June 25, 2018
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Celtics, Bruins must rise up

BDN staff reports

Perhaps it’s just the onset of seasonal affective disorder, but things don’t seem so rosy in Beantown these days.

Instead of playing in the Super Bowl, the Patriots are on hiatus. Tom Brady is home with his wife and two kids, and Bill Belichick is on vacation, listening to Bon Jovi and sharing coaching secrets with his buddy Tony LaRussa.

Meanwhile, the rest of us have to put up with Peyton Manning talk for the next two weeks.

It could be worse. There could be Brett Favre talk, too.

The Bruins, a team picked by many to challenge for the Stanley Cup this year, or at least for the NHL’s Eastern Conference title, are in a free fall after Sunday’s listless 5-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. Even the players admitted the team lacked energy, a prerequisite for competing for the gritty, gutty Bruins in past years.

Injuries have taken their toll, not to mention the traditional inability to score. But who needs Phil Kessel?

There’s been eight losses in the last nine games, with no signs of coming out of this funk. Could Claude Julien’s future be in doubt?

The Celtics are walking a health-care tightrope, with the Big Three becoming more fragile by the game.

Kevin Garnett is now back after missing significant time with knee problems, but Doc Rivers will have to be a minutes-managing magician to keep KG, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen healthy enough for the C’s to make a serious run at an NBA championship that won’t be decided until June.

And the Red Sox have evolved from an entertaining collection of sluggers to a team that will rely on pitching and defense.

It’s less expensive that way, for sure, but wasn’t at the heart of their two World Series championships the slugging tandem of “Manny Ortez” —John Kerry’s name, not mine — in the middle of the lineup?

Owner John Henry recently offered this logic for the team’s offseason moves to the Boston Herald:

“Going into the offseason we were focused on how we get to 2012 — a year in which we believe there is a good chance we will begin to get some significant help again from our farm system.”

Should Red Sox Nation be forced to wait?

Ernie Clark

Celtics, Bruins need to overcome adversity

The mark of a good team is its ability to overcome adversity.

Somebody should remind the Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics of that adage.

The Boston Celtics went 4-6 without Kevin Garnett in the lineup.

The Boston Bruins, with a multitude of injuries to key players like Marc Savard and Marco Sturm, have lost five straight and eight of their last nine.

Injuries are a part of sports.

But every team has injuries.

When there are injuries, other players must step up and fill the void.

Or the coaches must alter their game plans to take advantage of their teams’ strengths without the injured player.

One of the disturbing aspects of the Celtics and Bruins’ recent woes has been a lack of effort.

The Celtics have been getting outworked on the boards and on the defensive side of the ball. Opponents have been getting too many open shots and then some second and third-chance opportunities on the offensive glass.

The Bruins have been losing the one-on-one battles for loose pucks and struggling in the imaginary third circle between the faceoff circles in the offensive and defensive zones. The goaltending hasn’t been good enough to steal wins which NHL goalies are required to do from time to time.

The Celtics will make the playoffs but the Bruins are sliding out of the playoff picture.

Still, the Celtics must find ways to play better without Garnett because they don’t know if his balky knee is going to hold up. They may need to address their frontcourt problems via trade since Kendrick Perkins is foul-prone.

The Bruins need to get back to basics. They need to play simple, two-way hockey and do so with a mean streak. They need to finish their checks,

Larry Mahoney

Celtics need to show they can beat Atlanta

While still smiling over Sports Illustrated’s latest cover jinx victim (J-E-T-S) and wondering which will be the ultimate sign of the apocalypse — the Boston Bruins winning a Stanley Cup or the Chicago Cubs winning a World Series — it seems a good time to bounce the Boston Celtics around.

The Celtics are taking on Atlanta Friday for the fourth time and last time this season and are still looking for their first win against the Hawks.

How is a first-place team with a 28-13 overall record — tied for the third-best record in the NBA — and a 19-7 record against Eastern Conference teams so hamstrung by one team, albeit one leading its division with a 28-14 record?

And no, it’s not just due to the absence of Kevin Garnett. Garnett played in the first loss, a 97-86 setback on — appropriately enough — Friday, Nov. 13.

So, what is it?

Usually when a team has another team’s number, it’s due in large part to one or two players playing particularly well. Atlanta’s Celtic-killer is guard Jamal Crawford, who’s averaging 17.7 points and 3.3 assists per game against Boston.

The 6-foot-5 Crawford, took over the bench scoring role from 6-3 Flip Murray and has literally been a big upgrade. He’s only averaging a half point more per game against Boston than all other NBA teams, but so far, the Celtics have no answer for him.

When things are at their worst, or at least most confusing, the Hawks seem to thrive, and that’s a quality you must have to beat a solid defensive team like Boston. Joe Johnson, ironically a former Celtic, has become one of the NBA’s best when it comes from turning busted plays and nothing into a highlight clip and something. It also doesn’t hurt that five Hawks are currently shooting at least 35 percent from 3-point range — a popular option when the shot clock is ticking down and a team is scrambling for a hoop.

The other thing the Hawks seem to have going for them is their overall size, which allows them to hold their own against a big Boston lineup that loves to create mismatches for shooters like Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to exploit. Those mismatches are minimized against Atlanta’s versatile, swarming defensive scheme.

The Celtics don’t seem too concerned about Atlanta being a tough matchup, but a win Friday night would go a long way toward allaying any doubts once a possible second-round playoff or conference final series rolled around. And with KG back, it’s a good time for the brash Boston big talkers to back up the words with action.

Andrew Neff

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