Keep Doubting Uncle Drew and the Celtics and they’ll make you pay

On October 16, when Gordon Hayward went down with a horrific leg injury, the common assumption was that the sky was falling in Boston. This belief was supposedly cemented when the emotional Celtics dropped their home opener against the Milwaukee Bucks. Critics on channels such as TNT and ESPN used this opportunity to go after Kyrie Irving for his decision to leave Cleveland and LeBron James, as the Celtics seemed to be heading on a downward spiral. On the other hand, it appeared as if LeBron and his Cavs were well on their way to advancing to a fourth straight NBA Finals. 

The funny thing about all of these supposed ‘experts’ who cover basketball is that they always come to the defense of the teams they prefer by saying that it’s an 82 game season. None of these experts who would give LeBron and his Cavs a pass every time they struggled bothered to properly look at the Celtics. They refused to believe that the Celtics had any chance of bouncing back after losing Hayward.

Here we are almost three weeks later, and the Celtics sit atop the NBA with an 8-2 record, after winning eight straight games (which is a record for teams that have started 0-2). Kyrie Irving and Al Horford have played lights out over the last 8 games, with their leadership paving the way for Boston’s success. The Celtics have also enjoyed solid contributions from unsung players such as Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes. In addition, one of the biggest factors for the Celtics’ sustained success over the last month has been the solid play of Jaylen Brown, Marcus Morris, and Jayson Tatum, who have boosted the team with the athleticism and maturity. The Celtics are also the second best defensive team in the league (after Houston), and have limited their opponents to no more than 94 points in the last 8 games. It is ABSOLUTELY impossible to understate the brilliance of Boston’s head coach Brad Stevens, as he has navigated the Celtics to the NBA’s best record after a season-altering play in the opener. 

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics
(Photo by David Butler II/ USA Today Sports)

Boston has beat some quality teams over their eight game winning streak, including the San Antonio Spurs, Milwaukee Bucks, and the Orlando Magic. However, the resilience and mental toughness of the Celtics was on full display when they faced Oklahoma City a few nights ago. The team rallied back from an 18-point deficit, and closed out the Thunder in the fourth quarter, due to clutch performances from Kyrie and Horford. 

New York Knicks v Boston Celtics
 (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

How about those supposedly invincible Cavaliers? The Cavaliers have dropped to 4-6 on the season, after losing games to the lowly New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, and Atlanta Hawks (among others). Without LeBron’s incredible 57-point outing against Washington, the Cavs would likely be looking at a 3-7 record. Kyrie’s absence is clearly being felt in “The Land”, as the Cavs lack a true scorer to go alongside LeBron. Unfortunately, it is impossible to count out Cleveland due to one factor, which is undoubtedly LeBron James. 

lebron crying
(Photo by Geoff Burke/ USA Today Sports)

The Celtics play at Atlanta tonight, and then go back to Boston to welcome several teams, including Lonzo Ball and the Lakers. 

To all the doubters out there, keep doubting the Celtics because come crunch time, Uncle Drew and his crew will make you pay! 

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Takeaways from the Celtics’ win over the Thunder

The Celtics won a thriller in Oklahoma City, defeating the Thunder 101-94.

Here are a few takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. Kyrie Irving and Al Horford took over in the second half

The Celtics fell behind 55-37 in the first half, where they were thoroughly outplayed by OKC and its’ star trio.  A major factor in the Celtics’ first half struggles was the fact that Al Horford and Kyrie Irving combined for only 6 points. This changed in the second half, where the duo combined for 39 points. Kyrie and Horford were clutch down the line for the Celtics with Horford going 5-for-5 in the fourth quarter, and Kyrie icing the game with his five point play, and a number of layups. 

kyrie okc
(Photo by Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY Sports)

 

2. Marcus Morris made his presence felt

Marcus Morris finally had his debut as a Celtic, after missing the first 8 games due to his suspension and knee soreness. Morris may not have had the most impressive stat line, recording 9 points on 3-for-8 shooting, but his impact in the second half cannot be understated. Brad Stevens opted to start Morris in the second half, and he immediately made an impact on defense. His coverage on Carmelo Anthony led to the superstar missing all 6 of his shots in the third quarter, which definitely had an impact on OKC’s offensive output. Members of the Celtics organization, such as Jaylen Brown credited Morris for the aggressiveness he brought to the team in the second half. Danny Ainge even tweeted out that the Celtics would not have won the game without Morris’ contributions.

marcus morris
(Photo by Mark Smith/USA TODAY SPORTS)

3. The Celtics’ young duo of Brown and Tatum continue to impress

Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum were thrust into the spotlight following Gordon Hayward’s devastating injury in the season opener at Cleveland. The young tandem have exceeded expectations over the last few games, as they continue to make an impact scoring and rebounding. Tatum recorded 13 points with 6 rebounds, while Brown had 10 points and 12 rebounds. The contributions of both the young players make it easier for Kyrie Irving and Al Horford to make plays. Both players are displaying maturity resembling veterans, and are continuing to prove their doubters wrong.

jt vs okc
(Photo by Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY Sports)

 

Following their 0-2 start, the Celtics are now 7-2, with 7 straight wins (which is a record for NBA teams that have started 0-2). The Celtics play next at Orlando on Sunday night, which will be a matchup featuring two of the East’s best teams.

Let’s go Celtics!

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See ya later Jimmy G!: Examining the ramifications of the trade between the Patriots and 49ers

The Patriots shocked the NFL world when they unexpectedly traded their backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers for a 2018 second round pick.

This trade will have drastic effects on several different parties.

1. The Patriots

The Patriots shopped around Garoppolo leading into April’s draft, but no one thought that they would actually pull the trigger on any trade involving Tom Brady’s assumed heir. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Patriots traded Garoppolo now, as they were under the impression that it would have been too hard to re-sign him during free agency. This trade all but confirms that TB12 will end his career in a Patriots uniform, as he has outlasted yet another backup quarterback. Although it is foolish to question Bill Belichick’s decision making, the Patriots may be taking a slight risk with shipping their safety net to the Bay Area, as Tom Brady is only getting older, and the team has no idea about how much longer he’ll continue to perform at a high level. The Patriots will reportedly replace Garoppolo by signing former 49ers starter Brian Hoyer, who was TB12’s backup for a few years.

jimmy garoppolo tom brady
(Photo by Winslow Townson/AP)

2. The 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo

The 49ers will obtain a quarterback who has only had 2 career starts, which is not that great of a sample size. Garoppolo’s talent was evident, but that was within the Patriots’ system, where he was able to throw to talented receivers such as Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan. He won’t have the same comfort in the Bay Area, where he will play in a talent-starved 49ers offense. Garoppolo does have a lot of upside, so it’ll be interesting to see how he and Kyle Shanahan work together. Fortunately for the 49ers and Garoppolo, the team will likely have enough cap space this offseason to lock him up with a lucrative contract.

kyle shanahan
(Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

3. Kirk Cousins

This may seem like an odd addition to the people/organizations who will be affected by this trade, but Kirk Cousins’ future may be drastically altered based on how the trade turns out for the 49ers. Kirk Cousins has had a shaky relationship with the Redskins’ front office for years, as they have repeatedly refused to offer him a market value contract. Cousins has worked with Kyle Shanahan in the past, so many analysts were under the impression that Cousins would eventually find himself in the Bay Area. If the trade with the Patriots works out for the 49ers, Cousins may end up with a team that needs a quarterback, and has a lot of cap space (which is a description that fits many teams in the NFL).

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Washington Redskins
(Photo by Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports)

 

Another important fact to note is that Garoppolo’s departure from Foxborough officially ends the ‘Wolfpack’ Era in New England. TB12, Garoppolo, and third-stringer Jacoby Brissett were known as the Wolfpack collectively, and the group has come to an end, as both Brissett and Garoppolo were traded this season (to the Colts and 49ers respectively).

pats wolfpack
Photo from Tom Brady/Instagram

Takeaways from the Patriots’ Week 8 win over the Chargers

The Patriots were able to outlast the LA Chargers by a score of 21-13.

Here are a few takeaways from yesterday’s game

1. The Patriots continue to struggle in the red zone

The Patriots’ woes in the red zone continued, with the team going only 1 for 4. The Pats were able to have long, time-consuming drives, but it is all going to waste if they cannot score touchdowns. The Patriots need to find a fix, as they will need to be able to put points on the board to compete with some high-flying offenses in the league. Knowing Bill Belichick and his staff, they’ll use the bye week to find a remedy.

brady sack lac
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

2. The Patriots’ pass defense is steadily improving

Malcolm Butler, Johnson Bademosi, and Johnathan Jones have combined to form a highly effective ball-hawking trio for the Patriots. Bademosi and Jones have stepped into the spotlight, after becoming starters to replace Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe, and continue to improve week after week. Jones was responsible for stopping the Chargers’ late comeback attempt, when he stepped in front of a throw by Phillip Rivers to seal the deal. Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung have also helped to cut down on the crucial mistakes which plagued the Patriots in the early part of the season. The main question for Belichick is where Gilmore and Rowe will fit in with the newly revitalized Patriots’ secondary.

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(Photo by Matt West/Boston Herald)

3. The Patriots need to work on stopping the run

The Patriots were gashed by Melvin Gordon, who ran for 132 yards off 14 attempts. This comes one week after surrendering over 100 yards against the Atlanta Falcons. One of the most alarming plays of the game occurred when Melvin Gordon took a simple toss play 87 yards for a touchdown. The Patriots clearly need to work on stopping the opposing running backs at the line of scrimmage. They will be tested in the following weeks when they face Marshawn Lynch and Le’Veon Bell.

Melvin Gordon
 ( Photo by Michael Dwyer/AP)

 

Getting Charged Up!

The Patriots will be playing the Los Angeles Chargers today.

Here are a few things to pay attention to during the game.

1. The impact of Dont’a Hightower’s injury

Star linebacker Dont’a Hightower tore his pectoral muscle during last week’s victory over the Atlanta Falcons, and is out for the rest of the season. This injury comes at a terrible time for the Patriots, who were finally starting to find their identity on defense. The Patriots have been shaky against the run in the last few weeks, and will face a tall task, with Melvin Gordon coming to town. Look for Kyle Van Noy and David Harris to take over Hightower’s role on defense.

New England Patriots v San Francisco 49ers
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

2. Performance of the Patriots’ offensive line

The Patriot offensive line has improved greatly over the last few weeks, with TB12 taking less fewer hits over that span. The offensive line will be tested this week, as the Chargers have 2 highly skilled pass rushers in Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa who have 8.5 and 7.5 sacks respectively. In order for the Patriots to have a chance of winning, the offensive line will need to keep Brady on his feet.

Tom Brady
 (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

3. Questions at cornerback

Stephon Gilmore was signed in the offseason to a 5 year contract worth $65 million. Gilmore hasn’t played like the number one corner he was paid to be, as he has been responsible for several defensive mishaps, and has given up several big plays. Gilmore is questionable for today’s game, but it is fair to wonder if Bill Belichick will pick Gilmore over Johnson Bademosi, who has shown that he is capable of being a starter.

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 (Photo by Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)

 

Prediction: Patriots 28, Chargers 17

 

Takeaways from the Patriots’ Week 7 win over the Falcons

Similarly to the first 3 quarters of Super Bowl LI, one team dominated throughout last night’s game. The Patriots were able to take care of business, easily defeating the Atlanta Falcons 23-7.

Here are a few takeaways from last night’s game

1. The Patriots’ defense was aided by several unsung heroes

Kyle Van Noy, and Johnson Bademosi may not be household names, but the two of them were vital in allowing the Patriots to stop Atlanta’s high flying offense. Van Noy was acquired from Detroit last season, and has steadily improved since then. He was the defensive signal caller when Dont’a Hightower was sidelined earlier this year, and has shown his grit throughout this season. Last night, he had several key tackles, including a drive ending tackle on Taylor Gabriel at the one yard line. Bademosi was a special teams standout who was thrust into the starting lineup due to injuries sustained by Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe, and had the game of his life, covering Julio Jones and other Falcon receivers.

van noy tackle
(Photo by Charles Krupa/AP)

2. Dion Lewis and the Patriot rushing attack are back!

The Patriots had their best rushing game of the year, racking up 162 yards on the ground. The Patriots continued their practice of constantly rotating their running backs, with Lewis, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, and James White all receiving touches. Lewis led the way with 13 carries for 76 yards. It is heartening to see Lewis return to his pre-injury form of 2015, when he shredded opponents. The Patriots should look to carry this momentum forward into their next game against the Los Angeles Chargers, as a successful rushing attack will make it easier for TB12 to dissect opposing defenses.

dion lewis falcons
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

3. TB12 was magnificant

Brady returned to form after a shaky performance against the New York Jets, going 21/29 for 249 yards and two touchdowns. Brady constantly dissected the Falcon’s overmatched defense, and he was able to make Atlanta regret going for it on fourth down in the waning moments of the first half, when he drove the Patriots down the field to make the score 17-0. Brady’s sole mistake of the game was an interception thrown to Robert Alford, which was wiped out due to a roughing the passer penalty.

tb falcons
(Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

4. The Patriots’ red zone efficiency can’t be overlooked

Although the Patriots played an incredible game in all three phases, one worrying aspect is their lack of success in the red zone. The Patriots got into the red zone 6 times, but only scored 2 touchdowns. The Pats’ offense was easily able to drive down the field, but constantly struggled to finish off their drives. They were lucky that the defense was able to dominate Atlanta’s offense, as merely scoring field goals was enough to close out the game.

james white falcons
(Photo by Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports)

BONUS: How beautiful were those Color Rush uniforms?

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(Photo from the AP)

The Rematch

At one point in Super Bowl LI, the Atlanta Falcons led the Patriots 28-3, with a 99.99% chance of winning the game. However, the Patriots started to gain momentum when James White scored a touchdown to reduce the deficit to 28-9. This opened up the floodgates for the Patriots who rattled off 31 unanswered points to win the game 34-28 in overtime.

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(Photo by Simon Bruty/SI)

Ever since that fateful night in Houston, the Falcons have been ruthlessly mocked with memes and jokes featuring 28-3. Tonight they have an opportunity to exact revenge on the Pats, and possibly put the Super Bowl behind them. Oddly enough, both teams are struggling going into tonight’s game. The 2016 Falcons featured a high-octane offense, and the Patriots had the league’s best scoring defense. This year, the Falcons are struggling to close out games, and the Patriots are giving up a great amount of yards and points.

This game can prove to be a turning point for the season of both teams. For Atlanta, closing out the team that shocked them in February, may be the spark they need to perform better (their last two games featured them losing after having halftime leads). For the Patriots, shutting down a very good offense with a banged up defense may be the catalyst for them to turn the page on their early-season struggles.

 

ryan brady
(Photo by ESPN)

Will the Patriots remain triumphant or will Atlanta finally exorcise their late game demons? Either way, it’s bound to be a thrilling night in Foxborough…

COLOR RUSH!

Tonight when the Pats take on the Atlanta Falcons, they will be doing so wearing their Color Rush uniforms. As an uniform fanatic, I truly believe that this uniform is the best one in the Patriots’ closet. There’s just something about the traditional red and white stripes that pops out from the navy blue base. It harkens back to the beautiful AFL throwbacks, which the Patriots have ceased to wear due to an idiotic decision by the NFL (the NFL believes that it is dangerous for players to wear more than one helmet per year, even though equipment managers frequently have to replace helmets due to damage sustained during games). 

New York Jets v New England Patriots
 (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Robert Kraft has made it clear that he will not be getting rid of the so-called ‘Flying Elvis’ logo any time soon, but a possible compromise could be made. The Color Rush uniform proves that a combination of the two distinct styles the Patriots have utilized is actually effective. With that in mind, the Patriots should make their Color Rush jersey their permanent home jersey, with the addition of the white throwback pants. They could then bring back a red alternate, that would appease fans, and stick under the NFL’s current (and mind-boggling) guidelines.

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This is how my proposed uniform combination could look (this was created using Madden NFL 17)

I have nothing against the Patriots’ current uniform combos, as they are the symbol of the team’s success over the last 15 years, but red, silver, and blue is not the right color combination for a team known as the Patriots.

Life is Fragile

Gordon Hayward’s devastating injury during Tuesday’s game was not how the Celtics’ season was supposed to start. Danny Ainge’s gutsy moves during the offseason were going to make the Celtics finally surpass LeBron and his Cavs. Although the Celtics did show great resilience against Cleveland, it would be foolish to say that the trajectory of their season hasn’t been altered.

hayward injury
(Photo by Tony Dejak/ AP)

Gordon Hayward was the marquee free agent of the 2017 offseason. He was courted by the Utah Jazz (his team, at the time), Miami Heat, and the Celtics, and eventually signed a 4 year contract with the Celtics for $128 million. Hayward had been a star with Utah for 7 seasons, and this was going to be the year where he would help lead his new team to greater heights.

The circumstances surrounding Hayward’s injury help to show us that life is very fragile, and that we can never predict what will happen to us in the future. The game between the Cavaliers and the Celtics started with anticipation surrounding Kyrie Irving’s return to Cleveland, and took a drastic turn after the injury to Hayward. The gruesome sight took the air out of Quicken Loans Arena, as the people in the building forgot their allegiances; opting to instead pray for Hayward. TNT’s broadcast of the game featured several members of the Cavaliers’ bench jumping up in shock after seeing the sight on the floor.

As Charles Barkley noted during TNT’s broadcast of the Cavs-Celtics game, the saddest thing about Hayward’s injury is that it happened during a play he has probably done more than a hundred times. Hayward’s injury is a reminder that athletes are human just like the rest of us. Even though they may display superhuman feats during games, freak accidents can upend their lives. Many NBA players, such as Dwyane Wade recognized that injury is an unfortunate part of the game, and that it can happen to anyone at anytime. Constant training and conditioning can help players improve their strength, but in Hayward’s case, it didn’t help prevent his ankle from fracturing.

hayward
(Photo by Winslow Townson/AP)

Instead of helping the Celtics get to their goal of hoisting the Larry O’Brian Trophy in June, Hayward will need to be working hard in rehab in order to come back stronger than ever. An entire season has been dashed, due to one awkward landing.

Life is truly fragile after all…

Examining the impact of Gordon Hayward’s injury

Many Celtics fans were optimistic about their team’s chances of dethroning the Cavaliers in the East, due to the addition of offensive dynamos in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving. Unfortunately, the storyline drastically changed for Boston, merely minutes into their season opener in Cleveland, when Gordon Hayward gruesomely fractured his left ankle.

hayward injury
(Photo by Tony Dejak/ AP)

Hayward’s injury was so graphic that several members of the Cavaliers recoiled when seeing the shocking sight. It’s heartening to say that the Cavaliers and their fans showed extreme sportsmanship during the situation, by supporting and applauding Hayward while he was being carted off the court. The Celtics appeared to be shell-shocked after Hayward’s injury, falling behind early by as much as 18 points. However, in the second half they showed resolve, and even led in the closing moments of the game. The Celtics’ comeback attempt came up short when Kyrie Irving’s missed a fade-away 3 pointer over his former teammate LeBron James.

Here are some of the direct effects of Hayward’s season altering injury.

1. Kyrie Irving will need to showcase more leadership for the Celtics to be successful

When the season started, most fans were under the impression that the Celtics would thrive under the leadership of both Hayward and Irving. With Hayward out for at least a few months, the Celtics will need to rely on Irving’s leadership to move forward (due to their young nucleus). One common criticism of Kyrie is that he cannot lead a team by himself, due to the Cavaliers’ struggles from 2010-2013. However, the Kyrie Irving of 2017 is a different animal, who has the opportunity to prove his doubters wrong.

kyrie vs cavs
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

2. The Celtics will need to rely on their young wing-players to replace Hayward’s production

The Celtics’ young core of Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Jayson Tatum performed admirably against the Cavaliers, with Brown leading the team with 25 points, and Tatum having 10 rebounds. Smart was also aggressive on both ends of the floor. Kyrie Irving and Al Horford will need to rely on these 3 wing-players to fill in for Hayward. I believe that the trio silenced their doubters (including me), and that they need to play even better for the Celtics to play at a high level this season.

tatum cavs
(Photo by Tony Dejak/AP)

3. The Celtics may not have the depth to beat the Cavaliers in a best of 7 series without Hayward

The Celtics nearly beat the Cavaliers last night, after overcoming an overwhelming deficit and a devastating injury. The Celtics proved to the rest of the league that they cannot be overlooked, with or without Hayward. However, the Celtics may not have the depth or experience to win a 7 game series against a disciplined team such as the Cavaliers. As a Celtics fan, this is tough to admit, but seeing the crucial mistakes they made last night, they have to seriously improve if they want to topple the Cavs in the East.

cavs celtics 1
(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE)