Monday, May 30, 2022

Finals Bound

That's Shank after the Celtics won Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals:
Finally, the Celtics earn their chance to bring another championship to Boston

Remember all the parades between 2002 and 2019 . . . back in the good old days before COVID-19?

The Celtics earned a ticket to the 2022 NBA Finals with a thrilling, smashmouth, 100-96, Game 7 victory over the top-seeded Heat Sunday night at FTX Arena in Miami. Boston led the entire game and staved off a furious late-game comeback by Jimmy Butler and the Heat.

This means that after three, predominantly pandemic-plagued years, confetti could rain on Boylston Street next month for the first time since Tom Brady beat the Rams to win a Super Bowl in February 2019.

Playing in the image of franchise forefathers Bill Russell, KC Jones and Dennis Johnson, the Celtics were the best defensive team in the NBA this year and now-ready-for-primetime stars Jayson Tatum (26 points), Jaylen Brown (24), and Marcus Smart (24) are finally going to the Finals.


This new generation of Celtic stars has a chance to extend our local sports High Renaissance (12 championships in the new millennium), which started with 24-year-old Brady upsetting the St. Louis Rams in New Orleans in February 2002.
This looks like Shank's usual modus operandi - set the Celtics up with high to unreasonable expectations so he can take a monster dump on them should they fail to acheive those expectations.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Now They're Sitting Pretty

Here's Shank's take on the Boston Celtics' Game 5 win in the Eastern Conference semifinals over the horribly shooting Miami Heat:
Game 5 was ugly, but the Celtics are sitting pretty against the Heat

MIAMI — It took five smashmouth games and a lot of time in the training room, but it feels like the Celtics finally wore down the top-seeded Miami Heat.

After staggering through a brutal two quarters (both teams), the Celtics came back from a 5-point halftime deficit, tightening the screws on defense and outscoring Miami, 32-16, in the third quarter for a 93-80 Game 5 victory in the Eastern Conference finals. Game 6 is Friday night on Causeway Street and the Celts are one victory from making it to the NBA Finals for the 22nd time in franchise history.

“It’s great to be up, 3-2 and to have it at home is an advantage,’’ said Boston’s rookie coach, Ime Udoka. “ . . . Our defense, we stayed steady. Tonight we kept our composure and relied on our defense. That travels well with us.’’
Are you ready for some Shankisms and an obscure and forced pop culture reference? I know you are!
But the Celtics and their fans don’t care about style points at this hour. On the strength of their Belichickian defense, the Sons of Udoka — 39-12 since Jan. 23 — are on the threshold of the Finals. They vaporized the Heat, forcing Miami to shoot 31.9 percent (30 of 94, 7 of 45 on threes). Jimmy Butler made 4 of 18 shots. Miami’s starting guards (Kyle Lowry and Max Strus) went 0 for 15 from the floor. It was like watching Philip Seymour Hoffman shooting hoops in “Along Came Polly,” screaming “Let it rain!’’ as he clangs one shot after another.
Great way to trash an otherwise decent column, isn't it?

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Don't Blow It!

The Boston Celtics won Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in fairly impressive fashion. Leave it to Mr. Glass Half Empty to accentuate the negative:
If the Celtics don’t win the series, it will be one of the biggest blown opportunities in Boston sports history

We are four games into this bizarro Eastern Conference final and the only takeaway is that No One Knows Anything and it’s now a best-of-three with Miami holding home-court advantage the rest of the way.

Folks in these parts certainly think the Celtics are the better team and there was nothing on display at TD Garden Monday that would dispute that notion. In a wildly unpredictable series that’s seen sparse late-game drama and multiple beatdowns by both squads, it was the Celtics turn to freeze the Heat in a 102-82 Game 4 rout.

“We didn’t want to go down 3-1,’’ said Celtics coach Ime Udoka. “It wasn’t our best offensive night [39.7 percent shooting from the floor], but we can always rely on our defense. We can do that even if our shots are not falling.’’

If the Celtics don’t win this series and advance to the NBA Finals, this will go down as one of the biggest blown opportunities in Boston sports history.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

But Never Downplaying A Loss

That's just how he rolls:
After Celtics took a stunning loss in Game 3, there’s no telling what to expect in Game 4

Hold off on those round-trip plane tickets to San Francisco for the NBA Finals.

And forget about Celtics-In-Five.

Two days after dominating Miami in Game 2, the Celtics stumbled to a 26-point, first-half deficit in Game 3 and suffered a well-deserved 109-103 loss to the still-proud, Heat Saturday night at the Garden.

On a night when both Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum suffered injuries, went to the locker room, then made Drama King returns, Boston cut a 26 point lead all the way down to one point, 93-92, with 2:40 left, only to fall short. Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 40 points, but committed seven turnovers. Tatum shot 3 for 14 and had six turnovers in 40 uninspiring minutes. An energized Bam Adebayo scored 31 with 10 rebounds and 6 assists for the winners.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Downplaying A Win

I know, it's really out of character for Shank to do such a thing:
It’s only one game, but the Celtics responded emphatically in Game 2 against the Heat

MIAMI — Let’s not go overboard. It’s only one game. I remember mocking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the mighty Lakers when the Larry Bird Celtics beat LA, 148-114, in Game 1 of the 1985 Finals. Those proud Lakers wound up winning that series in six, dancing on the fabled parquet while New England wept.

But here in the Hub of Hoop, there’ll be a temptation to get carried away after what we watched at FTX Arena Thursday night. Some of you no doubt are already dreaming of that Boston-Golden State matchup in the NBA Finals.

The 2021-22 Celtics vaporized the Miami Heat, 127-102, in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals. Two days after a disheartening, shorthanded, 11-point loss, the Celtics (almost) got their whole team back and demolished a tough, worthy Miami team.
More realistic folks would say 'we won one in their building; so far, so good.' I suppose Shank's citing the 1985 series to tamper expectations, which is fine. I also suppose, as far as team personnel and matchups are concerned, the two sides in the aforementioned 1985 series were a lot closer than the current edition of the Celtics and Miami Heat. You could make the argument (successfully) that the 1985 Lakers team was amongst the top teams of all time - Kareem, Magic, Worthy, Michael Cooper Byron Scott, Bob McAdoo - that's a solid group. After Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, I don't know who belongs in that echelon of great players; I'll say Jayson Tatum, Jalen Brown and Marcus Smart (the Michael Cooper lockdown defender counterpart) give them the edge in this series.

I think, as always, Shank's column is some sort of setup in the case the Celtics barf up this series.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Not Enough Game

For those who watched the game, Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals was not a good one for the Boston Celtics:
Celtics were game, but without Marcus Smart and Al Horford, they didn’t have enough against Heat in opener

MIAMI — Opening night of the Eastern Conference finals got off to a rotten start for the Celtics.

No Marcus Smart (bruised foot). Then, without warning, no Al Horford (health and safety protocol).

Losing Smart and Horford against the rested, top-seeded Heat made Tuesday’s Game 1 feel like climbing Kilimanjaro for a Celtic team that just survived seven smashmouth playoff games against the defending world champs. The shorthanded Celts were forced to go back to work only two days after gutting the Bucks on Causeway Street.

Boston got it done early, taking a 13-point first half lead, but Miami wore down the exhausted Celts at the start of the third with a Jimmy Butler-led, 22-2 run en route to a 118-107 win. Game 2 is Thursday at FTX Arena.
More game recap and some quotes from there.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Doing It Wit Defense

Shank will now have to take a week or two to take that annual dump on the Celtics:
The Celtics wore out the great Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, and they did it with defense

The Bruins’ season ended Saturday. The Red Sox season feels like it ended in April. The Patriots offseason has been wildly underwhelming.

It was left to the Men in Green to keep things interesting around here and the Celtics did not disappoint Sunday, with a 109-81 Game 7 victory over the reigning NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks. Veterans Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart will take their talents to South Beach for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Tuesday night at FTX Arena.

A raucous Causeway Street crowd chanted “Beat the Heat!” in the closing seconds of the first rout of the series.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

One Tough Loss

We're now one loss away from Shank taking his annual post-season dump on any Boston team which doesn't win it all, and we get a preview here:
Game 5 loss for Celtics will go down as one of the toughest in Boston sports lore

It is almost beyond comprehension.

It appeared certain the Celtics had this one. We saw 48 minutes of blood and thunder basketball between two worthy teams and there were electric moments in our fabled gym joint. There seemed to be no doubt the Celtics would take a 3-2 series lead back to Milwaukee with a chance to close things out and advance to the conference Finals.

The Celtics led by 14 in the fourth quarter. They led by 6 with 2:12 to go when Ageless Al Horford threw down a dunk after a Jaylen Brown miss.

And then the defending world champions showed you what they are made of and took back the night, beating the Celtics, 110-107, in what is surely one of the toughest losses in Boston sports lore.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

One Quarter For The Ages

Shank's talking about the fourth quarter of the Celtics' Game 4 win on Monday night over the Milwaukee Bucks, but my observation's a bit different:
A fourth quarter for the ages, a legendary dunk from Al Horford, and the Celtics-Bucks series is all even

MILWAUKEE — If the Celtics go on to win Flag 18 ('Flag' - seriously? - ed), years from now when tall tales are told, this might be the night folks talk about the most. This might be like Dave Roberts stealing second base, or Adam Vinatieri drilling the ice ball through the uprights in the last game played at Foxboro Stadium

Or ending your sentences with periods.
The Celtics beat the World Champion Milwaukee Bucks, 116-108, at Fiserv Forum Monday night to square their conference semifinal series, 2-2. Game 5 is Wednesday at the Garden, Game 6 is Friday back in Brewtown (Brewtown - must be firsthand knowledge! - ed), and Game 7 (probably necessary) Sunday on Causeway Street. Bring your popcorn.
And a copy editor - there's more poorly written hackery to follow that'd make a high school English teacher shake his head.

Sunday, May 08, 2022

Remain Calm - All Is Well?

That seems to be the message Shank's trying to deliver after watching yesterday's Game 3 between the Celtics and the Bucks:
It was a tough finish, but all is not lost for Celtics

MILWAUKEE — The ball bounded back and forth, in and out, pinball-like, almost in slow motion.

Marcus Smart, rebounding his own intentionally missed free throw, had first crack with four seconds left. No good. Then Robert Williams tipped it back onto the rim. Not quite. Then Jrue Holiday got a hand on it and almost put it in the wrong basket. No. Finally, Al Horford tapped it through the hole just after the horn sounded.

It was initially ruled a bucket and the score was fixed at 103-103. For a second, it looked like we were going into overtime.

But Horford’s tap came after the red lights around the backboard lit. It was too late to save the Celtics for OT. A quick review revealed what we pretty much already knew.

Shank The Scold, A Continuing Series

A cheap and easy way to criticize athletes and pro sports teams in 2022 - keep bringing up everyone's Covid vaccination status:
Red Sox deny allowing Chris Sale more time to rehab injury because he won’t get vaccinated

MILWAUKEE — Are the Red Sox accommodating Chris Sale — allowing their $145 million pitcher extra time for his rehab from a rib cage fracture — because Sale won’t get vaccinated and they know he won’t be available to pitch in Toronto when the Sox return there June 27?

I ran this theory past Chaim Bloom Saturday afternoon, and the Red Sox chief baseball officer answered, “No. That has nothing to do with it.”

Bloom opened the box to cynicism in a rare media availability on Saturday before the Sox took on the White Sox in the second game of their weekend series.

Among items Bloom discussed in the dugout was an announcement that Sale’s rehab progress has been delayed because of a personal medical issue, not rib- or arm-related (Bloom also said Sale does not have COVID-19).

This means Sale’s return will be pushed back a few more weeks. It also means he won’t be available until late June at the earliest.
Shank has no problem criticizing Chris Sale but now gets to add his vaccination status as another stick to beat him with. I think it's stupid because Shank will never, ever consider the logic of continuing with Covid vaccine mandates now that the pandemic phase is well and small in our rear view mirror.

Saturday, May 07, 2022

When Is A Bargain Not A Bargain?

When it's the flailing 2022 Boston Red Sox:
These cost-conscious Red Sox are no bargain, and other thoughts

MILWAUKEE — Picked-up pieces while waiting for someone to call traveling or charging on Giannis …

The 2022 Red Sox. Wow. Just wow.

The bumbling Bostons went into Saturday with a record of 10-17, last place in the AL East, nine games behind the first-place Yankees. The Franchy Cordero All-Stars have lost five consecutive series. Some Red Sox fans have taken to calling the 99-day lockout “The Good Old Days.”

It’s never a good thing when the local baseball season is already over in the first week of May. The Sox are not out of contention yet, and having six American League teams in the playoffs gives them hope …

But seriously?

Are Sox ownership and the front office appropriately embarrassed by this product in the first four weeks of the season? Also, why is Chaim Bloom asking us to be “patient”?

Like it or not, the surprising success of the 2021 Red Sox (they actually came within two wins of the World Series) might have been the worst thing that could have happened to this year’s edition. October’s success deluded the cost-cutting ownership and free-cycling Bloom into thinking that they had figured things out.

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Making A Statement

Shank does a column on the Celtics' Game 2 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals:
Celtics got the message, then went out and made a statement in Game 2 win over Bucks

The Celtics were in need of a statement game. All the feel-good momentum from their sweep of the No No (Nan) Nets went away with Sunday’s Game 1 Garden smackdown at the hands of the defending world champion Milwaukee Bucks.

The national narrative seemed to be turning away from Boston as a dangerous team, bound for the NBA Finals. Marcus Smart was hurt, and pundits were calling out Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, both of whom underperformed in the series opener.

With this negativity in their heads and Smart (bruised thigh) on the shelf, the Celtics responded with one of their better games of the season, bolting to a 65-40 halftime lead, and playing smash-mouth defense in a 109-86, wire-to-wire Game 2 victory over the Bucks at the Garden. Brown (seven turnovers and 4-for-13 shooting in Game 1) scored 30, hit 6 of 10 from international waters.

Sunday, May 01, 2022

Back On The Bandwagon, A Continuing Series

This is the very definition of a fair-weather fan:
Celtics could end our championship ‘drought,’ and other thoughts

Picked-up pieces while thinking how much Xander Bogaerts reminds me of Patrice Bergeron …

We are spoiled, for sure, but we are also officially in a championship drought. After 12 duck boat parades in this century, we haven’t seen confetti in three long years. The last New England major sports team to win a title was the 2018-19 Patriots. Remember them? They had a quarterback named Tom Brady and they beat the Rams, 13-3, in Atlanta in the first week of February 2019.

We thought the parades would last forever. And we almost got another one in 2019 when the Bruins played a Stanley Cup Final Game 7 on a perfect June night at the Garden after smoking the St. Louis Blues, 5-1, in Game 6. Alas, Brad Marchand skated off the ice too soon at the end of the first period, the Bruins fell behind, 2-0, and never recovered.