Friday, May 29, 2009
The Red Sox's final game ever at the Metrodome (barring a playoff meeting) had a little bit of everything in yesterday's afternoon matinee.
Boston (28-20) won 3-1 to earn a split in the four-game series with the Twins (24-25).
Jason Varitek led the Boston offense with two solo home runs before he was tossed in the bottom of the seventh inning. This led to Red Sox manager Terry Francona also being ejected. Oh and did I mention that Twins catcher Mike Redmond and manager Ron Gardenhire were also booted earlier in top of the seventh?
Home plate umpire Todd Tichenor, who was recently promoted from the minors, seemed to have a quick hook to say the least.
The Twins were upset after Jeff Bailey scored on a Dustin Pedroia sacrifice fly which gave Boston the 3-1 lead. Bailey's tag of home and Redmond's tag of him seemed to happen simultaneously.
In the bottom of the frame, Varitek got pissed because Tichenor appeared to squeeze Sox pitcher Josh Beckett (5-2) on a close pitch. Despite that bit of drama, Beckett pitched great going seven strong innings and only allowing a run on three hits with four walks and eight strikeouts.
Joe Crede gave Minnesota its lone run when he blasted a solo bomb to left.
Varitek's homers (both from the left side) were in the fifth and seventh.
Jonathan Papelbon earned his 13th save after a scoreless ninth.
From there, Boston traveled North of the border to face the suddenly stumbling Blue Jays. Toronto has lost nine games in a row and has fallen to third in the AL East.
Friday, May 22, 2009
The Toronto Blue Jays came into Fenway on Tuesday with a 3.5 game lead in the AL East, the surprise team in the American League over the first quarter of the season.
After last night's 5-1 Red Sox win enabled Boston (25-16) to sweep Toronto (27-17), it's clear that the Blue Jays are frauds that beat up on the sisters of the poor: the AL Central and West.
Jon Lester is starting to look like himself again as he improved to 3-4 last night with 6.1 innings outing where he allowed only one run on eight hits. He wasn't dominant as he struck out four and walked two but he did enough to win.
Boston jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first as David Ortiz scored Jacoby Ellsbury with an RBI groundout. Ellsbury's (2 runs, stolen base) hitting streak was extended to 16 games as he doubled before Ortiz brought him home.
Jason Bay continued to live a charmed life as he hit a two-run homer off Toronto rookie starter Robert Ray. Right fielder Alex Rios got a bad jump on it and it hit the top of the bullpen wall before bouncing over for the home run.
Kevin Youkilis made it 3-0 with an RBI single scored Dustin Pedroia in the third.
Pedroia knocked in Ellsbury with an RBI single in the fifth to give Boston its fifth and final run.
Aaron Hill had the Blue Jays' lone run with an RBI single in the seventh.
Interleague play begins tonight at Fenway as the banged up Mets come to town. It'll be fun to see National League stars David Wright and Carlos Beltran while Johan Santana (the best pitcher in baseball) opposes Dice-K this evening.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Remember those halcyon days when David Ortiz was the most clutch player in major league baseball? When he was the most feared hitter? I'm afraid to say those days are long gone my friend.
It only took Big Papi 135 at-bats this season (and 149 dating back to last season) to finally hit a bomb. It came at a good time too as the Red Sox (24-16) hit four homers in the fifth inning off Blue Jays starter Brett Cecil (2-1) on their way to a 8-3 pounding of Toronto (27-16) last night at Fenway.
After getting standing ovations on Tuesday night before every at-bat, Ortiz got a curtain call for his shot to deep center field. A little much? Yes but the unwashed masses of Red Sox fans are nothing if not loyal. Ortiz looks completely lost at the plate (off the juice?) but as long as he is stuck in the three spot in the lineup, he needs all the support he can get.
The subplot that probably nobody but Alyssa Milano (former cum dumpster) and Chuck Lidell (his karaoke partner) noticed was that Sox starter Brad Penny improved to 4-1.
In 6.2 innings, he gave up just two earned runs on nine hits, with a walk and two strikeouts.
Toronto still leads the AL East by 1.5 games but Boston has taken two straight in their first meeting of the season.
The Sox grabbed a 2-0 lead in the second when Jason Varitek hit a solo shot and Jacoby Ellsbury scored when Dustin Pedroia knocked into a double play.
In his first game back from the DL, Kevin Youkilis continued to rake, going 3-for-5 which put his average at .404.
Ortiz's home run seemed to set off a chain reaction as Jason Bay and Mike Lowell also hit bombs in that inning. Varitek had hit his second earlier in the frame.
Boston looks for the sweep tonight (on a beautiful summer-like night) as Jon Lester takes the mound.
Monday, May 18, 2009
I guess we were all just lying to ourselves when we thought the Boston Celtics (minus KG and Leon Powe) could actually advance to the Eastern Conference finals, where LeBron and the Cavs surely would have wiped the floor with them.
Reality was a bitter pill to swallow last night in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at the Garden as the Orlando Magic stomped the Celtics, 101-82.
The defending NBA champions are out and when you think about it, how did they even make it this far?
Playing an eight-man rotation, the C's outlasted Chicago in seven games then had a 3-2 series lead vs. Orlando before losing the last two.
It's a testament to Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kendrick Perkins, Ray Allen, Glen Davis, Eddie House, Doc Rivers, etc. that Boston made that much noise.
Whether it was being a homer or just not believing in the Magic, I really thought the C's would win going into last night but they simply ran out of gas.
The Magic were also 13-of-21 on 3-pointers and Boston could not get enough stops on defense, coupled with hoops.
Hedo Turkoglu led Orlando with a game-high 25 points, 12 assists and five rebounds. Rashard Lewis added 19 points and Mickael Pietrus once again dominated off the bench with 17 points. Is he really that good? Boston made him look like an All-Star in the series.
Rafer Alston had 15 points and Dwight Howard notched 12 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks.
After an awful series individually, Ray Allen was the only Celtic to show up last night offensively. Allen had a team-high 23 points. Pierce only managed 16 points on 4-of-13 shooting. Davis added 13 points, Rondo went for 10 points, 10 assists and six boards while Perk added eight points and 15 boards.
Orlando started off on a roll and led 27-17 after the first quarter. Boston cut it to 45-38 at the half.
The C's had one last gasp as they outscored the Magic 23-21 in the third but Orlando had a 13-1 run in the fourth that sent the Garden crowd to the exits.
Orlando meets the Cavs while the Lakers (who blew out the Rockets in a Game 7) host the Nuggets in the Western Conference finals.
More than anything, the finality of last night is the most painful thing. Once we knew KG wasn't coming back this postseason, we were resigned to our fate of not winning another title this June. Still, with triple-headers (Celts, Bruins and Red Sox) filling our weeks for the past month, it's crazy that now we don't have anything except the Red Sox for the next few months until Pats training camp and preseason heats up.
Nobody will cry for Boston fans since we've been spoiled for the past decade but it is still a rough patch for what had been an awesome spring.
With the Big Three returning and healthy (fingers crossed), the C's have another great shot at a title next season. Rondo and Perk made so much progress in one season, it's almost hard to believe. The biggest offseason questions revolve around whether to resign Big Baby (YES!) and Powe (depends on how his knee looks). This team has another run in them, I think that was proven by their heart this postseason.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Through the first month and a half of the season, the Boston Red Sox vaunted pitching rotation has been complete garbage, to the tune of the worst ERA in the American League.
Dice-K got hurt, Brad Penny has been up and down and most surprising of all, Jon Lester and Josh Beckett have been equally terrible.
Last night was a step in the right direction as Beckett and the Sox (22-15) broke a three-game losing streak with a 5-3 win at Safeco Field in Seattle.
Beckett (4-2) was not great but he battled through seven innings, throwing a season-high 120 pitches. He gave up three runs (two earned) on four hits with three walks and five strikeouts.
Boston teed off on former Orioles' bum Garrett Olson, hitting three home runs and scoring five runs in his six innings of work.
Jason Bay started it off with a two-run bomb in the first, followed by Jason Varitek's two-run blast in the second.
Yuniesky Betancourt (who for some reason seems to kill the Sox) started the Seattle (17-20) comeback with a two-run shot of his own in the second.
Russell Branyan's RBI double in the fourth cut it to 4-3 Boston but Jeff Bailey responded with a solo shot in the fifth for the game's final run.
Miguel Batista pitched three scoreless innings for Seattle.
The Red Sox trio of Hideki Okajima (2 outs), Ramon Ramirez (1 out) and Jonathan Papelbon (10th save) teamed up for two shutout innings.
Boston looks to end the West Coast trip on a high note by winning this series this afternoon.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Ah well, it was fun while it lasted. I could cry about how the Bruins could have won the Stanley Cup this season but then again, did anyone think they'd make it this far? Nope.
Still, to comeback from down 3-1 in the series and have Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at home, last night's 3-2 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes will hurt for awhile. Oh and the fellow who scored it should have been suspended before the last game, but that's neither here nor there.
The Bruins have only themselves to blame as they disappeared in Games 2-4. Carolina is a veteran, experienced team with an All-World goalie and the better team over seven games advanced as they usually do.
Things looked good early as rookie Byron Bitz (the pride of Cornell) gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead in the first after assists from David Krejci and Michael Ryder.
It was no surprise that Rod Brind'Amour answered 6:17 later as he deflected Dennis Seidenberg's blast from the point, past B's goalie Tim Thomas (34 saves). Joni Pitkanen also had an assist.
Sergei Samsonov once again scored a clutch goal against his former team, as he gave Carolina a 2-1 lead in the second. Pitkanen gave him a sweet pass that he just had to redirect past Thomas. Frantisek Kaberle started the rush up ice and had the other assist.
6:19 into the third, Milan Lucic tied it at two after some fine work from Marc Savard and Phil Kessel.
Both teams had some great chances in the overtime and it looked like it might be headed to an even more intense second OT.
That's when Scott Walker batted a rebound out of the air, into the net. Ray Whitney had flipped it on goal and Thomas should have caught it cleanly. You could also say that his defensemen should have done a better job clearing Walker out, but shit happens, right? Seidenberg had the other assist on the goal that ended the Bruins' season.
In the off-season, I'd love to see the Bruins pick up a few more, younger defensemen and another veteran forward or two (in the Mark Recchi mold). This team is very, very close to a Cup winner and I think when you put Tukka Rask (the Providence Bruins star goalie) in Manny Fernandez's place, you have a solid team from top to bottom.
The question next season for Boston will be was this season a fluke or the start of something special?
What made you think this series would be any different? For the fourth straight time (in the first two rounds), the Boston Celtics will go to a winner-take-all Game 7, this time against the Orlando Magic.
The Celts did their best impression of the Magic last night at Amway Arena in Game 6 as they choked away a 10-point lead in the second half and let Orlando live to play another game.
Dwight Howard put up 23 points, 22 rebounds and three blocks in a dominant performance after calling out his coach Stan Van Gundy after Game 5.
Rashard Lewis added 20 points and six rebounds, Rafer Alston notched 11 points (including a 3-pointer that gave Orlando a lead in the fourth that it was its first of the game) and Mickael Pietrus continued to play well off the bench, with 11 points. Why doesn't he start?
Boston wasted Rajon Rondo's best game in a few weeks. Rondo had a team-high 19 points, 16 rebounds, six assists and four steals.
Paul Pierce had 17 points, nine boards and five assists while Kendrick Perkins posted 15 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.
Ray Allen continued to do his best "Night of the Living Dead" impression as he submitted five points (2-of-11 shooting) and seven rebounds. I fully expect him to drop 30+ points in Game 7.
This was not a beautiful game as Boston shot 41.6% and Orlando was 36.6%. The Celts were 3-of-18 on threes and the Magic were 6-of-26. Yuck.
Boston was only 8-for-13 from the free throw line and Orlando shot a pathetic 17-for-31. The C's had six more rebounds (48-42) and five more assists (18-13). Boston lost because it had 10 more turnovers (19-9).
The C's led 25-22 after one quarter and 46-45 at the half. Both teams scored 16 in the third quarter and Orlando outscored Boston 22-13 in the fourth.
So what to expect in Game 7? The Celts will make just enough plays and stops to win it while the Magic unravel amidst too many 3-pointers and missed free throws. Then the Celtics lose to the Cavs in four or five games.
All I want is the C's to make the next round even though their fate seems already sealed either way.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Just like on Sunday, three of our teams played and all three won. It is ridiculous.
The Boston Red Sox (21-12) looked pretty lifeless last night, down 3-1 going into the eighth at Angel Stadium.
No problem, they tied it up in the inning then pushed across one more run in the ninth for a 4-3 win vs. the Angels (16-15).
Jered Weaver was great for Anaheim. He went seven innings, giving up one run on four hits with one walk and four strikeouts.
Justin Masterson kept the Sox in the game with six solid innings. He allowed two runs on five hits with four walks and three strikeouts.
Kendry Morales gave the Angels a 1-0 lead in the first with a sacrifice fly.
J.D. Drew (2 hits, 2 runs) answered with a solo home run in the second.
Playing Angels baseball, Maicer Izturis hit a RBI sacrifice fly in the fourth and Torii Hunter added an RBI single in the seventh to make it 3-1.
In the eighth, David Ortiz was hit by Darren Oliver (yes he's still alive) with the bases loaded. Jason Bay grounded with the bases loaded but it worked as Jacoby Ellsbury scored.
In the ninth, Jason Varitek (2 hits) knocked in Drew with an RBI double.
Ramon Ramirez (4-0) had another scoreless outing with a 1-2-3 eighth. How much of a steal has he been? He's one of the best setup guys in baseball and all we had to give the Royals was Coco Crisp.
Jonathan Papelbon earned his ninth save.
Much of what makes sports so great is the unexpected. Still, it's also hilarious when a playoff series goes exactly as anyone would have predicted.
The Orlando Magic-Boston Celtics Eastern Conference semifinal series has been the latter.
The Celts played awful for 3.5 quarters last night at the Garden and still won 92-88 to win Game 5 and take a 3-2 lead in the series. Boston can close it out tomorrow night back in Orlando.
Orlando was up 14 points with eight minutes and change left in the game. Ten points with five minutes left. It didn't matter, that team is tissue paper soft. Their style of play is not conducive to success in the playoffs and after last night's game, they were all pointing fingers at each other which prompted Sir Charles' spectacular line (above).
Big Baby continued to play the best basketball of his life. He had a game-high 22 points and seven rebounds. Paul Pierce added 19 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Ray Allen (13 points) continued to struggle but in typical fashion, he made a huge shot: a 3-pointer late in the fourth that gave Boston its first lead since 8-6.
The Celts' young guys did not play well. Kendrick Perkins had six points and 11 rebounds while Rajon Rondo was held to six points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Other than the comeback, the story of the game was Stephon Marbury. He had 12 points (all in the fourth quarter) as he gave his team a huge lift when it needed it most.
Orlando got 19 points from Rashard Lewis and 12 points and 17 boards from Dwight Howard. Hedo Turkoglu added 18 points and seven assists while Rafer Alston notched 16 points and six assists but he missed a late 3-pointer that would have been vital.
The biggest number to point to for the Celtics was their perfect night at the free throw line: 21 for 21. The Magic were just 10 for 12 as they continued to settle for jumpers (6 of 24 on threes).
Like the Bruins, the Celtics have all the momentum in this series and I expect them to win tomorrow night in Orlando. Granted, the margin of error is razor-thin for this group and they never seem to make it easy on themselves but they broke Orlando's will last night. You can't overlook that fact.
The Boston Bruins have found their game at just the right time as they once again resemble the top seed in the Eastern Conference that for much of the season looked like the NHL's best team.
The B's won 4-2 last night at Carolina's RBC Center and thus Game 7 will commence tomorrow night at the Garden.
After looking so terrible in Games 3 and 4 in Carolina, Boston quickly jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period and they led 4-1 heading into the third.
My grandfather Mark Recchi scored another vital goal, 2:01 into the game to put Boston up 1-0. Patrice Bergeron drove to the right side of the net and dished to Recchi, who tapped it past Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward (15 saves). Chuck Kobasew also assisted on the goal.
Steve Montador, who has been awful all series, did something positive for the Bruins as he gave his team a 2-0 lead with a booming slapshot from the point. David Krejci (with a sweet touch pass) and Michael Ryder assisted.
Matt Cullen gave Carolina its only real spark of the game as he cut it to 2-1 early in the second. Scott Walker and Chad LaRose had the helpers.
Boston put it away with two goals in the second: first Milan Lucic looked like Marc Savard as he drove to the net then found Savard with a beautiful feed for a goal. Dennis Wideman also assisted on the goal.
Next, Kobasew finished another great Bergeron feed. Recchi had the second assist.
Sergei Samsonov scored in the third from Eric Staal and Tim Gleason, making it 4-2 Bruins. Carolina was buzzing as they outshot Boston, 14-4 in the period but Bruins goalie Tim Thomas (31 saves) held the fort down as he once again outplayed Ward.
You have to like Boston's chances tomorrow night. After being dead on Friday, they've come back to life and then some. Suddenly, they're the team forcing Carolina mistakes and playing gritty, tough playoff hockey.
Washington and Pittsburgh also face off in a Game 7 tonight as three of the four NHL playoff semifinals have been pushed to the limit.
Monday, May 11, 2009
The Tampa Bay Rays (15-18) are the Red Sox' biggest rival right now so it was great to see Boston (20-12) take two of three from the Rays with a 4-3 series finale last night at Fenway.
Josh Beckett was good but not great. He went six innings, giving up three runs on six hits with three walks and five strikeouts. More importantly, the Sox found a way to outlast Matt Garza, who has absolutely owned them. Garza went seven innings, allowing three runs on seven hits with two walks and six strikeouts.
Kevin Youkilis sat out his sixth straight game with a back strain. Dustin Pedroia left the game in the fourth after straining his groin.
Despite all the early-season injuries, Boston continues to find ways to get it done.
Down 1-0 after Pat Burrell's RBI single in the first, the Sox tied it on J.D. Drew's fielder's choice.
Boston scored twice in the fourth on Jason Varitek's RBI double and Nick Green's (2 hits) RBI single.
Carl Crawford made it 3-2 Boston in the fifth with an RBI single and Jason Bartlett tied it in the sixth with a sacrifice fly.
Jason Bay continued to play out of his mind as he had the game-winning hit, an RBI double that scored David Ortiz in the eighth.
Hideki Okajima got five outs, Ramon Martinez got the last out in the eighth (and earned the win) before Papelbon worked around a hit and error to strike out Carlos Pena, B.J. Upton and Crawford for his eighth save of the season.
Boston flew to the West Coast last night and opens a three game set with Anaheim tomorrow night.
The Boston Celtics are one of the most resilient teams I can ever remember. No matter how many players get hurt or are ineffective, they stubbornly refuse to lose.
Everyone has already decided that it is LeBron and the Cavs' postseason. They're going to win the title, no questions asked. And while they are likely to sweep the Hawks tonight to write their ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals, don't count out the C's just yet.
Glen Davis (21 points, 6 rebounds) hit a long jumper as time expired last night in a pulsating 95-94 Boston win at Amway Arena. The huge shot tied up the series at 2-2 and returned the home-court advantage to Boston. Game 5 is tomorrow night at the Garden.
How the Celts did it is hard to explain. They had an eight point lead but couldn't buy a basket late in the fourth quarter. And its bench had a total of two points. Yet here we are, with all the momentum back on Boston's side.
Despite being in foul trouble all night (5 fouls), Paul Pierce had a game-high 27 points. Rajon Rondo had 21 points and 14 rebounds, Kendrick Perkins also posted a double-double with 12 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. Ray Allen added 12 points.
Dwight Howard led Orlando with 23 points and 17 rebounds. Rashard Lewis notched 22 points.
If Boston can win Game 5, I think it'll be over in six. Otherwise, it's going seven once again.
I chose not to blog after Friday night's debacle when both the Bruins and Celtics failed to show up in critical playoff games.
Last night more than made up for it as the Bruins kept their season alive with a 4-0 shutout of the Hurricanes, the Celtics won on a buzzer-beater by Big Baby and the Red Sox won a series vs. the Rays in exciting fashion (as Papelbon struck out the side in the ninth).
After playing awful in Games 2-4, the Bruins finally returned to form at the Garden. Phil Kessel scored twice, Zdeno Chara inspired (and had two assists) while Tim Thomas stopped 19 shots for his first career playoff shutout.
Mark Recchi scored a power-play goal (from Chara and Dennis Wideman) at 14:48 in the first period. Recchi deflected Chara's wrist shot between Cam Ward's (36 saves) legs.
Kessel scored his first of the game less than four minutes later after a cross-ice feed from Savard. Milan Lucic also assisted.
With his second goal, this one in the second period, Kessel ensured there would be a Game 6 back in Carolina. Like a basketball player filling the lane, Kessel was able to put in a rebound from Savard and Chara.
For all his hard work and thundering body checks, Lucic was also rewarded on the score sheet as he completed the scoring in the third period with a slap shot. Michael Ryder and Patrice Bergeron notched the helpers.
To win tomorrow night in Raleigh, the B's will have to play the tough, physical game they displayed last night. They also got bodies to the front of the net which clearly disrupted the normally dominant Ward.
Any extra motivation Boston needed was provided by two dumb Carolina plays: Jussi Jokinen slashed Chara in the back of the leg and Scott Walker sucker-punched Aaron Ward. Jokinen will be targeted no doubt and Walker will likely be out of action for awhile after a suspension.
Friday, May 8, 2009
Somehow it all seems fitting that Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez still overshadows the Boston Red Sox, even during a memorable game like last night.
The reports surfaced yesterday afternoon that Manny was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball for taking a performance enhancer, a drug that was used to up testosterone levels after a steroid cycle. It was the biggest name and incident since baseball started this steroid witch hunt.
I love baseball but I'm not surprised by anything that comes out these days. Can't we just assume if A-Rod and Manny were juicing that everyone except maybe David Eckstein was in the same boat?
It is MLB's fault for not policing it at the time and letting it get way out of control. And here we are.
The Sox (18-11) did everything they could to let fans forget about Manny's public relations disaster. Boston tied a major league record by scoring 12 runs in the sixth as they smoked the Cleveland Indians, 13-3 at Fenway.
Tim Wakefield continued his hot streak as he improved to 4-1. He went six innings, allowing two runs on four hits with four walks and three strikeouts.
Boston led 1-0 in the first after Dustin Pedroia (2 hits, 2 runs, 3 RBIs, walk) knocked in Julio Lugo (3 hits, 3 runs) with an RBI single.
Cleveland (11-18) jumped ahead 2-1 in the fifth as Matt LaPorta scored on a Wakefield wild pitch. Then Asdrubal Cabrera hit a sacrifice fly which scored Luis Valbuena.
It's still obviously early in the season but the Indians bullpen came into this two-game series with the worst ERA in the league and they didn't disappoint.
In the sixth, Jason Bay (2 runs, 2 hits, 4 RBIs) hit a RBI double, Rocco Baldelli hit a two-run single, Jeff Bailey (2 hits) added a two-run double, George Kottaras produced a two-run single, Pedroia hit a two-run single and finally Bay capped it off with a three-run bomb over the bullpen in right center.
Ryan Garko completed the scoring for the Indians with an RBI double in the eighth.
The Tampa Bay Rays (Boston's biggest obstacle in the AL) come to Fenway starting tonight for three games.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Call it a hangover from the first round cakewalk or simply two straight dogshit efforts, whatever the case the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Boston Bruins, 3-2 last night in overtime to take a 2-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
After a piss poor display in Game 2, you had to figure that the B's would bounce back at the RBC Center. Not so much. Carolina outshot them 41-23 and Boston was frankly lucky just to get it to overtime.
Milan Lucic put the Bruins up 1-0 in the first period with assists to Dennis Wideman and Marc Savard.
Carolina answered in a big way with two goals late in the second period.
With 3:11 left in the period, Eric Staal scored an unassisted power play goal after stripping the puck from Boston defenseman Steve Montador behind the Bruins' net.
1:09 later, old friend Sergei Samsonov one-timed a nice pass home from Scott Walker (Jussi Jokinen started the sequence).
At 9:03 in the third period, Mark Recchi tied it at two with a deflection of a Chuck Kobasew shot. Montador also assisted.
The Hurricanes buzzed the Boston end for most of the game but Bruins goalie Tim Thomas (38 saves) played great as he kept his team in it.
Boston actually had a few prime chances at the beginning of overtime but Cam Ward (21 saves) shut them down. Just 2:48 into overtime, Jokinen scored by poking home a rebound of a Samsonov shot. Tuomo Ruutu also had an assist.
To see Boston play not one but two consecutive terrible games in a row, at this time in the season, is surprising to say the least but it happens. Detroit (the best team in the West) also faces a 2-1 deficit on the road against the Ducks tonight.
The B's have to find their game in a hurry tomorrow night or else they'll be going back to the Garden, down 3-1 to a very solid club.
The Orlando Magic are soft. You know it, I know it and Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy knows it.
The Celtics blew out Orlando, 112-94 last night at the Garden in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The series is now tied at one game apiece.
Eddie House had the game of his life as the sharpshooting guard dropped a career-high 31 points (hitting 11-of-14 shots). It was one of the greatest shooting displays I've ever seen at any level. He couldn't miss. And the degree of difficulty seemed to increase with each make.
Rajon Rondo was back to his dominating self, notching his fourth triple-double of the playoffs. He had 15 points, 18 assists and 11 rebounds.
Ray Allen dropped 22 points, Kendrick Perkins (16 points, 9 rebounds) outplayed Dwight Howard (12 points, 12 rebounds) and Big Baby had 13 points.
Probably the craziest part of this satisfying win was that Paul Pierce scored three points. He was limited to 15 minutes since he got in early foul trouble so he could never get into a rhythm. It's a great sign for the C's that they played so well without Pierce doing anything.
Rashard Lewis led Orlando with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Mickael Pietrus had another great night off the bench with 17 points. J.J. Redick scored 15 points before fouling out and Hedo Turkoglu added 14.
Things got so bad for the Magic in the second half that Rafer Alston, aka Skip to My Lou, aka one of the worst players in the league, shoved the back of House's head after Eddie made a 3-pointer.
Howard is a monster defensively and on the glass but his offensive game is still incredibly raw. If he's not dunking, he can't hit shots. And he's terrible at free throws (witness last night's 2-for-8 showing).
Boston shot 51.3% to Orlando's 44.3%. The Celts had seven more boards (41-34) and 15 more assists (34-19).
Orlando also has no depth, they don't really play much defense and they settle for threes all the time.
The Celtics are certainly not without their flaws but I really like their chances against this team. Everyone thinks it's inevitable that Cleveland will roll to the Finals but you never know what can happen.
Game 3 is tomorrow night in Orlando.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
The Sox continue to play good baseball while the Yankees and their new train-wreck of a stadium continue to make headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Boston (17-10) swept the mini two-game series with a 7-3 win last night in the Bronx.
Josh Beckett (3-2) got the win after two consecutive lackluster starts. He wasn't great last night but he did enough to earn the W: six innings, three runs on ten hits, one walk and five strikeouts.
Joba Chamberlain (1-1) had a strange start for New York (13-13) as he went 5.2 innings, gave up four runs on six hits, walked two and struck out 12.
I'm no G.M. but with the Yankees current disaster of a bullpen, wouldn't Joba be best utilized as the setup guy for Mariano Rivera? Just a thought. I never understand why teams think a No. 3 or 4 starter is more important than a key bullpen guy. You use bullpen guys far more.
Boston got all the runs it needed in the first as David Ortiz knocked in Jacoby Ellsbury with an RBI single. Up next, Jason Bay hit a three-run homer to left which plated Dustin Pedroia (3 hits, 2 runs) and Ortiz.
Johnny Damon cut it to 4-3 Sox with a three-run shot of his own in the third.
However, the Sox got two in the eighth on a Jason Varitek sacrifice fly and an RBI single by Nick Green (can somebody kidnap Julio Lugo?).
The final run was scored in the ninth when Jeff Bailey walked with the bases loaded.
Hideki Okajima pitched a scoreless seventh and eighth for Boston while Takashi Saito recorded a 1-2-3 ninth including a strikeout.
After a three city roadtrip, Boston comes home to face the Indians in a two-game series beginning tonight.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Remember when the New York Yankees were relevant? No really. They missed the playoffs last season, built a joke of a new stadium and continue to fade from prominence, all the while clinging onto their past glory.
After a lengthy rain delay last night, the Boston Red Sox (16-10) won their first game at the new Yankee Stadium, 6-4.
Jon Lester (2-2) got the win after seven solid innings: three runs on six hits, two walks and 10 strikeouts.
Mike Lowell (2 hits, 2 RBIs, walk) hit a solo homer and Jason Bay (3 hits) blasted a two-run bomb. Jacoby Ellsbury had two hits, a run, walk and steal, David Ortiz was on base four times with two doubles and two walks while J.D. Drew reached base three times on a hit and two walks.
Mark Teixeira busted out of his season-long slump for New York (13-12) with two solo homers and Johnny Damon added a two-run homer.
Jonathan Papelbon got five outs (including three strikeouts) for his seventh save of the season.
Weather-permitting, the second and final game of the series is tonight with Joba Chamberlain vs. Josh Beckett.
After barely surviving against the Chicago Bulls in a marathon seven game series, the Boston Celtics predictably laid an egg in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals last night at the Garden against the Orlando Magic.
The C's finally closed out Chicago on Saturday night and only had one day of rest before Orlando came to town. They didn't use that as an excuse for last night's sorry showing but I will.
And you know what? Boston couldn't have played much worse (down by 28 points early in the third quarter) but they cut it to four late in the fourth and had a pretty realistic chance to win.
Orlando held on 95-90 and Game 2 is tomorrow night at the Garden.
Dwight Howard was all over the place for the Magic with 16 points, 22 rebounds and three monster blocks. Rashard Lewis added 18 points and seven boards. Hedo Turkoglu scored 15 points. The biggest surprises were J.J. Redick, who scored 12 and Mickael Pietrus, who came off the bench and dropped 17 points. If Boston can shut down those two scrubs a little more, they should be in really good shape over the rest of the series.
Paul Pierce led Boston with 23 points, Rajon Rondo had 14 points (on 2-of-12 shooting and 10 made free throws), 10 rebounds, eight assists, seven turnovers and three steals. Glen Davis scored 12 points before fouling out. Kendrick Perkins notched six points, 16 rebounds and three blocks.
Just like Game 1 vs. Chicago, Ray Allen was M.I.A. with nine points. Another good sign for the series is that the Boston bench had 26 points. Brian Scalabrine scored 10 points and Stephon Marbury added eight points in a quick flurry.
Tomorrow night is pretty much a must-win for the Celts as they have to salvage one game at home before they go to Orlando.
Monday, May 4, 2009
A funny thing happened on the way to winning the 2009 Stanley Cup for the Boston Bruins. Somebody decided to give them a game.
Dreams of a 16-0 streak to the Cup were erased last night as Carolina thoroughly outplayed Boston when it mattered and came away with a 3-0 win in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at the Garden.
Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward was the story as he stopped all 36 shots in recording his fourth career shutout. It's easy to forget but he was the playoff MVP when Carolina came out of nowhere to win the Cup in 2006.
After a scoreless first period, the second period was when the game was lost for the B's.
At 2:30 Carolina defenseman Joe Corvo blasted a slap shot past a screened Tim Thomas (22 saves). Erik Cole and Eric Staal assisted on the goal.
Just over five minutes later, Matt Cullen scored a short-handed goal for the Hurricanes. Zdeno Chara's bad pass in the offensive zone was the catalyst for an odd-man rush which eventually resulted in the tally. Chad LaRose followed his shot behind the net and then found Cullen alone out front.
LaRose seemed to score again with 0.2 seconds left in the second when he flipped a shot over Thomas' shoulder that hit the post then spun on the goal line. On the ice initially it was called no goal. It took forever to review it (and it looked like a goal on second-tenth viewing) and the refs did not overturn it. This could have been a huge break for Boston but they really didn't do anything about it.
The Bruins outshot the Hurricanes 16-3 in the third and Ward made a couple dandy saves, including a left leg pad save on Michael Ryder during a power play.
Staal scored an empty-netter with 28 seconds remaining.
Game 3 and 4 shifts back to Carolina starting Wednesday night. It's the first real adversity Boston has faced this postseason so time only time will tell how they deal with it.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
It took seven excruciating games but the Boston Celtics finally subdued the Chicago Bulls last night at the Garden, 109-99, to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
After a classic series, Game 7 probably won't be remembered for much more than the final result. The Celtics' much-maligned bench finally showed up, outscoring Chicago's bench 30-25.
Eddie House had by far his best game of the playoffs so far. House was 5-for-5 on 3-pointers and 4-for-4 from the line for 16 points with three steals, two assists and two rebounds.
Brian Scalabrine helped Boston's key 22-2 run in the second quarter that gave the C's the lead for the rest of the game. Scal had eight points in the game and three boards. Even Mikki Moore made a quick appearance and scored four points.
Ben Gordon led the Bulls with a game-high 33 points but he was 7-for-23 from the floor and 15-for-15 from the line. Derrick Rose added 18 points, Kirk Hinrich had 16 points and John Salmons notched 12 points.
Other than the solid bench play, another reason the Celts prevailed was because they kept the Bulls' big men in check. Joakim Noah had seven points and 15 rebounds and Brad Miller was held to nine points and seven boards.
None of the Celtics' starting five went off but they each did something well. Ray Allen led Boston with 23 points and seven rebounds. Paul Pierce added 20 points and nine rebounds. Glen Davis posted 15 points and Kendrick Perkins added another double-double: 14 points, 13 rebounds. Rajon Rondo's worst game of the series was probably game 7: seven points, 11 assists, five rebounds but it didn't matter.
Chicago got off to a hot start as they led 28-23 after the first quarter. Boston used its best quarter of the series to take command. They outscored the Bulls 29-11 in the second. True to form over the last two weeks, the Bulls fought back in the third (33-26) but Boston (31-27) did enough in the fourth to hang on.
The C's shot 44.9% to 39.0% for the Bulls. Boston was 52.9% on threes and Chicago was 29.2%. Boston had five more rebounds (45-40) and eight more assists (25-17).
There will be no time to rest for Boston as they face Orlando, starting tomorrow night at the Garden. It is not going to be easy but I really don't fear the Magic. Dwight Howard is a beast but they're a finesse team and they haven't done much in the playoffs the last few seasons. Should be another interesting series.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
There is apparently no such thing as a layoff affecting NHL hockey teams in the playoffs. All three squads that swept first round series, won in the first game of round two.
The Boston Bruins had nine days between games but they came out last night in Game 1 vs. the Hurricanes and dominated from start to finish, en route to a 4-1 win at the Garden.
After cruising past Montreal, the B's were facing a team that basically stole Game 7 from the New Jersey Devils. Common sense was that Boston would be rusty and Carolina would be playing well after their dramatic win. Eh, not so much.
Just 1:34 into the game, David Krejci deflected in an Aaron Ward shot. Michael Ryder also assisted.
Basically the only time the Hurricanes showed life Game 1 was at 18:50 of the first period when Jussi Jokinen finished off a rush with Ryan Bayda and Joni Pitkanen assisting.
In the second period, Marc Savard (from Phil Kessel and Milan Lucic) and Ryder (unassisted) gave Boston a commanding 3-1 lead. Savard whipped a shot from the slot past Carolina goalie Cam Ward (20 saves). Ryder's was a spectacular individual play as he stole the puck at the Canes' blueline, skated in and snapped a shot over Ward's glove hand.
Tim Thomas (26 saves) had a relatively quiet night in goal. It was nice to see that the break didn't seem to effect the probable Vezina trophy winner one bit.
In the third, Savard put it away after a nice drop pass from Kessel.
Game 2 is tomorrow night at the Garden. I'm not going to say it's a must win for Carolina since they'll play better at home but you don't want to go down 2-0 to the Bruins right now. They look phenomenal.
Friday, May 1, 2009
Before Game 6 had even tipped off last night of the Chicago Bulls vs. the Boston Celtics, many were already saying that this was the best first round playoff series of all-time. All the teams proceeded to do was go to triple overtime at the United Center in the best game of a now epic series.
Chicago won 128-127 and forced a Game 7, winner take-all bloodbath tomorrow night in Boston (where the green beer will be flowing like St. Patrick's Day).
The Bulls as per usual for the last few weeks, refused to go down as they erased a eight-point deficit late in regulation. Boston stubbornly hung around too as Ray Allen (career playoff-high 51 points) went crazy, tying it in the second OT on a ridiculous 3-pointer but not enough of his teammates stayed in the game (three fouled out).
Did anyone outside of Philadelphia, his entourage (I'm assuming he has one) and family know that John Salmons had this much game? He played a game-high 60 (out of 63) possible minutes and scored a team-high 35 points with six boards and four assists. Derrick Rose was also great with 28 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
The biggest individual surprise of the six games has been Brad Miller. The washed up center notched 23 points and 10 rebounds last night. Ben Gordon was held to 12 points before fouling out, Kirk Hinrich added 11 points and seven assists while Joakim Noah went for nine points and 15 rebounds.
Noah also had the play of the game that will be replayed for all eternity (provided the Bulls win tomorrow night). He stole the ball from Paul Pierce at midcourt in the second overtime, dribbled in and threw down a vicious dunk while being fouled. His free throw put Chicago up by three and Pierce was done with his sixth foul. It pains me to admit it but Noah is a very solid NBA player.
The trio that fouled out all played well for the C's: Glen Davis scored 23 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Pierce notched 22 points and nine boards. Kendrick Perkins had another double-double with 12 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks.
Rajon Rondo had a terrible scoring night (8 points), but he tied Bob Cousy's team playoff record of 19 assists and threw in nine rebounds.
When Brian Scalabrine (7 points) is your most effective bench player in a playoff game, you're completely fucked. Once again, Chicago's bench outscored Boston by a huge margin: 35-11.
The Celts have a better starting five but if any of them are ineffective or in foul trouble, the Bulls depth really starts to show up as they can make up for bad nights from their stars (Rose, Gordon).
Chicago jumped out to a 37-26 lead after the first quarter but the Celts cut it to two (59-57) at the half. The Bulls took the third quarter (24-19) but the C's did what they had to do in the fourth (25-18).
For the game, Chicago shot 49.5% to Boston's 43.4%. The Celts made two more threes (11-9) and three more free throws (24-21).
At this point, what can you possibly expect in Game 7? All signs point to another classic game in a once-in-a-lifetime series. Hopefully the home-court advantage of the Garden will be just enough for Boston to come out on top.
Orlando beat Philadelphia last night to advance to the second round where they'll face the winner of this series.