A Cinco de Mayo look around our wonderful world of sports.
Was The Truth telling the truth after Game 1 of the Celtics’ series with the Bucks?
For the wrong reason?
Paul Pierce, doing his fine TV work after his old team blew Milwaukee out of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, said, “It’s over,” that the Bucks were toast.
Now, as we’ve seen the next two games of the series, one has to wonder if he had it right, but, again, for the wrong reason.
With the Celtics saddled by the enigmatic play that was the story of the regular season, the Bucks have grabbed control of the series heading into Monday’s Game 4.
Pierce took some friendly fire after Friday night’s Milwaukee win but stuck to his guns and said it’s still “the Celtics in six.” Boston would have to win three straight for that to happen.
With the local fans –- and Kyrie Irving — whining about the officiating, the Bucks ran the Celtics out of their own building to take a 2-1 series lead.
One of the things that go along with the rare losing that New England fans are suffering these days is to blame it on the officials. Irving joined the chorus Friday night.
Talking about Giannis Antetokounmpo taking 22 free throws in the game, Irving said, “It’s getting ridiculous at this point. It’s slowing the (bleeping) game down.”
Strangely, Irving, who hadn’t taken a free throw in the first two games, went to the line 12 times, and the Celtics, a perimeter team known more for shooting than driving, shot only four fewer free throws than the Bucks, who have this monster running their engine.
Credit to coach Brad Stevens for saying, “I don’t complain about officials. We have a lot of things we have to work on.”
The Milwaukee bench, keyed by George Hill and Arlington, Mass., talent Pat Connaughton, outscored its counterpart 42-16, always a key in a wear-down playoff series. Gordon Hayward, who again looks tentative, had 10 points (2-for-8 shooting), seven rebounds and five assists in 33 minutes.
Irving, who declared himself “an actual genius” of the game before Game 3 (he probably is but did he have to say it?), was 8-for-22 from the floor, 2-for-8 from distance and 12-for-40/3-for-13 in the last two games.
Before Friday’s game, he told ESPN’s Jackie McMullan: “I’ve been playing basketball a lot longer than some of these people analyzing the game. I’m an actual genius when it comes to this game.
”If you ask me about basketball, I will talk all day. If you ask me about spacing at the 3:33 mark of the second quarter, I will gladly explain it. I’ll tell you what plays worked, about adjustments we make. But when it comes to personal things, or comparing myself to my NBA brothers, like, ‘Do you think you are better than this guy?’ I’m out.”
…Speaking of officiating, what happened with the Bruins and that puck hitting the netting in Columbus in Game 4 was absurd. The NHL has to change the rule that called for no review of such a play, allowing a challenge that would have wiped this goal away. Strangely, the folks broadcasting the game failed to mention the league installed the netting after a young girl was killed by a puck in that very same arena.
…Later Friday night, the Trail Blazers survived a four-overtime war to take a 2-1 series lead over the Nuggets – despite Nikola Jokic delivering 33 points, 18 rebounds and 14 assists in 65 minutes in the loss.
…Anyone who had Chris Sale getting his first win in seven starts on the same night Tampa Bay’s Tyler Glasnow improved to 6-0 and lowered his ERA to 1.47 with seven shutout innings, take a bow.
…Got some cash you don’t need? Both Alabama and Clemson have to win 12 regular-season football games next season to hit the over in Vegas.
…The Carolina Panthers are bringing free agent running back Elijah Holyfield –- Evander‘s son –- to training camp.
…Tom Brady was asked by Jimmy Kimmel the other night why he keeps giving up money so the Patriots can bring in players to help him. He said, “My wife makes a lot of money.”
…Noah Syndegaard became the first Mets pitcher ever – and the first in the game since Bob Welch in 1983 – to hit a home run for the only run in a 1-0 shutout victory.
…Milwaukee big man Brook Lopez, who made exactly three 3-pointers in his first eight seasons in the NBA, has canned 433 in the last three seasons and is 25-for-53 (38 percent) from deep in the current playoff season.
…Speaking of shutouts, the Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks, a Dartmouth graduate, needed just 81 pitches in a complete-game shutout of the Cardinals at Wrigley Friday.
…The Whalers – sorry, Hurricanes – were 16-17-5 after games of Jan. 1. Now they are set to play the winner of the Bruins-Jackets series in the Eastern Conference final.
…Interesting stat from the New York Post’s Joel Sherman prior to Friday night’s Red Sox game: “Just something I noticed: Last year JD Martinez had 35 HRs v. RHP, 2nd in MLB to Khris Davis (37). This year most PAs without a HR vs. RHP? JD Martinez 0 in 104 PAs.”
…Syndegaard hit the fourth homer by a Met pitcher this season, prompting our buddy Dave Laurila of Fangraphs to post: “In 1971, Red Sox pitchers Mike Garman, Sparky Lyle, Gary Peters, Sonny Siebert, and Ken Tatum went a combined 55 for 194 (.284) with 10 home runs.”
…The Baseball Hall of Fame hit a grand slam when selecting long-time Angels exec Tim Mead to succeed Jeff Idelson as the Cooperstown president. I dare anyone to find a bad word written or said about Mead, a true pro who will do the Hall proud.
…More Hall of Fame? Ty Law posed for his bust in Canton this week.
…From column pal Shawn Hutcheon: “Bruins stat of the week: In four games against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Round 2 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Tuukka Rask has played 267 minutes with 129 saves on 137 shots for a 1.80 goals against average and .942 save percentage.” As Larry David might say, “Pretty, pretty, pretty good.”
…And from University of Rhode Island student Ryan Sullivan: “Tuukka has a .933 save percentage this postseason. In games where the Bruins could go down 2 games or be eliminated, he is 5-0, and his save percentage swells to .947. But please, tell me how he doesn’t show up in big games. I’m DYING to hear it.”
…The Cubs started 1-6 but Friday’s win, their fifth straight, made it 19-6 since Game 7.
…Three-time manager of the year Bob Melvin on Alex Cora: “There’s a great presence that he has over there. You can tell that the players really respond to him. It’s not too long ago that he was playing, too. They know that he’s gone through what they’re going through. He handles his team really well.”
…The B’s Brandon Carlo talking about Sergei Bobrovsky prior to Boston’s Game 4 win: “He’s definitely going to crack at some point.”
…Current and former Patriots backups Brian Hoyer, Jimmy Garoppolo, Matt Cassel, Jacoby Brissett and Kliff Kingsbury were part of Brady’s entourage at the Kentucky Derby. Titans coach Mike Vrabel was also with TB12.
…Xander Bogaerts on giving up some cash to stay long-term with the Red Sox: “This is what I know. This is what I enjoy,” he told the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune. “I enjoy being here. I love the organization. A lot of young kids on the team, I want to be there to help and see them grow up — just like me. It’s a tough process when you’re young and I understand that. So I’m just trying to be one of the guys they can lean on. I did think I left some on the table, but that really doesn’t matter. Because who knows if I would have gotten hurt on April 1 and had to be out the whole season? It would have been different then.”
…Great graphic from WEEI.com this week, saluting Boston teams since 2001: 12 titles, 17 conference/league championships, 27 conference/league championship appearances, 54 playoff appearances, 467 playoff games, 262 playoff wins.
…The Yankees got Miguel Andujar back Saturday and Clint Frazier is due Monday, but James Paxton (knee) went on the IL.
…The Islanders scored five goals in their four-game sweep at the hands of the ‘Canes.
…Former Yankee and CC Sabathia batterymate John Ryan Murphy became Sabathia’s 3000th strikeout victim, and, as Sabathia approached home plate after the milestone, said, “I asked him if he wanted me to sign the baseball for him. CC was really the first guy for me who took you under the wing. A lot of veteran guys over there did that, but he was just more interactive with getting all the young guys to dinner, hanging out in the hotel room on the road. CC was the first guy for me to welcome me to the big leagues in that sense and I’ll always be thankful for that and my time over there. CC made a big impact on me.”
…Nick Underhill of The Athletic penned a marvelous piece on new Patriot Joejuan Williams, who overcame a tough childhood – including his mom going to prison – to wind up in the NFL. “He’s a tremendously impressive kid,” Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said in the lengthy piece. “I would say he’s very mature. He’s a great person, which is important. It says a lot about him and the things he’s endured throughout his life.”
…The Bruins signed forward Oskar Steen to a three-year, entry-level contract through the 2021-22 season – with an annual NHL cap hit of $809,167.
…This is the 50th anniversary of the Mets stunning the world by winning the World Series. I recommend Wayne Coffey‘s “They Said It Couldn’t Be Done.” Heading into the Series, Frank Robinson said, “We’re going to whip the Amazing Mets. The World Series might go five or just four … the Birds haven’t decided yet.” Brooks Robinson added, “We’re going to prove there’s no Santa Claus.”
…Pavel Datsyuk, who spent three seasons playing in his native Russia, is now thinking about a return to the NHL. He’s 41 and would only play for the Red Wings.
…Tanking/rebuilding teams continue to have their effect on MLB attendance, which is down again after sinking 4 percent last year. The Blue Jays were down 33 percent in the early going.
…Speaking of the Jays, look for their fire sale of veterans to hit full speed as the season goes on. Ken Rosenthal of The Atlantic wrote, “It’s going to be really interesting to watch the Jays over the next few months because what I believe they’re going to do — what I’m told they’re going to do — is try to trade (Marcus) Stroman, (Aaron) Sanchez, (Justin) Smoak and others to get more young talent in Vladdy’s (Guerrero) age range and service class and then build up that way,”
…Marcus Walden, a rookie at 30, is writing a nifty story for the Red Sox. “I’m just trying to enjoy it, honestly,” Walden said this week. “It’s been a long road. Just being able to come up here and take the ball whenever I get a chance.”
…From ESPN’s Emily Kaplan after the Bruins and Celtics both lost Tuesday: “Today is the first day since May 7, 2010 that the Bruins and Celtics have lost a postseason game on the same day; it had been 3,280 days since the city of Boston experienced two playoff losses on the same day. Hang in there, Boston.”
…Finally, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy actually commented before Saturday night’s game about the waiting Hurricanes (he could have said, “Let’s worry about Columbus first”). Well, they’ve got a good team,” he said. “They play hard; they’re young. They’re on the puck; they’re physical. They’re a good blend, to me, of physicality and speed. They’ve got the goaltending. I think, going in, everyone was concerned is it going to be as good as their opposition. Clearly it has, even with a guy (Petr Mrazek) getting injured.
“It’s a great story, tells you once you’re in, anybody can get going, and they’ve got different guys scoring. It’s not like (Sebastian) Aho has 20 points, a guy that was their main guy all year, but different guys pitching in, their D are obviously active. Full value for advancing.”
Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mscotshay.