Celtics

A scary proposition

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A scary proposition

By Michael Felger

So the Bruins have advanced father in the playoffs than the Celtics.

Whats the word Im searching for?

Oh yeah, got it.

Orgasmic.

Hey Felger, I know we all want the Bruins to advance and, of course, hoist the Cup (preferably at TD Garden), but for pure drama this group over the last four weeks have knocked our Sox off!! Four straight overtime wins!! We'll all be dust before that ever happens again with the Bruins. The Bruins do have the feel of Red Sox pre-2004, that we expect the worst and exalt when they provide the best. Four o.t. wins. That's the best! Since the Miami Heat are handling the Celtics, the Bruins are critical for our continued enjoyment well into Spring. Dan Chicopee

How scary is that? The only thing standing between me and talking about the Red Sox' starting rotation for four hours a day for the next three months is . . . the Bruins?

Look, Im happy where theyre at, but thats a scary prospect.

Felger, Who is going to step up for the Bruins? Who do you like the most? Is there any one player . . . or none? Art Dover, NH

The answer is usually none. But I'll give you one: David Krejci. He thinks he's a star. He always promises to bring his best when it matters most. And up until that Montreal playoff series, he had usually done that. He was the B's best player in the postseason. He was terrific at the Olympics. He wants to be that guy. So let's see it, David.

Felger, The big problem with Bergeron being out is going to be Recchi! Without Bergeron to cover his behind, we'll see what his plusminus will be. He's 43, short and white. Sounds like the press box at TD Garden. How long are you going to keep giving him a free pass? Sam Portland, Maine

Recchi is white? Why didn't anyone tell me? In that case we're cooked.

Seriously, if I were Claude I'd spell Recchi more than they do. It's obvious he can't always keep up with the fresh legs of Marchand and Bergeron (and now Kelly). Spell Recchi with Peverly or Paille for a few shifts in the first and second periods. Let Recchi catch up.

Mike, I know he has two overtime game-winners and is generally considered to be having a good playoffs, but I think Horton's game benefits more from OT and poor goaltending than any other player on the ice. His first shot is consistently at ice level, which means a rebound is required if you ever want to see him go top shelf. Philly's goaltending doesn't even bother making him do that leaving openings all over the ice from the five hole on out. Also, this guy's main skill set seems to be being big.'' The first two periods he usually floats around looking slow and sloppy getting pushed off pucks, but as the game wears on, his skill set (being big) just isn't subject to fatigue like everyone else's. I think the reason that he is so much better in overtime is that everyone else loses some power, speed and skill, but his skill set (being big) remains unaffected. Everyone else becomes slower and sloppier with fatigue . . . but he is still big. Perhaps you assess this players game differently? If so how? Peace, Jake Boston

Well, I think we saw this season just why he was available in the first place. Guys with his size, skill and pedigree (third overall pick in 2003) just aren't traded for Dennis Wideman and a low first-round pick unless there's an issue. And Horton's issue is clear: Michael Ryder-itis.

But he's been pretty good in the playoffs. Not great. But pretty good. Everyone would like to see him throw his weight around more and be a more explosive finisher, but that's just not who is he. Unfortunately.

What can I say, Mikey? It's getting harder and harder to complain about something. Being a Bruins fan, I'm not quite used to this. But I am one of the those Seguin people, so now it's time to see what the kid's got -- and I'm very much looking forward to it. Maybe we'll be lucky and see him raise his game and put a few in the net. I'm by no means expecting it, but great players elevate their play in these types of situations and maybe we will see something. Just maybe! There is one thing that I'm very worried about, though, and that's the massive amount of time off. Two years ago against Carolina, it killed them. So how do you think they'll come out and play at the beginning of this series? Dave Woburn

As for the layoff, they are taking a different approach to it from the last time. I remember interviewing Mark Stuart out at Comcast between the Montreal and Carolina series two years ago and he looked like he just came from a three-day bender in Key West. In other words, the players got too much time off that season. This year, Claude has given them only a few days off and is working them harder. We'll see if this approach works better.

And Seguin? I think you're going to be disappointed.

Felger, What's with all these people, including KPD, saying the Bruins should've started Tuukka for Game 4? Are they nuts? To me there's very little upside and a whole lot of downside to that idea. It's just crazy. Luckily in that sense, Claude is a stick-with-it kind of guy. Drew Dudley

Playing Tuukka against the Flyers was the single worst idea I've heard since the Perkins trade. Dumb. They're worried about resting Thomas? How about sweeping the Flyers and giving Thomas eight days? Doesn't that seem like a better plan?

Hey, Felger! Congrats to the Bruins. That was definitely the best brand of hockey they've played in a real long time. After Game 1 it was obvious the Bruins wanted it more and actually may have been the more talented team. A healthy Pronger may have made it go maybe to six games, but the Bruins really deserved it. Unfortunately, a borderline cheap hit will cost them their best player for the remaining games. It has become far more clear that concussions are not a shake-it-off'' injury anymore. If and when Bergeron is cleared, his level of play will not be what it has been. Too bad because, full strength, they had a shot to be in the finals. But if Thomas can stand on his head and steal one they still have a shot. It is great hockey, though. Something sorely missed in these parts for a long, long time. Also, you're stuck with Claude now. And maybe after all the guff he's taken, that won't be so bad. Steve Chester, NH

Claude's been better, no question. We've seen less of the fourth line. He's given more ice to the players who've deserved it (Kelly, Seidenberg) and taken it away from those who don't (Kaberle). What a novel concept!

But on Bergeron, the more I hear, the more it sounds like they are definitely expecting him back this round. What I'm hearing is that it's not just a mild concussion -- it's a really mild concussion. I believe they've started the clock on him. In another five days he'll begin to work out, and if he comes through that fine, I think you'll see him back soon after.

Mike, Nothing more pathetic and ridiculous when a team loses a game they should win, than to have the analyst say, "Miami is a better team." Thats not Green Teaming, thats flat-out bad journalism. If you lose in seven games on the road to Miami, or get blown out in four of five games, you can say they were better. But you dont lose a game at home when you turn the ball over countless times, miss a WIDE-open layup with 40 seconds left, and screw up the last regulation-time possession . . . and then say they were just better. Just like I refuse to say the Jets were the better team in January. Nope, 14-2, home game, last matchup 45-3 -- you choked. The Celts choked and the Patriots choked. For all the success of the earlier part of the decade, we now have had the Celtics lose two Game 7s and probably this series; the Patriots blow an AFC Championship Game, a Super Bowl, and a divisional playoff game at home; the Red Sox lose a Game 7 in 2008, and get swept in 2009. The Bruins had the 3-0 disaster last year but have now become the last hope for the time being. Or we might be right back in Loserville. George Woburn

Again, the only thing standing between Boston and a return to "loserville" is . . .the Bruins? Egads.

Felger, Saying that Rondo getting walked off the court by trainers after a dislocated elbow is "drama"? I would pay money to see how you would act with your arm bent the wrong way. Even worse, you try to compare it to Bergeron getting a mild concussion. That is so weak. You sound like a high school kid arguing in the lunch room. Ken Waltham

I'm just glad KG was there to tell Rondo to keep breathing. We might have lost Rajon altogether. Where was the wheelchair when we needed it?

Felger, Too bad you and your "knowledgeable" brothers cannot spot an NFL leg whip on Rondo's takedown by Wade. Along with the arm lock, it looked like a deliberate intent to injure, an NHL penalty. Certainly a deliberate attempt at something that you experts can't see or identify! George Massachusetts

It was dirty, no question. Frankly, given the sensibilities of the Green Teamers around here, I'm surprised Wade hasn't been vilified more than he has.

Hi, MikeI'm a huge fan of the show. I'm not sure if you saw this today, but here is an interesting article in regards to the Patriots' recent draft history. Regards, Bill

And this . . .

Mike, I saw this article today by Cold Hard Football Facts.com re: grading out the decade of drafting for each team. Guess who is No. 1? Thats right -- our beloved Patriots. And guess who is only a C-plus? Felgers favorite team -- the Jets. Thanks very much, Dan

Bruce Allen at Boston Sports Media Watch wrote on this, too. I'll respond here.

In the e-mail exchange Bruce displays, I clearly state that I'm going by the last FIVE YEARS. Obviously, the Pats drafted well in the early part of last decade. Whoever said they didn't? Tom Brady, Richard Seymour, Matt Light, Deion Branch, Asante Samuel, Vince Wilfork, etc. That record is established and beyond dispute. Are the Pats the best drafting team of the last decade? Sure, especially given the weight of that Brady pick. The folks at Cold Hard Football Facts and ESPN wont get an argument from me.

But just look at their drafts here. It's pretty clear that the Pats "team of the decade" status at the draft was achieved mostly on the strength of their boards from 2001-2005.

I think its perfectly reasonable to look at the span of 2006-2010 as well. Its more recent, and its a big enough sample to make some clear judgments. And given that sample, I'm not sure the Pats are even the best drafting team in the AFC East, never mind the NFL.

To wit: Here are the best of the Jets (you knew this was coming, didnt you?) picks over the last five years: Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, David Harris, Dustin Keller, Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene, Leon Washington (now gone).

Here's the best of the Pats picks: Devin McCourty, Jerod Mayo, Rob Gronkowski, Sebastian Vollmer, Pat Chung, Brandon Spikes, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Meriweather.

I left out the busts on both teams (Vernon Gholston, for example; or Chad Jackson, for another). And I've also left out the marginal picks. Both teams have had plenty. I've focused solely on what could be described as the best'' picks from each team, players who have emerged to be key factors on their respective rosters. Eight apiece.

Which group is better? It's close, certainly. But to me, I'd rather have the Jets group because of Revis. Next to Brady, he's the single most impactful player in the division.

In his story Bruce refers to the Pats eight consecutive seasons of double-digit wins, implying its a barometer of their strong drafts. That seems like a reach. Were those records primarily the result of the excellence of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, or were they the result of their drafts?

Id go with the former, but whatever. If thats the standard, then well remain consistent with it.

The Jets are 3-2 against the Pats in the past five meetings and have advanced father in the playoffs in each of the last two years. In the game that mattered most -- in the playoffs at Gillette -- the Jets prevailed decisively. Using that win-loss criteria, does that then mean the Jets have drafted better recently?

Either way, the Jets have proven there is more than one way to do it. They consistently trade up (that's how they got Revis, Sanchez, Greene and Harris). They don't let rookie bonus money be an obstacle. And the last time I checked they aren't in that mythical place we keep hearing about, "salary cap jail." Its worked for them.

Don't be so sensitive. The Pats drafted very well early last decade. They are terrific at moving around the board and accumulating picks. But the players theyve actually selected over the last five years? I think spotty is a pretty fair word for it.

Hey, FelgerI may get blasted for this by the footy-pajama Patriots Nation, but do you think it's time to consider stripping Belichick of his fulltotal control GM duties? There is no other coach I'd rather have in the world than Belichick, but his moves and drafts as a GM have been pretty poor recently, except for the 2010 draft that yielded McCourty, Gronk, Hernandez, and Spikes. I'm not saying to bring in a GM that has total control, but maybe a guy to challenge Belichick's moves like Pioli or Dimitroff could. Just like last year when we wanted an established defensive coordinator and questioned if Matt Patricia was really in a position to challenge Belichick's ideasschemes, the same thing applies to the team-building process: Is Nick Caserio really in a position to challenge Belichick's authority in the draft and team building process? Belichick is one of the best in the business at collecting draft picks, there's no doubt about it. But his philosophy of continually trading down and out for value instead of trading up for talent has hurt this team. Personally, I think Belichick is one of the most overrated personnel guys in the NFL when it comes to the draft. All of these second- and third-round picks, and not enough production in my mind. Butler, Brace, Tate, McKenzie, Wheatley, Crable, O'Connell, Chad Jackson, Dave Thomas. Not to mention first-round whiffs like Maroney and Meriweather (whose two Pro Bowl selections are LAUGHABLE). Interestingly, the best return they've gotten on a second-round pick is Wes Welker. I'd almost rather do what the Jets do, trading picks for proven talent (Cromartie, Jenkins, Holmes, Edwards) that produces for two or three years, as opposed to using all these picks in the draft and spending two or three years waiting to see if ANY of them are somewhat decent. A perfect example of this: The Jets trade a conditional third that can turn into a second for Cromartie to fill their need at cornerback. To fill the needed left at CB after Asante left, the Patriots signed over-the-hill JAG's (Webster, Bryant, O'Neal) and spent multiple picks in the draft (Butler, Wheatley, Wilhite). Finally, they found Bodden in free agency and McCourty in the first round, but it was the third straight year that Bill had to use a top 64 pick on a CB. Sorry Bill, that's not good value in my eyes -- just a lot of wasted resources that could have been spent retooling this weak front-7 on defense. In the end, it's a shame because Brady only has a few years left at the top of his game, and Belichick is not doing enough to maximize that window of opportunity. JP

Why you so upset? Dont you realize the Pats were the best drafting team of the past decade?

Seriously, though: Not a good idea. For as much scrutiny as I think Belichick deserves for his drafts the last FIVE YEARS, Id be terrified if he ever gave up control or moved on. You never know what would come next. All Bill has to do is produce more drafts like 2009 and fewer like 2006 and hes all set.

Felger, You DB! The Bruins are in the Conference Finals. Just let that sink in for a moment. Conference Freaking Finals. I remember vividly sitting with my Dad in the lodge at The Real Garden as we watched the Penguins finish off the Bruins during Game 4 of the Prince of Wales Conference finals in devastating fashion. A lone goal by Stephen Leach (who I still despise on principle because of the Burridge deal) was all they could muster in a hopeless effort to stave off the Mario's star-laden juggernaut. As I walked out of the barn that night, I wondered what Harry would do to help us get past the Penguins next year. I never imagined for one second that it would take almost two decades to make it back to Lord Stanley's doorstep. But after nineteen long and mostly frustrating years, the Bruins are one step away from playing for the "Big Trophy." And I'll be damned if a team from Tampa Bay is going to stop them. No, no and no. It is not in any way shape or form acceptable to be beaten by a team from a city that is largely a sports joke. First off all, there are no "real" Tampa fans. These are all transplants who couldn't care less about the local teams. And even when the home teams are winning, they might not give a rats ass. Evan Longoria and David Price called it "embarrassing" when only 12,000 Rays fans showed up to watch them clinch the A.L. East. The NFL team plays it's home games in a stadium that essentially doubles a Pirates of the Caribbean attraction to keep the yokels interested. And then there is the Lightning. This was a team that couldn't pay people to watch Roman Hamrlik dive back in 1992, let alone watch Hockey. They were far more interested in seeing international sensation Manon Rhaume make her NHL exhibition debut. But once the hordes of slack jawed locals realized that she was a player covered in pounds of equipment, the prospect of sticking fists full of singles between buckles of her Vaughns lost its luster quickly. And like some sort of cruel joke, this den of Sports indifference actually won a Cup. Nothing personal against any of the players on that Lightning team, but if you call yourself a Hockey fan and you weren't rooting for the Calgary Flames, the Hockey gods should curse your daughters with Lanny McDonald's facial hair. And the worst part is they are all wannabe Habs! Their faux fans do the "Ole, ole ole ole chant. Their coach is a product of the Montreal Canadiens who runs a trap and the team embellishes contact to draw penalties. If I am going to lose a playoff series to a bunch of floppers with an annoying fan base, I'd rather they be authentic, card-carrying, Anglo-hating separatist Francophone's than some Epcot Center French pavilion stand ins! Bettman should just move this team to Quebec tomorrow. Any team within 100 miles of Disney that schedules Toy Story on Ice during the NHL playoffs should just close up shop and let Buzz Lightyear and Woody entertain the humanoids year round because they clearly care more about buying cups with mouse ears as handles than winning Lord Stanley's version. And speaking of winning the Cup, if San Jose chokes against the Red Wings, the B's chances get a lot slimmer. What are the odds Dorothy can get the Wizard to give this guy some heart by 9:00 PM tonight?

Mike Attleboro

So youre saying one of the only things standing between us and the Bs best chance at a Cup in 41 years is . . . a clutch performance by Joe Thornton?

God help us.

Read Felgers weekly column on Mondays. E-mail him HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m, on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Celtics' cup has runneth over so far this season

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Celtics' cup has runneth over so far this season

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics are no different than the rest of us. They have a lot to be thankful for.
 
There’s the usual good health, family and friends. But they have a few more things to be thankful for, as well.
 
So as you take a brief time-out today from the turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce, here’s a look at five things the Celtics are thankful for this season.


 
KYRIE IRVING
 
The Celtics have had some solid players in recent years, but the addition of Kyrie Irving was a game-changer. He provides Boston with an unmistakable superstar who has a proven track record of success on all levels -- he's won an NBA championship and an Olympic Gold medal, and is also a four-time All-Star. Did I mention he’s just 25 years old?


 
AL HORFORD
 
His numbers will never adequately measure the impact Horford has had on the Celtics. The big plus with Horford was him simply agreeing to be a Celtic. For years this franchise has been built on the success of developing draft picks or trading for talented players. But rarely have they had the financial flexibility or, to be frank, the kind of appeal to free agents to go out and acquire a proven All-Star like Al Horford. His arrival has enhanced an already-established winning culture, one that has become a player on the free agency market ever since.


 
DANNY AINGE
 
Other than Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti, it’s hard to imagine another front office executive having as good an offseason as Ainge. He rolled the dice to go down two spots in last June’s NBA draft, and wound up with arguably the most NBA-ready player (Jayson Tatum) among those selected in last June’s NBA draft. (Remember, the likely rookie-of-the-year Ben Simmons did not play last year after Philadelphia drafted him with the top overall pick in 2016.) The free-agent pickups of Aron Baynes, Daniel Theis and Shane Larkin have all had moments where they carried the team to victory. Even second-round picks like Semi Ojeleye and two-way players like Jabari Bird have contributed to wins this season. Fans may not like some of Ainge’s decisions in the moment but he deserves a lot of credit for the team we see today, one that has played at a level few envisioned they'd reach this quickly.


 
BRAD STEVENS
 
And to think, the Big Three (Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford) Boston was planning to build around this season has played less than five minutes together. Stevens has been pushing all the right buttons, putting guys in unexpected positions to succeed with a cast that’s long on talent and well, well short on experience. Boston’s first win of the season came at Philadelphia, a game in which the Celtics played six different rookies. It’s not unusual for teams to use first-year players frequently, but for a team that was built to contend for a championship? That’s highly unusual. The biggest thing is despite the lack of experience on the floor, Stevens hasn’t allowed them to use that as a reason to fail. Instead, Stevens has had them lean heavily on film study and the wisdom of veterans, as well as empowered them to have a “next-man-up” mindset with one goal regardless of what they are tasked with doing: Get it done. No excuses.


 
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
 
Boston has spent most of this season atop the NBA standings, fueled in large part by a 15-game winning streak -- the longest of the Brad Stevens era and the fifth-longest ever by a Celtics team. But within that winning streak, there have been some noticeable areas of concern (i.e., bench scoring) that have made games more challenging. And that's what makes these Celtics so scary to the rest of the league. If they’re beating teams consistently now, how much better will they be when the offense catches up or, at a minimum, gains some ground on what has been an impressive stretch of play defensively? That’s why as good as this first full month of the season has been, there's reason to believe they’ll only get better. The Celtiheircs have seen  share of adversity. They've played without their All-Stars. They have fought back from double-digit deficits to emerge victorious. This is a young squad, but battle-tested already. Because of all that, they have a certain level of confidence that regardless of the situation, regardless of the score, they feel they will find a pathway to success. And that, Celtics Nation, is something to be thankful for.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE


 

Blakely's takeaways: Moving on without the streak

Blakely's takeaways: Moving on without the streak

The streak is over! The streak is over!

We now return the Boston Celtics to their regularly scheduled pursuit of success without the growing pressure that comes with a historically relevant winning streak.

The 104-98 loss at Miami on Wednesday night brought an end to what had been one of the more unlikely winning streaks we’ve seen in the NBA for quite some time.

Boston reeled off 16 straight wins, many of which were the come-from-a-double-digit-deficit variety. In the end, the Celtics’ winning streak ranks as the fourth-longest in this storied franchise’s history.

“I told you, we’re not as good as the 16-game win streak,” Stevens said following the loss. “But we do have a lot of resolve.”

That resolve will surely be challenged with the Celtics taking Thanksgiving off, only to return and play three games in the next four nights beginning with Orlando on Friday, followed by a road game at Indiana on Saturday and a home date against the Detroit Pistons on Monday.

Here are five takeaways from the Boston Celtics’ 16-game winning streak.

KYRIE FOR MVP?

When the Boston Celtics traded for Kyrie Irving during the offseason, there was a sense that his presence would be a plus in some capacity, at some point. But few envisioned Irving would not only have a relatively seamless fit with the Celtics, but deliver in such a way that would catapult them to the top of the NBA standings and in doing so, establish him as one of the early front-runners for the league’s MVP award. This season, Irving is averaging a team-best 22.5 points and 5.2 assists while shooting 47 percent from the field but most important, the Celtics (16-3) have the best record in the NBA.

WANTED: BENCH SCORER

If you are a fan of good defenders, you probably love the Boston Celtics’ second unit. Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart are both ball-hawking defenders who can make some miserable times for opponents when they are on top of their game. Daniel Theis provides great energy on the glass and defensively. But the second unit needs a jolt offensively. Because as good as they can defend collectively, the Celtics have to have at least one starter on the floor most of the time because the bench doesn’t have an adequate collector of buckets that they can rely on consistently. Marcus Morris looks like an ideal choice for that role, but the left knee soreness that kept him out for eight games seems to be flaring up from time to time. Whether they address this with a trade or possibly with a player bought out, the lack of a second-unit scorer is very much an issue for this team.

BROWN EMERGES AS TWO-WAY TALENT

The plan was for Jaylen Brown to be an elite, shut-down defender this season. He has shown himself to be a good defender this season, but what has really made him stand out is the growth in his game offensively. The second-year wing has scored 20-plus points in three of Boston’s last four games. Doing that along with continuing to play good defense has him looking like one of the NBA’s promising young two-way talents.

TATUM’S GROWTH A SILVER LINING IN HAYWARD INJURY

You never want to see the Boston Celtics or any team for that matter, lose a player for the season let alone one who meant as much as Gordon Hayward to the Celtics. But if there is a silver lining in his ankle injury which is expected to keep him out all season, it is the opportunity it created for Jayson Tatum. The 19-year-old has been arguably the best player from last June’s draft class, playing major minutes with a major role for the team with the best record in the NBA. The opportunity to play around 30 minutes a game would not have been there for Tatum if Hayward didn’t get hurt. The challenge for Tatum going forward is to stay consistent, because now that teams have seen him for almost a quarter of the season, you can expect they will make some adjustments in how they defend him as well as try to attack him when he’s defending.

WE TALKIN’ ABOUT PRACTICE

During Boston’s 16 game winning streak, the Celtics played the last eight games in 16 nights. That’s a game every other night for more than two weeks. In that time, there’s little to no time for practice which has been a factor in Boston not being quite as sharp in the last few games, as they were at the start of the streak. After Thanksgiving, Boston plays three games in four nights with a pair of days off to follow before they return to action. There’s a very good chance that the Celtics will use one of those two days to practice, something this team desperately needs to clean up some of the minor mistakes that were big problems in their loss to the Heat on Wednesday.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE