Pierce and Bradley Carry Celtics Past Magic, Clinch Fifth Straight Atlantic Title

Paul Pierce drives to the basket during Wednesday's Celtics-Magic game at the TD Garden. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Paul Pierce might be nearing the finish line of a career that will end in the Hall of Fame and a spot in the TD Garden rafters. But if these are Pierce’s last games, The Truth wants to go out in style.

Pierce scored a game-high 29 points and recorded a career-best 14 assists, carrying the Boston Celtics to a 102-98 victory over the Orlando Magic and their fifth consecutive Atlantic Division title Wednesday night at the TD Garden. Avery Bradley backed up Pierce with 23 points, tying his career-high.

With home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs locked up, the short-handed Celtics can now focus on rest and recovery. Ray Allen hasn’t played in over a week, and Rajon Rondo sat Wednesday with a lower back injury.

Pierce Holds Back Magic in Fourth

Up 79-70 heading into the fourth quarter, Boston built their lead as high as 13, but a combination of outside shooting by Jameer Nelson (21 points, 3-for-6 from downtown) and dominating play inside (54 points in the paint, 17 offensive rebounds without Dwight Howard) kept Orlando in the game. Orlando cut Boston’s lead to 92-90 with three minutes left before Pierce drew a foul and sank one of two.

A Glen Davis (27 points) steal and sprint to the basket – how many times has that ever been written? – made it 98-96 Celtics, setting up the play of the game. Pierce – who split ball-handling duties with Bradley Wednesday – brought the ball to the three-point line, nearly slipping and losing control of the ball.

With the shot-clock winding down, Pierce regained control and penetrated to just outside the foul line, hitting a 17-foot step-back jumper with 7.6 seconds left in the game. He also sank two free throws in the final seconds to maintain the two-possession lead.

Continue reading Pierce and Bradley Carry Celtics Past Magic, Clinch Fifth Straight Atlantic Title

With Bobby Valentine, Expect B.S. to Continue

New Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine really shouldn't be making this many off-the-field errors, but he has. Expect that to continue all season. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Bobby Valentine has badly misfired twice in his first few weeks, setting up a weekly appearance gig on an ESPN New York radio program, then questioning Kevin Youkilis’ attitude after just a nine-day evaluation Sunday. And when Valentine opted not to play Youkilis on Patriots Day, Fenway serenaded him with a chorus of boos loud enough to throw Sharon Cherop off her game.

For a guy whose managed for 25 years (including six in media-saturated New York) and worked in broadcasting for two more, Valentine’s inability to avoid PR blunders like this is stupefying.

A young guy managing for the first time? Sure, he might say a few things that get taken the wrong way. Same goes for a long-standing manager who never worked for a big-market team – the Boston press craves drama in a way the Kansas City press doesn’t, and an unfamiliar manager could easily shoot himself in the foot.

But Valentine is neither of those things. He knows how a manager gets treated by the press, he knows how big-market media work, and he knows what in the past has gotten him into trouble. If anyone ought to know better than to insult a beloved player like Youkilis, it’s Valentine.

Valentine isn’t the first manager to take a “cavalier” approach to the press, nor even the first in a major market. Rex Ryan has played games with the press every fall since 2009, and he’s said some way dumber stuff than Valentine.

But Jets fans have rarely booed Ryan the way Sox fans laid into Valentine Monday. It’s not because Jets fans are nicer than Red Sox fans – both are pretty damn nasty, compared with other fanbases (fans of the Milwaukee Brewers, for instance, or the Phoenix Coyotes). New York fans just get that Ryan mouths off to take pressure off his players.

Ryan’s players get that too, which explains the iron-forged loyalty with which they defend him. But on the Red Sox, no one feels that loyalty yet. They protected Terry Francona until he lost the team midway through the 2011 season, but they haven’t had enough time to build any reverence for Valentine.

Continue reading With Bobby Valentine, Expect B.S. to Continue

DigBoston: Bruins Playoff and Red Sox Preview Stories

Both the Bruins' Chris Kelly and the Capitals' Braden Holtby had a lot to do with the outcome of their first playoff game. Read more at DigBoston.com.

Hurray! Six hundred posts!

A record three articles by me went up on DigBoston this past week: my 52 Games column on the Red Sox season-opener, a 2012 Red Sox preview and a 52 Games Overtime on the first Bruins playoff game.

Both of the Bruins’ games so far have gone to overtime, so don’t get confused – this story is about the first playoff game, which by now most of you know went the Bruins’ way.

Check it out!

MassBytes: El Pelón Chilli-Eating Story Live

Eating half a habanero pepper nearly destroyed me. To see how some dudes fared trying to eat 15, head to MassBytes.com. (Photo by Sarah Sparks/MassBytes.com)

Sarah Sparks of MassBytes – a fantastic Boston-based food blog – asked me to write up a habanero-eating contest at El Pelón in Brighton Thursday night. I’d never covered competitive eating before, but hey, ESPN broadcasts the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest every year. That makes it at least as much of a sport as professional poker, right?

To help me understand the event, I voluntarily ate half a habanero after finishing my post-contest interviews. That probably wasn’t my smartest decision ever.

Anyway, the story’s now live on MassBytes.com.

Check it out!

Awesome Locker Room Speeches, Real and Fake

Sometimes, being paid millions of dollars isn’t enough to get the competitive juices flowing. Sometimes, the image of a championship trophy can’t get it done. Sometimes, players need their motivation to come from elsewhere.

Enter the locker room speech. The last words players hear before they take the field, court or ice. The last chance (minus halftime) for a coach or player to get the team properly excited. The last hope that an inspired team can still beat a more talented one.

Some people have mastered the locker room speech, and their speeches take on a YouTube life of their own on. Here are my ten favorites, covering both real speeches and fictional ones:

10) Eric Bruskotter, Major League II: I shouldn’t really acknowledge this movie’s existence, because I’m pretty sure if enough people forget it exists it will actually cease to exist, like fairies in Peter Pan. But this speech still elicits a laugh. And hey, the Indians do start playing better after it:

Continue reading Awesome Locker Room Speeches, Real and Fake

DigBoston: Red Sox Opening Day Story Live

This was the last play of Opening Day. To learn what led up to it, head to DigBoston.com.

We look at the current Red Sox and think of happier days. Like last Thursday, before the season started, so the team hadn’t yet fallen under .500.

I spent Opening Day at Bus Stop Pub in Allston, and I had far more fun than I ever expected. I captured the entire experience for DigBoston.

Check it out!

 

Ten Red Sox Predictions for 2012

Jon Lester might win 16 or 17 games again this season, but no other starter will come close to his numbers. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Some definite patterns are emerging with the 2012 Boston Red Sox. What has and hasn’t worked so far could easily continue through the entire season. So after five games, here are 10 predictions for the upcoming season.

1) The starting pitching will combine for 60 wins or fewer. So far, no starting pitcher has recorded a win, and none have even left in position for a win. While Jon Lester will probably finish the season with decent numbers, no other starter inspires any sort of confidence. Whether it’s Josh Beckett‘s attitude, Clay Buchholz‘s health or Daniel Bard‘s inexperience starting, the Red Sox will probably be winning a lot of games in the last couple of innings.

Speaking of which…

2) The Red Sox will record at least 15 late-game-comeback victories. In four of their first five games, the Red Sox have combined for 10 runs in the ninth inning and later. This team’s experienced, big-moment hitters never cower before opposing setup men and closers, and that should mean lots of late-game heroics.

Which is good, because…

3) The bullpen will finish with an ERA over 4.50. This bullpen is terrrrrrrible! Alfredo Aceves rocked a perfect ninth Monday, but the day before he gave up a three-run home run. And he’s supposedly their best!

Unless, of course, you count…

Continue reading Ten Red Sox Predictions for 2012

Boston.com: Somerville Baseball and Softball Preview Live

I love the spring. Warmer weather, longer days, happier attitudes.

And baseball. I looooove baseball. So of course I relished the opportunity to meet new Somerville High baseball coach Mike DiCato and reconnect with awesome softball coach Bill MacDonald.

After reading my softball and baseball preview on Boston.com, none of you should ever have to say, “gee, I wonder who the Highlanders’ best pitchers are?” And once the gallery goes up, you’ll also never have to wonder what they look like.

Check it out!

Brookline Access Television: My First Broadcast!!

Brookline Access TV always needs play-by-play guys for Brookline High games. Their spring scheduled included two boys’ volleyball games, and I thought, “Hey! I played for Brookline boys’ volleyball for four years! I’d be a perfect play-by-play or color commentator!”

So I covered the Warriors’ season-opener against the Weymouth Wildcats last Friday, and the game’s now up on BATV.org. It was my first play-by-play game ever (and I was by myself), and BATV’s a pretty small outfit, so the final product definitely has some mistakes. But I hope y’all still get a kick out of hearing me doing a longer-form narration than my normal highlight reels.

Check it out!

And if you’d rather download the file and watch it in segments (it’s a three-game match, so over an hour long), click here.