Celtics Win in Thrilling Fashion

The Boston Celtics went into Indiana last night with a 25-7 record. Lately, the Cs have had some difficulty with their second unit, and were exposed in the loses against the Bulls and Jazz. Kyrie Irving missed the game against the Bulls, and they’ve been without the productivity of Marcus Morris due to his troublesome knee. And though the Celtics won against the Grizzlies 102-93, Brad Stevens has been determined to find the right combination to remedy their second unit troubles.

Fixing the Second Unit

There was no shortage of scoring in Indiana last night. The Celtics came out blazing, closing out the first quarter with a 17-point lead. Brad took Jayson Tatum and Al Horford out early, leading many to believe they were going to be used to spark the second unit. That did indeed happen and boy, did it help. The Cs put up 24 points in the second quarter, an improvement compared to the 17 they put up against the Grizzlies on Saturday. The bench contributed 37 points, with Marcus Smart going 5-6 and 4-4 from three for 15 points.

Down to the Wire

After having that 17-point lead at halftime, the Pacers had a second half comeback led by the surge of Victor Oladipo. Indiana outscored Boston in both the third and fourth quarter by 14. They tied the game at 100 a piece with 1:52 left to play and took the lead going into the final seconds of the game. Kyrie Irving made two clutch threes, putting the Cs within reach with 10 seconds left to play. The Pacers used their final timeout, and it was Bogdanovic’s job to make the inbound pass. Well, Terry Rozier made sure he was there to challenge that pass. He made the steal and completed the breakaway dunk, putting the Cs up 112-111 with 1 second left.
It was definitely the most exciting win of the season for Boston, who moves to 26-7 on the year. They lead the Cavs by just two games, with two back-to-backs coming up to close out 2017. Meanwhile, the Cavs get a healthy 1-2 days in between the rest of their match ups.

Don’t miss the Celtics return home to play the Heat on Wednesday night @ 7:30. This will no doubt be a chance for payback after Miami ended the 16- game streak. Let’s go Celtics!

Cs beat Pacers

NFL Week 12: In Case You Missed It…

These obviously aren’t all the games from week 12, but they had more significance than the rest (Pats will always matter because I’m from New England):

Keeping with Thanksgiving tradition, we had three games to keep us occupied all day. Well, not really, because the only good game was at 12:30 between the Vikings and Lions. Case Keenum continued to ‘make his case’ as starting QB, going 21-30, throwing for 282 yards and 2 TDs. But the Lions didn’t make it easy, and Stafford probably could have led a late fourth quarter comeback had he not injured his ankle. Vikings won 30-23 and with the loss, the Lions now sit ‘in the hunt’ with a 6-5 record.

*I’m not talking about the other two Thanksgiving games because quite frankly, there’s nothing to talk about.*

Skip ahead to Sunday where the Patriots grabbed their ninth win of the season. It was not pretty, as the Pats had two very uncharacteristic turnovers and the Dolphins defense had no problems getting to Brady (seemed like he was on the ground all day). The game also saw a number of injuries on both sides, with Ebner going down first with a knee injury (looked like an ACL, but I’m no expert). But let’s not forget Dion Lewis’ 15 carries for 112 yards, helping the Pats to a 35-17 win.

NFC heavyweights Saints and Rams squared off too, with the Rams pulling out the 26-20 win. Gurley only got the ball 17x (for 74 yards), which caused Goff to throw it 43 times; but at least he threw for a hefty 354 yards and 2 TDs (and 1 INT that should never have happened). The Saints defense tried, with Cam Jordan having 2 sacks on the day. Unfortunately, Drew Brees had a lot of frustrating drives, and when he tried to get the comeback going late, he just didn’t have it. The Rams defense got it done, though there were a lot of missed opportunities for INTs (I saw at least 3 that could have been). They’re going to need to work on that, considering the competition in the NFC is pretty stiff this year.

Cards just barely beat the Jags 27-24 with a FG as time expired. Blaine Gabbert displayed some pretty impressive skills through the air, while Blake Bortles did it on the ground (Fournette just couldn’t get anything going). Calais Campbell had a fumble recovery for a TD but it wasn’t enough: Bortles’ late INT cost them the game. I’ve said it before: Bortles does great things 85%% of the game, then he makes a costly mistake and we completely forget how amazing he performed beforehand. It seems his decision making while under pressure is no bueno, and it’s something he needs to get a handle on quickly. With the loss, the Jags are now in second place behind the Titans in the AFC South.

Last but not least, the disappointing Chiefs. Everyone thought for sure they would win against the Bills, since McDermott was having an unnecessary dilemma with his QB situation. But no, the Chiefs crapped the bed again and lost 16-10, with a late INT by White to seal the deal for the Bills. Alex Smith and Kareem Hunt have not been the same guys from the first five games, where the Chiefs went 5-0. They have been 1-5 in their last six games. Is it time to give up on them?

 

A Fresh Start

The Celtics came home on Friday to host the Orlando Magic after a heartbreaking loss in Miami on Wednesday, which ended their win streak at 16. It was looking like a blow-out, with the Cs leading by as much as 30 points at one point. They ended up winning 118-103. The defense did reign supreme, despite the score (which was due to a handful of threes by Speights). All of the Orlando starters were held to under 15 points, and so was their bench.

Kyrie Irving scored 17 of his 30 points in the first half, in which the Celtics put up a whopping 73 points. Jaylen Brown added 13 of his own and the bench contributed 49, which is they’ve produced this season. Terry Rozier scored a career high 23 points and Aron Baynes had himself a double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds). And although I wanted more offensive production from Al Horford in terms of points, he was able to boost the offense without doing so. He had 10 assists, getting his teammates the ball and getting back to Celtic’s basketball.

All of the starters were able to play under 30 minutes last night, which is fantastic considering they lay again tonight in their first back-to-back of the season. They will head to Indiana to face the Pacers, who have won five straight. The Pacers may be without Oladipo, as he left last night’s game with a knee injury. The Cs will be without Marcus Morris and possibly Jaylen Brown. Morris will not travel with the team and rest is knee, while Brown will be attending his friend’s funeral. He said if he doesn’t make it back in time he won’t play; I say just give him the day off. He needs it and definitely deserves it.

Celtics @ Pacers tonight @ 8. Will the Cs end the Pacers streak? Tune in to find out

Drama and Disappointment in the Big D

What is happening to America’s team? On Thanksgiving Day, they lost to the San Diego Chargers 28-6… at home! This is the third straight game they have lost, and the third straight time Dak’s performance has been less than satisfactory.

I think everyone expected this after the team lost Ezekiel Elliot to that six-game suspension. He is a key part of the offense that gives it the balance it needs, so that Dak can go out there and do his thing through the air. They also got a break when they were without left tackle Tyron Smith and linebacker Sean Lee. The defense didn’t have its heart and Dak lost his protection. As a result, they lost to the Falcons 27-7, then to the Eagles 37-9 and again yesterday 28-6. But we all were at least hoping that this last game would be different, with Tyron Smith back at left tackle. Unfortunately, they then lost right guard Zack Martin, which didn’t help.

The Cowboys are struggling, but how much blame can you put on the players? Or should we be looking at the guy who should have been fired a LONG time ago: head coach Jason Garrett. It’s clear the coaching staff has a hard time making adjustments when key players aren’t available; but great coaches are able to work with what they have, finding ways to use players on their roster that best helps the team (he should take some pointers from Belichick). Bottom line: the dependence on Zeke and Dak has now completely shifted to Dak, and that is too much for a QB in his second year to handle. What else did they expect? That he would throw passes to himself? It’s utterly ridiculous that Garrett has kept his job all these years. I mean, anyone can have a success with players like Dak and Zeke. But the real test is seeing what you can do when you don’t have those pieces. And remember, players can’t execute if the play calling sucks.

Oh but of course, there are always other distractions in Dallas with Jerry Jones as the owner. Although his fight against the commissioner’s extension is valid, he has definitely gone about it the wrong way. First of all, he made it about Zeke and his suspension. He began taking jabs on the radio station and orchestrated that whole Papa John’s statement, which basically called out Goodell as the reason for  declining pizza sales (and really, overall NFL interests). Let’s be real, Jerry Jones is just mad because Goodell is not being the patsy was hired to be. And since Goodell’s actions have now personally effected his team, Jones is NOT letting that fly. So like all bullies do, he went to round up his posse in order put an end to Goodell’s ‘tyrannical reign’. But Jones just kept pushing and pushing, until his posse realized how dangerous his actions were to the NFL (and their money). Now, Jones is trying a gentler but stern approach by urging EVERY owner to consider the extension, not just the six that are on the committee.

It’s never-ending drama in Dallas and it’s negatively affecting this team. With a 5-6 record plus their remaining opponents, I don’t see any ‘bouncing back’ this season, especially with the way they’ve been playing.

Seahawks Fall to the Falcons

To Seahawks fans all around the world… I would say I feel your pain but I don’t because my kicker(s) have never missed a game-tying or game-winning field goal (at least I can’t remember a time when Patriots kickers did). But let’s recap the whole game:

Matt Ryan and the Falcons soared into Century Link and showed the 12th man that they were not afraid. In the first quarter, Coleman rushed for a TD and Ryan connected with Sanu to go up 14-0 before Russell and Graham connected for their own four yard pass. By halftime, it was 24-17 after a fumble return and field goal by Atlanta and a rushing TD and field goal by Seattle.

Then came the second half, where Atlanta really struggles; they just have such a hard time closing out games. Blair Walsh hit a couple of field goals to give the Seahawks 23 points, but Ryan and Bryant added another 10 points to give the Falcons a 34-23 lead. Of course, Wilson was able to march his team down the field and convert on a TD and two-point conversion to make it 34-31. Atlanta got the ball back and had a disappointing drive that ended in a punt. Seattle get the ball back, goes down the field, and… Blair Walsh misses the only field goal that REALLY mattered. He’s been having a rough time lately, validating Minnesota’s decision to release him and making the Seahawks regret giving him a chance.

Now, this puts Atlanta and Seattle at 6-4. Seattle is now one game behind the Rams and Atlanta is two games behind in the division. They’re considered to be ‘in the hunt’ I guess, because  you really never know what’s going to happen over the next six weeks. But the Falcons shouldn’t be too excited; they still REALLY need to work on closing out games. They did score in the second half this time so I’ll give them that, but their defense needs to tighten up if they do want to try and sneak in as a wild card. Giving up 30+ points isn’t going to get you very far, especially with the teams that are leading divisions in the NFC right now.

But Seattle fans, do not fear. You may get your shot at the division again before the regular season is over. The Rams have the Saints, Eagles and you guys over the next four weeks, arguably one of the toughest remaining schedules I’ve ever seen. I mean, you guys have the Eagles coming up too, but the rest of your games should be winnable.

SIXTEEN. STRAIGHT. WINS. GODDAMN.

If you were watching the Celtics game last night, no doubt you almost had a heart attack as you watched this game go into OT. Kyrie Irving had 47 points (10 in OT) and Jaylen Brown had 22, while Tatum and Smart (yes, Marcus Smart) added 15 and 12 of their own.

Let’s be real, this was not a well-played game except for the first and the fourth quarter (and OT obviously). On the offensive side of the ball, shots just weren’t falling for the second unit, and that’s what really killed the Cs. Brad left them out there a little bit longer than he wanted, but I think it was because he wanted to see if they could find a rhythm. That unfortunately was not the case and once again it was Kyrie to the rescue. But I don’t want to overlook the effort of the defense. Though they gave up more points than they wanted to, they kept the Mavericks well under 30% three-point shooting (21.2% to be exact) and 40% overall. The defense of the three was key last night (because the Mavs love to shoot threes) and the Celtics were successful in doing so, along with dropping 13 of their own.

The Celtics know that other teams are going to be coming for them EXTRA hard to try and spoil this streak (which is the fourth longest in Cs history). The Mavs gave them everything they had but came up short in the fourth/OT. The Cs head to Miami Wednesday night to play the Heat, who they already defeated 96-90 in October. The Heat have been a bit sporadic lately and recently lost at home to the Pacer 120-95. But make no mistake, they saw that Mavs game and will be looking for their own spoil of the streak.

If the Celtics want to avoid what happened in Dallas, they MUST shoot better, and specifically the second unit. They’re not going to be able to defend every possession without giving up points, so there needs to be some scoring to offset that. Rozier needs to find his stride and get those baskets, and they’re going to need more than just rebounds from Baynes and Thies. But most importantly, Al Horford needs to start heating up again. He has been ice cold the past two games, combining for only 10 points. Though he has had 14 rebounds and 13 assists, there needs to be more offensive production from him. And of course, the team needs to continue to play DEFENSE. Oh, and another thing that wouldn’t hurt: practicing free throws (Jaylen and Marcus *cough cough*). If you’re going to draw the foul and get to the line, you need to hit the free throws (I still love these guys though).

Watch the Celtics go for 17 straight Wednesday @ 7:30 pm!

The Case for the Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jacksonville Jaguars have shocked the world with their performance this season. They are 7-3 and lead the AFC South, a division that only ever really saw competition between the Texans and Colts in recent years. But with Andrew Luck out for the Colts and number of stars out for Houston, the Jags have a chance to shine.

They made a great move this offseason when they picked up Calais Campbell, who played in Arizona from 2008-2016. The former Miami Hurricane and 2x- Pro Bowler and All-Pro decided to bring his talents to Jacksonville, signing a four-year, $60 million dollar contract (along with all the other bells and whistles). With the addition of Campbell to an already  talented group of guys like Telvin Smith. A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey, the Jags defense has emerged as the best in the league, giving up only 275.6 yards per game. Campbell leads the league with 11.5 sacks, and the team as a whole leads with 40 (and 264 yards lost)! They also lead the league with three defensive TDs, are tied fourth in forced fumbles (13) and are third in INTs (13).

They also made another offseason move: drafting Leonard Fournette. He was the man at LSU, rushing for over 1,000 yards in 2014 and 2015 (almost hit 2,000 in 2015). His junior year statistics weren’t as jacked due to a high ankle injury he dealt with all season, but there was no doubt in anyone’s mind of what this guy could do when he was healthy. The Jags took him fourth overall and they were not disappointed. The addition of Fournette to their running back group now have them sitting at the top of the leader board in rushing yards per game (160.6). Grant, Yeldon and Ivory have all contributed close to (or over) 200 yards rushing on the season, and Fournette leads them all with 740.

The only thing holding this team back… the average (mostly below average) play of Blake Bortles. He only has a 58.4 % completion percentage, 12 TDs and 7 INTs on the year. He does have 195 rushing yards, I’ll give him that. But there needs to be more consistency out of Bortles if this team wants to contend with the Patriots and Steelers, because you better believe the Steeler are NOT losing to them again. Bottom line: he needs to help his team score more points. The defense can only bail him out so many times and the offense can’t depend solely on a run game; there needs to be a balance. I get so frustrated watching him sometimes because he makes a lot of good decisions and great throws. But then he’ll go and make a series of bad decisions that just take away from all the good he’s accomplished in a game. Bortles has what it takes to be (consistently) better than he is; he just needs to tap into it. PLEASE BLAKE! JUST TAP IN!

I’m really rooting for this team! They’ve got a solid defense  (I’m a sucker for great defenses) and a good offense, though it could use some improvements. They control their destiny right now and with the right moves, they can only get better from here on out.

Just a sports fan with an opinion