Monday, May 5, 2008

Celtics Finally Put Down Upstart Hawks/Red Sox Complete Revenge Sweep of Rays

Round 1 Game 7- Boston 99, Atlanta 65

After the upstart Atlanta Hawks won all 3 games in Atlanta to push the Celtics to a deciding game 7 at home the tank seemed to be completely out of gas as they were steamrolled by the Celtics at the Garden. The media has harped on it incessantly, but it's worth dwelling on as the games in Atlanta seemed to be the polar opposite of those played in Boston:

Boston Avg Points Per Game in Boston: 98.75
Boston Avg Points Per Game in Atlanta: 95
Atlanta Avg Points Per Game in Boston: 77
Atlanta Avg Points Per Game in Atlanta: 100.67

That's a 23 point difference in production for Atlanta at home! Away from the Garden the Celtics seemed to lack intensity and crumbled in the fourth quarter if the score was anywhere near close, in Boston the fourth quarter was little more than a formality for the Celtics and often ended with the Big 3 sitting for most of it.

I'll give the Hawks some credit, they showed some pride by playing hard in their home court and refusing to roll over for the Celtics after going down 0-2. That said, the officiating in this series seemed lopsided, which culminated in Game 6 with a called 6th foul on Paul Pierce at a pivotal point in the fourth quarter. The most staggering figure was the disparity in free throw attempts, the Hawks had 220 free throw attempts against the Celtics 152. To some extent this is reflective of the Hawks style of basketball, which largely revolved around sending somebody inside to draw the foul rather than backing off and taking a jump shot or kicking it out to the perimeter the way the Celtics often do. I found it ironic that despite Mike Bibby's claim that the Celtics fans were fair-weather fans, it seemed to match the description of Atlanta's own fan base. Every time the Hawks announcer had to queue the crowd to begin a "De-Fense" or "Let's Go Hawks" chant I laughed a little inside at Bibby's comments.

Unfortunately, the 37 win Hawks have exposed some key weaknesses of the Celtics in this series.
1. Difficulty playing away from home: Every crowd the outside the Garden the Celtics match up against is going to be hysterical, convinced that they can rattle the Celtics.

2. Difficulty closing out games in the fourth quarter: In games 4 and 6 in Atlanta the Celtics entered the fourth quarter with a lead, but would walk out losers. In Game 4 the Celtics entered the fourth with a healthy 10 point lead, but collapsed with the Hawks outscoring them 32-17. With this in mind few teams are going to be mentally calling it quits if the game is still within reach entering the fourth.

The Celtics will start it up with the King James and the Cavaliers on Tuesday night in Boston.

Sox Sweep Rays Out of Fenway

Prior to the Series with the Rays, the Red Sox had been in the midst of an offensive slump. They had managed to take 2 out of 3 from Toronto thanks to some stellar pitching and some late inning heroics, but over a five game stretch had only scored 4 runs. The Sox seemed to get their swing back against the Rays scoring a combined 26 runs over 3 games. The Red Sox starting pitching has also been stellar lately. With this sweep the Red Sox take a 3 game lead in the AL East with the Yankees, Rays and O's all tied for 3rd place.

The Sox open a 10 game road trip tomorrow night in Detroit. The Tigers continue to struggle and are coming home after being swept by the Twins.


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