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Like the infamous French defense entrenchment that did nothing to hold back Nazi Germany, or Khadaffi’s “line in the sand”, Manny has passed the line which means he must go.

Until this past week I was loathe to trade Manny, and hoped they would pick up his option.  But Manny Being Manny has reached a nefarious stage where it is no longer funny- at all.  And I think it no coincidence that while it occurs the Red Sox get swept by the Angels.  Manny has gone on the offensive, and is downright offensive, crossing that line.

“The Red Sox don’t deserve a player like me,” Ramírez was quoted as saying. “During my years here I’ve seen how they have mistreated other great players when they didn’t want them, to try to turn the fans against them.

“The Red Sox did the same with guys like Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martínez, and now they do the same with me. Their goal is to paint me as the bad guy. I love Boston fans, but the Red Sox don’t deserve me. I’m not talking about money.

“Mental peace has no price and I don’t have peace here.”

Ramírez also held up a sign in the dugout before the game, shown by NESN cameras, that read: “I’m going to Green Bay for Brett Favre straight up.”

I’m not sure what the Red Sox have said to make Manny look bad.  Did they push the traveling secretary?  No, that was Manny.  Did they let everyone know what the penalty was?  No, they handled it internally.  Did they talk about not negotiating in good faith?  No, that was Manny.  Are the Sox complaining about the option?  No, that is Manny worried about his next paycheck (like $180 million the last 8 years just isn’t enough).  Manny has put himself in the position where the fans have turned on him.  No one else is to blame, not even CHB.

So, Manny Being Manny has become poisonous.  It has shifted into a whole new orbit, and Manny has become like Nomar in his final season with the Sox.  He has become worse than a distraction, but a cancer.

The rumored trade looks good to me right now, particularly since it ships Manny away.  It looks fiscally sound, and addresses their needs at this time.

If they can’t trade Manny, I’d suggest putting him on the DL with that knee issue just to get him away from the team for a week or two to let this thing simmer down.  But Manny has just worked against his goal to get a big, fat contract for the next 4 years.  Does anyone want to pay that much to watch the Manny Being Manny show that long, when he is no longer one of the best hitters in baseball?  Sorry, Manny … that time has come and gone.

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This year the baseball trade deadline has prompted to some very exciting deals- if you cheer for the Yankees and the Angels.

The Yankees are repeating the pattern of the past, though with a bit less luster.  They are taking on additional payroll (with that ever end???) and sending back prospects or low money guys in return.  First they bring over Xavier Nady and his .320+ average to fill their hole in left field, as well as giving them a right handed bat that has been missing to restore balance to their line-up.  That deal also brought them a solid left-handed reliever.  The analysts basically agree this deal was a steal for the Yankees.  They have Nady signed for next year at an affordable salary, and an option for Marte.  So, this is not a rent-a-player situation.

Marte’s presence allowed them to  ship out Farnsworth, which saddens me.  The hard throwing relief pitcher was hittable often enough.  In return they pick up an aging Ivan Rodriguez.  He started the year slowly at the plate, but has brought his average up to about .290.  So, they add a strong bat behind the plate, replacing Posada who is done for the year.  From the Tigers’ perspective, this move surprises me since they seemed to have climbed back into the AL Central.  This is basically a salary dump.

They have positioned themselves nicely for the stretch run in an organization where failure is not an option.  The weak and vulnerable Yankees of April-June are once again gone as Brian Cashman made some wise moves internally (some forced by injuries to guys who weren’t performing as expected), and brought in some guys to address the remaining weaknesses.  All we can hope for is that they lack chemistry.  Only they could do this because they added millions in payroll.

The Angels also made a really good move in picking up Teixeira for Kotchman.  That is a big improvement in my book.  Though he might be a rent-a-player.  But the Angels see this as the year they could go all the way.  They have the pitching, and needed 1 or 2 more good bats.  Teixeira is the piece they needed to avoid a repeat of last year’s playoff sweep at the hands of the Red Sox.

If you haven’t noticed, the Red Sox payroll has been decreasing over the years.  They are showing greater financial restraint, but this may come back to bite them like it did in 2005.  They are trying to dump Manny and his primadona act.  His recent actions seem to be mostly about his desire to make more money.  It is hard to avoid thinking that he no longer wants the Sox to pick up that option because he wants another $100 million contract- which seems unlikely with his diminishing skills.  But Scott Boras only makes money on Manny if he does get a new contract instead of the option.  So ….. this round of Manny Being Moronic seems to be driven by money since he sure is hitting well for a guy with a bum knee.  But he seems to play better when there is drama going on, so who really knows.

The only remaining possibility out there, after the Phillies, Mets and Dodgers have all denied any interest, seems the Marlins of all teams.  It is reported the Red Sox could get either Josh Willingham or Jeremy Hermida and a prospect in return.  I doubt anything will happen though.  Maybe the Marlins think Manny will actually put some fannies in the seats there.

The Rays have been mentioned in rumors, but I couldn’t see them picking up any of these guys, contrary to what I hear on the local sports radio.  The owners don’t want to spend that much extra money, and they don’t want to give away their prospects.  You aren’t getting any of the players traded for Johnny Gomes, folks.  They have survived a stretch where they have not produced many runs, which is a positive.  The local jock talkers think they have the guns to score lots more runs.  I suspect this latest stretch was a “regression to mean” after some superlative play.  The real Rays are somewhere between those 2 offensive extremes.  Longoria has been killing my fantasy team the last few weeks (as have a few other guys- I even dumped Ellsbury which may come back to haunt me).  But the re-constituted Yankees will surpass the Rays until A-Fraud does his typical October disappearing act.

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The tide has certainly turned against Manny Ramirez in recent days.  During the 2007 playoffs Manny became more accessible to the press.  He seemed to be a new guy- more open.  This continued into Spring Training.  Manny was available.  He wanted to be in Boston.  He wanted them to pick up his option.  All was well in paradise.

Then … he started whining about the option.  He insinuated that the Sox had not been forthright with him.  John Henry wasn’t liking that one.  Perhaps Manny really missed Papi, and the silly things he thought we said to the wrong people.

Then he shoved a traveling secretary.  He was fined for his actions.  But soon there was the infamous at-bat against Mariano Rivera.  To be truthful, when he’s on he freezes batters.  So, I’m not buying into the “Manny wiffed on purpose Theory”.  Call me naive, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Then this week it has been the return of the phantom knee problems.  His MRI came back clean- no structural damage.  That doesn’t mean nothing is wrong.  Sometimes my knee bothers me for no aparent reason.  Today is one of those days.

In jumps the infamous Boston media led by Curt Schilling and Theo’s least favorite guy- Dan Shaughnessy.  No quotes, just lots of claims about how angry the Red Sox (owners, management, coaches and players) are and this is the final straw.  He makes much of the meeting between owners and management, and the ‘no comment’.  Or is he talking to Larry behind the scenes?

But CHB is not alone in this thinking.   The Herald’s Steve Buckley says it time for Manny to go.  Would his knee affect his hitting (Buckley claims he watched Manny raking the ball in the cage after begging out of the game)?  Perhaps.  But as Papi will let you know running is the big issue.  As in running the bases.  As in running down the ball.  As in Papi is here and Manny can’t DH tonight.  Yes, guys, remember that he had been DHing, in part because of the knee.

Yes, Manny’s numbers have been dropping.  I’m not sure I’d want to pay him $20 million next year.  But his real value at this point is protection for David Ortiz.  Take Manny out of the that line up and the resurging, and recently improved via trade, Yankees have a vastly superior line up.  I think Brandon Moss will make a great player, but I’m not sure I want him taking Manny’s place in LF.

Manny might be wearing out his welcome in Beantown.  But the members of the media there can often drive a guy batty.  It’s no surprise that Manny has suddenly shut up again.  There are two sides to this story.  The fans love it when Manny helps the Sox win.  Some of them enough to let these little episodes slide.  What really matters is how the organization wants to handle this latest episode of Manny being Manny.  Simply annoying or nefarious?  No idea.  But I’d rather watch the Sox build a big lead over the Rays and Yankees than settle for another round of “will Manny be traded” garbage.

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The Celtics did what I didn’t think they would do: re-sign both Eddie House and Tony Allen.  And they gave them 2-year deals.  They buy some security, but don’t create long-term salary cap issues.

I’m glad Eddie House is back.  He was a nice change of pace for Rajon Rondo, and was able to spread the floor with his 3 point shooting.  He was an important part of that playoff run.

The jury is still out on Tony Allen.  His injuries have inhibited his progress.  We really haven’t seen what he can and cannot do.  This next year his knee should be completely healed, and he should have learned its limitations.  He can be that dogged defender that James Posey was.  But can he keep his head in the game sufficiently to be that 6th man the Celtics need?  Only time will tell.

Either way, the team that will defend the NBA championship is beginning to take shape.  There are still rumors that Devon George may be of interest.  Good defense, and that’s about it.

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I will confess that I was not excited about Posey signing with the Celtics last summer.  I hadn’t watched him play much.  I was wrong!  He played a vital role in the Celtics’ championship season this year.  Great defense, timely 3-point shooting and a great locker room guy.  He was VERY important.

So, he decided he needed a raise.  He did have the player option, so he went for it and opted out.  His agent talked about how this might be his last contract, and he wanted to make the most out of it.  That meant that he wanted 4 years.  The Celtics, leery of his age and wanting salary cap flexibility, were only offering 2 years.  He wanted to stay a Celtic but they couldn’t agree on the contract.  There didn’t seem to be a middle ground where years were concerned.

Lots of other teams wanted him.  And the New Orleans Hornets got him while he got his 4 years.  His $25 million dollar salary over those 4 years represents a nice raise for James.  And he does go to a very good team featuring Chris Paul.  So, he didn’t take the money to play on a lousy team.  I respect him.  It basically starts with the full MLE.

This puts the Celtics in a quandry.  Posey is gone.  Tony Allen didn’t quite turn out like we hoped and he is probably gone (he’s a FA).  Eddie House is probably gone too.  Scot Pollard was barely here, and he’s gone.  P.J. Brown will most likely retire.  Sam Cassell will probably go elsewhere.  This is why it is so hard to repeat in this era of sports- guys want to get paid (you’d think they were making $50,000 instead of millions of dollars).  Especially after they win a championship.

But we picked up Patrick O’Bryant (there is some sarcasm there if you missed it).  Problem is we have lost one of our best perimeter defenders, and 2 out of our 3 best 3 point shooters.  Not quite easy to replace, but essential to winning another championship.

So Danny, we really need you to pull something out of the hat.  What you got?  I don’t think our draft picks, even Giddens, are quite what we had in mind.  Cost-effective, yes.  But not adequate replacements for Posey and House.

The Free Agent Market?  Maggette, gone. Lue, gone.  We never had a shot at Brand or Davis.  There is always the Birdman, Chris Anderson.  But he’s a big man and not a guy who’ll create space by hitting mid-long range jump shots or back up Rondo.  What’s a GM to do, Danny?

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I didn’t watch all of the MLB All-Star Game.  CavWife wanted to watch In Plain Sight, one of the summer shows we watch.  We discovered, much to our dismay, that our new DVR didn’t record the show Sunday night.  The record light was on… so we are mystified.  So we went to the USA website and watched it on-line.  Our new, higher speed internet worked much better than our previous attempts to watch episodes of Burn Notice we missed.  We upgraded to digital cable and higher speed internet to get the digital phone service.  It was $1 more than with standard cable.  We save about $50 over our combined internet/cable & Verizon bill.  So it made sense to bundle it.

While we watched the show- interrupted periodically by a child with issues- I kept my eye on the never-ending pre-game festivities.  Since this was the final year of Yankee Stadium, they pulled out all the stops.  Lots of Yankee hall of famers.  Not to be outdone by the Red Sox extravaganza back in ’99, they trotted out a feeble King George.  It was touching to see the warmth Yogi had for him.  But I didn’t notice any of today’s players around the league embracing him like they did Ted Williams.  But, I wasn’t engrossed so it could have happened.

After the show, CavWife got ready for bed so I actually watched the game.  When I went to bed, it looked like Matt “Trade Bait” Holliday might be the MVP for his solo shot.  It was 2-0 and the AL was doing … nothing.  I figured it was over and went to bed much in need of rest.

As it turns out, the Papel-flap was a non-issue.  Mariano Rivera did not get a chance to close the game.  But his pitching was important as the AL came back to put the game into extra innings.  The NL blew 2 save opportunities.  And in a beautiful twist of fate, or irony, the oft-maligned J.D. Drew -in his first All-Star game- got the last laugh, belting a 2 run homerun and stealing a base to lead the AL to victory.  The Red Sox player won the MVP award.

The controversy erupted on ESPN, again.  The great part is they’ll give the Brett Favre story a rest.  A few years ago the controversy was “how in the world can they have a tie in the All-Star game”.  Now the controversy is “how could they make those guys who pitched Sunday pitch since the game went to 15 innnings.”  Zzzzzzz.  Didn’t their managers know they were going to the All-Star game?  Did it shock them to realize they might have to actually pitch?  Hello?!

But I’m glad I didn’t try to watch this thing.  I didn’t need to be up until 2 am.  I am glad the AL gets homefield advantage again (I like that the games count!), and that one of the Sox was a key player in the game.  Great to see Pedroia and Youk in their first All-Star games.  These guys are known for hustle and grit.  They face every game and at bat as if it will be their last.  They leave it all on the field.  They will probably be in a few more of these games.

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The Boston Celtics made a free agent signing today.  No, it wasn’t James Posey.  Or any other big name.  It was the one and only, utterly amazing Patrick O’Bryant (now that’s a good Irish name, me boy).

Bryant was the Warriors’ first round pick (#9 overall) in 2006.  He’s a 7 footer out of Bradley weighing in at 260 pounds.  Apparently he didn’t overwhelm Don Nelson and company.  But, due to the amazingly Irish name, he’s good for the Celtics as a back up to the oft injured Kendrick Perkins.

In his career, he has averaged 1.5 points, 1.2 rebounds and 5.5 minutes.  Oh, he’s a keeper, a trooper and a difference maker.  He was sent to the D-League on March 10th.  I am estatic about this signing!

I’m more estatic after reading Don Nelson’s comments regarding Mr. O’Bryant:

“I told him if he goes down to the D-League and isn’t a dominant player, there should be red flags all over the place, and he should be the first to notice. He’s not only not dominating, he’s not playing very well. He’s a long-term project. I really liked him the first week of training camp, but I assumed there would be great progress. He hasn’t gotten better one bit.”

HT: Celtics Blog

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Dice-K and Rays’ pitcher Scott Kazmir are very much alike in 2 significant ways.

1. They both have incredible “stuff”.  Most MLB pitchers would sacrifice digits on their catching hand to have that much talent.  Most hitters want nothing to do with either of them.

2. They work against themselves with a lack of aggressiveness.  Both guys went 5 innings last night.  They don’t go deep because they have too many innings with high pitch counts.  They are trying to finese guys, avoiding contact, rather than getting guys out.  Down here in Florida, it is the big wrap on Kazmir.  He should be the team ace, but Shields and Garza are out-pitching him.  They are aggressive, not trying to get a guy to swing at a bad pitch which leads to 3-2 counts and long innings.

Successful pitchers recognize that the goals are:

1. Get guys out.  It doesn’t matter how.  You can pitch to contact if you have a great defense.  Save pitches by getting pop ups and weak grounders.

2. Don’t allow runs.  This happens if you play around and walk guys.  It will catch up with you.  It has been Dice-K achilles heel all season long.  Too many walks leading to runs.

3. Eat up innings.  You can’t do this with high pitch count innings.  Their job should be to get to the 7th or 8th inning 80-90% of the time.  5 inning outings ruin the bullpen.  I saw it coming last night.  And the bullpen fell apart.  The Rays’ bullpen almost gave the game back (with help from some uncharacteristically weak defense).

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It only took 22 years, which is nothing compared to 86 years.  But that is still a long time when you are a life-long Celtics’ fan.  In the 80’s we had a sense of entitlement.  The Celtics were champions or contenders nearly every year that decade thanks to Larry Joe Bird, the Chief, McHale and all the rest.

It seemed nearly anti-climatic.  The Celtics just blew the Lakers out.  It reminded me of Game 7 against the Knicks in 1984.  I was there.  It had been a tough series, and Bernard King was lighting the Celtics up.  But in the 2nd half, the just ran over the Knicks for a dominating win.  KG finally showed up, and helped the Celtics dominate Kobe and the Lakers.  The Lakers had the best player, but the Celtics clearly had the better team.  And it was one of the largest point spreads in an NBA Finals game.

This was a team that I thought wouldn’t do it when the trade rumors were circulating last summer.  But Danny Ainge put together a great supporting cast for the 3 stars.  He, not Larry or Kevin, is the first player from those glory years to put together a championship team.  He had an assist from Kevin.  Danny was much maligned, but now he should feel vindicated.  The “plan” worked perfectly.

Paul Pierce should feel vindicated too.  Many people wanted him shipped off.  There were trade rumors all the time.  People dismissed him.  Not being on a team that was able to compete, he was asked to do too much and his defense suffered.  This year he showed he could play defense.  The Captain led this Celtics team to a championship.

Ray Allen should feel vindicated.  Earlier in the playoffs he was written off as D-O-N-E.  But he had a great series, breaking the record for 3 pointers in the championship series.  This despite worrying about a sick child, and having Odom rake his face.

Doc should feel vindicated.  He was accused of being a horrible coach who should have been fired long ago.  He carried the stigma of never winning a playoff series as a coach.  Now he has coached a great Finals.  He outcoached the man wanting to surpass Red.  Danny didn’t give up on him, and he proved Danny right.  He was the right man for this team.

Indeed, how sweet it is.  Now, how about 18!

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In the first half of Game 4 of the NBA Finals I was discouraged and disappointed.  I figured we still had a shot at Game 5, but the Lakers were going to win Game 4.  Afterall, Lamar Odom showed up and the Celtics were playing no defense.

They sort of gave me a glimmer of hope as they cut the Laker lead to 12 just before the Lakers put on a mini-run to push the lead back up at the half.  Ray Allen was the only one who looked like he hadn’t been replaced by an alien look-alike.  Pierce, KG, Rondo … anyone you named- horrible!

Doc needs more credit than he gets.  He didn’t panic, and he assessed the situation well.  He and his coaches did  a great job.  They worked to spread the floor and give their guys room to run the offense.  Paul Pierce gets tons of credit for 1. volunteering to guard Kobe and doing a fantastic job, 2. reminding guys to play and not look at the score, 3. leading the charge offensively in the 3rd. 

The Celtics returned to playing defense, and shut down the Lakers.  I love that the Celtics didn’t give up, which would have been very easy.  But they kept going.  Leon Powe bought KG a few minutes of rest.  Pierce was utterly exhausted when this was over.  It is a testament to Ray Allen’s conditioning that he played the whole game and still had something left for that final layup on the isolation to basically seal the victory.  He was moving all night long and had increased ball handling responsibilities with Rondo on the bench during the stretch run.

(more…)

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My small consolation from Game 3 was that Pierce played horribly, and KG was sub-par.  And the Celtics still could have won that game.  It was ugly basketball.  The play is physical and the refs are inconsistent. 

The disconcerting question is what is wrong with Rajon’s ankle?  That could be a series altering injury.  Or, he could be perfectly fine in 2 days.

What I do know is that the Truth needs to return from Jet Lag City.  If he plays like he did in the first 2 games, the Celtics put this baby away, and quickly.  But if he struggles in LA, they are in big trouble.

Kudos to Ray Allen who was the only Celtic who seemed to have a good game.  He’s recovered from his slump, and that is good news folks.

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While I was trying to be patient in the airport yesterday I realized I didn’t have enough lite reading for the flight.  I was nearly done with the novel I had brought.  There lay 2 copies of Sports Illustrated.  No discernable owner.

The June 8th issue has a This Old House extendo ad.  It included an article on Danny Wuerffel and how his role in Desire Street Ministries has changed since Katrina.  He has been involved in helping rebuild New Orleans.  Desire Street is hoping to expand beyond New Orleans and begin ministries in other cities that focus on community development to transform inner-city neighborhoods.  I didn’t know he was the son of an Air Force chaplain.  But it is great to see this covenant child own the faith of his fathers and live for Christ and His kingdom.  Danny is about both personal salvation and the societal implication of Christianity.  You don’t see that often in SI.

The June 2 issue had a great article on Josh Hamilton.  His story was inspiring- a great story of redemption.  He was a great kid from a church-going family who excelled at the American past time.  He was drafted by the Rays and had superstar written all over him.  But then there was a car accident.  It was during his rehab that he met some of the wrong people.  Soon he was drinking and using drugs.

He hit bottom repeatedly.  He spent his signing bonus on drugs.  He nearly destroyed his marriage- and was kicked out of the house at one point.  He borrowed money for drugs from his father-in-law.  He was kicked out of MLB.  It was waking up after a binge in a trailer full of strangers, and nowhere to go that was the last bounce off the bottom.

He’s been sober since around November 2005.  He was picked in the Rule 5 draft, meaning he was left unprotected, by the Cubs and traded to the Reds.  He worked himself into the Major Leagues in 2007.  And the Rangers were watching, trying to get their hands on Josh.  The Reds’ price- Edison Volquez.  The Rangers tried numerous combinations, but the Reds held firm.  Volquez was their target.  Finally the Rangers bit the bullet.  Both teams have been well-pleased.

Hamilton is currently hitting .315 with an OBP of .365 and a slugging percentage of .573.  He has 17 HR and 69 RBI.  He has a shot at winning the triple crown.  He is a fan favorite for his accessibility as well as his performance.  He now talks to all kinds of community groups, staying as long as it takes to answer every question.  He always goes back to James 4:7- Humble yourself before God.  Resist the devil and he’ll flee from you.  His descent into oblivion is being used by God for his good and the good of others.  God not only redeemed him, but his folly and idolatry.  I’m a sucker for these stories. 

Volquez?  8-2 with a microscopic 1.32 ERA, and 91 Ks in 75 innings.  Impressive.

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One of the stranger nights in Boston sport’s history started in Fenway Park last night.  Forgetting that they moved up the start time, I missed the most explosive part of the game.  It began Wednesday night when Coco Crisp slid hard into 2nd base.  The Rays, about to fall out of 1st place, were not excited about the play, calling it dirty.  Coco expected payback.

In the 2nd inning, it came.  Shields hit him with a pitch.  And then came the brawl.  Seems like old times.  In the late 90’s – early 2000’s these 2 teams did not like each other.  A brawl led to bad blood and Brian Daubach was vilified by Rays’ fans.  That feud didn’t die until Daubach left the Sox.  The odd part was that the Rays weren’t very good at the time.

Now they are fighting for first place, and bad blood is back!  Makes things interesting, though I’m not in favor of brawls in sports.  In this go round, Gomes is playing the role of villain.  He is the one who pounced on the pile and threw cheap shots at Crisp- which is what Daubach is accused of doing.  This fight may be the catalyst the Sox needed to pull together in the midst of injuries to key players.

With Crisp tossed, Ellsbury moved to center.  It was the 4th inning when all Boston held its breath as he came up hurting after catching Longoria’s drive.  He would leave the game with only a strained wrist, but it was scarry.  With Coco possibly getting suspended, the timing is quite unfortunate.

But it got stranger as Youk and Manny had to be pulled apart between the 4th and 5th innings.  No word about what the fight was about.  Could be Youk was not wild about playing in the outfield.  Who knows.  But the Sox prevailed 7-1 to take a 1.5 game lead in the AL East.

The Celtics-Lakers game was looking good, though mundane.  It was exciting, but in the 3rd period it got scary as Boston again held its collective breath.  Captain Paul Pierce went down holding his leg.  Scary.  Carried off the court.  Scarier.  Brough to the locker room on a wheelchair.  Level 9 anxiety attack for Celtics Nation.  The guy is finally in the Finals and this is how it ends?????  Are our chances shot????

Next thing we know, Derek Fisher falls on Perkins’ leg after a free throw attempt.  Now he’s limping off the court and heading to the locker room.

Pierce pulled his best Larry Bird impersonation.  Like Bird he would emerge from the locker room to a thunderous applause and entered the game to lead his team to victory.  He showed leadership and courage, and the Lakers couldn’t stop the Celtics despite lots of horrible shots by KG.  It was Pierce who didn’t just play but drained shots and hustled.  While Garnett owned the first half, Pierce owned the second half and the Celtics came up with an exciting win.  This is what Lakers-Celtics is all about, folks.  And somewhere David Stern is rolling on the floor with delight- the string of less-than-interesting Finals is OVER.

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No, this is not my prediction.  Boston.com ran a NBA 2K8 simulated series.  The Celtics took Game 1, but lost Game 2.  In LA, they lost 2 of 3.  But back in Boston they prevailed both times to win their 17th banner, and keep Phil Jackson from surpassing Red for the most titles by a coach.

Now we have to watch and see what REALLY happens.  Go Celts!

Update: ESPN used NBA Live, and the Lakers won in 7.  ESPN has been pro-Lakers all week, so this just adds to the pile-on.

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I was ready to lose my mind during much of the first half of Game 5 between the Celtics and Pistons.  Horrible, horrible calls.  The inconsistency was maddening.  I still can’t believe they called a flagrant foul on P.J. Brown, but one was not called on Billups for taking a shot at Perkins’ head on his break away.  And so was the Celtics inability to hang on to the ball.  It was not looking good for my boys in Green to be sure.

But they regained their composure.  Perkins was a beast: pulling down rebounds, blocking shot and pouring in shots (18 pts. 16 boards 2 blocks, 2 steals).  Ray Allen finally came to life, draining 3-pointers (5-6, 29 pts).  And all this was not a second too soon as ‘Sheed started hitting from behind the arc too.

In the 3rd period the Celtics defense was cranked up a notch as they created turnovers to open up a double-digit lead.  I find Rick Hamilton to be quite annoying.  He consistently over-reacts in the attempt to draw a foul.  Antics like this is part of why Brent Barry didn’t draw a foul at the end of Game 5 of the Lakers-Spurs series.  He didn’t over-react (flop).  They need to start penalizing the floppers.

In the 4th quarter, the Celtics began to settle for the 3-pointer and the Pistons slowly began to close the gap.  It was a 1 point game with 1:05 to go.  Ray Allen hit a 2 to get a 3 point lead.  Billups missed a lay up, and KG missed a too-long jumper at the buzzer.  But Stuckey hit 2 FTs to pull within a point with 8.2 seconds left.  This is just too close for my liking.  So the Pistons put Ray Allen to the line to hit 2.  Stuckey returned to the line (good strategy, boring basketball), and he missed his first FT forcing the Celtics to guard that glass.  But he hit the FT instead.  Garnett was the next Celtic to head to the line, and hit bothto ice the game.

KG rebounded from a sub-par Game 4 for 33 pts and 7 rebounds.  It was barely enough for Gino to dance to the Bee Gees (seriously, a new tradition is needed).

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I heard the analysts and commentators.  They seemed to forget that despite their lousy road record in the playoffs, they had a great road record during the regular season.  They seemed to forget that they Pistons have not defended their home court in the playoffs this year.  They pronounced the Celtics D-E-A-D.

Hmmmm, the Celtics took Game 3 in Detroit to regain home court advantage.  They had a double digit lead most of the game.  Their bench players played some good basketball.  They played defense.  They won 94-80 even though Paul Pierce (11 points) and Ray Allen (14 on 5-16 shooting) didn’t have much offensive impact.  Perkins had a very good game, hitting his first 6 shots to pick up a double-double.  Garnett had 22 pts, 13 rebounds & 6 assists to lead the Celtics.

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The NBA


Where Kicking a Guy in the Package (without a foul) Happens.

 

That loss last night was like a kick in the crotch.  But, Detroit has lost to lesser teams at home in the playoffs this year.

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No one won the game.  It was 1-1 and Manchester United won on penalty kicks (sounds like someone did something wrong, but they didn’t- see, nonsensical).  I see 1-1 and think “tie game”.  Come on, sudden death overtime anyone?  This is not the regular season, but the championship game.  In the NHL they’d keep playing until someone won.  Not those “footballers”.

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A huge congratulations to Jon Lester on pitching a no-hitter for his very first complete game.  It was not a perfect game due to an error and 2 walks.  But this is still an amazing accomplishment for the young lefty.  It adds to his expanding resume.  Jon struggled to start the year but has pitched well lately.  Tonight he did something even the great Pedro Martinez never accomplished.

For those who think Jason Varitek is over-rated: he now holds the record for catching the most no-hitters.  It is not an accident, folks.  If memory serves me correctly, the others would be Nomo, Lowe and Buchholz.  That is 2 in 2 seasons for the young Sox pitchers.  Farrell probably deserves a fair amount of credit there too.

Jon helped his cause with 9 strikeouts, which is great to see for the guy.  His K/BB ratio has not been great.  But it was tonight.  He got some help from Jacoby and Youk, 2 other guys who came up through the Sox re-vamped system.  The made some great defensive plays to preserve the no-hitter.  And the Sox hitters provided ample run support. 

This is a feel-good story.  Not just because he had to beat cancer first, but the great bond he now has with Francona.  They shared a long hug after the game.

“He just said he was proud of me,” Lester said. “I’ve been through a lot the last couple of years. He’s been like a second dad to me. It was just a special moment right there.”

Sadly, this meant that righthander Chris Smith didn’t get into a game during his brief call-up.  Due to the double-header and Oki’s wrist issues, he was called up just in case.  But he’ll head back the minors so Masterson can pitch tomorrow night and he’ll be promptly sent down for Bartolo Colon can pitch Wednesday night.

One piece of advice- don’t let Papelbon’s dog near the ball!

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Paul looks much happier after this game.  LeBron, not so much.  He quickly left the court, seemingly not congratulating anyone.  Not quite good sportsmanship.

Both Pierce and LeBron had great offensive games.  Pierce gave most of Celtics’ nation a minor heart attack when he took a tumble just before half time with an injured ankle.  It didn’t seem to bother him much as he continued to knock down shots on his way to a 41 point performance.  It was about time he dominated.  But LeBron had 45 in a losing cause- similar to the classic battle between Larry Bird and ‘Nique back in ’86.

The surprise of the game was the play of P.J. Brown.  He’d looked just plain ugly in previous games.  Many of his shots looked ugly, but they went in.  He played some good defense and grabbed some key rebounds.

Eddie House also played some significant minutes.  This time he took the place of Ray Allen, who spent much of the 4th quarter on the bench.  That had to hurt him.

There were some very bad calls, and non-calls.  Not as many as in Game 6, but enough to make me wonder if the Celtics would be able to pull it out.  LeBron abused Pierce at least twice without a whistle.  One was when he tipped the ball out of his hands and then held onto his jersey.  No call on that, ball out of bound … turnover.  Another time LeBron pushed Pierce down to create another spurious turnover.  I’m beginning to wonder if LeBron can actually commit a foul (or be called for traveling).  At least Jordon won a title before he got all the calls (or is that just a figment of my imagination).  LeBron James is a great player, he doesn’t need help. 

Rather than the usual lopsided FT totals, the Celtics only took 1 fewer FT.  I can’t quite figure out how they call these games.  But thankfully we have home court advantage all the way through in this league that creates such an obvious home court advantage that has little/nothing to do with how players play.  I just want a little consistency.  Am I asking too much?  Apparently.

Now we get to face the Pistons.  Which Pistons team will show up?  They seem like Jekyll and Hyde.

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