Thursday, May 5, 2011

Various thoughts from the world of sports

Unless the Celtics lose. In which case I will hate this game.
  • Where hath the Truth gone? Paul Pierce's ineffectiveness has crippled the Celtics this series, specifically his inability to hit open threes, draw fouls on LeBron or Wade, and shoulder the scoring load in the fourth quarter (his specialty). Pierce must step it up in game 3. Both offensively and defensively, the Truth must emerge.
    "Couldn't do it without ya, buddy"
    • Dwyane Wade, welcome to the rivalry. Awful in the regular season series, Wade has continued to scorch the Celtics in the post-season. Last year he won game 4 all by himself (the "talk to the hand because I am on absolute fire" game), and this year he has continued his scoring frenzy by notching 38 points in a virtuosic game 1 performance. If Wade goes off in game 3, this series is over.
    • Is there any shot in basketball today more unstoppable than Dirk's step back? I say no. The man is a scoring savant, and he's been doing it consistently for more than a decade. Finally getting the chance to face-off against Kobe and the Lakers in the playoffs (pretty hard to believe these two have never played each other in the post-season before), Dirk is turning this series into a blow out. When all is said and done, ring or no ring, the big man from Germany will go down as one of the best scorers in league history.
    "Are you married? Who cares..."
    • Where have we seen this before (RE: Pau Gasol is soft)? After his fantastic and dominant performance in game 7 of last year's finals, many people removed the "soft" tag on Pau's back. At this point, I think it's safe to say that removing the "soft" tag from Pau Gasol is much like removing the "I cheat on my wife like it's my job" label from Don Draper: every once in a while, they'll stop doing what they've been doing, and you'll wonder "is it over?" Only to watch Gasol get destroyed down low by Carl "6'7" Landry and Tyson Chandler, while Don cheats on his wife a record 43 times in one episode.
    The Dubaka. You gotta see it to believe it
    • This Thunder-Grizzlies series is incredible. Games 1 and 2 couldn't have been any different, making game 3 all the more unpredictable. Z-Bo obviously has to play better than he did in game 2, but if Dubaka (my nickname for the creature that was Kevin Durant's offense and Serge Ibaka's defense in the last three minutes of the stunning game 5 clincher over Denver) comes back to life, I don't think anyone is stopping OKC. That was the most unbelievable display of offense and defense that I had ever seen. Ibaka's dunk-rejection and Durant's falling and-1 were two of the best highlights of this entire NBA season.
    • The Hawks'-Bulls series is just plain boring. Is anyone watching those games outside of Chicago? And yes, that was a rip on Atlanta fans. If I wanted to watch two teams miss a billion shots in a row, I would just watch the WNBA.
    • Bill Belichick, the pressure is on you. If Nate Solder or Ras-I Dowling don't pan out, there are going to be lots of angry fans demanding to know why on earth the Pats passed over every top pass-rusher in the draft. The most likely outcome, of course, is that Belichick was right and we were all wrong. 
    • Speaking of Solder and Dowling, I absolutely LOVE the picks. Not that I know a ton about either player (I have literally never watched them play), but left tackle and cornerback, to me, were two of the three biggest concerns heading into the draft. Solder is an absolute monster, and is garnering rave reviews from around the league, and Dowling looks like he could be a Devin McCourty-type corner: big, strong, athletic and smart. I also like the RB choices, and the big guard we picked in the fifth round, Marcus Cannon- 360 pounds! Anyways, I'm definitely excited for this upcoming lockout season.
    • I was surprised that Miami and Buffalo didn't grab a QB in the first few rounds, not that I'm complaining about it. Playing four games against Ryan Fitzpatrick and Chad Henne is like deciding between Brooklyn Decker and Bar Refaeli- automatic win. 
      100 percent an excuse to google image "Brooklyn Decker with Bar Refaeli"
    • What do you get when you put together a superb rotation and and one of the most feared lineups in the game? Apparently, a 14-17 record. Good for worst in the American League. Congratulations Red Sox! You did what no one thought was possible! You added two in-their-prime superstars to your third place team, and you actually became worse! I love being a Red Sox fan right now.
    • I have to give props to the Cleveland Indians. No one gave you a chance, you are in Cleveland, and you somehow have the best record in the league. Enjoy it while it lasts. Oh, and you're welcome for Justin Masterson.

           HOCKEY ALERT! HOCKEY ALERT! (I'm giving you a chance to get out now)

    The Flyers worst nightmare
    • I must say, these NHL playoffs have been freaking incredible. It feels like every game is going into overtime, and watching the Bruins play these past few weeks has been, dare I say it, thrilling. The way these guys are flying around the ice, playing every game like a game 7, is very refreshing to see. Nathan Horton, David Krejci, Tim Thomas, Patrice Bergeron. They have all been awesome. Assuming, wrongfully after what happened last year, that we finish off the Flyers, I may just, possibly, slightly, start to get back into hockey again. And you know what? I'm excited as hell.

                                                              ONE LAST THING:


    I'm extremely proud to be an American, and I salute all the men and women who put their lives on the line for the safety of our country. I want to take this time just to remind you that no matter how passionate you are about sports, or how much love you have for your favorite team or player, it is just a game.

    Let's not forget who the real heroes are.

    Thursday, April 21, 2011

    2011 NBA Playoffs: Where Magic Happens

    These Playoffs have been fannnnnnnnnntastic!!!
    Before we get to the Celtics, let's get something straight: the NBA playoffs have been magnificent so far and have a chance to be one of the most entertaining postseasons the NBA has seen in a while.

    This is a star studded league, and we are reaping the benefits

              With a surplus of superstars scattered across the league, unpredictability has been the overarching theme of this years playoffs. Fans were treated to game one stunners in San Antonio and LA (the first time in NBA history that the number one and two seeds both lost a game one in the first round), as well as a bunch of other hyper-competitive games that came down to the last minute of play. In fact, Elias Sports Bureau reported that in the first eight games of this postseason, there have already been five games in which a team overcame a double digit deficit to win (OKC, Memphis, Chicago, Miami and Boston), whereas there were only eleven of these types of games all of last postseason, spanning eighty two games.

    Wow. Seems like we are in for a hell of a treat.

    Let's quickly check in on each of the eight series of round one:

    San Antonio vs. Memphis (tied 1-1):

    The Grizzlies stole game one* in Texas after nearly blowing what seemed like a sure victory. Matt Bonner drained two big time trey bombs to bring San Antonio back, but Memphis won the game after Shane Battier- one of the sneakier deadline additions this season- swished a clutch three to put the Grizz on top for good. It was the franchise's first playoff victory. Game two swung back to the three time champion Duncan-led Spurs, who may be one of the weakest 60 win teams in NBA history. They are getting hammered down low by Zach Randolph and the other Gasol, and are having trouble doing anything offensively. Memphis has a real chance to win this series. (*Manu Ginobili, probably San Antonio's best player, and definitely their best fourth quarter scorer, sat out game one)
    Welcome Back

    Los Angeles vs. New Orleans (tied 1-1):

    After Chris Paul's virtuoso performance in game one (33-7-14 with 4 steals to boot), everyone was jumping on the Hornets' bandwagon. But after New Orleans' miserable game two performance (39% fg, 63% ft), people started to remember why New Orleans was considered the weakest link in the Western Conference playoffs. Despite Kobe and Pau combining for a meager 19-8-2, New Orleans was barely able to keep up with the gigantic front line of Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum. If Paul can get back on track (he had trouble getting open looks in game 2 against bigger defenders), the Hornets have a chance, but you have to think that the Lakers are going to get out of this slump sooner rather than later.
    [Total sidenote that has nothing to do with anything but I feel is my obligation to share. For everyone who hated Sasha Vujacic, this video proves that even from him, some good can come:
    3 Year Old LOVES Sasha "Machine" Vujacic
    One of the greatest videos I have ever seen. Honestly, how can a kid come away from an NBA game and think that SASHA VUJACIC is the best player- granted, it was a Nets game? I'm officially worried about where the world is headed.]

    Dallas vs. Portland (Dallas 2-0):

    After practically everyone (including me) wrote off the Mavs following their putrid late-season performance, they have really quieted the critics with a strong win in game one behind the veteran leadership of Jason Kidd (oldest player to hit 6 threes in a playoff game) and Dirk Nowitzki (tied Jordan for most free throws made in a playoff quarter with 13 in the 4th), and a convincing win in game two. Portland needs to win game three to have any sort of chance in this series, but it's looking more and more like the Mavericks will be advancing to round two before LA or San Antonio.

    Absolutely ANYTHING
    Oklahoma City vs. Denver (OKC 2-0):

    It's really too bad because Denver is a fun team to watch and a great story. But Oklahoma City is just too much for them to handle. In game one, OKC relied on Westbrook in the first half, and Durant (25 2nd half points) in the second half, to win a tight, controversial contest. Former Celtics player Kendrick Perkins tipped in a Westbrook miss to give OKC a lead with a minute to go (replays seemed to indicate that it was offensive goaltending and the basket should NOT have counted), and Denver never recovered. OKC, firing on all cylinders in game 2, destroyed Denver 106-89. OKC continues to be the trendy pick to usurp the power in the Western Conference from the Lakers, with its unbelievable display of scoring, size, athleticism and experience (despite it's youth, OKC has players who know how to win big games, Perkins won a title as a starter in 08', and Westbrook and Durant led Team USA to a Title in the World Championships this past summer). Look for OKC to take care of business in Denver.

    Chicago vs. Indiana (Chicago 2-0):

    After completely blowing game one (up ten with 3:30 to go), Indiana may have ruined it's chance to upset the consensus title-favorite Bulls. Give credit to Chicago for not panicking, and to Derrick Rose for putting on yet another phenomenal performance to lead the comeback. With Rose playing at such a high level, and with Thibodeau's defensive genius, knocking off Chicago will be an extremely tough task this postseason. The only question with them is if they will get enough from the other guys to keep up with the likes of Miami, Boston and LA. Only time will tell.

    Miami vs. Philadelphia (Miami 2-0):

    Finally living up to expectations? Or Bust?
    After Philly gave Miami a run for its money in game one, Miami has basically taken control of the series. There is no way a team led by Wade and Bron blows a 2-0 lead to an inexperienced Sixers squad.

    Orlando vs. Atlanta (tied 1-1):

    Watching this series is like watching "Ripley's Believe it or Not." Dwight Howard's complete evisceration of Atlanta's frontcourt has been the single reason why anybody, anywhere (including Atlanta and Orlando) would watch this series. That, and Dwight Howard's shoulders.
    The Extra-Terrestrial
    [I can see it now: "Next on Ripley's, we look into what went wrong in game one when Howard submitted a 46-19 and still lost. One bystander blamed it on zombies (Gilbert Arenas) and ghosts (Hedo Turkoglu), while another said he saw dead bodies (J-Rich, and everyone on the Magic bench). Also, we look into claims that Dwight Howard is actually an alien.]

    Boston vs. New York (Boston 2-0):

    So first of all, hell yes. Any time I see Boston 2, New York 0, in anything, it makes me happy. OK, well where do we start? The Celtics aren't winning pretty, but they are winning, and they are going to keep chugging along until they face a superior opponent. New York is not superior (this was a general New York, and a specific, Knicks) to Boston. The Celtics are battled tested veterans who, when the playoffs roll around, sort of pick their spots against inferior teams. Look back to 08', when the inexperienced Hawks improbably took the C's to 7 games. We closed them out when we needed to. Against better teams like the Cavs and Pistons, the C's seemed to play a lot better. I guess that's what happens when you are a veteran team. You understand the importance of the moment. You get up for big games. You elevate your play when the stage gets bigger. That's what the Celtics did in 08', and that's what they did last year. It can't be a coincidence that Celtics teams in the Big Three era have all jumped to fantastic starts, only to fade after Christmas. They "flipped the switch." Go ask Gregg Popovich or Tim Duncan to explain it to you. Although the Celtics haven't been flashy, in fact, they haven't even really been all that good in either of these first two games, they have gotten the W. And that's the thing. The Celtics don't even have to be that good to get past the first round. They are still rounding into form, still tinkering with minutes and rotations, still getting healthy. The Celtics will be there in round 2, and they will be there in full force. They know the Heat are a worthy opponent. The Knicks don't belong on the same floor as these Celtics, and that is not to say that the Knicks can't win a game or two or three. It's just to say that the Celtics will buckle down when they need to, and the Knicks will not (partially because they don't know how yet, and partially because they have only three good players). The Celtics will battle the Heat, and they will battle the Bulls, and they will battle the Lakers or whoever comes out of the West. These Celtics are ABLE to play and succeed against any team in the world right now. The question remains: WILL they?

    What are we?

    Friday, March 11, 2011

    Resilient Heat on the right track

    Maybe, just maybe, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for Heat fans
    Listen, I hate them as much as you. I especially hate LeBron. But what the Heat showed last night in their thrilling win over the Lake Show was remarkable. They showed heart, they showed grit, and they showed the ability to not only take the punches, but punch back. The Heat gave the world a glimpse of a bright future while making a statement- don't count us out quite yet.

    With LeBron and Wade somewhat struggling, Chris Bosh and the Heat bench picked up the slack (I honestly never thought I would write those ten words. Ever.) and provided viewers with some great basketball. After being ripped on by everyone for not being clutch, and for not being able to win tight games against elite teams, the Heat played their most impressive game of the season.

    Bron, Wade and Bosh's corpse...
    Was it their best game? No.

    But if someone told you that the Heat won a game against the hottest team in the NBA, the back to back champion Lakers (kill me now) with LeBron and Wade combining to go 16-40 from the field (just 1-7 on threes) and hit just 6 free throws, you would probably die of laughter. But with Chris "like a Bosh" leading the way, and with some help from the two Mikes (Bibby and Miller), the Heat prevailed.

    They finally played a game with some cohesion. They played like a team. They didn't beat the Lakers because of the Big Two and a Half, rather, they won because the "other" guys stepped up to the challenge (for once) and played with a purpose. Guys did their jobs. All Miami wanted from Mike Bibby and Mike Miller is that they drain their open treys, and that they not be completely pathetic on the defensive end.

    It finally happened, and it was magical.

    Wade took a page out of the Greg Jennings playbook
    It's amazing what happens when you play a game with five guys instead of three. If Erik Spoelstra had a brain inside of his head (totally debatable at this point), he would set up games the same way that this one was set up: let LeBron and Bosh dominate the first three quarters and then hand the reigns over to Wade in the fourth. This is clearly the best way for Coach Spo' to deploy his soldiers. If the Heat can get anything (literally, ANYTHING) from the bench, they are going to be the team that everyone thought they would be when the Three Clowns came together during last summer's circus. LeBron and Bosh can do what they do best- wreak havoc for three quarters (note: an NBA game is four quarters) and Wade can do what he does best- put the team on his shoulders for the all-important fourth quarter. Spoelstra mistakenly believed that LeBron shows up at the end of games. In the past week, I think he finally got fed up with the LeBrick show.
     Breaking News: LeBron is building a new brick house in South Beach

    Now, it's Wade's turn. His steal against Kobe last night in the closing minutes was simply phenomenal. Wade's ensuing dive and pass to LeBron for the slam was a mesmerizing show of effort, skill and determination.

    He wasn't done- 30 seconds later, he broke Kobe's ankles with a gorgeous crossover and then finished an extremely difficult lay-in over seven footer Pau Gasol to put the nail in the coffin.

    Wade is everything that LeBron and Bosh are not, and for Miami Heat fans, that is a good thing.

    Thursday, February 10, 2011

    Celtics the perfect cure for ailing hearts

    The Patriots playoff run was an unmitigated disaster.
    Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are great. Not good, great. Hell, they might be the best of all time at what they do. But there has been something terribly, terribly wrong with them recently.

    They can't finish.

    The Pats 4th Quarter drive was slower than Conolly's return
    I don't know why the Patriots looked like all-world beaters during the regular season and then got smothered by a team they beat by 42 just 6 weeks earlier. I don't know why Tom Brady looked like he was playing with a 103 fever (maybe he was?). No yelling. No excitement. No passion. I don't know why the Patriots fourth quarter drive was moving slower than Dan Connolly on his legendary kickoff return against the Super Bowl Champion Packers in Week 15. And lastly I don't know why, after not giving up the "big play" all year, after the Patriots had finally taken back momentum with Tom Brady's laser to Alge Crumpler (and Sammy Morris' Kevin Falk-like direct snap 2 pt. conversion), the Patriots defense allowed Jerricho Cotchery to catch a five yard crossing pattern and run all the way to the seven yard line for a 58 yard gain. That was the killer right there. All the momentum went poof, and it was a two-score game the rest of the way. Obviously, Brady's INT on the first drive was awful, Crumpler's TD drop on the second drive was huge, and that fake-punt (which turned into a NYJ TD) was mindbogglingly stupid, but we were still in it in the fourth quarter, and that Cotchery play really took the air out of the Patriots balloon.

    I've mostly had enough talking about that god-forsaken game. I just want to talk about a few more factors which should prevent this from happening next season (located on the poll on the right):

    1) Being realistic. Maybe we weren't as good as our 14-2 record indicated. We certainly were a very, very good team. But you need to have some specific traits to be successful in the playoffs. Particularly, you need a play-making defense, and a consistent and multi-layered offensive attack (throw long, throw short, run short, run long etc.). You also have to make smart managerial decisions. Unfortunately, the Pats did little of any of those things. The defense, which made plays all year, did a great job of keeping the game in range for the New England offense, but was unable to force any turnovers against a young, inaccurate QB (whom they intercepted 4 times in the 45-3 thrashing). The offense, normally unstoppable, was completely stagnant. Even the great Danny Woodhead was held in check with a paltry 3.3 yard per rush average (after averaging more than 5.5 YPR during the regular season). Brady was pressured like never before during the season except for maybe the San Diego game, and like that San Diego game, the offense was flat. And lastly, there was the obvious managerial dropping of the ball with that Patrick Chung fake punt call. I mean what the @U#* was that!! We haven't done a fake punt in years, at least none that I can remember. And we decide to do one in our own territory, with 50 seconds left in the half of a low scoring game! WHY?! ARGHHHHHH. Gimme a second while I blowtorch my eyes out.

    2) Don't get outplayed/outcoached. I think everyone would agree that we didn't deserve to win that game. We got outplayed, outworked and outcoached. Rex Ryan had a great game plan. The Jets D did a great job of executing the game plan, and they overall just looked like they wanted it more. The Pats have to start playing with more passion in these kinds of games.

    3) More experience. Lets be honest. This team has a ton of rookies: 4-5 starters on defense, the punter, and 1-2 on offense. The inexperience on defense was especially evident during the Jets game. Next year though, I would imagine there will be less nerves, and more plays made (zero sacks/interceptions/fumble recoveries in Jets game).

    Maybe trading #92 was a mistake
    4) Where the hell was the pass rush!?! OK Bill. We have had enough with this 3-4, sit back, relax and enjoy the show bull$#!% defense. We want a pass rusher. No. We NEED a pass rusher. When you let Richard Seymour go, we said OK, because we thought Oakland's number 1 pick would be a top 5 or 10 pick. No, we got screwed. It is a number 17. Now the onus is on you to find us a pass rusher. Until we get one, we will not be able to take the pressure off of our young, inexperienced secondary. We will continue to be one of the worst third down defenses in the NFL. We will continue to lose in the playoffs. Get it done.

    5) Where is the next Corey Dillon? Listen, I am a huge believer in BJGE. I love the guy. 13 rushing touchdowns, 1000 yards rushing, and no fumbles. And I love Woody Woodhead just as much as everyone else, but we need a more talented running back. We need someone who can take some of the pressure off of Brady. The teams that beat the Patriots are the ones that mix coverages and get pressure with the front four. We need to get the Patriots back to being a balanced offense. Brady had an astonishing 143 QB rating on play-action passes this season. When the run game is working, Brady is at his best which means the offense is at its best. Lets get back to that. We need to be able to finish games on the ground. In the past few years, especially against the Colts, we have done a terrible job of running time off the clock with a lead in the fourth quarter. We need that RB who will kill the clock.

    At least we have a ton of draft picks!
    6) We will be better. Besides for Tom Brady, Matt Light and Dan Koppen, most of the key players on this team are entering their prime, or haven't reached it yet. We are also getting back some key players: starting CB Leigh Bodden, starting DE Ty Warren, starting K Stephen Gostkowski, S Brandon McGowan, starting RG Nick Kaczur and a healthier Wes Welker. Not to mention the maturation of all of the rookies. Mike Reiss always says that the biggest jump in production and development in players comes between year 1 and year 2 of a player's career. Lets hope so!


    I never want to see this again.
    Before I literally commit suicide, lets talk about the reason I am able to write this column again. After the heartbreaking loss to the goddamn, trash talking, bunch of invalids everyone calls the New York Jets, I was a depressed sports fan. Yes, we have won tons of championships this century. We have the two World Series wins, the three Super Bowl wins and of course the Celtics championship in 08'. We also have tons of heartbreak. I don't want to go into detail, but lets just say that since the Patriots lost in one of the most stunning upsets in Super Bowl history, there have been some awful playoff losses in Titletown, USA. Game 7 defeats have become the norm. Tom Brady can't get past the first round, and we lost a 3-2 series lead against the hated, arch rival LA Lakers last season after the devastating ACL injury to Kendrick Perkins in game 6.

    But this years Celtics team has lifted my spirits. When healthy (which will probably never happen, but just let me dream for a minute) this is arguably one of the greatest teams 1 through 12 of any team in the history of the NBA. I don't want to hear all of you who are saying to yourself, "you are INSANE! They haven't won anything yet! They don't even have the best record in the league this year! How could they possibly be one of the best teams of all time?!?!" Well, if you look at it that way, then yes. This team is not one of the best ever. But it sure as hell could be. This team is 12 deep, with absolutely no holes (Sorry, Brad). Our second unit (when healthy) could probably beat half of the teams in the NBA right now. Our starting 5 has never lost a playoff series together. We have tons of experience, and absolutely ridiculous depth.

    In this year's NBA, there is a large crop of great teams, there are the Celtics, Heat, Spurs, Lakers, Magic, Bulls and Mavericks. This year is shaping up like the NBA seasons of the 80's and early 90's, where there is just a ton of talent all across the league, and about 5 or 6 teams that have a legitimate chance to win it all. After what happened with the Patriots, I won't get my hopes up too high, but I do have a really, really good feeling about this Celtics squad.

    Now that we are more than halfway through the season, let's take a look at each member of the Celtics superb starting 5, and how they are faring.

    Rajon Rondo: Rondo hasn't been playing as well since his nasty looking ankle injury against the Knicks a month ago, but in the past week or so, he has looked much, much better. He makes this team go. Recently, he has been attacking the hoop with reckless abandon and the results have been fantastic. People weren't so awed by Rondo's big time assist numbers at the beginning of the year, because people were claiming that he would pass up open layups for assists. Not anymore. He has been very aggressive on offense, while maintaining his usual defensive intensity. Him and KG might be the most pesky 1-2 defensive punch on any team in the NBA. I mean, these guys knock away passes left and right, they cause so many deflections. I can only imagine how frustrating it is to try and run an offense when half the passes you make are getting tipped away. Last year I didn't think Rondo would be able to lead a team that wasn't loaded with superstars (meaning: I didn't think he could lead his own team. I thought he was a result of the Celtics system), but after seeing him this year, I think he could do anything. He needs to be teamed with a scorer and big man, but he really has the ability to do anything at this point. He can drive, he can shoot, he can get to the line, he plays great defense and he is extremely vocal on the court. He's going to be great for a long time.

    Ray Allen: There really isn't much to say about Ray. He is efficient as ever. He gets the job done every night, and he even comes up big on the defensive end every once in a while (his defense on Kobe last week was terrific, lets see if he does it again tonight). He is the reason the offense works. Without him on the floor, the court shrinks, defenses sag off Rondo, and we flat-line on offense. With him, we are unstoppable on the fast break, and extremely efficient in the half court. Ray hitting 50 percent of his shots is a small miracle. The difficulty on some of the shots he hits is mind blowing, and he is about to turn 36 years old. He deserves the three point crown, and he's gonna get it tonight. Congrats Ray Ray.

    Paul Pierce: Like Ray, he has just become an efficiency machine. Shooting the best percentages of his career, and finally healthy, this is one of Paul's most impressive seasons. I was one of the people who thought that PP was in decline after last season's slow, painful regression. But luckily for us, it was just the foot injury he had that was slowing him down. He still got game.

    Kevin Garnett: KG's revenge tour has been absolutely thrilling to watch. All those young'ns who beat up on the raggedy KG of yesteryear are paying the price big time. He is back with a vengeance. His jump shot is hot, he drops at least one alley oop per game, and plays all-world defense every night. He is the heart and soul of this team. Like he said, "Basketball is my spine." With a healthy KG, the Celtics will make a run for an 18th title.

    Kendrick Perkins: Still early, but Perk looks almost back to form. There have been some times, offensively, where he hasn't really gotten the lift he is used to (which have led to some embarrassing blocked shots), but overall it is crazy how well and how fast he recovered from the aforementioned ACL tear. With Shaq, JO and Semih all out with injuries, Perk's inspired play has been huge for the Celtics the last two weeks. Bill Walton, on a recent broadcast (against the Sacramento Kings) called Perkins the least appreciated player in the league, and the most underrated. I agree that he is the least appreciated. This guy does all the dirty work. Sometimes he does too much dirty work (getting a technical almost once a week). But overall, this is a guy you want on your side. Hopefully the Celtics sign him to a long term deal this offseason, as he is going to be a free agent.

    Injuries have surely taken their toll on the Celtics this season, and they continue to do so, but the C's are lined up (barring another major injury. Please god, we have had enough!) to be completely healthy by the time the playoffs come around.
    -Marquis was fantastic as Pierce's backup, and his terrifying injury is cause for concern. Danny Ainge has mentioned that they may be looking into a trade or into signing someone to back up Pierce, because of the worry that Quis' won't be the same when he returns from that scary neck injury.
    -Delonte on the other hand, is almost ready to come back. When he does, look out. The Celtics have been looking for a Delonte-type player since they traded him back in 06'. If he is healthy, and remains healthy, the Celtics bench will go from OK, to very good.
    The Lakers have a slight Championship hangover.
    -Shaq will be fine, he is just being rested (a lot) for the playoffs. Unbelievable before his hip injury, Shaq has exceeded almost everyone's expectations so far.
    -I don't like to talk about Jermaine O'Neal, because it just makes me upset to do so. What a waste of time and money.

    Starting tonight, the Celtics look to begin their title chase against the hungover LA Lakers. With a little help from the basketball gods, and some minor medical miracles, hopefully we will get to witness this team in full health for an extended playoff run. And maybe, just maybe, this will go down as one of the greatest teams of all time.
    Maybe the 2011 Boston Celtics will be held in the same regard as the great 1986 team.