May 28, 2020
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Celtics struggling closing out games

Boston’s defense has been suspect

One of the great things about watching the New Orleans Saints take down Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl on Sunday night was it briefly made me forget how painful it was to watch the Boston Celtics play earlier in the day.

As they have been too often in recent weeks, the Celtics were fun to watch — for a half.

But after limiting the Orlando Magic to 40 points in the first two quarters combined, they allowed 36 points in the third quarter alone, being outscored 36-11 as a 51-40 halftime lead evolved into a 76-62 deficit.

The Celtics were outscored 28-2 during one stretch of the second half, and went more than eight minutes without a field goal en route to a 96-89 home-court defeat.

For a team that won Banner 17 two years ago with a philosophy founded on defense, allowing 36 points in a single quarter is unacceptable.

Unfortunately, blowing leads in the second half, especially against the elite teams on their schedule, has become one of the Celtics’ more common traits this winter, and the bottom-line result is revealing.

The Celtics are now 2-8 against the best teams in the league that they have played: 0-4 against Atlanta, 1-3 against Orlando, 0-1 against the L.A. Lakers and 1-0 against Cleveland (an opening-game win way back on Oct. 27).

Even worse, they are 0-5 against those teams at home.

One possible redeeming feature of Sunday’s game was the return of Paul Pierce and Marquis Daniels to active duty. Pierce had sat out the previous two games with a foot injury, while Daniels was back after missing 28 games due to thumb surgery.

The Celtics now have their full roster available, but is that enough to return to the elite — a status currently beyond their reach?

The common line around the TD Bank Garden has been that the Celtics are a team made for the playoffs, so not to worry about any regular-season lapses.

But given all the injuries the Celtics have endured already this season, what’s to make anyone think the Green will be able to stay anything close to injury-free long enough to make a deep run in the playoffs come May and June?

Hey, the Red Sox truck leaves for Fort Myers on Friday.

Ernie Clark

Peyton’s place as best ever takes a big hit

That whooshing sound you may have heard Sunday night and Monday was all the air being taken out of the arguments for Peyton Manning as THE best of the modern day — and maybe all — quarterbacks.

Manning’s backers had already started anointing him as possibly the best signal-caller of all time before Super Bowl weekend, despite his non-extraordinary 9-8 playoff record and ONE Super Bowl ring over a 12-year pro career.

Before entirely eviscerating this notion, it is worth admitting that Manning is indeed one of the best quarterbacks of all time statistically and one of the game’s most respected and feared field generals.

The 10-time NFL Pro Bowl selection is one of the best, if not the best tacticians in the game today. But there are other than statistics to consider.

Manning is now 9-9 in postseason games and 1-1 in Super Bowls. Yes, he played a solid game Sunday even with the one interception. He completed 31 of 45 passes (68.9 percent) for 333 yards and a touchdown.

He also threw a crucial interception that was returned for a touchdown, so instead of engineering a game-tying drive with three minutes left in regulation, he was walking off the field knowing he would not be hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy aloft for a second time.

Speaking of the Lombardi, there a few quarterbacks well ahead of Manning when it comes to that, the most coveted of all pro football trophies. New England’s Tom Brady is a two-time Super Bowl MVP with three rings in four trips to the biggest game.

Even if you limit the debate to active quarterbacks, Brady ranks above Manning because the ultimate measuring stick for any NFL quarterback — especially when it comes to the elite — is Super Bowls and Super Bowl rings.

Sure, you can argue Manning is the best pure quarterback, student of the game and tactician, although that is an argument that Brady can at least hold his own in as well, but with the loss to New Orleans, Manning is still the quarterback with the stats while Brady is the one with the titles.

If you want to expand the debate to all-time, as some have been wont to do for the past two weeks, Manning pales even more in comparison. Joe Montana was 16-7 in postseason games, won three Super Bowl MVP awards, and was 4-0 in Super Bowls. Terry Bradshaw was 14-5 in postseason, won two Super Bowl MVPs, and also has four Super Bowl rings.

Best of all time? Manning still has at least a couple more rings to get sized up for before that kind of talk is justified.

Andrew Neff

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