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.

WHY!!!!! CATCH THE DAMN BALL!!!
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!

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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.

4 comments:

  1. you are the biggest faggot ever. honestly, i think i might kill you. i really wouldn't show your face to me. I dont think you understand how serious I am. Its going to be worse than losing to YULA, worse than losing intramurals, worse than seaweed sick in your apartment, worse than Gelb. I'm going to destroy you.

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  2. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA....btw i couldnt get into wednesday nights, so im in tuesday night league

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