Ravens

Allen ready for his return to Boston - with Heat

201301252125771403692-p2.jpeg

Allen ready for his return to Boston - with Heat

MIAMI (AP) Ray Allen has played in Boston as an opponent 15 times before. He knows what it's like to play under the fabled Celtics banners, knows exactly how the crowd treats visiting players.

His 16th appearance there as a visitor will be substantially different.

Not only will his trip there Sunday be his first as a former Celtic, but it will come with him donning the colors of perhaps the team's biggest rival these days, the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat, the club that has ousted Boston from the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.

And make no mistake, Allen has been getting ready for everything that will accompany this trip for quite a while.

``I've thought about it,'' Allen said. ``I think more about who, family-wise, is going, who can go and sorting the whole protocol out. I don't know what to expect from their side. But it's an interesting concept because I've always gotten a warm welcome, even before I started playing there. I just want to win. Everything else will take care of itself.''

When he played there as an opponent in the past, Allen typically got warm receptions. He starred at Connecticut and has deep roots in New England, and those two things go a long way in generating respect from the Boston fan base.

Then he joined the Celtics in the summer of 2007. A year later, he helped them win a championship. He bled green.

Now, not so much.

So on a Sunday afternoon before a national television audience, the big story won't be the return of the Heat to the site of their season-saving Game 6 win in the Eastern Conference finals last year, or the first trip back to Boston for LeBron James since his epic 45-point virtuoso performance in that game, or even the memory of how Celtics fans cheered wildly for the last few minutes of that blowout loss as a ``thank you'' to their team.

``It's going to be all about Ray,'' Heat forward Chris Bosh said. ``Celtic fans, they're very fixated on the rivalry and `How could you do that?' They're very passionate.''

Allen's relationship with the Celtics broke down in some respects last season, and when the Heat made him an offer last summer, he eventually accepted - knowing it would raise the ire of those back in Boston.

When the Celtics visited the Heat on opening night this season, the proof of the frosty relationships was there. Former teammates, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce especially, seemed to want nothing to do with Allen. As Allen checked into the game, his first official appearance as a Miami player, he approached Celtics coach Doc Rivers and got a warm embrace.

It's anyone's guess what the scene will be when he checks in Sunday.

``I'll savor it, going back and seeing the people you spent so much time with,'' Allen said. ``But if you're going into a situation thinking about negative perceptions or behavior that's unbecoming of good sportsmanship, then you just want to get it over with, win the game and get out of there. I don't want it to distract these guys from everybody doing their job and being ready to play.''

The bigger concern for both sides will likely be the way each club is playing of late.

Miami has won four straight games, hanging on to the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Boston has dropped six straight, and its hold on the No. 8 - and final - playoff spot in the East race is weakening.

Dwyane Wade doesn't think the teams' opposite trajectories will matter much. The way he sees it, when Boston plays Miami, everything gets amped up several notches.

``There's a lot of stories, but you can throw records out the window when we play Boston,'' Wade said. ``It's significant because we have Ray Allen and it's his first time back, but we're going on the road and we want to play well and it's a tough place to play.''

The Heat have been through these former-star-returns-to-old-home games before - most notably when James went back to Cleveland for the first time after he decided to sign with Miami.

After that scene, the Heat say they're prepared for anything Boston can offer.

``They're not going to cheer him, but it's not going to be like that,'' Wade said. ``Not even close.''

Quick Links

Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Justin Tucker kept the game ball from his first missed extra point

Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Justin Tucker kept the game ball from his first missed extra point

It's Draft Day, baby!

Before the 2019 NFL Draft gets underway Thursday night in Nashville, Tn, here's the latest Baltimore Ravens news.

Player/Team Notes:

1. The Ravens made a VERY smart move Wednesday by signing kicker Justin Tucker to a four-year extension that will keep him in Baltimore through the 2023 season. In seven seasons, Tucker has experienced the highest of highs, and just last year, the low of his first missed extra point Week 7 against the Saints. Memorable as it is something we rarely see from Tucker, the 29-year-old has that game ball on display as a reminder of the ups and downs of his career.

“That’s a part of my story, and I want to be able to look at that and realize that was a learning moment,” Tucker said. “It was, perhaps, a pivotal moment for me as a professional.”

“I think it’s incredibly important for any football player, any athlete, anybody, to learn form both your successes and your failures,” Tucker said.

2. The Ravens are making one very special fans' dream come true this weekend during the NFL Draft. Mo Gaba, a 13-year-old superfan who's been blind since he was nine months old and is battling cancer for the fourth time, will announce the team's fourth-round pick from the Ravens' Draft Fest at the Inner Harbor Saturday. Gaba will be the first person ever to announce an NFL draft pick in Braille. 

3. General manager Eric DeCosta will lead his first-ever war room Thursday night, but he won't be kicking former GM Ozzie Newsome out of his usual seat at the head of the table. 

“I’ve been in that seat for a long time,” DeCosta said via the Ravens' website.

“The other reason is Ozzie doesn’t like change a lot,” DeCosta said. “He still gets his hair cut on Friday, he’s on a treadmill three times a day. He only started using an iPhone about six months ago. No, that’s not actually true

“But he definitely doesn’t like change, and I just feel like if we moved his seat, he’d be really flustered.”

4. The Ravens are showing increased interest in Alabama running back Josh Jacobs, according to ESPN's Jamison Hensley. John Harbaugh did mention earlier in the offseason that the team could add another playmaker in the Ravens' backfield.

5. Free agent pass rusher Ezekiel Ansah reportedly visited the Ravens Wednesday. Drafted fifth overall in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Lions, the Ravens could use Ansah after losing Terrell Suggs and Za'Darius Smith in free agency.


Looking Ahead:

April 25-27: 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville, Tn.

May 3-6 or May 10-13: Potential three-day rookie mini camp

July 15: 4 p.m. deadline to get long-term deal done with designated franchise tag player

The 2019 NFL schedule is set!  See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

MORE RAVENS NEWS: 

Quick Links

The Capitals’ reign as Stanley Cup champions is now officially over

The Capitals’ reign as Stanley Cup champions is now officially over

WASHINGTON – This was not the way it was supposed to end.

The feeling after the Capitals’ Game 7 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday was one of shock. There is always an element of that when a team gets eliminated from the playoffs in overtime, but it wasn’t how they lost that made it so stunning. It was when.

“Everything can happen in a seven-game series,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “We all seen that. But right now it's just disappointing. We would've liked a better outcome. ... It's tough to swallow"

“We fight through 82 games and in Game 7, they score one goal and it’s a kind of situation where you’re disappointed, you’re frustrated, especially after last year,” Alex Ovechkin said.

After winning the Stanley Cup in 2018 and returning with largely the same core intact, returning as the defending champs to win the Metropolitan Division for a fourth consecutive year, no one envisioned Washington’s defense of the Cup and its quest to repeat to end in the first round. That was especially true when the Caps drew Carolina as their first-round opponent, a plucky team with a first-year head coach that made it to the playoffs for the first time in a decade.

It looked like a favorable matchup for Washington. It wasn’t.

“All series long it was a game of mistakes,” Brooks Orpik said.

The Caps took a 2-0 lead in the series, Carolina battled back to tie it 2-2. Washington won the all-important Game 5 to push the Hurricanes to the brink, Carolina responded by winning Game 6 to force the all-or-nothing Game 7. The Caps even jumped out to a 2-0 lead in Game 7 and yet the Hurricanes just kept coming.

In the end, the overtime loss was shocking, but not surprising. Carolina had taken control in the second period and never looked back. They fired the first nine shots on goal in overtime and were controlling the play over a Washington team that just looked gassed. The Caps needed to get a favorable bounce, otherwise it was only a matter of time before Carolina would finish them off and that was exactly what happened as Brock McGinn deflected in a shot for the overtime winner.

There are many reasons Washington ultimately lost this series, but it was for none of the typical reasons we see in most upsets.

This was not a case of a goalie standing on his head to completely shut down Washington’s offense. Petr Mrazek made some key saves at times, but ultimately finished the series with a .899 save percentage. Take away the six-goal blowout of Game 5 and Mrazek’s save percentage rises to .919. That’s better, but still would rank only sixth among goalie with at least four starts this postseason.

This was not a case of a superstar forward putting the team on his back and carrying them to the improbable upset. Sebastian Aho tallied five points in seven games, Teuvo Taravainen had four. Both had fewer points that Jaccob Slavin who had nine assists and Warren Foegele who scored an improbable four goals and two assists.

This was not a case of Washington’s best players not showing up. Alex Ovechkin scored four goals and five assists to lead the team with nine points. Right behind him was Nicklas Backstrom with five goals and three assists. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored only one goal in seven games, but his one goal came in Game 7 to restore Washington’s two-goal lead in the second period.

Washington finished with a 25-percent power play and an 88-percent penalty kill, bot respectable numbers.

The Caps lost Michal Kempny and T.J. Oshie – both significant injuries – but Carolina had a number of significant injuries as well.

Really, the biggest reason the Caps felt they lost is because they were out-played, out-hustled and out-worked.

“I think we were all guilty of some mistakes at different times that were maybe a little uncharacteristic of us,” Orpik said. “Two two-goal leads at home within the same game is kind of a tough one to swallow. I don’t know if unacceptable is the right word but you have to be able to maintain those leads, especially on home ice and this time of the year. We made mistakes but they played great all series so it wasn’t just us. Eventually you have to give them credit at some point.”

Now instead of preparing for the quick turnaround of playing and starting a second-round series against the New York Islanders on Friday, the season is over and the Caps are left to wonder what could have been.

Already eliminated in the first round were the Tampa Bay Lightning, Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets and the Nashville Predators, all thought to be Cup contenders. Heck, even archrival Pittsburgh was out. Alex Ovechkin was playing at the top of his game as he claimed his eight Rocket Richard Trophy after leading the league in goals yet again. That performance carried over to the postseason and he was brilliant in Wednesday’s game.

But despite how favorable the road in front of them looked for another Cup run, despite the unreal performance the team’s top stars were delivering, none of it ultimately mattered.

The only thing harder than winning a Stanley Cup is winning it twice. Perhaps to expect a second championship was unrealistic. But a first round exit felt too soon. This wasn’t how it was supposed to end for a team that had finally learned how to win.

The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs were already turning into the year of the upset. The Caps became the latest victim of that on Wednesday. And finally, a party that had begun in June 2018, came to an end officially meaning a new champion will be crowned.

“Every opportunity missed is devastating, really,” John Carlson said. “You only get to do this for so long and I've been fortunate to be on great teams. When you don't do well, it's more than we were up in a series or a game. It's everything. It hurts.”

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: