In case you were busy learning hard lessons about hubris and foosball but mostly hubris, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
Tuukka Rask had a shutout and Daniel Paille had his second goal in as many games as the Boston Bruins seized a 2-1 advantage in the Stanley Cup final with a 2-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Ageless right winger Jaromir Jagr, who was held scoreless again but had a critical assist in his team's win, said after the game, "I can't believe I'm here trying to win my first Stanley Cup in 21 years. I could have had children after my last Stanley Cup win who would be almost old enough to drink." Jagr then narrowed his eyes and said, "No, seriously, given how that night went almost 21 years ago, I could have had children after my last Stanley Cup win who would be almost old enough to drink. Let's say the Cup has a lot of volume, I was 19, and if we do win this, there are some mistakes that Lord Stanley and I will not repeat."
Max Scherzer struck out 10 and improved to 10-0 as the Detroit Tigers beat the Baltimore Orioles, 5-1. "But am I an ace?" a concerned Scherzer asked after the game. "Please tell me! Am I an ace on a staff with a pair of aces, or the best no. 2 in the game? Or am I an ace in the making who still has something to prove? Do I need to escape Justin Verlander's shadow, or do we make each other better by pitching back-to-back? Won't someone please debate these designations and render a verdict based on a meaningless quote from my manager?" Detroit manager Jim Leyland then added, "He's at the top of his game pretty much," which pretty much settled the ace question once and for all.
In preparation for the NBA playoffs, this is the first of four entries breaking down one key play or action central to the success of each playoff-bound team. Check back later this week for the remaining 12 breakdowns.
New York Knicks: The Carmelo Anthony Iso
New York was considered a relative afterthought in the Eastern Conference before the season started, but thanks to a shift in its offensive philosophy, the Knicks now represent the biggest threat to Miami. Their explosive offensive scheme leans heavily on their star forward to create mismatches in isolation plays all over the floor.
Knicks coach Mike Woodson gets Anthony into these spots in two ways. The first is by using false action.
By using a loop cut or quick down screen, the Knicks give Anthony just a little separation in order to cleanly get to his spot and use his jab-attack game. But because the team has played a vast majority of the season with one lone big (or sometimes none at all), it's also been able to just let Anthony walk into isos without any help.
The key to Anthony’s success is the newfound space he has to operate. With shooters spread around him, teams are forced to pick between letting Anthony attack an overmatched defender one-on-one or leaving an open shooter on the perimeter.
The NBA is churning out a wonderful product right now, and last night’s game in Boston serves as a perfect example. LeBron James, the league MVP currently in the midst of an incredible winning streak with his Miami Heat, arrived in the city of his most bitter rival. Like it or not, Boston is still one of the league’s best atmospheres. And like it or not, Miami is still the best team in the league. Factor in Miami and Boston's “hate” for each other, and you've got a recipe for a great night.
Unfortunately, about an hour prior to tipoff, the Celtics announced that Kevin Garnett would not play. If the Celtics had a puncher’s chance to beat the Heat with Garnett on the floor, without him their chances were seemingly reduced to those of Glass Joe's. But this was no ordinary night.
Playing in his fifth game in seven nights, LeBron was focused, even before tipoff. After the Celtics' introductions, James was the first man to take the floor. Well before the dancers had even cleared the court, James stood straddling the midcourt line like Roberto Duran waiting for Sugar Ray Leonard.
The Dunkin' Donuts Turkey Sausage Wake-Up Wraps are tasting a little bitter in Boston this week. Rajon Rondo’s out for the season, and out with him, in no particular order: all gorgeous, mind-boggling passes whose lanes could have only been spotted by no. 9, having briefly entered the fourth dimension; all team outings to the Roller World in Saugus; and, of course, all rational hopes for another Celtics title run.
Now usually, in this kind of general “elite player out” situation, there’s a silver lining. With the hobbled fellow a totem, the team rallies — all grit and heart and Michael Jordan’s secret stuff — and becomes a scruffy lovable underdog. (You know, like Varsity Blues). And on paper, there’s no reason why that can’t happen. Imagine: Pierce, pumped to still be in Boston despite trade talks, and KG, pumped to be anywhere at any time always ever, lock into a newly spirited level of basketball. Leandro Barbosa, enjoying newfound playing time, does it big for São Paulo. Jason Terry sells his soul to Satan and regains the ability to play basketball. The Celts squeeze into the playoffs, give someone a scare, maybe even win a series.
But this being Rajon Rondo we’re talking about, things can’t be quite that simple.
“You know it’s just a nickname, right?” That was Glenn "Doc" Rivers's response to a postgame reporter who had just asked him whether Rajon Rondo would be ready for the beginning of next season. The enigmatic point guard had a torn ACL and is out for a long time, but the exact schedule remains unclear, especially to a heartbroken basketball coach with a medical nickname. The Celtics had just recorded their biggest win of the year, but that now seemed unimportant.
Only a few hours earlier, the Celtics’ biggest problem (that they knew of) was a 7-game losing streak. The team was playing horribly. Following a key divisional loss against the Knicks on Thursday, Boston traveled to Atlanta, where they blew a 27-point lead and lost in double overtime. By Sunday morning, conversations about the Celtics included terms like “rock bottom” and “blow it up.” To make matters more urgent, the Heat were in town for a one o'clock nationally televised ABC game.
Just four days after their red, white, and blue football team was squeezed out of the NFL playoffs, Boston’s sports fans rose from the ashes and reassembled to hoot and holler once more. This time greenly clad underneath L.L Bean parkas and North Face fleeces, they converged upon their city’s train station gymnasium to watch their struggling basketball team. They came from Somerville and Worcester and Dorchester and Charlestown. Some scraped the ice off their windshields and drove down I-95 from Maine or New Hampshire; but most of them, unaware of their participation in an accidentally profound metaphor, arrived via an aged, rickety, and only somewhat reliable Green Line trolley car.
The Knicks were in town for what, under normal circumstances, would've been a key divisional game. But the circumstances were not normal, and although 22 men played on the parquet last night, the narrative was structured around just two of them. Rumor has it that two weeks ago, down in Manhattan, one of the men had said to the other that his woman tastes like a blend of whole grain oats, sugar, modified corn starch, honey, brown sugar syrup, salt, tripotassium phosphate, canola and/or rice bran oil, and natural almond flavor. These words provoked violent urges within the other man. It also provided last night’s giggly backstory and melodrama.
So much amazing is happening, and the Shootaround crew is here to help you keep track of it all. You'll find takes on moments you might've missed from the previous night, along with ones you will remember forever.
"Good job! Good effort" had a good run. LeBron James has a new slogan running through his head now: If they move, kill 'em.
Walking down the back hallway of the TD Garden toward the media scrum arranged around Doc Rivers before Monday night’s Celtics-Sixers game feels a tiny bit like being in an unpretty NBA version of one those long Wes Anderson panning shots crammed full of highly detailed mise-en-scene and all that. Looking to the rooms on my right, there’s Chris Webber, his tie hanging loose around his neck, kibitzing with the TNT crew; Lavoy Allen, on his stomach, a trainer on top of him jerking his ankles up toward his thighs; David Aldridge and Mickael Pietrus chatting off to the side; and the Boston Globe's Bob Ryan, trudging the other way and muttering something about how’s he gonna need an extra pen tonight, as a cameraman rolls tape while walking backwards in front of him.
On Tuesday night, in a 94-84 Celtics win over the Bobcats, Boston's Paul Pierce passed Larry Bird for second place on the Celtics' all-time scoring list. It came on a 3-pointer early in the third quarter, and followed a string of rattled 3s and crowd gasps earlier in the game. When he hit the milestone, Mike Gorman, the Celtics' play-by-play guy, let out a crisp "GOT IT" — a phrase he traditionally reserves for game-winners or knockout shots.