|Celtics-Lakers the dominant sports rivalry of last 50 years||06.01.10 at 12:45 pm ET|
Starting on Thursday, the Celtics and Lakers will meet for the 12th time in an NBA finals series. How remarkable is that? Consider this: Since the Celtics and Lakers first met in the NBA finals in 1959 (a four-game sweep for the Celtics,) the most common World Series matchup has been the Yankees and Dodgers, who have met four times. In the NHL? Maple Leafs and Canadiens, with three matchups. And for the Super Bowl it’s the Cowboys and Steelers, also with three.
Since 1959 the Celtics and Lakers have played in the NBA finals more times than the most common championship opponents in the other three major sports combined. Not that there was a whole lot of doubt, but this pretty much confirms that we are talking about the dominant rivalry in North American professional sports, right?
|Celtics-Lakers matchup a hit on resale market||06.01.10 at 11:06 am ET|
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the average resale price for a ticket to Game 1 of the 2010 NBA finals is $1,071. That is 52% higher than the price a Game 1 ticket was going for had the series started in Phoenix.
The Journal also noted that average ticket price in Boston has increased from $561 to $591 since the Lakers eliminated the Suns on Saturday night.
|LA Times removes Pierce stabbing post||05.31.10 at 12:10 pm ET|
Guest columnist Ted Green wrote on Sunday, in a blog post for The Los Angeles Times, a list of reasons to hate the Celtics. In the post, he suggested that Paul Pierce’s “idea of a fun night is going clubbing and getting stabbed. Good times!”
In 2000, Pierce was stabbed 11 times in his neck, back and face. He was rushed to New England Medical Center, where lung surgery was needed. William Ragland was convicted of assault and battery in the stabbing and sentenced to 7-10 years in prison, while Trevor Watson was given a one-year sentence.
The blog post was removed by the LA Times around noon EST, although it remained on the website of Green’s current employer, television station KTLA. WEEI.com attempted to contact both Green (who is apparently a freelance writer) and LA Times sports editor Mike James but did not receive a response.
|Five reasons why the Celtics won Game 6||05.28.10 at 11:22 pm ET|
The Boston Celtics are the 2010 Eastern Conference champions, beating the Orlando Magic 96-81 in Game 6 to advance to the NBA finals, where they will play the winner of the Suns-Lakers series, with Game 1 set for Thursday night.
It was a balanced scoring attack by the Celtics in the Friday night clincher, with Paul Pierce’s 31 points leading five players in double figures.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
POINT GUARD PLAY
Rajon Rondo (12 first-quarter points) returing to his Sports Illustrated cover level of play was far from a shock (and what happened to the SI jinx?), but the stunner of the game — and the series — was the effort offered by Nate Robinson. A virtual non-factor since his arrival in Boston, in Game 6 Robinson was the player that Doc Rivers said would win them a game in this series. Robinson exploded in the second quarter, scoring 13 points. His defense was also a huge factor, as he harassed and frustrated Jameer Nelson.
The two Celtics point guards combined for 25 points, four assists and zero turnovers in the first half.
PAUL PIERCE: MVP OF THE SERIES
Remember the “What’s wrong with Pierce?” talk during the Cleveland series? Turns out it was probably just a matter of getting away from LeBron James. Pierce was terrific in these six games, averaging 24.3 points and dominating Vince Carter on both ends of the floor. The Celtics needed Pierce to be aggressive in Game 6 and he answered the call, hitting an aggression double double with 13 rebounds and 10 free-throw attempts.
WINNING THE BATTLE OF THE 3′S
The Magic rely on the 3-point shot perhaps more than any good team in NBA history. When they shoot it well (see Game 5) they are nearly impossible to beat. Stopping (or at the very least limiting) the triples was a must for the Celtics in Game 6. Mission accomplished, as Orlando converted on just 6-of-22 attempts. But the Celtics own 3-point shooting was superb on Thursday, hitting 45.5 percent (10-of-22) in the win. Ray Allen and Pierce combined to hit 7-of-12, and Robinson hit a trio of 3′s off the bench.
JAMEER NELSON: NON-FACTOR
The key for Orlando in Games 4 and 5, Nelson struggled mightily in his final game of the season, hitting just 5-of-14 shots. He was also unable (and at times, it seemed, unwilling) to penetrate and find open 3-point shooters or Howard for the lob-and-dunk. He simply could not match up with Rondo in the first or Robinson in the second (and was clearly rattled by Robinson’s emotion and trash talk.)
BIG BABY SHAKES IT OFF
No signs of post-concussion problems for Glen Davis, who brought his usual energy in his 17:23 on the court, scoring six points with seven rebounds. Big edge to the Celtics bench (19 points, 13 rebounds) in Game 6.
|Halftime: Celtics-Magic||05.28.10 at 9:55 pm ET|
The Celtics could be just 24 minutes away from a trip to the NBA Finals, leading the Magic 55-42 at halftime of Game 6.
The biggest reason why the Celtics have been able to regain control of this series and play their best half of basketball in nearly a week?
The point guards.
That’s right, plural.
Rajon Rondo was brilliant in the first quarter (12 points, three rebounds, two assists,) but left the game after taking a hard fall late in the opening 12 minutes. In this series, no Rondo has usually meant a Magic run. But Nate Robinson — who had his moments in Game 5 — came off the bench and went absolutely crazy in the second quarter, scoring 13 points and disrupting Jameer Nelson with his defense. A shocking effort and immeasurable bonus for the Celtics, who were using Tony Allen as the backup point guard for most of the playoffs.
The two point guards combined to score 25 points with three assists, two steals and zero turnovers.
Paul Pierce had a solid first half, scoring 10 points.
Dwight Howard was strong again, scoring 13 points with five rounds before leaving with three fouls. Vince Carter resurfaced, chipping in with 13 points, all in the second quarter.
The Celtics led by as many as 21 points in the second quarter, but the Magic (led by Carter) finished the half on a 11-5 run to keep within striking distance.
|Three things that went right and wrong in Game 4||05.25.10 at 12:03 am ET|
The Magic are still alive in the Eastern Conference Final, knocking off the Celtics in a 96-92 overtime battle in Game 4 of the best-of-seven series.
The Celtics rallied from a 85-78 deficit late in the fourth quarter to force the extra five minutes, but were held scoreless for the first 3:14 of OT. Jameer Nelson (23 points) hit a pair of 3-pointers in overtime and Dwight Howard added four points to give the Magic the win and a pulse in the series, which continues Wednesday night in Orlando.
Three Things That Went Wrong
No Answer for Howard
Give Howard credit: He did not go down quietly. He dominated Kendrick Perkins (no small feat) and Rasheed Wallace, a pair that has given him problems during the series. Howard finished the game with 32 points (on 13-of-19 shooting) and 16 rebounds, also blocking four shots. Deserved all the hits he took after Game 3 but was a monster on Monday night. Was absolutely the difference in overtime, killing the Celtics on the glass. Needs to work on free throws (looked almost Knoblauch-esque at the end, going glass once), but in Game 4 you saw why Howard is an All-NBA player. If he just plays well on Monday the season is over for Orlando. They needed an MVP performance, and he delivered.
Where Was the Composure?
Sure, Garnett should have been miffed at Howard for the elbow, but don’t you just let it go? Did he learn nothing from the Miami fracas with Quentin Richardson? Is it worth risking a possible suspension in Game 1 of the NBA Finals to get into it with Howard in a series that you led 3-0? I’m not saying that Garnett did anything suspension-worthy, but he put himself in a spot where it could have easily happened. And he has to know better than that.
And Kendrick Perkins completely overreacted to a Howard foul later on in the quarter. A tough foul? Yes. A dirty foul? Nope. This is the NBA playoffs, not a preseason game at the Mohegan Sun. Have to be ready for some physical play. Throw in a ‘Sheed T in the fourth quarter (and he wasn’t done with the ref, he could have been kicked out) and it was not a study in character in Game 4.
And I’ll throw the lousy offensive possessions down the stretch in here as well. No shot attempt in the final play of regulation, following a terrible Pierce shot from the possession prior? And did you like that Glen Davis 3-point attempt at the end of the game? Strange stuff.
Other Than Davis, A Rough Night For the Bench
Wallace, Tony Allen and Nate Robinson (Nate had the worst cameo since M. Night Shyamalan in Signs) combined to shoot 3-of-10 from the floor. Wallace morphed back into the guy that we saw in the regular season, hitting on 2-of-7 shots (and missing all four 3-point attempts.)
Three Things That Went Right
The Truth Did the Heavy Lifting (For the First 48 Minutes, Anyway)
Pierce carried the Celtics in the first half, scoring 19 points on 6-8 shooting. He was also able to get to the basket at will in the early going, attempting 10 free throws in the first 24 minutes of Game 4 (making seven.) He took over in the fourth as well, with a dunk, jumper and three-point play to help the Celtics wipe out an 85-78 Orlando lead. Pierce finished the game with 32 points, which continues a terrific series for the Celtics’ captain. Rondo was the unquestioned MVP of the regular season and each of the first two rounds for the Celtics, but it has been Pierce who has led the way for Boston in this series.
Big Baby Brings the Energy
This is why Glen Davis is on the floor in the fourth quarter of a tight Eastern Conference Finals game. In a three-minute stretch he ran down a long rebound off of a Rasheed Wallace missed 3-pointer, took a charge on Vince Carter, scored on a screen-and-roll, hit an 18-footer and blocked a Rashard Lewis shot. On a night when Kendrick Perkins brought nothing to the table credit Doc for sticking with Davis down the stretch. He’s simply making too many plays not to out on the floor for 20+ minutes a game at this point.
(And how about that block on Howard in OT? I know Howard followed it up for a hoop, but still. I’m not sure Glen Davis is even 6’6 and he’s doing that? What is underplayed when the Big Baby story is told is his athleticism.)
Double-Double For KG
Another strong effort for Garnett, who finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds. He logged 41 minutes in Game 4 and didn’t seem to be lacking for energy in overtime.
|Five Reasons Why The Celtics Won Game 3||05.22.10 at 11:19 pm ET|
The Celtics are just a win away from the NBA Finals following a 94-71 win over the Magic on Saturday night, a victory that was exactly as close as the score revealed. The Magic never led in the contest, and the Celtics held a double-digit lead during the final 39 minutes of the game. Glen Davis led the Celtics with 17 points off the bench and Paul Pierce added 15. Rajon Rondo had 11 points and 12 assists for the winners. The defense has been the calling card of this team and it continued in Game 3, as the C’s held the Magic to 36.9 percent shooting.
Before tipoff, the formula for a Celtics victory on Saturday seemed simple. Hang in during the inevitable fast start from a Magic team that was playing for its postseason life and eventually wear down Orlando with defense and toughness. Turns out the group that played with desperation right from the start was the team up 2-0, and the defense and toughness never slowed down.
The Celtics led 27-12 after the first quarter, holding the Magic to just 23.5 percent shooting. The Magic’s three stars — Dwight Howard, Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis — scored a total of three points on 1-of-11 shooting in the quarter. The Celtics jumped out to a 7-0 lead and never looked back, taking a 21-6 lead (following a 14-0 run) to, incredibly, basically put this game away. The opening 12 minutes told you all you need to know about both teams. One played with heart, urgency and smarts and the other played as if they were finishing up a home-and-home series with Memphis in February.
RONDO DOES HIS BEST LARRY LEGEND:
THE play of the series, without question, came in the second quarter when Rondo dove for a loose ball at the Magic foul line, taking the ball from Jason Williams (who, it appeared, didn’t feel much like hitting the floor). Rondo then got up, put a wicked cross-over on Williams and banked in a layup. Williams, it should be noted, put exactly the same amount of effort trying to defend Rondo as he did trying to get the loose ball. That kind of play by Rondo works perfectly when you need an example to show why one team is totally dominating the other in a series where the talent level doesn’t seem that different (though that can now be debated).
Through three games in this series, Rashard Lewis ($110 million) has scored a total of 15 points in 111 minutes played. That is two fewer points than Big Baby (two years, $6.3 million) scored in his 23:15 on the floor in Game 3. Davis also took nine free throw attempts in Game 3, one more than the entire Orlando starting five combined. And unlike Game 2, where he had trouble matching up with Howard physically, Davis did an expert job on the post defensively.
DWIGHT HOWARD: NON-FACTOR
Howard’s line in the most important game of his season: 3-of-10 from the floor, 1-of-4 from the free throw line, a plus/minus rating of -29 (worst of any player on the Magic in a game they lost by 23 points). Credit Perkins, Davis, Rasheed Wallace and the game plan but Howard has to take a hit. If you are going to be thought of as a truly great player that kind of effort cannot happen in a must win. Shades of LeBron in Game 5.
TAKING CARE OF THE BALL:
This stat will probably be lost in all the postgame “What’s wrong with the Magic?/Are the Celtics better than 2008?” stuff, but maybe the biggest reason this was never a competitive game was the assist-to-turnover ratios of the teams. The Celtics finished with 23 assists and just eight turnovers, compared to a ghastly 10-17 mark for the Magic. Rondo, in fact, finished with two more assists than the Magic team.