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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Danny Ainge Can't Get Enough Of NBA Busts Plying Their Trade In China

Not that anyone besides me, a few Celtics beat writers, ball washers, Green teamers and team officials noticed but the past few weeks that Boston tried to sign D.J. White was one of the more bizarre things I can recall in recent Celtics history. Mercifully, that ended today as White was at practice and signed a 10-day contract with Boston after his clearance paperwork from China finally arrived after over a week of waiting.

White, the former Indiana star, was a first round pick (29th overall) of Detroit in 2008. He was traded to Oklahoma City and played parts of three seasons there before being traded to Charlotte. He spent 1.5 years in NBA purgatory (the Bobcats) then retreated to the Shanghai Sharks this season when he couldn't find an NBA deal. In other words, he followed a similar path to swingman Terrence Williams who was also playing in China before the Celts signed him before the trade deadline last week.

There is no reason to expect anything from White. He has averaged 6.8 points and 3.6 rebounds in his NBA career. His role will be as a big body (6-foot-9, 235 pounds) off the bench when Chris Wilcox or Brandon Bass get in foul trouble. Williams has actually looked decent in the few minutes he's played with the Celtics, we'll see if White can have even that amount of impact.

Getting White means that Boston has 12 healthy players, including Fab Melo, with Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger out for the rest of the season. Jordan Crawford, Williams and White were their only acquisitions right before and after the trade deadline this season as Danny Ainge chose to stick with his old cast for one more playoff run (fingers crossed).

Not that he'll probably play but White apparently will be available tomorrow night when the Celtics host the Warriors (7:30 p.m., CSN).

UPDATE 3/1: This morning, the Celtics signed forward/center Shavlik Randolph (the former Duke star was also playing in China) to a 10-day contract while they reassigned rookie center Fab Melo to the Maine Red Claws (D-League).

In addition, the Celts signed Terrence Williams for the rest of the season along with next year. A nice reward for a guy with serious promise in the right situation.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Business As Usual: Bruins Own Islanders, 4-1

The Bruins (12-2-2) are on quite a roll, they completed their season-long five-game (4-1) road trip tonight against the Islanders (8-11-1) with the Black and Gold walking away with a 4-1 win at Nassau Coliseum. They last played at TD Garden on February 12, a 4-3 shootout loss vs. Rangers. With the blizzard wiping out their game with the Lightning, they only have two home games in February.

Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask (10-1-2) was immense with a season-high 36 saves while 10 Bruins recorded points, including a pair of assists for Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin. Just like Chris Kelly potted his first goal of the season on Sunday in Florida, Adam McQuaid snapped his bad luck at 6:43 of the first period. Seguin and Bergeron had the assists on a blast from the point that eluded Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov (30 saves).

New York responded at 15:49 as Casey Cizikas redirected a centering pass from Josh Bailey. The Islanders took a page out of the Rangers' playbook (since they did a similar thing against Boston earlier this season) by starting from behind their own goal then perfectly executing a set play: they chipped the puck along the boards then Bailey threw it to Cizikas who was behind Boston's defense. Andrew MacDonald had the second assist at 15:49 of the first period.

Sadly for New York, that was the lone highlight of the game for them. They actually had tons of chances but Rask was spectacular, he stopped not one but two shorthanded breakaways by Michael Grabner.

Boston scored two goals in the second period to take control. Brad Marchand notched his 10th of the season on a rebound only 38 seconds into the frame. Andrew Ference and Bergeron had the assists on that one. Then David Krejci (5th of the season) scored one of the prettier goals of the season for the B's. Nathan Horton was on the side wall, he passed it to Lucic who found Krejci. He one-timed it top shelf, it actually made the Gatorade bottle go flying.

The Islanders dominated stretches of the third period but they couldn't solve Rask again. Boston probably experienced some fatigue as they daydreamed about heading home for the first time in two weeks. Gregory Campbell's empty-netter at 18:55 sent the crowd to the exits, just kidding. It was nowhere near sold out to begin with so who could tell? Seguin and Dennis Seidenberg had the assists. Speaking of Seidenberg, him and Ference are the only Bruins regulars not to score a goal yet this season so that's something to remember.

It's going to be a great couple days of hockey in Boston as the Bruins return to TD Garden for three juicy contests: they host the Senators on Thursday (7 p.m., NESN), Lightning on Saturday afternoon and Canadiens on Sunday night. Ottawa (12-6-2, 2nd in Northeast Division) has been decimated by injuries to its two best players: defenseman Erik Karlsson and center Jason Spezza not to mention goaltender Craig Anderson but at least so far, they are finding a way to stay afloat.

Monday, February 25, 2013

New England Patriot For Life Has A Nice Ring To It, Am I Right Tom Brady?

Today, the Patriots took most of the drama out of something that was still at least two years away from ruining our lives. Quarterback/icon Tom Brady signed a three-year $27 million contract extension that will keep him in New England through the 2017 NFL season. FYI, he'll be 40-years-old on August 3, 2017.

Brady earned a $3 million signing bonus with annual salaries of $7 million in 2015, $8 million in 2016 and $9 million in 2017. The whole point of this move was that it frees up $15 million of salary cap space for the Pats over the next two seasons. This is particularly important since they have a bunch of important guys that will be free agents two weeks from today: Wes Welker, Sebastian Vollmer and Aqib Talib being the headliners.

If it's possible to have a bigger mancrush on Brady, this unselfish act will surely win over the few haters in this region. How many other elite athletes, especially in the NFL (with no guaranteed contracts) would do this? I normally don't get too emotional about guys being on one team their whole career since it so rarely happens but in this case, it just feels right. Brady is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league and with only untested Ryan Mallett behind him, New England will rely on Brady heavily for as long as he'll play.

The unspoken question on everyone's mind in this area is when Brady and Bill Belichick will retire. At least now we can be much more confident that Brady isn't going anywhere for five more seasons. You might as well add Belichick to that equation since I find it impossible to think he'd ever leave the Patriots with Brady still active. They seem to be a package deal.

In one of the few down times in the NFL off-season, this is a wonderful reminder to Pats fans that with a couple tweaks (mostly to the defense), the team should be a Super Bowl contender for as long as TB12 is under center. Exhale.

Whenever You Are Ready To Count The Celtics Out, They Reel You Back In With Crazy Wins

Playing their fifth game in seven nights on the West Coast, the Celtics had every excuse to pack it in and slink back to Boston as dejected losers. Instead, they chose to fight through their fatigue and pull out a pulsating 110-107 overtime win at Utah's (31-26, 21-7 home) EnergySolutions Arena.

The Celts (30-27, 10-18 away) finished 2-3 on this tough road trip and after the game, no less than head coach Doc Rivers called it their "best win of the season."

Paul Pierce (26 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds) missed his patented elbow jumper at the end of regulation but he made up for it by tearing it up in overtime. The other four Celtics starters were all in double-figures as well: Kevin Garnett (13 points, 10 rebounds), Brandon Bass (15 points, 2 blocks), Avery Bradley (season-high 18 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals) and Courtney Lee (14 points, 5 rebounds) all earned the next two days off-Boston doesn't play again until Friday. Jason Terry added 14 points off the bench.

Gordon Heyward led the Jazz with 26 points off the bench. Former Celtic Al Jefferson had a double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds) while Paul Millsap filled up the stat sheet (16 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks) and Marvin Williams scored 15 points.

Boston led 28-26 after the first quarter but Utah wrestled it away for a 53-48 halftime advantage. The Celtics played an incredible third quarter (32-19) but predictably, they ran out of oxygen in the fourth quarter as the Jazz outscored them 25-17.

The C's shot 3.4% better from the field (47.7%-44.3%), hit two more 3-pointers (10-8), had two more steals (8-6) and scored six more points off turnovers (21-15).

The Celtics' only game in the next week is on Friday (7:30 p.m., CSN) at TD Garden against Golden State (33-23, 2nd in Pacific Division). It's a weird stretch as the Green and White play one home game then two on the road, another home game then back on the road for two more. Until Thursday, they can kick their feet up and enjoy tonight's excellent victory which thankfully overshadowed what had been a rough week.

While You Were Falling Asleep Watching The Oscars, The Celtics Lost In Portland 92-86

I wish I could tell you that you missed a classic Celtics game tonight (assuming you didn't tune in) but like The Oscars, it left me with an unsettled feeling as Boston (29-27, 9-18 away) lost 92-86 to Portland (26-30, 18-9 home) at the Rose Garden. PS the Blazers had come in with a seven-game losing streak, ugh.

One of the reasons, besides the Western Conference being loaded, that Portland will likely miss out on the playoffs this season is that their bench is horrid. On the other hand, their starters are very underrated. Against the Celts, all they needed was double-figures from all five starters to get the win. Wesley Matthews led Portland with a game-high 24 points (five 3-pointers), Nicolas Batum added 18 points and six rebounds, LaMarcus Aldridge scored his typical soft 16 points, rookie sensation Damian Lillard put up 12 points, six rebounds and six assists while J.J. Hickson had the game's lone double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds).

Paul Pierce (23 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds) and Kevin Garnett (20 points, 9 rebounds) played great, the issue was that the rest of Boston's team was nowhere to be seen for the most part. Brandon Bass had 11 points and five rebounds while Jeff Green scored 11 points off the bench. The rest of the squad combined for 21 points.

Portland was in control the whole way, leading 27-21 after the first quarter and 49-42 at halftime. The only good quarter by the Celtics (25-22) got them back in it in the third but the Blazers made enough plays in the fourth (21-19) to break that ugly losing streak.

When you look at the box score, it's easy to realize why the Blazers came out on top in the end. They hit five more 3-pointers (7-2), three more free throws (15-12), grabbed 11 more rebounds (47-36) and dished out five more assists (21-16). The Celtics made five more steals (9-4) and scored 12 more fast break points (19-7) which seems to be the only reason it was so close.

The C's knew they had to have this game because it's hard to see them winning tomorrow night (9 p.m., CSN) in Utah since the Jazz (31-25, 3rd in Northwest Division) are a good team that always enjoys a distinct advantage at good old EnergySolutions Arena (part of me just died typing that). The Jazz are 21-6 at home this season.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Remind Me Again Why The Panthers Are Still In Florida?

I really have no idea how the Panthers made the playoffs last season, they are so short on talent or anything special. This afternoon, Boston (11-2-2) rolled 4-1 over Florida (5-9-4) at the BB&T Center. The Bruins improved to 3-1 on this season-long five game road trip and this was their third win in a row. I hope the Bruins have gotten some rest since this game kicked off a truly insane stretch: 18 games (9 home, 9 away) in the next 32 days. Yikes.

As expected, the Panthers didn't put up much of a fight. The B's got up 2-0 in the first period and led 3-1 in the second period before adding an empty netter in the third for their first three-goal lead of 2013 (which is very surprising). Tuukka Rask (34 saves) improved to 9-1-2 and nine different Bruins got on the scoresheet although only Daniel Paille (1 goal, 1 assist) had more than one point.

Milan Lucic made it 1-0 at 7:57 on a wrist shot, his fourth goal of the season, via David Krejci's faceoff win. Zdeno Chara's third goal of the season will undoubtedly go down as the highlight reel goal of his year and possibly career. He spun around a defender then went to the goal before roofing a backhander past Jacob Markstrom (28 saves). Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin had the assists at 13:52. Florida's lone flicker of life was a garbage goal by Tomas Kopecky at 15:48 of the first period after multiple misplays by Boston in their own end and a rebound.

Chris Kelly got the monkey off his back by scoring his inaugural goal of the season, at 2:30 of the second period. You had to know it wouldn't be anything special as Paille's shot was deflected right to Kelly for an easy tap in. Making it even more hilarious, it came on Boston's lone power play and Chris Bourque had the second assist.

Paille's empty netter, his third goal of the season, came at 18:23 of the third period while the B's were shorthanded. Adam McQuaid had the lone assist after Paille used his speed to gain the zone and get past all the Panthers.

Boston will try to put a bow on what thus far has been a very positive trip with a win against the Islanders on Tuesday (7:30 p.m., NESN). The Bruins beat the Islanders 4-2 on January 25. New York still doesn't have a goalie, or defense for that matter, but John Tavares and Matt Moulson can really rack up the points if you're not careful with them.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Who Needs Kevin Garnett? Celtics Embarrass Suns 113-88 in Phoenix

Since they were facing the worst team in the Western Conference, the Celtics decided to make it a little harder on themselves by giving Kevin Garnett the night off. It didn't matter at all though as Boston (29-26, 9-17 away) rolled over Phoenix (18-38, 12-14 home) 113-88 tonight at US Airways Center. The C's finally recorded a road win this season against a team from the West, snapping an ugly 0-7 start.

Jeff Green was the story as he had a career-high (with Boston) 31 points, seven rebounds, five blocks, four assists and two blocks. Anybody left wondering if he could play or not? The Celts jumped out to a 13-0 lead to begin the contest and they never looked back, outscoring the Suns in every quarter and opening up as much as a 30-point advantage.

Avery Bradley was the only other starter in double-figures with 13 points and four steals. Chris Wilcox (14 points, 8 rebounds) had his best game of the season, Jason Terry scored 13 points, Jordan Crawford's Celtics debut was very positive (10 points) while Terrence Williams looked comfortable (9 points) in his second game with Boston.

Good luck trying to figure out what Phoenix is doing or who they're currently building around, that team is a disaster. Goran Dragic (19 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks) and Marcin Gortat (10 points, 6 rebounds) are their only above average players. Markieff Morris added 11 points off the bench.

KG will return on Sunday (9 p.m., CSN) as the C's visit the Blazers (25-30, 4th Northwest Division). I wish it wasn't at the same time as The Oscars but I guess it gives us something to flip to during commercials and when Seth MacFarlane is really bombing. Boston wraps up their five-game post-All Star Game road trip with a back-to-back in Portland then Utah. They should beat the Blazers (who have lost 7 in a row) but the Jazz are another story. Utah is one of the toughest places to play in the NBA (Mormon power!) and the C's figure to be gassed by then.

Nathan Horton's Two Goals Propel The Bruins Past The Lightning, 4-2 In Tampa Bay

When the Bruins are clicking on all cylinders like they did tonight, it's tough to see many teams in the Eastern Conference (or the Western Conference) stopping them. They are so deep and even if certain guys or lines are struggling, they have a bunch of other players step up. Tampa Bay (8-7-1) saw it first-hand as they fell 4-2 to Boston (10-2-2) at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

These two teams would have met when the blizzard hit Boston two weeks ago (Saturday, February 9) but instead it was postponed until April 25. As the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals showed us, whenever they play it usually turns out to be a pretty entertaining style of hockey. Nathan Horton scored two goals for the first time in 13+ months while Patrice Bergeron (1 goal, 1 assist), Brad Marchand (1 goal, 1 assist) and Dougie Hamilton (2 assists) also recorded multiple points.

Boston scored a pair of goals in the first 3:50 of the game so it looked like they might blow the Lightning out of their own building. Horton collected a rebound on Hamilton's shot and scored his fifth goal of the season at 1:11. Bergeron made it 2-0 with his third of the season at 3:50 thanks to great work along the boards by Marchand.

It's a credit to Tampa Bay and their explosive offense that they didn't roll over by any means. MVP frontrunner Steven Stamkos potted his 11th goal of the season thanks to assists from Teddy Purcell and Marc-Andre Bergeron at 8:13 of the first period. Tuukka Rask (24 saves; 8-1-2) didn't have any time to react as Stamkos roofed it over him from directly in front of the goal.

Cory Conacher tied it for the Lightning at 9:00 of the second period from Purcell and Stamkos. Not bad for a kid that went to Canisius College, Conacher gets to play on a line with Stamkos and Purcell. After Anders Lindback (22 saves) made a stop, Tampa Bay countered and the rookie Conacher put one past Rask via a 2-on-1.

They might have blown a two-goal lead but it didn't take long for the B's to respond and build another one in its place. Marchand was the recipient of a lucky bounce after Tyler Seguin's shot was blocked right to him. Bergeron had the other assist on the game-winner at 13:58 of the second period. Horton added the insurance tally at 2:33 of the third period with a perfect tip of Zdeno Chara's slap pass. Hamilton had the second assist. Everyone was trying to set Horton up for the hat trick after that but he couldn't do it, he actually hit the post on two separate occasions after Lindback was pulled for the extra skater.

Boston's tour of the Sunshine State ends on Sunday afternoon (3 p.m., NESN) as they visit the Panthers (5-7-4, 4th in Southeast Division), who appear rather hopeless at the moment despite the fact that they made the playoffs last season.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Celtics Flip Two Expiring Contracts (Barbosa, Collins) To Wizards For Jordan Crawford

The 2013 NBA Trade Deadline came and passed today without any major names being dealt around the league, unless you count J.J. Redick going to Milwaukee as particularly notable. The Celtics mostly stayed the same-Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are still in Green and White-although they made a minor move which could pay off quite soon. They traded injured guard Leandro Barbosa and useless center Jason Collins to the Washington Wizards for guard Jordan Crawford.

First of all, the Celts basically obtained Crawford (who has averaged 13.2 points per game this season, 13.4 points per game in his career) for nothing. Washington wanted Barbosa and Collins because their contracts expire after this season. As always, the Wizards are rebuilding so they are trying to unload as much money as they can. If you don't follow Washington, you are forgiven since they have been hopeless for years. However, if you consider yourself a basketball fan then you should know Crawford for two reasons. 1) He was great in college at Xavier and 2) He dunked on LeBron James (when he was at Xavier) which forced hyper-sensitive Nike to destroy all recordings of that special moment.

It might seem like Boston doesn't have much use for Crawford with Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee and Jason Terry all on the roster. There is a logjam at shooting guard with the C's but with Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger and Barbosa out for the season, they are in desperate need of bench scoring. Enter Crawford who has started less than half (62 of 149) the games in his NBA career yet still managed to play 26.2 minutes per game. Barbosa had provided a real spark after Rondo went down so Crawford should help replace what they lost when Barbosa tore his ACL.

Crawford will be motivated since he is back on a good team. He started out with the Hawks for 16 games in 2010-11 before he was traded to the black hole known as the Wizards. Being part of a contender that will be in the playoffs should do wonders for him as he regains his confidence. He was playing less since John Wall came back from an injury but he was having a decent season: .415 field goal percentage, career-high 34.5% on 3-pointers and 82% on free throws. I would expect him to make his Celtics debut tomorrow night as they continue their West Coast road trip in Phoenix (9 p.m., CSN).

Bigger picture, this lack of action proves that Celtics GM Danny Ainge was more willing to see what the current group could do in a watered down Eastern Conference versus trading KG or Pierce for future assets. I can't say I disagree with him, might as well give them one last chance (haha I know we've said that like the last three years) then re-evaluate the situation during the summer when I'm assuming many more big names will be available via trades and free agency. There was no reason to blow it up now when they've proven in the last few weeks that they can beat anybody.

Celtics Lay Absolute Stinkbomb Against Lakers On Eve Of NBA Trade Deadline

As everybody knows by now, the Celtics have a flair for the dramatic (which is not always a good thing) so I guess in some bizarre way they had to go down as hard as they did tonight in Los Angeles. Boston (28-26, 8-17 away) lost their second game in as many nights, 113-99 to the Lakers (26-29, 17-11 home) in a game that truthfully wasn't that competitive. This only adds to the anxious feelings until 3 p.m. (EST) tomorrow when another NBA Trade Deadline mercifully passes.

The C's are 0-7 on the road this season against Western Conference teams and they fell to 1-4 in their last five games against the Lakers. The loss wasn't that surprising, since they are awful on the road, they played last night and LA is decent at home. The shocking part was how easily the Lakers rolled since Boston beat them like a drum 116-95 on February 7 at TD Garden.

Wrapped up like a mummy, the ghost of Dwight Howard stopped by to get 24 points and 12 rebounds. Kobe Bryant had 16 points and seven assists, Earl Clark put up 14 points and a career-high 16 rebounds (really), Steve Nash added 14 points and seven assists while Ron Artest notched 12 points. Even Antawn Jamison (15 points, 5 rebounds) and Steve Blake (10 points, 5 assists) had memorable nights off the bench for Los Angeles in the year 2013, not 2003.

If not for Inglewood, CA native Paul Pierce (26 points, 5 assists) this could have been uglier. Courtney Lee was the only other bright spot for the Celts with a season-high 20 points. Kevin Garnett had 12 points while Jeff Green (15 points, 7 rebounds) and Jason Terry (12 points) reached double-figures off the bench.

Just like last night in Denver, the Lakers owned the three most important hustle stats: made free throws (22-12), total rebounds (49-34) and points in the paint (54-30). Hey, at least we got to see Terrence Williams' (2 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists) Celtics debut and Fab Melo (2 points, block) threw down a garbage time alley-oop, woo!

As fans, we're all sick and tired of reading the endless rumors of unlikely trades so I can only imagine what it's like for the players and coaches in the middle of all this crap. I'm sure for most of them, tomorrow is the worst day of the season as they try to get through what could be an insane afternoon. We shall see, at least by tomorrow night we won't have to read anymore false reports.

Boston's next game is Friday (9 p.m., CSN) in Phoenix (18-37, 5th in Pacific Division). The Celts have three games in four days (Phoenix, Portland on Saturday and Utah on Monday) to get something positive out of this West Coast trip (0-2). So far, it's been depressing and forgettable. Still, they play three teams now that they should beat assuming they keep this team intact.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

You Can Never Have Enough Mediocre Backup First Basemen

MLB Spring Training is finally here which means for 2+ months we're subjected to non-stop puff pieces and non-news stories from the most boring time in the sporting calendar. That's why when something at least a little bit notable happens, we have to pump it up and make it seem way more important than it has a right to be. Today, the Red Sox traded a player to be named later or cash considerations to the Seattle Mariners for first baseman/outfielder Mike Carp.

Almost by default, he has to win the backup first baseman job (behind Mike Napoli) over such bums like Daniel Nava, Mitch Maier, Lyle Overbay and Mark Hamilton. Two years ago, when Carp played 79 games for Seattle, he seemed to have some promise: he's a left-handed hitter and he put up 12 homers and 46 RBIs on a bad team with an awful lineup in a cavernous park. Fast forward to last season when he missed 79 games because of shoulder and groin injuries and I guess you can see why the Mariners made him expendable.

Carp is only 26 and he's versatile which means he can also play in the outfield when I'm sure numerous Red Sox outfielders will go on the disabled list with assorted freak/fake injuries. He won't win them many games but at least compared to those scrubs I mentioned earlier, at least he's not a glorified Triple-A player which should be considered slight progress for the Red Sox front office.

In 1st Game After All-Star Break, Celtics Fall To Nuggets 97-90 In Denver

After watching two Celtics-Nuggets games in the last 10 days, one thing is clear: they are very evenly matched and they play entertaining games. Last night, Boston (28-25, 8-16 away) began their five-game road trip after the All-Star Game with a 97-90 loss at the Pepsi Center. The Celts fell to 0-6 on the road this season against Western Conference teams, ouch. Denver (34-21, 23-3 home) avenged the epic 118-114 triple OT loss in Boston on February 10.

The two guys that did by far the most damage for the Nuggets were Ty Lawson (26 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists) and Danilo Gallinari (26 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists). Kenneth Faried grabbed 16 rebounds, Kosta Koufos added 11 points while Andre Miller (11 points) and Corey Brewer (10 points) had double figures off the bench.

Jeff Green led the Celts with a season-high 20 points off the bench. Avery Bradley had 17 points, Courtney Lee scored 15 points, Kevin Garnett put up 12 points and nine rebounds while Paul Pierce was held to 10 points, six rebounds and six assists.

It was a back and forth game, Boston led 22-21 after one quarter and 50-49 at halftime. Denver's strong third quarter (29-20) propelled them to the win as Boston outscored them 20-19 in the fourth quarter.

There are three statistics that show why the Nuggets won this game: they attempted 20 more free throws and hit 11 more than the Celtics, they had six more rebounds (45-39) and scored 10 more points in the paint (42-32). If you asked basketball coaches what are the three biggest indicators of hustle, those would be it.

Hopefully the C's got plenty of rest over the break because they are back in action tonight in Los Angeles (10:30 p.m., CSN) against the Lakers (25-29). Boston beat LA 116-95 at TD Garden on February 7 in a blowout that wasn't nearly that close. The additional storyline here is that this is the final game before tomorrow's NBA Trade Deadline when mercifully all the trade rumors will end. Like everyone else, I have absolutely no idea if Boston will stand pat or make some wild deals.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Bruins Do Just Enough To Come Away With A 3-2 Victory In Winnipeg

It wasn't a classic by any stretch of the imagination or even pretty really but what do you expect when you play such a nondescript and boring bunch like the Jets? The Bruins (9-2-2) won 3-2 tonight at Winnipeg's (5-8-1) MTS Centre. After opening their five-game road trip with a weird 4-2 loss to the Sabres on Friday, this was a nice way to respond against a bad team.

Boston rallied twice as Winnipeg jumped out to a 1-0 lead and 2-1 advantage before Brad Marchand scored the game-winner on a Bruins power play. Yes, a power play. Tuukka Rask (7-1-2; 22 saves) outdueled the immortal Ondrej Pavelec (23 saves) and received a fine stroke of luck when Winnipeg's chance in the dying seconds of the game literally rolled across the goal line but not in. Whew.

The Jets scored both goals on sloppy work by the Bruins defense-something that is sadly becoming a pattern in the last few weeks. Alex Burmistrov was positioned right by Rask to put a rebound in at 1:43 of the second period for a 1-0 Winnipeg lead. Tyler Seguin (remember him?) tied it at 10:57 after tipping Zdeno Chara's shot from the point for his third goal of the season. Patrice Bergeron had the second assist but Seguin deserves credit for battling all game and going into the corners (for once) to dig out loose pucks. Finally, he seemed engaged and it might have been his best game of the season.

The last 27 seconds of the second period was bananas as the kids like to say since Evander Kane scored on another rebound by Rask-this time Nathan Horton got caught napping in coverage-at 19:37. It looked like the B's would head into the dressing room with a 2-1 deficit but mighty Daniel Paille tied it with his second goal of the season, a fancy tip in of Johnny Boychuk's shot from the point. Chris Kelly had the other assist at 19:58 as Boston was completely revived.

Marchand earned a tripping call on Ron Hainsey nine seconds into the third period and it should have been a penalty shot as well. Thankfully, we don't have to bitch about or even remember that non-call since Marchand scored 27 seconds later from Bergeron and Chris Bourque. Marchand's backhander (his team-leading eighth goal of the season) gave the Bruins a 3-2 lead which was all they needed.

Up next, Boston visits Tampa Bay's (7-6-1, 2nd Southeast Division) on Thursday night (7:30 p.m., NESN) at Tampa Bay Times Forum. The Lightning are the highest scoring team in the NHL (3.9 goals per game) but they have been wildly inconsistent since their goaltending (Anders Lindback and Mathieu Garon) has been bipolar. Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis are both tied for third in the NHL with 21 points. These teams would have met last Saturday but the blizzard forced the game to be moved to April 25 at TD Garden.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Well It's A Good Thing That The Bruins Won't See The Sabres In The Playoffs This Season

For whatever reason, in every sport there are always teams that aren't very good yet they match up well with certain quality opponents. The Buffalo Sabres and Boston Bruins seem to be living proof of that sloppy lede. Boston (8-2-2) suffered their second regulation loss of the season tonight, 4-2 against Buffalo (6-8-1) at the First Niagara Center. The Sabres improved to 2-1 against the B's so far this season (with two games to go) and they pinned that other regulation loss on Boston as well.

The weird part is that the Bruins had just won 3-1 on Sunday in Buffalo (sweet scheduling: half of the Bruins games have been against the Rangers and Sabres) but this time Anton Khudobin (22 saves; 2-1-0) couldn't get another road win, not that it was really his fault. For starters, Ryan Miller (30 saves; 6-6-1) was again spectacular with the help from his goal posts which the B's hit three times.

After Drew Stafford scored 3:24 into the contest, Boston seemed to be in control. Dougie Hamilton notched his first career NHL goal, on the power-play no less to tie it at one at 17:56 of the first period. David Krejci and Tyler Seguin had the assists on Hamilton's one-timed bomb.

The B's dominated in the second period (outshooting the Sabres 17-6) and they were rewarded with a lucky bounce of the puck. Hamilton intentionally hit the puck off the glass but it dropped to Rich Peverley who batted it out of the air for his second goal of the season. Dennis Seidenberg had the other assist at 2:29. Boston should have been up by a few goals but it still had to be fun to hear the miserable Buffalo fans boo their team off the ice after the second period ended.

Buffalo came out in the third period motivated though and just like on January 31 (when they closed on a 4-0 run), the Sabres ran the Bruins off the ice with three unanswered goals. Khudobin wasn't to blame, the defense in front of him couldn't have choked more in one period (slight exaggeration). Tyler Myers got to play in this game (after being a healthy scratch lately) and he tied it up off a rebound at 2:03. Christian Ehrhoff took advantage of a sloppy clearing attempt to pot the go-ahead goal at 9:02. Cody Hodgson added an insurance tally at 11:45 after Myers drove behind the net then flipped it to him. Ugly. The Bruins were outshot 10-3 in the frame.

This disappointing loss was the start of a five-game road trip for the B's, remember they won't be back at TD Garden until February 28 (cue the sad music). Next up, they're in Winnipeg on Sunday night (6 p.m., NESN). Boston sleepwalked through a 2-1 shootout win against the Jets (5-7-1) in the second game of the season at the Garden.

2/17: Lucic will miss tonight's game in Winnipeg, he returned to Boston to deal with an undisclosed personal matter. That means Jay Pandalfo will make his Bruins debut with Rich Peverley getting bumped up to the first line and Daniel Paille shifting to the third line.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Celtics & Bulls Do Their Part To Set Basketball Back 20 Years

The events at TD Garden tonight, surely caused Dr. James Naismith to roll over in his grave (wherever that is located). The less said about Boston's (28-24, 20-9 home) 71-69 win over Chicago (30-22, 15-10 away) the better. The C's head into the All-Star break having won eight of their last nine games and playing their best basketball of the season despite suffering three major injuries in the last three weeks.

To give you a taste for how ugly this was, the Celts had 19 points combined in the second and third quarters but yet they still found a way to come out on top. As befitting a slopfest like that, Brandon Bass (14 points, 9 rebounds) was the game's high-scorer. Kevin Garnett had 12 points and 11 rebounds, Avery Bradley scored 10 points and Jason Terry notched 12 points off the bench.

Carlos Boozer (11 points, 11 rebounds) and Joakim Noah (10 points, 16 rebounds) were forces on the glass as usual but without Derrick Rose, the Bulls struggle to put the ball in the hoop: they are 27th in the NBA, averaging 93.6 points per game. Marco Belinelli scored 12 points off the bench and Jimmy Butler added 11 points and six rebounds.

Showing how tight the season series (2-2) was, the four games were decided by six points, 11 points, one point and two points. A return date in the postseason seems likely for these two similar squads.

With no Rondo, only KG will head to Houston this weekend for the All-Star Game. The rest of the Celtics get a much-needed break. They are off until next Tuesday when they begin a season-high five game road trip in Denver (9 p.m., CSN). Boston seems to always struggle on the West Coast but let me say on the record that they don't exactly face a murderer's row from the superior Western Conference: Nuggets, Lakers, Suns, Blazers and Jazz. Only Denver and Utah are over .500 and expected to make the playoffs this season. A 3-2 mark would be fine by me, considering how tough it is to win in Denver and Utah.

UPDATE 2/18: The Celtics signed former lottery pick Terrence Williams (2009, 11th overall pick by the Nets) to a 10-day contract. Most recently, he was playing in China after flaming out in New Jersey, Houston, Detroit and Sacramento. The former Louisville swingman has never really made an impression in the NBA after a solid collegiate career. He's worth a shot for the C's who just need healthy bodies at this point.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Bruins Steal A Point From The Rangers, Lose 4-3 In A Shootout

Last night was one of those rare occasions in sports when a loss really felt like a win. The Bruins (8-1-2) were down 3-0 against the Rangers (7-5-0) in the third period at TD Garden before they rallied for three goals in the final 11:16 to tie it and send it to overtime. Unfortunately, after a thrilling but scoreless OT it went to a shootout where they lost 4-3. Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan (who had the winner) scored for New York while only Brad Marchand tallied a shootout goal for Boston.

In this shortened season, points are at a premium so the one that the B's earned should feel like more than that. They had no business getting a positive result but they managed to somehow beat Henrik Lundqvist (37 saves) in quick succession after he had frustrated them all game long. Tuukka Rask (26 saves; 6-1-2) had his second bad start in a row at home but let's not overreact here.

The Rangers were efficient as they potted a goal in each frame. Carl Hagelin made it 1-0 at 10:37 of the first period after an NHL All-Star/Olympic assist from Rick Nash, Dan Girardi had the second assist. Nash was tripped up but he still managed to throw it to Hagelin who only had to tap it in past Rask. Derek Stepan increased New York's advantage to 2-0 at 8:17 of the second period after a careless turnover by Milan Lucic in the neutral zone. Rask didn't help himself by whiffing on a save he usually registers on Stepan's wrister.

When Anton Stralman scored his first goal of the season, at 2:07 of the third period, it's understandable that most Bruins fans thought it was over. It was the weakest goal that Rask had allowed all season as he let a slow shot from the point trickle through his leg pads.

Boston's wretched power play was 0 for 4 so fittingly, David Krejci broke Lundqvist's shutout attempt one second after a Rangers penalty had expired. Dennis Seidenberg's shot from the point was tipped and Lucic had the other assist in the scramble before Krejci's fourth goal of the season at 8:44. With Rask pulled, the B's notched a pair of goals (something they hadn't done in 3.5 years) to tie it up. Traffic in front caused another juicy rebound and Nathan Horton ended up with his fourth goal of the season (assists to Lucic and Andrew Ference) at 18:29.

Brad Marchand took the roof off the Garden with the game-tying goal, his seventh of the season at 19:17. He tried to pass it but it deflected back to him before Lundqvist could react in time, Marchand had roofed it past him. Patrice Bergeron and Seidenberg had the assists.

The only Debbie Downer aspect of this thriller was that it wrapped up the season series between these teams (2-1 New York), really. Kudos to the NHL for getting this quality rivalry out of the way in the season's first 12 games (technically 11 after Saturday's matchup with Tampa Bay was postponed because of the blizzard). It would probably give us a heart attack if they played each other in the postseason but one thing's for sure: it would be an amazing series.

Ok I lied, there is one other depressing part: the Bruins won't be home again for another 2+ weeks. They are about to embark on their longest road trip of the season: five games. No doubt the team will also be missing Boston since they hit all the backwaters in the Eastern Conference: Buffalo, Winnipeg, Tampa Bay, Florida and Long Island. The B's make their second stop in Buffalo in less than a week on Friday (7 p.m., NESN). They beat the Sabres (5-8-1) 3-1 way back on Sunday night.

UPDATE 2/13: Jay Pandolfo cleared waivers so he's officially a Bruin now.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

That's More Like It: Bruins Beat Sabres 3-1

After getting pushed around by Buffalo and losing 7-4 at the Garden on January 31 (their only regulation loss this season), Boston (8-1-1) was much better prepared tonight at the First Niagara Center to play their game. The end result was a nice 3-1 road win against the Sabres (5-7-1). Backup goaltender Anton Khudobin (25 saves; 2-0-0) picked up his second win in his second start (both on the road).

Brad Marchand, Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton all returned after missing multiple games, the latter two guys had been out since that initial beating by Buffalo. Their impact was immediate since the B's lines were more balanced again and the AHL All-Stars (Jamie Tardif, Lane MacDermid and Ryan Spooner) were all scratched or back in Providence where they belong. This time around, Thornton wasn't sacrificed to John Scott but Gregory Campbell took on scummy Patrick Kaleta in the first period.

Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller (36 saves) was superb all night but Marchand was able to solve him at 7:10 of the second period with a hard snap shot to the far post. Andrew Ference had the lone assist on Marchand's team-leading sixth goal of the season. Tyler Ennis got Buffalo's only goal on a wrister at 18:01 of the second period after another failed Bruins power play-a constant theme for the B's the past few years. Drew Stafford passed it to Ennis on the doorstep as Boston's defensemen were caught napping a bit.

The Bruins' god awful power play finally potted its first goal in five games and it turned out to be the game-winner. Patrice Bergeron (2nd of the season) made it 2-1 on a snap shot at 7:52 in the third period from Chris Bourque and Rich Peverley. Khudobin and Boston's defense was rock solid from that point on and Milan Lucic (3rd of the season) sent Buffalo fans streaming for the exits with his empty-netter at 19:11.

Boston hosts the Rangers (6-5-0) on Tuesday (7:30 p.m., NESN) as the Black and Gold continue to lead the Eastern Conference and Northeast Division. New York hasn't been a disaster ala Washington but they certainly haven't found any consistency yet this season. The Bruins would like to keep it that way with Tuukka Rask likely back in net. Boston beat New York 3-1 on Opening Night (Jan. 19) then lost 4-3 in overtime at MSG four nights later.

UPDATE 2/11: Tardif, MacDermid and Aaron Johnson were all sent down to Providence.

That Bruins-Lightning game has been rescheduled to Thursday, April 25 at TD Garden.

UPDATE 2/12: TSN's Bob McKenzie (the best NHL reporter in the universe) reports that the B's have signed Burlington native and BU product Jay Pandolofo to a one-year deal worth $600,000 in the NHL and $350,000 in the minors. He was placed on waivers and must clear for the deal to go through. This was expected after the B's traded Tim Thomas, thus freeing up a roster spot. Don't expect anything from the 38-year-old Pandolfo who has been with the team on an extended tryout (weird?) since the beginning of training camp.

This Is Getting Silly: Celtics Pick Up 7th Straight Win, In 3OT Vs. Denver (NBA's Hottest Team)

Two weeks ago when Rajon Rondo was declared out for the season, who could have predicted how these next seven games would turn out for the Celtics? Boston (27-23, 19-9 home) picked up their seventh straight win tonight, 118-114 in triple overtime against Denver (33-19, 11-16 away) at TD Garden in what was the best game of the regular season so far not only for the C's but the NBA as a whole.

Boston hadn't won a triple overtime game since 1999 and what made this extra sweet was that it was against the NBA's hottest team: the Nuggets entered with nine wins in a row. Paul Pierce (27 points, 14 rebounds, 14 assists) notched his eighth career triple-double (second in two weeks) while playing 54 minutes. Kevin Garnett was also excellent with 20 points, 18 rebounds, six assists, three blocks and two steals in 47 minutes. Avery Bradley added 13 points, five rebounds and three steals. The unexpected hero for the Celts was Jason Terry who had a season-high 26 points and three steals off the bench. Jeff Green continues to play well and shut up his early season critics (myself included) with 17 points, three blocks and two steals.

Ty Lawson paced Denver with 29 points, nine assists and six rebounds. Former Knick Danilo Gallinari had 18 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and two blocks, Kenneth Faried added 14 points, 12 rebounds and three steals while Andre Miller (15 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds) and Corey Brewer (13 points, 3 steals) were in double figures off the bench.

Other than Boston starting the game on a wacky 12-0 run, this game was back and forth the whole way as it should be. Lawson tied it at 92 with less than a second left in regulation after driving the lane and getting a floater off the glass. With 23 seconds left in the first overtime, Green tied it at 99 with a 3-ball then Lawson missed a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer. Down three with five seconds left, Pierce tied it at 107 with a 3-pointer in the second overtime. Gallinari missed a layup with one second left. Terry hit the go-ahead three in the second overtime then he laid it in at the buzzer so technically he scored Boston's last five points.

I can't even imagine how tired Pierce, Garnett and the rest of the team are after this marathon (game-time: 3 hours, 4 minutes). There are only two games left before the 2013 All-Star break: tomorrow (7 p.m., CSN) in Charlotte (11-39, 5th in Southeast Division) then against Chicago (30-20, 2nd in Central Division) on Wednesday (7:30 p.m., CSN) at the Garden. He's never done it before but I wouldn't be surprised to see Doc Rivers pull a Gregg Popovich and sit KG and Pierce against the Bobcats. There is no reason to push them hard after tonight's grueling task. Likewise, they should still be able to beat hopeless Charlotte even without them.

UPDATE 2/12: Guard Leandro Barbosa is out for the season after tearing his left ACL in last night's loss to the Bobcats. Ugh, he's the third Celtic to go down in the last three weeks with a season-ending injury. It's a shame too because he had been playing well with more minutes since Rajon Rondo tore his ACL. Boston will need to get another guard to take his spot.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Celtics Destroy Lakers 116-95, Win Their 6th Straight Game As KG Goes Over 25,000 Points

For Celtics fans, tonight was basically a perfect night. Not only did Boston (26-23, 18-9 home) stomp the Lakers (23-27, 8-17 away) 116-95 at TD Garden but the Celts tied a season-high with their sixth straight win and Kevin Garnett (15 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals) made NBA history in the process.

KG went over 25,000 points for his career, becoming only the 16th player ever to accomplish that. He's such a humble and team-first guy but it was nice to see him enjoy it for a brief moment as the Garden gave him a well-deserved standing ovation. Nobody else has ever had 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 5000 assists, 1500 blocks and 1500 steals. The crazy thing is that even at 36 and with 17 years in the NBA under his belt, he is still playing at a very high level.

116 points was one off their season-high as the Celtics absolutely shredded the Lakers abysmal defense. Paul Pierce (24 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists) continues to make a case to be an All-Star (should somebody get hurt or have to miss it). The speedy and dynamic defensive backcourt of Courtney Lee (13 points, 5 rebounds) and Avery Bradley (10 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals) continually harassed LA. Jeff Green was terrific off the bench with 19 points, Jason Terry added 15 and Chris Wilcox (8 points, 9 rebounds) had his best game of the season.

Times are tough in Lakerland with Pau Gasol out for 6-8 weeks and Dwight Howard (9 points, 9 rebounds) crippled. Kobe Bryant (27 points, 7 rebounds) can only do so much. He was the lone starter in double figures with Jodie Meeks (13 points) and Antawn Jamison (11 points) both making a case for more minutes.

Like Game 6 of the NBA Finals between these teams (also at the Garden) in 2008, this one was never really close and got out of hand rather quickly. Boston led 27-23 after one quarter and 58-44 at halftime. An outstanding third quarter (37-25) by Boston ensured that nobody went over 33 minutes (Bradley) and KG was limited to 23.

The Lakers get one more crack at the Celtics-February 20 back in LA-but that team is a disaster so I wouldn't worry in the least bit about that. Boston shot 11.4% better from the field (52.9-51.4%), grabbed five more rebounds (48-43), dished out nine more assists (25-16), had eight more steals (10-2), two more blocks (5-3), 18 more fast break points (22-4) and 22 more points in the paint (58-36).

The C's can chill the next few days as New England gets pounded by a blizzard but they have a serious challenge awaiting them on Sunday night (6 p.m., CSN) as the Denver Nuggets (32-18, 2nd Northwest Division) stop by. Nobody is talking about them but the Nuggets are one of the hottest teams in the NBA. They've won eight in a row including a 128-96 blowout against the Bulls tonight (on TNT after Celtics-Lakers) to move up to fourth in the Western Conference. Denver can really get up and down the court which is a tough matchup for the Celts: they're third in the NBA in scoring per game (104.7), second in rebounds per game (45.4) and third in assists per game (23.9). The good news for Boston is that they don't play much defense either, allowing 100.6 points per game (23rd in the NBA).

UPDATE 2/8: Fab Melo, fresh off his first NBA basket last night, was sent back to Maine today. To say he's raw and not quite ready yet for the NBA would be too kind. Keep working Fab.

UPDATE 2/10: Melo was recalled from the Red Claws. In other Syracuse products news, Kris Joseph was traded from the Red Claws to the Springfield (MA) Armor for power forward James Mays who is a D-League all-star this season.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

So Long Tim Thomas, It's Tuukka Time Now. PS Thanks For The Stanley Cup In 2011

We all knew that Tim Thomas' career with the Boston Bruins was probably done anyway but today, we can officially close the door on that crazy era. Thomas was dealt to the New York Islanders for a conditional second-round draft pick in 2014 or 2015. The condition is that he plays this season or next season with the Isles (which is unlikely), otherwise this is just a simple salary dump that helps them get to the salary cap floor.

A Michigan native who played collegiately at Vermont, Thomas was a two-time Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL's top goalie played in 378 regular-season games-all with the B's. He was 196-121-45 with a 2.48 goals-against average and 31 shutouts and ranks fourth on Boston's career wins list and third in shutouts. He also has a 29-21 mark in the playoffs with a 2.07 GAA and six shutouts. Thomas won the Vezina and Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011.

Talk about an anti-climatic ending to one of the best goaltenders in Bruins history. Of course it had to be this way though, Thomas left the B's with no choice after he decided last summer to take this season off. Yeah ok, see you later. Good luck with the bunker. There lies the rub with Thomas: it's hard to separate the bat-shit insane ending with the glorious middle. I'm not going to predict or tell people how to feel in a few years but I wouldn't be surprised if in say 10 or 20 years, he can come back to Boston and get his number rightfully retired in the Garden rafters. The works. However, that wound is still fresh and people are sick of his bullshit so don't count on the Bruins doing that anytime soon.

More importantly for Tuukka Rask, this has to give him some more confidence (on top of how well he's been playing in 2013) since now he really can forget about Thomas and doesn't have to worry about him coming back WWE or boxing style. This is Rask's team and his time, he's waited the last few seasons to be the man again and he seems to be taking full advantage. He'll never be Thomas but in many ways, that's a good thing. All goalies are strange in their own special ways but Rask appears to blend in with his teammates much better than Thomas ever did.

The good news for the B's long term is that their goaltending situation both in the NHL and the minors appears to be just fine. A restricted free agent after this season, Rask is playing for a new long-term deal which seems to be a given. Anton Khudobin could be a decent backup then they have Niklas Svedberg at Providence (where he was an AHL All-Star this season) plus Malcolm Subban (a draft pick last summer) further down the pipeline. We will always love Thomas for what he did with the Bruins but it's only natural that we move on and shower that love and attention on Rask.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Beating The Canadiens Never Gets Old, Am I Right Bruins?

The only thing missing from tonight's 2-1 win by the Bruins (7-1-1) at Montreal's (6-3-0) Bell Centre was a dandy new soliloquy from NESN's Jack Edwards shitting on the Canadiens. The game was carried on NBC Sports Network as part of its "Rivalry Wednesday" series that they've started this season so we settled for a parting gift in the form or Doc Emerick and Pierre McGuire. Boston vaulted to the top of the Eastern Conference with the comeback win and put three points between themselves, Montreal and Ottawa in the penthouse of the Northeast Division.

Tuukka Rask (20 saves; 6-1-1) was exceptional, especially in the first period when his teammates were caught running around and the Canadiens outshot them 11-4. Public enemy No. 1 for B's fans-P.K. Subban-gave Montreal a 1-0 lead at 10:53 of the second period with a power play goal that deflected off Rich Peverley's stick. Andrei Markov and Tomas Plekanec had the assists as Rask couldn't find the puck in time through a sea of bodies.

No worries as Tyler Seguin broke his slump with the tying goal (2nd of the season) only 14 seconds into the third period. It was all thanks to David Krejci's centering pass and Seguin's net drive plus a well-timed backhander past Carey Price (21 saves). Krejci (3rd of the season) added the game-winner 1:51 later from new linemates Milan Lucic and Seguin. Similar to Seguin's goal (which was his second of the season, first non-empty netter), Krejci went to the net and good things happened: Looch found him and Krejci stuffed it in.

Boston survived another pathetic performance by its power play (0 for 4), making them 3 for 34 (8.8%) this season which is second worst in the NHL (.2% better than the Rangers). Sooner or later, when they start to lose a few games in a short amount of time, that will be brought up ad nauseum and for good reason. Until then, let's enjoy this wonderful start as the B's look like a serious contender in the East.

UPDATE 2/7: Ryan Spooner was sent back to Providence which is a good sign that Brad Marchand, Daniel Paille or Shawn Thornton will be able to play this weekend: Boston hosts Tampa Bay on Saturday then travels to Buffalo on Sunday.

UPDATE 2/8: The Bruins-Lightning game tomorrow was pushed back to 7 p.m. from its original start time of 1 p.m.

UPDATE 2/9: Predictably, the B's-Lightning game has been postponed tonight since the roads are only being opened up again at 4 p.m. Not enough time for everyone to get there and too dangerous. Good call Bruins. That means their next game is tomorrow night in Buffalo (7 p.m., NESN).

Huzzah, The Celtics Are Fun To Watch Again

Say this for the Celtics without Rajon Rondo (and Jared Sullinger), they might not be nearly as talented but they sure are enjoyable to watch. Rather than having one guy dribble for most of the 24-second clock then figure out a play, they share the basketball, play defense and everyone seems to pull their weight more equally. Tonight, Boston (25-23, 8-14 away) won 99-95 at Toronto's (17-32, 12-13 home) Air Canada Centre, their fifth straight victory since Rondo went down.

Kevin Garnett had a season-high 27 points and 10 rebounds, Courtney Lee added 15 points, Paul Pierce struggled from the field (2 for 11) but still had 12 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, Avery Bradley scored 11 points and even Brandon Bass found his way into double figures with 10 points. That's right, all five Celtics starters plus Leandro Barbosa (14 points off the bench) all scored 10+ points. Not something you saw much earlier in the season.

Even though they had lost three of their last four in Toronto, beating the Raptors isn't normally worth a damn but this was at least notable because Toronto was up 10 (79-69) heading into the fourth quarter. After getting smoked in the third quarter (34-19), the C's rallied for an excellent fourth quarter (30-16).

Former UConn star Rudy Gay, acquired from Memphis last week, filled the stat sheet with 25 points, 12 rebounds and four steals. Kyle Lowry had 18 points, seven assists and four steals, Amir Johnson had a double-double (16 points, 12 rebounds) and DeMar Derozan put up 13 points. Andrea Bargnani notched 13 points off the bench for the Raptors.

This game was just an appetizer for the main course tomorrow night back in Boston: Celtics vs. Lakers (23-26). It's the first of two meetings between the bitter rivals and it gets the full primetime experience (8 p.m., TNT) despite the fact that LA has been the NBA's biggest disappointment so far this season. Pau Gasol hurt his foot last night so he'll be out but Kobe Bryant is still on the Lakers so it should be a great atmosphere as Boston goes for their sixth win in a row.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Celtics Complete A 4-0 Week Post-Rondo With 106-104 Win Vs. Clippers

Thoughts of the Celtics just forfeiting (slight exaggeration) the rest of this season after Rajon Rondo went down with a torn ACL last weekend seem a bit silly now that Boston (24-23, 17-9 home) has won four games in a row (during a very favorable 4-game homestand) and gone over .500. This afternoon, they built up a 19-point lead before hanging on by the skin of their teeth 106-104 against the Chris Paul-less Clippers (34-15, 14-10 away) at TD Garden.

Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro made the curious decision not to foul when his team was down only two 103-101 with the shot clock and game clock only two seconds apart. That awful coaching blunder cost LA dearly as Pierce nailed a 3-pointer for good measure. Jamal Crawford hit a 3-pointer as the game ended, haha not sure what the line was either way but I feel like that could have made many people very happy or upset.

Pierce led the C's with a team-high 22 points, five rebounds and two steals, Kevin Garnett was the only other starter in double figures with 12 points and five rebounds. The real story of the win was Boston's bench outscoring Los Angeles' 52-29. Jeff Green (2 blocks) and Leandro Barbosa had 14 points each while Jason Terry added 13 points and six assists.

Eric Bledsoe had a game-high 23 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and two steals while Blake Griffin added 20 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. UConn's Caron Butler put up 18 points and five rebounds and DeAndre Jordan notched 12 points and five rebounds. Crawford has a broken nose so he started the game with a ghetto mask but ditched it on the way to 23 points and six assists, he might as well clear his trophy case at home for another Sixth Man of the Year award.

The Celts tied a season-high with a 33-point first quarter as they led 33-30 then 59-40 at halftime. Boston slowly lost steam in the third quarter (37-33 LA) before the wheels really came off in the fourth quarter (27-14 LA). Boston hit two more 3-pointers (11-9) and eight more free throws (23-15) than the Clippers.

A trip to Toronto (17-31, 5th in Atlantic Division) on Wednesday (7 p.m., CSN) is the first road test in the post-Rondo portion of the season. Former UConn star Rudy Gay was traded to the Raptors last week from the Grizzlies, a move that makes them believe they can be a playoff contender. Haha keep dreaming Canadians. The teams have only met once so far, a 107-89 Celtics win at the Garden on Saturday, November 17. After Wednesday, they play twice more. Oh joy.

Chris Bourque Starts To Earn His Keep In Boston

After being humbled 7-4 on Thursday by the Sabres at the Garden, the Bruins (6-1-1) bounced back like the great team they are with a road win 1-0 tonight at Air Canada Centre against the Maple Leafs (4-4-0). Tuukka Rask (5-1-1) made 21 saves for his first shutout of the season and Chris Bourque scored his first goal as a Bruin for the game's lone strike.

Bourque's goal, his second in the NHL and first since December 30, 2008, came at 8:54 of the first period. It was the result of some fine work by the third line. Rich Peverley passed to Chris Kelly who backhanded the puck across the crease where Bourque was able to redirect it past Toronto goaltender James Reimer (33 saves) before knocking the net off its moorings. He did his dad's signature low fist pump celebration which was cool to see since of course that goal meant a lot to him in his career. If nothing else, it should shut up the haters for a few days.

Befitting of a 1-0 game that wasn't in the playoffs, it lacked much noteworthy action. Lane MacDermid and Mark Fraser fought twice-in the first and second period-something that rarely happens and Brad Marchand left in the second period after running into the boards awkwardly. He never returned, it looked like he hurt his shoulder/arm but we'll have to see. Patrice Bergeron did the same thing against Buffalo but he came back later in the game so hopefully Marchand's isn't too serious either.

We have three days to mentally prepare ourselves for the first installment of Bruins-Canadiens. So watch the Super Bowl tomorrow, the Beanpot on Monday and something else on Tuesday before you get ready to go crazy on Wednesday (7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network) when Boston visits Montreal (5-2-0, 3rd Northeast Division). All the jokers will have the Bell Centre rocking, it doesn't get much better than B's vs. Habs.

UPDATE 2/4: The Bruins recalled forward Ryan Spooner on an emergency basis, in case Marchand can't play on Wednesday in Montreal. A second-round pick by Boston in 2010, Spooner has been playing well in Providence with nine goals and 21 assists in 35 games this season.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Celtics Win Their Third Straight Game Since Rondo Got Hurt, 97-84 Over Magic

The Celtics couldn't have picked two better teams to adjust to life without Rajon Rondo than bottom feeders Sacramento and Orlando. Tonight, Boston (23-23, 16-9 home) rolled to a 97-84 win over the Magic (14-32, 6-16 away) at TD Garden. Apparently the C's have won three straight games since Rondo went down (he was a last minute scratch against Miami on Sunday) although I'm not sure if beating Orlando at this juncture should count as a full victory.

Jeff Green led the Celts with 17 points and three blocks off the bench. More please! Kevin Garnett (14 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Paul Pierce (14 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists) each had double-doubles while Courtney Lee added 14 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals. Isn't it amazing what happens when a team shares the basketball, rather than let one guy do everything offensively? Jason Terry (5 assists) and Leandro Barbosa both tossed in 12 points off the bench.

Everybody in the NBA has injuries but it's hard to imagine a team more rocked by them than the Magic: their top three players (and three of their top four scorers) all missed at least part of tonight's exhibition. Glen Davis is out for the season with a broken foot, Arron Afflalo has a strained calf so he sat out then Jameer Nelson left with an arm injury in the first half and never returned.

Oy vey, it's all up to you J.J. Redick (15 points, 5 assists, 2 steals). To say he doesn't currently have much help around him would be too kind: rookie Andrew Nicholson (14 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks) and Nikola Vucevic (14 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocks) had double-doubles. Former Celtic E'Twaun Moore filled it up in garbage time, finishing with 14 points while rookie Kyle O'Quinn notched 11 points.

Boston held Orlando to 35 points in the first half and 37.9% shooting from the field for the entire game. The Celtics had 11 more assists than the Magic (30-19) because true point guards are overrated.

Things figure to get much more exciting on Sunday (1 p.m., CSN) as the Clippers (34-14, 1st in Pacific Division) come to the Garden in a tasty pre-Super Bowl appetizer. MVP candidate Chris Paul has missed LA's last six games with a knee injury and it doesn't take a genius to figure out that they are not nearly the same team without him, for example: they suffered a season-worst 98-73 loss in Toronto tonight. Yes Toronto. Like the Kings earlier this week, the C's will be looking for more revenge after the Clippers embarrassed them 106-77 on December 27 in LA during the California road trip from hell.

The Celtics' Luck At The Moment Could Be A Little Better: Sullinger Is Out For The Season

The hits keep coming hard this week for the Celtics: five days after Rajon Rondo's season was deemed over with a torn ACL, today we learned that rookie Jared Sullinger had back surgery this morning so he's also out for the rest of the season. Ugh.

Just when we were slowly getting a little interest to see what Boston could do without Rondo, they suffer another serious blow. Clearly, I'm not equating Sullinger's value to Rondo's but we can all agree that he had been a bright spot and seemed to be getting better all season long. He averaged 6.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and shot .49% from the floor plus 75% from the free throw line in 19.8 minutes per game mostly off the bench although he started the last few games.

Part of the reason he's been so effective is that Sullinger has an old school game: he likes to play inside so he's tough and he can rebound very well despite not being particularly athletic. Without him, the Celts lack any other real inside threat. Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass prefer to shoot mid-range jumpers while Chris Wilcox is a bench guy that basically can just dunk. Don't get me started on rookie center Fab Melo since he hasn't played a minute in the NBA yet.

The good news for the C's is that Sullinger should be healthy and recovered by the start of training camp in the fall. Who knows what the rest of the squad will look like at that point? The cruel part is that Sullinger dropped to Boston in last summer's NBA Draft (21st overall) since NBA doctors thought he had serious back issues. Obviously, the Red Sox medical staff weren't in charge of checking out the rookies since sadly those guys got the diagnosis right. All you can hope is that Sullinger has a solid career and this doesn't hold him back (no pun intended) from turning into the player we know he could be.