Noonan: The Celtics Exceeded Expectations, But Are On The Path To Contend For ‘Banner No. 18’

NBA: Boston Celtics at Detroit Pistons
Isaiah Thomas and the Boston Celtics are close to becoming title contenders for the next few seasons. (PHOTO CREDIT: CSNNE.com)

By Matt Noonan (@MattNoonan11) 

As we all know, the Boston Celtics overachieved this season, taking that ‘so-called’ next-step with an impressive Game 7 win earlier this week against the Washington Wizards to secure a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Players like Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, Avery Bradley and yes, Kelly Olynyk, have made impressive contributions for the Green and White over the past few weeks.

However, we all know this crew is not ready to contend with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Instead, we, the Celtics fans, have witnessed another brick being added to the foundation. Danny Ainge’s process is slowly coming to fruition, which means the Green and White are inching closer to their ultimate goal of ‘banner number 18.’

It will come, I promise, but it won’t be this season. Maybe it will be next season or the year after, but the Celtics, who certainly exceeded expectations this spring, have proven they deserve a spot at the ‘big boys’ table with Cleveland, Golden State and San Antonio.

And while the outcome of this current series certainly favors the Cavaliers – yes, Cleveland dominated the opening game last night, downing the Celtics, 117-104 – Boston must at-least show some fight to keep the excitement on Causeway Street going into next season.

What the Celtics do following the Cleveland series is an unknown. Yes, there have been speculation, thoughts, tweets and opinions about the Green and White dealing their number one pick or perhaps luring Paul George or Gordon Hayward to Boston, but nothing is official.

If I were Danny Ainge, I would consider trading the top pick or perhaps selecting Markelle Fultz (Washington) or Lonzo Ball (UCLA). I would also be open to welcoming drafting Josh Johnson (Kansas) or Jayson Tatum (Duke) to Boston, too.

For now, just like many of you, I am going to enjoy this current run by the C’s. Yes, it maybe painful at time – who doesn’t want to see Thomas and his teammates defeat ‘The King’ and last year’s champions, but in the back of my mind – like many – I know this is just the beginning of what should be an exciting few years of Celtics basketball.

The future is promising, Green and White fans, so enjoy the remainder of the series and get set for what should be an exciting offseason.

New England Patriots – Preseason Game Two Observations/Thoughts

Tom Brady, Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker took care of business on Thursday, as the Patriots defeated the Buccaneers, 31-14.

By Matt Noonan 

It’s only the second game of the preseason, but still, there are plenty of things to take away from this particular game, despite the Patriots second victory.

Here are a few overall thoughts on the game, as well as things that will need to be addressed or corrected going forward.

*The first offensive statistic that sticks out right away was New England’s opening drive, which was a total of five plays for 64 yards. Tom Brady connected with tight end Aaron Hernandez to give the Patriots momentum, as well as the lead. The offense continued their success on their second and third drives of the game, as well as watched BenJarvus Green-Ellis convert six points on a one-yard run and Chad Ochocinco record his first touchdown reception in a New England uniform. Although, despite their first quarter success, the offense struggled during the second, third and fourth quarter, but did managed to display positive signs, especially when Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallet were under center. Although, I’m sure Mr. Brady wasn’t exactly the happiest person, as he watched both back up quarterbacks struggle to maintain momentum, which he had established. Both Mallet and Hoyer didn’t appear as productive in this game, as they were against the Jacksonville Jaguars, as the quarterbacks combined for 10 completions and one interception.

*As usual, head coach Bill Belichick mentioned during his postgame press conference that there are always things to improve upon, yet, after observing his first string offense, especially in the first quarter, it almost felt as if we were watching highlights of the ’07 squad. Although, don’t ask the head coach about that squad, especially since they didn’t finish the season undefeated.

Once again, Patriots fans watched rookie running back Stevan Ridley take over the ground game.

*Running back Stevan Ridley proved that once again, he deserves a spot on this particular roster. The halfback finished the game with 84 yards on 14 carries, but didn’t manage to record his fourth touchdown of the preseason. However, Ridley has also proven that he’s reliable, gritty and tough football player, especially since he was sidelined earlier this past week with an injury. Yet, it’s likely we’ll be seeing number twenty-two on the sidelines this year.

*The Patriots defense smothered the Buccaneers starting quarterback, Josh Freeman, who finished the game with five completions for 33 yards. Yet, despite keeping Freeman on his toes, the defense also recorded three sacks and one interception. Linebacker Tracy White led New England with five tackles, while Jerod Mayo finished the game with two sacks, three tackles and two assists.

*The Patriots defense constantly provided pressure from all different angles, as well as allowed their front seven to force their way through the Buccaneers offensive line. Josh Johnson and Rudy Carpenter appeared incredibly uncomfortable in and outside the pocket, as well as out of sync with their second and third string offense, which had to make Belichick somewhat happy, right? Expect this trend to continue the next two weeks, as well as into the regular season too. Belichick indeed has retooled his defensive unit, although, one has to wonder, will they use more blitz packages this season or resort to playing a variety of zone coverage’s? Who knows, but after two completely different exhibition games, it’s quite easy to think that the Patriots will be an aggressive defense this season.

All in all, it was yet again another successful team effort by the Patriots offense, defense and special teams. Of course, fans should expect some changes to occur, but in the meantime, it was yet another solid outing, as well as a positive sign of things to come.