Monthly Archives: April 2017
…so I made a prediction for the Boston Celtics first round series against the Chicago Bulls. I had the Celtics initially beating the Bulls 4 games to 2. Then I changed it because of Isaiah Thomas’ sisters untimely passing. Made it 4-3 C’s. Should have kept it at C’s in 6. Have I not learned from going against my first inclination…in most situations? Guess not. Oh well…
The Celtics woke up from dropping the first two at home, Game 2 being especially frustrating and actually, embarrassing. It helped that Rajon Rondo got hurt and did not play in the Bulls 4 defeats. I knew Rondo would step up his game for the Celtics and the playoffs in general. I was surprised to see what kind of difference he seemed to actually be making on the floor. Especially after his uneven year. I suppose you can never predict which version of Rondo he will bring to the floor. But it was a big loss for the Bulls.
Apparently, Jimmy Butler was going through some physical issues as well, despite being on the floor as much as he usually is. Every player most assuredly has something going on physically at this time of year. But when Rondo plays awesome and you lose him…and your best player in Butler is fighting something also…those are big detriments. Of course that goes without saying.
The Celtics definitely played better starting in Game 3. But they were helped by the situations noted above, no question. Food for thought heading into the second round matchup with the Washington Wizards.
The Wizards? I’m not sure how much I can tell ya. Similar to the Bulls, I can’t say I have watched a ton of Wizard basketball, if any. I look and see that Washington and Boston split their season series 2-2. The Celtics won both games at home by single digits, while they got walloped both times in the nation’s capital. I can also tell you there has been some bad blood this year between the teams…for only God knows why. I remember Jae Crowder getting worked up over something and putting his finger on John Wall’s nose after one game. But per usual with basketball “fights”, I didn’t pay much attention to it. The NBA has a bunch of fraudulent tough guys that talk a lot of smack, then when it gets physical, flail around like they’ve never thrown a fist ever…or run away still yapping and flexing their muscles and all that. Not worth my time…
Anyway, as for the matchups, Avery Bradley will presumably guard Bradley Beal. AB gives up 3 inches to Beal, but maybe the “disrespect” Bradley felt in Round 1 will continue to spur him on. Marcus Smart gives up only an inch, so he should help here too.
But I don’t know how Isaiah is going to guard John Wall. (Well, maybe this “defensive” matchup will be a wash, with Wall having to cover IT). And I don’t know who is going to keep Marcin Gortat off the glass. Maybe even Markieff Morris, for that matter. Rebounding is still an issue for the Celts, and will be until/if they decide to fix that in the offseason. Otto Porter killed them in their first matchup, but I’m going to worry about the other 4 starters over him. Maybe that’s a mistake. Especially if Brad Stevens leaves Gerald Green in the starting lineup. Green would then likely guard Porter (Jae Crowder on Morris, Al Horford on Gortat). Not necessarily ideal for Green to be guarding…anyone.
I will give Stevens credit however. He made the change going to Green against Chicago, instead of Amir Johnson. I’ve been saying for quite some time now that I have no idea what Johnson brings to the table. Supposed to be a power forward but averages about four and a half rebounds a game. At least Green can score. But is this the right strategy for the next round? No idea.
I know that spot with Green will be rotated around with several players…primarily Smart I would say. So it’s not like Gerald will be playing 30 minutes. Unless he is on fire of course. Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko will be the other main “contributors” off the bench. But that’s ok, the Wizards bench doesn’t appear that strong…to me, anyway. But I already told you I haven’t watched them a lot, so what do I know?
Mid-season acquisition Bojan Bogdanovic seems to be the main guy to contend with off the Wizards’ bench. Who else, Jason Smith, Kelly Oubre? Nah. Maybe if they let Brandon Jennings gun it up like he did early in his career, he can make a difference. But he shot 27% in 23 games with Washington this year after he was acquired. His shooting percentages have always been putrid, but this certainly takes the cake. Though he is shooting 55% in the playoffs…so again, what do I know?
That’s about all I have for analysis. And it’s not necessarily deep analysis anyway. But I had to say something. Sssssoooo…the result?
Washington in 6. It was nice that the C’s finally got over the hump and won a playoff round under Brad Stevens. Progress is still happening, slowly, but I believe surely. I just don’t see how they stop Wall and Beal for a whole series. Or keep Gortat from making a big difference on the boards every game as well. The Celtics will play hard. Isaiah will get his. But I think this is where it ends…
…20 games into the season. Nice work. Season is 1/8th over and the Blowhard is just getting around to writing about the team for the first time since the playoffs last year.
Oh well, at least it’s still April. And you know, the Celtics are (and the Bruins were) in the playoffs. Everything the Patriots do is seemingly newsworthy. Ok, enough of the excuses…
So this isn’t really a Season Preview…quite obviously. The following is a collection of thoughts about the first 20 games. In no particular order:
*I’m not sure how many times exactly so far the Red Sox have had their ideal lineup in place, but it can’t be much. Because of injury, illness (sorry Buck Showalter), bereavement and whatever else, the Sox have been shuttling players in and out of the lineup right from Opening Day. But let’s say they do have their lineup all in place one day soon. Does it scare you? Not me.
*David Ortiz is going to be a bigger loss than you think. Who is to say he would have put up monster numbers again if he stuck around in his age-41 season. No guarantees there. And he probably wouldn’t have. But where is the power this year?
*Not to mention Ortiz’ leadership. Does anyone really buy into Hanley Ramirez trying to fit into that role? Laughable. Not that he is trying to be that kind of leader. But he has made comments that he has wanted to.
*Dustin Pedroia would seem to be the “next in line” to be that guy. Makes sense. But the whole Manny Machado incident from last week leaves a bad taste in many people’s mouths…and not for Machado’s actual slide and subsequent Pedroia injury. It was how Pedroia handled the situation. Publicly slamming Matt Barnes for throwing the pitch (location and timing) and presumably management as well (specifically Manager John Farrell?), suggesting that if they were going to throw at Manny, it should’ve been done the next time he was at the dish in the series.
While Pedey may be correct in everything he said, both to Machado on the field and then after the game, it would appear that this is not the way a “leader” goes about an incident like that. Then again, when the Sox collapsed down the stretch in 2011 and cost Tito Francona his job, Pedey just watched all the antics unfold in front of him…as did the “Captain”, Jason Varitek. And Ortiz himself, for that matter. So maybe this leadership crap is exactly what it is…crap.
*I admit, when they rolled Andrew Benintendi in the 2-spot from the get-go, I did not like it. Seemed that it may put some pressure on the kid. Every other “phenom” the Sox have brought up over the years seemed to start out at the bottom of the lineup. Then eventually are moved up when they proved their mettle. But the kid is unflappable.
*Sandy Leon was a nice story for about 2 months last year. Hit everything in sight. But it’s time to give the job back to Christian Vazquez. And not because he is hitting .478. But because he appears to be all the way back from his 2015 Tommy John injury. Defensive monster. And if Blake Swihart can ever get his mojo back…
*Pablo Sandoval still stinks. And before he got hurt, his defense stunk too. But at least they have Josh Rutledge to platoon with him when the still Fat Panda is healthy. Sigh…
*Speaking of platoons, this team is going to have its problems against lefthanders it appears. Mitch Moreland has had a nice start. But looks helpless against lefties. Panda can’t hit right-handed. Rutledge? Please. Hanley refuses to play first…and the Sox are letting him get away with it. That means either Moreland or Panda has to play against southpaws, along with Rutledge. No good. Chris Young is ok against lefties and ideally he would DH and Hanley would play first and Rutledge third. Not exciting, but the best they can do. Nice leadership Hanley.
*It’s early. But Xander Bogaerts should be better than what I see.
*Who DIDN’T see the Rick Porcello regression coming?
*Steven Wright for that matter too.
*I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m not counting on seeing David Price until after the All-Star break.
*Heath Hembree has been a pleasant surprise. Joe Kelly hasn’t been horrible. Matt Barnes has been nice. But in reality, I don’t want any of these guys pitching in the 8th inning with a small lead. Or really any lead. I’ll likely be holding my breath on Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith when (if?) they come back as well.
*What’s the purpose of having Fernando Abad on the roster?
*Or Steve Selsky?
*Pawtucket Red Sox note: Deven Marrero, the former first round pick, is 4 for 39 this year thus far. That’s .103, for those scoring at home. .253 OPS. Solid. Hit .198 all of 2016 in Pawtucket, with a .487 OPS. Is his defense really that good? He actually got a couple of days in Boston earlier this year, with the illnesses and all. I’m not sure I understand…
*Pawtucket note, Part II: Allen Craig is still alive! .211 for the PawSox thus far. My question though is…why?
*Pawtucket note, Part III…and Reason #2,567,321,956 why Spring Training stats mean nothing: Kyle Kendrick is 0-3, 8.10 in his three starts on the farm. Remember when some people were trying to make space for him in the big league rotation?
*John Farrell. It’s no secret I am not a fan. But honestly, I don’t remember being outraged at him at all this year. 20 games in, kind of surprising, I know. A lot of people were up in arms when he yanked Chris Sale in his last start when he was at 102 pitches and dominating. Then Craig Kimbrel immediately coughed up the lead and cost Sale a win. I didn’t honestly have a strong feeling about that either way. Then the Sox won the game anyway. And Kimbrel actually went 2 innings himself, something he historically does not do. Hard to really complain about that in the end.
Soon enough Farrell will piss me off. But we will cross that bridge when we get to it…
*By the way, embarrassing note: this is probably the first time in my life that someone made the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster and I had absolutely no idea who he was. Ben Taylor. Who? Well, he’s not here anymore. But he didn’t embarrass himself in his stint, that’s for sure. Didn’t even realize he was in Portland for a bit last year, or right up the street in Lowell for 4 games in 2015. Hasn’t been around for that long, but still something I’m not proud of.
*Speaking of embarrassing…and ending on this note…Taylor is ranked as the 18th best prospect for the Sox. According to MLB.com anyway. They list the top 30 prospects. Ranked at #29? Robby Scott. Yup, a 27 year old lefty specialist is on a “Top Prospect” list. Yikes!
Talking about both Boston winter sports teams…Celtics and Bruins. The simple answer to the question? Not quite. But wins on Friday night for both gives them both some hope. For one of the squads more than the other, but we will get to that.
If I had written this piece before Friday night, I would have entitled it “Life Support?”. Because it had seemed at that point that the playoffs were over for both teams before they had even really begun. Prospects were indeed bleak. One win apiece doesn’t necessarily change that. But things may be looking up.
The Bruins had the most exciting win of the two. Took them until double overtime to get it done. And won by someone who most people had never heard of…Sean Kuraly. 8 regular season games for the B’s with one assist. 2 playoff games with no points. Averaged less than 10 minutes a game in those 10 contests. Then in Game 5, back in for a benched Ryan Spooner, over 28 minutes played and 2 goals? What?!
Of course the B’s should have won in the first overtime, but let’s not even go there.
This series with Ottawa has been a dogfight, no question. The Senators have outscored the B’s 12-11. 3 OT games out of 5. A bounce here or there and the B’s could be in the lead actually.
Do I think the win Friday will spur the Bruins to victory in the series? No, I don’t. I’m thinking they will actually lose Game 6 Sunday (of course making my Ottawa 4-2 series win prediction come true!).
I just don’t think the B’s have the horses. For as much as the Game 5 win will pump their spirits and probably do wonders for them mentally, the physical aspect cannot be ignored. How much do they have left in the tank? About 39 hours after the finish of Game 5, they will lace them up for Game 6. David Krejci, who wasn’t healthy in the first place, left last game early with another injury. Hard to believe he will suit up for the next one. Brandon Carlo, Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid presumably are still out.
The defense is the real key here. It’s amazing they have only allowed 12 goals in the series with some of the characters on the blue line. Tommy Cross had to play in one game! Yeah, Ottawa is no offensive juggernaut for sure. And Tuukka Rask has had his “7 million dollar goalie” moments. He has not played as well as people will lead you to believe…and admittedly part of that has been because of the rotating defensmen around him. But he was absolutely fantastic for at least the second half of Game 5 though, no question.
Back to the defense though, Zdeno Chara played over 36 minutes Friday and is averaging almost 30 for the series. 40 years old and still a good player. But…that’s some serious mileage so far. Charlie McAvoy? He may have plenty of juice for Game 6, but can we guarantee he keeps playing the way he has been? Perhaps the intensity in the NHL playoffs will wear him down a bit? And Joe Morrow played almost 30 minutes Friday. Joe Morrow? Seems he played pretty well, but can we count on that going forward?
For the Bruins, great win in Game 5. But I see that as the last hurrah. Unless Brad Marchand finally decides to show up…
On to the Celtics…
Now this one is a different story. Game 1 disappointment, Game 2 atrocity. Then a Game 3 rebound on the road. Though a blown 20 point lead early doesn’t help matters. Even if they still won by 17.
I don’t love the Celtics’ chances overall for the entire playoffs. But I do think they come back and win this series. And no, not just cuz Rajon Rondo is likely done for the series. Rondo has (had) clearly stepped up his game for this series. And I didn’t think “National TV Rondo” would show up for the series. So I was wrong. Wasn’t the first time and won’t be the last.
The Celtics, despite their flaws, and despite the personal situation Isaiah Thomas is still going through, are simply a better overall team than the Bulls.
Jimmy Butler will get his. Dwayne Wade will do enough. Robin Lopez, unfortunately, will probably still do OK against any of the Celtics’ “bigs”. But can the rest of the Bobby Portis’, Jerian Grant’s and Paul Zipser’s keep doing what they are doing? Maybe. But I’m not counting on it.
This Celtic team is not a championship team by any means. Many moves still have to be made to keep on that path. We’ve been through all this before. But they are too good to drop a first round series to a team that barely made the playoffs. I would have even said that if there was still a healthy Rondo to deal with.
Now that it is 2-1, the series becomes more manageable, even if Game 4 is in Chicago.
I can’t say that I thought inserting Gerald Green into the starting lineup in Game 3 was the perfect answer. But it didn’t hurt. Brad Stevens will have to continue to mix and match to find solutions. And despite his putrid career playoff record, I somehow have faith that he will. For this round anyway.
I see a C’s win in Game 4, but still a 6-7 game series, probably 7. It won’t be easy. But at least winning Game 3 gave them a shot to get back in this thing. And sure, their 3-point shooting in Game 3 was off the charts. I hate all the threes, but that’s their game. I expect more of the same going forward.
In any event, it makes for a good day of Sunday viewing. Along with the Boston Red Sox trying to actually win a game in Baltimore. But that’s a story for a different day…