That was easy. Too easy. It almost felt like it wasn't even a playoff game. It wasn't even fair. Talk about carrying momentum into the next round. If the Bruins continue to play like this (or the Flyers continue to play like they did) this series will be over in the blink of an eye. The Bruins in the past two games remind me of the Celtics in Games 2 and 3 of the first round. In Game 2 the Celtics showed they could finish games like the Bruins did all throughout the first round and in Game 7 particularly. And in Game Three for the Celtics they embarassed the Knicks and showed us championship basketball. And today, the Bruins embarassed the Flyers and also showed us championship hockey. I don't think anyone has any doubts after that performance that the Bruins can win it all this year and not only that, if they contnue to play remotely close to the way they did today, there is no one that can stop them.
It has been an interesting draft for the Patriots so far. For the most part, it has been a typical draft for Bill Belichick. He traded a first round pick and has passed on plenty of talent so far (Ingram, Bowers, etc.). So far the Patriots have picked:
I don't mind this pick. I think there was more talent on the board, but Solder will be a good fit in New England and can fill the void of the dwindling Matt Light. Solder seems to be similar to Sebastian Vollmer, he is 6'8" 315 pounds and can provide more protection for Bardy, which is a very good thing.
The Patriots passed on Bowers to get Dowling, a cornerback from Virginia. He is a big and physical corner that will bolster the secondary, but he only played in five games last season. The Patriots passed on a lot of talent to get him, so he better be a diamond in the rough.
Vereen is a versatile back who can block and catch passes out of the backfield. It is an interesting pick, because Danny Woodhead already does all of those things to near perfection for the Patriots.
To me, this is a better running back pick for the Patriots. Ridley is a strong, tough, downhill runner who thirves in short yardage situations, something the Patriots were lacking last season. I like this pick, but looking at the prior running back pick, drafting Vereen seems like a waste of a pick.
Drafting a quarterback early when you have Tom Brady seems weird but I like the pick. Mallett has the best arm in the draft and really is an exceptional talent and a steal of a third round pick. He is the type of quarterback that brady could take under his wing, mentor him, and potentialy turn him into an elite quaterback. And at some point, Brady will need a successor and if that day doesn't come for a while then Mallet could be a good trading piece.
All in all, the biggest issue is that the Patriots neglected their biggest need in this draft by not picking a pass rusher and passing on big talent. But last year I remember being mad that the Patriots drafted some big tight end named Gronkowski or something because they passed on other big talent. In Bill We Trust.
I give them a B, it would be a C but Belichick making the picks in all boosts it a grade.
Last night was the last episode of The Office with Michael Scott (Steve Carrell) marking the end of an era in television. It was hard to see him go, and it reminded me of Michael Jordan's retirement. I know, I know, it sounds weird but I'm not trying to say Steve Carrell was the best television actor ever or Michael Scott was the best tv character ever. But other than that, there are similarities. When The Office first started no one quite knew what to expect, it quickly became one of the funniest shows on television (beginning of Jordan's career). Then, when the show grew and gained more popularity it blossomed into arguably the funniest show on television and that was due in large part to the lead character of Michael Scott and it stayed in this place for a few seasons (the championship years). But after the show jumped the shark with the whole Sabre thing, the show and Michael began to become less funny and it was hard to watch what you knew was once one of the great shows not living up to those expectations (Jordan on the Wizards). But when he was leaving, suddenly everything changed. For so many years we took Michael Scott and his humor for granted and just like that it would be gone. Everyone remembered the good old days and grew sad over the fact that no more good times on television would include Michael Scott (Jordan's retirement). We all loved Michael Jordan and it was hard to see him walk off of the court for the last time. And we all loved Michael Scott and it was hard to see him walk out of The Office for the last time.
Bring on the Heat! And this guy too.
(Thanks to Caleb for the video)
The ending to the series between the Bruins and Canadiens was fitting, it was exciting and unpredictable, just like the entire series. After going down 0-2 in this series and squandering home ice, few thought the Bruins could still win the series (I was not one of those). But a 4-2 win in Montreal gave some hope. And in a make or break Game Four, overtime was required for the first time in the series. It was Michael Ryder who delivered the game winning goal and tied up the series. Then, in Game Five the Bruins found themselves in a similar situation, only this time, one overtime was not enough and it went into double overtime. In double overtime after some luck (the puck hit off Chara's knee with an open net behind it) it was Nathan Horton who won the game and gave the Bruins the series lead for the first time in this series. And finally, in the most important game of the series, the Bruins were once again in overtime. Sudden death, score or get eliminated from the playoffs. And it was Nathan Horton again who scored in overtime to win the series.
This is the most exciting playoff hockey series in my memory and ranks highly among all sports. A combined 4 overtimes in 7 games, a team rallying back from down 0-2, an overtime in a Game 7, oh and did I mention these two teams are rivals to begin with. There isn't much time to celebrate however, because the second round starts for the Bruins on Saturday. When they will play the Flyers, again. Hopefully, this momentum will carry into the next round because if it does, I don't see many teams that can beat them.
Will there be a season next year? That I can't tell you, but regardless of whether a season will occur or not, the draft must go on. It is better not to worry about next year, because this is one draft that should be enjoyed and not tainted by worries. Given the Patriots track record in drafts and the amount of picks they have, it could be the best draft yet. And it should be enjoyed, because it could be the most football excitement we get for a long time.For our purposes, we will travel to a wonderful place, where there is no lockout and certain luxuries, such as an NFL season, are guaranteed. Now that we are in this better place, we can look at the Patriot's needs for next year.
(Note- Given the fact that the Patriots have multiple picks in many rounds, this is simply a layout of what the Patriots need in order of necessity.)
The biggest and most obvious need for the Patriots is a pass rusher, either a defensive end or an outside linebacker. It was clearly the biggest weakness last season, and to be honest, it cost them the game against the Jets in the playoffs and the potential to bring home the Lombardi trophy. The Patriots need to target a versatile defensive end who can rush the edge and also cover the run or an outside linebacker that can do the same. And they can't waste any time in doing this either, this is the biggest need and they need the best they can get.
To me, the next biggest need for the Patriots is offensive line, either a guard or tackle. Stephen Neal retired, Matt Light is fading, and no one is exactly sure how much longer the disgruntled Logan Mankins will be around. Plain and simple, Tom Brady needs more protection and the run game needs improvement. This burden falls on the line, and it needs to be reinforced. I said the lack of a pass rush did was a big reason for the Patriots early playoff exit, but it wasn't just that, it was the amount of pass rush the Jets got as well and that is a discredit to the offensive line. This should be the Patriots second priority behind pass rush, but ahead of all else.
Going hand in hand with a better pass rush, the Patriots also need to beef up their front 7 with another defensive lineman to complement Wilfork and help stop the run. Wilfork is great, but he can only withstand so many double teams which teams are able to throw at him at will when the rest of the line consists of the likes of Kyle Love and Myron Pryor. The Patriots don't need another Wilfork, but they do need another force on the line.
This is the hardest one for me to pinpoint in terms of necessity, a running back. Some people have this as one of the biggest needs, personally I don't think it is as pressing of an issue. Although not ideal, the duo of Woodhead and Green-Ellis were great last year, and exceeded everyone's expectations. That being said, I do see the need for a third back with Kevin Faulk likely to retire. But I don't think they need a superstar back, just a complimentary back preferably a power back. Getting Mark Ingram would be great, but I think picking him in the first round would be overlooking bigger needs. We need another back, but not too badly.
The positive affects of trading Randy Moss well outweighed the negative affects. However, one of those negative affects was the loss of a deep threat, and the only legitimate deep threat on the team. Although the offense functioned fine without a deep threat, in the end the short game was shut down easily when the Jets defense didn't need to worry about the deep ball and could focus on covering the middle of the field (sorry for over referencing the Jets game, but unfortunately it's the game most in my memory and the one that displayed the most flaws). Brandon Tate is good, but I'm not sure he is good enough (that's not saying he can't get there). We don't need Randy Moss back, we just need someone the defense needs to keep in the back of their minds.
This could also go hand in hand with the need for a running back, the Patriots also need a fullback. They have not had a real fullback since Heath Evans, since they have gone with single back sets or played with running backs (BJGE) or tight ends (Gronk, Crumpler) or offensive linemen (Connolly) at fullback. And while this worked fine, having a fullback would be even better. Having a real fullback could help the run game and also give more rest to players forced to play the role of fullback. It's not a huge need but it's something to consider in a late round.
The defensive backs exceeded may's expectations last season. As a young group, they improved each and every week. However, they could use another corner to help out Kyle Arrington who was the weak point of the secondary. He wasn't too bad though, making this not too big of a need. The way I see it, if the pass rush issue is fixed, the secondary becomes one of the best in the league. Either way, another corner couldn't hurt.
Man it feels good to be writing about the Patriots again. Let's hope I can be writing about actual games come Spetember.
(This is the unabridged version. I know it's long, but trust me, it's well worth reading.)In this first round series against the New York Knicks the Boston Celtics were able to pull off something that has not been done in this New Big Three Era and not been done by a Celtics team since 1986 and that is sweep a playoff series. Obviously, this is reason for confidence on the side of the Celtics (and panic for New York?) and a great sign for going forward in the playoffs but that doesn’t mean it was perfect or they have nothing to improve on before facing stiffer competition. Throughout the series I noticed a lot of things the Celtics did exceptionally well that propelled them to victory and allowed them to sweep the series. Luckily, they did many things well which foreshadowed what they did poorly because, while not as many, there was a fair amount of bad play throughout the series. If the Celtics are to raise Banner 18 this season, they will need to continue doing what they did well and fix what they did poorly. Specifically, let’s take a look at “The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly” of this series:
Most will judge a team based solely on one thing, and that is whether they won or lost. I can see doing this come playoffs because it’s win or go home. But I believe doing that undermines what was behind the effort, whether in victory or defeat. But if you are going to judge the Celtics based on winning or losing, then they were flawless as they have yet to lose in these playoffs. So obviously, that is the first good thing the Celtics did in the first round, win.
Now that we have gotten that out of the way, we can dive deeper and truly analyze what they did to win.
First and foremost, the starters and the Big Four particularly won this series for the Celtics. For better or for worse, they carried the team every game in this series and won each one for the Celtics. During the regular season the Big Four averaged a combined 60.9 points per game to account for around 63% of the team’s average of 96.5 points per game. In this series however, the Big Four averaged a -----(insert adj)---- 78.8 points per game to account for nearly 80% of the team’s average of 99.3 points per game. And if you throw Jermaine O’Neal in there and look at it for the starters, then you have 84.3 points per game for 85% of the team’s points.
While on the subject of Jermaine O’Neal, this leads us into our next good. If someone told me a year ago that Jermaine O’Neal would be the starting center for the Celtics and be contributing and one of the main reasons the Celtics would sweep a team led by Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony I would think they were crazy. If you remember, a year ago in the first round, Jermaine O’Neal also played a huge role in helping the Celtics easily advance to the next round, only he was on the other team. He scored a mere 4 points per game in that series (9 points under his season average) while shooting 20% from the field and 42% from the line. I probably would have been less surprised if someone told me Dwayne Wade strangled him. Needless to say after watching him in the playoffs last year and seeing him nurse a hurt knee for most of the season I had the lowest possible expectations for him in the postseason. Heck, I would have been pleasantly surprised if he shot over 30% and could give six fouls. But it didn’t take him long to prove me wrong, in Game One he was the difference. His 12 points on 6-6 shooting and four blocks won that game for the Celtics. Although he did not have any other performances quite like Game One in the rest the series, his presence was felt each and every game, specifically on the defensive end. He had 2.5 blocks per game and also drew a few charges as well (I think he may be the only player in the NBA with the ability to both block shots and take charges). When the playoffs started, few people had much confidence in Jermaine or in the Shaq-less team, but now suddenly, there is more hope.
The final component that was necessary to win and was done to perfection was late game execution. Looking at both games one and two, the games were more or less won in the final seconds. In Game One, it was Ray Allen who delivered the game winning three pointer and in Game Two it was Kevin Garnett who won the game with a jump hook and a steal on the other end. But late game victories go beyond just the player’s execution. It all starts with the coach and the drawing board. In crunch time, more than any else, it is the coaches who can make the difference. Put at this way: the Heat have two of the best finishers in the league yet when in crunch time, they have shot an abysmal 1-16 on potential game winning shots. That doesn’t mean they are bad it just means that Erik Spoelstra isn’t putting them in the best position to win. Isolating Lebron for a drive while the other four members stand around just isn’t going to win the game. On the other hand, Doc Rivers has two great clutch shooters himself in Paul Pierce and Ray Allen and while not as talented as Lebron and Wade somehow have a much better success rate of game winning shots. That is all because of Doc Rivers. He is creative with his play calls so that the defense doesn’t know what to expect and at the same time, is almost always able to put the team in the best possible position to score. In Game One, he called a timeout when the Celtics were down by three with 38 seconds remaining then called a gem of a play setting Kevin Garnett up perfectly for an alley-oop to cut the lead to one. Then on the next possession, he was able to come up with an equally perfect play call to give one of the greatest clutch shooters (Ray Allen) an open look at a three to win the game. Then in Game Two the Celtics found themselves in nearly the same exact situation. However, rather than going with Ray Allen as he had done in the last game or do what the defense suspected and put the ball in Paul Pierce’s hands, he decided to put the ball in Kevin Garnett’s hands, and it worked. Doc’s ability to call the perfect game winning plays was evident in this series, and no doubt could make the difference in a second round series against the Heat, who have underperformed, to say the least, in game winning situations.
Despite all of the good which was just mentioned, it was not all smooth sailing for the Celtics in this series. As I mentioned, both games one and two were won in the final seconds despite Boston shooting over 10% higher than the Knicks from the field in Game Two. So has it possible that the Knicks still managed to be within 3 points and a possession of winning the game? One word, a word that has haunted the Celtics since the trade, that word is rebounding. In Perk’s absence, everyone’s eyes are on the rebounding numbers and in this series, whether the trade’s fault or not, they did not rebound the ball as well as they should have or as well as they will need to in the future rounds. The rebounding discrepancy was most evident in Game Two. The Celtics were out-rebounded 37-53, including allowing 20 offensive rebounds. Giving a team 20 extra shot opportunities in a playoff game generally means you will lose (Game 7 anyone?) luckily, they were able to escape Game Two with a win. However, against teams like the Heat, Bulls, or even the Lakers allowing that many offensive rebounds is a death sentence.
By far the worst part of this series was having to watch the bench. They were bad, really bad. As was pointed out earlier, the Big Four scored nearly 80% of the team’s points, which is either good or bad depending of how you look at it. The negative of it is that the bench failed to make a positive impact in this series. They averaged 15 points per game, whereas the Knicks bench averaged 31 points per game. Let’s take a look at the bench:
Big Baby is the most veteran member of the bench, is part of the crunch time lineup, and was even a candidate for Sixth Man Of The Year, but you wouldn’t know it watching him in this series, at least for the first three games. Over the first three game he averaged 3.3 points per game, over 8 points down from his regular season average. At least he ended the series on a high note with 14 points because he will need to carry that into the next round.
As for Jeff Green, when I was watching The Office last Thursday, I couldn’t help but think of Jeff Green in comparison to Will Ferrell. I know it sounds a bit obscure, but let me explain. Let’s start at the beginning:
There was obviously something the Celtics originally liked about Jeff Green because he began his career in Boston when he was drafted by them in the 2007 draft (then traded). NBC clearly liked Will Ferrell from the start because his career began on NBC on SNL (then he moved on to movies). After being traded, Jeff Green shined in OKC and was part of the Big Three there of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook playing a big role and a good team. He scored around 15 points a game and was very versatile. He could shoot the three, he could take it to the rim, he could post-up, and could create his own shot. Since moving onto movies, Will Ferrell has also shined. He was widely considered one of the funniest actors. And was also as versatile as possible, on SNL he played George Bush, Al Gore, and Ted Kennedy but was also able to play Saddam Hussein and Fidel Castro, he could play Alex Trebek and Robert Goulet while also playing Neil Diamond. He did kids movies in Elf and Kicking and Screaming, sports movies in Semi Pro, Blades Of Glory, and Talladega Nights. While also playing countless different roles, so yeah, he was versatile.
Then, a trade occurred to both Jeff Green and Will Ferrell, one that was unexpected and shook everything up. Jeff Green was sent to the Celtics and Will Ferrell was sent to The Office. Both had big shoes to fill, Kendrick Perkins, while not the best offensive player, was beloved by everyone in Boston and his defensive play made Boston the perfect place for him. Likewise, Ferrell had to replace Steve Carrell (Michael Scott) and while not the funniest actor ever, was still loved by anyone who watched The Office because his role was perfect for his slapstick humor. Despite having big shoes to fill though, there were still high expectations for both Green and Ferrell. Considering their aforementioned talent and more importantly, versatility, there was no reason they shouldn’t fit in and make a huge impact.
Yet, when both arrived and since, there have been struggles and expectations have not been met. It’s hard to watch because you know that there is something more there that is not being shown. There is one thing that is the cause of all this, and that is this, the shoe doesn’t fit. And by that I mean that either they are both not comfortable in their roles yet or they are in the wrong role. Will Ferrell even with his versatility, is struggling to be playing the “Not Funny Boss”, that is not his style and so it isn’t that funny. Jeff Green is struggling in his reduced role and at times, seems lost. Whether by design or not, he has been degraded to a spot up corner shooter or a post up player and while he can do both, it is negating his other greater talents like taking the ball to the hoop when that is all he is doing. I am not sure if it is the coaching staff or writers to blame or if it is Green and Ferrell to blame, but either way it needs to be fixed. I know Will Ferrell is hilarious and has made me laugh more than any other actor so I am confident he can figure his role out in The Office and be funny. And I know Jeff Green is very talented so I am confident that he can pull it together as well. Unfortunately, there is not much time left for either, with the Win Or Go Home playoffs and limited time of Ferrell’s contract, they both need to pull it together quickly.
You understand now?
So, with three players well qualified to start on many teams in Glen Davis, Delonte West, and Jeff Green, their bench has the talent to be performing much better than they did. And it is imperative that they pull it together, because they could be the key to raising Banner 18.
Looking into the past, we have seen bench play help raise Banner 17 and win many a playoff game in the past few years. Let’s take a look at those benches compared to this year’s:
Leon Powe single handedly won Game Two of the NBA Finals for the Celtics, scoring 21 points. James Posey was part of the crunch time lineup and covered the other team’s best player while leading the offense for the second unit. Eddie House hit a innumerable of clutch threes. PJ Brown hit a few clutch jump shots to help propel the Celtics to victory in Game Seven against the Cavs. And Sam Cassell just looked like an alien.
Eddie House and Leon Powe did more of the same, while Glen Davis came into his own, hitting a game winning shot against the Magic in Game 5 (then shoving a kid, but that’s besides the point).
Shrek and Donkey won Game Four with their efforts. Tony Allen was the best defender off of the bench I have ever seen and threw down some big dunks, and provided scoring when needed. And Sheed, as criticized as he was, played very well in the playoffs.
Nenad Krstic (Jermaine O’Neal if Shaq is healthy)
Has yet to make any playoff impact.
As you can see, the bench has played a huge role in the playoff success of this team in the past. And so far, this bench has failed to play that role. Can you argue that this bench is just inferior in talent and accept their worse play? Absolutely not. Of the 2008 bench, Cassell and Brown are retired and the three main contributors (House, Posey, Powe) are all in the playoffs, but have played a combined 15 minutes. Still think the 2008 bench is better? The point is, this is about as talented as we have seen the bench yet they are still underperforming. It is reassuring to know that it is not talent that is the issue, but at the same time a little bewildering that they are not contributing. They can be the best bench on that list (or even one of the best) and in doing so, ensure Banner 18, but being able to do something and actually doing it are two different things.
(Note-This is the abridged version. A longer article on the same topic to come.
1. Four The Win
It was the Big Four of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett who won this series for the Celtics. For better or for worse, they carried the team every game in this series and won each one for the Celtics. During the regular season the Big Four averaged a combined 60.9 points per game to account for around 63% of the team’s average of 96.5 points per game. In this series however, the Big Four averaged an incredible78.8 points per game to account for nearly 80% of the team’s average of 99.3 points per game.
2. Doctor’s Orders
Looking at both games one and two, the games were more or less won in the final seconds. In Game One, it was Ray Allen who delivered the game winning three pointer and in Game Two it was Garnett who won the game with a jump hook and a steal on the other end. But late game victories go beyond just the player’s execution. It all starts with the coach and the drawing board. And Doc proved he was one of the best at drawing up game winning plays in this series. He is creative with his play calls so that the defense doesn’t know what to expect and at the same time, is almost always able to put the team in the best possible position to score.
3. The Other O’Neal
If you remember, a year ago in the first round, Jermaine O’Neal also played a huge role in helping the Celtics easily advance to the next round, only he was on the other team. Needless to say, many had lowest possible expectations for him in the postseason. But it didn’t take him long to prove everyone wrong. In Game One he was the difference. His 12 points on 6-6 shooting and four blocks won that game for the Celtics. And his presence was felt each and every game, especially on the defensive end. He had 2.5 blocks per game and also drew a few charges as well (I think he may be the only player in the NBA with the ability to both block shots and take charges). When the playoffs started, few people had much confidence in Jermaine or in the Shaq-less team, but now suddenly, there is more hope.
4. Empty Bench
It was not all smooth sailing for the Celtics in this series. As was pointed out earlier, the Big Four scored nearly 80% of the team’s points, which is either good or bad depending of how you look at it. The negative of it is that the bench failed to make a positive impact in this series. They averaged 15 points per game, whereas the Knicks bench averaged 31 points per game. With three players well qualified to start on many teams in Glen Davis, Delonte West, and Jeff Green, their bench has the talent to be performing much better than they did. And it is imperative that they pull it together, because they could be the key to raising Banner 18.
"Derek Zoolander: Or are you here to tell me what a bad eugoogoolizer I am?
Matilda: A what?
Derek Zoolander: A eugoogoolizer... one who speaks at funerals.
[Matilda looks at Derek confused]
Derek Zoolander: Or did you think I was too stupid to know what a eugoogooly was?"