Do we even have to watch Game 6?

And a Game 7 if there is one?

The formula looks in place, since the Celtics lost Avery Bradley in Game 1, that is.  Games 2 & 5, blowout losses in Atlanta.  Games 3 & 4, close wins in Boston.

That sets us up for a close Celtic win in Game 6 here in Boston.  Doesn’t it?

Yeah, I know the above means jack…especially since you have no idea which players will show up for the C’s, even at home.  It has become abundantly clear that Isaiah can’t do it by himself.  After his performance in Game 5, you wonder if Isaiah will even show up.

Of course he will.  But he won’t be able to do much if there are two or three guys draped over him.  Especially if his ankle is still banged up, which it probably is.  Hopefully he won’t talk about it though, like other players have talked about their injuries to the press.  From what I’ve seen from Isaiah, I don’t believe he will go that route.  But I guess you never know…by the way, I’m not blaming Stevens for leaving him in too long like most others are.  Yeah, he probably should have never come out for the fourth, based on the score.  But it was a couple minutes in.  Brad had a sub at the table to replace him next whistle.  I’m not getting hung up over it.

Anyway, the Celts got blasted in Game 5 because Thomas was getting smothered and no one else on the team could do anything about it.  The game could have gone so much differently if the C’s hit some of their open looks early in the game.  Had a 10 point lead at one point.  What if it was 15?  Or 20?

Ok, Atlanta was missing some open looks at the same time as well.  But I don’t think I’ve seen so many layups missed by one team…in an entire series.  And uncontested three pointers as well…types of shots that the Celtics made plenty of during the season.  One play by Dirk Nowit…errrrr, I mean, Kelly Olynyk was particularly vexing.  He grabbed an offensive rebound 2 feet from the basket and instead of going up strong, he shied away and actually threw it over the basket, barely nipping a part of the rim at the far end.  Maybe he was protecting the shoulder, I don’t know…but it was awful.

Well, that was all part of the reason anyway.  In the 3rd quarter it looked like they decided to stop playing defense as well.  Talk about uncontested jumpers.  Stiffs like Kent Bazemore and Mike Scott were dropping shots down like they were actually good.  Ok, that was a little harsh.  Those guys can play at least a little bit.  But they were unstoppable that game…that quarter anyway.

So now that the C’s are back home, is it all good again?  Not so sure.  Honestly, I could see them just  running out of gas and calling it a series.  Maybe that was part of the reason for the Hawks 3rd quarter explosion in Game 5.  The Celts have given everything they have in this series…and all year, for that matter.  That’s what they have to do to win games at their talent level.  How much do they have left?  And it comes down to other guys besides Thomas stepping up, as we have already said.

Marcus Smart was HUGE in Game 4.  I can’t say I am a big fan of his game (his offensive one anyway), but it does appear the guy has some stones.  I wasn’t all that worked up over his defensive effort against Paul Millsap at the end of the game.  He couldn’t have done any worse than anyone else.  Yes, he played big there as well.  But Brad Stevens probably did have a good point by saying Millsap was probably tired after scoring all those points before Marcus got on him.  That all being said, the C’s could use that kind of game from him again tonight.  But we surely cannot count on it.

We’ve all been saying it the whole series, but a return to form of Jae Crowder would be nice.  Yeah, of course he is banged up.  But if he’s out there like 35 minutes a game, it can’t be that bad.  I’m sorry, it can’t be.  High ankle sprain, high schmankle sprain.  So he needs to find his shot again…and soon.  26% for the series (21% from three)?  YIKES!!  (44% & 34% during the regular season, for comparison’s sake).  Unfortunately, the C’s can’t turn to anyone else, so he’s gonna be out there a lot again tonight.

Speaking of “showing up”, what happens if the real Al Horford decides to appear tonight?  Have not been impressed by this potential “max contract” guy this series at all.  Truth be told, I haven’t been impressed by Millsap either, other than his 45 point game.  That’s the thing that aggravates the crap out of me.  The Celtics had a pretty good opportunity to advance in the playoffs.  But they have been so putrid offensively that they haven’t taken advantage of it.

Don’t blame the Avery Bradley injury either.  It hurt (pun intended!), for sure.  But they still had enough to beat the Hawks.  Don’t blame the lack of home court advantage either.  Or anything else.  It is what it is.

I speak in the past tense often here because I believe the train stops tonight.  The Celtics have given us plenty of highlights and hope for the future during this current season.  Worked together as a team with max effort to get to this point.  They will again tonight.  The fans at the Gaaaaaah-den will be fired up.  It just won’t be enough.  I hope I am wrong that it is not over tonight.  But just have that feeling…

So…to answer the question posed above…please do watch tonight.  And applaud this 2015-16 team.  Say goodbye to Sully and Turner, among others, if you wish.  But don’t forget about the long view.  And hope for some fireworks from Danny this summer…

 

 

Foaming at the mouth…conclusion…

So…I said I was far from done with some random observations.  Here’s some more good stuff!

*I actually don’t mind that the Dallas Mavericks are kind of opposed to that silly little pregame dance that Russell Westbrook and Cameron Payne do.  In all honesty, I haven’t seen much of the actual dance.  But my thought is…don’t you actually have to be good to be doing stuff like this?  Westbrook is one of the better players in the league of course.  But who in the hell is Cameron Payne?  Russ, my friend, if you want to do some dancing with Kevin Durant, by all means please do so.  But do us a favor and keep the scrubs off the floor please.

Side note:  Is this the type of stuff Bryce Harper wants to bring to Major League Baseball?  I’m not old school like Goose Gossage where I don’t want to see any of this type of stuff.  And I am all for celebrating big moments.  I had no problem with the whole Jose Bautista bat flip “incident” last year.  But please do not advocate for these ridiculous dance routines on the baseball field Bryce.  We may have enough already with the handshakes.

*Note to John Farrell:  When you warm up Junichi Tazawa and/or Koji Uehara, please get them in the game.  Do not waste any more of their bullets in the bullpen.  You will already overuse them during the course of the year, so you may as well get their best on the mound as much as you can.  Especially when you are in a tie game and someone named William Cuevas is on the hill.  Thank you.

*Christian Vazquez’ first 6 games for the Red Sox this year has resulted in a .190 average thus far.  Ok, with Vasky (Vazqui?), it’s not about the hitting.  I get that.  But wouldn’t it help to get SOME hits?  He hit .240 as a rookie, helped a little at the end of the year by getting hot against most assuredly a gaggle of minor league callups.  But then he missed all of 2015.  Then was brought along slowly in 2016 Spring Training to the tune of getting 14 at-bats.  Then he got 13 more in Pawtucket.  Is that enough to be “back”?

Listen, I have no issue with Vazquez.  Although I think many catchers are overrated historically for things such as “calling a good game” and the like, the kid very clearly has a defensive presence.  If he can hit even that .240 consistently, he will have a long career.  But what I do feel like is that he was rushed up because the team panicked.

Blake Swihart struggled a little bit defensively the first week of the season.  Couldn’t corral a couple of foul popups where the batter eventually made the pitcher pay after getting the new life.  Among other defensive deficiencies.  All offseason and throughout the spring (and even previous to that), all we heard that he is untouchable because he was a potential All-Star catcher.  His defense still needed some work, but he could hit and he would be a real stud at the position.

Now, 8 games in, he all of a sudden can’t play defense and got shipped back to Pawtucket…to also get reps in left field.  LEFT FIELD?  Wow…seems a little rash, no?  So we hear now, “Well, he is a converted shortstop, so he gives us flexibility in the field.”  And “Well, both Swihart and Vazquez can’t be every day catchers, we are looking at some other options to keep Blake’s bat on the field.”  Etc.

If this was an option, why wasn’t Swihart playing winter ball in the outfield?  Or at least during Spring Training?  Seems like an overreaction.  Last year, when Joe Kelly was going 8-0 down the stretch and when Rick Porcello pitched better after his return from exile, Swihart seemed to catch them just fine.  Now he sucks?  How about the pitching just sucks?  That’s a better explanation.

Or else what is the explanation on how Vazquez caught David Price’s last brutal start with 8 runs allowed against a terrible lineup?  I’m just not sure what the plan is here…and that worries me.

*Note to Marcus Smart:  Please stop your flopping.  Embarrassing.  Pathetic.

*I know this was a couple of weeks ago, but was anyone surprised that Kobe Bryant’s last game featured him firing up 50 shots for his 60 points?  21 threes hoisted (6 made).  I was a little surprised that he didn’t take every shot actually.  Isn’t this vintage Kobe?  Yeah, I know he’s got his championships, but he also had his free rein.  And he was also kind of scumbag, but now we have to celebrate him?

I don’t know.  He is of course one of the NBA’s all-time greats for sure.  But I just had some inner conflict on how to handle his half-season farewell tour.  But that’s me.

*Note to John Farrell:  Please do not cater to Chris Young to make sure he gets enough at-bats.  Try to win the game.  Young is a backup player for a reason.  Let him get the practice in the cages, like other reserves.  And if you publicly say you are trying to keep him ready so he doesn’t sit on the bench for long stretches, then why doesn’t the same logic apply to other bench/back-end of roster guys like Josh Rutledge, Marco Hernandez or Tommy Layne?  Even Rusney Castillo before he was optioned out.  Or Pablo Sandoval before he got “hurt.”  Makes no sense, but not surprising.  Thank you.

*Why aren’t the Carolina Panthers getting skewered for letting high-priced cornerback Josh Norman walk?  You know, like the Patriots would…for being cheap and not wanting to pay guys.  Instead GM Dave Gettleman is being praised as making a smart decision, despite the fact that his current defensive backfield is underwhelming at best.  Sure, Bill Belichick may eventually be lauded for making the right decision if it works out.  But he would be getting blasted right now for not wanting to pay the best players what they are worth.  Not hearing any of that from anyone talking about the Panthers.

*Note to Johnny Manziel:  WAKE THE F UP!!!  I have no love for him as a player.  I certainly have no love for him as a person.  Hey, everyone does stupid stuff when they are young.  Well, I guess most of us don’t do it at the level he does.  And most of us don’t do it with a pro football career hanging by a thread.  Other than Aaron Hernandez, I guess.  Anyway, it’s pretty telling when your agent fires YOU.  And the whole thing kind of seems sad the way his life appears to be falling apart.  But I guess if he doesn’t care, why should I?

*So the Golden State Warriors have the best NBA regular season record of all time at 73-9.  Congratulations.  We will see if it was worth it.  I applaud that you went for it.  And it didn’t seem that you taxed your players in getting there at the end.  But now Steph Curry has a bum ankle?  (And now apparently a bum knee that happened since I initially wrote this paragraph earlier.)  Related?  Probably not.  But there is a reason (besides age) that Gregg Popovich rests his players down the stretch for the San Antonio Spurs year in and year out.  Plus…I still have nightmares of the New England Patriots fading down the stretch and not playing their best ball late in the 18-1 season of 2007.  Including blowing the Super Bowl against the better team that day, but not the better team overall.  Best of luck anyway.  If you win or lose I guess it really won’t affect me.

*Note to John Farrell:  When you are swapping 12th pitchers on your staff, just say that you needed a fresh arm.  Kind of humorous, and ridiculous, to go into detail that you needed Heath Hembree here while optioning down Noe Ramirez a few days back because you needed “a little more of a top to bottom breaking ball than Noe can give us and a different arm angle at this time” or some idiocy like that.  Enough please.  Thank you.

*Can’t ever count out those Chicago Blackhawks, eh?  Down 3-1 in games to the St. Louis Blues, they have rallied to tie it at 3-3.  Not to mention they came back from 3-1 deficits in both of the last 2 games.  Would not be shocked to see them win Game 7.  Chicago seems to be one of the ideal organizations in the NHL, of course winning 3 of the last 6 Cups.  But weren’t they in salary cap trouble at one point recently and climbed quickly out of it?  Shouldn’t the local team be able to do that too?

Of course it helps if you keep your best players.  If Patrick Kane was in Boston, they likely would have shipped him out-of-town long ago because he is apparently a scumbag off the ice (see Seguin, Tyler).  But we don’t need to go back down that road, do we?

 

Foaming at the mouth…

So the last couple of weeks have been dominated by the Boston “winter” sports teams in this space.  There’s been plenty of other stuff going on, so I’m dumping it all here, like it or not.  Ready?  Again, in no particular order…

*One last Celtics note to start though:  About 30 seconds after posting my last piece I found out Isaiah Thomas wasn’t getting suspended for popping Dennis Schroder in Game 3.  So I guess you can disregard an entire paragraph wasted on worrying about his potential suspension.  Timing…always been a strong suit of mine…either way though, the C’s dodged a bullet there.

*If Steven Wright is still pitching this well when all the Red Sox’ injured starters come back, he better stay in the rotation.  David Price will obviously keep his spot.  Can’t see Rick Porcello and his contract go to the bullpen.  Never been a bullpen guy.  Same for Clay Buchholz.  Eduardo Rodriguez is a starter and you want that youth and potential ace material in the rotation.  But if they try to stick Joe Kelly back in the rotation at Wright’s expense…ugh.  Of course, Wright could suck by then.  And there is the strong likelihood that Bucky will get hurt anyway.  So the solution will probably sort itself out.  Surely with no help from John Farrell though.

*Speaking of Price, I am not worried about him at this point.  But I can say it was pretty disturbing to cough up a 5-1 first inning lead against a team whose lineup is absolutely putrid.  Especially since I witnessed it live.

*Along the same lines as Wright getting yanked around all the time despite pitching well, may I present you…Heath Hembree?  Same deal.  These two guys always seem to get outs when given the chance, only to be the first guys discarded because they have options or whatever other reason.  I know, I know, it’s not like they have had a long run of success in the majors.  And maybe they don’t always pitch in high leverage situations, especially Hembree out of the ‘pen.  But have you seen enough of guys like Noe Ramirez?  Seems like that dude has pitched in every game this year…and not exactly that well.  Matt Barnes?  Tommy Layne?  Why don’t teams always just go with guys that actually, you know, get outs?  I get it…contracts, options, whatever…but isn’t the goal to win?

*Another thing likely no one cares about:  Edwin Escobar got designated for assignment this week by the Sox.  Who is Edwin Escobar, you ask?  Well, he and Hembree were the return in the trade of Jake Peavy in 2014.  Escobar was thought of as having some decent potential at the time.  He just turned 24 and is LEFT-HANDED.  That’s kind of the key here.  I have absolutely no idea if he can pitch at the major league level.  But was it really necessary to DFA him in favor of William Cuevas?  Who is Cuevas, you ask?  A right-handed pitcher that is older for one.  But seems to be just another guy from what I can see.

I’d rather keep the lefty around to see if he’s anything.  Plus, there wasn’t another 40-man roster move available if you wanted Cuevas up so bad?  60 day DL for someone (Panda perhaps, since they don’t want him around anyway)?  DFA Bryce Brentz (outfielder that hasn’t developed and is now playing in AA as a 27-year-old)?  Or just call up Roenis Elias in the first place, since he was on the 40-man roster already?  Ok, that’s probably a lot of words for something only I care about.  But still…

*Dominique Easley was surprisingly released by the Patriots about 10 days ago.  No one saw this coming…or would admit to it anyway.  You see, these beat writers know a lot more than they can actually tell us.  If they spilled the real story, they’d likely lose their sources of information.  And then eventually, quite possibly their jobs, since they couldn’t provide anything at all to their readers.  Trust me, I get it.  But it’s frustrating nonetheless.

So in the meantime, we are told a bunch of things:  “He has the knees of a 40-year old.”  “There is a pending lawsuit against him for his dog biting someone.”  “The team didn’t like that he couldn’t practice immediately as a rookie, due to dog-related injuries.”  “He was a locker room cancer.”  “There is no one reason he got released.”  “The team and the player had a difference of opinion on how to rehab his injuries.”  Etc.

Maybe it was a combination of all of these and the “cancer” thing was the icing on the cake.  I’m betting there is even more to the story.  Easley will count more against the salary cap this year now than if he was still on the team.  Hard to believe they would dump him if it was just a concern about rehabbing injuries.  And if his knees were that bad, they could again stash him on injured reserve at a lesser cost.

Easley looked like he could play a bit when he was on the field.  He is still young overall, despite the knees.  Then he went unclaimed on waivers.  Yup, definitely more to that story.

*Couple of big trades in the NFL with the draft coming up.  The Tennessee Titans traded the number one pick overall, and a couple of other picks, to the Los Angeles Rams for Vince Ferragamo…er, oops, I mean a slew of high draft picks.  Great deal for the Titans.  The Rams?  Maybe they should have kept their pick a few years back and taken Robert Griffin III?

The Cleveland Browns traded the number two overall pick (and one other pick) to the Philadelphia Eagles for another slew of picks.  Although the Browns can’t possibly be sold on the aforementioned RG III as their QB of the future, they need help all over the field, so it’s probably a good deal for them.  The Eagles?  Mystifying.

Philly already locked up Sam Bradford for huge dough…albeit for only 2 years.  And claimed they are not trading him and he will be the starter this year.  They also signed Chase Daniel to a pretty pricey backup deal…and he isn’t even any good.  Now they are going to take either Jared Goff or Carson Wentz as well?

Furthermore, when did Goff and Wentz become even Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota?  I’m no college football expert.  Looking at the numbers, Goff looks like he had a decent career.  But Wentz played at North Dakota State and seemingly came out of nowhere.  Not a whole hell of a lot accomplished in college either it seems.  Kind of a gamble dealing several picks for the chance to take him, no?  QB’s are always a gamble.  But they’d better hope this isn’t like 2011, where Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder went 8, 1o & 12 (yikes!) because QB-needy teams panicked and took them all waaaaaay too early.

It’s interesting also to look back at the times QB’s were drafted 1 and 2, one of them usually had a long career and the other?  Not so much.  (1971-Jim Plunkett/Archie Manning, 1993-Drew Bledsoe/Rick Mirer, 1998-Peyton Manning/Ryan Leaf, 1999-Tim Couch/Donovan McNabb…and maybe still too early to tell on 2012-Andrew Luck/RG III and 2015-Winston/Mariota).  Every pick in any draft is a gamble of course.  Just seemed like a lot to give up for the Rams and specifically, the Eagles.

That’s enough for now…but nope…I am far from done…

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