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The King

Running Diary – Celtics/Hawks Playoffs Game 2

One of the more intense sports debates I’ve had was three years ago about who was better now and who would have the better career: Jacoby Ellsbury or Brett Gardner. While three of us, including one Yankees fan, could agree that Ellsbury was superior, another Yankees fan was convinced that Gardner was the superior player. Fast forward to this offseason, I asked that same guy if he still thought Gardner was the better player to which he responded, “I said he was a better fit for the Yankees team at that time, not that he was a better player.” That situation right there exemplifies one of the annoying habits of many sports fans – revisionist history.

I’ve always wondered if I am guilty of this particularly in circumstances when I’m watching a game. For that reason, I decided to do a Bill Simmons-style running diary of the Celtics and Hawks game. Let’s hit it:

Pregame – Keys to the game for Boston are: i) big minutes and big games out of both Pierce and Garnett; ii) energy from tipoff to buzzer, particularly on defense; and iii) Bradley or Bass need to step up and because Bass feeds off of Rondo, it probably has to be Bradley.

Keys to the game for Atlanta: i) they need to generate more turnovers than game one which will lead to more easy buckets; ii) don’t settle for jump shots; and iii) pressure and tire out Pierce and Bradley.

7:30 – Pierce looks badass during warmups. This is our game.

7:37 – NBATV breaks news that Mickael Pietrus is starting and then Tayshaun Prince spends a few minutes discussing if Pietrus found out in time to maximize his success. This is why I skip the pregame analysis so much. Who the hell else was going to start with Allen and Rondo out? Keyon Dooling or Sasha Pavlovic? Is it a surprise that they would use the same lineup that beat Orlando (with Dwight Howard) and Indiana in the game Allen and Rondo were both out and Pietrus was healthy? Do you think Pietrus was caught off guard that Allen wouldn’t play after missing the last billion games? Idiots.

7:42 – Pierce grabs the opening tips, drives, spins and lays it in. BADASS.

7:43 – Avery Bradley brings it up and the Hawks don’t pressure him. I was reminded that Atlanta’s depth isn’t too much better than Boston’s right now, so trying to wear our Bradley and Pierce with some added pressure might not be a successful strategy.

7:43 – Pierce banks the and-1 shot. BADASS.

7:45 – Pierce hits another jumper. I know Lakers fans hate him, but you can’t deny he’s a big-game player – just like Lebron.

7:45 – Josh Smith takes his second consecutive long jump shot in a row. He could be such a better player if he realized his limitations.

7:46 – Josh Smith misses reverse slam. He could be such a better player if he wasn’t an idiot.

7:50 – Pietrus gets called for a very questionable offensive foul – his third one. With due cause, people complain about NBA referees more than any other sports officials. That foul call is a great reason why. You can’t make that call here considering the circumstances (Boston’s limited depth and a starter with two fouls) unless it’s an obvious foul.

7:59 – STIEMSMA IN YOUR FACE! 17-16, Atlanta.

7:59 – Avery Bradley with a terrific block on Teague’s layup attempt. You watch ESPN, Teague? You don’t challenge Avery Bradley.

8:04 – Another block – by Sasha Pavlovic no less. Celts are playing with great energy right now.

8:04 – Avery Bradley’s terrible decision leads to Josh Smith dunk in transition. The Celtics have to limit the easy points for the Hawks by making good decisions.

8:07 – What a blo… Read more...

Boston Celtics Playoff Game 1 Recap: With a Celtics Bias

Anybody who had watched the first two Atlanta-Boston matchups this year (Boston rested their starters for the third game) knew this one was going to an ugly matchup. This game certainly “lived up” to its expectations as the Hawks beat the Celtics 83-74 in a game where each team scored 19 points or less in three quarters. Below are the game’s biggest stories:
 

RONDO GETS EJECTED: With about three minutes left in the game, Kevin Garnett nailed a jumper and I turned to my friend to said, “We [the Celtics] may not win this game, but there is no way Atlanta is beating us this series.” A little more than two minutes later after the Celts had cut the lead to four points, Rajon Rondo broke one of Doc Rivers’ cardinal rules – getting a technical foul in the fourth quarter. Things went from bad to worse when Rondo continued arguing and eventually chest-bumped referee Mark Davis.

There’s no doubt that Rondo will be suspended at least one game for this unforgivable transgression. Rondo has had several maturity issues in his six-year career, but this was probably his biggest mistake. As I told my friend, Atlanta’s not beating Boston in a series if they both field their game one rosters for the whole series. Boston played terrible tonight and they were still down only four points with a minute left in the game. Minus Rondo, the advantage swings over to the Hawks however.

Rondo versus Jeff Teague is the biggest mismatch on the court, as proved tonight, and is the key to the Celtics victory. As a matter of fact, if the Celtics had leaned on Rondo a little more with Pierce and Garnett struggling, I think they may have pulled off the win tonight. Rondo was simply fantastic (20 points on 10-18 shooting, 4 rebounds, 11 assists, 4 steals and only 1 turnover) until his late ejection. It’ll be tough for the Celtics to beat the Hawks in game two without him, even if Ray Allen is healthy. If he’s suspended for two or more games, the Celtics chances of advancing will be pretty slim. It’s really tough to understate how potentially devastating Rondo’s boneheaded move was.

HAWKS’ ENERGY: The most overused excuse for getting outplayed in sports is “they played harder than we did tonight.” For once, that cliché is actually applicable, as the Hawks opened up a 19-point lead on the Celtics just past the midway point of the second quarter. Boston matched the Hawks’ intensity from there on out, but by that time they had dug themselves too big of a hole to climb out of. Besides the occasional “tired legs” game, the Celtics have played with a lot of energy the second half of the season. That’s why it was very surprising to see the Hawks completely out hustle the Celtics to start the game, which started with Atlanta’s first possession when Josh Smith found Joe Johnson behind the defense on a long pass despite the fact that Boston had two defenders ahead of Johnson when Smith got the defensive rebound. It also makes you wonder if Doc Rivers was wise to rest his starters against the Hawks during the last week of the regular season, essentially gave up any chance of home court advantage. I doubt the Celtics would have started so lethargically at home.

CELTICS’ COLD SHOOTING:
The Celtics, who shot 46% from the field and 37% from 3-PT range during the regular season, shot 39% from the field and went 0-11 from 3-PT range. A lot of the Celtics’ poor shooting was the result of Atlanta’s tough defense. Outside of a couple games against Chicago, I can’t remember the last time the Celtics had to shot so many contested jumpers. Props to Atlanta aside, the Celtics miss… Read more...

2012 Atlanta Braves Preview

No one was a bigger fan of the Boston Red Sox last year than the Atlanta Braves. That’s because the story of the Red Sox historical collapse largely overshadowed the Braves’ equally historical collapse, saving the Braves from being the main focus of the “What the hell happened?” at the end of the regular MLB season (though Atlanta received more than its fair share of criticism). The Braves’ demise is well-documented, so there isn’t a need to go into a ton of detail here. The quick summary: Atlanta had an 8.5 game lead over the eventual World Series Champions, the St. Louis Cardinals, on September 5. Due to a combination of an overworked bullpen, an anemic offense (which had struggled all year but particularly down the stretch) and injuries, the Braves had a 9-18 record for the remainder of the year, including a 3-game sweep at the hands of the Cardinals. The Braves were officially eliminated on the last day of the season when a Phillies team with nothing to play for beat them 4-3 in 13 innings after stud rookie closer Craig Kimbrel could not hold onto a 1-run lead in the bottom of the 9th. That choking act was just one of many painful defeats for the Braves during September as they loss some games in truly spectacular fashion (e.g. they lost a game to the Marlins when Chipper Jones lost a ground ball in the lights with two outs and a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth. How you lose a ground ball in the lights is still beyond me but Chipper has earned the right to make excuses).


Many people have asked whether the Braves will recover from last year’s collapse or whether it will be in their heads entering this season. Personally, I don’t think they will be affected in the slightest. To me it’s a learning experience for both the Braves’ players, who are a relatively young group, and manager Fredi Gonzalez who abused his top two relievers last year, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel. To me the more important question is how will the Braves compete in a much more competitive NL East this year? As a fan, you would hope that Atlanta would address some of their weaknesses, in particular the lack of a stud hitter, as a response to Miami and Washington who both greatly improved their teams this offseason. Unfortunately, Atlanta was not able to be significant players in free agency this year, nor will they be for the foreseeable future. This is due to long-term local TV contracts they’ve signed which are not nearly as lucrative as some of the recent contracts signed by big payroll teams like the Rangers and Angels (which current Braves’ ownership has admitted was a huge mistake that puts them at a significant competitive disadvantage) and some bad contracts (who would have thought the Derek Lowe contract would have come back to bite them in the butt? Note to Frank Wren – when Omar Minya is the only other person bidding on the player you want, you should probably reevaluate whether the player’s worth the money he’s asking for.) Instead, they are left to hope that their young major league talent improves and their highly-rate minor league prospects make significant major league contributions this year. So how will the Braves stack up?

Infield

• Freddie Freeman really shined as a rookie last year hitting 21 HRs while hitting .282. However, if he’s going to avoid a sophomore slump, which the Braves will need him to do if they hope to contend, he has to cut down on those strikeouts (22.4% K-rate last year). If he can do that, the rest of the National League better watch out. While he’ll never be a superstar, Freddie has the potential to be the above-… Read more...

Tim Tebow Will Work Out for the Jets

Hailing from the woods of New Hampshire, few things please me more than Jets fans whining and complaining about their overrated team (with the Shake Shack double burger I had for lunch yesterday being a notable exception). With that said, this is getting ridiculous. Every Jets fan I talk to, which is a lot since I’m in the New York area, is criticizing the Jets trade for Tim Tebow. I enjoy Jets fans being in emotional pain, so I’ve yet to point out that this indeed was actually a very good trade for the Jets.

Here’s why:
Who cares about Mark Sanchez’s ego? The number one complaint I’ve heard about the trade is how Mark Sanchez is going to react, an opinion voiced by the great Hermano. Obviously there is only two ways he can react – either he is threatened and it affects his play or he isn’t bothered by the trade at all. Obviously, if he’s not affected at all the number one argument against the move isn’t applicable, making the trade a good decision by the Jets. If Sanchez is affected, however, I’d argue the trade is still a solid move because Sanchez was never going to work out as a starting QB for the Jets anyway.

The fact is, there isn’t a more pressure-filled job in the NFL than being a QB for the Cowboys or a New York team. There’s always going to be controversy you have to deal with and unless you have supreme confidence in yourself and the ability to give a middle finger to your critics, you’re not going to survive. Eli Manning is the perfect example of a QB that can succeed in New York. He’s got supreme confidence, as evidenced by his comments before the season that he was just as good as Tom Brady. He has thick skin, not letting years worth of heavy criticism affect his play. He has fight, as best illustrated by calling out Tiki Barber for his lack of heart after the ex-teammate criticized Manning’s leadership skills. If Mark Sanchez’s ego is going to be broken beyond repair because the Jets traded for a QB that they clearly don’t view as a serious threat to Sanchez’s starting job (look what they gave up for him), he would have never survived in the first place.

Perfect Backup QB – Very, very , very few teams have the luxury of a backup QB that can be anything more than a game manager. Fortunately for the Jets, they can still succeed with a game manager as their QB due to their strong defense (see 2009 and 2010). As far as game managers go, there are few better than Tim Tebow. The new Jets QB rarely turns the ball over, is very good at making a couple huge yardage plays a game and greatly improves the rushing offense, thus shortening the game for his team. There are few better backup QBs in the league for an elite defense. Combine that with the fact that because of his scrambling ability, he doesn’t need elite playmakers (which the Jets lack) around him to make a couple of plays a game, he’s a perfect fit as a backup QB for the Jets.


He improves the Jets Offense – Tim Tebow will never be an effective starting QB for an elite team. However, he can be very effective as situational player – particularly in short yardage situations and in the Wildcat formation, as long as it is used on a limited basis. For that reason, he makes the Jets offense better. The Jets would have been foolish to pass up an opportunity to improve their offense, having seen firsthand how the less-talented Brad Smith was effective in a similar role, particularly since the price to acquire Tebow was pretty cheap.

Positive Locker Room Impact – Look, I’m under no illusions that Tebow himself is going to single-handedly turn the Jets locker room into a hippie lovefest. IRead more...

Why Tony Parker is Underrated

(KOBEsh: Presented here is the maiden post from MAMBINO contributor and soon-to-be media darling The King. Our newest correspondent comes to us by way of New Hampshire, where as a kid he had access to a handful of channels, including FOX and TBS. Thus, his allegiances are a strange brew of the Atlanta Braves, Dallas Cowboys and Boston Celtics. He is known around the Boston area for being the kid who would attempt (and fail) any eating challenge in the Boston College cafeteria, and is still the only man to nearly paralyze himself doing pull-ups in the D train on the Boston T)


Parker, shocked at BK leaving him off the roster

BockerKnocker, I feel bad for you man. After publishing your post on the 2012 NBA all-stars, you must be more embarrassed than Christina Aguilera was at Etta James’ funeral. I thought you knew basketball, but leaving MVP candidate Tony Parker off your Western Conference All-Star roster exposed who you truly are. You are just like too many other NBA fans who do not give Tony Parker the respect he so deserves. The fact is, Tony Parker is an elite NBA point guard and one of the most underrated players in the National Basketball Association. Here’s why:


Winning – Simply put, Tony Parker is a winner. Post season success? He’s the only player in the NBA under 30 years old who has three championship rings. Regular season dominance? Going into his eleventh year, he’s never been on a team that’s won less than 50 games. It’s not as if he’s just benefited from playing with star players Derek Fisher-style either. Excluding his rookie year, he’s been a top-three player for the Spurs every season. The ultimate goal of basketball is to win and few in the league have done that more than Tony Parker. It’s too bad people don’t necessarily remember that when discussing the best point guards in the NBA.

Sacrifice– Every sportswriter and announcer claims that sacrificing personal numbers is a vital characteristic of winning players, but it’s all lip service. The fact is, unless you are an established NBA superstar well into his career (e.g. the 2007-2008 Celtics), sacrifice is not recognized. Nobody is better proof of this than Tony Parker. The Spurs PG has routinely sacrificed his own numbers in the pursuit of the ultimate goal – winning. As discussed above, he’s been pretty successful at that. Yet, despite the Spurs success, people don’t praise Tony Parker for the sacrifices he has made. They criticize him for the lack of numbers he puts up and claim that he’s a tier below the NBA’s elite point guards.

Look at what he’s done when he didn’t have two other elite players he had to share the ball with and you can see that this is complete crap. He put up 22.0 points-per-game and made All-NBA 3rd team during the 2008-2009 season in which Manu Ginobili missed 38 games (Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul and Brandon Roy each had career years that season or he would have made second team). He absolutely dominated the Dallas Mavericks during the playoffs that year – scoring 28.6 PPG while shooting 54.6% from the field – despite having only one legitimate NBA playoff-caliber starter on his team (Tim Duncan). With Manu playing less than 200 minutes so far this season, Tony Parker is a top-3 NBA MVP candidate leading a mediocre roster to a 24-10 record, good for second place in the deep Western Conference (and calling the Spurs non-Parker roster mediocre is Mother Theresa-like generous – did you see how the Spurs did when they rested Parker and Duncan against Portland before the all-star break?) When he’s playing with twRead more...