|Why Nova beats Carolina… Trags Take||04.02.09 at 9:07 pm ET|
National semifinal-Villanova (30-7) vs. North Carolina (32-4), 8:47 p.m. ET, CBS-TV.
It is generally assumed that the University of North Carolina, with names like Lawson, Hansbrough and Green, is the team with the most depth and the most talent in the NCAA tournament, with Connecticut a fairly close second. And it’s generally assumed Carolina is headed for another championship date, if not title, on Monday night in Detroit.
North Carolina has been, for the most part, very workmanlike in their four-game run through the tournament to this point. They have dispatched of Radford, LSU, Gonzaga and Oklahoma. Villanova is coming off one of the most epic battles in NCAA tournament history, edging Pittsburgh on a mad 60-foot dash to the basket by Scottie Reynolds.
These two teams have great tournament history.
Michael Jordan and company beat Villanova in the Elite Eight in 1982 when Carolina finally won a title for Dean Smith. Villanova returned the favor in 1985, when they beat the Heels in the Southeast title game, 56-44. And in 2005, a most dubious traveling call was made on Nova’s Allan Ray and Carolina held on for a 67-66 win in the Sweet 16 as Carolina won its first title under Roy Williams.
Here’s how Villanova evens that score on Saturday night in Detroit.
1: Man-to-man. Villanova has the athletic depth on its roster that not even the No. 2 seed Oklahoma Sooners could throw at the Heels. Scottie Reynolds can match up with Ty Lawson man-to-man, with Corey Fisher off the bench. Dante Cunningham can defend Tyler Hansbrough because Cunningham plays ‘long’ as scouts are fond of saying. Dwayne Anderson, Nova’s most underrated player, will likely get the assignment of dealing with Danny Green.
2. Senior Leadership. No team is getting more out of their seniors than Nova. Dwayne Anderson, Dante Cunningham and Shane Clark. They all played key roles in not folding under the pressure on Saturday, when the Cats trailed by four with under three minutes to go.
3. Coaching. Jay Wright has his team believing they can beat anyone in any circumstance.
4. Defense. Villanova is playing better defense than any team in the field right now. They’ll need it because Carolina is averaging 90 points a game in their four wins.
5. 1985 Karma. Otherwise known as the Rollie Massimino Reunion Tour. Massimino met with former Pistons coach Chuck Daly this week at the hospital that is treating Daly’s pancreatic cancer. Daly, who took Penn to the Final Four in 1979, drew up a play for Massimino to give to Jay Wright.
How they got here:
No. 3 seed Villanova won the East Regional. Beat No. 14 American, 80-69. Beat No. 6 UCLA. 89-69. Beat No. 2 Duke 77-54. Beat No. 1 Pittsburgh, 78-76.
No. 1 seed North Carolina won the South Regional. Beat No. 16 Radford, 101-58. Beat No. 8 LSU, 84-70. Beat No. 4 Gonzaga, 98-77. Beat No. 2 Oklahoma, 72-60.
This Villanova team isn’t the 1985 squad that pulled off the biggest upset in NCAA history by beating Memphis State and Georgetown in the final. It’s better and more talented. The 1985 team had Ed Pinckney, Dwayne McClain and Gary McLain, Harold Pressley and Harold Jensen, Wakefield’s Mark Plansky off the bench.
And with all due respect to Plansky, a classmate in Electrical Engineering ’88, this version of the Wildcats have about twice the number of scoring options and are playing even better defense. That 1985 squad had the advantage this one doesn’t-playing with no shot clock. And still, this team has found ways to shut down UCLA, Duke and Pitt in three straight games.
Villanova 71, North Carolina 68
|The lonesome shooter||04.02.09 at 1:22 pm ET|
With apologies to Adam Sandler, Ray Allen felt like the Lonesome Shooter on Wednesday night.
He had no lift or life in his jump shot in the fourth quarter and teammate Eddie House, who was on fire, gave him some friendly advice.
“It was like for a second, everything was flat,” Allen said. “I just needed to kind of back away from it and just get my legs back. I went out of the game and kind of clean-slated it. Eddie was telling me, obviously one of the best shooters in the NBA, he was telling me, ‘I don’t normally say anything to you but your shot, everything is flat.’ It’s all in my legs. There were two shots I took before I left the game. I think in the fourth quarter, it was just legs and I knew it once the ball left my fingertips. It’s a funky thing for me.”
Another teammate, Paul Pierce, called Ray Ray the best clutch shooter he’s ever seen.
“I’ll proclaim Ray the greatest shooter in the history of the NBA that I’ve ever seen,” Pierce said after Allen’s game-winner with 2.1 seconds to go in double-OT.
But Allen remained humble.
“He didn’t play with Reggie Miller,” Allen said. “I’m sure he would’ve seen heroics from him day-in and day-out. I think it’s all predicated on what you do in clutch situations. I think on a couple of buzzer-beaters I’ve hit, he’s been the passer. He’s been right there, personally. It’s odd because Paul’s the one that always has the ball but I’m the one who’s made a couple of buzzer-beaters the last two years. He’s hit a lot of big shots but it always somebody makes a mistake. Eddie’s out there, I’m out there, Kevin’s out there to make them pay for their bad rotations.
“In my mind, I always think the next shot is always the one that going to go in and the next shot after that is the going to be the shot to win the game. Regardless of what’s happened up to this point, my mind has to be ready to take that shot as if I’m in the gym myself.”
Just like Andre Kristacovitchlalinski, Jr.
|Ray for Hall of Fame||04.02.09 at 12:39 am ET|
It should be pretty obvious to everyone who watches the NBA that Ray Allen will be headed to Springfield and the Basketball Hall of Fame after his career is over.
Wednesday night’s game-winner is just another moment in a career filled with game-winning heroics.
But with Kevin Garnett on the sideline and the Celtics needing a pick-me-up, Ray Allen was bigger than life.
Listen to the praise of his teammates.
Paul Pierce: “That’s Ray. He’s a future Hall of Famer, and great players find a way. When Ray shoots and misses shots, it doesn’t discourage him. You know this from great players. His confidence is through the roof regardless if he’s missed two, three, or four hundred shots in a row, he always feels like the next one is going to go in. I’ll proclaim Ray the greatest shooter in the history of the NBA that I’ve ever seen.”
Eddie House, who actually gave advice to Ray when he noticed he wasn’t getting lift in his shot earlier in the game: “It just takes one. I told Ray, I told him don’t worry man you’re going knock it down when we really need and he did exactly that. Shooters aren’t afraid to take the next shot, always got confidence in self. Even when he had some air balls he came back and found himself. That’s just a hall of fame player right there.”
|Getting spoiled||04.02.09 at 12:21 am ET|
Does life get any better for Boston basketball fans?
Their NBA franchise is the defending world champion and bearing down on another high seed in the upcoming Eastern Conference playoffs.
TD Banknorth Garden just hosted one of the most memorable college basketball games in history, as Villanova edged Pittsburgh, 78-76, in the East Regional championship last Saturday.
And then there was Wednesday night. Celtics 111, Bobcats 109. Double-overtime. Best Celtics game of the season. Best game of the NBA season. Want proof?
Trailing by 12 with 6:01 to go, Eddie House drains the first of back-to-back threes to make it a six-point game. Trailing by eight with two minutes to go, the Celtics rally as Rajon Rondo hits a pair of free throws to force OT.
Ray Allen drains a three with 12.4 seconds to tie the game, 101-101, and force overtime No. 2, foreshadowing what was to come.
Allen makes a three late in double overtime for the lead. Former UConn star Emeka Okefor converts a layup to put Charlotte back on top. Allen airballs a three. All hope appears lost. But the Bobcats fail to get a shot off.
Then, with the Celtics needing just two to win and down 109-108, Paul Pierce drives into traffic and then dishes to a wide-open Allen on the right baseline. Allen launches another three and this time the ball finds nothing but net and the clock reads 2.1 seconds. 111-109 Boston. Read the rest of this entry »
|Celtics win 2OT thriller||04.01.09 at 10:29 pm ET|
Ray Allen’s three-pointer from the right baseline was the game-winner as the Celtics prevailed in double-overtime, 111-109, over the Charlotte Bobcats. Paul Pierce finished with a game-high 32 points as the Celtics won their 57th game.
|Time out||04.01.09 at 9:22 pm ET|
10:34 to 36.7. No, that’s not a remake of Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4.
That’s the time that elapsed on the third quarter clock between Celtic field goals. From a Ray Allen three pointer to a Paul Pierce three-pointer. In between, the Celtics couldn’t even hit a two-pointer.
During that near-10 minute span, Boston was outscored 24-5. Paul Pierce has scored 28 of his team’s 71 points through three quarters. But the Green trails 77-71 heading into the fourth.
|The Celtics are not alone||04.01.09 at 9:10 pm ET|
When news broke this week that the Celtics were shutting down star Kevin Garnett until his sore right knee feels strong enough to take the punishment of practices and games, many thought their ‘ticket’ to a return to the NBA Finals was in jeopardy.
And while that certainly may be the case, another story came out Wednesday about an injury to a team that the Green might face in the first round.
HoopsWorld reported that Philadelphia 76ers forward Thaddeus Young could miss 2-3 weeks after spraining and bruising his left ankle last night in Philly’s win over Atlanta. That would keep him out the rest of the regular season and possibly the first game of the playoffs, which open on April 18.
The sprain and bruise were diagnosed after an MRI today and Young will be using crutches and an air cast on the ankle for a bit.
Why should Celtics fans care? Because Young, along with superstar Andre Iguodala, gives Philly the type of size in the front court to match up with Boston.
The 6-8 Young has started 68 games for Philly this season and has greatly improved his statistics in every category over his rookie numbers, averaging 15.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 1.2 assists on 49% shooting from the floor.
In March, Young scored 20.5 points a game and averaged 5.5 rebounds, scoring 20 or more points in 10 of 15 games. The Sixers would likely replace Young with bruiser Reggie Evans (a Celtics killer on the glass) and Marreese Speights. They do have depth but losing Young hurts.
Now, Philly’s hold on sixth in the East doesn’t look so sure with Detroit trying to make a move. No. 7 Detroit would play No. 2 Orlando right now and No. 8 Chicago would take on top-seeded Cleveland.
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