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Mike Shalin's Working Press: Celtics are confident ... except for one thing

By MIKE SHALIN
May 22. 2018 11:19PM
The Boston Celtics are hoping a return to TD Garden can restore their winning ways. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)



If this Celtics' thing is starting to look familiar, that’s because it is.

Skipping the Philadelphia series, go back to Round 1 against the Bucks and you see wins in Games 1 and 2 by an average of 10 points, then losses in 3 and 4 by an average of 13.

In Game 5 of the opening series, the Celtics defeated Milwaukee and wound up winning in seven.

In other words, there’s no place like home for these Celtics.

The Bostons are 9-0 at home in these playoffs and have won their last 10 on the parquet. That’s what makes the outlook bright for the rest of these conference finals, except for one thing.

Milwaukee had the Greek Freak, but they didn’t have LeBron James.

The King is on one of his missions, leading his team from a fourth seed to within two wins of his eighth straight NBA Finals.

He had 44 points Monday night, and while Celtics fans whined and complained about the preferential treatment he gets from the officials (this just in: Stars get preferential treatment in the NBA and always have), James and his pals evened the series.

He wasn’t alone.

Tristan Thompson, the dad of the newest Kardashian, can also play a little basketball and outplayed Al Horford. Kyle Korver was a force — at both ends, surprisingly. The role players played their roles and the series was all tied, coming down to a best of three.

The Celtics are the hosts for two of those three, starting tonight.

The fans weren’t the only ones complaining. Marcus Morris, who almost NEVER actually commits a foul, said, “I don’t really want to speak on that and get a fine,” Morris said. “At the end of the day I work hard, work my (butt) off to defend this position. The ticky tack fouls — it is what it is.

“It’s tough. You’re already playing against the best player in the league, and you can be a little bit physical, it’s tough to guard him. You can’t do anything and it’s fouls, fouls. We almost had to give up baskets.”

Tatum honored

It didn’t come as a shock, but Jayson Tatum became the first Celtic since Paul Pierce in 1998-99 to be named first team NBA All-Rookie.

While Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell were unanimous picks, Tatum missed by one vote, coach Brad Stevens saying, “somebody made a mistake”

From the team release: “Tatum thrived from beyond the arc in his inaugural campaign, setting franchise rookie records with 105 3-point field goals and a shooting percentage of 43.4 percent (fifth-highest among rookies in NBA history). He was the fifth rookie in NBA history and the first since Stephen Curry in 2009-10 to record 1,000-plus points and shoot at least 40 percent from three.”

The latest mock draft I’ve seen — this one from Sports Illustrated — had the Celtics taking Villanova’s Jaylen Brunson with the 27th pick.

Does it matter?

Tom Brady wasn’t at this week’s voluntary workouts, which probably isn’t a big deal, right?

Well, if you go back a few years, here’s what TB 12 said about these dates on the schedule:

“You think, ‘God, it’s just another OTA in the springtime and it’s not that important’ and all those things that could probably enter your mind,” Brady told Mike Giardi of NBC Sports Boston. “But the truth is this lays the foundation for the start of training camp. If you have a good training camp, it usually means a good start to the season. And a good start to the season leads to good position entering the second half of the season, which leads to a good playoff. So everything ends up having some significance to it.”

Rob Gronkowski wasn’t around, either, but that was amid talks his contract was being re-done to put more money in his pockets — and of he and Brady both working at TB12.

Bill Belichick, asked about Brady Tuesday, gave the predictable non-answer.

“I’m not going to talk about the people that aren’t here,” he said. “Guys that are here are improving, they’re working hard and those are the guys we’re going to focus on.”

Old times

Chris Davis struck out four times against the Red Sox Saturday, the first time he fanned four times at Fenway since the 2012 game that ended with him relieving and getting the win. That was in a 17-inning game, with then-Sox outfielder Darnell McDonald suffering the loss.

“It was crazy. It was absolutely crazy,” Davis says.

He struck out his first five times up and then hit into a double play (he batted eight times without a hit), but coming in to pitch was not a spur-of-the-moment decision to Buck Showalter, who knew Davis had pitching in his past.

“Of course, I can pitch. I pitched my whole life. At that time of the day, I wasn’t exactly the greatest hitter so, maybe I’ll give them a shot off the mound,” Davis said.

Happy birthday

Old pal Tommy John turned 75 Tuesday. But his left arm, repaired in the first Tommy John surgery, is 44 and won’t turn 45 until September.

Bartolo Colon pitched against the Yankees Monday night. His entire body turns 45 Thursday.

In that game Monday, Colon, one behind Juan Marichal for most wins by a Dominican pitcher, lost as the Yankees hit five home runs (four off him).

It was the third straight game of four-plus homers for the Yanks, a first for a franchise that includes Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, etc. They hit 13 homers in the three games and became the first team to hit at least four homers in three straight road games on the same trip since the 1961 Milwaukee Braves.

Special words

J.D. Martinez was honored that Frank Thomas called him the best hitter in baseball the last year and a quarter.

“It was really cool,” said Martinez of Thomas’ ranking on FoxSports. “My whole career, even in the offseason, everyone is kind of like, ‘Who is this guy asking for all this money? Nobody knows who this guy is.’ I’ve always been living in the shadows of Miggy (Cabrera) and all these guys in Detroit. It’s cool to get some recognition for it.”

From the Sox: “Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez share the MLB lead with 15 HRs. This is the first time the Red Sox have ever had two players hit 15 HRs within the first 50 games of a season.”

Golden times

Regardless of what you think about a league that has an expansion team playing for its title (I think it’s pretty cool), this Vegas story is something special.

My pal Mark Whicker of the Orange County Register summed the whole thing up pretty well the other day, saying, “For all of you who think Vegas was given a Hall of Fame roster, this from owner Bill Foley, “We don’t have high expectations for this year,” he told ESPN in August. “We’re going to be competitive. If we’re going to lose a game, we’d like to lose by a goal or two, not lose by five or six. We don’t want to be a walkover team. We want to be competitive, we want to be entertaining on the ice, we want to score some goals.”

Foley, who paid a $500 million fee for expansion, also laid out his expectations in August: “We’ll be pretty good in three years and we’ll make a run in five or six.”

The Vegas sports books stand to take a bath if the Knights defeat either Tampa Bay or Washington in the finals — with odds as great as 500:1.

In a piece in the L.A. Times, “Boyd Gaming said they had a few $30,000 tickets outstanding if the Golden Knights win it all. They also offered the Golden Knights at 150:1 odds because they figured they would be a popular bet among locals. As the Golden Knights began winning, sports books made adjustments to their odds, but those who jumped on them early got them at fantastic odds. Those people can hedge if they want to ensure a payout.”

This and that

The Lightning were 7-0 all-time in playoff games in D.C. before losing Game 6. … Stat from Celts Game 4: Fifty-three percent of NBA players had the G-League on their resumes. … Patrick Kane became the first U.S. player named MVP of the World Championships — and his team finished third. … The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy tabbed James, Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan 1-3 as the greatest of all time. … Rome Shubert, the Santa Fe High School pitcher shot in the head in last week’s massacre, dressed for his team’s playoff game, which went on as planned. Catcher Trent Beazley, grazed by a bullet, also dressed. Neither played. … Bill Russell tweeted his thanks for folks’ concern over his recent brief hospital stay, saying, “Thank you everyone for the kind thoughts, yes I was taken to the hospital last night & as my wife likes to remind me I don’t drink enough. On my way home & as most my friends know I don’t have a heart to give me trouble.” … The Browns, coming off a winless season but with two of the first four picks in the draft, are this year’s Hard Knocks on HBO. …

Finally, a reminder I will be joining photog Steve Babineau to sign our Red Sox book “The Hometown Team” Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Manchester Barnes & Noble. Come see us. .

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is shalinmike@yahoo.com.


Sports columns Patriots/NFL Red Sox/MLB Celtics/NBA Bruins/NHL


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