Today, we begin a week or 10 day long quest to find out just how delusional we can all be as sports fans. We all know that the Cavs are beating the Celtics in 4 or 5 games — there’s no way that the Celtics weak interior defense can stop Kyrie or LeBron’s drives to the hoop or Mozgov’s tree trunk body from taking over — but we’re gonna watch just as intently as we did in the 2008 classic Cavs-Celtics series.
The way that I’ll get myself to watch the series intently is to see how exactly each Celtic is being used, and what that means for their future value for the team. I need to see how well Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley defend Kyrie Irving. Will Smart establish himself as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league a few years earlier than even the Celtics probably hoped that he would? Will Bradley get back to his 2012 defense, when Celtics fans felt that we had a version of Tony Allen who’s actually good on offense as well?
And how will Jae Crowder fare against LeBron? That may be the most important question of the series, not to mention how much money Crowder makes this July. Danny Ainge will be watching intently to see what kind of future plans the team will have for Crowder.
And I really wanna see how Jared Sullinger — as well as Kelly Olynyk, but more so Sullinger — deals with Timofey Mozgov. If Sullinger can actually be a low post threat who can space the floor somewhat with a midrange jumper than he can make Celtics fans and the organization forget about his weight issues earlier in the year. And I want to see just how important Evan Turner and Brandon Bass are to the team… Should Ainge either walk away from them or trade them for another asset or 2 this summer (Bass is an expiring deal, so that would have to be an unlikely sign and trade), or do they have value as veteran role pieces on a young team?
Most importantly, I want to see how the kids handle the bright lights and how much Brad Stevens can toy with David Blatt. . Smart and Stevens are the 2 most important Celtics assets, and this series will determine just how much promise the Celtics have in the future, and seeing how the young core of the team — both players and coaching staff — handle a series against King James when they’re overmatched will be very interesting to see.
As for a pick, Cavs in 5. They’ll win a blowout in Game 1, a close one in Game 2, the C’s will take Game 3 (wouldn’t be surprised if the refs helped the Celtics out in order to get another nationally televised LeBron game), and then the Cavs will take care of business in Games 4 and 5 by 10 or 15 points. Let’s hope I’m wrong… somehow.
The Bruins have fired Peter Chiarelli, and not too many people are surprised.
This one reminds me of the Terry Francona firing, without the piece of shit rat in the Red Sox front office who leaked the news of his personal battles. In both cases, these 2 men had brought franchises who hadn’t won in awhile (one a lot longer than the other, obviously), to 2 championship series, Tito winning both while Chiarelli won the first. But for both guys, it was simply time to go. Their time had come, their ways had become stale, and the team wasn’t playing with the kind of passion the franchises needed.
Contrary to what sports radio in this town will probably say, the Chiarelli firing should not be an overall poor reflection of his overall tenure. Building a consistent winner in the era of a hard salary cap is no easy task, and the Bruins made the playoffs in 7 straight seasons during his tenure, earning home ice in the first round in 5 of those years, winning a round in 5 years, only once losing a series in fewer than 7 games (to the Blackhawks, a damn good team), and winning 10 playoffs series during his time. By comparison, the Blackhawks won 12 and the Penguins won 11 series during that time, so Pete is up there with the best.
Thanks for the memories, Peter Chiarelli. Good luck in the future.
The Boston Bruins have missed the playoffs for the 1st time since 2007, and I couldn’t be less pissed off about it, given what a huge fan I am.
This team looked dead these past few games, just like they had for about 75% of the season’s first 79 games. Too much complacency, too much calmness with mediocrity. The Bruins were trying to pull what the 2010 Celtics did or what the Spurs do every single year – coast until the end of the regular season, turn it on heading into the playoffs, and then hum like a well-oiled machine in the playoffs because they have before. The difference between those 2 teams and this year’s Bruins is simple: the Bruins never turned it back on.
And that’s a fundamental problem. That’s not the kind of issue that will just go away. Peter Chiarelli needs to go, despite that the Boston sports media and too many of the city’s fans massively underrate what he’s done during his 9 years as GM. Building a consistent winner that (most importantly) won a Stanley Cup and was 2 games from another, only once getting beat in a series in fewer than 7 games (and the other instance was the 6 game loss to the juggernaut Blackhawks), and finished 5 of 6 seasons with home ice in the 1st round of the playoffs.
But just like Terry Francona in 2011, it’s time to go. Chiarelli’s ways are stale now, and and you can’t be stale or complacent in professional sports. I’m more torn on Claude Julien, who clearly has built a specific defensive system that wins games and maximizes their goalies’ performance. But it’s almost impossible to hire a gm and not let him pick his coach, which would probably be the end of Claude. Ultimately, though, I’m fine with that, because Claude is also too tied to his own guys who have done it before, with Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, Adam McQuaid, Dennis Seidenberg Shawn Thornton, Andrew Ference, and maybe a few others that I’m forgetting all playing too big of roles for the team once their primes have passed them by.
And in the end, if the team is really this complacent and happy to be mediocre, then there needs to be a huge shake up the dressing room itself, and the coach is a big part of that. Chiarelli needs to go, and then let the GM choose his new coach, like what the Penguins did when they let Ray Shero go before making a move on Dan Bylsma. But the new GM will probably let Claude go, and I’d support that. And maybe missing the playoffs is the right thing for the team in the long run, because it may make the organization realize that it’s the end of the line for Chiarelli and Claude. And if there’s anything Bill Belichick taught us, it’s better to give up a year too early rather than a year too late.
Tonight, the Bruins survived the Leafs in the shootout with just a 2-1 victory despite a 50 (!) to 28 shot advantage, as James Reimer played incredibly in a game that hasn’t been that nice to him in the past. The Celtics, only about 20 minutes later, beat the Raptors on a Marcus Smart putback layup after Isaiah Thomas missed his game winner in the lane on one of the worst missed foul calls that I’ve ever seen… except for every 5 minutes during March Madness with these pathetic college refs.
Claude Julien FINALLY benched both Paille and Campbell, rolling out a 4th line of Talbot-Kelly-Connolly, and the Bruins beat the Maple Leafs in just about every facet of the game. The weakest links of the Bruins were Adam McQuaid (shocker) and David Pastrnak, who had a complete off night. His curl and drag move when he’s trying to get around a defenseman when entering the offensive zone is also played out; everyone knows it’s coming.
Tuukka made some huge saves, including shutting down a shootout lineup of Bozak, Van Riemsdyk, and Kadri, which is a damn good collection of shootout guys. With Chara sitting a few shifts because of some kind of leg injury (something to monitor), Bergeron played an amazing game, scoring goals both in regulation and the shootout. I was at the game in person, and I also thought that Max Talbot played a really good game in subtle ways that won’t show up on the stat sheet, so hopefully that 4th line remains intact.
The Bruins were still weak defensively without Dougie Hamilton, as the quality of their shots given up seemed pretty bad, especially considering that Toronto only has 1 good line of forwards now. That was another reason that Tuukka was awesome, demonstrating how he’s been back to his Vezina-type ways recently.
Up in the City of Losers (Toronto), the C’s played a great game that was only tragic because it took place during the B’s game at the same time. Brad Stevens again called a great play at the end of the game, and I’d bet anything that Stevens specifically told Marcus Smart to be on the opposite block of Thomas when he took the runner.
Throughout the game, Avery Bradley’s off night (3-13 shooting) with a combined 32 of 56 from Smart, Zeller, Thomas, and Turner, who had the pendulum of inconsistency swing back to “awesome” tonight. Unfortunately, it’s becoming abundantly clear that Jae Crowder cannot be anything more than an energy bench guy for a good team, as he shouldn’t be playing 30 minutes, and how badly he got faked on Lou Williams’ go ahead 3 with 4 seconds to go suggests that any good team probably wouldn’t want him in crunchtime, either.
In the NHL, the other news was bad, with both Ottawa and Detroit winning, and Washington getting a loser point against the Sens. But in the NBA, the news was good, with the Nets getting smoked and the Heat blowing a huge lead. The B’s are now up 3 on Ottawa, tied with Pittsburgh and Detroit, and 2 points back of Washington. Everyone but Washington in that group has a game in hand over the Bruins, who have just 3 left against the Caps, Panthers, and Lightning, who should be resting everyone by next Saturday hopefully. The Celtics are now half a game behind Brooklyn for 7th and half a game up on Miami for 8th, and they have 5 games to go while the Nets and Heat have 6.
Hell of a night for this city, because our sports teams haven’t given us enough of those in recent years.
Here’s the Celtics schedule for the rest of the season:
@ Toronto (2nd night of back to back)
@ Mlwaukee (2nd night of back to back)
The Pacers are in contention with the Celtics for the 8th spot, and after that it’s 4 separate Eastern Conference playoff teams after that, 3 of them which the Celtics play both home and away. Pretty funny how they set the schedule down the stretch, probably assuming that a few Eastern Conference teams would just have to squeeze a few more games in against the Celtics at the end.
Facing 4 playoff teams in the final 7, only 2 games of which are against a team that will be heavily favored against the Celtics. That makes tonight’s game absolutely huge against the Pacers, not just because Indy is back a game in the standings from the Celtics, but because tonight (at home) is the most winnable game. Also, Paul George could come back before the end of the season, which could easily be the difference in a horrible Eastern Conference.
Against David West and mainly Roy Hibbert, I’m not expecting the Celtics to get many points down low tonight. It’s gonna be more of a shooting night for Tyler Zeller and Kelly Olynyk. I’m expecting a Celtics win because the Celtics defense at the guard position is more than good enough to shut down the George Hill – CJ Miles combo.
This game is the biggest of the season for the Celtics so far, so make sure to watch tonight.