It has been a long-time coming, but the NBA playoffs have been more exciting than the NHL playoffs this year.
For a team that had aspirations of winning the NBA championship, the Chicago Bulls season ended with a thud. To lose three straight games to Cleveland including the final one on your home court by 23 will make it a long offseason. Tom Thibodeau no longer seems like a good fit, although he will easily find a job. Derrick Rose looks like he is finally healthy as he had an excellent series, but can you truly depend on him moving forward with his injury history? I wonder what would have happened this season with Chicago if Carmelo Anthony had gone there instead of resigning with the hapless NY Knicks.
Talk about turning back the clock. Paul Pierce was already a lock for the Hall of Fame, but if there were any doubts, he was awesome against the Hawks. He hit a game-winner in Game 3 and was 1/10 of a second away from hitting an amazing game-tying shot in Game 6 before the Wizards finally bowed to Atlanta. There has been talk of him returning to the Celtics next year since he will almost definitely not exercise his player option, but I believe he stays with the Wizards and if not, would opt for a contender knowing that next season would be his last.
The Cavs should easily dispatch the Hawks in five.
The Houston-Clippers series was tremendous, but the Clippers looked completely unprepared in Game 7 and for all the experience Doc Rivers has, his teams are not only 0-4 in road Game 7’s, but he is the only coach in NBA history to blow two 3-1 series leads. And how about the Clippers never even making it to the Western Conference Finals in their 37-year franchise history. The expansion franchise Hornets, Pelicans and Raptors are the only other NBA teams to have that distinction.
I’d say Golden State beats Houston in seven games. The Rockets have the talent to win, but Steve Kerr will outcoach Kevin McHale when it matters most which pains me to say.
Congrats to Isiah Thomas (the annoying one that used to play for the Pistons), for his new job as President of the WNBA’s New York Liberty. Now there will be an unlimited amount of women he can sexually harass. I hope the Liberty are saving because he cost the Knicks 11.6 million that was paid out to his victim.
I ask again on behalf of Joe Namath, for players to stop guaranteeing victories. I wish there was a win-loss statistic for players who have guaranteed victory since Namath successfully did it in Superbowl III.
Alex Ovechkin guaranteed a Game 7 victory in New York and despite scoring a goal, his Washington Capitals once again failed to advance past the semifinals and haven’t in 18 seasons.
Remember all of Rex Ryan’s guarantees of the Jets going to the Superbowl? How about Cavs owner Dan Gilbert guaranteeing the Cavs would win a title before LeBron won one in Miami. In 2007, during the Pats undefeated run, Steelers defensive back Anthony Smith guaranteed the Steelers would end the streak but Pittsburgh went on to lose 34-13. I guarantee the next time a player guarantees victory, no one will care.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have a chance to beat all Original 6 teams en route to winning the Stanley Cup. They beat the Red Wings in the first round, the Canadiens in the second round, are playing the New York Rangers in the third round and would play the Chicago Blackhawks in the Cup if the Hawks get by Anaheim.
Lightning GM Steve Yzerman is duplicating the business model he learned in Detroit. The Red Wings built their dynasty in the 90’s through hording Russian players and then followed it up by dominating the Swedish market. Yzerman has four dynamic young Russian players on Tampa Bay and has an overall winning foundation for years to come.
Since Montreal lost to Tampa Bay, the winningest team in NHL history has now gone 22 seasons without a Stanley Cup with only two appearances in the Conference Finals in that span.
I wonder how the Boston Bruins GM search is going?
One last hockey note, congrats to Canada on squeaking past the competition at the World Championship by going 10-0 and outscoring the opposition 66-15. By the way, Ovechkin guaranteed a loss for Russia in the gold medal game and he came through.
Okay so we are at the quarter pole in the MLB season.
What in the name of Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio is going on with the Houston Astros. They have the best record in the American League and are one game out of the best overall record in baseball. They are 25-14 overall and a staggering 12-4 on the road. To say this kind of leap was unexpected would be an understatement. In the Astros previous six seasons, they have compiled a 382-590 record and have finished a combined 184 games out of first place.
The Kansas City Royals not only don’t look hungover from last year’s surprising World Series run, but they are out to prove to everybody they are not a fluke. Fox can already taste that Royals-Astros ALCS.
As for the Red Sox, you have to go out of your way to have your #2-#6 hitters all hitting under .200 with runners in scoring position. My big question about the Red Sox these days is the lack of organizational development. From the mishandling of Will Middlebrooks (not referring to Jenny Dell here), to the shifting of positions of Xander Bogaerts last season, to the indecision of having too many outfielders and forcing a 72 million dollar player Rusney Castillo to waste away in the minors, this organization lacks clear direction. I am all for compiling assets, but once you compile them, you need to have a plan to effectively utilize them and that plan is missing. The AL East is an embarrassment and is among the worst divisions in baseball. But Sox management seems to be content with hanging around in an inferior division. I guess it beats finishing in last place again.
Jacoby Ellsbury exited the Yankees game tonight with a knee injury. He was on pace for four homers and twenty four RBI’s this season. Can they shorten the porch at Yankee Stadium even more?
The Cubs would make the playoffs as a wildcard if they started today. 106 seasons could be a distant memory.
I understand Kevin Love was frustrated and who wouldn’t have been. After toiling with Minnesota for six years and now he finally had a chance to not only participate in the playoffs but potentially contribute to winning a championship. But let’s be honest, Kelly Olynyk did not do this intentionally. Many Celtics have come to his defense and said Olynyk doesn’t have a malicious bone in his body. Well I say he doesn’t have an intentional bone in his body. He never intentionally plays defense, never intentionally gets rebounds or boxes out and never intentionally plays with any intensity or physicality. If anything, when Olynyk got tangled up with Love, it was more out of a lack of coordination or just plain frustration. One other note, Olynyk hooked Love’s arm for four seconds before a whistle was blown and if you watch the replay, you can see that Olynyk was steering Love away from the play in hopes that Bradley would grab the loose ball. By the way, if you aren’t a Celtics fan, it would be completely understandable if you didn’t know who Olynyk was.
A few other notes from that game and series. The officiating in Game 4 was horrendous and embarrassing for the league aside from the Olynyk incident. First, after Kendrick Perkins two-fisted Jae Crowder in the face, he walked toward him to initiate a fight and then after they got tangled hit him in the face again. Perkins had been in the game for a grand total of 40 seconds and he turned into Rick Mahorn. A bit player off the bench who sparks an ugly incident and isn’t ejected? What happened to keeping the game under control? If the referees had rightfully ejected Perkins, the J.R. Smith incident wouldn’t have happened and Jae Crowder doesn’t sprain his ACL and the game doesn’t deteriorate. And how could I leave out Isaiah Thomas mugging Lebron James on the inbounds at the end of the game which helped the Celtics force a turnover. Three referees on the court including the one that handed LeBron the ball and nobody saw it? The height of incompetency.
The Spurs-Clippers series has been the best series so far and Game 6 should be a doozy. The Clippers are playing their hearts out but as usual the defending NBA champs find a way to win which is why they are up 3-2. It would be nice just once if after the Clippers lose a close game, if Coach Doc Rivers didn’t blame the officials which has now become an ongoing pattern.
How about Deron Williams? Paul Pierce started the bashing and many other NBA players and media alike piled on before he woke up and dropped 35 points on the Atlanta Hawks in Game 4 to tie the series at 2-2. In his previous three games he was 7-of-26 from the field with a grand total of 18 points. For a guy that has underachieved as badly as he has since arriving in Brooklyn, he would be forgiven by a lot of his naysayers if he led the Nets to upset the Hawks in the series. The Nets, behind a rejuvenated and energized Deron Williams could potentially beat the Wizards in the next round also.
By the way, Pierce in potentially his last hurrah led the Wizards to a quick disaptch and sweep of the Toronto Raptors.
Who would have thought that Rajon Rondo would lead the Mavericks to as many playoff victories as the Celtics earned without him? Rondo will probably be forced to take a one year deal with the Lakers now to show he is not a coach killer or malcontent. With that said, his lack of boundaries, mental and emotional discipline and declining play have cost him potentially 20 to 30 million dollars at least. When a guy can’t even pretend to be a good guy or stay on his best behavior going into his free agent year, that speaks volumes.
As the Celtics head into the offseason, let’s truly assess where they are at. Jae Crowder can play for my team anytime as a sixth man. Thomas is the best guard off the bench that any team has in the NBA. Tyler Zeller is a quality backup center that GM Danny Ainge stole from Cleveland. Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley are a legitimate starting backcourt moving forward, but otherwise this team is still very far away from an NBA championship. Ainge needs to attract two marquee players and a couple of veteran big men for this team to be truly relevant. As Coach Brad Stevens said, it was a blessing to play Cleveland in the first round, because it tells the Celtics where they need to get to. Going from 30 wins to 40 wins is a lot easier than going from 40 to 50 or more.
In the name of Clyde Drexler, what kind of motivational tactics are the Portland Trailblazers using with lines like “We don’t lose to Spanish players”. Portland forward and French player Nicolas Batum took responsibility for the Blazers motivational card within the locker room saying he didn’t mean to insult anyone especially the Memphis Grizzlies Spanish center Marc Gasol. Well, as it turns out, the Grizzlies don’t seem to lose to French players as they are on the verge of knocking out Portland with a 3-1 series lead. By the way, Bob Cousy was the first French player in the NBA. The All-French team. Cousy and Tony Parker in the backcourt, Boris Diaw and Joakim Noah at forwards and the Stifle Tower Rudy Gobert at center.
Here is hoping the Tampa Bay Lightning beat Detroit in the seventh game tonight. The Lightning were 5-0 against Montreal in the regular season and that would be the second round matchup.
I have jumped on the Calgary Flames bandwagon, not just because they sent the Sedin brothers and Alex Burrows on an early vacation, but they are starting to bring back memories of the days of Theo Fleury, Gary Suter, Joe Mullen and Joe Nieuwendyk. The Flames beat Montreal to win their only Stanley Cup in 1989. In the previous 20 seasons, the Flames have missed the playoffs 12 times and been eliminated in the first round seven times. Here is the bad news. Not only do they have to play the Anaheim Ducks in the next round, but Calgary has lost 20 straight games in Anaheim.
Lastly, the St. Louis Blues continue to be a huge playoff disappointment after falling in the first round to the Minnesota Wild. In the four seasons since coach Ken Hitchcock has taken over, the Blues have had 109, 111 and 109 points respectively and the fourth shortened season (NHL lockout in 2012-13) they had 60 which was still third in the Western Conference. They have now lost in the first round three straight years and the fourth year they lost in the second round. In the last 10 years Hitchcock has coached, he has led his teams to a grand total of one playoff series victory.