DID Brad Stevens pull a Bill Belichick on the Greek Freak?
If you follow the NFL at all, you know there’s a general consensus that Belichick, if given extra time to prepare a game plan for an opponent, comes up with something special to stop said opponent.
Sunday, given a week to prepare for Giannis Antetokounmpo, Stevens, regarded as one of the better coaches in the NBA, had a plan for limiting and frustrating The Freak. And the Celtics did just that in a convincing opening victory over Antetokounmpo and the Bucks.
With big man Al Horford doing much of the heavy lifting and others helping against the MVP candidate, Freak scored 22 points, but was just 7-for-21 from the floor and was a minus-24 for the game. He was 4-for-16 from 2-point range.
Horford, who appears to have been properly rested by Stevens because of a balky knee, during the regular season, had 20 points, 11 rebounds and was a plus-8 in the 112-90 rout. He also had a highlight-reel block of Antetokoumpo that showed who was boss in this game.
“What was I thinking? It doesn’t matter what I was thinking,” Antetokoumpo said after the game. “Right now, we’ve just got to focus on playing better. Obviously, it was one of the toughest losses we’ve ever had all season long, especially at home. ...
“Whenever I got in the paint and I (spun) or tried to change direction, a second guy was right there. I’ve just got to go watch tape. If they’re going to play like this the whole series I’ve got to be able to make the right pass and trust my teammates to knock down shots.”
It was, by all ways of looking at it, perfection by the previously enigmatic road team in this opening game. But you have to remember, regardless of what Paul Pierce said (“I think it is over”), it’s not over.
Hall of Famer Bob Ryan pointed out on Twitter Monday: “A word of caution to exuberant Celtics fans: Game 1 1985 Finals. Boston 148 L.A. 114. And how did that series turn out? If you don’t know, check it out. There’s a reason why it’s called a series. Adjustments usually get made. But do enjoy the moment.”
George Hill said, “They hit us in the mouth.” Now, let’s see if the Bucks can hit back Tuesday night.
By the way, Antetokoumpo is 14-for-38 (.368) in his last two playoff games against Boston, both Celtics wins.
Sometimes, even the best players in the world make mistakes.
Patrice Bergeron is one of the best players in the hockey world and Sunday, after three times failing to finish off the goal that would have given the Bruins a 2-0 lead in their series with the Blue Jackets, Bergeron was guilty of a foolish penalty that led to Columbus tying the series heading home for Games 3 and 4.
“You work hard to put yourself in a good position throughout the game, tight game, obviously it’s on me, try to avoid that penalty and that’s it,” said Bergeron, always the ultimate pro. “It’s a tough loss but we got to move forward.”
With all the focus being on the Bruins’ scoring depth up front, it is the top offensive players who have let them down in the first two games. David Pastrnak, showing his inconsistency, was even doing some third line work in practice Monday.
The Jackets, predictably disciplined under John Tortorella, now have home ice advantage — and at least one Jacket thinks that will be a huge advantage for his team.
“I know it’s going to be a hell of a lot louder than it was here in Boston,” said veteran Brandon Dubinsky.
Monday marked the 33rd anniversary of Roger Clemens striking out 20 Mariners on a chilly night at Fenway Park. But bringing it forward to today, Red Sox fans have to be worried about their current ace as April gets set to turn to May.
Last year, Chris Sale lost four games, counting the postseason. He is already 0-5 in 2019 and the Red Sox are 0-6 in his six starts. His ERA is DOWN to 6.30. His velocity remains down.
Speaking on the MLB Network Monday, Tom Verducci said he spoke to someone who said Sale cannot get people out throwing 91 mph. Not being able to throw harder allows hitters to wait on his outstanding off-speed stuff.
To his credit, Sale doesn’t make excuses. He doesn’t say maybe he didn’t get enough work in spring training. He heaps all the blame on himself, but he finishes April without a win and that has to be a major concern for a team that was 11-17 heading into Monday night’s series opener against the A’s.
“It isn’t easy to swallow now, but hey, we’ll be there,” Sale said. “I know who we are, I know what we’ve got, and we’ll be there.”
Verducci also pointed out that, in the wild card era, 122 teams finished April at under .400. Only eight of them made the postseason. The Red Sox began play Monday night at .393.
The Red Sox got off to their slow start by playing their first 11 and 16 of their first 21 games on the road. A homestand was supposed to straighten things out but they were 2-4 against Detroit and Tampa Bay as Oakland hit town.
From our pal Bill Chuck: “I can’t stop thinking about the #RedSox stat that shows that for the Sox to equal last season’s record (with 17 losses) they will have to win their next 25 in a row.”
It’s almost hard to believe, but heading into Monday night’s game, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rafael Devers had gone 105 and 104 at-bats, respectively (in the regular season) without a home run.
Speaking of Tampa Bay, the Rays went into Kansas City from Boston and were already 4-0 in road series this season. The Rays were 8-1-0 in series overall, the only series loss the three-game sweep at the hands of the Red Sox.
As the honoring of John Havlicek poured in through the weekend — and the Bruins and Bucks paid special tribute before their playoff games — Jerry West summed it all up perfectly when it came to No. 17.
Talking to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, West said, “The thing with John, he competed against you at the highest level and he wanted to win badly. But he was always a really nice person. I don’t think that I ever heard anyone say a bad word about John.
“Playing in Boston, with so many great teams and so much success winning titles, the legend of John grew. He improved a lot through his career. It was a sign of how hard he worked at his game. Toward the end of his career, he became a terrific scorer.” “
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.