Sunday Column: Boston’s Playoff Return Shows Progress Under Stevens

Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics begin their postseason play on Sunday against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and after a semi-successful season, there is optimism surrounding the Green and White. (Photo Credit: Celtics Hub/CelticsHub.com)
Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics begin their postseason play on Sunday against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and after a semi-successful season, there is optimism surrounding the Green and White. (Photo Credit: Celtics Hub/CelticsHub.com)

By Matt Noonan

The Boston Celtics have returned to the postseason.

Yep, the “glory days” of Boston Celtics basketball has returned. However, don’t get your hopes up because Brad Stevens – the head coach of the month! – will be guiding a roster of second and third depth chart players against perhaps the ultimate favorite to defeat San Antonio in June (or Golden State).

Boston will once again see LeBron James in the “second season,” but unlike previous matchups, this particular series favors King James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Framingham’s own David Blatt.

That’s right, the Cavaliers are going to win this series, probably in four or five games.

Perhaps six? Well, that would depend, especially if the Celtics could win one (and hopefully two) game(s) on their own parquet.

Yet, no matter the outcome of this series – again, expect Cleveland to win – this is a huge step forward for a team that became the biggest revolving door earlier this season.

Give credit to Stevens and most of the front office as the Green and White became “pit-stop” for a slew of players over the past few months. Players like Tayshaun Prince, Nate Robinson, Jameer Nelson and Austin Rivers stole the headlines when they all landed in the ‘City of Champions’ during Danny Ainge’s ‘Wheeling and Dealing’ escapade. Rajon Rondo was a Celtic – he was on the opening day roster – but was eventually shipped to Dallas.

Once Ainge stopped shuffling the deck, Stevens had a chance to get to know his team – for the most part! – and teach them a style of basketball that resulted in a 40-42 record.

Boston won more games this year, outlasting their 2013-14 squad that captured 25 games, including 16 contests on Causeway Street. This season, the Celtics won 21 games on their home court, 19 on the road, and 12 divisional matchups. Boston also finished 28-24 in the Eastern Conference, but again, don’t let those numbers fool you because the Celtics won’t be playing basketball in May or June (I am sorry, Boston!).

I am a Celtics fan – always have been! – however, I just don’t think this team has what it takes to defeat the second best team in the East. If they were matched up against the Atlanta Hawks, well … I would think they would have a chance. Chicago? Forget it, I like the Bulls because they’ll contend for an Eastern Conference crown.

Boston – on the other hand – should enjoy seeing their beloved Celtics in the playoffs. It is extremely nice to have a winter team extend their season into mid-to-late April, especially after the Bruins’ collapse last weekend. We love having our teams compete in the postseason, we do, but this team won’t be riding Duckboats around Government Center. Instead, most of the players will learn from this opportunity and apply it to next season.

Year number two of Stevens and the Celtics has been a success. They won more games, were competitive with the league’s top teams – remember when they almost beat the Warriors? – and showed they can compete, even if they look like a squad that resembles a college intramural unit.

I am extremely excited to see the Celtics taking a step forward. And now, it is all about playing your best – at least giving your best effort, Brad! – and learning from the experience. I believe in Brad just like I believe in Boston. Better days are ahead for the Green and White, so consider this the start of something special.

All good teams have to go through a “rebuilding” phase in order to contend. Atlanta was a decent team a few years ago and now they’re number one in the Eastern Conference. Toronto wasn’t that good, even when Vince Carter played for the Raptors, but now they’re a 49-win team. And the same could be said for Milwaukee, but the Bucks won 41 games, not 49.

Let’s all enjoy this series – please do the best you can to enjoy it, but remember that while Cleveland is indeed the favorite, Boston will one day be in their shoes and ready to contend for Banner 18.

Daily Noontime – May 24, 2012

Once again, Boston failed to earn an important road win on Wednesday in Philadelphia! (Photo Credit: Boston Herald)

By NoontimeSports.com 

Happy Thursday to everyone, and welcome into yet another outstanding edition of the Daily Noontime! Let’s kickstart the second to last workweek day with some news and headlines.

* Philadelphia outscored Boston, 49-39 during the final two frames, as the 76ers claimed Game No. 6, 82-75. Boston and Philadelphia will conclude their series on Saturday at the TD Garden.

* In the sixth game — Kevin Garnett tallied 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Paul Pierce poured in 24 points and 10 rebounds. Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo each registered nine points, and combined for seven turnovers in the loss.

* After Wednesday’s game concluded, Philadelphia head coach Doug Collins told reporters, “I want more. I want more.” Collins has stated some bizarre comments throughout this particular series, but apparently is confident that the sixth game will fuel him and his team.

* The Red Sox bats produced six runs and 13 hits in a span of nine innings on Wednesday, which helped Boston defeat Baltimore, 6-5. Daniel Bard picked up his fourth win of the season, while Daniel Nava hit his second home run and 11th RBI of the season.

* Boston is now 22-22, and has won nine of their last 12 contests. The Sox will attempt to earn their 23rd victory of the season on Friday when they welcome the Tampa Bay Rays to Fenway Park.

Daily Noontime – May 22, 2012

Brandon Bass recorded 18 of 27 points in the third quarter on Monday, which helped Boston defeat Philadelphia in Game No. 5! (Photo Credit: Sporting News)

By NoontimeSports.com 

Happy Tuesday to everyone, and welcome into yet another edition of the Daily Noontime! Let’s kickstart the day with some news, headlines and more news from the city of Boston.

* Paced by Brandon Bass, who deposited 27 points, Boston defeated Philadelphia, 101-85 on Monday in Game No. 5 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals. Boston now leads the series, 3-2, and will attempt to conclude the series on Wednesday when both squads return to the hardwood in Philadelphia for an 8PM match.

* Excluding Bass, Kevin Garnett poured in 20 points, Rajon Rondo added 13 points and dished out 14 assists, and Paul Pierce finished the contest with 16 points and four defensive rebounds.

* According to the NBA stat crew, Bass netted 18 of his 27 points in the third quarter, which is the highest point total during this particular NBA postseason in one quarter. LeBron James tallied 17 points against the New York Knicks in his team’s first round series, but that particular statistic has officially been erased.

* Trailing Baltimore late in the game, Boston’s bats sparked a three-run rally — two in the seventh, one in the eighth — to earn an 8-6 victory against the first place Orioles on Monday. David Ortiz hit his 10th home run of the season, while Mike Aviles recorded his 28th RBI in the win.

* The Sox have now won four of their last five contests, and will look to earn their 22nd win of the season on Tuesday when Felix Doubront pitches against Brian Matusz at 7:05PM.

Daily Noontime – May 17, 2012

Kevin Garnett paced the Celtics with 27 points on Wednesday, which helped Boston earn a 2-1 series lead against Philadelphia! (Photo Credit: NY Daily News)

By NoontimeSports.com 

It’s Thursday, which means this particular week is slowly motoring along. Here are some news and headlines from the city of Boston!

* The Boston Celtics tallied 32 points in the second, and 29 in the third, as the Green and White captured Game No. 3 against the Philadelphia 76ers, 107-91. Kevin Garnett poured in 27 points, and finished with 13 rebounds, while Paul Pierce added 24 points, 12 rebounds and three steals.

* Boston now owns a 2-1 series lead, and will return to the hardwood on Friday when they attempt to earn a two-game lead against Philly.

* According to the New York Times — Rajon Rondo appeared more focused than ever during Wednesday’s shoot around, and told head coach Doc Rivers prior to tip-off that the third game of this particular series was necessary for Boston. Rondo finished the contest with 23 points and 14 rebounds, but recorded 17 points in the first half.

* The Boston Red Sox watched their five-game winning streak conclude on Wednesday in Tampa Bay, as the Rays scored twice — once in the second, and once in the sixth — to earn a 2-1 victory. Clay Buchholz lasted five innings, and yielded six hits, two earned runs, but fanned five batters.

* Boston and Tampa Bay will conclude their two-game series on Thursday — Felix Doubront opposes Matt Moore — first pitch is schedule for 7:10PM.

* Bobby Valentine told the media prior to their first game against the Rays that Daisuke Matsuzaka, whose rehab assignment ends on May 23, is not ready to join the Red Sox 

Daily Noontime – May 9, 2012

Rajon Rondo recored a critical steal with approximately nine seconds left in regulation, but didn’t help the Celtics win, as the Hawks won Game No. 5! (Photo Credit: USA Today)

By NoontimeSports.com 

Happy “Hump Day” to everyone, and welcome into yet another outstanding edition of the Daily Noontime! Here are some headlines to jumpstart this gloomy day thus far!

* The word “gloomy” is a good way to describe both the Boston Celtics and Red Sox games from Tuesday, as both teams watched their current winning streaks get snapped.

* Atlanta halted a 7-0 run by Boston, and swarmed Rajon Rondo following a steal with approximately nine seconds remaining in regulation to earn an 87-86 win. Boston still leads, 3-2, and will attempt to punch their ticket to round two on Thursday when both squads return to the hardwood.

* Al Horford led all scorers with 19 points, while Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce each tallied 16 points in the loss.

* After Tuesday’s game concluded, Pierce downplayed his knee injury by saying, “I don’t think it bothered me too much.” Boston’s captain finished the contest 7 of 17, and recorded six rebounds, four assists and three steals.

* Kansas City ended Boston’s one-game winning streak on Tuesday, as they defeated the Red Sox, 6-4. David Ortiz recorded his 13th double, while Kelly Shoppach and Dustin Pedroia each registered an RBI in the loss.

* After their second contest against the Royals, Will Middlebrooks told reporters that he hopes to be in the lineup on Wednesday despite tightness in his left hamstring.

* Finally, the New England Patriots inked former Denver Broncos tight end Daniel Fells to a contract for the upcoming 2012 season. Fells, who was really close to signing with the Patriots in 2010, ended up joining the Broncos for the past two seasons. Although, once the free agency period began this year, he realized that joining New England would be the right thing.

Daily Noontime – May 7, 2012

Paul Pierce paced the Celtics with 24 points on Sunday, which helped Boston capture Game No. 4 against Atlanta! (Photo Credit: Cleveland.com)

By NoontimeSports.com 

It’s a brand new week, which means … the Daily Noontime! Here are some headlines and news from the best city in the world…Boston!

* The Boston Celtics are one game away from knocking out the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the NBA playoffs, as the Green and White earned an impressive, 101-79 victory. Paul Pierce paced all scorers in Game No. 4 with 24 points, while Rajon Rondo concluded the contest with 20 points and 16 assists.

* Despite leading his team in points, Pierce sustained a left knee injury during shoot around on Sunday, which left his status for Game No. 4 up in the air. However, he did play, but aggravated his knee, which means his status for Game No. 5 on Tuesday is uncertain. Also, Avery Bradley, who dislocated his shoulder during Friday’s contest, finished Sunday’s game with six points, one rebound and one steal.

* The Boston Red Sox woes continued on Sunday, as the Baltimore Orioles concluded their three-game series sweep with a 9-6 win in 17 innings.Clay Buchholz lasted 3.2 innings, and surrendered seven hits, five earned runs and three home runs. Will Middlebrooks hit his first career home run in a Sox uniform, while David Ortiz recorded two hits and double in the loss.

* The Sox have now dropped five out of their last six contests, and will attempt to rebound on Monday when they travel to Kansas City for an 8:10pm first pitch — Felix Doubront opposes Jonathan Sanchez.

* Last, but certainly not least, New England Patriots left tackle Matt Light is scheduled to announce his retirement on Monday. He issued a statement to the media on Sunday, and will meet with reporters at Gillette Stadium to wrap up his 11-year career with the Patriots.