The Games in Review

Congratulations, Vancouver. Despite some technical problems and less-than-ideal weather conditions for some of the skiing, you pulled off an incredibly entertaining Winter Olympics. I was thoroughly engrossed every night these past two weeks, and I think you represented your city and nation incredibly well. You even won for most gold medals, an accomplishment you should be incredibly proud of. The question remains: what did we learn about ourselves from these Olympics?

First off, a look back at some of my predictions for these Winter Games. In hockey, I thought the women would beat Canada for the gold. I was wrong, but they did win silver. The men will do at least as well, if not better. Two silvers or a silver and a gold are definitely praiseworthy. In skiing and snowboarding, I predicted several gold medals. Well, this was the most impressive Winter Games ever for the alpine US teams. Bode Miller and Lindsay Vonn each won gold (among multiple other medals). Shaun White defended his gold with the coolest trick I’ve ever seen on a snowboard. And the US put up three silvers and a gold in Nordic Combined, an event in which they had never metaled before. I predicted better than what we got from the US speed skating team, but they did win one gold (Shani Davis) and several silvers and bronzes. Apolo Ohno did all right in his last Olympics, as did Chad Hedrick. In ice skating, Evan Lysacek won gold and a US ice dancing team won silver. I predicted better from the US women, but I’ll still take a gold and a silver in four events. Lastly, the US won a gold in 4-man bobsled, the first in 62 years.

Overall, I think I did a pretty good job predicting the results of the Olympics, but there is still room for improvement. The US failed to medal in either ski jumping or biathlon, despite a strong team in both fields. The US curling teams were a total disappointment. And our cross-country skiing needs a lot of work if we’re ever to compete with the European countries. All in all, the US must continue to develop its weaker programs if it ever wants to win both the most medals and the most gold. What these Olympics taught us is that we have the best overall athletic training programs in the world (at least for winter sports… China may be superior in all around summer events), but maybe not the best overall athletes. We consistently medal, but winning gold is harder for us than either Canada, who had home-court advantage, or Germany. We’re a great athletic nation, but we still have something to strive for in terms of turning out gold-medal winning athletes.

But this is not to say we shouldn’t be incredibly proud of our athletes. 37 medals is a Winter Olympics record. And it’s been over 75 years since the US won the medal count at a Winter Olympics, the last time being the 1932 Lake Placid games, and that was on home soil. This was far and away our most successful Winter Olympics ever. So while it’s easy to look at the games and analyze where the US must improve, we should take nothing less from these games than the knowledge that we train some of the greatest athletes in the world.

Is Boston Getting Old?

A report that came out today states that Paul Pierce will be out indefinitely with an injured thumb. Compounding this are his flu-like symptoms that kept him from even being with the team for their game against the New York Knicks Tuesday night. This is coming off of a long season filled with injuries and missed games for Boston’s starting five.

Constant injury is a sign of body breakdown, something that comes naturally with aging. In other words, the Celtics are getting old. That’s ok, though, they are not the only team with age and injury working against them. The Red Sox are definitely not as young as they once were. David Ortiz is aging badly. Tim Wakefield breaks down every season now. And even new guys like Mike Cameron and John Lackey aren’t exactly spring chickens.

The problem extends to the Patriots too. Tom Brady looked worn out this season. More than that, the defense didn’t seem to be able to stop any of the elite teams. Despite some youth in the secondary, the defense looked old and slow through the entire season. In both the Celtics’ and Patriots’ cases, this lack of youth has led to stamina issues that have caused first-half leads to quickly evaporate. Both the Patriots and the Celtics have lost multiple games this season because they were too gassed to play defense come the fourth quarter.

The only team where age is not such a factor is the Bruins, who ironically have achieved the least of any of the four teams. While they are younger than the other three major teams, the Bruins have also had major injury issues that have led to a lack of chemistry and lost opportunities. In short, the Bruins seem like they’re old before their time, suffering from the same problems the other teams have without actually being old enough to justify them.

Seeing the age of our sports teams and its effect on their performance, we can’t help but wonder if there isn’t some symbolism here with the city of Boston itself? 2 years ago, Bill Simmons wrote an article during the Celtics’ NBA Championship run where he talked about the way the rejuvenated Boston sports world was emblematic of a rejuvenated city of Boston. 2 years later, much has changed. The economy has taken a turn for the worse. New businesses aren’t moving in the way they used to. And the city has been marred by a dreary stretch of weather dating back to the 2009 Summer That Wasn’t. Boston might be getting old, city-wise. It might be starting to break down, and we’re seeing the first signs of it in our creaky, aging, veteran sports teams.

There’s no solution to this particular problem, it’s just one that’s been eating at me for awhile and gets worse every time something else happens to reiterate the age of our players. Cities go through cycles of development and stagnation, same as sports teams. Boston hit its peak in the mid 2000s, with the completion of the Big Dig and the success of all four of our sports teams. Now a new decade has begun and Boston may be entering a period of decay. Hopefully the ownership groups of our sports teams will fight this with all of their hearts and money, but we may all need to be prepared for a dreary period for our teams and our city.

Celtics Outlast Knicks at TD Garden

Tuesday night saw a face-off between the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks. It was Eddie House‘s return to Boston after being traded to the Knicks, and oddly enough it was also the debut game for Nate Robinson, the player the Celtics received in exchange for House. The Celtics built up a large lead midway through the second quarter, only to see it evaporate by halftime. The second half was marked by fast=paced scoring, lots of shots, and little defense. The game ended well, however, as Boston was able to keep its composure and hold on for the win, 110-106.

The Celtics on Offense

Despite the high score, the Celtics’ offense was unsurprisingly balanced. All five starters scored in double digits for the Celtics. The top scorer for Boston was Ray Allen, who put up 24 points, continuing his present hot streak. He also had a sick block at the end of the fourth quarter that was probably the defensive play of the game. Overall, the Celtics proved they could play the Knicks’ style of basketball better than the Knicks could. The team out-scored New York on fast breaks 14-4, and also outplayed them in the paint, 60-40. This does not mean that they just went inside over and over again. Boston knocked down five three-point shots and shot better than 55% from the field. The Celtics played with the same balanced attack they always bring to winning efforts. They also out-assisted the Knicks 34-24, showing that they could move ball around the court better than New York could.

The Celtics on Defense

This was not a strong night for the Celtics in terms of defense. Many of the problems we’ve seen all season came to light during this game. The Celtics had tremendous difficulty guarding against the three-ball, giving up ten treys to the New York Knicks. They also looked terrible against pick-and-roll plays. The age and stamina issues we all fear this team may be suffering from were on full display during this game. The Celtics were also out-rebounded once again, albeit only by one. Worse than all of this however was the inability of the Celtics to play with the lead. Once again the Celtics built up a double-digit lead, and once again they gave it up in the second half. The Knicks started playing faster and the Celtics were unable to respond. While they won, it was mostly due to the inability of the Knicks to play defense, not the ability of the Celtics to do so. Boston can get away with this kind of play against a non-defending team like New York, but they will get creamed against better teams such as Orlando and Atlanta, where they actually play defense, and play it well. If Boston is to contend for a title, they will need to be able to play defense for four full quarters, not just two.

Moving On

The Celtics next game is against the Cleveland Cavaliers. While the team appears to be clicking offensively, it will take effort on both sides of the court to win against an elite team such as them. This team is improving, but it’s becoming fearfully evident that the Celtics’ woes are not going away. They may be unable to play with a lead for the rest of the season. They may always look slow against pick-and-roll plays. And they may never sustain their offense successfully for four quarters. All of this points to an earlier exit from the playoffs than Boston fans hope. Then again, a win against Cleveland could turn things right around.

The Nature of Figure Skating

Woo-hoo! 100 posts! Anyway, one of the big issues that’s arisen during the Winter Olympics surrounds the results of the men’s figure skating competition. The winner, American Evan Lysacek, beat out Russian Evgeni Plushenko despite not completing a quadruple jump, a feat that Plushenko believes alone should have merited him the gold medal. Plushenko went on the record saying that the quad is the only sign of progress in the sport, and he stated that not rewarding the feat with a gold medal holds the sport back. He also raised the question of whether or not figure skating was sport or dancing, as evidenced by Lysacek winning on the strength of his footwork, not his jumps.

To begin with, I saw both of Lysacek’s routines. They were masterful performances. Every jump was crisp and clean. Every spin was smooth and fast. And the dance moves were gorgeous to watch. Lysacek earned the gold medal, fair and square. Regarding his lack of a quad, I ask this: should one trick be weighed so heavily against the quality of an overall routine? It is true the Plushenko completed a quadruple spin and Lysacek did not. But Plushenko just did that trick once. The rest of his routine contained a similar combination of spins and footwork that Lysacek’s did. And when it came down to scoring those spins and dance moves, Lysacek simply scored higher than Plushenko did. While Lysacek did not perform a quad, the rest of his routine was deemed superior to Plushenko’s. And it wasn’t as if Plushenko’s routine was so much worse other than the quad. The total difference in score was less than two points. The quad was scored accurately, and it gave Plushenko enough points to stay close with Lysacek. It just did not do enough by itself to give him the gold, and I don’t believe it should have. Figure skating is about a routine, not a single trick. And Lysacek’s routine was better than Plushenko’s. He deserved to win the gold.

The fact that spinning and dancing garners as many points as it does raises a more interesting questions: is figure skating a dance or is it a sport? I believe it’s a little bit of both. My mother’s dance company espouses the idea that dancers are a combination of athlete and artist. Looking at figure skaters, it is clear that this is the case. It is impossible to deny the physical skill required to perform the jumps and spins so common to competitive figure skating. Personally, I can barely stay upright on skates, so I have tremendous respect for the physical capabilities of these athletes. But at the same time, there is definite artistry to figure skating. If nothing else, consider that figure skating is choreographed to music. It’s a performance. If it were purely a sport, there would be no need for a musical background to the performance. It would just be a series of tricks performed in sequence. The difference is similar to the floor routine and the uneven bars in gymnastics. The former is a dance routine that combines artistry with physical ability. The latter is just an athletic performance. Figure skating IS a combination of art and sport. Because of that, there must always be scoring for the artistic component that balances out the athletic component. Hence you have situations like the one we had in the Olympic Games. Evgeni Plushenko had the more physically demanding performance, I’m not going to argue that. But Evan Lysacek’s performance was the better combination of artistry AND athletic ability. And in figure skating, it’s that balance that determines the gold.

The Split Personality: Jonathan Papelbon and the Red Sox

Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon has reported that while he is content with one-year deals through 2011, he would like to sign a multi-year deal with the Red Sox soon. He also has stated that he got away from his split-finger fastball last season and will work on reincorporating it into his pitching repertoire for future seasons. The questions are: should the Sox keep Papelbon, and will his splitter help him as a pitcher?

The answers to both are a resounding yes. Jonathan Papelbon is the first real closer the Red Sox have had in quite some time. Up until 2006, no closer with the Red Sox lasted more than a year (or at least was effective for more than a year), and the team went through numerous players who were just not good enough to close with any real consistency. Papelbon brings consistency and stability to the back of the bullpen, and you need a solid closer to win games in the MLB. This will be even more important with the Red Sox this season, as their lack of power suggests many low-scoring and close games. Add to that his popularity among Red Sox nation and you have an essential member of the Red Sox going forward. He is young, pretty healthy (with the exception of his shoulder injury at the end of 2006), and still throwing heat. He has the potential to actually IMPROVE for upcoming seasons, and that’s a scary thought.

As for his split-finger, we need only look at his statistics to see that he was a better pitcher with it than without it. Let’s evaluate two seasons: 2007 and 2009. In 2007 he threw for fewer innings, true, but he had his highest strikeout total of any year (84). Compare that with his last season, 2009, and we see that he was a stronger pitcher when he could throw his splitter as well as his fastball. Not only that, but his walks and hits allowed were also lower in 2007 (15/30 vs 24/54) than in 2009. He also had fewer blown saves if we include the postseason (3 vs 4, the last of which cost the Sox the ALDS). If we simplify 2007 as a year in which he used the splitter and 2009 as the year in which he didn’t, we come to a clear conclusion.

Most relief pitchers cannot survive on just one pitch. Papelbon is certainly one of them. His fastball is great, yes, but his accuracy with it is not perfect. He is not a control pitcher, he is a power pitcher. But as a closer he doesn’t have the opportunities a starting power pitcher does to establish his fastball. He has to do it in just a couple of pitches or he will wear himself out to the point that the next hitter will crush him. And when that pitcher has only one pitch, it’s easy to sit on and wait for. That’s why Papelbon gave up the most home runs he’s ever given up in 2009 (5, although he also gave up 5 in 2007): people were waiting for his fastball.

The splitter has the advantage of looking hittable but rarely actually BEING hittable. It comes in straight than quickly falls out of the strike zone. And it’s thrown with similar speed to the fastball. Papelbon’s splitter gives him two advantages:

1) It keeps hitters off of his fastball, making them more likely to swing and miss or foul it off, rather than sit on it and crush it.

2) It allows Papelbon to have an out-pitch in counts where the batter is unlikely to swing at balls, such as 0-2. The ball looks like a strike until it drops, so even patient hitters will take a shot at it. This is why Papelbon recorded so many more strikeouts using it.

Papelbon should be with the Red Sox for a long time to come. He is an excellent pitcher that the fans love. He needs to reincorporate his splitter into his pitching so that he can get easier outs, and he needs to finally decide if he wants to develop a slider or not. If he can do those things, I see him remaining an elite (and highly-paid) pitcher in the game for many years to come.

The Games so Far

I’ve seen most of the Olympics that have aired so far, so I thought I’d give my thoughts on the various teams and their strengths.

Hockey: The men are playing right now, so I can’t really speak to their abilities until I get home from work. The women, however looked devastating in their victory over China. They won 12-1, and I was amazed that China even managed that one goal. Now, China is not the strongest program, I get that. But the pure execution of the US Women’s hockey team was absolutely spectacular. They showed no signs of Olympic nerves and look poised to challenge Canada (who also looked pretty good, winning their opener 18-0) for the gold. If they can keep up their offensive juggernaut, other teams will not be able to get the puck into the US’s zone enough to score many points.

Skiing/snowboarding: The ski and snowboard teams for the US look incredibly strong this year. They’ve already struck gold at women’s moguls (Hanna Kearney) and men’s snowboard cross (Seth Wescott), while also achieving a silver in Nordic combined (an American first) and bronzes in men’s moguls and men’s alpine downhill. And some of the biggest stars of these events have yet to compete. Sean White will be the hands on favorite to win the halfpipe. Lindsey Jacobellis will certainly be looking for redemption after losing gold to her own showboating at Torino. We still have 4 events for Bode Miller to finally bring home some gold. And Lindsay Vonn is getting healthier with each weather delay in Vancouver. While the skiing events are usually dominated by the European nations, especially Austria and Switzerland, I see America putting up challenges in most of the remaining events, taking home at least a few gold medals.

Speed Skating: To begin with, I love Apollo Ohno. I think he is a phenomenal athlete racing in a dangerous sport, and he does it without losing his charm and charisma. He has several events left, including the one he got gold at Torino for, and I see him breaking the record for most medals in a Winter Olympics by an American. As for the longer speed-skating races, I think the best is yet to come. While we didn’t look good in the 500 or 5000 meter races, I think the strongest races are still coming. Stephen Colbert would not have sponsored this team if he didn’t believe in them.

Ice Skating: The pairs didn’t medal, but they looked stronger than the US has ever looked before in pairs’ figure skating. This bodes well for the future of the program. Next up we have the men’s figure skating, which features a US Champion, a World Champion, and Johnny Weir, who I hate. I’m not as familiar with the women’s squad, but America traditionally has very strong female figure skaters who are always on or around the podium come the finals. I wouldn’t be surprised to see us medal in both individual skating events.

Curling and Bobsled/Luge/Skeleton: I have no idea if we’ll be good or not, but I seem to recall our bobsled and skeleton teams are at least competent.

So there you have it: the future looks strong for the U.S. in Vancouver. I firmly believe that the U.S. will win both for overall medals (we’re currently in the lead) and for gold medals won, which would be a first for us.

Analyzing the Opening Ceremonies and the Olympics

Everyone watched the Opening Ceremonies wondering if Vancouver would try and top Beijing in spectacle. To be sure, it would be a tall task. Between the drums, scrolls, and flying people, not to mention the differences in budget and levels of talent of the artistic directors, it would be almost impossible to do. So Vancouver never even tried. By most objective criteria, Vancouver’s Opening Ceremonies paled in comparison to Beijing’s. This does not mean that the Opening Ceremonies were bad, they were just different.

Perhaps the differences begin with the cultural differences between China and Canada. China is a giant nation filled with people. Its history is rife with violence and aggression. Its government believes it is the greatest nation of the world and seeks to constantly emphasize its dominant qualities. Canada is very different. While it is a giant nation in terms of land mass, it has fewer people in it than the state of California. There is no history of violence in Canada. The people are kind but deferential. Whereas Chinese culture could be described as aggressive and dominating, Canada’s may better be described as quiet and reserved. The leaders of Canada had to implore their citizens to show enthusiasm and competitive spirit for these games, knowing this was contrary to their nature.

So we wound up with an Opening Ceremonies that did not strive for the aggression and raw power of Beijing. They chose to go with something quieter, gentler, friendlier. Something that better spoke to the cultural aspirations of the host country, not to any manufactured pressure to be better than every host country before it. For this they should be commended, even if what they produced was a little bit boring.

There were still some very cool moments to what went on last night. The video of the snow-boarder going down the giant slope was awesome. Bringing back Bryan Adams was a hoot. And how cool was it to see Bobby Orr again? Anytime you can get Bobby Orr, Steve Nash, and Wayne Gretzky together for one thing, you’re doing something right.

My friend pointed out that the Olympics are different from other sports because there’s very little money to be made in any of the events (hockey being the exception). This means that the athletes train and perform for no reason other than love of sport and a desire to show off what they and their countries can do. This training without monetary reward is honorable, and it imbues the Olympics with a sense of camaraderie that replaces the sense of rivalry found in other sports. This is not to say that athletes don’t compete. But the hatred that is so common to sports, especially among sports fans (think Red Sox-Yankees), is just not there in the Olympics. Everything is a little bit kinder, a little bit more in the spirit of togetherness. I’ve said before how sports bind communities and rivalries emerge out of a societal need to create an “other” to define oneself against. Well, the “other” in the Olympics is just a different country, and that is too large a concept to define oneself against. Hence this self-definition goes away in lieu of a group definition. We are all of one world, and this is the best our world has to offer. The purest.

So it’s with that in mind that I watch these Olympic games. Every competition is comprised of people from different parts of the globe, yes. But every competitor is essentially the same. They have the same drives and motivations. They carry the same expectations upon their shoulders. And they compete knowing the reward waiting for them is not monetary, but rather just the knowledge of being the best there is at what they do. So until next time: U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

The Future of Manny Ramirez

Manny Ramirez, of the Los Angeles Dodgers and formerly of the Boston Red Sox, has said that he would like to play 3-4 more years in the major leagues. This would put him around 40 years old by the time he ends his career, which would total about 20 years in Major League Baseball. Unfortunately for Manny, the signs are beginning to point towards him being unable to do pull this off. During the 2009 season, he batted .290. This was actually his worst batting season since 1994, his second year in the league. Additionally, his slugging and OPS were down from 2008. Manny is starting to show signs of aging, and if he has some sense of pride he may want to consider getting out before his performance drops too egregiously.

The Argument for Staying

Now to be fair, there ARE some compelling reasons for Manny to stay in the league. The biggest is to try and break 600 home runs. He currently sits and 546, 54 off the mark. Looking at his last two seasons (ok, season and a half) with L.A., it looks like it will take about 3-4 years to hit 600 home runs. So it would seem that is his primary motivation. It shouldn’t be his salary, as he is currently making over $23 million per year, and any new contract will be diminished in the face of his age, not to mention his on-field issues and history of steroid use. And it can’t be for more accolades, as he’s already won a World Series MVP, three silver slugger awards and two Hank Aaron awards, not to mention 8 All-Star appearances. He’s done just about everything you can do in the Major Leagues, he’s more or less a lock for the Hall of Fame, so he must be staying in the league primarily to build up his stats.

Are Stats Good Enough?

While Manny Ramirez is getting older, I don’t believe he has so little left in the tank that he can’t reach his goal of hitting 600 home runs. While his home run production went down some this year, he also played fewer games due to a steroid suspension. In two seasons he has proven he can hit home runs in L.A. While his performance may dip some in the next few years, we’re talking about a player who in his prime could belt out more than 40 home runs in a season. Now all we’re talking about is 14, fewer than he’s hit in either season he’s played for the Dodgers. Hitting 14 home runs in a season is definitely within his abilities. And if he can do it, why not stick around and go for the next big milestone in a hitter’s career?

Will Anyone Take Him?

While Manny may find his popularity among contending teams diminishing due to his age, there are any number of teams out there who would kill to have a player as popular as Manny Ramirez on their roster, shooting for 600 home runs. Teams like the Royals and Orioles would be able to put more fans in the stands with a star like that on their team. And many AL players would still want Manny to DH. While he would need to get over his prima donna attitude, I bet more teams would be willing to put up with him than you’d think. He can still hit and in a DH or bench capacity he would be an excellent addition to a poor team looking to jump levels or a good team looking to contend for the playoffs. Look at what he did for the Dodgers.

All in all, I think Manny Ramirez is talented enough to be able to last through his 30s as long as he keeps his expectations in check and is willing to play through an inevitable drop in performance. I don’t believe that drop will be so bad that he won’t be able to hit 600 home runs, it just won’t be the Manny Ramirez of the late 90s who could bat .300 and hit 40+ home runs. Good luck to him.

Congratulations to New Orleans

We all watched the Super Bowl (or at least I did). We saw what happened. Indy jumped out to an early lead, then their defense let them down as Drew Brees completed pass after pass after pass. Clinging to a one TD lead, the Saints effectively clinched the title by picking off Peyton Manning and returning it for a touchdown. One more defensive stop, and the Saints had done it. What was so impressive was that the Saints won with such a one-dimensional team. Their special teams did nothing special, although the average starting field position did favor the Saints considerably. Their running game was only o.k. And aside from the one interception, big as it was, their defense did not look particularly great. They had trouble stopping the run, and they got no pressure on Peyton Manning. Their only strength was their amazing passing game. Against a similarly constructed team, however, that one dimension was enough. This season has shown that passing teams tend to do much better than running teams, and the best passing team in the league (New Orleans was #1 in the NFL in scoring this season) won the Super Bowl. Congratulations to them.

The question is, are we making too big of a deal out of their victory? To be sure, every city rallies behind its sports teams, reveling in their victories and suffering in their defeats. One of my favorite aspects of sports is the way in which they unite communities. Cities and towns are bonded together by the goings on of their sports teams. This will be even more evident in the upcoming Olympics, as medal counts are created to show which country is doing the best, as if to say that the merits of the country have some effect on the individual performances of its athletes (probably not objectively true).

Every once in awhile, a team comes along that is so dynamic and attractive that they become “America’s team.” This is what happened with New Orleans this season. Everyone was rooting for New Orleans to win as a means to redeem the city, maybe even the country, after Hurricane Katrina. Is that fair? I say no, and that this a dangerous path for us to be going down. Katrina taught us some important lessons. The biggest may be just how unprepared we are for meteorological destruction in parts of this country. New Orleans was screwed over, first by Mother Nature and then by FEMA. To look at this Super Bowl title and say “everything is all right” is wrong. It would seem to gloss over the many problems the city faced and continues to face. Perhaps its biggest, the psychological scar left upon New Orleans, is now gone, but many real problems still remain. A Super Bowl title will not fix this.

The Saints were an excellent team this season. They deserved to win the Super Bowl not because of their city’s history but because of the merits of the team themselves. Ascribing more to the team than that runs the risk of allowing this victory to slow down the real changes the city and this country need. If the Super Bowl trophy brings an influx of tourism to the state of Louisiana, then this victory will have truly helped to change things for New Orleans. But if all it does is make us complacent, then it may yet turn out to be a hollow victory. Let’s hope for the former.

What’s Wrong with the Celtics?

The Celtics lost again today, 96-89. All of the old problems were on display. The Celtics gave up 11 three-pointers. They held a double-digit lead and they blew it. And they could not score in the second half to save their life. This is yet another winnable game that the Celtics’ starters gave away. The lone bright spot of the night may have been the return of Marquis Daniels, who had a pretty good game off the bench, all things considered (in general, the bench played pretty well tonight). So the question remains, why does this keep happening?

Looking at all of their losses, the main factor seems to be stamina. Some may point to the age of the Big Three, but the stamina problems I’m seeing extend to the Celtics as a whole. The Celtics just go too hard for the first half, score a lot, then run completely out of steam in the second half. And this takes its toll on the team in any number of ways. The biggest way that I’m seeing is that shooting seems to go cold during the second half. Nobody can make a shot. When a team can’t shoot, it doesn’t matter how well the defense does. It’s impossible to hold a lead if you can’t score.

This is not to say that the Celtics defense is holding up during the second half. It’s not. Too often players who were covered in the first half are getting wide open looks in the second half. The Celtics have looked bad coming off pick-and-rolls in the second half, they’re not helping out on drives to the paint, and they’re not forcing turnovers either. The defense weakens considerably in the second half, and it’s costing the Celtics games.

The last way in which lack of stamina is affecting the team is via an increase in turnovers. Against Orlando, the Celtics committed just three turnovers during the first half. During the second half, they more than doubled that. Same as any sport, turnovers will kill you. They stop drives, shift momentum, and take offenses out of rhythm. Boston’s passing gets sloppy in the second half, and it winds up costing them turnover after turnover.

The Celtics have some problems that really worry me. They don’t rebound well, as I’ve mentioned multiple times. The bench can’t score consistently. And they lack the stamina to put good teams away in the second half. The defense breaks down, the scoring flat out stops, and the turnovers increase. The problem with all of these issues is that they’re very difficult to correct during the season. You can’t make the team bigger and collect more rebounds. You can’t get the bench the experience it needs to score consistently without playing them more, which will lead to more offensive letdowns. And you can’t improve the stamina of a team that’s aging too fast for its own good. This team worries me. I had high hopes at the beginning of the season that this team would put it all together and win the whole thing. Now I fear they may be too old to pull it off. Oh, and Stan Van Gundy has the dumbest face and most grating voice I have ever seen.