Sunday, May 30, 2010

Boston clinches Eastern Conference title, defeats Orlando 96 - 84.

Last time, the path this team took to get to the finals was an obvious one. A 36-game-improvement-60-plus win-season-best record-in-the-league-beat-the-Lakers-in-6 kind of obvious.

But this? 

To be honest, a fan's faith in the green and white was tested this year with a regular season that was awesome to start with, bumpy to downright dodgy in the middle and redeemable toward the end. Celtics players talked as they always have this year, phrases like 'staying focused' and 'Ultimate goal in mind' and 'being ready for playoffs'. But their are several words which have turned out to be the most important, often reiterated by coach Glen 'Doc' Rivers again and again in 09 - 10;


After finishing 50 - 32 in the regular season and looking anything but intimidating the Celtics have come alive. Round 1 saw them dominate Dwayne Wade and the rest of the Miami Heat in 5, a win we all saw coming. 

Round 2 was a different story. The regular season first placed and post season favourite Cleveland Cavaliers playing a Boston team whom apparently needed to 'step up' to beat the No. 1 team in the East. Six games later Cleveland was an after thought, being out played and out hustled by a unselfish and well balanced Celtics team . 

This of course leads us to the Conference Finals. Their opponent the Orlando magic had swept their own first and second round series against the reasonable Charlotte Bobcats and the supposed very good Atlanta Hawks. On paper they where the best team. On court they folded, after one lucky win and one very good one. 

Dwayne Wade, Lebron James and Dwight Howard, three of the best players in the league have all fallen to a true team focused on one goal. An NBA title.

And now, all the Celtics have to do is win four games against the Lakers to take out the whole damn show. 

Green and white for life. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

No sweep for Boston: Orlando wins 96 - 92 in OT.

I am not a sage, basketball egg head but I think I got lucky calling it in my last post (prior to game 4);

This next game SHOULD be the best game of the series. It SHOULD be a closer game, akin to game two. Overtime is not completely unlikely. Orlando beat this Celtics team in the regular season, so it SHOULD be in the Magic's sphere of attainability. If victory is unattainable the game SHOULD be fought hard regardless. This Orlando team SHOULD feel like their back is against the wall.

I actually hit it on the head. Especially that bit about the overtime. But that is not the point. The point is we finally have a ball game and a series.

But for how long?

Orlando are too good a team to get swept in four. I really wanted Boston to win this game, believe me I am not vouching for the Orlando Magic to win the series. I just believed they had a victory in them. Unfortunately, a sloppy game by Boston in relation to their serious dip in field goal percentage (46.6 in game 3 down to 42.1% in game 4) and failure to execute when it counted led to this loss. Rondo being contained to 3 of 10 is not a good sign either. 

The fact this game went to overtime is significant for each team; Boston played badly because of missed opportunities, but is everyone missing the fact that Orlando needed to get to overtime to earn the win shooting a very average 44.6 % from the field? Peirce lost the ball on the last play, if he had hit the shot it would all be over now. Boston cut down the Magic's lead on the back of a substantial run before the final botched play in regulation that led to the Orlando overtime win. I would be more concerned if it was a regulation victory by 10 points.

But this victory has only served to give the Magic a glimmer of hope that Boston should extinguish in game 5. The Celtics will sharpen up their rotations and enter that Magic home court with purpose and need for retribution. Doc Rivers won't let them forget the simple mistakes they made that let Orlando take game 4 and the players being aware of their own part in that loss. Boston needs to go in mad, and take it all away from the Orlando Magic. It doesn't need to be a beat down like game 3, but it needs to be decisive and smothering.

Green and white for life.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Wow. 94 - 71 Celtics.

In game 3, every Celtic player logged minutes (between 5 and 39) and only one remained scoreless (keep on tryin' Shelden) as Boston, shooting 46.6% from the feild, took the Orlando magic to 3 and 0 and the brink of elimination.

I am a Boston fan, Obviously. But I try to  remain objective. objective as a fan can be. The fan part of me is screaming wordlessly (as to not jinx the C's run) the thing which at this point seem very possible to occur, given that my team is up 3 - 0. Paul Peirce yelled it heading to the locker room with 20 seconds left in game 3; 'one more, one more'.

The basketball appreciator says calmly; OK up three, great for the team in Boston. The team from Orlando had it's best chance to get some firm footing and begin the long climb from 2 - 0 down. The didn't. Maybe it's because only three players score double figures. Or the fact they shot a collectively dismal 36.9% from the field. 

And unlike previous games, the magic didn't (or were not given the chance to) cut a lead with a run in the fourth. Instead they finish 23 behind and on the verge of losing the series and their best shot at a title in years. And they've got a day off for the rot that is self doubt to set in, or attempt to keep it at bay and find a way back. 

All this before going back to the same opposing arena, where they got beaten by more than 20 points in the last game, to try and get one of four victories in a row to win the series. 

Possible. Theoretically. 

Which sets the stage for game 4. So I will break it down with the emphasis on the obvious;

This next game SHOULD be the best game of the series. It SHOULD be a closer game, akin to game two. Overtime is not completely unlikely. Orlando beat this Celtics team in the regular season, so it SHOULD be in the Magic's sphere of attainability. If victory is unattainable the game SHOULD be fought hard regardless. This Orlando team SHOULD feel like their back is against the wall.

They are at the edge of a cliff with a lion blocking their only way out. The question is - does Orlando find it easier to jump or take a shot at Simba?  It is a case of what SHOULD happen, and what the Magic do in their next and possibly final game of 09 - 10'.

Green and white for life.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Looking like something we haven't seen in a while.

 The Celtics find themselves up 2 - 0 against an Orlando Magic team who has breezed their way through the post season. The Celtics hang on to win game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals 95 - 92

To paraphrase a boxing anecdote in the context of MBA basketball; Boston must take out the eastern conference heavyweights the Orlando Magic, just like Ali took out the more favoured Foreman in Zaire in 74. That famous victory in '74 was accomplished because Ali used patience, discipline and elegantly brilliant tactics to defeat a younger and more powerful adversary.

Doc rivers said during a post game statement following Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals that this Celtics team is looking like the team that started the 2009 - 2010 season. A team that went 27 - 5. 

On paper Orlando is clearly a better team, especially if you take into account their stellar form in the 2nd half of the season. The team of Howard / Carter / Lewis / Nelson combining with significant bench play from Reddick, Pietrius, Williams and Barnes playing the inside outside ball game was killing teams in the last half of the season. You collapse on Howard, you give the rest of the team options through the lane or from beyond the arc. Add that to the way the Magic have dealt with their play off opposition, especially the highly talented Atlanta Hawks and Orlando look like an obvious tip for a best of 7 against an older Celtics team who are guilty of patchy play during the regular season.

Thing is, Neither of these teams have shown up for the play offs. 

Firstly, lets look at the Magic team now (prior to game 3 of the eastern Finals). Howard has been dealing with the Celtics 'Bigs', who know how to defend an opposing center like Dwight Howard. Limiting his offensive choices and getting him out of his normal pattern of play. So, no problem? Kick it out to your team mates, they can step up? 

Well...for some reason this is not happening. Carter and Nelson have showed some improved play in the 2nd game, but despite this the Celtics are holding down the fort to get the wins, even with 4th quarter surges when the Magic actually looks like number 2 in the east. 

I believe that coasting through the play offs and only facing a tough team in the eastern finals is the WORST thing for this team who, despite great depth and discipline, lack maturity  when facing a cagey opponent using patience, discipline and elegant tactics. That sound you hear is the culmination of the metaphor from 2nd Paragraph.

Now for the Celtics. To be up 2 - 0 in the conference finals, a lot of things are going right. Namely this team is stepping up and (so far) playing every game like they are down and facing elimination. Taking out the Cav's in 6 is now a much publicised, but no less impressive victory. They won 3 in a row playing with a killer instinct that has carried over to the conference finals. Behind Invigorated play by Peirce, Allen and Garnett, key contribution form their bench and all this being spear headed by this teams new MVP; Rajon Rondo. 
Game 3 is a chance for the Magic to force open a crack and get some day light in this series. For the Celtics, a win today would have the same effect that game 5 had in the Cleveland series. Even if they came back and won game 4 the damage has been done, the statement has been made.

It is up to Boston to win this. It is in their best interest as a team to contain and defeat the Magic at TD Banknorth as they have done on the Magic's home court. To do that they need to step up the intensity, to NOT give this very capable Magic team no chance at a game 3 win. What is needed is a demoralising win for the Celtics akin to the game 5 record loss Cleveland sustained in game 5.

A statement needs to be made today to shut the door on this series.

Green and white for life.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Going for the green and white.

 As an Australian fan of the Boston Celtics there are plenty of times when you are alone in your passion for the team. I began following the club in one of their worst years, 04 - 05' held no joy for those who follow the green and white. The fact you follow an American team confounds some people in Australia. 

Most people acknowledge and accept my passion for this storied NBA franchise but to follow the Celtics, with hardly another fan ever in sight can put you in a position of being a singular voice. I now know how it feels to be a part of the crowd for my team, to be one of many in a sea of green after making the pilgrimage to the last Celtics regular season home game this year.

In early April 2010, my wife and I made a trip to America for 11 days. In that time we went to Las Vegas, New York and Boston. For the purposes of this entry I will focus solely on the Boston constituent of the of the trip. 

When the first thing that greets when you get off the Amtrak massive green Celtics sign at least 5 stories high, you know this is THE place where green and white lives. Staying a few hundred meters from the TD Banknorth Garden, with Celtics 
posters and banners adorning flag poles and walls and not being the only person wearing Celtic green - in a small way I felt like I had come home. Well, the part of me that loves the Boston Celtics felt like that. The rest of me was tired but enjoying the trip.

It really didn't hit me until I walked in the venue, where I was and how far I had come to be there. After a mandatory visit to the supporters shop and counting several other apparel stalls I wanted to go back to after the game - my wife and I made our way to the into the arena to watch the pre game goings on.

It is at this point I felt something I will never forget. Regardless what would occur I had walked into the TD Banknorth Garden to find myself literally hit with what can only be described as a rush of air and a culmination of awe and appreciation. Everything that I am so familiar was there; the parquet floor, the 17 banners and retired numbers - all tangible. I felt honored and proud. It was simply unforgetable. 

My wife took a photo of me on her old film camera with out my knowledge. It sums up every thing I have written, just more susiscintly. The awe is plainly visible on my face and the emotions I felt are conveyed in the 'mistiness' of my eyes.

The Celtics lost the game with out any of the big three playing a minute, but at least I got to see Rajon Rondo post up power forwards and take them to school. As the Celtics fan often do, the folks started leaving when the result became evident. I stayed to soak up every second because it didn't feel right to do anything less.

Green and white for life.       

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Celtics win in 6.

For a team that had the best record in the east and what appeared to be all the right components for a title and a star to take them there - the unthinkable has happened. They lost in 6 games to a team with no single super star and a point guard who caused them fits. 

Yes, the apparently 'too old' Celtics beat everyone's favourite team (quiet literally) Cleveland. 

There, I said it. Let  me soak it up for a second. It is times like this when it feels great to be a devotee of the green and white.

So to break it down, what went right for Boston? And for Cavs fans, how did this conceivably occur? The fall out from this series has massive ramifications for the off season free agency market as well as exposing the true credentials of the teams that contested what coach Doc Rivers refered to as 'a brutal series'.

  • Boston just played better when it counted: Ok, I am a fan, but it is what I believe truly took place over 6 games. That said the Celtics had lapses, worst-playoff-loss-in history kind of lapses.That is why I added 'when it counted'. And it counted games 4 and 5. In every loss the Cavs suffered, they where held to around 40% from the field and LeBron either was a no show or misfired. The Celtics did a great job containing the 'king' (without a crown) but LeBron's sub par play may have also been due in part to some wear and tear on his elbow. But it didn't seem to bother him when he torched the C's for 38 in game 3.

  • Game 5: This was so damn pivotal to the outcome of the series. I mean the Celtics really demolished the Cavs in this one. And in their own house. A king hit to Cleveland both mentally and physically. The reason; When Cleveland focused all their attention on containing Rondo, the big three used that sliver of day light to heat up. Peirce finally shook of LeBron's defensive shackles and had 14 in the first half while Rondo was held scoreless in the first half. Once Rondo started getting looks (he finished with 21) in the 2nd half the damage had been inflicted, a Cavs team was left genuinely rattled with their backs against the wall. Not  a good place to be when you have to win the next game in Boston. Did I mention they lost that one?

  • Blood in the water:  To close out a series means you need to take the momentum, and pasting Cleveland in game 5 gave the C's the beginning of that. The Celtics had to take advantage of the blood in the water and close it out, play with the will and urgency to finish it on their terms and their home court. And they did that once again with a balanced attack with no one star and a team of players ready to step up. Tony Allen, Rasheed and a invigorated KG were 3 of 5 Celtics in double figures.
This series is also pivotal in giving this Celtics team back it's swagger to win this years title. And they will need every ounce of it against an Orlando magic team that has quietly has been undefeated in the play offs while also finishing the regular season very strongly. The Celtics are an under dog once again.

But that has been working for us of late. 

Green and white for life. 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Key win: 120 - 88, Celtics take series lead.

After an impressive 10 point win to even the series, one in which Rondo further cemented his burgeoning dominance of this series (29 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists) Boston took the series lead.

But the way in which they took it was down right brutal.

Opening up a lead in the 2nd half, the Celtics destroyed Cleveland playing them back for their worst play off loss ever by giving the Cav's their  historic 32 point loss. In a stunning display of team work, the green and white had 6 players in double figures while limiting the play of LeBron James to 4 of 15 shooting for 15 points. 

Each team will be ready for the next game, that is not in any doubt. For Boston they have stated that they are playing this next game like it is game 7 and it is their backs up against the wall, to avoid playing a real game 7 in Cleveland. For the Cavs the have little choice, they face elimination. If they are ever going to bring it now is the time. But you have to do it in Boston against a team that is playing together and limiting their opponents key player (James).

I believe that Cleveland has chronic match up problems against this Boston team and have had since 07 - 08. Both teams have changed their line ups and shored up their weaker points, but the one thing that is Cleveland's greatest asset is also a fundamental weakness. 

That is LeBron James. 

If you limit or contain LeBron James it falls upon his team mates to step up and dominate. Antwan Jamison is the only Cavs player I feel could do that. Mo Williams is way to in consistent and has a bad habit of cooling down when he needs to heat up. Shaq has developed as a great piece of the puzzle for Cleveland but his dominant play does not  decide games like it used to. Essentially the Cavaliers are a team with a very good players and one amazing and dominant player. When James misfires like he did in game 5, the players around James lack the cumulative strength to dominate as he does. Until the Cav's recruit a player(s) to complement LeBron in the way Scottie Pippen complemented and enhanced Jordan's game - the Cavs will not win a championship.

Boston unlike Cleveland has a team of players playing like a team. Rajon Rondo has emerged as a force at point guard, his play has confounded and mismatched Cleveland at every turn so far. In trying to limit Rondo, that takes the defensive focus off Garnett, Allen and Peirce. Now you have to stop four very different and equally talented players all heating up. The result of which is the massacre that occurred in game five. Boston has no outright superstar but it does have at least 4 players who can contribute at a high level together.

Give me those four guys and the rest of that team over LeBron any time.

Green and white for life.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Welcome to 'green and white for life', formerly The Mikan Drill and Chase down D (ughh!)

You know the great thing about having a blog nobody reads? Changing the name and address affects only myself. 

And to be honest it has been bugging me, I can't have a pro Celtics blog named after a Laker (even the great ones from Minneapolis, sorry George). Why didn't some one name a drill after Bill Russell? Oh wait, they did...It's called shot blocking. Imagine if that actually occurred? (In an cantankerous announcers voice: 'Jordan goes in for the lay up, Russelled by Mourning!')

This Blog will remain as it has been. Mostly Celtics articles, the occasional 'props to: stuff', more captioning of NBA pics that take my fancy and all of this must be done infrequently and then in bunches.

At least I feel better about the god damn name. 

Wait, what if I rename the blog again? By combining and playing on the names of Celtic players through out history? 'Russelling the Truth', 'A Bird in the Parish' (wow that sounds bad, and painful), 'Waiting to McHale' (I know, but it is funny), 'Be-cous of the game' (rhymes with lame), 'Havla-check this blog out' (I just tying letters, I am not even looking this is crazy!) or 'Cowens owns you' (well, back in the day, he would have).

And with a paragraph of stupid names, minus half an hour of sleep I should have had - I end this entry.

Green and white for life.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The favour returned: 124 - 95 Cleveland.

While Celtics fans enjoyed the post victory after glow that only comes from routing a an elite eastern team and hated rival - we all knew this series is going to give us more. 

It it will not be pretty basketball and there
be ugly losses both teams. In game 3 it was Boston's turn, going down 124 - 95.

Boston had to expect a Cav's team out for blood, with their backs to the wall and robbed of home court. The Cavs don't like getting shown up like they did in game 2, especially at home. Being 2 -1 down in a play off series is not an option for either team. And today the Cav's brought the fire . They out rebounded and out scored a Celtics team that gave away way too many points due to a lack of stops on defense leading to the worst home play off loss ever for the green and white. 

Wow. And ow.

Give credit where it is due.Cleveland are a quality team who have the tools to win the title. Cleveland has made all it's player acquisitions with a dual goal in mind; win a title and retain Lebron James with a long term contract. There is more to lose for the Cav's than a shot at glory with a loaded team. Cleveland could lose James to greener pastures if this campaign fails, where a title is more assured and the city is more alluring. Losing this series could be potentially fatal for the future of Cavaliers as an elite eastern team.

The best time is now for the Celtics to win a title. They have to feel the urgency. The veterans must realise this is their time. Not next or they year after when injuries could be potentially career ending and the stars are a little older. They can't rely on their 07  - 08 champion  swagger to get them over the line. They need the steel that I saw in their eyes when they took game 2 at the Q. To paraphrase Paul Peirce after game 1 they need to play every game like it is game 7 and they are ahead by 2. More than any other team (except for Charlotte in the regular season) Celtics of the past 3 years have always had the ability to confound and beat Lebron's Cleveland teams. Although the odds may have evened out some, the Celtics can still find weak points in the Cav's collective armour.    

This series has more at stake for both teams and goes beyond the winner of this series most likely facing the Orlando Magic. These are two teams locked in a battle for the glory of the moment but also playing for what is to come. As a Celtics fan I know what their 09 - 10' is capable of, when the C's won game 2 they where playing like the 27 - 5 team that began the season. A span in which they handed Cleveland a loss to begin this seasons campaign. 

This series is heading toward a bitter and hard fought game 7. If the physical laws of the NBA apply here, Boston should (and I stress should) come out with a resolve to even this series and make up for the humiliation of game 3. My money is on a pattern of decisive victories by 10 - 15 point margins at most, unless one the teams shoots 60% from the field like the Cav's did in game 3. 

At the end of this series the winner will have achieved something special. Overcoming a hated rival, sending them  to the off season with more questions than answers and changes to inevitably be made. Really it could be either team facing that scenario. But as a fan, I believe it will Boston going on to win. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Play offs: Boston punishes the Cavs 104 - 86, game 2 round 2.

Alot has changed since I wrote about the green and white rounding out the regular season. The Celtics finished with a semi respectable record at 50 - 32. A definite decline from the previous two seasons. 

But tell that to the Celtics team that turned up for the play offs. 

Round 1 - a forth seeded Celtics played a fifth placed Miami. Not much surprise here, the Celtics dismantled a Heat team that was unable to show up and support their star Dwayne Wade. His heroics where commendable but a man can't win the series. An entire team does.

Round 2 - The air-apparent Cavaliers are once again having to go through the Celtics to get to a title. This year is as good as any for the Cavs to claim the title. The west is up for grabs and Lebron has the best supporting cast he has had to date. Game 1 went to a Cleveland team that had too many answers for a Celtics team that could only hit the rim in the fourth. They simply outplayed the green and white. Plain and simple.

Game 2 - Proved the theory that when Boston cough up a game they come back. Mad. The Celtics shot 51.3% from the field as apposed to a frustrated Cleveland shooting at 40%. A lot of players stepped up for the Celtics. Rondo had an astounding 19 assists while Rasheed Wallace had 17 -  finally playing in the post like he could always do but has failed to demonstrate this season. The Lead in this game was as much as 25 but a Cav's run cut that to 10 before the C's went on an 11 - 3 run to close out the game and rout the the favoured contender.

Game 3 and home court for the series goes back to Boston. Judging from the dropped shoulders and shoves by a frustrated Cleveland team, the next game will prove to be something to watch.