Monday, January 31, 2011
Can we just fast forward to June and the trilogy finale of the Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals for the third time in four seasons?
It seems only fitting. Yes, if the Celts get to the Finals this summer, I'm not going to complain about who they're playing (San Antonio would also be fun) but come on, you have to want the Lakers. Unfinished business, right?
The teams met yesterday afternoon at the Staples Center in LA for the first time since last June when the Lakers beat the Celtics in seven games.
This being the NBA, regular game meetings mean zilch (see Boston losing to Phoenix on Friday and the Lakers falling to the Kings-think they both were looking ahead?) but it's always nice to get a win in front of the beautiful people and frauds of LA.
Boston (36-11) came out on top of Los Angeles (33-15) 109-96.
Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 41 points but he also did it without recording one assist. Props to him, that's pretty hard to do.
As the Celts did in 2008, they used more balance and defense (something the Lakers are still allergic to) to take this one. The teams meet again in Boston a week from Thursday and from then on, we have to hope and pray that they do it one more time in June.
Paul Pierce led Boston with 32 points, Ray Allen had 21 points, Kevin Garnett put up 18 points, 13 rebounds and five assists while Rajon Rondo notched 10 points and 16 assists.
The Celtics bench was great mainly thanks to Glen Davis (13 points) and Nate Robinson (11 points).
With the way the Lakers have struggled at times this season, it was still interesting to see it up close. They seem to be in the same boat as the Celtics, they coast through the regular season because it doesn't really matter (except for home court).
When Lamar Odom (15 points) is your most consistent second option, you're probably not going to win a championship, sorry Khloe. Pau Gasol (12 points) looked too European as usual and Andrew Bynum (11 points) is just wasting time until he suffers another knee injury.
Ron Artest (3 points) appears lost and Derek Fisher (5 points, 4 assists) might finally be washed up, those look like the biggest issues for LA since they don't have anybody to pick up the slack in those positions.
The Cs were up 22-21 after the first quarter but the Lakers took a 52-50 lead into halftime. For once, Boston came out strong in the third quarter (27-18) and capped it off with an even more impressive fourth quarter (32-24) as they withstood LA's pathetic comeback attempt ie. getting out of Kobe's way while he took every shot.
Boston shot a season-high 60.3% to Los Angeles' 44.4%. Thanks to Pierce, Allen and Robinson who all made three 3-pointers, the Celts made five more 3-pointers than the Lakers (9-4). LA hit eight more free throws (20-12) which is a no-brainer at home but Boston grabbed 13 more rebounds (43-30). The craziest stat is assists, which the Celts won 34-10, not a misprint. The Cs had seven more turnovers (15-8) and the Lakers scored 13 more fast break points (18-5).
Don't you wish there were more regular season games like this? Ah well. Boston concludes its West Coast road trip with a game in Sacramento tomorrow night. It has trap game written all over it but with such a superior team, the Celts should be able to survive and come home 3-1 on a tough trip.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
I have never done LSD but I assume it's something like the mess I witnessed last night as the Boston Celtics no-showed in Phoenix, losing 88-71 to the Suns at US Airways Center.
Want bizarre? How about Marcin Gortat scoring a career-high 19 points and grabbing 17 rebounds off the bench. Don't forget mild-mannered Celtics (35-11) head coach Doc Rivers getting ejected in the first half to try and get his team fired up. Haha, didn't work so much. Finally, the night wouldn't be complete without Kevin Garnett (18 points, 9 rebounds) hitting Channing Frye in the balls while the latter took a 3-pointer and also getting tossed from the game.
WTF! It was the end of a long, snow-filled work week so I might have been hallucinating even though I was as sober as a BYU undergraduate. Still, I couldn't believe what I was seeing as the below-.500 Suns (21-24) got whatever they wanted against the helpless Celtics.
It was very strange. Vince Carter scored 17 points, Steve Nash had 13 points and 11 rebounds, Robin Lopez added 11 points and Mickael Pietrus notched 11 points off the bench.
Paul Pierce was the only other Celtic in double-figures with 14 points. Glen Davis left in the second quarter with a hamstring injury and never returned, it was that kind of night.
The good news is that Boston can put all of that nonsense behind them with a strong showing in Los Angeles on tomorrow afternoon as they play the Lakers for the first time since Game 7 of last June's NBA Finals. These two teams and fan bases absolutely hate each other so it should be a good one.
Friday, January 28, 2011
On the surface, with Trailblazers star Brandon Roy out following double knee surgery (yikes) and a 10:30 p.m. start on a Thursday night, there weren't many reasons to watch the Boston Celtics begin their four-game West Coast trip last night in Portland.
However judging by Twitter, I know I wasn't the only one interested since former Celtic and ESPN announcer Bill Walton took over for Tommy Heinsohn the next few games. I was never a huge Walton fan when he was on all the time for ESPN but like a crazy relative or ex-girlfriend, he is great in small doses.
It definitely added some spice to an otherwise pedestrian 88-78 Celtics (35-10) win at the Rose Garden.
Ray Allen led Boston with 18 points, Paul Pierce had 17 points (before leaving late with a knee bruise), Rajon Rondo scored 11 points with six rebounds and five assists while Kevin Garnett was the story with 10 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
Kendrick Perkins also looked really good in only his second game back with 10 points and nine rebounds in 21 minutes.
Without Roy, Portland (25-22) is simply overmatched in the Western Conference. LaMarcus Aldridge (17 points, 16 rebounds) is a nice player but a fringe All-Star in his best possible season. Ageless and underrated Andre Miller had 14 points and seven assists and Wesley Matthews scored 12 points with seven rebounds.
Off the bench for the Blazers, Rudy Fernandez (who could have been a Celtic this summer) put up 11 points with five assists and three steals.
It's too bad this game was a dull one since it was also on TNT and the Rose Garden is quietly one of the best arenas in the NBA. The hipsters of Oregon deserved better damn it!
The Celts won every quarter which always helps. They were up 21-18 after one quarter and 41-37 at halftime. Boston outscored Portland 23-21 in the third quarter and 24-20 in the fourth.
For the game, the Cs shot 46.9& to the Blazers' 36.7%. Boston made one more 3-pointer (5-4) and a whopping 15 more free throws (23-8). Portland pulled down seven more rebounds (49-42), I'll never understand why the Celtics are such a bad rebounding team these days. Maybe that'll improve as Perk gets more minutes.
The Celts had five more assists (21-16) but the Trailblazers made six more steals (13-7) thanks to Boston's six more turnovers (21-15). The Cs had two more blocks (4-2) but Portland outscored them 48-34 in the paint which is hard to explain.
Boston travels to Phoenix tonight to take on the Suns, a team they typically have no problems with. Other than fatigue from last night (always a factor with these old guys), I expect nothing different tonight since these Suns aren't nearly as good as they've been in the last five or six seasons. Shaq is expected to play tonight while Pierce is apparently a game-time decision.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
It's easy to get caught up in the negativity and the bitter history but can we all agree that the Boston Bruins (first place in the Northeast Division, four points ahead of Montreal) had a great first half of the season?
The Bs (28-15-7) put a punctuation mark on their 50th game-the last one before the All-Star break-with a 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers (22-22-5) last night at the TD Garden.
Boston swept the four-game season series vs. Florida. If the regular season ended today, the Bruins would be the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.
It was fitting that Boston's biggest surprise offensively and best goal-scorer so far this season, both tickled the twine.
Brad Marchand scored his 13th of the season at 13:31 of the first period when he wrapped around Florida's net and just squeezed it over the line before Panthers goaltender Tomas Vokoun (33 saves) could grab it. Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara assisted on the goal.
Milan Lucic continued to have the hot touch, putting in his 20th goal of the season at 1:52 of the second period. David Krejci, who left briefly with an injury, assisted on Looch's snipe that beat Vokoun high and to the side.
It looked like Bruins goalie Tim Thomas would wrap up his absurd first half with yet another shutout (would have been his eighth) but Panthers defenseman Bryan Allen beat him off a rebound at 8:37 of the third period. Radek Dvorak (haha poor guy has always been a Panther) and Darcy Hordichuk (awesome name) assisted on Florida's lone goal.
Chara and Thomas are off to Raleigh for the All-Star game this weekend and Tyler Seguin will play in the youngsters contest. Everyone else will get some well deserved rest as they gear up for the stretch run and the postseason.
Boston goes to the Carolina Hurricanes in their first game back from the break on Tuesday night.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
As long as they took care of business last night at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers (a nightmare of a team that had lost 17 in a row), the Boston Celtics would be able to punch in and check out on time in one of the most pointless contests of the regular season.
However, this largely meaningless exhibition took on plenty of meaning as right before game-time Twitter blew up with the surprise announcement that Celtics center Kendrick Perkins would return to the TD Garden parquet.
Riding the wave of emotion and momentum with their true center back, the Celts (34-10) rolled to an easy 112-95 win over Cleveland (8-37).
Semih Erden (8 rebounds) started but a few minutes into the game, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers put in Perk and he rightfully received a standing ovation. He only played 17 minutes but Perkins put up a respectable seven points, six rebounds and three assists.
Everybody knows that Perk's game is about defense, toughness and presence inside, things that usually don't pop out on a box score or in stat sheets. One of the great unknowns in Boston sports from the last decade is whether the Celtics would have won Game 6 in last season's NBA Finals or Game 7 with a healthy Perk.
Whatever the case, it was great to see him back and contributing. It was the first time this season that Boston's starting five was intact and it was thanks to Kendrick's remarkable rehabilitation from a torn ACL.
Other than Rajon Rondo (11 points, 10 assists, 4 assists), the rest of the Celtics veterans got to sit for much of the second half. Paul Pierce scored 24 points, Ray Allen added 18 points and Kevin Garnett had 10 points.
The cumulative effect of having a healthy starting five was that Boston's bench suddenly looks much more versatile and deep (funny how that works). Nate Robinson and Glen Davis both scored 11 points while Von Wafer had 10 points and Luke Harangody notched eight points.
Marquis Daniels was out due to a family emergency but he's expected back tomorrow night.
I would never say this but you almost have to feel bad for the Cavaliers. Yes, LeBron had the right to leave their miserable city but he really left the franchise in a bad place that will be tough to crawl out of for years.
A guy named Christian Eyenga (that I'd never heard of) led Cleveland with 15 points. Ramon Sessions added 14 points and seven assists, J.J. Hickson had 12 points and 17 rebounds while Antawn Jamison put up 11 points.
Manny Harris scored 14 points off the bench for the Cavs while Joey Graham and Samardo Samuels each had 10 points.
The Celtics depart for a tricky four-game West Coast trip beginning tomorrow night at Portland. After that they go to Phoenix on Friday, face the Lakers for the first time since the Finals on Sunday then end it in Sacramento on Tuesday. 3-1 is my hope but 2-2 is definitely possible.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
The Boston Bruins very rarely play on the West Coast so obviously they treated last night's game late-night action in Los Angeles like an exhibition game, losing 2-0 to the Kings at the Staples Center.
It's hard to believe or explain but Los Angeles has now beat Boston five straight times. It was also the first time in more than a month that the Bruins were shut out.
Despite being in last-place in their stacked division, the Kings (26-22-1) should be better with their talented roster of scorers, young stud defenseman and a quality goalie.
It looked like a game from last season, with minor differences. Tim Thomas (32 saves; 23-5-6) was in goal instead of Tuukka Rask but the Bruins (27-15-7) struggled to get any pucks past Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick (34 saves; 5th shutout; 21-14-1).
Ryan Smyth gave LA a 1-0 lead at 10:50 of the first period with a power play goal (his 18th of the season) from Jarrett Stoll and Drew Doughty. Smyth was in the right place at the right time, banging in a rebound from just outside the crease.
Shawn Thornton got into his 11th fight of the season, later in the first period. He traded bombs with Kyle Clifford but unfortunately it didn't seem to fire up the Bruins.
Rookie Andrei Lokitonov scored his second goal of the season at 3:30 in the third period. It was another juicy rebound that fell right to Los Angeles. Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar assisted on the goal.
Boston finally woke up in the third period, outshooting LA 14-9 but it was too late to salvage anything on their two-game road trip.
The Bs come home to face the Florida Panthers tomorrow night. It's the last game before the All-Star festivities this weekend. A dream scenario for Boston is to get Rask a win while also seeing some of their struggling forwards like Nathan Horton or Tyler Seguin get on the scoresheet, giving them some confidence heading into the break.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
The Washington Wizards are an awful team. They had no business beating the Boston Celtics last night in DC except for the fact that the Cs (33-10) went ice cold in the second half (27 points) and the Wizards (13-29) made all the plays, like a banked in 3-pointer by rookie point guard John Wall (16 points).
Washington won 85-83 at the Verizon Center as Paul Pierce (12 points, 8 rebounds) had a chance to put Boston up one late with a jumper but it was long.
This game doesn't have any deeper meaning and there's no cause for panic since the Celtics had won five in a row coming into last night. It was just frustrating to see a garbage team, filled with scrubs like Rashard Lewis (18 points, 11 rebounds), JaVale McGree (16 points, 3 blocks) and Andray Blatche (11 points) make all the plays.
Don't get me wrong, I love Wall and I think his dance that he invented at Kentucky is one of the funniest things I've ever seen but he didn't do anything special last night. He runs up the court 100 MPH and then tries to pass back or do other things which you simply can't get away with in the NBA. I know he'll have a good career but let's not go overboard yet.
Kevin Garnett led the Celts with 17 points, Ray Allen had 16 points, Rajon Rondo notched 13 points and nine rebounds while Semih Erden started and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Boston put it on cruise control way too early (sounds familiar huh?) as they led 35-20 after one quarter (they were up by as much as 16 right away) and 56-46 at halftime. Washington played well in the third (24-16) and put it away with a bad high school girls fourth quarter (15-11). Yuck.
I'm not going to bother going through the numbers of this ugly affair since it was one of the worst games Boston will play all year and I'd rather not relive it.
The Celts host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night to face the NBA's worst team. If they do anything but beat the shit out of that mess of a team, it'll be a joke.
The Boston Bruins begin their strange two-game West Coast trip with an even more bizarre game: a Saturday afternoon contest in Colorado vs. the Avalanche.
Luckily, the Bs (27-14-7) didn't need to use the standard crutches of a long flight, thin air of Denver, etc. as they blasted the Avs (24-18-6) 6-2 yesterday at the Pepsi Center.
Five players had two or more points for Boston led by Brad Marchand (2 goals, 2 assists). Milan Lucic (2 goals), Mark Recchi (1 goal, 2 assists), David Krejci (2 assists) and Patrice Bergeron (1 goal, 1 assist) were the others to rack up the fantasy points.
The underplayed storyline of the season thus far with the Bruins is their scoring punch that was completely absent all last season. Since the team is pretty much the same with the additions of Nathan Horton, Tyler Seguin, Gregory Campbell and Marchand, it's hard to explain how it's been this much better. Particularly when Marc Savard seemingly gets hurt every other game and has to leave.
Yesterday, he was slammed into the glass by former Bruins defenseman Matt Hunwick and didn't return. It looked like he cut his forehead but who knows with all his concussion issues. Poor guy.
Tim Thomas (23-4-6) made 32 saves as he outlasted Colorado goaltender Craig Anderson (24 saves), who got pulled after two periods.
Paul Stasny from Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart gave the Avalanche a 1-0 lead two minutes into the game and you had to think as a Bs fan, here we go. It was a fluky goal that Thomas despite all his greatness is prone to give up from time to time.
Boston roared back with two goals of their own later in the first period. Marchand scored (his 11th) at 9:20 from Recchi and Bergeron and Lucic tied his career-high at 12:00 with his 18th of the season from Krejci and Recchi on the power play.
The Bruins seemed to gain some steam from Campbell's fight with Cody McLeod shortly after Stasny's goal. Campbell can't do anything wrong these days, the guy that was just a throw in for the Horton deal is playing the best hockey of his life (and outperforming Horton).
Two late goals in the second period gave the Bs control. Recchi became the eighth Bruin with 10+ goals at 14:44 from Marchand and Lucic set his career-high at 19:04 from Krejci and Bergeron.
BU alum Shattenkirk cut it to 4-2 early in the third period from Milan Hejduk and despite plenty of running around in their own end, Thomas made some big stops to settle his team down.
Bergeron scored at 9:56 (his 16th) from one knee (from Marchand and Johnny Boychuk) and Marchand took over the short-handed goal lead in the NHL with his fourth, an empty-netter at 18:25 (from Campbell and Andrew Ference).
The Bruins wrap up this bite size trip tomorrow night against the reeling Los Angeles Kings.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
More so than any other professional sport, the NBA is prone to having teams basically no-show on the second end of back-to-back games or at the finish of a long road trip.
This was definitely the case last night as the anticipated battle between Deron Williams (5 points, 6 assists, 4 fouls) and Rajon Rondo (4 points, 12 assists, 5 rebounds) never materialized and consequently neither did the game really as Boston rolled over Utah 110-86 at the TD Garden.
The sad part about it is the Jazz (27-16) are a very good team but the Celtics (33-9) will only get one more shot at them in the regular season. Unfortunate.
Boston won its fifth in a row thanks to some balanced scoring. Kevin Garnett had a game-high 21 points and Paul Pierce scored 20. Glen Davis (15 points, 7 rebounds) and Semih Erden (career-high 14 points, 7 rebounds) were great off the bench and Ray Allen scored 11 points.
The only bad news for the Cs was that Shaquille O'Neal got hurt in the first quarter (hip) and didn't return. He's expected to miss the next few games.
Overall, Boston's bench was spectacular, scoring what has to be a season-high with 52 points and giving the starters plenty of rest. Marquis Daniels and Nate Robinson scored eight points apiece and Von Wafer had seven points.
For Utah, Earl Watson (12 points) was their high-scorer so that's pretty much all you need to know about the game. Williams was in foul trouble immediately with three in the first half and as a result, his team basically laid down and died without him.
Andrei Kirilenko (sporting a new Eurotrash 'do, no more flat top) had 11 points and Paul Millsap added 11 points. Babyface Gordon Heyward-who should have stayed at Butler-scored 11 off the bench.
Boston led 30-19 after one quarter and 59-41 at halftime. The Celts won each quarter: closing it out in the third (26-22) and the fourth (25-23).
For the game, the Cs shot 55.2% to 40.0% for the Jazz. Boston had five more 3-pointers (9-4) and made one more free throw (27-26). Rebounds were even at 34 but thanks to Rondo, Boston had 12 more assists (31-19). The Celts also made nine more steals (15-6) while Utah had one more block (6-5). The Jazz had five more turnovers (21-16), fast break points were even (17-17) and Boston had 12 more points in the paint (44-32).
The Celts travel to Washington DC tonight to take on the Wizards. With rookie point guard John Wall, Washington is decent at home. Still even in a back-to-back, this is a game Boston should always win.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Well hopefully the Buffalo Sabres don't make the playoffs this spring but if they do, fingers crossed they don't face our beloved Boston Bruins.
Why am I afraid of such a mediocre team? Maybe because they match up well with the Bs and have now beaten them three out of five times this season after last night's 4-2 win at the TD Garden. One more meeting between the Northeast Division rivals left.
After playing very good hockey for the past few weeks, Boston (26-14-7) was due for a poor effort and last night's flat performance fit the bill.
Ryan Miller reminded the U.S. why they fell in love with him last winter during the Olympics as he made 38 saves for the Sabres (21-20-5).
No flat, unexplainable loss would be complete without Tuukka Rask between the pipes and poor Tuukka had 29 saves but he continued to struggle to find wins. I have no idea why the same team can play so well in front of Tim Thomas but then completely flip a switch when Rask gets the occasional start. Weird.
Things looked promising when Dennis Seidenberg gave the Bs a 1-0 lead at 11:01 of the first period on a slap shot. Mark Stuart and Marc Savard had assists on Seidenberg's fourth goal of the season and Nathan Horton did something with his life by screening Miller.
Buffalo goon Cody McCormick tied it up 1:04 into the second period when his shot went off the post and back to him, all he had to do was fling it in. Tim Connolly and Tyler Ennis had the assists.
Gregory Campbell continued his hot scoring touch with his seventh of the season, giving Boston another lead, this time 2-1 at 4:51 of the second period. It was the result of tic-tac-toe passing from Shawn Thornton to Blake Wheeler to Campbell.
Pint-sized BC alum Nathan Gerbe tied it up on a power play later in the second period with help from Tyler Myers and Ennis. Gerbe found himself wide open out front and he let it loose before Rask had a chance to square it up.
Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville, who seem like Bruins killers, finalized this victory with third-period goals. Vanek's was at 5:13 when he skated in on a 2-on-1 and shot it rather than pass. Pominville's went off his skate (unintentionally) as he got to the net for Vanek's centering pass (Jochen Hecht also had an assist).
Only three more games left until the All-Star break and Boston heads out on a mini two-game West Coast trip. They'll play an afternoon game in Colorado tomorrow against the Avalanche who are unknown nationally but they can put the puck in the net.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
As they sleepwalked through a meaningless game vs. the Detroit Pistons last night at the TD Garden, it was obvious that the Boston Celtics needed a spark.
38-year-old Shaquille O'Neal was the unlikely force behind a strong fourth quarter (28-21) to help the Celts overcome an eight-point deficit and win 86-82.
Kevin Garnett (11 points, 6 rebounds) looked like the rusty player who just came back from an injury, the expected letdown after his performance on Monday vs. the Orlando Magic-a much bigger game against a fellow contender.
Paul Pierce (game-high 22 points) was the only Celtic (32-9) that really seemed to be focused that is until Shaq carried the team on his broad shoulders in the fourth quarter.
I'll admit that when Boston picked up Shaq in the off-season, I figured it was nothing more than a heady PR move but I've been pleasantly surprised. When he plays (a big if), he has been unselfish and brought some inside presence that they've desperately needed with Kendrick Perkins, Jermaine O'Neal and KG out at various times.
Last night was Shaq's best game for the Celts. He was diving on the court for loose balls, blocking shots (2), stealing the ball (3) and posting a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Ray Allen was held to seven points although as he usually does, he made a dagger long 2-pointer that was the biggest shot of the game. Rajon Rondo was also limited to six points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Glen Davis had 11 points and six rebounds for the bench which was short-handed after Marquis Daniels left in the second quarter with a sprained ankle.
Detroit (15-27) came in on a three-game winning streak but let's be honest: they're a complete mess. Richard Hamilton is due to be traded but right now he's rotting on the bench and getting DNPs.
Rodney Stuckey led the Pistons with 15 points, Greg Monroe (9 rebounds) and Tayshaun Prince added 13 points apiece, Charlie Villanueva had 11 points and Ben Gordon notched 10 points.
Try not to fall asleep as I describe this borefest. The teams were tied at 22 after one quarter and Detroit was up 45-42 at halftime. Both only managed 16 points in an ugly third quarter before the Cs finally decided to play for a few minutes in the fourth.
Boston shot 44.7% to Detroit's 41.9%. They each hit four 3-pointers and the Pistons made two more free throws (16-14). The Celts pulled down 13 more rebounds (47-34) while the Pistons had four more steals (9-5), one more block (6-5) and four less turnovers (17-13). Detroit had three more fast break points (12-9) but thanks to Shaq, the Celts had eight more points in the paint (50-42).
Things figure to get much more interesting and exciting tomorrow night as the Utah Jazz visit the Garden. Former Celtics young gun Al Jefferson has finally found a good team to play on and point guard Deron Williams is arguably the best in the NBA. Should be a good one, wish I was going!
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
The NHL should schedule more back-to-back, home and home series' between teams to spice up the regular seasons which admittedly can get dull at times.
After waxing the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday in an MLK matinee, the Boston Bruins went to the RBC Center last night in Raliegh, North Carolina and came away with an impressive two points thanks to a 3-2 win.
It was no surprise that the Hurricanes (22-18-6) came out looking like a different team, but even more predictable than that was the fact that Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas (43 saves) stole the show for what feels like about the 30th time already this season.
Carolina outshot Boston (26-13-7) 45-28 but thanks to the soon-to-be two-time Vezina trophy winner and some timely scoring (from Brad Marchand and the game-winner from Milan Lucic), the Bs came home still in second place in the Eastern Conference and first in the Northeast Division.
After Mark Stuart got his first goal of the season on Monday, his fellow backliner wanted a taste too so Johnny Boychuk scored 2:04 into last night's contest on a power play. Michael Ryder and Marc Savard assisted on the patented bullet from the blue line ("Johnny Rocket"-as crazy Jack Edwards rightly dubbed it). They changed the goal to Savard in the second period but then they changed it back to Boychuk, um ok?
Jussi Jokinen tied it up for the Hurricanes at 18:39 in the first period on the power play from Eric Staal (one of the two All-Star captains next weekend) and Joe Corvo.
Carolina goaltender Cam Ward (25 saves) could have taken a nap or gone to get a drink in the second period as the Hurricanes buzzed with a 19-9 shot advantage. When Thomas blanked them for those 20 minutes, you had a feeling that he might steal this one for the Black and Gold.
Marchand put Boston up 2-1 (his 10th of the season) at 3:55 in the third period after some great hustle to track down the rebound from Zdeno Chara's shot. Mark Recchi also had an assist by winning the face-off and knocking it back to Chara.
Chad LaRose tied it up at 9:19 from Tuomo Ruutu and Jeff Skinner. Carolina had a bunch of chances in that sequence and LaRose was in the right spot to sweep it in.
Two and a half minutes later, Recchi and Lucic teamed up for the game-winner. Recchi drove behind the net (making the Hurricanes defense think he would try a wraparound) before he passed it out front to Lucic who buried his 17th of the season-tying his career-high from two seasons ago. Steven Kampfer also assisted on Boston's second power-play goal of the night.
The Bs come home to host the Buffalo Sabres tomorrow night.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
For the last week when it looked like Kevin Garnett was returning to the Boston Celtics' lineup when they hosted the Orlando Magic on Martin Luther King day, I was conflicted.
I was excited because I had tickets to the game but I was genuinely worried because KG's health seems so fragile these days and the team that is a bonafide title contender with him, becomes an Eastern Conference also-ran without him.
It's only one night but it looked like the same old KG as he totaled 19 points and eight rebounds in a regular season instant classic, a 109-106 Celtics win.
These two teams have built a nice rivalry over the last few seasons with two straight playoff meetings and back-to-back contests on Christmas.
It's an intriguing matchup, Dwight Howard (33 points, 13 rebounds) and the Magic (26-15) with their array of shooters vs. the teammwork of the Celts (31-9) and balanced scoring.
Like they have so many times over the last four seasons, the Cs made the plays down the stretch. Most notably a three-point play by Paul Pierce (14 points) and a steal by KG as the clock ran out.
Ray Allen notched 26 points, Rajon Rondo added 10 points and 13 assists while Shaquille O'Neal had 12 points. Coming off the bench, Glen Davis like always found his game with 15 points.
Jason Richardson had 14 points, Brandon Bass notched 13 points, Hedo Turkoglu put up 11 points and seven assists while Ryan Anderson put up 16 points off the bench.
When you add this win to the Bruins' earlier rampage, yesterday was exactly what New England sports fans needed to get over the Patriots. In the Celtics and Bruins (yes, I said it before lightning strikes me), we have two teams that can go deep in the postseason this spring. Add in Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon sitting courtside and chugging a beer when he was shown on the jumbotron and it was a good day to be a fan of the other three teams.
Boston was up 27-22 after the first quarter and 55-54 at halftime. Orlando tied it up after three quarters at 81 and the fourth was when the Celts did just enough (28-25) to send Ray Allen's mom home happy.
As a team, Boston shot a lights out 60.0% to Orlando's 45.9%. As expected, the Magic owned 3-pointers (10-3) and also made five more free throws (27-22). Orlando had four more rebounds (34-30) but the Celts had six more assists (25-19), seven more steals (10-3) and four more blocks (6-2). Boston had eight more fast break points (12-4) and most amazingly, double the amount of points in the paint (52-26).
The Celtics host the Detroit Pistons tomorrow night. Detroit has won three in a row and they also beat Boston the last time the teams met (on Dec. 29 in Motown when KG injured his calf).
Coming out of the Patriots' shocking loss to the Jets on Sunday, I was quickly reminded yesterday why I'm so thankful to live in an area with four solid pro sports franchises.
Sure it still hurts that the Patriots choked in such a big spot but our four teams have possibly never all been so good at the same time. We are not a one-team podunk town (Green Bay, I'm looking at you) and we take pride in all of our teams.
The Boston Bruins came up with the perfect result for fans with a severe Patriots hangover, a 7-0 shellacking of the Carolina Hurricanes yesterday afternoon at the TD Garden.
Captain Zdeno Chara scored the first hat trick of his career and Tim Thomas made 31 saves for his seventh shutout of the season.
Boston (25-13-7) got this one over early as they pumped in three goals in the first period (four if you count a tally by Milan Lucic that was called off for a bogus penalty to Chara).
Mark Stuart, playing his first game in a month and a half, scored his first goal of the season (from Nathan Horton and Adam McQuaid). Then Chara scored a pair: one from McQuaid and the other on a power play from David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron.
Carolina (22-17-6) had seen enough as head coach Paul Maurice pulled goaltender Cam Ward after only two goals. Backup goalie Jason Peters (33 saves) wasn't much better as he allowed five goals.
The Bs made it a laugher in the second period as Gregory Campbell tipped home a sweet feed from Shawn Thornton (and Blake Wheeler) and Bergeron notched an unassisted goal 13 seconds later. It was the second game in a row where they scored twice 13 seconds apart.
Michael Ryder tipped home Dennis Seidenberg's shot in the third period (with the other helper to Steven Kampfer) and Chara put a bow on this gem with his third goal, another bullet from the point. It was particularly cool to see the usually stoic big man, fake throwing his helmet (imploring the crowd to throw their hats) after his last goal.
The two teams actually get back at it tonight in Carolina as the Hurricanes will try to get back to their recent winning ways (6-1-3) before yesterday's meltdown. It sounds like Tuukka Rask will start for the Bruins (he's won two straight road starts), it'll be interesting to see how Ward plays tonight. Bottom line, I guarantee it'll be much more competitive.
Monday, January 17, 2011
If the NFL playoffs have taught us anything, especially this season, being a top seed or favorite doesn't mean anything these days. Last week, the New Orleans Saints lost to the Seattle Seahawks, the Indianapolis Colts lost to the New York Jets and on Saturday, the Atlanta Falcons got creamed by the Green Bay Packers.
Those were all trumped by the epic no-show, choke job pulled off yesterday by the New England Patriots who lost 28-21 to the Jets in the AFC Divisional Round at Gillette Stadium.
New York took the rubber game of the season series with New England and advances to its second straight AFC Championship game, on Sunday in Pittsburgh.
Everything was falling the Patriots' way before the loss; all they had to do was win two games at home (against teams they had already beaten this season) and then top an NFC team that they would be favored over and they'd have their fourth Super Bowl title of the decade.
However, unbeknownest to myself and most of the fan base, we have become the Colts or San Diego Chargers, team built to rack up mostly meaningless regular season games and then turtle in the playoffs.
It's time to face facts: the Patriots haven't won a playoff game since the 2007 AFC Championship. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have lost their last three playoff games and each has been in horrific fashion: losing the perfect season to the New York Giants in Super Bowl 42, getting crushed by the Baltimore Ravens last season at Gillette and then yesterday, losing to your most bitter rival.
While we're dealing with some real talk, can we also admit that Rex Ryan despite all his ridiculousness (foot fetish videos, diahrea of the mouth, etc.) can coach a football team and his method works. All week leading up to the game, it was endless trash talk from the Jets and you had to hope that the Pats would let their play on the field do the talking. Who knows if it had any effect but clearly, there's more than one way (Belichick's no fun model) to win in this NFL.
Patriots honks are the most delusional fan base around here so it'll be interesting to see if this makes them admit the truth, that Belichick and Brady aren't perfect. What is the excuse for yesterday? There is none not that it will necessarily stop them from whining.
I hate the Jets but I have to admire the way they play loose and back up their big talk. They still have to win two games to capture a Super Bowl but this was the biggest win for them in a long, long time.
I want to be really bitter about this defeat but what can you say if you're a Patriots fan? They didn't get screwed by the refs (a loser's excuse) or a random play (tuck rule), they simply didn't execute as well as New York and they seemed rattled from the beginning of the miserable game until the end.
Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez (16 for 25, 194 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions) played better than Patriots icon Tom Brady (29 for 45, 299 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception) and that was supposed to be the one area where New England had the biggest advantage.
All day, the Patriots receivers were covered by the Jets' outstanding secondary or simply thrown off their routes. Whatever the case, Brady had to wait too long and getting sacked five times didn't help his confidence either.
Shayne Graham had the only points of the first quarter, a 34-yard field goal. Brady threw a terrible pick, on a screen pass but New England's defense held the Jets to a field goal attempt which Nick Folk promptly missed.
New York got on the board in the second quarter when LaDainian Tomlinson scored on a 7-yard pass from Sanchez.
Braylon Edwards gave the Jets a 14-3 lead with 33 seconds left in the half when he fought through tackle attempts by Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty and safety Brandon Meriweather to reach the end zone.
That late score was the biggest one of the game and it came as a result of a bizarre call which will go down in Patriots' lore as one of the worst in history. Apparently, Patrick Chung called for a direct snap on a punt. The problem was he fumbled it then couldn't get a first down and that gave New York prime field position deep in New England territory. Why would you ever make that choice in that spot? Mystifying.
Alge Crumpler got the Patriots back into the game with a 2-yard touchdown catch from Brady late in the third quarter, the frame's only points. Sammy Morris took a direct snap on the two-point conversion and ran it in to cut it to 14-11 Jets.
In the biggest quarter of the season, New York made the plays. Santonio Holmes, one of the most clutch players in the NFL, made an absurd 7-yard touchdown catch and Shonn Greene had a 16-yard touchdown run when the Jets were running out the clock.
Shayne Graham's field goal in between those New York touchdowns had made it 21-14 but there was only 1:57 left. Deion Branch (5 catches, 59 yards) caught one last touchdown with 24 seconds left but New England couldn't recover an onside kick (it couldn't get the one after Graham's kick either) and the upset was official.
This one will take a while to get over. The Patriots overachieved all season with a collection of young players and no-names that combined to go 14-2 in the regular season. Still, when it mattered not enough of them showed up to beat a team they knew very well. And I hate to be a realist but the window on Belichick and particularly Brady closes a little more since they'll both be a year older when the team gets back together for training camp in August.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
After coming back to beat the Penguins on Monday, blowing out the Senators on Wednesday and taking an epic meeting with the Flyers on Thursday, the Bruins were due for a letdown at some point.
They actually played decent as they hosted Pittsburgh (28-14-4) yesterday afternoon at the TD Garden but they fell 3-2 as the Bs (24-13-7) couldn't find the net in the third period despite putting 20 shots on Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (44 saves).
Sidney Crosby was out again (his fifth straight game) with the lingering effects of a concussion and it doesn't take a genius to figure out that the best player in the NHL elevates his team from pretty good to Stanley Cup contender.
Chris Kunitz (from Jordan Staal and Matt Cooke) gave Pittsburgh an early 1-0 lead at 10:57 of the first period.
Gregory Campbell and Craig Adams fought a few minutes later in a solid lightweight bout.
Pascal Dupuis made it 2-0 41 seconds into the second period from Zbynek Michalek and Evgeni Malkin. It's funny to see the Penguins up close after having gotten to know them much more deeply in the excellent HBO series 24/7 featuring them and the Washington Capitals.
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (33 saves) had another uneven start; he played well in stretches and Boston didn't lose because of him but when it was over he accumulated yet another loss.
Rookie defenseman Steven Kampfer had his nose broken by either a Dupuis or Zdeno Chara high stick so his day was over early in the second period. That was a factor as the Bruins' defensemen are already short-handed with Marc Stuart and Andrew Ference out.
Boston's power play is atrocious and not surprisingly, they went 0-for-4 and generated few real opportunities. I can't put my finger on why it's so bad since they can score plenty during even-strength. Strange.
Dennis Seidenberg got Boston on the board at 11:28 of the second period with a screened shot that found it's way past Fleury. Shawn Thornton and Campbell assisted. 13 seconds later Michael Ryder tied it up with an absolute snipe that went top shelf, from Marc Savard and Seidenberg.
Staal was the unlikely hero as he scored at 3:25 of the third period, giving the Penguins the game-winning goal with help from Cooke and Tyler Kennedy. Like the other two Pittsburgh goals, it wasn't a thing of beauty but rather hustle and effort from a team that can be scrappy when it has to be.
Boston dominated the third period with a million great chances that did everything but go in. The loss was disappointing but with 46 shots (that weren't all blasts from the point), I can't complain.
The Bs host the Carolina Hurricanes tomorrow afternoon in a Martin Luther King Day matinee. I guarantee that Tim Thomas will be in net so Boston needs to take care of a team that's not particularly good but always seems to give them problems.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
They don't play often but I feel like the Boston Celtics own the Charlotte Bobcats as much as any other opponent in the NBA. The games between the two are always blowouts.
Last night was closer as the Celts (30-9) won 99-95 at the TD Garden over the Bobcats (15-22), who came in riding a four-game win streak.
It was a particularly dull game that was completely forgettable save for a rare big showing from Shaquille O'Neal. With our front court short-handed and in foul trouble on top of that, the Diesel went a season-high 35 minutes and produced 23 points, five rebounds and five blocks.
Rajon Rondo added 18 points and 13 assists while Paul Pierce and Ray Allen each notched 19 points. Glen Davis had 11 points but Boston's bench combined for just nine points.
Charlotte must be one of the most boring teams in the league, even under new (but old) head coach Paul Silas. Like why would you ever want to go see the Bobcats in action?
Gerald Wallace led the Bobcats with 20 points, D.J. Augistin had 19 points, Stephen Jackson scored 13 points and a fat Boris Diaw added 11 points.
It was tied at 24 after the first quarter and 42 all at halftime. Boston went ahead with a 27-24 third quarter and outscored Charlotte by a basket (30-28) in the fourth.
For the game, the Celts shot 52.2% to 42.1% for the Bobcats. Boston made five more 3-pointers (8-3) while Charlotte hit eight more free throws (27-19) and grabbed 13 more rebounds (42-29) which is pathetic. Thanks to Rondo as always, Boston had seven more assists (22-15) while the Bobcats recorded two more steals (5-3). Shaq helped the Cs get six more blocks (8-2) and six more points in the paint (44-38).
Things figure to pick up on Monday as the Orlando Magic come to town. (Fingers crossed) Kevin Garnet
Friday, January 14, 2011
Just when you think you've seen it all in a crazy first half of the 2010-2011 season for the Boston Bruins, they drop five goals on the Philadelphia Flyers in a bananas 7-5 triumph last night at the TD Garden.
Where to begin with this instant classic? Beating the Flyers (27-11-5) in the regular season doesn't mean much (let's not talk about the series that shall not be named from last spring) but Philly came in leading the Eastern Conference and they were up 3-2 heading into the third period. Oh and they were 18-2-2 when they scored first, well make that 18-3-2.
If you had told me that Brad Marchand, Steve Kampfer and Gregory Campbell would score the final three goals for the Bruins (24-12-7), I would have said it was a great night to be a Providence Bruin or something snarky and clever like that. However, those are probably the three biggest unsung heroes so far in a season that is heating up with each passing game.
The bitter feelings these teams have built up from the playoffs last season not to mention two earlier games this season boiled over 2:35 into last night as Shawn Thornton took on Jody Shelley (who threw a cheap hit on Bs defenseman Adam McQuaid in December).
Scott Hartnell (sans his carrot top wig) gave the Flyers an early 1-0 lead at 3:34 from Ville Leino and Danny Briere in the first period. It was a weird goal as Hartnell was able to bat the back from behind the goal line and past Tim Thomas (30 saves).
Zdeno Chara tied it up with a power-play goal when Boston had a two-man advantage. Marc Savard and David Krejci assisted on the blast from the captain that seemed to have eyes as it eluded Brian Boucher (30 saves).
The red-hot Patrice Bergeron scored 45 seconds into the second period when his body deflected a Kampfer shot from distance. Mark Recchi also assisted.
Philly took the lead and momentum in the contest when Nikolay Zherdev scored on a breakaway (from Andreas Nodl) and Jeff Carter sniped one over Thomas' shoulder with 36 seconds left in the second period (from James van Riemsdyk and Kimmo Timonen).
It was easy to tell that the third period would be bat shit insane when Recchi tied it 38 seconds in with a goal that will likely never be duplicated again this season. He threw it off the boards and it took a fortuitous bounce right to him and he just shoveled it into the open net. Thomas and Chara picked up gift helpers on that one.
1:10 later, Michael Ryder tipped in an Adam McQuaid shot with Nathan Horton picking up the second assist.
Briere (from Braydon Coburn and Ville Leino) tied it at 6:48 and then less than a minute later, former Bruins defenseman Sean O'Donnell picked a corner with his first goal of the season (haha what?).
Marchand tied it again with a snipe from Campbell and Blake Wheeler. Finally, Kampfer scored the game-winner with a low, quick release from a tough angle.
The Flyers are stacked on offense and when Chris Pronger is healthy (he was out last night), their defense is formidable but they'll probably never win a Stanley Cup with the assorted bums they line up between the pipes. That's the only advantage the Bruins have over them and the reason you would have some hope if these teams should meet again this spring.
Campbell wrapped it up with seven seconds left, scoring another empty-net goal (his speciality) from Wheeler and Bergeron.
Woo! What a game. I can only hope that tomorrow's matinee vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins (which I will be attending) has a quarter of the thrills of last night. Truly one of the best games you'll see not only for the Bruins this season but for the NHL as a whole.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Since I didn't have to work last night (thanks snowpocalypse), it was the first time in ages (outside of attending) that I was able to watch a Boston Celtics game from start to finish. My usual routine of catching the game on DVR later that night or the next morning wasn't necessary.
I can't say that it was a classic or particularly memorable contest since the Sacramento Kings came to the TD Garden without star point guard Tyreke Evans in the lineup. Kevin Garnett is still out but it didn't matter as the Celtics (29-9) rolled to an easy 119-95 victory.
Paul Pierce had 25 points in 27 minutes, Ray Allen had 14 points, Rajon Rondo posted 10 points and 13 assists and Glen Davis scored 12 points but the story was the bench which got ample minutes.
For the first time I can ever remember, four subs scored in double-figures. Nate Robinson finally had a good shooting night with 16 points, Von Wafer and Marquis Daniels had 12 points while Semih Erden dusted off the cobwebs and notched 10 points and nine rebounds.
The Kings (8-28) were led by sub Carl Landry (17 points), no idea why he doesn't start. Beno Udrih had 16 points while Samuel Dalembert scored 12 points and Eugene Jeter notched 10 points.
This one was close in the first half but there was never any doubt that Sacramento would fade at some point. Boston was up 28-22 after one quarter and 57-49 at halftime.
The Celts outscored the Kings 33-18 in the third quarter and 29-28 in the fourth quarter.
Both teams shot well: Boston 52.1% and Sacramento 51.4%. The Cs made a season-high 12 3-pointers (10 more than the Kings) but Sacramento made 14 more free throws (21-7). Boston had one more rebound (38-37) and ten more assists (29-19). Nine more steals (16-7) led to easy buckets for the Celtics while the Kings had twice as many blocks (6-3). It's completely predictable that a young, bad team had more turnovers (23-14) and the Celts had 14 more points in the paint (56-42).
Boston will try to get a win streak started tomorrow night as they host the Charlotte Bobcats. The Celtics typically own the Bobcats but Charlotte has been playing well since head coach Larry Brown left and Paul Silas took over.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
If you're keeping score at home, the Boston Bruins have now scored 10 straight goals over the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators after the Bs embarrassed the Senators 6-0 last night at the TD Garden.
Patrice Bergeron scored his first career hat trick and Tim Thomas made 31 saves for his NHL-leading sixth shutout of the season.
With a big snowstorm in the forecast, the Bruins (23-12-7) treated their fans to one of their best performances this season.
Bergeron began the scoring 3:33 into the contest with an unassisted tally. Blake Wheeler made it 2-0 later in the first period thanks to a nice feed from Tyler Seguin (David Krejci also assisted).
The second period had a little bit of everything for the Black and Gold. They pumped in three more goals and got into two fights with the Senators (16-21-6).
Bergeron scored another goal unassisted, Brad Marchand was credited with a goal that went off an Ottawa skate (from Dennis Seidenberg) and Seguin scored on a sweet shot from Krejci and Zdeno Chara.
It was a funny scene when fans threw hats on the ice for Marchand's goal since it looked at first glance like it might have been Bergeron's third. Luckily, for the poor Hans Molemans out there that lost their hat on a Marchand goal, Bergeron came through with one more in the third period.
Nathan Horton fought Jesse Winchester and Shawn Thornton squared off with Matt Carkner.
Bergeron got the third at 5:04 from Marchand. All that was left was for Carkner to bully Daniel Paille. Credit to Paille as he got into the first fight of his NHL career.
The Bruins will need to bring this emotion to tomorrow night's game as they host the Philadelphia Flyers. A win against the Flyers would go a long way to getting on a nice win streak.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
After the initial solid play after Kevin Garnett got hurt a few weeks ago, the Boston Celtics are clearly missing their leader.
They lost their second straight game last night, 108-102 at the TD Garden to the Houston Rockets (who were missing Yao Ming and Kevin Martin).
Houston (17-21) shot lights out (52.7%) for the entire game, as evidenced by having seven players score in double figures: Aaron Brooks (24 including 5 of 8 on 3-pointers), Kyle Lowry (17), Chase Budinger (13), Luis Scola (12), Jordan Hill (12), Shane Battier (10) and Patrick Patterson (10).
It's easy to make excuses and say the Rockets hit ridiculous shots (which they did) but the Celts (28-9) also didn't play defense at all so therefore they didn't deserve to beat a team they should normally have no trouble smoking.
Marquis Daniels (19 points) and Ray Allen (19 points) seemed to be the only Celtics to really put up much of a fight. Paul Pierce had 16 points, Glen Davis scored 12 points while Rajon Rondo added nine points and 12 assists but none of them were really on.
The Rockets led 27-22 after one quarter and 50-49 at halftime. When they took the third (30-25), you had the feeling the Cs were in trouble since Houston was on fire. The fourth was even (28-28) but that was enough for the visitors since Boston could never get a stop.
The Celts shot 50.7% but the Rockets had twice as many 3-pointers (10-5) and grabbed seven more rebounds (38-31). Boston had eight more steals (13-5) and 26 more points in the paint (48-22) but it wasn't enough against a jump-shooting team that couldn't miss.
Boston had practice today and then they'll try to get it right tomorrow night when they host the Sacramento Kings, one of the NBA's worst teams.
Oh the Boston Bruins, they sure know how to toy with fans' emotions huh?
After yet another brutal loss on Saturday to the Canadiens, they looked poised to go down in Pittsburgh last night at the CONSOL Energy Center.
The Bs (22-12-7) were down 2-0 with less than four minutes remaining so in other words, it was over. Except then it wasn't. Boston scored four goals over the final 3:23 to take a shocking 4-2 win over the Penguins (26-14-4), who skated without icon Sidney Crosby.
Almost as surprising was the fact that the dormant Bruins power play woke up for two of the four goals. Zdeno Chara got the party started at 16:37 with a long, screened shot from the point on the power play. Dennis Seidenberg and Gregory Campbell assisted.
Just 12 seconds later, Brad Marchand took a feed from Patrice Bergeron and tied it up. Campbell also assisted on that one.
Mark Recchi scored the game-winner with 50 seconds left, again on a power play. Michael Ryder and Seidenberg assisted but it was Recchi's hard work in front of the net (something completely predictable) that earned him the rebound goal.
Campbell iced it with an empty-netter with eight seconds remaining. Blake Wheeler and Bergeron had those assists.
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (23 saves) earned the win while Penguins goaltender Marc Andre-Fleury (28 saves) played well but for the second time this season, his team coughed up a two-goal lead in the third period to Boston (Brent Johnson was in net last time).
After a scoreless first period, Pittsburgh scored a pair of goals in the second. Mike Rupp scored on a bad-angle backhander (from Deryk Engelland) and Kris Letang scored a power-play goal on a slap shot from the point (from Evgeni Malkin and Paul Martin).
Tonight, Boston kicks off a four-game homestand by hosting the Ottawa Senators, the bottom-feeders in the Northeast Division. This is two points they simply need to have, no excuses.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Once again, I didn't see much of the Boston Celtics' game last night in Chicago but like the Bruins I saw all I needed to in the few chosen moments I switched over during the Jets-Colts game. There was no need to watch the dud game on DVR late at night afterwards.
Derrick Rose had a game-high 36 points while Chicago beat the Celts 90-79 at the United Center.
The Bulls' (24-12) hometown boy got to the line for 19 free throws and Boston (28-8) shot bricks (37.8%) all night long to ensure a nice night for Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau and Brian Scalabrine.
Carlos Boozer added 22 points and 10 rebounds while Ronnie Brewer had 10 points and Luol Deng notched nine points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Paul Pierce led the Cs with 21 points, Ray Allen had 19 points, Rajon Rondo notched 13 points, eight assists, five rebounds and five steals. Glen Davis added 11 points.
Chicago led 22-21 after one quarter and 46-42 at halftime. The Celts outscored Chicago 22-21 in the third quarter but the Bulls took care of business in the fourth (23-15).
The Bulls shot 49.2%, the Celtics hit two more 3-pointers (5-3), Chicago hit seven more free throws (25-18; they attempted 13 more: 35-22) and pulled down a ridiculous 21 more rebounds (48-27). Chicago had four more assists (16-12) but Boston made seven more steals (12-5). The Bulls had four more blocks (9-5) and the Celts were only hanging around because Chicago had 13 more turnovers (21-8).
Boston hosts the Houston Rockets tomorrow night at the TD Garden, a team that without the oft-injured Yao Ming is lacking direction.
I am thankful that I missed most of the Boston Bruins' epic loss to the Montreal Canadiens last night. I had it DVR'd but after I saw the ending, I was straight with seeing any more of the latest turd burger
Since it was the first day of the NFL playoffs, I was watching those much more important games but still managed to catch almost all of the soul-crushing moments of Boston's 3-2 overtime loss to Montreal (23-16-3) at the Bell Centre.
Patrice Bergeron had given the Bs (21-12-7) a 2-0 lead and it appeared like the Northeastern Conference showdown would end nicely for the visitors.
With 2:22 left in the third period, Scott Gomez scored on a fluky power play goal when he just threw the puck at the net and somehow Tim Thomas (39 saves) didn't see it until it was too late.
Zdeno Chara had a good chance to end it with a long shot on Montreal's empty net but it went thru the crease and just wide. I would have said what I was thinking out loud (watch the Canadiens tie this up) but you can't mess with things like that in matters of the Boston Bruins. They are cursed enough as it is.
Wouldn't you know with 48 seconds left, Brian Gionta tied it up from James Wisniewski and Max Pacioretty. It was reviewed since it appeared maybe he kicked it in but no dice, they made the right call that it wasn't intentional.
At that point, you had seen this movie before and it ended like it always does: with Pacioretty scoring 3:43 into overtime. Boston received a point but it's hard to picture a much more pathetic collapse (in the regular season) in a big spot.
After a scoreless first period, Bergeron scored his goals 8:09 apart. Blake Wheeler and Brad Marchand assisted on the first one with Mark Recchi and Chara with the helpers on the second.
Montreal goaltender Carey Price (27 saves) did enough to get the win in front of his bobo home crowd.
The road doesn't get any easier this week as the Bruins travel to Pittsburgh to face the Penguins. The good news for them is that Sidney Crosby is out with a concussion.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Earlier in the week, I made a mistake when I referred to Celtics guard Von Wafer as the last guy on the bench. I neglected to mention rookie guard Avery Bradley and rookie forward Luke Harangody, two college players that came out too early (Bradley) or seem to be undersized and without a position in the NBA (Harangody).
With Kevin Garnett out the last five games, Harangody has been playing more minutes and last night was his first real solid performance as he put up 17 points and 11 rebounds (in a career-high 27 minutes) that fueled a 122-102 win over the Toronto Raptors at the TD Garden.
Anyone that pays attention to college hoops could tell you that both, particularly Harangody can ball. You don't play four years in the Big East at Notre Dame and dominate like he did when you're a stiff.
Clearly, it'll be hard for him to find minutes on a championship contender like this one but he seems to have the ingredients to be a solid role player in the Ryan Gomes, Leon Powe mode.
Since the Raptors (12-24) don't play any semblance of defense, it should be no surprise that the Celtics (28-7) usually own them, save for one weird choke job in Toronto earlier this season.
Paul Pierce led the Cs with 20 points, Ray Allen scored 17, Glen Davis had 14 points and Shaquille O'Neal added 12 points. Nate Robinson regained his scoring touch, putting up 15 points off the bench.
Rajon Rondo had nine points and seven assists in 26 minutes (with six turnovers) as Doc Rivers tried to limit the starters minutes in the first night of a back to back stretch and three games in four nights.
DeMar Derozan paced Toronto with 20 points, Andrea Bargnani and Linas Kleiza both added 17 points, Jose Calderon had 11 points and nine assists while Amir Johnson scored 10. Off the bench, Leandro Barbosa scored 15.
The Raptors must possess as many foreigners (four played last night) as almost any other team, fitting since they're in Toronto which is a very diverse city, especially for Canada. It also makes sense that they don't have any interest in stopping anybody on the defensive end.
Boston was up 34-22 after one quarter and 67-45 at halftime (their most first half points this season). The Raptors cut into the deficit a bit in the third quarter (32-27) but it didn't matter as the Celts closed it out (28-25) and sent everyone home happy.
It was the second straight outstanding shooting display by Boston (57.5%) and Toronto wasn't shabby either (50.6%). The Celts made five more 3-pointers (11-6), three more free throws (19-16) and had 12 more rebounds (43-31). Boston had six more assists (31-25), three off their season-high while Toronto had four more steals (8-4) and five more blocks (7-2).
Thanks to Rondo's carelessness, the Cs had five more turnovers (16-11) and half the amount of fastbreak points that the Raptors had (14-7). The Cs did pound it down low with 10 more points in the paint (54-44).
Boston is in Chicago to face the Bulls tonight. Derrick Rose seems to always play well against the Celtics and this has developed into one of the Cs bigger rivalries over the past few seasons.
Friday, January 7, 2011
With the exceptionally boring style that the Minnesota Wild prefer to play, I almost don't blame the Boston Bruins for playing terribly last night. For some unknown reason, the Wild are 9-2 all-time against the Bs including a 6-0 mark in Boston. Weird.
Three fatal Bruins (21-12-6) mistakes led to each Wild (20-15-5) goal as Minnesota won 3-1 at the TD Garden.
It wasted yet another fine effort by Tuukka Rask (31 saves), who lost to Jose Theodore (35 saves). Rask turned in one of the best saves you'll see all season in the NHL, robbing Martin Havlat of what should have been an easy tap in.
After a scoreless first period, the Wild took advantage of a bogus hooking call on Shawn Thornton early in the second period. Minnesota defenseman Brent Burns flopped like only the Montreal Canadiens can and he surprisingly got the call. Four seconds later, Havlat scored from Patrick O'Sullivan.
Bruins rookie defenseman Steve Kampfer (who has played wonderfully from day one since he got called up) tied it up following a steal in Minnesota's end by Patrice Bergeron. Tyler Seguin also assisted on Boston's lone goal.
By far the biggest mistake by the Bs led to the game-winner for the anonymous Wild as Marc Savard failed to clear the puck after a long shift in his own end and hit it right to wannabe porn star name Cal Clutterbuck. Rask had no time to react and Minnesota had a 2-1 lead.
Boston pressed for the tying goal but Theodore stood tall while Minnesota also had some more luck as Mark Recchi's stick shattered after Rask had been pulled for the extra skater.
Mikko Koivu put it away with an empty-net goal following Recchi's problem with his stick.
There's no time to feel sorry for themselves though as Boston goes to Montreal tomorrow night for a showdown with first-place in the Northeast Division on the line. Expect Tim Thomas to be back in between the pipes after he's sat out the last three contests.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
This pains me to say it since I've been a KG fan forever (I bought a Minnesota Timberwolves jersey in college) but nobody is more valuable to the Boston Celtics at this second than Rajon Rondo.
Of course Kevin Garnett is still vital to what they do, especially defensively, but after Rondo notched a triple-double (12 points, 22 assists, 10 rebounds) last night as the Celts knocked off the San Antonio Spurs, 105-103 at the TD Garden, what other conclusion is there to make?
Boston (27-7) beat the NBA's top team, the Spurs (29-6), in a game that was the ultra-rare instant classic regular season NBA game.
This one had it all: crazy shots, plays, surprises and execution. As Bob Ryan said in the Boston Globe yesterday, the world is rooting for a Miami Heat vs. Los Angeles Lakers (sizzle vs. sizzle) NBA Finals this summer but after last night, we're both in agreement that Boston vs. San Antonio would be a true basketball fan's dream.
The win would not have been possible without an other-worldly shooting performance by the incomparable Ray Allen (13 of 16 for 31 points and six assists). The ironic part is that he bricked two late free throws that would have iced it but Manu Ginobili's (24 points, 8 rebounds, 5 steals) had his jumper blocked by Paul Pierce (18 points) and Marquis Daniels (6 points, 3 rebounds) to end it.
All I can say is I hope that you watched this contest or at the very least saw the highlights. It was dedicated to your old-school friend or relative that complains about the NBA not being about fundamentals, etc. Riveting stuff in front of a great crowd.
Glen Davis had his best game in a while with 23 points. He seems to have found his jumper after a couple brutal shooting displays. As with most important wins, the role players stepped up too like Nate Robinson (7 points, 5 rebounds) who hit a couple key baskets.
The Spurs are the New England Patriots of the NBA (ie. extremely boring to outsiders) but you have to appreciate how good they've been over a long stretch of time (4 titles in 12 years).
Tim Duncan (18 points) has slowed down considerably but he can still get it done. Tony Parker (18 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) has put aside his divorce drama with Eva Longoria and is having a great season while Richard Jefferson (14 points) has reemerged after a terrible year last season.
Another easy comparison to the Patriots is that San Antonio gets the most out of its assorted bums like Matt Bonner (10 points) and Gary Neal (10 points) who shuttle through the team every year.
Boston led 27-25 after one quarter but trailed 51-49 at the half. The Celts opened it up with a good third quarter (28-21) but George Hill's buzzer-beater for 2 cut it to 77-72 after three. San Antonio won the fourth (31-29) which is impressive since the Cs looked like they had it in the bag, up nine with a little over a minute left.
For the game, the Celts shot 61.3% (which is absurd) to 45.3% for the Spurs. San Antonio had four more 3-pointers (9-5) and made eight more free throws (16-8). Besides the shooting percentage, the Cs not surprisingly won because of the assists (34-20).
The Toronto Raptors come to the TD Garden tomorrow night and what a letdown that will be. There won't be a game with this much hype and intrigue until the Celtics finally play the Lakers on January 30 in Los Angeles.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
If you ever thought that Von Wafer - the last man on the Boston Celtics' bench - would ever do anything that would help them win a regular season game, you're either related to him or you're a lunatic.
However, that was the story last night as Wafter brought energy off the bench and his 10 points and six rebounds were crucial as the Celts (26-7) stole a game from the Minnesota Timberwolves (9-26), 96-93 at the TD Garden.
Led by rebounding machine Kevin Love (12 points, 24 rebounds - a Garden record), the Timberwolves were in control for most of the contest but some fourth quarter heroics by Paul Pierce (23 points), Ray Allen (20 points) and Glen Davis (17 points) allowed Boston to escape with the win.
Rajon Rondo was back to his old tricks with six points and 16 assists. He actually had the two biggest baskets for the Cs as well: a floater and a jumper in the last few minutes.
Minnesota got 19 points from Michael Beasley, 15 points from Martell Webster off the bench, 14 from Darko Milicic and 13 from Luke Ridnour.
The Timberwolves led 25-17 after one quarter and 47-43 at halftime. Boston inched closer with a decent third quarter (27-26) then won it in the fourth (26-20).
For the game, the Celts shot 45.1% to Minnesota's 41.7%. Thanks to Love's prowess, the Timberwolves had 15 more rebounds (45-30) but it was the same story in the assist department thanks to Rondo (22-16). Boston also had five more blocks (7-2) since Jermaine O'Neal had four (he's still good defensively), five less turnovers (15-10) and 12 more points in the paint (38-26).
Wednesday night is one of the marquee games of the NBA regular season even though I'm sure it won't get much hype. It pits the Western Conference's best team: the San Antonio Spurs against the East's best - Boston - at the TD Garden. It's hard to get excited about a regular season game but these teams only meet once or twice a season and they always seem to be great games.
Tuukka Rask and Nathan Horton emerge off a missing persons poster and help the Bruins put a bow on a solid road trip
It wasn't always pretty (namely the two third period leads that disappeared and led to shootout losses) but after last night's 2-1 win in Toronto, the Boston Bruins wrapped up a pivotal five-game road trip with a 3-0-2 record.
In the process, they just might have saved head coach Claude Julien's job while also showing that they're still a team to be feared in the Eastern Conference.
The biggest developments out of the Air Canada Centre last night were the reemergence of two Bruins (21-11-6) who have been scuffling (to be kind): Tuukka Rask and Nathan Horton.
Rask has not been himself all season and it hasn't helped that Tim Thomas has been playing out of his mind so his playing time has been sporadic at best. The Fin had 36 saves last night, shutting down the Maple Leafs (14-20-4) which is always doubly nice since we still own one more first round draft pick from them (having already used their last first round pick on Tyler Seguin) in the ill-fated Phil Kessel deal.
Mikhail Grabovski gave Toronto a 1-0 lead at 14:08 in the first period after a flipped pass from Luke Schenn led to a breakaway.
Horton answered at 7:56 in the second period with his first goal in nine games. He was assisted by Dennis Seidenberg as the husband of a Playboy playmate (really) worked into the middle of the offensive zone and ripped one of his hard snap shots, that for once didn't ring off a post.
Probably the third guy from the invisible trio, Marc Savard, also stepped up with the game-winning goal less than eight minutes later. With Milan Lucic (who assisted) in front of Toronto goaltender James Reimer, Savard took a pass from Horton at the blue line and fired a screened shot.
That's all it took to get the two points although Rask had to make a couple top-notch saves to end it.
The Bruins come home to face the Minnesota Wild on Thursday at the TD Garden.
Monday, January 3, 2011
As spoiled as we are with the Boston Celtics the past few years, a two-game losing streak is truly a cause for alarm.
Yes, NBA teams can successfully go through the motions of the monotonous 82-game regular season (see: Celtics 2009-2010) but if Boston is relatively healthy, they should win most games that they play, no questions asked.
That equation was proved once again last night in Canada as the Cs (25-7) beat the Toronto Raptors (11-22) 93-79 at the Air Canada Centre.
Rajon Rondo returned from his ankle injury and played 34 minutes but only contributed four points, eight assists and five turnovers. However, just his presence alone allowed things to open up for the Celts. For example, Paul Pierce dropped a game-high 30 points with seven rebounds and four assists while Ray Allen added 23 points.
Even Glen Davis, who looked completely lost on Friday without Kevin Garnett, managed to snap out of his funk (starting 1 of 7 last night) with a near triple-double: 15 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists.
Toronto is not good but they are young and athletic which can always make for a tough matchup for our lovable group of old men that play basketball.
DeMar DeRozan apparently is becoming a star now as he had 27 points while Joey Dorsey (13 points, 13 rebounds) and Amir Johnson (10 points, 10 rebounds) had double-doubles.
After a tight first quarter (24-23 Boston) and halftime (43-42 Celtics), it looked like it could be a close finish but Doc Rivers and his staff (mostly excitable midget Lawrence Frank) convinced them to play some defense and as a result, they managed to hold the Raptors to only 37 points in the second half.
When you look at the numbers, it's easy to see why the Celtics pulled away. They shot 54.3% to Toronto's 37.8%. The Celtics had five more 3-pointers (6-1) which offset a big deficit in rebounds (49-37 Toronto).
And what a shock, Rondo made for much more ball movement (30-20 assists for Celtics) and less hero ball. Toronto had four more steals (9-5) but thanks to Shaq (4 blocks), Boston had four more blocks (6-2). The Raptors used their speed to almost double up the Celts in fast break points: 29-15 and gain 10 more points in the paint (42-32).
Boston comes home to host Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight at the TD Garden. Minnesota is exactly the type of team you want to face in the second half of a back-to-back, a squad that you can beat even if you play you're B or B- game.
Everywhere you looked yesterday at Gillette Stadium, it seemed like August. The temperatures were mild, the sun was out, the crowd was full of schmoes that never go to Patriots games and most interestingly, backups, reserves, never-weres and never will bes were making highlight reel plays.
The New England Patriots wrapped up their 2010 regular season with one more beating, 38-7 over the quarterback-less Miami Dolphins.
The Pats (14-2) let Tom Brady (10 of 16, 199 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions) play enough to boost his MVP candidacy to the point where if you don't vote for him, you're a joke. Once again, he didn't throw an interception, extending his NFL record and he also clinched or extended a million other streaks that I'm too lazy to look up again.
Perhaps the most satisfying development out of yesterday's glorified exhibition game was the fact that BenJarvus Green-Ellis carried the ball 20 times for 80 yards and a touchdown. That got him over 1000 yards for the season (1008) and made him the first New England running back to get over the century mark since Corey Dillon in 2004 (it's crazy it's been that long but then you remember how long we tried to squeeze Chicken Salad out of Chicken Shit - Laurence Maroney).
The other unsung guy that you had to feel good for was Julian Edelman. The king of preseason, who was a high fantasy draft pick for know it all Patriots fanboys, finally came through with a nice game in the 2010 regular season. He had three catches for 72 yards, including a sweet 40-yard gain. He also took a reverse 13 yards and most impressively, broke a team record with a 94-yard punt return for a score.
Wes Welker, Deion Branch and Aaron Hernandez all sat out which makes you wonder how badly New England would have beat the already-on-vacation Dolphins (7-9) if those studs suited up.
Everyone else on the Patriots added to their great individual seasons: rookies Devin McCourty (seventh INT) and Rob Gronkowski (6 catches, 102 yards, 1 touchdown) continued to show why they are two of New England's best draft picks possibly ever.
Finally, Brian Hoyer (the most anonymous pro athlete in New England) got his first NFL touchdown pass and actually looked pretty decent: 7 of 13 for 122 yards. A beautiful 42-yard toss to Brandon Tate. The always tricky Bill Belichick changed it up by having Hoyer go in for Brady in the middle of a drive, simulating what would happen if Brady gets hurt in a game.
From here we have almost two weeks without a playoff game. As the No. 1 seed in the AFC, the Patriots will play either the Jets, Chiefs or Ravens on Sunday, January 16, 4:30 p.m. at Gillette Stadium.
New England earned everything that comes with this extended break, they had an unbelievable regular season which is all well and good but as Coach Hoodie remarked today: "yesterday we were 14-2, today we're 0-0."
It's Super Bowl 45 (in Dallas) or bust for this outstanding team and coach.
Sunday, January 2, 2011
Weird stuff happens on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day so it goes without saying that's multiplied when a miserable place like Buffalo, NY is involved.
The Boston Bruins scored four goals in the first period last night at the HSBC Arena but somehow ended up losing 7-6 in a shootout to the Buffalo Sabres.
Four different Bs (20-11-6) defensemen scored goals while Tyler Seguin had a goal and an assist. Brad Marchand also added a goal.
For Buffalo (16-18-4), Drew Stafford once again did his best Mario Lemieux impression that he only pulls out when he plays the Bruins. He had another hat trick against Boston (his second this season) while Jason Pominville had two goals and two assists.
2011 began like 2010 ended for Bs goaltender Tuukka Rask: terribly. He started last night but he didn't make it to the second period as Bruins head coach Claude Julien made the curious decision to yank him after the first period even though Boston led 4-3.
Andrew Ference gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead 1:29 into the game, from Adam McQuaid and Marc Savard. 37 seconds later, Pominville tied it up from Thomas Vanek and Mike Weber.
Dennis Seidenberg made it 2-1 with an unassisted goal, then Brad Marchand tipped home a shot by Johnny Boychuk who received a pass from Mark Recchi.
Thomas Vanek got Buffalo back into it with a goal from Tim Connolly and Pominville.
The first period closed with Zdeno Chara (from Patrice Bergeron and Recchi) scoring a short-handed goal but Stafford cut it to 4-3 with an unassisted goal.
With Rask (13 saves) out, Tim Thomas (16 saves) entered in the second period but he wasn't much better. Captain America, Ryan Miller (34 saves) didn't exactly have a Hall of Fame performance either but he was able to ride it out.
Stafford tied it up with the second period from Paul Gausted. A power-play goal by Pominville gave Buffalo a 5-4 lead from Andrej Sekera and Jochen Hecht.
Seguin took over in the third period with a goal (from Daniel Paille) and he found Steve Kampfer for the go-ahead tally at 6-5. Chara also assisted on Kampfer's 2nd career NHL goal.
It looked like the Bruins would get the two points but Stafford tied it up with his third goal with 28 seconds left in regulation.
After a scoreless overtime, the Sabres went 3 for 3 in the shootout (Stafford, Vanek and Tyler Ennis) while Michael Ryder and Seguin scored but the third shooter, Zdeno Chara, shot wide and it was over. I have no idea why Julien tabbed Chara to shoot since he doesn't have a move, he normally just skates down and takes a slap shot from a few feet away but whatever.
The Bs got one point but they totally choked, giving up two-goal leads twice (3-1, 4-2). Boston goes to Toronto tomorrow night to visit Phil Kessel and the Maple Leafs, who they completely own.
Saturday, January 1, 2011
I don't work in Las Vegas at a sportsbook but there's a few certain telltale signs for NBA games that almost always come true: teams struggle in back to backs and also after losing their stars to injuries.
With the New Orleans Hornets in Boston yesterday afternoon, the Boston Celtics had to take time away from planning their New Year's Eve appearances and parties to play a game without either Rajon Rondo or Kevin Garnett.
Things went predictably poor for the home team in their first game since KG went down with his latest mysterious calf injury.
The Hornets (19-14) held on for a 83-81 win that was bizarre since the Celtics (24-7) went for the winning 3-pointer by Ray Allen (18 points) and then when he missed it, they didn't foul and let the last few seconds tick off. Uh ok, guess Doc didn't want them going to overtime.
New Orleans didn't play particularly well either but Chris Paul was his usual versatile self: 20 points, 11 assists, six steals, five rebounds and he got some help in the form of David West (19 points) and Emeka Okafor (18 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks).
Marco Belinelli added 10 points for the Hornets.
With Nate Robinson (11 points, 6 rebounds) starting for Rondo, Glen Davis took KG's spot and he was awful. He had only eight points on 4 of 14 shooting and he looked like a player that excels coming off the bench but isn't built to be a starter. The world needs ditch diggers, right?
Paul Pierce had 12 points for Boston, Shaquille O'Neal and Marquis Daniels added 10 points in a forgettable game that will hopefully be swept under all your Happy New Year merchandise and related crap.
New Orleans was up 23-19 after one quarter but Boston led by a hoop at halftime: 39-37. A big third quarter by the Hornets (29-18) and the Cs got back in it with a 15-0 run in the fourth quarter (24-17).
The Celts will try to readjust to life without Rondo (for not much longer) and KG (for two weeks - wink) as they travel North of the border to take on the Toronto Raptors tomorrow night.