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18
Jun

Boston Beats the Crap Out of L.A. to Take the NBA Championship

If you hadn’t yet heard, last night, the Boston Celtics beat the L.A. Lakers 131-92 in the sixth and final game of the 2008 NBA Championship.  A 39 point victory in the regular season is almost unheard of.  In the playoffs, it’s an embarrassment.  The Celtics not only won the championship, but made sure the world knew that they were the best team in the NBA, period.

In sports, defense wins games, and the Celtics had loads of it.  In the first half of last night’s game, the Lakers had exactly zero (0, none, nada, nessuno, the null set, 4-3-1) offensive rebounds.  Wow.  Kobe Bryant, arguably the NBA’s best shooter, was locked out of the paint for most of the night, forced to shoot from beyond three-point range . . . with at least one Celtic in his face all night and pesky Rajon Rondo steeling the ball from him more times than I could count.

It wasn’t only the players that made the difference in this game, season and championship.  Doc Rivers, the Celtics’ head coach, did a fantastic job all season and continued his brilliance in the playoffs.  At the beginning of the season, I really questioned whether he was the guy.  I was wrong.  Not only was he able to manage three huge talents and their egos (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen – the Big Three) and get them to play as a tight team with a very young point guard and center, but the guy is the definition of a class act.  Virtually every move he made during the playoffs, even the ones that seemed whacked, were all great in the end.  A smart coach and a great leader.  Congrats, Doc.

So, in the last year, Boston teams have taken the World Series and the NBA Championship; have been in the Super Bowl (man, it would have been cool to have won all three), the MLS Cup and the NHL Playoffs (OK, every team gets into the NHL playoffs).  If you’re a sports fan, the Northeast corner of the country is a pretty cool place to be.

 June 18th, 2008  
 Will  
 Celtics, Sports  
   
 1 Comment
05
Jun

Beat LA

While the dynasty that once was the mighty Boston Celtics waned in the ’90s and ’00s (the last NBA championship won by the Green was in 1986 – it was the team’s 16th) the memory of their legendary battles against the LA Lakers remains firmly in the heads of most Celtics fans – even younger ones.  The refrain, “beat LA,” being chanted by the Boston Garden fans and, for that matter, everyone in or around Boston proper, might be the strongest memory of all.

Having grown up in Philadelphia, I always hated the Celtics.  76ers fans thought of the Celtics as our nemesis and that the Philly-Boston rivalry was the center of the basketball universe.  Battles between LA and Boston happened far more frequently, though, and when Milwaukee was thrown into the mix . . . well . . . the Sixers were good, but they just never were the Celtics nor even a perpetual rival to them like LA was.

As a Boston-area resident, I eventually broke my allegiance to the sports franchises of the town I grew up in and adopted their Boston competitors as my teams.  The process took me about a decade.  It might have taken longer, but in the Celtics case, at least, the fact that they so consistently won championships made it easy for me to side with a winner.  I’d be a crappy Cubs fan . . .

I think that most Bostonians are a little hesitant to reconnect entirely with the Celtics at this point.  There have been so many hard years as a fan, especially when the Celtics are so closely identified as NBA champions (the team’s 16 NBA victories are the most in the league and include an entire decade – 1960-1969 – in which they only lost one championship).  While the town is abuzz with the concept of going for number 17 (their 17th championship), the team’s status is still only discussed after the previous night’s Red Sox scores and the latest news from Patriots mini-camp.

A new championship and a promise of a few more years of success should quickly change that, though.  While it’s unlikely that they’ll ever get billed ahead of the Sox, they ought to be able to easily take over the number 2 slot from the Pats.

In the mean time, the chanting of “beat LA” seems to be growing in volume every day.  A victory tonight, in the first game of the NBA championship series – held in Boston – might raise the volume somewhat.  A victory in the series might result in a roar announcing the Celts’ reemergence as a charter member of Title Town (yeah, that’s Boston).

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 June 5th, 2008  
 Will  
 Celtics, Sports  
   
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18
May

There’s No Place Like Home . . . For The Celtics

If the Celtics ain’t in Boston, Toto, they just can’t win a game.  So strange for the team with the best road record in the NBA this season.  Thankfully, for Celtics fans, the Green team has home court advantage throughout the playoffs.  And they really needed it today to finally put the Cleveland Cavaliers away in the Eastern Conference semifinals.  The Celtics won 97-92.

In yet another Celtics playoff series this season, it was all tied up 3-3 after 6 games (OK, it’s only been two series’, but it seems like a lot more).  Cleveland winning the three games on their home court and Boston winning three games on its home court.  The decisive seventh game, played in Boston, was a nail-biter, especially at the end when the Cavaliers trailed the Celts by just a single point with just 1:40 to go.

The reason for the close contest was clear – superhuman efforts by each team’s season stats leaders.  LeBron James was incredible and could have hardly done much more for his team.  He had 45 points and 6 assists.  Paul Pierce almost matched him, though, with 41 points and 5 assists.  A great game and a great series.

Eventually, the Celtics are going to get beaten on their home parquet.  What do I know about coaching basketball, but it seems to me that figuring out how to take one or two on the road might be a good idea.

Now, on to Detroit.  Actually, the Detroit Pistons come to Boston (thankfully) on Tuesday for game 1 of the Eastern Conference championship.

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 May 18th, 2008  
 Will  
 Celtics, Sports  
   
 1 Comment
04
May

It’s a Good Thing the Celtics Have Home Court Advantage

Great offense is fun to watch, but killer defense is a total blast to witness.  Today, the Celtics beat the Atlanta Hawks by 34 points – holding the Hawks to only 65 points in 60 48 [Doh! Thanks Lorne] minutes of basketball.  The Celts fourth victory in the best of seven series was their fourth at home.  The green team lost all three of their games on Atlanta’s turf.

Interestingly, the other three home victories were by 25, 19 and 23 points.  One would think that a team that can win so convincingly on their home parquet AND had the best regular season record in the NBA, might have taken fewer than the full set of seven to win the series, but it was not to be.  Strange.

Bring on the Cavs.  Hopefully, we’ll get to witness more defensive masterpieces in the second round of the playoffs and beyond.

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 May 4th, 2008  
 Will  
 Celtics, Sports  
   
 4 Comments
17
Apr

Celtics Finish Season with Best Record in the NBA

Boston CelticsI’ve been quiet about Boston sports since the debacle in Glendale in February.  Actually, I’m still recovering from the deep wounds and emotional trauma that game left in me.  Leave it to Boston’s professional sporting dominance, though, to lift my spirits.  In the last year, the Red Sox won the World Series, the Revolution played for the MLS Cup (losing to Houston), the Patriots went 16-0 in the regular season, even the Bruins are in the NHL playoffs.  Now the Celtics have completed a 66-15 season – well ahead of any other team in the NBA.   Ahhh, it’s good to be a Boston sports fan.

The Celtics’ record gives them home court advantage for all playoff series’ and provides momentum in their attempt for a 17th NBA championship.  Not bad for a team that went 24-58 last year.

Anyone who pays attention to basketball knows the reason for the drastic year-over-year change.  The team moved away from it’s strategy of surrounding a single all-star player (Paul Pierce) with a group of young, aggressive players, to one of leading with a group of experienced players augmented by a handful of select newbies – mostly off the bench.  In the off-season last year, the Celtics traded away many of their young players in order to acquire Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.  Two of the most talented players in the game.  With Pierce, the troika represented a scary force on the floor against any opponent.

Many nay-sayers believed that egos and established playing styles would prevent three great players from working together on one court.  The combination of Doc Rivers’ (the Celtics coach) coaching and/or the overriding desire of the three big men to win has dispatched that concern in all but the harshest critics.  The results speak for themselves, of course.

I don’t know how the playoffs are going to go down, but the Celtics are looking very strong.  The big men have been resting for a couple of weeks now since few of the games were critical and the three seem to be eager to show the world that they can bring the Celtics’ 17th championship home to Bean Town.  I do know that the team is a blast to watch and the NBA playoffs are going to be fun again for Boston fans.

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 April 17th, 2008  
 Will  
 Celtics, Sports  
   
 6 Comments
09
Nov

Sick and Tired of Boston Sports Yet?

As Michael Wilbon of ESPN says, “I’m sick and tired of Boston, when will you people stop!”  The Red Sox won the World Series, the Patriots are undefeated and, likely, the best team in football and last night, the Revolution (soccer, for those of you who don’t know we play the sport in the US) won the MLS Eastern Conference Championship to advance to the MLS Cup (yes, that’s the final, championship game).

Oh yeah.  The Celtics are undefeated, too.

“We are the champions, my friend.  And we’ll keep on fighting to the end . . .”

Update: Just saw this picture in the latest Sports Illustrated.  I guess Wilbon was right.

Boston Illustrated 

 November 9th, 2007  
 Will  
 Sports  
   
 6 Comments
08
Oct

I Don’t Feel I have a Concussion Problem . . .

I just saw this quote from Ottawa Senators forward, Dean McAmmond, in Sports Illustrated and thought it worthy of passing on.

I don’t feel I have a concussion problem.  I have a problem with people giving me traumatic blows to the head.”

Yup.  That pretty much sums up ice hockey.

 October 8th, 2007  
 Will  
 Sports  
   
 Comments Off on I Don’t Feel I have a Concussion Problem . . .
10
Sep

Roger Federer is a God

When I was a kid, my dad introduced me to tennis.  He took me to see Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall, the best players of the time.  In his day and for quite some time after, Laver was considered the greatest to have ever played the sport with Rosewall a close runner up.

Later, I got hooked on tennis again when Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg and Ivan Lendl were the kings of the court.  They were all fantastic tennis players, but unlike watching Laver, none of the new leaders of tennis seemed like they were the one.  Then, of course, came Pete Sampras.  With 64 career titles, 14 of them being Grand Slam wins, he was the one.  He made the game seem easy with graceful moves and unreal court presence.  His game was a thing of beauty and a blast to watch.  Andre Agassi, a great tennis player, was always a thorn in Sampras’ side and perhaps even made him better.  But it was Sampras who was the best most often at the end of the match. 

Sampras ruled over his tennis kingdom for some time, long enough to convince the tennis experts and those of us who are mere onlookers that he was, in fact, greater than the great Rod Laver.  We had a new best.  Like with us all, though, he eventually got a little older and a little slower and had trouble keeping his place on top of the pyramid. 

As Sampras’ rule at the top of the heap waned, Roger Federer became the new king.  In a world with many good tennis players (Nadal, Blake, Roddick, Hewitt and a boatload of guys from Slavic countries to name a few), Federer has handily remained in the number one position in tennis for more time than anyone in history.

This year, at the just completed US Open, he showed why.  Federer was always composed and always in command.  That’s not to say that he was always in the lead.  Even when his serve was broken, though, he would patiently break back to get even, then either break his opponent again or dominate the tie-breaker.  At times, he did this without seeming to break a sweat.  He covers the court unbelievably well, rarely makes unforced errors and is always menacing to his opponents (earning him the moniker, Darth Federer).

When he played the hard hitting Andy Roddick in the semifinals, I watched in disbelief as Roddick, playing the best tennis of his life and having a serve and forehand like a cannon, lost to the tennis god, Federer, in three straight sets.  In the finals, Novak Djokovic had Federer down a break with three set points in the first set and then succumbed to Federer in a tie-breaker.  In the second set, he broke Federer early and looked very strong, only to lose the set to Federer again in another tie-breaker.  Federer won the third set 6-4 for his fourth straight US Open victory and 12th Grand Slam win.

As with Tiger Woods’ dominance in golf, Federer has so many weapons in his arsenal that he’s almost impossible to beat.  Even when he’s down, he has the skills, stamina and mental toughness to come back and win . . . convincingly.  As if there could have been any doubt before, we are certainly watching the new greatest tennis player of all time rising to his zenith.

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 September 10th, 2007  
 Will  
 Sports  
   
 6 Comments
09
Sep

Football and Baseball and Golf and Tennis. Oh My!

A virtual cornucopia of televised sports was on display today and I was enjoying every minute of it.  After riding a half-century (50 miles) yesterday in blistering heat here in the Boston area, I was happy to kick back today and veg in front of the tube.  My laziness was rewarded with great football and baseball (it helped that both the Patriots and the Red Sox won), the final round of the BMW Championship (golf), the men’s singles finals of the US Open (tennis) and the IndyCar Series Championship (yeah, auto racing).  Without much effort, I’m sure I could have dug up a soccer game, but there was just no time.  I almost broke the buttons on the remote as it was trying not to miss any significant events.

Maybe the end of summer isn’t so bad after all . . .

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 September 9th, 2007  
 Will  
 Sports  
   
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02
Feb

Super Bowl Thoughts . . .

A friend of mine asked me today, “how many teams have won the Super Bowl?”  It’s an interesting question that led me to plenty more.  So here’s that info, plus a couple of other tidbits that’ll help you stump your friends and win some bets at your Super Bowl XLI get together this weekend.

  • 17 different teams have won the super bowl:

Team Wins

Note

49ers 5
Cowboys 5
Steelers 5
Packers 3
Patriots 3
Raiders 3 2 in Oakland, 1 in LA
Redskins 3
Broncos 2
Dolphins 2
Giants 2
Bears 1
Buccaneers 1
Chiefs 1
Colts 1 In Baltimore
Jets 1
Rams 1 in St. Louis
Ravens 1

 

  • The NFC has won 22/40 Super Bowls
  • The AFC has won 5 of the last 7 Super Bowls
  • Prior to that, the NFC had won 13 straight Super Bowls
  • Buffalo lost 4 Super Bowls in a Row – 1991-1994 and have never won a Super Bowl nor appeared in any other
  • No team has won 3 consecutive Super Bowls, but back-to-back wins have taken place 8 times by 7 teams: 49ers, Cowboys, Broncos, Dolphins, Packers, Patriots and Steelers (twice)
  • The biggest blowout in Super Bowl history was in 1990 when the 49ers beat the Broncos by 45 points – 55-10
  • The Cowboys have the most appearances in the Super Bowl with 8; the Steelers have been to 6; the Broncos, Dolphins, Patriots, Raiders and Redskins each have appeared in the big game 5 times and the Bills and Packers to 4.  These 9 teams have consumed 47 of the 80 slots in the Super Bowl in its first 40 years.
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 February 2nd, 2007  
 Will  
 Sports  
   
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