DigBoston: Celtics-Magic Story Live

How big was Paul Pierce in Thursday's Celtics-Magic game? Read the new "52 Games" at DigBoston.com to find out. (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

I didn’t plan on witnessing history when I went to the Coolidge Corner Clubhouse in Brookline for Thursday’s Celtics-Magic game, but that’s kinda what happened. It made for a far better “52 Games” column than I expected.

Check it out!

Can Anything Save the Pro Bowl?

My advice for watching the always-boring Pro Bowl: lie back, and think of Indy. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images North America)

NFL Pro Bowlers look like they’re just going through the motions. They give about 80 percent of normal effort on offense, and even less on defense. No play looks well-executed, no player comes off as a peak athlete.

A game comprised of the reputedly best players in the NFL winds up looking like anything but. People complain about this every year.

But after watching Sunday’s game, I wonder if anything can fix it, or if it’s simply doomed.

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What Terrell Owens and Randy Moss Taught Chad Ochocinco

Whatever advice Terrell Owens and Randy Moss might be giving Chad Ochocinco, it can't be good. Thankfully, Ochocinco hasn't followed in their footsteps. (http://bleacherreport.com/articles/294058-nfl-all-decade-team-2000s)

(happy birthday to me!)

The oft-maligned and rarely used Chad Ochocinco told the Boston Herald Saturday that he’s often spoken with former Patriot Randy Moss and former Bengal Terrell Owens during this transition year to the Patriot way of life.

The move seemingly makes sense: all three players are what Ochocinco called “diva receivers;” Moss is a former Patriot who played a huge roll in their record-setting 2007-08 offense; Owens knows Ochocinco from their year together in Cincinnati. And considering Moss and Owens have played for a combined 10 different teams in 28 seasons, you’d have to figure they’d know a thing or two about learning new schemes, coaches and teammates.

But what specifically did those “diva receivers” tell Ochocinco? Here are my Top 10 pieces of advice from Moss and Owens to Ochocinco.

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Tim Thomas Exercises Free-Speech Right, Declines White House Ceremony

The President honored the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Bruins Monday at the White House. Citing political differences, Tim Thomas did not attend. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama congratulated the Boston Bruins Monday for their 2011 Stanley Cup championship. Citing differences of opinion, Boston Globe hockey writer Fluto Shinzawa reported, Tim Thomas chose not to attend.

Good for Thomas.

Thomas Stays True to America and Self

Appearing at the White House, being photographed with the President and handing him an embossed Bruins jersey would make Thomas look aligned with the President. A fake alliance or not, Thomas wanted to avoid such an appearance because he sees his political relationship to the President differently. That shows both political conviction and a savvy understanding of the modern media landscape.

What would have been the alternatives? Had Thomas gone to the White House and then voiced his opposition to the President, he’d have been portrayed as hypocritical. “How can you shake hands with the President Monday and bash him Tuesday?” the media would ask. No answer Thomas could give would make him look good, so why bother giving the press the question at all? The issue still comes up by declining the invite, but at least the press can only crucify him for his opinions, not his actions.

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Patriots Report Card: AFC Championship

Vince Wilfork's terrific individual effort of six tackles – three behind the line – a sack and a key fourth-down hit on Ravens QB Joe Flacco earns him an "A" in the AFC Championship report card. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

The Baltimore Ravens shut down the New England Patriots’ receivers in Sunday’s AFC Championship, rattled Tom Brady and held the Patriots to their fewest points since October. And they still didn’t win.

The Patriots beat the Ravens, 23-20, advancing to their fifth Super Bowl of the new millennium when Ravens place-kicker Billy Cundiff badly missed a game-tying 32-yard field goal with 11 seconds left. The Patriots will face the New York Giants in Indianapolis in two weeks.

The AFC Championship was the last test before the final. Who’s ready, and who’ll be pulling an all-nighter? Here’s the penultimate report card of the season.

Quarterback: B+

Brady’s successes Sunday came on seven, eight, nine-yard passes – the bit-by-bit passing attack that’s won three Super Bowls. Brady only got into trouble when he got greedy and tried for more too quickly. Given the ball following a Brandon Spikes interception, Brady could have slowly marched the Patriots 50 yards, scored a touchdown and probably clinched the game. Instead he tried an unconvincing play-action bomb to Matthew Slater, who’s caught one pass this season. The Ravens sniffed it out, sent two deep and picked him off.

Every so often, Brady forgets to use common sense when selecting targets. Against a good pass-rush, Brady barely completed 60 percent of his passes, throwing for just 239 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. In typically gritty fashion, he did rush for a touchdown on fourth down in the fourth, putting the Patriots ahead for good.

Brady won’t have to be perfect to out-score the Giants in two weeks. He just can’t get lost inside his own head as much as he did Sunday.

Continue reading Patriots Report Card: AFC Championship

Who’s Going to Indianapolis?

Barring a bunch of turnovers, Tom Brady and uber-receivers like Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski should prove too much for the Baltimore Ravens in this Sunday's AFC Championship. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

The New Orleans Saints turned the ball over more than the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round of the playoffs, and they lost. The Green Pay Packers turned the ball over more than the New York Giants, and they lost. The Houston Texans turned it over more than the Baltimore Ravens, and they lost.

The New England Patriots turned it over more than the Denver Broncos, but not until the Patriots were already up 35. And that game’s +1 turnover differential ranked lowest among all four games.

The lesson is simple: Dont. Turn. The ball. Over.

Four teams remain in the postseason. They’ll all play in this Sunday’s conference championships for a trip to Super Bowl XLVI in two weeks.

Here are my picks for who’ll be playing for the Lombardi Trophy.

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Bruins’ Fourth Line Carries Team Past Devils

Gregory Campbell takes the shot against New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur during Thursday's game at the Prudential Center in Newark. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Good things come to those who wait. The Boston Bruins waited five games to get back Brad Marchand. They waited two games to get back Rich Peverley. And they waited 63 minutes Thursday night before finally solving the New Jersey Devils’ stout defense and even more stout goalie, Martin Brodeur.

Once the waiting period ended, however, the Bruins’ offense kicked it into overdrive, scoring twice in 35 seconds to help the Bruins to a 4-1 road victory over the Devils. The fourth line combination of Daniel Paille, Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell combined for a goal and four assists during the Bruins’ four-goal third period.

Bruins’ Offense Dominates Third

The Bruins played lazy, sluggish hockey for the first 40 minutes of Thursday’s game, turning the puck over, losing one-on-one battles along the boards, and missing their meager 12 shots at Brodeur.

Perhaps heartened by just a 1-0 deficit entering the third period, the Bruins came out on fire, putting three shots on goal in the opening minutes while displaying far superior puck-management.

The simultaneously more disciplined and intense offense paid off at 3:01, when Thornton sent a crossing pass towards Andrew Ference just behind the Devils’ left circle. Ference let the puck bounce off the boards, then rocketed a slapshot just under the top-right corner of the goal to tie the game 1-1. Campbell also earned an assist on the goal.

Continue reading Bruins’ Fourth Line Carries Team Past Devils