 38-35 in the last week of the regular season. The G-Men have certainly peaked in the playoffs, winning all three of their games on the road against favored opponents. New York is for real, no question about it. Eli Manning is playing the best ball of his career, they have a solid running game and outstanding defense. If the Patriots win the Super Bowl, they will have earned 19-0 and the label of greatest team of all-time. Let the two weeks of relentless hype commence.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Celtics bury Sixers with 38 point fourth quarter


For most of the first three quarters last night, the Celtics sleepwalked against the over-matched Philadelphia 76'ers. Fortunately for the home team, they found some defense in the second half and most importantly, they found their shooting stroke in the fourth.

Boston (32-6) came away with a 116-89 blowout win that was pretty deceiving given the early struggles.

Philly (15-25) took a 57-54 lead into the break. The Celts outscored them 24-16 in the third and 38-16 in the fourth as every shot seemed to fall for Boston.

Ironically enough, the guy who really provided a spark for Boston was the most unlikely of players: 12th man Leon Powe. The second-year big man out of Cal scored 10 points and grabbed six boards as he played the last 15 minutes of the game. He sured things up on the inside as the Sixers were absolutely killing the C's on the glass before he went in.

Ray Allen (9 of 14 from the floor for 23 points, 6 assists, 4 steals) had another great night. Probably his best back-to-back performances of the season. Paul Pierce scored 22 and had three assists in three quarters of action, he sat out the fourth. Eddie House (15 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) started at point guard and hit some big shots when the Celtics started to pull away. Kevin Garnett had 11 points, eight assists, six rebounds and two blocks. Tony Allen (12 points), Kendrick Perkins (8 points, 7 rebounds) and James Posey (8 points) all made plays as well.

Philly was led by Andre Iguodala (17 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 steals), who might have the highest arching shot in the NBA. Samuel Dalembert had a double double with 12 points and 10 rebounds while Andre Miller (12 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists) and Jason Smith (10 points) also scored in double digits.

Boston shot a ridiculous 58.9% for the game while Philadelphia was 45.3%. The other number that really jumps out at you is the C's made a season-high 14 of 22 3-pointers. Conversely, the Sixers were just 2 of 10. Philly held the rebounding edge, 39-30 but Boston handed out more assists (31-20). Finally, Boston scored 33 points off 23 Philadelphia turnovers.

Up next, the Celts travel to New York to face the Knicks in a special 1 p.m. start on Monday (Martin Luther King Day). The Knicks three-game win streak was stopped last night so who knows what to expect from them? Boston put a serious beatdown on New York the first time these teams met, in late November at the Garden.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sugar Ray Lives


As much of a dream as the Celtics season has been so far, that has not been the case for Ray Allen, the forgotten member of the new Big Three. Allen has battled through a pinched nerve in his neck and struggled to average 17 points per game (his career-low thus far) while also shooting a career-low from the floor.

One of the top shooters in the league for the last decade, Allen has been a shell of his former self for much of the season. Only time will tell if last night was a blip on the map for Ray or something to build off of. He scored a season-high 35 points as the Celtics defeated the Trailblazers, 100-90 at the Garden.

Allen had 26 points in the second half for the C's (31-6) as he helped Boston snap its two-game losing streak and also beat the hottest team in the NBA. Portland (23-15) came in having won 18 of its last 20 games.

When Boston needed it most, where its struggled the most lately-the fourth quarter-Allen was unstoppable. He hit two huge 3-pointers, a beautiful turnaround jumper and four free throws to put it on ice.

Kevin Garnett had 26 points, seven rebounds and three assists while Paul Pierce contributed 12 points, eight boards and five assists. Eddie House starting at point guard submitted 10 points, five boards and four assists as Rajon Rondo sat out the game. Kendrick Perkins had seven boards and three blocks.

Tied at 19 after the first quarter, Portland took a 45-43 lead into the half after Steve Blake hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. The youngest team in the NBA (without top pick Greg Oden), Portland has a nice collection of talent headlined by Brandon Roy (team-high 22 points and 6 assists). Jarrett Jack (17 points, 5 assists), Travis Outlaw (17 points, 7 rebounds) and LaMarcus Aldridge (16 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks) were the other standouts.

Boston played well in the second half, outscoring Portland 31-24 in the third and 26-21 in the final frame. Allen's threes in the fourth were both nuts. One was deflected by a Blazer, right to Allen who drilled it before the shot-clock ended. The next one was with under a minute left. You'd expect Boston to milk the clock since they were up four but Allen pulled up and drained a three, putting an exclamation point on his best game of the season. His previous high was 33 in the second game of the year (a win at Toronto).

Portland outshot Boston, 46.4%-43.6% but the Blazers turned it over 21 times which led to 23 Celtics points. The free throw line continued to be a black hole for the Celtics (25-38) but they compensated by getting there a ton. Portland was 17 of 24 from the charity stripe.

The Sixers come to Boston tomorrow night in what should be another win for the home team. When Danny Ainge traded for Ray Allen over the summer, last night was what he expected, not the single digit, invisible games that Allen has had lately. Hopefully last night is the start of something great for the classy veteran from UConn.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Their former UConn star is better than ours


Sound the alarms, the Boston Celtics are falling apart. OK I kid, but the C's have quite obviously hit a speed bump as they've now lost two in a row and three of their last four after a 88-83 choke job to the Washington Wizards at the Garden last night.

The C's (30-6) were up by as much as 14 points in the fourth quarter before their offense completely disappeared and the plucky Wizards (20-16) put together a 25-6 run to close out the game and come away with the improbable win.

Washington's Caron Butler has become a star before our eyes. He took over down the stretch last night, making a 3-point play and a driving layup to clinch it. He finished with a team-high 21 points, six rebounds and two steals. Antawn Jamison had another double-double with 20 points and 10 boards. DeShawn Stevenson added 16 points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals while Brendan Haywood notched 14 points and seven rebounds.

For Boston, Kevin Garnett led the way with 23 points, nine boards and six assists. KG had a key offensive rebound and putback late that put the C's up by one but he also later missed a turnaround jumper that sealed their doom. Paul Pierce had 18 points and five rebounds while the shaky Ray Allen had 16 points, six boards and three assists. I say shaky because he was just 2 of 7 on 3-pointers, including one that would have tied it on their last possession.

Kendrick Perkins had nine points. Rajon Rondo started the game but played just 21 minutes (4 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists) before sitting out the fourth quarter. His back and hamstring continue to slow him down and the Celts are a noticeably worse team without him. Who thought that'd be true going into this season?

It was a dull first half as the teams had 18 points apiece in the first quarter and Boston held a slim 37-35 lead at the break. Boston was up four going into the fourth quarter but just like on Saturday at Washington, the fourth was when the Wizards put it all together and conversely the C's couldn't do anything right.

Boston outshot Washington, 41.9% to 38.6% but compounded that by making only 5 of 20 3-pointers. Once again, the Wizards were amazing on the free throw line (27 of 30) while Boston struggled (16 of 22).

The Celtics will have their hands full tomorrow when the Portland Trailblazers come to town. Winners in 18 of their last 20 games, the Blazers are the NBA's hottest team behind Brandon Roy and a solid supporting cast. It should be a great game as Boston tries to work out the kinks in their game.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

They Don't Call Him MVP for Nothing


In the week leading up to the Jacksonville Jaguars-New England Patriots AFC Divisional Round playoff game, I was reminded how much hype accompanies this time of year. Therefore, I didn't preview the game like I had originally planned. Everywhere you turned/tuned in, you heard a breakdown of the game. There's more than enough pseudo-experts out there, so I'm content just to recap the action.

I can say that this game pretty much played out as any devoted but rational Patriots fan would have expected. New England won 31-20 last night at Gillette but not before the Jaguars gave them their best shot.

By taking what the Jaguars gave him (mostly short stuff, to the backs and underneath to the receivers), Tom Brady completed 26 of his 28 passes (an NFL playoff record) for 262 yards three touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Jaguars gameplan was clearly to limit the deep ball and Randy Moss. In both cases, they were pretty successful as they only gave up two long passes (53 yards to Donte' Stallworth and 33 yards to Laurence Maroney) which were catch and runs and Moss was limited to one catch for 14 yards.

The main problems for the Jags were that the Patriots have many more weapons outside of Moss and also Jacksonville's offense while good, simply couldn't match the points that New England can put up in a hurry.

Jacksonville had the best possible start as they took the opening kick and drove 80 yards in nine plays for a touchdown. The Jaguars were playing to win as they converted a fourth-and-one when David Garrard (22 of 33, 278 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception) completed a 34-yard pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis (4 catches, 74 yards). Even crazier than that was the scoring play where Garrard was being pulled down by Mike Vrabel but was still able to find Matt Jones in the end zone for a 8-yard score.

New England answered with a 10 play, 74 yard scoring drive, capped off by a 3-yard fastball from Brady to Ben Watson.

Garrard made two costly mistakes in the game. The first was late in the opening quarter when he fumbled after Ty Warren hit him. Vrabel fell on it and the Pats had a short field. Maroney (22 carries, 122 yards) plunged in from a yard out to put New England up 14-7 early in the second.

Proving they were legit, Jacksonville responded with an 11 play, 95 yard drive, finished off when Garrard found Ernest Wilford on a perfect 6-yard touchdown pass. The throw was beautiful as he put it in the corner of the end zone, away from Asante Samuel and where only Wilford could grab it.

The Pats had a chance to take the lead but Stephen Gostowski missed a 35-yard field goal so the teams headed into halftime tied at 14.

The 11 play, 82 yard drive that the Pats had to open the third quarter was great and they finished it off in style as Brady found Wes Welker (9 catches, 54 yards; 1 rush, 13 yards) in the back of the end zone after a statue of liberty play. It was reminiscent of Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl last season as Brady faked the handoff to Kevin Faulk (5 catches, 36 yards), spun around with the ball behind his back then threw a laser to an open Welker.

The king of second half adjustments, Bill Belichick's team only allowed six points in the second half as Jacksonville had field goals in the third and fourth quarter.

Another Watson TD, this one from 9-yards put the Pats up 28-17 late in the third. The teams traded field goals in the fourth and New England effectively sealed it when Rodney Harrison picked off Garrard.

The Jaguars second-best rushing attack in the league never really got started. Fred Taylor (13 rushes, 47 yards), the dynamic Maurice Jones-Drew (6 carries, 19 yards; 6 catches, 49 yards) and Garrard (3 rushes, 14 yards) were stuck in neutral most of the night.

The Patriots M.O. for the last seven years has been taking away teams favored offensive style and making opponents beat them with other guys or doing things they're not as good at. Mission accomplished once again.

Brady spread it around to eight different receivers and even more impressive, the Patriots never turned it over. Jacksonville played a pretty nice game but by now it's obvious that if you want to beat New England this season, you have to be flawless in every facet of the game.

Junior Seau played like a man possessed as he had a team-high 10 tackles. James Sanders added nine while Randall Gay, Harrison and Tedy Bruschi all had seven in the win. Jaguars linebacker Daryl Smith had a game-high 14 tackles in a losing effort.

The Patriots now await the winner of the Colts-Chargers game. Regardless of that outcome, New England will host the AFC Championship next Sunday afternoon at Gillette. Two more wins and the Patriots will be 19-0, the greatest team in NFL history.

It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp


Like the rest of New England (and most of the country), I was transfixed by the Jacksonville Jaguars-New England Patriots game last night. In a case of tough scheduling, the Celtics also played last night in Washington. I saw the start of the C's game and then only bits and pieces from there on out. Apparently, the Wizards won 85-78, snapping the Celtics 10-game road winning streak and also handing them their second loss in three games (!).

Rajon Rondo sat out with back problems, so the point guard duties fell to Tony Allen (8 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals) and Eddie House (11 points, 5 assists, 3 steals). Injuries or even fatigue (third game in four nights) were no excuse as the Wizards (19-16) were in the same boat with Gilbert Arenas out and they were playing a back-to-back as well.

Kevin Garnett (19 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks), Paul Pierce (15 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks) and Ray Allen (8 points) were held in check. Nobody else really stepped up for the Celtics (30-5). Kendrick Perkins (9 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks) and James Posey (8 points, 3 boards, 2 steals, 2 blocks) were decent but not enough.

The Wizards got a team-high 19 points and six boards from Baron Davis/Papa Smurf wannabe (the beard) DeShawn Stevenson. Caron Butler had a double-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds and four steals while Antawn Jamison notched 10 points, 16 rebounds and three steals.

The game was tight from the start as Washington jumped out to a 23-19 lead after the first quarter. Washington held a 41-40 lead at the half. Things looked good for the visitors going into the fourth as Boston was up 65-60. The fourth quarter was a nightmare though as the Wizards outscored the C's 25-13 to take the win.

For the game, Boston outshot Washington 41.3% to 36.8%. The Celts were a decent 9 of 25 from three while the Wizards were 2 of 18. Washington owned the free throw line (27-30) against Boston (17-23) and also had a huge night on the glass (49-30). That wiped out the C's 21-13 advantage in assists.

These teams will get today off before Washington travels to Boston to take on the Celtics again. You gotta think the Celts will win the return match but it looks like Rondo will miss that too.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Taking Care of Business in Sopranoland


After Wednesday's night terrible loss to the Bobcats, the Celtics bounced back last night with a gritty 86-77 win at the New Jersey Nets. With the win, Boston (30-4) tied the best start in franchise history and ensured that they still haven't lost two games in a row so far this season.

As always, Kevin Garnett was the star of the game for the C's. KG scored a game-high 20 points, grabbed 11 boards with three assists, three blocks and two steals. Paul Pierce had 18 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals. Ray Allen showed no rust after he missed the Charlotte game. He dropped 16 points (including 11 in the first quarter).

The Nets (18-18) have been playing well lately and it showed early as they jumped out to a 30-22 lead after one quarter. Former UConn star Josh Boone (14 points, 16 rebounds, 4 blocks) and BC's Sean Williams (2 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks) both start up front now, giving New Jersey some athletic big bodies. As long as Jason Kidd is around, the Nets will understandably revolve around him. Kidd had 11 points, 13 boards and nine assists. Richard Jefferson (17 points) and Vince Carter (16 points) were relatively quiet.

Boston played a strong second quarter, outscoring New Jersey 25-14 to take a 47-44 lead at the half. New Jersey wouldn't go away as they came back in the third and put up 24 points while holding the Celts to 16.

The fourth quarter was the difference in the game as the C's defense completely put the clamps on the Nets. New Jersey scored just nine points (an almost unheard of total in an NBA game) and the Celtics used a 13-2 run to score 23 and clinch the win.

Rajon Rondo hurt his back in the third quarter and didn't return. James Posey (9 points, 6 rebounds), Eddie House (9 points) and Glen Davis (7 points, 4 boards)-also returning from one missed game-were solid off the bench.

The C's shot 47.9% and the Nets were just 36.5% from the floor. Boston was real bad from the free throw line (13 of 21) but the Nets were brutal (9 of 24) including 0 of 6 for Boone. That was the key stat as the Nets outrebounded Boston by 8 (52-44).

Boston travels a short distance to Washington, D.C. to take on the Wizards minus Gilbert Arenas tonight. Washington has actually played pretty well in his absence as Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison are playing arguably the best basketball of their careers.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The First Stink Bomb of the '07-'08 Season


Through the first 32 games of the season, the Boston Celtics hadn't played a bad game. They'd lost three games: one in overtime and two others that they lost by two and three points respectively. Sooner or later, they were bound to just completely lay an egg. Nobody thought it would be last night though when the Charlotte Bobcats came to the Garden.

Playing the best game of their season, the Bobcats (13-21) made all the plays and hit the big shots as they defeated Boston (29-4), 95-83. The Celts nine game win streak was snapped in the process.

The C's were playing without Ray Allen, who has a sore neck. Ironically, the first time these teams met (on Nov. 24), Boston scored an improbable win as Allen hit a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. With Allen, would the Celts have won? Who knows?

Jason Richardson had a game-high 34 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Repeatedly, Richardson would hit shot-clock beating prayers. It was that kinda night. Nazr Mohammed (18 points, 10 assists) had a huge night off the bench while Raymond Felton (16 points, 8 assists, 4 boards) and Gerald Wallace (15 points, 10 boards, 4 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals) had nice performances as well. 

Kevin Garnett (24 points, 8 boards, 4 assists, 2 blocks) showed up but the same couldn't be said for most of his teammates. Paul Pierce was dreadful, shooting 4 for 14 from the floor including 1 of 9 on 3-pointers for 13 points, eight boards and three assists. Rajon Rondo had 13 points, four rebounds and three assists while James Posey (10 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists) was the only other Celtic in double-figures. Kendrick Perkins added 10 rebounds.

Boston outscored Charlotte, 24-20 in the first quarter but the Bobcats responded to outscore them in each of the last three frames. It was the first time Boston had been down going into the fourth quarter and their attempts at a late comeback never panned out. Boston couldn't put together enough stops to get anywhere.

The Bobcats shot 48.8% from the floor while Boston was 41.7%. As a team the C's were 4 of 20 for three and they turned the ball over 17 times. It was a game to forget, proving that even great teams can slip up in the NBA when you least expect it. Projecting win totals in the high 60's or low 70's is absurd. This team is still in its infancy since it has so many new players trying to mesh together.

Boston will look to get back to its winning ways when it travels to New Jersey tomorrow night.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Forget Eminem, the Celtics own 8-Mile Road

On a team with three superstars, other players on the Boston Celtics often get lost in the shuffle and media circus growing around this outstanding team. Last night, Boston went into Detroit and beat the Pistons, 92-85, earning their ninth win in a row in the process.

Without a doubt, the key player of the game was Celtics rookie forward Glen Davis, who had 20 points and four rebounds. Big Baby put home 16 points in the fourth quarter alone as he repeatedly was wide open under the hoop then finished while he got hacked. If you saw Davis in college you knew he could play but like many players who aren't flashy dunkers or who can't score 40 points on a given night, he was unnecessarily forgotten in the draft. The Celts picked him up in the Ray Allen trade and that's already looking like a steal.

The Pistons (26-8) came in riding an 11 game win streak and in the first quarter, they completely shutdown the C's (29-3). Detroit outscored Boston 22-12 and Kevin Garnett (15 points, 5 rebounds) picked up his second foul pretty early and had to sit.

Boston roared back in the second quarter, led by Paul Pierce (19 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists), who is playing as well as anybody on the planet right now. The Celts outscored the Pistons, 29-21 in the second frame and entered halftime down two, 43-41.

Detroit has been in a million big games over the last six or seven years and they responded in the third. Richard Hamilton (18 points, 8 assists, 4 boards), Chauncey Billups (17 points, 6 assists, 4 boards) and Rasheed Wallace (16 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks) all made plays. Even Jason Maxiell (13 points, 4 rebounds) was good although Tayshaun Prince (7 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds) wasn't his usual self.

Tony Allen (10 points, 4 rebounds) continued his fine work while Ray Allen (9 points, 6 rebounds) had another off-night. Kendrick Perkins added seven points and nine rebounds.

The fourth quarter last night was pretty much the polar opposite of the first meeting: Boston (particularly Davis) made all the plays while Detroit bricked shots and turned the ball over. The C's outscored the Pistons 29-19 in the fourth to seal off a great win.

Detroit shot 39.2% from the floor while Boston was 41.9%. The Pistons made three more 3-pointers (7-4) but Boston made 10 more free throws (26-16). The biggest statistical advantage was in rebounds: Boston owned the glass (50-36). That helped to diminish their lack of assists (14 to the Pistons 23) and turnovers (13 vs. 6).

The game had all the look and feel of a late May playoff battle. Intensity was written over all the players faces and the Detroit crowd was hyped from the start. The Pistons will certainly be the Celts biggest roadblock in the Eastern Conference playoffs. So far, home court doesn't seem to be much of an advantage to these two very evenly matched squads.

Boston has until Wednesday to rest and recover. The Bobcats come to the Garden on Wednesday night.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Other Allen Lifts Up his Brother from Another Mother


Ray Allen scored two points (0 for 9 from the floor with two late free throws) and Rajon Rondo had six turnovers and shot 2 for 9. Still, the Celtics outlasted the Memphis Grizzlies, 100-96 in Boston last night.

The Celtics (28-3) won their eight straight, they haven't lost since that epic game against the Pistons on December 19.

With Ray having one of the worst games of his career, Tony Allen (no relation that we know of), stepped up and had another stellar game with 20 points and three steals. Paul Pierce (23 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists) and Kevin Garnett (23 points, 5 boards, 5 assists) also showed why they're sure-fire All-Stars come February.

You have to give Memphis (9-23) plenty of credit, they've had a terrible season thus far but they came into the Garden and weren't intimidated by the NBA's best team. Rudy Gay led the Grizzlies with 21 points, five rebounds and three assists while Juan Carlos Navarro (20 points), Mike Miller (16 points, 8 rebounds), Pau Gasol (12 points, 8 boards) and rookie point guard Mike Conley (10 points) also stood out in the loss.

James Posey (9 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals) continued to improve his candidacy for sixth man of the year while Eddie House had eight valuable points.

It wasn't a very memorable game but Boston did enough to win and you have to think they might have been looking ahead a little bit to tonight when they face the Pistons in Detroit. The two teams are clearly the class of the Eastern Conference and probably two of the top three teams (Spurs being the other) in the league at the moment. Detroit is on fire having won 11 in a row including last night over Toronto.

Doc Rivers sat Pierce, Allen and Garnett in the fourth quarter but had to put them back in as Memphis cut it down to four late in the game.

Tonight should be another classic after Detroit took round one in Boston. The Celtics will need more production from their bench tonight (something that was invisible in the first meeting) while also somehow trying to find a way to slow down Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton. That's obviously easier said than done.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Garnett for MVP, Celtics open 2008 with a bang


Since the first game this season, that I went to, I have been saying that Kevin Garnett will have a really good shot at getting the MVP. So often, that award comes down to numbers and the biggest fault you can find with the Big Ticket is that he's not selfish enough when he should be down the stretch of a tight game.

A performance like last night will go a long way in swaying voters. KG scored 11 of his game-high 26 points (to go with 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals) in the last seven minutes as the Celtics held off the Houston Rockets, 97-93.

With the win, Boston (27-3) joins some elite company. Through 30 games five other teams have finished 27-3 in NBA history and amazingly, four of them including the '95-'96 Bulls (who went 72-10) won the championship that season.

Playing without star Tracy McGrady, Houston (15-17) looked like they were going to be blown out at the Garden as Boston jumped out to a 30-16 lead after one. They hung around though and would outscore the C's in each of the last three quarters.

Bonzi Wells (25 points), Yao Ming (19 points, 13 boards) and Rafer Alston (18 points) all played well for the Rockets.

Paul Pierce (19 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds) was solid and Rajon Rondo was impressive (13 points, 9 assists, 5 boards) after missing the last game with a hamstring injury. Ray Allen added 13 points and Scot Pollard (playing his most important minutes of the season) notched 10 points and five boards before fouling out. Eddie House scored nine as well. Pollard and Kendrick Perkins both fouled out covering Yao, forcing KG to guard him late in the fourth quarter.

Boston shot 53.2% for the game to Houston's 42.2%. Boston was just 11 of 19 from the line, part of the reason why the Rockets (18 of 23) made it so close. The Rockets also did something most teams haven't been able to do, beating Boston 41-34 on the glass. The Celtics nullified that by recording 27 assists, nine more than Houston.

All in all it was a great win as the Celtics season keeps rolling along, gaining more and more momentum and bandwagon fans by the day. The Memphis Grizzlies come to Boston on Friday night. Boston shouldn't have too much trouble with one of the NBA's worst teams but these days you can't underestimate any opponent since the Celtics are now getting everybody's best shot because they're the undisputed top dog.