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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Clearly Rajon Rondo Was Holding The Celtics Back, Haha Just Kidding!

Nobody really knows what to expect from the Celtics without Rondo for the rest of this season but in the meantime, they won their second straight game since his injury. Boston (22-23, 15-9 home) rolled 99-81 over lifeless Sacramento (17-30, 5-18 away) tonight at TD Garden. Six Celtics scored in double figures as they avenged an inexplicable 22-point loss (118-96) to the Kings on December 30 in Sacramento.

The only downside is that rookie Jared Sullinger left after only four minutes (he started) with back spasms. Trouble with his back is supposedly one of the main reasons why he dropped to No. 21 in last summer's NBA draft. Apparently, it wasn't too serious though and he's listed as day-to-day. The C's won because of an incredible second quarter where they outscored the Kings 37-14. It was Boston's highest scoring frame of the season thus far and it made up for Sacramento outscoring them 67-62 in the other three quarters.

Paul Pierce led Boston with 16 points and 10 rebounds, Kevin Garnett had 13 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two blocks, Avery Bradley put up 11 points, five rebounds and three steals while Brandon Bass (3 steals), Jeff Green and Jason Terry each notched 12 points off the bench.

Tyreke Evans is healthy for the moment and he paced the Kings with 19 points, 11 rebounds and three steals. DeMarcus Cousins had 13 points and six rebounds while Thomas Robinson scored 11 points off the bench. You gotta love the dimwit Celtics writers that saw Cousins play only twice this season and said the exact opposite thing each time: in December, "get him!" Now, "they don't need/want him." Haha ok then.

The Celts have a great opportunity to get back to .500 and gain more confidence on Friday (7:30 p.m., CSN) as they host the Magic (14-31, 3rd in Southeast Division). Orlando lost 113-97 tonight in New York and even worse, former Celtic Glen Davis (15.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg) broke his foot. Boston won at Orlando 116-110 in overtime back on November 25.

Bruins Continue To Roll, Pick Up Their 1st Back-To-Back Wins In 2 Nights

Even when the Bruins aren't playing particularly well (up to their high standards at least) early on this season, they are still getting the results they want for the most part. Boston (5-0-1) rallied for a 2-1 six-round shootout win over the Devils (3-0-2) tonight at TD Garden. With the victory, Boston is off to its best start since 1970-71 with points in their first six contests.

The Bruins and Devils remain the only clubs in the Eastern Conference to have not suffered a loss in regulation. Tuukka Rask (25 saves) returned to Boston's goal after sitting out Monday night's 5-3 win at Carolina. New Jersey actually snapped Boston's 24-for-24 successful penalty kill streak as David Clarkson (3rd of the season) tipped in Marek Zidlicky's shot from the point at 8:30 of the second period. Patrik Elias had the second assist for the defending Eastern Conference champions.

Rewind to the first period when Shawn Thornton fought Krys Barch, other than that the B's lacked their normal energy and snarl. Regardless, they picked it up in the third period when it mattered most and Nathan Horton (3rd of the season) tied it with 4:05 left in regulation. It was all thanks to an exquisite rush from his linemates Milan Lucic and David Krejci. It's amazing what can happen (the trickle down effect if you will) when the top line is playing like this.

Boston went to overtime for the third time this season and while both teams had chances, the B's progressed to their second shootout (2-0). Tyler Seguin and Ilya Kovalchuk scored in the first round but then nobody else did in four additional rounds. Brad Marchand finally trickled one past Hedberg, through his five hole and Rask stopped Zidlicky to seal it.

The B's went 2-for-2 on their first back-to-back of the season (only 6 more), now they have tomorrow off before hosting Buffalo (2-3-1) on Thursday (7 p.m., NESN). It represents Boston's first meeting with a Northeast Division rival, they will also try to stay unbeaten at the Garden (4-0-0).

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Anton Khudobin Wins 1st Start Of Season, Bruins Pick Up 1st Road Win 5-3 At Carolina

The B's (4-0-1) continued their great start to the 2013 season with a thrilling 5-3 victory tonight at PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC. Boston blew leads of 2-0 and 3-1 but Carolina (2-3-0) couldn't rally once the Bruins clinched it with David Krejci's game-winner at 18:10 of the third period followed by Tyler Seguin's empty-netter. Anton Khudobin (29 saves) acquitted himself well in his first start of the season, he did enough to allow Boston to pick up its first road win of the season.

Boston's much-maligned power play scored twice, boosting its season total to three although one was Seguin's so that doesn't really count. Sorry Claude! The Bruins' penalty kill stayed perfect (23 for 23, every other team in the NHL has allowed a power play goal) and they added a bonus: a short-handed goal. Brad Marchand got it started (3rd of the season) with the short-handed tally (Boston's first of the season) just 3:16 into the contest. He was wide open and Zdeno Chara (1 goal, 2 assists) found him with a cross-ice feed that he slammed home past Cam Ward (33 saves). Patrice Bergeron had the second assist. Chara notched a power-play goal (his 2nd goal of the season) less than three minutes later thanks to a screen from Milan Lucic. Krejci and Seguin had the assists on Chara's second goal in as many games.

Carolina looked like they might be run out of their own building but they answered with Jamie McBain's (1st of the season) tip-in at 14:50 of the first period from Eric Staal and Alexander Semin. Tim Gleason took one for the team by fighting Lucic after Boston's second goal and before Carolina's first. That seemed to give the Hurricanes some life in their skates.

Nathan Horton (2nd of the season) made it 3-1 with one of the best goals of his Black and Gold career. He gained the puck at center ice, skated around multiple Hurricanes then dangled around the last one before scoring at 15:52 from Chara and Johnny Boychuk. Again Carolina responded, this time they knotted it at three thanks to a pair of goals within 50 seconds of each other. Jeff Skinner (5th of the season) used his own sick move to cut it to 3-2 at 17:55 from Jordan Staal then Chris Kelly's bad giveaway in his own end led to a one-timer from Semin to Eric Staal (4th of the season) at 18:45.

To Boston's credit, they picked it up immensely in the third period. They clearly didn't want to go to overtime for the third straight game, especially with another game tomorrow night not to mention three games in four days and four games in six days this week. Krejci's goal came after a scramble with Dougie Hamilton laying it off to him when most guys, particularly rookies, would have shot it into traffic. Horton had the second assist, capping his solid night.

Tuukka Rask (3-0-1) should be in net tomorrow as the defending Eastern Conference champs, the Devils (3-0-1) come to TD Garden (7 p.m., NESN). Also, expect Adam McQuaid back in the lineup (and Aaron Johnson out) after Quaider missed tonight for "personal reasons." Tomorrow should be a nice early test for the B's, both in terms of caliber of opponent and what they can do in their first back-to-back.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Celtics Lose Rajon Rondo For The Season (ACL) But Beat Miami 100-98 In Double Overtime

Today was definitely one of the more bizarre sporting events I've ever experienced in my life. The Celtics (21-23, 14-9 home) snapped a six-game losing streak with a much-needed 100-98 win over the Heat (28-13, 10-10 away) in double overtime this afternoon at TD Garden.

The excitement of winning their best game of the season (so far) was heavily tempered by the fact that Rajon Rondo is out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL (right knee). That fact is something that we slowly figured out at the game since he wasn't in the starting lineup then rumors started flying on Twitter that he was at the hospital. By the time he returned to the arena in overtime, most people in the crowd already knew the awful news.

It's hard to put into words (and there have been plenty written and said already) what this means to the Celtics since he is by far their most instrumental and talented player. Boston didn't have more than a sliver of a chance of capturing a title with him but without him, it's hard to picture them winning even one round in the playoffs. Yes, it's that bleak. Today's win showed what they can do against the top team in the Eastern Conference when they are inspired and working together, but how could they keep that emotion up for months?

Paul Pierce had his seventh career triple-double with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists while Kevin Garnett put up 24 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks and two steals. Boston's bench outscored Miami's 39-29 thanks to Jason Terry (13 points), Jeff Green (11 points) and Leandro Barbosa (9 points)-the three guys along with Courtney Lee who will have to step up the most with Rondo out.

LeBron James had a game-high 34 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and three steals, Dwayne Wade scored 17 points and handed out seven assists while Chris Bosh notched 16 points and 16 rebounds. Ray Allen's first return to the Garden after playing with the Celts for five seasons went well for him (21 points, 5 rebounds) and the fans got it right by mostly cheering him during a highlight video then booing him when he came in the contest.

Due to the fact that Boston was desperate for a win and that these teams absolutely hate each other, this did not feel anything like a game in late January. It seemed like a playoff game with the effort level and intensity from both squads. LeBron hit a 3-pointer with seven seconds left in regulation to tie it at 87. Terry missed a prayer of a 3 to sent it to overtime. Wade drew contact from Pierce but no foul call at the end of the first overtime before he bricked his jumper. Battier had a chance to win it at the end with a 3-pointer but it was an airball since he rushed.

The C's have to be physically exhausted since they played back-to-back double overtime games (Atlanta on Friday) and now emotionally drained as well since they found out about Rondo's injury during this marathon. They'll have to bring a veteran point guard in here (Delonte West?) since they don't have a true one behind Rondo.

The NBA Trade Deadline is a little over three weeks away (Feb. 21) so it'll be interesting to see what Danny Ainge can do. Don't expect any miracles because given their age, I don't know how many teams would really trade anything useful plus it's doubtful that he'd just giveaway KG or Pierce for nothing.

Nobody will feel bad for the C's so they have to circle the wagons and figure out how to proceed from here. I still think they possess enough talent to comfortably make the playoffs but other than that, who knows? This wasn't how this season was supposed to go for them, probably over before they even get to the All-Star break. They host the Kings (16-29, 4th in Pacific Division) on Wednesday (7:30 p.m., CSN). Boston owes Sacramento a beating since the Kings humbled them 118-96 on December 30 (during that 0-3 trip to California).

UPDATE 1/29: The Celtics recalled rookie center Fab Melo from the Red Claws.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Q: Who Blows A 27-Point Lead (In 1 Quarter) Then Loses in Double Overtime? A: The Celtics

Thank God the NHL has returned and the Bruins are really good because we need something to shield us from the flaming wreckage that is the 2012-13 Celtics. Boston's (20-23, 7-14 away) 123-111 double overtime loss tonight at Atlanta's (25-18, 15-7 home) Philips Arena was borderline impossible to execute. It is their sixth straight defeat, the longest losing streak in the Kevin Garnett (24 points, 10 rebounds) in Green era.

The Celts got up 48-21 in the second quarter but apparently that wasn't enough as the Hawks tied it at 59 midway through the third quarter. If that didn't make you want to jump off the Tobin Bridge, how about watching Kyle Korver (27 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks) drain eight 3-pointers in the second half alone? Pass that bottle of bleach please.

Rajon Rondo (16 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds) had his second triple-double in as many nights and third straight against Atlanta so he's probably content. Avery Bradley had 14 points while Paul Pierce struggled to get 12 points and six rebounds in 40 minutes. For once, Boston's bench wasn't the issue as they outscored Atlanta's 45-21. Jeff Green (17 points, 6 rebounds), Courtney Lee (16 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals) and even Jason Terry (12 points) were all excellent.

Al Horford put up 24 points, 13 rebounds and two steals, Jeff Teague had 23 points, seven assists and three steals, Josh Smith notched 17 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks and Ivan Johnson added 11 points (which has to be a career-high, only a slight exaggeration). Devin Harris (remember him?) had 14 points off the bench.

A soul crushing loss like this will overshadow something great that the Celtics actually did: they went 20-for-20 from the free throw line. Smith missed a layup at the end of regulation that would have won it but he made up for it by stuffing Pierce's predictable move and shot at the end of the first overtime. After that, Boston completely ran out of gas in the second overtime.

I suppose there is only one way for the Celtics to go from here: up. They can't possibly suffer two more brutal losses in the regular season on back-to-back nights. The Heat (28-12, 1st in Southeast Division) make their first trip to Boston on Sunday (1 p.m., ABC) which means that Ray Allen will be back. Luckily, since the C's are so bad at the moment, we won't have to be bombarded with that storyline non-stop.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Bruins Remain Unbeaten (3-0-0) At TD Garden With A 4-2 Win Over The Islanders

There is plenty to like about the Bruins at the moment, they are only four games into the 2013 season but it looks like it could be a very enjoyable team to follow. Boston (3-0-1) beat the Islanders (2-2-0) 4-2 tonight at TD Garden to improve their home record to 3-0-0.

Four different guys notched their first goals of the season for the B's while Tuukka Rask (24 saves) made his fourth straight start and for the third time allowed two goals or less. Rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton had two assists for the first multi-point game of his NHL career.

Boston's fourth line had a great game as they scored a pair of goals. Shawn Thornton made it 1-0 at 4:52 of the first period. He followed a rebound left out by Rick DiPietro (23 saves) on a shot by Daniel Paille. Hamilton had the other assist.

Milan Lucic fought former Senators goon Matt Carkner and completely beat the snot out of him. Waltham native Keith Aucoin (2nd of the season) tied it for the Islanders at 11:13 in the first period from PC's Colin McDonald and David Ullstrom. Boston got caught chasing the puck which left Aucoin wide open in front for a tap in.

Aucoin gave New York the briefest of leads at 9:50 in the second period. Paille's awful turnover went right to him, it was the same effect as a one-timer. The B's had some luck go their way when David Krejci's shot deflected off an Islanders skate right to Gregory Campbell for an easy goal. Chris Kelly had the other assist at 13:42.

Boston took over in the third period and there was nothing that New York could do about it. After great cycling by Nathan Horton, from behind the net Lucic found Zdeno Chara by the right circle. DiPietro had no chance to stop the snap shot at 7:07. Patrice Bergeron iced it with a beauty of a goal at 13:33. Hamilton started the rush with a pass to Brad Marchand, who hit Bergeron alone behind the Islanders defense. He skated in on DiPietro and tucked it under his glove.

The Bruins will look to gain their first road victory on Monday (7 p.m., NESN) as they visit the Carolina Hurricanes (2-2-0, 3rd Southeast Division). Don't bank on it yet but it could be backup goaltender Anton Khudobin's 2013 debut for the Black and Gold. Stay tuned.

Rondo's Triple-Double Can't Help The Celtics Avoid Another Loss, 89-86 To The Knicks

We keep waiting for the Celtics to dig themselves out of this ever expanding hole but so far, they can't do anything about it. Boston (20-22, 13-9 home) lost 89-86 to New York (26-14, 12-8 away) tonight at TD Garden in a game that they desperately needed to win.

The Knicks had lost 11 straight games at the Garden, their last win was way back in 2006. This was Boston's five straight loss (on the heels of a six-game win streak no less) which ties their roughest patch in the Kevin Garnett era (8 points, 12 rebounds).

The scene was all set for the C's to get a victory: a national audience (TNT) which always pushes Rajon Rondo (23 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds, 3 steals) that extra amount. The problem was that despite his 27th career triple-double (20th on national TV), he still made some careless turnovers. It was a team-wide virus too since Jason Terry and Paul Pierce (22 points, 6 rebounds) both had killer turnovers late in the fourth quarter when the Celtics had to rally.

It's hard to say what is causing all this temporary lack of focus or attention to detail but it's clear that the margin of error for Boston is so thin at the moment that blunders like that always seem to cost them this season.

Carmelo Anthony had a game-high 28 points, nine rebounds and two steals. Jason Kidd put up 12 points and three steals while Iman Shumpert added 10 points and five rebounds. Amar'e Stoudemire checked in with 15 points, nine rebounds and two blocks off the bench. J.R. Smith (3 for 16 from the field) was mostly awful but even he managed to knock down a clutch 3-pointer. The same can't be said for Terry (1-for-6), who looked completely lost in his worst game as a Celtic.

Everybody knows that New York takes and hits an absurd amount of 3-pointers. On this night, it was the main reason that they ended up winning. The Knicks hit five more 3-pointers (8-3) than the Celtics, the only statistic that was really in their favor.

There is no reason for the Celts to feel sorry for themselves since they are probably already in Atlanta. They play the Hawks (24-18, 2nd Southeast Division) tomorrow night (7:30 p.m., CSN) in what could be termed another must-win. When we last saw Atlanta, Boston rallied for an impressive 89-81 win on January 5. They often find ways to lose but the Hawks usually make it tough on the Celtics with close games.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

There Goes That Unbeaten Season, B's Fall 4-3 To Rangers In Overtime

A Bruins-Rangers Eastern Conference Finals in May would be pretty sweet, huh? New York (1-2-0) picked up its first win of 2013 tonight with a 4-3 overtime decision against Boston (2-0-1) at Madison Square Garden. Marian Gaborik notched his 14th career hat trick which included the game-winner only 27 seconds into the extra session.

Even though they lost, the B's still earned a point and more importantly, showed some resiliency by rallying from an early 2-0 hole and down 3-2 late in the third period. From the opening face-off, the Rangers looked nothing like the team that lost 3-1 in Boston on Saturday night in the opener or got blasted 6-3 by the Penguins the next night.

Gaborik (1st of the season) scored at 4:36 and 6:49 of the first period. His first tally was thanks to some exquisite passing from Rick Nash and Brad Richards. All Gaborik had to do was wait for Tuukka Rask (29 saves; 2-0-1) to commit then he roofed it over him. The second goal was due to his own persistence as he followed up a rebound with Michael Del Zotto and Marc Staal picking up the assists.

Eventually, the Bruins found their skating legs and woke up later in the frame. Adam McQuaid fought Brian Boyle after the former BC Eagle shot the puck after the whistle, right into McQuaid's shin/ankle. Typical BC classless move.

Boston looked like a completely different team in the second period. Brad Marchand (2nd of the season) tipped in Dougie Hamilton's shot from the point at 1:05. It was a memorable goal for two reasons: it broke Boston's 0-for-11 start this season on the power-play and it was Hamilton's first NHL point. Rich Peverely also was credited with an assist.

Milan Lucic (2nd of the season) continued to play his style of game, he tied it at two at 12:24. He followed his own rebound with assists from Zdeno Chara and David Krejci. Unfortunately, New York answered immediately as Taylor Pyatt (2nd of the season) scored a goal that was very similar except that it came as a result of Shawn Thornton's ill-fated clearing attempt.

Nathan Horton (1st of the season) basically earned Boston the point with a clutch goal, at 15:37 of the third period. It was all thanks to Andrew Ference's pinch along the boards and Gregory Campbell's hustle that kept it in the zone then found Horton. He didn't hesitate to put it through Henrik Lundqvist's (26 saves) five-hole.

A bad pass in New York's offensive zone from Chris Kelly to Ference allowed Gaborik to skate in on a breakaway. Rask made the initial save but Gaborik was able to poke it in before Ference or Johnny Boychuk recovered. It was a rough and sudden ending to a very entertaining game.

Boston returns to TD Garden on Friday (7 p.m., NESN) to face the Islanders (1-1-0). They only face the Rangers once more (Feb. 12 in Boston) in the regular season.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I Know The Celts Like To Sleepwalk Thru The Regular Season But This Is Getting Ridiculous

Hey gang, remember that time the Celtics won six games in a row a few weeks ago, wasn't that wonderful? It seems like so long ago since Boston (20-21, 7-13 away) has followed that up with a four-game losing streak that seems to get worse each time they take the floor.

Cleveland (11-32, 5-12 home) has to be the low point of this debacle, yes even more depressing than the Hornets and Pistons-two other garbage teams that somehow have beaten the C's in the last week. The Cavs hung around and outscored the Celts 25-17 in the fourth quarter to win 95-90 tonight at Quicken Loans Arena.

Don't get me wrong, Kyrie Irving (40 points, 5 assists, 2 steals) is a great player (he should be an All-Star in February) but if you saw just his games against Boston, you would confuse him with Michael Jordan. They make him look like the greatest player in NBA history.

Tristan Thompson had 21 points, nine rebounds and five assists and I'm pretty sure it was almost all on dunks. The amount of layups and dunks that Cleveland (Cleveland!) got tonight was appalling. The immortal Alonzo Gee (10 points, 6 rebounds) was the only other Cavalier in double-figures.

It was actually very entertaining, except for the part where the Celtics blew a lead against a truly awful opponent. Rajon Rondo just missed another triple-double with 17 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. Kevin Garnett had 16 points, five rebounds and five blocks, Paul Pierce struggled (3 for 15) to get 12 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals while Jared Sullinger had 12 points and 10 rebounds in his home state, in front of his parents.

The good news, I guess, is that Boston has two more games against Cleveland. They beat them by 12 in December so hopefully they remember what that feels like when they meet again.

The Celtics will try to get back to the .500 mark as they unofficially begin the second half of the regular season on Thursday night (8 p.m., TNT) vs. the Knicks (25-14, 1st in Atlantic Division) at TD Garden. Ironically, the first time they played also got Boston back to .500 (17-17) while simultaneously delivering their best win of the season (102-96 at MSG on Jan. 7). It should be a great atmosphere with all the Honey Nut Cheerios references that Carmelo Anthony and LaLa can handle.

Bruins Hold Off Jets 2-1 In Shootout, Start 2-0 For The First Time In 11 Years

After the excitement of Opening Night against the Rangers wore off, the Bruins (2-0-0) lacked the jump & ruthless skill of that win but they still managed to find a way to beat the Jets (0-1-1) 2-1 in a shootout this afternoon at TD Garden.

Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron had the goals in the shootout and Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (2-0-0) made 26 saves plus two vital stops in the shootout to earn full two points.

Winnipeg actually scored 1:58 into the game as something called Chris Thorburn (1st of the season) followed a rebound from Paul Postma's shot from the point. Jim Slater had the other assist.

Brad Marchand (1st of the season) tied it at 14:12 off a spectacular feed from Tyler Seguin, who had stolen the puck in Winnipeg's zone then dished it to Marchand for an easy tap-in past Ondrej Pavelec (26 saves).

Both teams mostly sleepwalked through the rest of the contest, the B's somehow hit the post a whopping four times. It's hard to explain how a team could be so good on the penalty kill (9 for 9 this season) yet so awful on the power play (0 for 9) but that's the Bruins for you. Their penalty kill really bailed them out today, not allowing a goal even when Winnipeg had two power plays in overtime.

Besides Rask (who's given up two goals in 125 minutes), Dougie Hamilton has to be the biggest positive so far for Boston. With Dennis Seidenberg (lower body injury) out this afternoon, the rookie skated with Zdeno Chara and ended up with the second-most ice time on the team (23:27). Plus, the first line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton hasn't racked up the points yet but they've had tons of chances which is a good sign.

Boston is at New York's (0-2-0) Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night (7:30 p.m., NBCSN), a game which the Rangers desperately need after getting blown out (6-3) by Pittsburgh on their home ice Sunday night. An 0-3 start for an Eastern Conference heavyweight would be rough.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ravens Batter Patriots 28-13, Head To New Orleans To Face 49ers In Super Bowl 47

These bitter defeats in the playoffs never get easy to accept, especially when the Patriots have made it a habit in the last eight years. There will be no trip to New Orleans to face the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl 47 since the Baltimore Ravens (13-6, 6-4 away) came to Gillette Stadium tonight and beat down the Patriots (13-5, 7-3 home) 28-13 in the 2013 AFC Championship Game.

I'm not one to make excuses and there isn't a whole lot to say when your team leads 13-7 at home at halftime and then proceeds to get outscored 21-0 in the second half. The Ravens were tougher than the Patriots, their defense made way more plays and once they started working out of the shotgun in the second half, New England had no chance to stop them.

Aqib Talib hobbled off in the first quarter with a hamstring injury and Stevan Ridley (18 carries, 70 yards) got knocked out in the fourth quarter by Bernard Pollard (enough with that guy). Losing their top cornerback and best running back clearly hurt the Pats but their issues went far behind them and Rob Gronkowski's absence.

There were many signs that it wasn't their night: they squandered a chance for a touchdown at the end of the first half and settled for a field goal. Wes Welker (8 catches, 117 yards, TD) dropped a key third down pass early in the third quarter. Most of all, Joe Flacco (21 of 36, 240 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs) was better than Tom Brady (29 of 54, 320 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs).

Brady's numbers look worse than he really was since one interception was tipped and the other was in garbage time but the point is that Baltimore didn't make any mistakes (0 turnovers) while New England had three (Ridley fumbled when Pollard concussed him). It is easy to blame the Pats defense and they certainly didn't cover themselves in glory giving up 21 points in the second half but New England is built around its offense and you'll never win with one touchdown and 13 points in a playoff game.

Nobody on the Ravens put up monster numbers but they all contributed to their first trip to the Super Bowl since 2000. Bernard Pierce had 52 yards rushing, Ray Rice had 70 total yards while Torrey Smith (4 catches, 69 yards), Anquan Boldin (5 catches, 60 yards, 2 TDs) and Dennis Pitta (5 catches, 55 yards, TD) each made plays for Flacco.

Baltimore has certainly earned it, beating Indianapolis Wild Card weekend then going on the road to knock off the top two seeds in the AFC: Denver and New England. Aaron Hernandez (9 catches, 83 yards) and Brandon Lloyd (7 catches, 70 yards) were fine but the Patriots lack a big play threat like Smith or even Boldin to some degree.

Stephen Gostkowski's 31-yard field goal was the only score of the first quarter. Ray Rice got Baltimore on the board with a 2-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Welker answered with New England's only touchdown of the game: a 1-yard touchdown catch. Gostkowski's 25-yard field goal was the disappointing last play of the first half as the Pats went into the locker room with a shaky 13-7 lead. They had outplayed Baltimore but had little to show for it.

One play after getting crushed by Jerod Mayo (but holding onto a catch), Pitta's 5-yard touchdown grab in the third quarter gave the Ravens a 14-13 advantage that they would never relinquish. Boldin's 3-yard touchdown catch was the first play of the fourth quarter then he put it away on the ensuing drive after Ridley's fumble with an 11-yard touchdown catch. 21 unanswered points by Baltimore, unreal.

Every season that goes by without a Super Bowl title, you realize more and more how quickly Brady and Bill Belichick's window is closing. It's a tough reality that many don't want to face but that's how it is. The Pats have lost in all four different rounds of the playoffs in the past four postseasons. They've been so close, particularly in two Super Bowl losses to the Giants, but at low points like this you have to wonder if they'll get to the top again with this regime.

Questions about the NFL Draft, free agents (for the love of God please sign Welker) and other matters will have to wait for another day. For now, it's time to sign off on another uneven season for the Patriots. They were great at times, mostly in the regular season but once again they shriveled up as a team in the big moment. That has become more than a pattern since they beat the Eagles in Super Bowl 39.

UPDATE 1/21: Today the Patriots signed five players from the practice squad to future contracts: FB James Develin, WR Jeremy Ebert, WR Andre Holmes, DL Tracy Robertson and LB Jeff Tarpinian.

UPDATE 1/22: The Pats have reportedly signed former USC defensive lineman Armond Armstead, who played in the CFL last season. He got a three-year deal with $655,000 guaranteed and base salaries of $405,000 in 2013, $495,000 in 2014 and $585,000 in 2015.

UPDATE 1/23: Brady was fined $10,000 by the NFL today for kicking Ed Reed when he slid during a run.

UPDATE 1/26: Apparently the Pats can't get enough of guys from the CFL. At least this time, it's a guy that is from Brockton and played football at Northeastern (which doesn't have a program anymore). Defensive end/outside linebacker Jason Vega had 12 sacks over the last two seasons with Winnipeg and he worked out with New England in December.

UPDATE 1/31: The Pats re-signed linebacker Dane Fletcher to a one-year deal (terms weren't disclosed). He missed the entire 2012 season after tearing his ACL in the first preseason game in August.

Bruins Roll 3-1 Over Rangers In 2013 Season-Opener

Bruins fans couldn't ask for much more from their 2013 season-opener against the Rangers tonight at TD Garden. Boston (1-0-0) beat New York (0-1-0) 3-1 thanks to 20 saves by Tuukka Rask, a trio of goal-scorers and two lively fights (by Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell).

About the only thing to complain about was the woeful power-play (0 for 7) but then again, what else is new? The B's have figured out ways to win in spite of that glaring weakness the last few seasons so I guess we shouldn't be too worried about it at this point.

After dominating much of the first period, the B's went up 1-0 at 14:14 when Milan Lucic (1st goal of the season) followed up a rebound on David Krejci's shot. Andrew Ference had the other assist as Henrik Lundqvist kicked it out right to Looch.

Daniel Paille (1st goal of the season) made it 2-0 at 8:20 of the second period when he tipped in a shot by Campbell. Lundqvist got a piece of it but the puck still managed to scoot over the line.

New York finally showed some life four and a half minutes later as Brad Richards (1st goal of the season) used a screen to put a shot past Rask. Rick Nash and Dan Girardi had the assists for the Rangers.

Less than a minute later, Thornton decided to drop the gloves with Mike Rupp. After they fought, Campbell took on Stu Bickel. In both cases, Boston's fighters gave up size to their New York counterparts but that didn't stop them from squaring off three seconds apart.

Playing on his 29th birthday, Johnny Boychuk (1st of the season) gave the Bruins an insurance goal at 8:13 of the third period for a 3-1 lead. Patrice Bergeron (who had the lone assist on the play) screened Lundqvist so that he only saw puck at the last second (if that).

Rask wasn't called on to make any real difficult saves, whereas Lundqvist absolutely robbed Krejci in the third period on one of the best stops that you'll see all season in the NHL.

Boston will try to get a win streak going as they host Winnipeg (0-1-0) on Monday afternoon (1 p.m., NESN) in a special Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee. The Jets lost 4-1 to the Senators this afternoon at home. With such a short regular season, getting off to a good start (or at least not a bad one) is key. The B's will have to take advantage when they play inferior squads like that.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Bulls Are Still Not Scared Of The Celtics

As a Celtics fan, you'd have to be insane to want to see the Bulls this spring in the playoffs. They are so tough, unselfish, they play great defense and rebound well which equals just an awful matchup for the C's, even without Derrick Rose (who has yet to play this season).

The Bulls (23-15, 12-5 away) outlasted the Celtics (20-19, 13-8 home) 100-99 in overtime tonight at TD Garden as Marco Belinelli (10 points) hit a mid-range jumper with three seconds left. Courtney Lee (7 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals) understandably rushed 3-pointer which was way off as Chicago escaped with a wild victory.

Boston had multiple chances to win it but they couldn't hang on up 88-85 with 12 seconds left in regulation. The Celts fouled Kirk Hinrich (8 points, 5 assists) so he couldn't take a 3-pointer. That sound strategy looked smart when he missed one of two free throws. Unfortunately, Paul Pierce (13 points, 6 rebounds) later got trapped in the corner and a jump ball was called. The Bulls won that then raced down the court with Hinrich swishing the tying jumper with two seconds left.

In overtime, Jason Terry (9 points) hit a jumper of his own to put the C's up 99-98 with 12 seconds left. Rajon Rondo (30 points, 7 assists, 2 steals) fouled out earlier in overtime on a bogus call when Hinrich appeared to push him into Jimmy Butler's (13 points) knee.

UConn's Richard Hamilton led a balanced attack for the Bulls with 20 points. Carlos Boozer added 19 points and 20 rebounds, Joakim Noah had 14 points and 13 rebounds while former Celtic Nate Robinson scored 11 points off the bench.

Rondo scoring that many points is usually not a good thing as the rest of the Celtics weren't nearly as effective offensively. Kevin Garnett had 16 points and seven rebounds while Brandon Bass added 10 points (seems like the first time in weeks that he's been in double figures).

When you look at the numbers, it's surprising that the C's made it that close. Chicago shot 6.2% better from the field (48-41.2%), hit two more 3-pointers (5-3), three more free throws (23-20) and handed out six more assists (21-15). Boston stayed in it since the Bulls had 10 more turnovers (21-11), the Celtics tallied six more steals (10-4), 12 more fast break points (14-2) and eight more points in the paint (46-38).

In the worst timing for a game all season as far as we're concerned, the Celtics visit the Pistons (14-25, 4th in Central Division) on Sunday night (7:30 p.m., CSN). Set your DVRs or just flip over during the numerous commercials on CBS when you're watching Patriots-Ravens.

2013 AFC Championship Game Injury Report

Thankfully, after this week of mostly worthless chatter, there is an actual football game to look forward to on Sunday night (6:30 p.m., CBS). The Ravens visit Gillette Stadium to take on the Patriots in the 2013 AFC Championship Game, a trip to Super Bowl 47 in New Orleans is on the line. The winner will face the NFC Champion-either the Falcons or Niners.

For the second week in a row, the Patriots don't list anyone lower than probable. Chandler Jones (ankle) and Danny Woodhead (thumb) both left last week's game against the Texans with injuries but apparently, they should be fine on Sunday. Normally, I don't even mention guys that are probable since that is almost a guarantee that they'll play.

Not surprisingly, since they've played an additional game, the Ravens come to town much more beat up. Cornerback Asa Jackson (thigh) has been out since November and he won't make a miraculous return, he's already been declared inactive. In addition, Baltimore has four players that are questionable: fullback Vonta Leach (knee/ankle), running back Bernard Pierce (knee), linebacker Dannell Elerbe (ankle/back) and wide receiver David Reed (thigh).

Leach paves the way for Ray Rice while Pierce is Rice's backup but he had 103 rushing yards in the Wild Card win over the Colts. Ellerbe is a starter who piled up nine tackles in both of Baltimore's wins this postseason. I've never heard of Reed so I assume he's a special teams player.

I would bet anything that Leach, Pierce and Ellerbe will suit up. As for who else will be inactive for both teams, we'll have to wait until Sunday night to find out more information.

UPDATE 1/19: Today, the Pats signed defensive lineman Marcus Forston to their 53-man roster from the practice squad. Ironically, the undrafted rookie's one game was against Baltimore in Week 3. After that, he was released and signed back to the practice squad. This is a nice reward for all his hard work this season.

UPDATE 1/20: Patriots inactives-WR Kamar Aiken, DE Jake Bequette, DL Marcus Forston, DB Derrick Martin, OL Nick McDonald, DB Malcolm Williams and OL Markus Zusevics.

Ravens inactives- Jackson, OT Ramon Harewood, DE DeAngelo Tyson, DT Bryan Hall, S Omar Brown, LB Adrian Hamilton and WR Deonte Thompson.

Well This NBA All-Star Game Should Be Interesting, For A Few Minutes At Least

The starters for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston (February 17 at Toyota Center) were announced tonight. Boston has two players that will start for the Eastern Conference: guard Rajon Rondo (13.0 ppg, 11.2 assists, 5.1 rebounds, 1.85 steals) and forward/center Kevin Garnett (14.6 ppg, 7.0 rebounds).

The hilarious part is that the other three starters for the East are Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. So basically, the Eastern Conference guys all despise each other. KG and Melo just had their Honey Nut Cheerios beef a few weeks ago while KG and Rondo have hated LeBron and Wade for years now.

The Western Conference starters are Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin. Haha four guys from Los Angeles but only two on a winning team.

It's the fourth consecutive All-Star Game for Rondo but the first that he's been voted as a starter by the fans. He had the second most votes for guards in the Eastern Conference, behind Wade.

Believe it or not, this will be the 15th All-Star Game for Garnett. He had played in 12 consecutive All-Star Games before he didn't get invited last season. Maybe that's why he seemed so refreshed in the playoffs, the shortened season definitely helped as well. He got the third most votes behind LeBron and Carmelo at forward.

The seven reserves for both teams will be announced next Thursday-great marketing ploy by the NBA. Two guards, three frontcourt players (centers are basically extinct) and two other utility guys will be chosen by NBA coaches who can't vote for their own players.

Obviously, Paul Pierce (19.4 ppg, 5.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.45 steals) is the only other Celtic with any hope of making it. He had the sixth most votes for forwards, behind Chris Bosh and Tyson Chandler. Keep in mind that somebody will get hurt or skip out on the All-Star weekend so injury replacements are always a possibility as well.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

An Unexpectedly Busy Day On Yawkey Way For The Red Sox In Mid-January

Believe me, the last thing I want to think about at the moment is the Red Sox. The Patriots are one win from another Super Bowl, the Celtics are playing much better (except for last night) lately and the Bruins are set to open their 2013 regular season on Saturday night. Still, I felt that I had to note three items of interest related to our favorite baseball team that came out today.

Outfielder Shane Victorino was named to Team USA for the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Mike Napoli agreed to a one-year deal worth $5 million (up to $13 million with incentives) and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia avoided arbitration with a one-year deal worth $4.5 million.

Outside of the Pro Bowl and preseason NFL games, I'm not sure if there is a more useless sporting event in America these days than the WBC. Nobody watches it or cares, it's during spring training when attention is rightly on March Madness plus the NHL & NBA regular seasons. With that said, if I do find myself watching it for a second this time around, at least I'll have someone in particular to root for. Victorino is the only Red Sox on the team while local guys Tim Collins (Royals reliever from Worcester, MA) and Steve Cishek (Marlins reliever from Falmouth, MA) are also on manager Joe Torre's squad that features some MLB stars (Ryan Braun, David Wright, Mark Teixeira) but also a bunch of randoms (Willie Bloomquist, Glen Perkins).

Alfredo Aceves (Mexico) along with prospects Jose De La Torre (Puerto Rico) and Xavier Bogaerts (Holland) will also take part in the World Baseball Classic for their respective countries.

As for Napoli, I think we can all agree that while the wait (over 6 weeks) between him originally agreeing to a deal (3 years, $39 million) with the Red Sox and now was ridiculous, the end result was well worth it. Giving him that kind of money seemed crazy at the time and that was before we knew about his hip issues. With this contract, he can try to put together a good 2013 season and actually earn that type of money for the next few years. What a concept!

Signing Salty in this case was basically a formality but nothing has changed the fact that Boston has a logjam of catchers on its current roster: Saltalamacchia, David Ross, Napoli (at times) and Ryan Lavarnway. Ross will probably be the backup-that's why they signed him-so I'd expect Lavarnway to get sent back to Pawtucket or possibly traded. That will definitely be one of the key positions to focus on when boring old Spring Training starts in a month in Florida.

Now back to your regularly scheduled Patriots, Celtics and Bruins related programming.

UPDATE 1/18: Jacoby Ellsbury ($9 million), Andrew Bailey ($4.1 million), Joel Hanrahan ($7.04 million), Aceves ($2.65 million), Daniel Bard ($1.8625 million), Andrew Miller ($1.475 million) and Franklin Morales ($1.4875 million) all agreed to one-year deals today, avoiding arbitration. Craig Breslow is the only arbitration-eligible guy that didn't agree to terms yet for the Red Sox but apparently he and the club are only $50,000 apart on what they want.

UPDATE 1/19: Today, Breslow received a two-year deal worth $6.25 million from the Red Sox. The contract includes an option for 2015 and it could max out at $10.15 million.

UPDATE 1/22: Along with officially announcing Napoli's deal today, the Red Sox designated pitcher Chris Carpenter (aka Theo's compensation from the Cubs) for assignment.

UPDATE 1/24: Haha today to make people look away from Terry Francona's tell-all book, the Red Sox hired Pedro Martinez to be a special assistant to GM Ben Cherington. That's the same figurehead job handed to Jason Vartiek in September. Oh joy. Hey remember 2004, wasn't that fun?

UPDATE 1/25: With Ryan Kalish needing shoulder surgery, the Red Sox signed Ryan Sweeney to a minor league deal as insurance. You'll remember him as the dope that punched a dugout door last season and broke his hand, thus ending his first year in Boston.

Doc Rivers' Late Christmas Gift To His Son Austin: A Win At TD Garden For The Hornets

I thought the Celtics had gotten past the point of losing to shitbum teams with some regularity this season. Apparently not, their six-game win streak was ruined tonight as Boston (20-18, 13-7 home) laid down 90-78 to New Orleans (13-26, 7-13 away) at TD Garden.

Rookie Austin Rivers (No. 10 pick of 2012 Draft) won the first ever meeting with his dad-Celtics head coach Doc Rivers-as he tossed in eight points off the bench (4th father-son meeting in NBA history). The Hornets are truly awful and losing to a bad team always leaves a particularly bad taste in a fan's mouth. Granted, this was New Orleans sixth win in their last seven games.

The immortal Al-Farouq Aminu had a game-high 18 points, nine rebounds and two steals for New Orleans, Robin Lopez had 17 points and six rebounds, Greivis Vasquez added 15 points and 11 rebounds while No. 1 pick Anthony Davis notched 10 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. Ryan Anderson had 10 points and six rebounds off the bench for the Hornets in their disgusting teal road jerseys (maybe the worst look in the NBA).

For whatever reason (playing down to competition?), the Celts never seemed to be into it mentally or emotionally. Kevin Garnett led Boston with 15 points, Paul Pierce had 12 points and 10 rebounds, Rajon Rondo dished out 11 assists with three steals and Jason Terry (12 points) was the only bench guy to show up.

The C's led 25-20 after the first quarter but the Hornets outscored them in the final three frames. New Orleans was up 44-43 at halftime and they extended it to 68-63 after three quarters.

New Orleans was by far the more aggressive team, all you need to look at in that regard is three statistics: they made 20 more free throws (26-6) than Boston, grabbed 15 more rebounds (48-33) and pounded it inside for 16 more points in the paint (48-32). In their only other meeting of the season, Boston visits New Orleans on March 20. You have to believe the Celts will play much better then since tonight was basically a disaster.

The Celtics wrap up their five-game homestand on Friday (7 p.m., CSN) against the Bulls (22-15, 2nd in Central Division). The teams have split the first two matchups with Chicago most recently winning 100-89 at the United Center on December 18. These games are almost always close and entertaining.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Nothing Says Excitement Like A Visit From The Bobcats

Like a solar eclipse or an episode of "Keeping Up With The Kardashians," games against the Bobcats require that you don't look too closely at them or else you risk potential serious harm.

Tonight at TD Garden, Boston (20-17, 13-6 home) beat Charlotte (9-28, 4-14 away) 100-89 in what will undoubtedly be the Celtics' most boring victory of the season. Boston has won six games in a row and this one was all thanks to Rajon Rondo's 26th career triple-double (3rd this season): 17 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds. He has 13 triple-doubles (regular season and playoffs) since the start of last season, nobody else in the NBA has more than two.

Paul Pierce was the high scorer in this emotionless contest with 19 points and six assists. Avery Bradley scored 16 points (including four 3-pointers), Kevin Garnett grabbed 11 rebounds and Jeff Green added 11 points off the bench.

Charlotte is still a complete mess that can't figure out what they want to be. Journeymen Hakim Warrick (16 points) and Ramon Sessions (16 points) led them in scoring while talented young guys like Kemba Walker (12 points) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (10 points, 8 rebounds) waste away on one of the worst teams in professional sports. Gerald Henderson had 10 points and former UConn star Ben Gordon notched 12 points off the bench.

The Celts led by as much as 18 (50-32) in the second quarter but the Bobcats stuck around for a while, tied it at 58 in the third quarter and cut it to four in the fourth (78-74) before Boston decided to save themselves a world of embarrassment.

Boston shot 7.0% better from the field (48.8-41.8), hit two more 3-pointers (8-6), hauled in eight more rebounds (42-34), dished out 12 more assists (27-15) and blocked four more shots (8-4).

In Dan Shaughnessy parlance, another tomato can-the New Orleans Hornets (11-26, 5th in Southwest Division)-comes to the Garden on Wednesday night (8 p.m., CSN). It's the first time Celtics head coach Doc Rivers has faced his son, Hornets rookie guard Austin Rivers, in an NBA game. On paper that sounds like a swell idea but the reality is that Austin has been awful and he barely plays at the moment while his team is similarly terrible. Fun times! Tune in for another Celtics romp.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Patriots Dispatch Texans 41-28, Return To AFC Championship & Rematch With Baltimore

If you want to beat the Patriots (13-4, 7-2 home) in the playoffs at Gillette Stadium, it takes basically a perfect gameplan with likewise flawless execution. Neither of those things describe the Texans (13-5, 6-3 away), who lost 41-28 tonight in the AFC Divisional Round game.

New England advances to its seventh AFC Championship Game under Bill Belichick and it is a rematch of last year as Baltimore comes to Foxborough on Sunday (6:30 p.m., CBS). Atlanta hosts San Francisco in the NFC Championship (3 p.m., Fox). The win took a serious toll on the Pats though as Rob Gronkowski broke his forearm again so he's done for the playoffs while Danny Woodhead (thumb) and Chandler Jones (ankle) left with injuries in the first half and never returned.

Tom Brady (25 of 40, 344 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs) was better than Matt Schaub (34 of 51, 343 yards, 2 TDs, INT) but the bigger surprise was that Wes Welker (8 catches, 131 yards) outperformed Andre Johnson (8 catches, 95 yards) and Shane Vereen (41 yards rushing, 83 yards receiving, 3 total TDs) did his best Arian Foster (90 yards rushing, 63 yards receiving, 2 TDs) impression.

Don't let the final score deceive you, this was a blowout. New England was up 38-13 in the fourth quarter before Houston scored a couple late touchdowns, forcing the Patriots to recover an onside kick. The Texans have plenty of talent but their conservative playcalls on offense, Schaub's tendency to falter in the big moment not to mention their shaky defense will hold them back from ever doing anything really notable. Oh and Houston head coach Gary Kubiak is medicore at best.

You knew the Texans were in trouble when Danieal Manning took the opening kickoff 94 yards (Devin McCourty saved the TD) but they couldn't punch it in for a score. Shayne Graham hit a 27-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead. Vereen's 1-yard TD run late in the first quarter gave New England a 7-3 lead that they would never relinquish.

A 37-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski and 8-yard TD catch by Vereen made it 17-3. Foster's 1-yard TD run (when he might not have crossed the goal-line) gave the Texans some life at 17-10 then the Pats couldn't figure out what they wanted to do at the end of the first half. Houston took advantage, forcing a punt then moving down the field and watching Graham hit a career-long 55-yard kick to cut it to 17-13 at halftime.

New England seemed to be the only team to come back for the second half. They rattled off three straight touchdowns to put it away. Stevan Ridley (82 yards rushing) rumbled in from 8 yards out, Brandon Lloyd caught a 5-yard TD pass then Brady hit Vereen with a beautiful 33-yard TD catch early in the fourth quarter.

DeVier Posey's amazing 25-yard touchdown grab was ruled no catch at first but correctly overturned after review. Foster added a 1-yard touchdown catch before Gostkowski's 38-yard field goal made all the gamblers happy since it allowed the Patriots to cover.

Other standouts for the home team: Aaron Hernandez (6 catches, 85 yards), Aqib Talib (10 tackles, 9 solo) and Rob Ninkovich (4 tackles, 2 solo, 2 passes defensed, tackle for loss, quarterback hit), who recorded the only turnover of the game with a key interception of Schaub in the third quarter. The Pats turned that into seven points on Lloyd's touchdown.

New England has to thank Baltimore (12-6, 5-4 away) since their incredible 38-35 double overtime win last night in Denver allowed the Patriots to host the AFC Championship for the second straight season. The Ravens are a familiar foe since they played in Week 3 in Baltimore (a 31-30 Ravens win) not to mention in last season's AFC Championship (a 23-20 Patriots win thanks to Billy Cundiff's missed chip shot at the end). Baltimore is riding a serious wave of emotion because Ray Lewis is apparently retiring at the end of this season (I'll believe it when I see it).

Last season along with Week 3 have no bearing on what will transpire on Sunday night. These teams play every season and even though the Patriots usually come out on top, the margins are always very close. They don't need extra motivation but the Pats are also chasing immortality as Tom Brady became the winningest quarterback (17 wins) in playoff history with today's victory and Bill Belichick is now third in wins (18, 2 behind leader Tom Landry and 1 behind Don Shula).

Las Vegas lists New England as a 9.5 point favorite (same as vs. Houston) against Baltimore. It seems like a bit too much but the Patriots have proven that they have no problem hanging 30+ on almost anyone in the NFL. The question will be can Joe Flacco and the Ravens score enough to knock off the Pats?

UPDATE 1/14: The Pats hired former Chiefs offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to a yet unnamed position on their coaching staff. Daboll is only 37 and he started his career in New England (2000-06). He was a defensive assistant here then a wide receivers coach. It'll be interesting to see what his role turns out to be going forward next season, maybe this means Josh McDaniels is leaving since he was hired last season around this time and ended up taking Bill O'Brien's job.

UPDATE 1/17: Kevin Faulk and Matt Light will be the honorary team captains for New England on Sunday. They both were part of individual ceremonies earlier this season so hopefully they'll bring their old team good luck.

Also today, it was announced what we already knew: Rob Gronkowski's season is over as he was officially placed on IR. The intriguing part is that opens up a roster space which has to be filled by 4 p.m. on Saturday. What practice squad player will hit the lottery and get to dress for the AFC Championship Game? Stay tuned for that pertinent information.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

I Hope You Got Plenty Of Rest During The Latest NHL Lockout: 48 Games In 99 Days Is Silly

If you love hockey, you will be in heaven from Saturday until the end of June. That is because the NHL unveiled its wacky 2013 regular season schedule tonight and it includes 48 games for each team in only 99 days. The regular season ends on April 27 with the playoffs beginning on April 30. The Stanley Cup Finals could potentially go as long as June 28. The trade deadline is April 3.

The only issue I have with the schedules is that teams are limited to playing only teams in their own conference. That means the Bruins won't see any Western Conference teams in the regular season and they'd have to get to the Finals to play one, no pressure. The B's play 18 games against teams in the Northeast Division: five vs. Buffalo and Ottawa; four vs. Montreal and Toronto. The other 30 games are against the rest of the Eastern Conference with three vs. each club.

The B's open vs. the Rangers on Saturday (7 p.m.) then host Winnipeg on Monday afternoon (1 p.m.)-Martin Luther King Day. Boston plays five of its seven games in January at TD Garden so they should get off to a fast start. Their first road game is at Madison Square Garden on January 23 vs. Rangers then the Devils (2012 Eastern Conference champions) come to Boston on January 29.

February is a different story since the B's are out of town for eight of their 11 games. The first Bruins-Canadiens game is February 6 in Montreal, I hope 911 can handle that. Boston's longest road trip of the season-five games-takes place from February 15-26. It allows them to visit probably all of the worst cities in the Eastern Conference: Buffalo, Winnipeg, Tampa Bay, Florida (Sunrise?) and Uniondale (Islanders). Woof.

There is no way around it: March is going to be brutal. Of the seven back-to-backs for the Bruins, four of them occur in March. They play 17 games (9 away, 8 home) in that month alone. The only good aspect of March is that it should be called rivalry month: they meet the Flyers, Capitals and Penguins each twice. No St. Patrick's Day game at the Garden, the B's kick off a four-game road trip in Pittsburgh that afternoon so you'll have to drink a Guinness in front of your TV instead.

April is more cushy as the Bruins hopefully get ready for the playoffs (which are the same, except for starting later and lasting longer). The B's end their home slate with a four-game stay from April 15-21: Senators, Sabres, Penguins and Panthers. Their last two regular season games are against other Eastern Conference contenders: at Philadelphia and at Washington (April 27).

I think losing 24 games off the regular season is a complete non-issue since an 82-game regular season is way too long but it will be interesting to see how this turns out (the NHL also used a 48-game schedule in 1994-95). If you need me, I'll be loading up on energy drinks and eight balls of coke to keep up with all the action, haha just kidding mom!

Vince Wilfork Named To The Associated Press All-Pro Team

Forget the silly Pro Bowl, the individual honor that means the most to NFL players is the Associated Press All-Pro team. There are fewer spots and it doesn't matter what conference you play in. The Patriots went 12-4 this season but they only had one player make the AP All-Pro team in 2012: defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.

At that position, Wilfork will never put up big numbers but you only need to watch part of one Patriots game to see how much he disrupts other team's offensive lines. It usually takes two guys to try to block him. He had 29 solo tackles, 19 assists, three sacks, two fumbles forced and four fumbles recovered.

There are 50 voters from across the country that select the AP All-Pro team. Wilfork got 27 votes so he was on the first team along with Cincinnati's Geno Atkins. Other Patriots that received votes: Logan Mankins (7, second team with Baltimore's Marshall Yanda), Rob Gronkowski (4), Jerod Mayo (4), Tom Brady (3), Wes Welker (1), Sebastian Vollmer (1) and Devin McCourty (1).

New England is finally back on the field tomorrow afternoon (4:30 p.m., CBS) against Houston at Gillette Stadium as they try to get to the AFC Championship game next Sunday.

Celtics Show No Signs Of Slowing Down, Win Their Fifth Straight Game

Over the summer and during the preseason when people talked about this being Boston's deepest team in years, this is what they imagined, not the struggles of November and December. For the second game in a row, the Celtics' (19-17, 12-6 home) bench was superb as they helped them beat the Rockets (21-16, 7-10 away) 103-91 at TD Garden.

Boston avenged a 101-89 loss in Houston on December 14 and picked up their fifth straight victory just for fun. The Celts pretty much led wire to wire, however they almost blew a 17-point lead (62-45) from the third quarter as the Rockets cut it to 83-81 in the fourth but the C's hit them with a 12-1 run to end it.

Paul Pierce led the home team with 23 points and six rebounds, Kevin Garnett had 17 points, eight rebounds and four blocks and Rajon Rondo put up 12 points and eight assists. Avery Bradley scored seven points but his real contribution was holding James Harden to 24 points and five assists, seriously. That ended Harden's streak of 14 straight games with 25+ points.

Jared Sullinger had another double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, Courtney Lee added 14 points while Jeff Green scored nine.

Chandler Parsons had 18 points for the Rockets while Harvard's Jeremy Lin notched 12 points, six assists, five rebounds and three steals. Omer Asik had seven points and 11 rebounds but a 1 for 8 night at the free throw line took the shine off his work.

Free throw shooting was a teamwide epidemic for Houston, they went 12 for 29 so that was the primary reason why they lost. I can't ever remember an NBA team having that kind of wretched performance. It was stunning, especially since they entered shooting 76% as a team. The Celtics also shot 8.1% better than the Rockets (51.9-43.8%) from the field which was the other main theme of the game.

Boston gets the weekend off then they basically get Monday off as well since the Bobcats (9-26, 4th in Southeast Division) come to TD Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN) in the third game of a five-game homestand for the C's. Charlotte played well at the beginning of the season but it's been all downhill from there, they are still one of the NBA's worst teams.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Celtics Win Their Fourth In A Row, Get Back Over .500 In The Process

The Celtics are finally starting to hit their groove and it only took nearly half of the 2012-13 season to figure things out with all their new players. Boston (18-17, 11-6 home) won its fourth straight game with a 87-79 victory against Phoenix (12-25, 2-16 away) tonight at TD Garden, getting them over .500 for the first time since their Christmas day win in Brooklyn.

Beating the Suns isn't a very notable accomplishment these days but the way the Celts did it is what is worth mentioning. Kevin Garnett (10 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals) was the only starter to score in double figures. I can't remember the last time the Celtics' bench outscored their starters, especially in a win.

Boston's bench had its best game of the season as they outscored Phoenix's reserves 47-16. A year removed from major heart surgery, Jeff Green had 14 points. Jared Sullinger had 12 points and 16 rebounds (a season-high for a Celtic) and Jason Terry added 13 points, five rebounds and five assists.

Phoenix is a model UN with an Argentian-Luis Scola (16 points, 8 rebounds), Pole-Marcin Gortat (12 points, 14 rebounds, 5 blocks), Yugoslavian-Goran Dragic (12 points, 5 rebounds) and Superfan from BC-Jared Dudley (14 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists) all in their starting lineup. Unfortunately for them, the NBA doesn't award extra points for diversity so the Suns are basically screwed.

The Suns led 24-23 after one quarter but the Celts ran out to a 53-41 halftime advantage. Phoenix rallied with a 23-14 third quarter but Boston had enough energy (mostly from the bench) to close it out in the fourth quarter (20-15).

Boston shot 6.4% better than Phoenix (45.7-39.3%) from the field, they had seven more steals (12-5) and three less team turnovers (16-13). Other than a couple vicious dunks by Green and some great work on the glass by Sullinger, it wasn't pretty but the C's got the job done against a truly awful team.

Things will certainly pick up on Friday as Boston hosts Houston (21-15, 3rd in Southwest Division), one of the hottest teams in the NBA. The Celtics will be looking for some revenge after the Rockets beat them handily, 101-89 back on December 14 in Houston. It should be a good one since James Harden is playing at an All-Star level and Houston has a bunch of solid complimentary pieces including Harvard's Jeremy Lin that seem to fit together perfectly.

Monday, January 7, 2013

They Might Have A Worse Record Than Them But The Celtics Still Own The Knicks

You wouldn't think a Celtics-Knicks game on a Monday in early January would get the blood pumping but that's exactly what happened as the events at Madison Square Garden were much more interesting than Alabama's 42-14 pasting of Notre Dame in the BCS Championship game.

Playing without Rajon Rondo, who was suspended for a game after making contact with a referee in Atlanta on Saturday, Boston (17-17, 7-11 away) still found a way to hold off New York (23-11, 13-4 home) 102-96 in their first of four meetings in the regular season.

Paul Pierce led the Celts with 23 points and six assists, Kevin Garnett had 19 points, 10 rebounds and three steals while Avery Bradley (13 points, 5 assists) played like himself from last season. Jeff Green put up 16 points and six rebounds off the bench and Jared Sullinger had 10 points and five rebounds as Boston won its third straight game-all against Eastern Conference playoff teams.

J.R. Smith had 24 points off the bench for the Knicks. Carmelo Anthony scored 20 points but he shot a putrid 6 of 26 from the field. Tyson Chandler added 13 points and 17 rebounds while Amar'e Stoudermire notched 13 points as a substitute.

The weird subplot is that KG and Melo got tangled up during the game in the fourth quarter (both earning technicals) and it apparently carried over to afterwards as Anthony tried to confront Garnett by Boston's team bus. Haha really dude? Luckily, there was about 1000 people there to make sure nothing actually happened.

This had the look and feel of a playoff game, right down to the scoreboard. Zing! The Celtics led 22-21 after the first quarter but the Knicks wrestled slight control away with a 56-53 halftime advantage. Boston's defense took over in the third quarter (23-16) and they were able to hang on in the fourth (26-24).

The Celtics won because they shot so well from the field (52.7%) and held the Knicks to 40.8%. The only reason New York made a game of it was because they hit eight more 3-pointers (14-6). No Rondo but Boston still had seven more assists (26-19) and 12 more points in the paint (40-28).

After we all left the C's for dead last week-rightfully so-they have certainly turned things around. They have the potential to go on a nice run here as the schedule really works out in their favor: their next five games are all at home. Only two of them are against playoff caliber teams (Rockets, Bulls) while the other three are cupcakes (Suns, Bobcats, Hornets).

Boston hosts Phoenix (12-23, 5th in Pacific Division) on Wednesday night (7:30 p.m., CSN) in their first of two meetings this season.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Finally, The NHL Returns (No Thanks To This Clown)

Our long national nightmare is over: the most recent installment of the NHL lockout ended in the wee hours of this morning in NYC. The details including a new 48-game schedule will be released at some point this week with every team in the league reportedly opening the regular season on Saturday, January 19.

The lockout made us all sick but like true drug addicts, I know I will be back for my fix as soon as possible. There are no winners in situations like this but hey, at least we have the NHL back in our lives and no labor negotiation talk at least until next winter.