Saturday, June 9, 2012

Open - Celtics at Miami Game 7 - June 9, 2012

Five years ago, the Celtics took the 15 minute bus ride from their Miami hotel, here to American Airlines Arena.  The same ride we took tonight.  It was the final road game of one of the worst seasons in Celtics history.  58 losses, an 18-game losing streak and no real signs of the clouds parting.  Hours earlier, 32 people were killed in a senseless, mindless, soul crushing massacre at Virginia Tech.  Riding to the arena that night, I remember wondering if a Celtics game would ever feel like it mattered again, if a Celtics game could ever resonate joy like it had so many times…so many years earlier.


Two weeks ago, the Celtics also faced a Game 7.  But it was never going to end there.

The end of the New Big Three era began the second the era itself began.  It’s been five years of clocks ticking and windows closing.  It’s been three years of trade rumors and rebuilding scenarios.

And yet here, on the 9th of June in 2012.  With 27 other teams on vacation, they’re still standing.

The borderline obsession with the end of the era has almost entirely overshadowed the simple fact..that the era itself hasn’t yet ended.  Despite the daily question.

Doc Rivers has been asked.  So has Paul Pierce.  And Kevin, and Ray, all of us have.

Is this the last ride?

Their answers have been scrutinized, hidden clues sought, double meanings interpreted.

But they’ve all answered the question.  They’ve been answering it every day. 

Not with their words, but with their games.  Not with their minds, but with their heart.

The games themselves are the answer.  These playoff performances that have erased an uninspired regular season that featured at times, losses no legitimate contender could possibly suffer.  More 25-plus point losses this year than the previous four combined?  A 5-9 start, under .500 at the all-star break?  And yet tonight, one win from the Finals.  You really think they haven’t answered the question?

Ask Doc Rivers if this is the end. He’ll tell you he hasn’t thought about it. Then he’ll bond this team with a voice of unanimity and a single mind of purpose. And coach with such force in Game 5 in Miami, coach with so much of himself, that it left a permanent mark.

Ask Paul Pierce if this is the end. He’ll shake off the question. And then carry the Celtics through a must-win Game 2 in Atlanta without Rajon Rondo. And bleed on the sidelines having fouled out, hoping for one more turn at bat.

Ask Ray Allen if this is the end. He’ll talk about how you never really know. And then he’ll ride out searing pain in an ankle that has a date with a surgeon…soon. And he’ll stand in front of Dwayne Wade as if he wasn’t a 36 year old on one leg and fight.

And ask Kevin Garnett if this is the end. You won’t get anything close to an answer.  But that’s only because you’re listening, not looking.  For the three years since the injury in Salt Lake, more than a few said he’d never be the same. That his best years were now behind him.  Instead, he whipped those voices in his head into a frenzy of doubters that he alone, must defeat. The result, a season at 36 years old unprecedented in the league’s history. Dominating a new position they said he couldn’t play, taking shots they said he wouldn’t take. And making them. Again and again.

Do these Celtics know the final chapter of this era has arrived?

Of course they do.

The answer’s been on the court every night.

But there is also the reality of the moment.  A Game 7 on the road.  In a series, the Celtics have been outscored by the Heat.  They’ve been out shot, they’ve been outrebounded.

Youth is against the Celtics tonight.  Health is against the Celtics tonight.  So is the building. Logic, history, everything we know about the NBA says the Celtics can’t win.

No team, no franchise has made more basketball history than the Boston Celtics. 

And tonight, five years after reclaiming their birthright place among the NBA elite. 

Four years after regaining the throne. 

Three years after a dominant title defense season.

Two years after an improbable run that left them inches from the title.

And one year after they decided to go all-in one last time…the obstacle course of the shortened season...and the self-inflicted elongated playoffs…has brought them here.

It is one final night…one final chance…at one last Final.

And one last resonant moment of joy, to add to a list five years ago…you couldn’t possibly have dreamed.


(Just for perspective, I went back to see if I’d said anything about Virginia Tech at the start of our broadcast that night, April 16, 2007. I hadn't remembered it, but this is how we opened that show…)












Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Celtics Playoff Kiss From A Rose?

April 29, 2012
Atlanta, GA

So it’s been 20 hours since the ACL-tear that broke Twitter, and likely the Bulls chances of a championship.

Let's for the moment put aside the blame of the lockout (sorry, I'm not on the bandwagon with this one. Sadly, Max and I have been talking about something like this happening to Rose since he came into the league jumping sideways).  What is striking is how quickly everyone has advanced the Celtics ahead eight wins on their NBA Playoff Chutes and Ladders board.

Hey I get it. It’s completely natural to think about a Boston-Miami Eastern Conference Final. Never mind the fact that we’re still hours away from the Celtics’ first playoff game…in their first playoff series…which is not against Chicago.

And since I’m getting all bloggy from a hotel room in Atlanta, I’d remind everyone that the Celtics, will not even have home-court advantage against the Hawks, let alone anyone else.  Of course the Celtics came within a couple of rebounds of winning the championship two years ago, playing their third straight series without home court.  But what that team did, beating the top two seeds in the East on the road, was a pretty rare occurrence.

So using my own brilliant idea, and having our buddy Adam (@StatsAdam…follow him if you’re in to this stuff) do all the hard work, we came up with this. Since the NBA Playoffs went to 16 teams in 1984, only seven teams have won multiple-series without home court advantage.  Only two (The ’99 short-season Knicks and the ’95 Rockets) won three such series, with those Rockets of course winning four and the championship.

Team since 1983-84 to win multiple series without home-court advantage

’10 Celtics: 2 series (4th seeded Bos beat #1 Cle & # 2 Orl)
-Had home-court advantage in 1st round, but won multiple series without home-court advantage

‘09 Magic: 2 series (3rd-seeded Orl beat #2 Bos & #1 Cle)
-Had home-court advantage in 1st round, but won multiple series without home-court advantage

‘99 Knicks: 3 series (8th seeded NYK beat #1 Mia, #4 Atl & #2 Ind)
-Did not have home-court advantage at all

’95 Rockets 4 series (5th seeded Hou won title)
-Did not have home-court advantage at all

'94 Pacers: 2 series (5th-seeded Ind beat #4 Orl & #1 Atl)
-Did not have home-court advantage at all

‘89 Bulls: 2 series (6th-seeded Chi beat #3 Cle & #2 NYK)
-Did not have home-court advantage at all

‘87 Sonics: 2 series (7th-seeded Sea beat #2 Dal & #6 Hou) 
-Did not have home-court advantage at all

Oh, and by the way, I’m all for convenience and saying something that sounds good rolling off the tongue, but for the record, the Celtics do not have the best record in the NBA, or even the East since the all-star break.  That would be the Spurs and Bulls, respectively.  But pulling these numbers, two things jumped out at me…Memphis, and Miami.  Here are the 16 playoff teams since the break....

SAN ANTONIO          26-6
CHICAGO                   23-8
BOSTON                     24-10
MEMPHIS                  22-10
DENVER                    20-11
INDIANA                   21-12
ATLANTA                   20-12
OKC                            20-12
UTAH                          21-13
NEW YORK                19-12
LA LAKERS                21-14
MIAMI                        19-13
LA CLIPPERS             20-15
ORLANDO                 15-16
DALLAS                      15-17
PHILADELPHIA        15-17

Now, why the reality check? It’s not to put a damper on the playoff opener for the Celtics as they begin the last ride of the Big Three.  I point out the monumental, long shot task that lies in front of them because if you’ve watched this team the last two months, and the last five years, you know, quite simply, they’ve got a shot.

Which is all you want this time of year.

And none of this conversation is a knock at the Hawks.  None of it.

Last week during the pseudo-exhibition game the Celtics staged here in Atlanta last Friday, conceding home court by sitting Pierce, Garnett, Rondo, Allen and Pietrus, a Hawks employee came at me somewhat bitterly during halftime, complaining about the makeshift lineup that disappointed the crowd and threatened to make a mockery of the game. He felt the Celtics should have played all their stars.

It seemed he wanted to vent, so I let him. But as he walked away I told him don’t worry…they’ll be here next week.

The Hawks had a very good year, 40 wins, 6th in scoring differential and they did it without their best player. 

But be careful what you ask for, you just may get it…on national television.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Anonymity and Award Votes..Dangerous In The Wrong Hands

I’m not sure when exactly it happened. 

Media, communication, society, it all changes pretty fast these days. But at some point, probably somewhere in-between My Space and Facebook, the concept of anonymity started to become a problem.  It was manageable then, the occasional encoded e-mail address and what not. But with Twitter, it’s now an epidemic.

And of course the problem isn’t anonymity, it’s a wonderful thing if you’re fortunate enough to have it. The problem, is that it comes with a certain amount of entitlement.  That lack-of-awareness, fake-tough bravery that usually comes after too much to drink, or for those of us new parents, not nearly enough sleep.

People say the nastiest, vicious, twisted things when armed with a keyboard and the invisibility cloak of the internet. They are, more often than not, the same people that would smile, shake your hand or ask for an autograph if they saw you in person. It’s a disturbing, ugly trend. I mean, sure it is. But it’s an absurdly small price to pay for the freedom of speech we’re blessed to have and the extraordinary age of technology in which we exist.

There are 100 million people on Twitter. If a few dozen backwards teenagers, bred in ignorance, tweet something offensive after Joel Ward scores the overtime goal for the Capitals, it’s not a story unless we make it one.

Morons have existed from the beginning of time. So has classlessness, ignorance and hate. And they always will. Progress isn’t eliminating them, that’s a noble idea but it can’t be done. Progress is recognizing it, isolating it and going on with life in the real world while the increasing minority of people fueled by race and hate grows extinct.

It’s how we got rid of disco, Members Only jackets and Lava Lamps. Just give it time.

Anyway, the point is that as big a fan of anonymity as I am…I don’t think post-season award ballots should be anonymous.  Never have. I’ve been voting for NBA MVP, and the other awards, for fourteen years now. It’s a privilege, not a right. And I think with that privilege, comes a certain amount of accountability. I’ve always made my ballot public and I think everyone should.  If you’re “expert” enough to get a vote, you should be able to defend your choices, that’s all.

With that in mind, I’ll be submitting my ballots to the league shortly, and here’s what they’ll look like.


I always begin here. By picking the top 15 guys in the league, it starts my process in picking the five for my MVP ballot.

And the strangest thing about the All-NBA team this year?  In fact, the strangest thing maybe about this truly strange NBA season?  The center spot.  For years now, it’s actually been a struggle to find three centers worthy of all-star consideration. You’d convince yourself that Tim Duncan was playing center even if he wasn’t, or that Nene was really underrated.  It was a struggle.  This year, if you call Duncan a center, there were legitimately seven guys competing for the third spot.

Dwight Howard will get hurt in all the categories, Defensive Player, MVP, all-NBA because of the (self-inflicted) drama of his season and the fact he missed the final two weeks. But he’s still the gold standard at the position, and played the same number of minutes this year that Dirk, Paul Pierce, Al Jefferson, did. Andrew Bynum had a phenomenal year, to the point that I think he and Pau Gasol should really put a dent in the Kobe-as-a-strong-MVP-candidate idea. Tyson Chandler is the Defensive Player of the Year, no question. And although his 70% shooting were all dunks and uncontested layups that come with playing alongside Carmelo and Amar’e, he had a phenomenal year. Marc Gasol not only was 6th in the NBA in minute played. Sixth! He was a double-double, starting center on a home court playoff team. And if that sounds a lot like Roy Hibbert, it’s because he was as well. Tim Duncan has willingly slid down the Spurs pecking order with Tony Parker having an MVP year. But he’s had some old-school Timmy nights.

It was already the best Center year in the fourteen years I’ve been in the NBA.  The best since you had Ewing, Olaujowon, Shaq, Mourning, David Robinson. (Can you appreciate what it must have been like for Acie Earl to come into the league then? I only ask as an excuse to get an Acie Earl mention in here).

But that was before the unexpected addition of a first-ballot hall-of-famer, a 17-year veteran and rookie center. In January, Kevin Garnett had to play center in a TNT Thursday night game against Dwight Howard and the Magic. It looked like it might be a horrific mismatch.

 It was.

Garnett destroyed him.

And that set the tone for one of the remarkable stories of the 2012 season. Kevin Garnett, weeks before his 36th birthday, shifting to center, continuing to dominate defensively while giving the Boston offense four shooter to play with Rajon Rondo. It was a game-changer in Boston’s season, maybe in the Eastern Conference season and while a lot of people are talking about Rondo as an MVP-candidate, he wasn’t even the MVP of his own team. That’s how good Garnett was.

My centers were Howard, Bynum and Garnett. Those three and Chandler were inter-changeable.

LeBron and Kevin Durant were easy choices as the first team forwards. Kevin Love and Luol Deng second. Easy. The last two spots, not so much. Blake Grififn had a strong plus-minus year and obviously enough highlights for them to launch an ESPNBlake channel in Bristol. Danny Granger and Andre Iguodala were my toughest omissions. Granger the best all-around player on the surprise team in the NBA and Iguodala was great early, but was as culpable for the Sixers collapse as anyone. Paul Gasol very quietly had a strong second half. Carmelo missed a lot of time, but showed MVP flashes late in the year under Mike Woodson.  But before their season fell apart, LaMarcus Aldridge was carrying the Blazers to a top-four spot in the West. He held that team together longer than they should have been able to stay held together. And while a lot of people in Boston are not fans of Josh Smith, and with good reason, he’s played poorly against them it seems, for years. But the Hawks are a home court playoff team.  That wouldn’t have shocked me at the start of the year, I really liked Atlanta, but that’s because to me, Al Horford was a ready to have the kind of season that would get him on this list. For him to miss the year, and the Hawks finish ahead of Boston, Orlando and New York in the East? Didn’t seem possible. Josh Smith drives people crazy, I get it, but he’s earned this spot. Led the league in defensive win-shares, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Tony Parker, Chris Paul and Kobe are in the MVP conversation, those are the first three guards. After that, to me the other three aren’t hard, you have Rondo, Dwayne Wade and Russell Westbrook, it’s just a matter of the order. Westbrook gets the 4th spot over Rondo in a tight one because he played every game on a better team, Rondo missed 20% of the season and had some bad nights. His 20 best games, were as good as anyone  in the league, but he’ll be an MVP candidate when you get that two or three nights out of three, not one. You can talk about Steve Nash, but that would be an honorarium. Derrick Rose missed nearly half the year, he’s out. Mike Conley deserves to have his name here, for the same reasons as Marc Gasol.

In any case, here’s how it came out…

1st team                       2nd team                     3rd team
F          LeBron                      Love                           Aldridge                  
F          Durant                      Deng                          J Smith                    
C          Howard                    Bynum                       Garnett                    
G         Paul                           Kobe                          Rondo
G         Parker                      Westbrook              Wade


Now you see why I do all-NBA first. Now that we’re down to 15. Well, 16 because Chandler deserves top 10 consideration. 1-2 is a no-brainer to me.  People will say, write, blog and tweet anything about LeBron James. A lot of it fair, most of it hilarious.  But let’s just step away from that for a second to say this. LeBron isn’t just the MVP in a runaway, easy choice. You can put his 2012 season with any MVP of the last decade, maybe back to Jordan. I’m sure some people will vote for Durant, I actually know someone who’s voting LeBron third.  But as Hubie Brown would say, come on now…LeBron is the best player in the world…we know this…

The only questions for me was one, who gets third Tony Parker or Chris Paul? And two, is ther ea wild-card candidate that would knock Kobe out of 5th.  The first wasn’t as complicated as I thought. Chris Paul will probably get third but in the west, best player on the best team? Parker. And after looking at Kevin Love, Dwight Howard and Luol Deng, I begrudgingly went with Kobe 5th. Have some remorse on not going Deng 5th, but I’ll live with it, you can’t go wrong with Kobe onyour ballot this time of year.

My Ballot: James, Durant, Parker, Paul, Bryant…with Deng at 5 1/2.


Really had a lot of difficulty with this one. I mean, the winner was as easy as it gets. Kyrie Irving is special. And he’ll do this award proud, meaning we’ll look back in 5 years and be glad he won, his name will fit in with all the others.  Larry Bird, Tim Duncan, Shaq, Lebron, Emeka Okafor. 
OK, not all the others.  But the other two spots were very difficult for me. This year, we’ll call it the Ricky Rubio dilemma.  Clearly, he was the second best rookie, and right there with Kyrie in terms of impact on a team and really a franchise, but playing into Doc Rivers’ notion that his favorite ability in an NBA player, is avail-ability, he doesn’t make the top three.   41 out of 66 games just isn’t enough for me.  That’s missing nearly 40% of the season.  So that left me with two spots to fill and no shortage of candidates.

Brandon Knight is an attractive candidate, but finished last on his team in plus/minus. Kemba Walekr by the way, has one of the worst +/- ratings in NBA history and finished dead last in the league in field goal percentage, so no thanks.  That Big East Tournament seems about ten years ago now.

Kenneth Faried and Greg Stiemsma were both bigs that made much larger impacts on playoff teams that we could have thought.  But neither getting to 1,000 minutes hurts their cause.

MarShon Brooks played  lot. But not very well and on a bad team.  Klay Thompson and Isiah Thomas I had ahead of Brooks, but not on my top tier.

So I was left with Iman Shumpert, Kawhi Leonard and Chadler Parsons for the other two spots.  Shumpert was very good defensively, but so was Leonard on a much better team. 
So what did I do?  I left then both off, completely backtracked and reconsidered on Rubio, giving him the third spot and will likely be the only one who voted Chandler Parsons 2nd.  He was a starter on a winning team. Didn’t do anything extraordinary but did almost everything well. Faried will likely get the 3rd spot, but I went Irving, Parsons, Rubio.


Very similar to Rookie.  Obvious choice, followed by several, hard-to-distinguish choices for 2 and 3.  James Harden will win, and should win, and it doesn’t take a Metta World Peace elbow to the side of your head to drive that home.

It actually wasn’t a great year for 6th men.  Al Harrington played a nice role for Denver. The Sixers had two strong candidates, one offensively in Lou Williams, the other defensively in Thaddeus Young. Jason Terry’s been a stalwart in this category, and people like new blood, but I don’t think enough happened to displace him. Lamar Odom and Big Baby Davis, two strong candidates last year, weren’t this year.
I went with Harden, Williams and Terry.


Chandler, Howard, Garnett.  Near misses for Deng, LeBron, Tony Allen and Elton Brand.


Have always hated this category. So do coaches by the way. Here’s what I mean. Doc Rivers was Coach of the Year as a rookie in 2000.  He hasn’t come close to winning it since. Does that mean he was a better coach then?  Funny thing about this year as how it changed during the year, Stan Van Gundy and Kevin McHale were strong candidates two-thirds of the way in, they won’t get near it. There are at least six interchangeable candidates;  Greg Popovich, Tom Thibodeau, Frank Vogel, Rick Adelman, Lionel Hollins, Doc Rivers. That’s the order I think they’ll finish. I went Vogel, Pop, Thibs, but it was basically flipping a coin.


Not a fan of this category, too esoteric. Avery Bradley won’t get a sniff even though I’ve never seen an overnight improvement like his this year.  Ryan Anderson could win, and probably will. Some think Jeremy Lin is a no-brainer. But as impactful as the Lin-Sanity stretch was?  It was seven weeks long.  That’s it, seven weeks. He played less than half the year. That said, he deserves some resonance in a season that everyone will remember him for. The unspoken rule is this is for a guy that went from the periphery to legitmate NBA standout. If it was from standout to star, you’d be talking guys like Bynum, Conley and Josh Smith. But as it is, I went Anderson, Lin, Nikola Pekovic.

And there you have it, a difficult year to navigate if you cover the league, a difficult year to get the awards right, but we did our best to handle both.

And without anonymity.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Not Your Garden Variety Night

April 18, 2012

You know what’s a bad idea?

Starting a blog at 3am. But hey, doubling down on Carmelo and giving J.R. Smith and Steve Novak open looks at threes is also a bad idea.

So bad, in fact, it made history.

And that’s really what I’m doing here at 3am, and what you’re doing there, likely early in the morning, maybe putting off the work that you left sitting in your cubicle when you went home last night. Because, hey, if it could wait overnight, it can wait another few minutes.

Besides, it’d going to be a long, long time before we see another one like that.

At 6pm, as the Celtics were preparing to leave their hotel in midtown Manhattan, an SUV pulled up in front of our bus. A few seconds later, from the back, emerged one William Martin Joel.

In New York, and the rest of the word, but really in New York, everyone calls him Billy.

He once said, in a song he considered a real next-level breakthrough for him, that it’s either sadness…or euphoria.

And it’s a shame that “It’s Fantastic!” was just so darn catchy, because the NBA could have easily adopted that as its slogan instead.

It’s been a remarkable second-half for the Celtics.  Their 21-9 record is one of the NBA’s best, tonight on their home floor they can clinch their 5th straight division title, the defense has been the league’s standard and they’ve put together a string of outstanding nights and quality wins that with the playoffs approaching have made people think about what’s still possible.

This…was not one of them.

Big picture, the 118-110 loss to the Knicks Tuesday night may end up just a footnote on a division championship season with the truly memorable moments still ahead in the playoffs.

But these were some remarkable footnotes.

One impress-your-friends-with-a-dazzling-display-of-geek-trivia fact after another.  Here they are…

·         It had been over five years since anyone made seven 3’s in a game against the Celtics.  Tuesday, J.R. Smith and Steve Novak both did it. Anotehr way; 427 games, no one did it. Tuesday, two guys did. The last to do it by the way was a guy named Kobe Bryant, with at least some of the Garden crowd chanting MVP for him, on January 31, 2007 (game 13 of the 18-game losing streak).

·         No great surprise, but the 19 threes by New York were the most ever against the Celtics. There had been before tonight, 1,823 Boston Celtics games since the three-point shot was adopted in 1979. In none of them, had either the Celtics or their 1,823 opponents made 19 threes. None of them.

·         The Celtics shot 55% from the floor, their 3rd best shooting night of the 62-game season, and lost by eight.

·         Carmelo Anthony’s was the 4th 35 point game against the Celtics this year.  He has two of them. The season-high 37 on Christmas Day in the opener and 35 on Tuesday. LeBron James and Marcus Thornton…yes Marcus Thornton, have the other two.

·         That happens, when you let a team shoot 57% from the floor, and of course an obscene 19-32 from three. It was just the third time in the 390-game New Big Three Era that a team and shot that well against the Celtics, and the first in thier 196 road games.


.580 - VS. TORONTO – JANUARY 23, 2008
.574`- VS. DALLAS – JANUARY 18, 2010
.568 - @ NEW YORK – APRIL 17, 2012
.560 - @ MIAMI – DECEMBER 27, 2011
.559 - VS. PHOENIX – MARCH 26, 2008 (W)
.557 - VS. TORONTO – NOVEMBER 27, 2009 (W)
.557 - @ PHILADELPHIA – DECEMBER 5, 2007 (W)
.557 - @ DETROIT – DECEMBER 29, 2010
.551 - @ CLEVELAND – APRIL 12, 2009
.550 - VS. MEMPHIS – MARCH 10, 2010

·         Looking for streaks getting snapped? We’ve got plenty, take your pick.  By getting outshot (and barely as it turned out), the Celtics streak of 18-straight games outshooting their opponent came to an end.  It was the longest streak in the NBA this year and the longest for the Celtics since January of 1991. Their starting center that night? Robert Parish. Chief played 32 minutes that night, he’d play six more years and finish his career in the NBA’s top-ten all-time in minutes played. A spot he would own…

·         …until tonight. In the first quarter, Kevin Garnett, who’s staggering statistical accomplishments are just now hitting home over the last few months, reached 45,705 minutes played in his NBA career, bumping Chief from the top ten.  Ahead of Moses. Ahead of Hakeem. Ahead of Shaq, Jordan, Russell, Ewing and so on down the line. 

·         Another streak that ended? The Celtics had won 13 straight games when scoring 100 points. The Celtics are now 13-4 when scoring 100 points this year…but 0-2 at Madison Square Garden. Speaking of which…

·         …it’s the first time in 12 years the Celtics have failed to win a game at Madison Square Garden. 1999-2000, the last time the Knicks were defending Eastern Conference Champions, was the last time the Boston went winless at MSG.  Including the playoff series last April, Boston had been 18-4 in their last 22 games in New York.  Go on, read that again, that’s 18 wins..and 4 losses...on the road.  And that includes nights when the Celtics Big Three was like Pierce, Blount and Davis.

But here is the one we’ve been waiting for.

·         On February 15, 2006, Paul Pierce scored 50 points in an overtime loss to LeBron and the Cavs. That year, it seemed like he was a threat to score 40 every night. He had done it three times already that year. But he wouldn’t do it again. In fact no Celtic would do it again for a very, very long time.  Saturday night in Newark, the Celtics played their 500th consecutive game without a 40-point scorer.  Sunday in Charlotte, was their 501st. They entered the game Tuesday at Madison Square Garden just seven games shy of the NBA record. They would not reach it. After 501 games, and 74 months, the streak ended with Paul Pierce’s 43.

(Now please, for the less-than-one-percent of you who do this every time and for the love of all things Twitter, please, please stop tweeting us about Paul Pierce’s 41 in Game 7 against the Cavs in ’08 and Ray Allen’s 51 the next year in Chicago, both in the playoffs. The record, as we’ve said a million times, is a regular season record. I mean, I love you guys dearly, you know that, but I have to tell you, I was there, courtside, they happened right in front of me. “Eddie House stole the ball and it it over at the Garden, Game 7 is history…in every way there is”?   “Jesus Shuttlesworth! Is Ray Allen on fire tonight”?  Yeah, that was me.  Just saying.  I realize I’m getting old and rapidly losing my mind, but I do remember them.)

The streak was remarkable.  For a variety of reasons but the short version is this.  The night Paul scored 50? The Celtics lost that game. They split the aforementioned playoff games and they lost tonight. It’s not a coincidence that this streak took off during the most dominant Celtics era in a quarter-century.  It’s an Unbutu stat if there ever was one.  Here was the final tally of near-misses in the 501-game streak…24 times a Celtic reached 35 points, but none got to 40, until Paul Pierce Tuesday night in New York.


39 – PIERCE @ L.A. LAKERS – FEBRUARY 26, 2006
39 - PIERCE @ NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 18, 2006
38 – PIERCE VS. MIAMI – MARCH 1, 2006
37 – PIERCE @ CHICAGO – MARCH 17, 2009
36 – PIERCE VS. DENVER – MARCH 12, 2006
36 – R. ALLEN @ TORONTO – JANUARY 11, 2009
36 – PIERCE VS. MIAMI – MARCH 18, 2009
36 – PIERCE @ CHARLOTTE – MARCH 26, 2012
35 – R. ALLEN @ INDIANA – DECEMBER 7, 2008
35 – PIERCE @ ATLANTA – JANUARY 28, 2010
35 – ALLEN @ MIAMI – NOVEMBER 11, 2010

So there you have it. In the big picture

But the biggest victim of all?  The recap of our Saturday night second half visit from WWE legend and NY Times best-selling author Mick Foley, which would have occupied this space were it not for all the history on Tuesday.

Damn you, Steve Novak. No wonder you wear that fake title belt around your waste. (By the way, at less than $1 million in salary, I’d suggest that Novak as the NBA’s leading 3-point shooter, is the true discount double-check.)

One crazy night in New York. But 24 hours later, the Celtics get another chance to wrap up the Atlantic Division and take a big step towards home-court advantage in the first round. In other words, the Celtics go right back to work.

Feel free to do the same.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Swoon Over The Miami Game

OK, friends, it's 3:45am so let's see if I can get all this stuff up here before the sun comes up, on yet another Celtics game day.

A win tonight for Boston, moves them legitimately into the 4th spot in the East. It's gone under-reported in Boston that the 4th seed DOES NOT come with automatic home court advantage.  For that, the Celtics will have to match at least two of the three teams in front of them, Atlanta, Orlando and Indiana.  But they can accomplish two-thirds of that by beating the Hawks in a few hours.  The Celtics trail the fading Magic by just 1/2 game now (and already own the tie-breaker), and the Hawks by one game (and would clinch the tie-breaker with a win on Wednesday).

But that's tonight, now some notes from what clearly was the game of the year for the Celtics, a 115-107 stunner of a statement win Tuesday in Miami....

* Miami had been 23-3 at home.

* 115 points and 60.6% shooting were both season highs for the Celtics.  They hadn’t shot better than 52.2% all year heading into Sunday.  Now 59% and 61% in the last two games against the Sixers and Heat, two of the NBA's top-five defenses. 

* How impressive was the shooting performance?  


.658 - VS. NEW YORK – DECEMBER 21, 2008
.645 VS. DENVER  – NOVEMBER 7, 2007
.641 – VS. DETROIT – APRIL 3, 2011
.630 - @ PHOENIX – FEBRUARY 22, 2009
.623 - VS. TORONTO – NOVEMBER 27, 2009
.622 - VS. DETROIT – MARCH 15, 2010
.616 - @ TORONTO – NOVEMBER 23, 2008
.613 - VS. SAN ANTONIO – JANUARY 5, 2011
.612 - VS. ATLANTA – NOVEMBER 9, 2007
.606 - @ MIAMI – APRIL 10, 2012
.603 - @ L.A. LAKERS – JANUARY 30, 2011
.600 - @ ATLANTA – APRIL 1, 2005
.600 – VS. ORLANDO – JANUARY 17, 2011

* The Celtics have scored 107+ points four times in 57 games, but did it in both games at Miami.

* Doc Rivers said the one thing the Celtics couldn't do in Miami was turn the ball over. I guess he was wrong. Points off turnovers were 24-5 for Miami. The Heat had 16 more shots and two more free throws, and the Celtics still won by 8 on the road.

* The Celtics now have 10 straight wins when scoring 100 points, 15 straight wins when not getting out-rebounded.

* The 107 points allowed was the 5th highest total this year, but 2nd win of those five (NY March 4)

* The +6 advantage for the Celtics on the glass was their best rebounding night since Memphis Feb. 5, a span of 34 games.

* Paul Pierce is now 24 points ahead of Tim Duncan for the final spot on the NBA’s Top 25 all-time scoring list.  The Celtics tonight will for the second time, have three of the top 25 scorers in league history. The first being during the one game last April after Ray Allen passed Gary Payton to reach the Top 25, and Shaq returned to the Celtics, only to get re-injured.  If you're wondering, as I was, it happened in 1996 with Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler in Houston.

* Paul Pierce also passed Wilt Chamberlin (6,065) fo 14th on the NBA’s all-time free-throws made list.

* LeBron James had 36, he's the 3rd to score more than 32 on Boston this year (Carmelo Anthony, Dec. 25 at New York, Marcus Thornton Mar. 15 at Sacramento). James' 13 made free throws matched Melo’s season high.  It was also his 19th straight game of 20+ points against Boston, the longest streak against the Celtics since Kareem from 1969-79.

* Updated from our friend Adam Lowenstein (@StatsAdam),  The Celtics have shot a higher FG% than their opponent in 14 consecutive games, which is the longest current streak in the NBA. The longest streak of its kind for the Celtics since 1992. (17 games).  The NBA high this year was 16 by Miami.

* Rajon Rondo is the 4th player in NBA history with at least 10 assists in 18 straight games in a single season, joining John Stockton, Magic Johnson and Kevin Porter. Rondo is the first player with a 18-game streak since Stockton, who had at least 10 assists in 29 straight games from Jan.-March 1992.

* The Celtics now lead the league in field goal defense (.419).  In the last ten games (eight wins), Boston has allowed 84.2 points per game, and just 38.3% shooting from the floor. 

* And while tonight is a tough back-to-back against a potential playoff opponent (Atlanta) that hasn't played since Saturday, the Celtics are 8-9 in back-to-back games this year, but 6-0 at home.  

And yeah, I think we're done here.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Doc on Ozzie In Miami

In Miami, about to go on the air for the Celtics-Heat.

I asked Doc about the Ozzie Guillen firestorm here the last 48 hours, this was his answer.

“Sometimes we joke around and we should be able to do that and sometimes we say the wrong thing. I’m sure it will happen to me at some point if you do it every day.  The odds of it happening go up. Ozzie tends to do it more than others. But I try and look at the guy’s heart, look there first before I jump on the anger bandwagon.”

Monday, April 9, 2012

Boston College Tips Its Hat To Doc Rivers, We Do The Same For Josh Gibson

April 9, 2012 – 12:15am
30,000 miles above South Carolina

Funny baseball story about Josh Gibson, one of the greatest to ever play, the legendary slugging catcher and all-time Negro League homerun champion. 

His home runs, in the pre-television age, were the stuff of the-fish-was-this-big hyperbolic yarn.  The story goes that one day in Pittsburgh he hit a ball so far out of the ballpark, no one ever saw it come down.  So the next day, with his team playing another game hundreds of miles away, let’s say Harrisburg for the sake of the story, Gibson hits a towering pop fly that takes so long to come down, everyone loses it for a few seconds.  When it finally reappears and eventually lands in an infielder’s glove, the umpire turns to Gibson and says “You’re out…yesterday…in Pittsburgh.”

Point is, it’s been kind of a long day.  I was in Tampa at the Frozen Four last night and left there this morning, I’m about to land in Miami and head to the hotel to sleep.  That wouldn’t seem like much of a thing until I add that in between, there was a Celtics game in Boston and about 94 minutes of sleep.

So right now, I feel like that Josh Gibson home run from Pittsburgh, about to crash down after a long day’s journey that will only end up as something like 250 miles of net yardage.

And the point is, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. That’s how much I love the Frozen Four.

But let’s save that for last, since it’s so 27 hours ago and start with the Celtics, who in six weeks have gone from two games under .500 and four games out of first, to a three game division lead with now just ten games to play.

The stories in my hockey-related absence this week were two, Ray Allen’s removal from the starting lineup, and Doc Rivers verbal beat-down of his squad. Both of which came on Thursday.

I’ll reserve judgment on Doc’s tirade, other than to say coaches have the most impact doing it when they don’t make a habit of it. And I think there was at least a little method to that particular madness.  With the calendar growing short, 19 days until the playoff opener, and the very clear understanding that the Celtics can compete with anybody, but no longer with anything less than meticulous effort.

The Ray Allen-to-the-bench decision to me, was if not a no-brainer, pretty close. The dilemma to me was whether to do it to put Avery Bradley in the lineup. When Mickael Pietrus went down with that gruesome concussion in Philadelphia 16 days ago, I’m convinced he was headed for the starting lineup in place of Ray, maybe as early as the next game.  I’m not going to bash Ray’s defense. He’s battled hard the last few years the likes of Dwayne Wade and Kobe Bryant (hello…6-for-24 in Game 7 anyone? The Celtics win that game, and Ray’s defense that night becomes part of NBA lore). But it was time for the move, not to mention now you have a hall of famer coming off the bench, he’ll still get the key crunch-time minutes and mid-game minutes against other bench players. He will thrive in this role, and it could end up extending a career that doesn’t appear close to winding down anyway. Mentioned this on the broadcast a few months ago, but Reggie Miller retired with 2,560 threes. Ray, sitting at 2,711, heading into the Miami game Tuesday, has a shot at becoming the NBA’s first Mr. 3,000.  Perspective? Yeah, that would be like someone hitting 900 home runs.

(Someone say, like Josh Gibson**, who might have had they let him play in the majors from the time he was 19.  John Gibson rant coming on soon…can’t stop it….)

But first, the fun stuff…the numbers.  One of the added features of the New Big Three Era has been documenting their final, wet cement steps into the concrete of the all-time records en route to the hall of fame.  It was inevitable, they’d get a little tangled along the way and now they have.  Tonight, Paul Pierce became one of the NBA’s all-time top 25 scorers.


But by the end of the night, he ended up falling back to 26th.  Twice.

He began the night seven points behind the 25th spot. Easy enough. But that 25th spot at the start of the night, was held by Tim Duncan whose Spurs (after a visit to Boston on Wednesday), were set to tip off at home about an hour after the Celtics.  11 first-quarter points put Pierce into the Top 25. But with the Celtics’ captain on the bench in the second, Duncan scored five early points to leap-frog back in front. A Pierce three in the 3rd quarter flipped them again…and you get the point.  Heading into Tuesday, Duncan sits at 22,426, Pierce at 22,423.

The Celtics remaining schedule is not easy. Seven of the ten games are against teams in the playoff race, the other three are the back-to-back-to-back set everyone else has already gone through.  Right now, the C’s are in the early stages of a ridiculous 12-game-in-17-night-stretch. Eight of the 12 on the road, and none of the home games consecutive. Meaning, they have to travel to each game. But a three-game lead with ten to play means 5-5 should be enough to get Boston the more desirable 4-seed and what they wanted, to avoid Miami and Chicago in the opening round.

OK, I need to do this and then we’re on to the Frozen Four, I promise.

(** I’ve gotten myself in trouble before, which I often do, talking about Josh Gibson.  As I bring his name up every time Major League Baseball, or society, tries to celebrate the anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier.  That lonely struggle remains and always will, one of the great accomplishments of the 20th century. Not in sport, but in humanity.  But when it’s anniversary is celebrated, it always hits me as asinine and utterly lacking self-awareness.  As if to say, “hooray, it’s only been 50 years since we escaped from a backwards, race-driven culture of fear and hate.”  So when the anniversary is celebrated over the accomplishment, I like to point out that two months before Jackie’s debut with the Dodgers, Josh Gibson died. At 35. And he died a delusional, alcoholic, one of the greatest to ever play driven to it by his exclusion from the majors. We are proudest of sports when they lead society rather than follow it.  When they set an example for it, rather than merely reflect and perpetuate its greatest fault lines.  But while Jackie will always remind us what is possible, Josh Gibson reminds me of what happens when fear of change overcomes not just the better angles of our nature, but our nature itself.)

Not sure what got me thinking about that.  Any idea, Augusta National?  Exclusion, archaic thinking…any idea at all?  No?

Look, I love the Masters, we all do. But the reality is, I don’t get ever get to see much of it because of the weekend on which it falls. It’s Masters weekend to most people.  To me, it’s Frozen Four weekend.

I’m long since over the idea of winning people over to the things I love. You learn as you get older that’s really something of a wasted exercise in most cases.  Mostly, because in the Twitter age, the natural evolution of the “how’s my driving” joke. (You know, the one where no one ever calls that number to say “I just saw your driver back across two lanes into that loading dock perfectly and I just wanted to say great job”), tearing down beats lifting up by a pretty healthy margin.

I think it’s cool if you’re into NASCAR, or the Premiere League. Honestly, if I had more time, I’d like to learn then both, try to understand what makes it great, but I’ve got at least 20 channels on my cable system that are all-sports, there’s only so much you can soak in before it’s time to switch to Cartoon Network for Family Guy at 2:30.  I’ve never strayed too far from the “big six” (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, College Football, College Hoops).  Golf, tennis, boxing have all their share of my attention at times over the years, and since my outing last year, most of you know of my life-long passion for the pro wrestling industry.

I’m not here to recruit you, I’m not even going to push it on you if you don’t want to try it. But in my world, college hockey will always have a very special place.

It’s an honor to be the “Voice of the Frozen Four”. I was told last week , and this surprised me, that I’ve now called more NCAA Championship Games (12) than anyone else. And I will keep my promise to go back every single year they’ll have me.

I’ve gotten a ton of hockey questions the last few days, and I didn’t want to blow up my Twitter with some Frozen Four blowout 140 characters at a time, so this seemed like a better place. The questions ranged from how hard is it to not to do hockey now all year then jump into a championship weekend?  (It’s complicated, and challenging, but mining is hard, construction is hard, a job you do for money, with no sense of passion or accomplishment, that’s hard. I’m one of the lucky people in the world and I know it, the few employable skills I have, are doing what I love, that’s a blessing).  Do you feel weird having to miss Celtics games every April? (A little, but I got my start in college hockey and I will never forget that, that’s reason number one why I’ll always go back. It’s how I pay my respect to the game). Is this year’s BC team the best you’ve ever seen? (Ah, now that’s a meaty one…)

I’ve been around the game for a quarter-century now. (Please hang on while I process how freaking old that last sentence makes me seem.  Maybe I should spend less time blogging and more scheduling prostate exams. I don’t know.) And it’s hard to say the 2012 Boston College team is the best I’ve ever seen.  Not when you saw Maine in 1993, or some of the BU or Michigan teams of the 90’s. The back-to-back championships of Denver and Minnesota from 2002-2005.

But not only is Boston College putting up dynasty numbers, the one common thread of this BC run that no one else can claim in the modern era, is that when the games get tougher, and the stakes get higher, they get better.  Think about that.  Since 1998, BC is 79-17…in the playoffs. Say that again with the Jim Mora voice…in the playoffs!

The once-in-a-lifetime Maine team in ’93 was life-and-death in the Frozen Four. Needing OT to beat Michigan in the semis and trailing 4-2 in the 3rd period of the title game before the epic Jim Montgomery hat trick (all assisted by Paul Kariya) to win it.  The BU team in 2009 was a wire-to-wire #1. But we all know, and by we I mean those that follow our beloved game, that the Terriers trailed 3-1 in the final minute of regulation before the miracle finish at the OT championship in Washington D.C.  There were teams that could have been on the best-ever list, like Michigan in ’97, BU in ’94, Michigan State in ’91, BC in ’07. But they either couldn’t win the final game, or didn’t even get there.

In fact, Saturday BC became just the 5th top overall seed since the Hrkac Circus/Ed Belfour North Dakota tram of 1987 to actually win the title.

In this epic run for Boston College, 10 Frozen Fours in 15 years, it’s just the second time they entered the tournament as the top overall seed. The other, 2005, they were knocked out by North Dakota in the regional finals. It fits the pattern. If they win twice this weekend, they’ll become just the 5th overll top seed in the last quarter-century to win it all.  (In the previous 11 years since the tournament expanded from four teams (1977-1987), the top-seed winning was far more common. It happened five times in those 11 years (’77 Wisconsin, ’80 North Dakota, ’83 Wisconsin, ’85 RPI and ’87 North Dakota)


1993 Maine
1995 Boston Univ.
2006 Wisconsin
2009 Boston Univ.
2012 Boston College

But the thing is, BC isn't just winning the tournament, they’re dominating.  Two years ago at Ford Field in Detroit, they faced the nation’s top two teams, Miami and Wisconsin, and went all Steffi Graf on them, 7-1, 5-love.  To further illustrate, in the ten years since you had to win four games to win the title, BC’s three title teams in the last five years are three of the four most dominant.

NCAA TOURNEY SCORING AGGREGATE  (Since 16-team format began 2003)

2010 Boston College  +15
2003 Minnesota         +15
2012  Boston College +14
2008 Boston College +12
2005 Denver              +10

For 48 hours before the title, game, we had to listen to people not terribly familiar with the game, play up the David-versus-Goliath storyline.  Yeah, Ferris State was David.  David Freese.  David Robinson.  David Tua.  They were the #1 team in the country for most of February, and they entered the NCAA’s ranked #6. This was no colossal underdog and that’s how the game played out. In 2003, Ferris had Chris Kunitz, now of the NHL MVP-favorite Evgeni Malkin’s line. And they didn’t make the Frozen Four. This was a special year for Ferris and I’m glad people got to spend some time in the world of Bob Daniels, one the most enjoyable, congenial, delightful guys and an increasingly teeth-bearing and ornery hockey coaching world.

My favorite stat of the Frozen Four this year, by the way, was that Union goaltender and Hobey finalist Troy Grosenick had more shutouts at Fenway this year than Red Sox pitchers did all of last year.  And the way things have started, his might be the only one for a while.  (The Celtics started 0-3 by the way, and now 53 games later have a three-game lead in their division, so you know, let’s chill for a bit.)

But as the plane starts its descent into the Sunshine State I left 17 hours ago, seems like an interesting time to think about full circle, and different parts of my strange life overlapping. And no, I don’t mean the once-in-who-knows-how-long chance to bring two of my buddies from opposite ends of the world together for dinner in Tampa the other night.  Barry Melrose to my right, Jim Ross to my left. Clearly the beginning of a beautiful friendship between two icons in their worlds.  That’s an entirely different blog.  I’m talking about this one;

As the championship game approached, BC coach Jerry York talked about a speech his team had gotten a few weeks earlier from another coach. About how while  not everyone can be a star, everyone can be a star in their role.  He talked about how it resonated with his players as they made their run towards last night’s championship.

The author of that speech?

Doc Rivers.

We often don’t think about how the different elements of sports, or our own lives can intertwine. But sometimes, you can be sleep-deprived, jet-lagged and not know if you’re looking at a power play or a flagrant foul, it’s still impossible to miss.

As we arrived at Hanscom Air Force base for our flight to Miami tonight, Doc Rivers was handed a gift. A few hours earlier, the national champion Boston College Eagles’ charter flight had touched down at the same terminal.  The coaches and players he inspired had saved him one of the championship hats they were given on the ice moments after the final horn.  Knowing the Celtics were about to pass through the same halls a few hours later, since they couldn’t offer him a tip of the cap.  They just left him his own.

And now that hat, like Josh Gibson’s legendary home run, is about to touch down just a few hundred miles from where it originated.

One final reminder that the journey, is always more interesting than the destination.

(Although since this destination includes a king size bed, in this case I’m making a personal exception.)