Previewing the Celtics’ Opener at Cleveland

October 17, 2017 is finally here! Boston fans can finally see the new look Celtics in action against the hated Cleveland Cavaliers. Boston has always had a tense relationship with LeBron James, but the addition of Kyrie Irving to the C’s adds an interesting wrinkle to the narrative. The Celtics and Cavs are bound to meet in May to fulfill their common goal of winning the East and toppling the mighty Golden State Warriors.

Here are a few things to watch for during tonight’s game

1. Kyrie Irving’s return to Cleveland 

Whenever superstars depart from their teams, there’s bound to be some hurt feelings. Just ask LeBron or Kevin Durant who had to return to Cleveland and Oklahoma City respectively. Fans are ruthless to their former idols, often mocking them and riddling them with insults. Kyrie did not leave Cleveland in free agency, but he did request to be traded from ‘the Land’. Kyrie has also made some unflattering comments regarding Cleveland in the last month, which may not make the Cleveland fans be any nicer to him. It’s bound to be an emotional night in Cleveland, where the Cavs plan to honor Kyrie’s achievements  and his contributions to the franchise. It will be interesting to see how an emotional (and possibly hostile) atmosphere impact Uncle Drew’s performance.

NBA: Preseason-Charlotte Hornets at Boston Celtics
(Photo by Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

2. The Celtics’ defensive performance

During the 2016-17 season, the Celtics were the fourth best defensive team in the NBA. However, this may not be the case this season, as the Celtics shipped Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder to Detroit and Cleveland respectively. Bradley and Crowder were defensive standouts who contributed significantly to Boston’s success on defense. The aforementioned players were traded in order for the Celtics to obtain Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving. Although, Irving and Hayward are heavily skilled on offense, they are not the best defensive players, which may allow opposing teams to take advantage of them. On the bright side, Irving is a definite upgrade over Isaiah Thomas on the defensive end, as his slightly bigger frame will allow him to not get bullied as much as Thomas. The opener at the Cavaliers will be a great opportunity for the Celtics to show their defensive capabilities.

Boston Celtics v Charlotte Hornets
 (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

3.  The Celtics’ depth

As mentioned earlier, the Celtics needed to clear some of their depth in order to obtain their two newest stars. Although the Celtics gained significant upgrades in Hayward and Irving, their bold moves will force them to rely on young wing players such as Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart. All of these players are very talented and athletically gifted, but they are unproven shooters. Another problem that the Celtics have to deal with is their depth at the 4 and 5, as Marcus Morris (another offseason acquisition) will be missing at least the first week of the season. The Celtics will need to find a way to compete with the depth of the Cavaliers, who have reserves that are better than the starting lineups of some teams.

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(Photo by USA Today Sports)

4. Chemistry between Boston’s starting lineup

Chemistry is something that can be instantaneous, but in many cases it can take some time to develop. Boston had an insane roster turnaround in a span of a few months, as only 4 players remain from last season’s 53-29 squad. Brad Stevens has a lot of pieces to work with, and he needs to find a way to ensure that the team is successful. There were some signs of the chemistry being developed during the preseason, but it remains to be seen how the Celtics will perform with their current lineup during the regular season.

Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers
 (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

 

Takeaways from the Patriots’ Week 6 win over the Jets

The Patriots snuck by the New York Jets, winning the game 24-17. The Pats were able to overcome their early struggles in the first half, where they fell behind 14-0.

Here are 5 takeaways from yesterday’s game.

  1. Tom Brady was not as accurate as the Patriots need him to be

      Brady finished the game with 257 passing yards to go along with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. Surprisingly, Brady had a completion percentage of around 50, which is a drop from 75% in Week 5. Throughout the game, Brady missed multiple throws, and some of his attempts were either behind his receivers or very low. The Patriots’ receivers needed to adjust to catch several of his throws. Brady’s initial frustration was evident, when he was caught cursing on the CBS broadcast. Brady eventually was able to help lead the Patriots to victory, but he needs to play better for them to have a better chance of winning in the future.

brady angry
(Photo from USA Today Sports)

2. TB12 and Brandin Cooks are finally building some chemistry

The Patriots’ biggest move of the offseason was trading their 1st round pick to New Orleans for receiver Brandin Cooks. In the beginning of the season, it was evident that Cooks and Brady were still searching for some common ground, as the two of them appeared to have miscommunication at times. Cooks’ breakout game was against the Houston Texans in Week 3, where he had several key catches, including the game-winning touchdown. Cooks followed that game up with a mediocre performance against the Carolina Panthers, where had only 3 catches for 38 yards. In the last 2 weeks, Cooks has recorded 5 catches for 85 yards, and 6 catches for 93 yards. It is becoming clear that he has earned Brady’s trust, and he was responsible for one of the game’s turning points, when he caught a 42 yard bomb to set up the game-tying score.

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(Photo by Seth Wening/AP)

3. The Patriots’ defense is steadily improving

Although looking at the statistics of the Patriots’ defense may show how mediocre they have been playing (due to the fact that Josh McCown was the sixth straight quarterback to record a 300 yard game against them), it is clear that the Patriots’ defense is taking a step forward. In the beginning of the game, they struggled mightily, as they gave up 3 touchdowns, falling behind 14-0. However, the Jets scored their second touchdown with 12:18 left in the second quarter, and did not score again until the 3 minute mark in the fourth quarter. The Patriots’ defense was able to dominate the Jets’ rushing attack, and make McCown uneasy. One of the game’s turning points came in the end of the first half, when Malcolm Butler intercepted McCown, to set up the game-tying score.

butler jets
(Photo by Seth Wening/AP)

4. The Gronk is back!

Rob Gronkowski returned to form in the stadium where his season ended last year. Gronk recorded 6 catches for 83 yards, along with 2 touchdowns. In the closing seconds of the first half, Brady rifled a throw at Gronk in the endzone, which went right through the tight end’s hands. Brady’s trust in Gronk was evident, as they went for the same route on the next play, where Gronk corralled the football for a touchdown. Gronk’s breakthrough moment of the game came 3 minutes into the second half, when Jets’ safety Jamal Adams stumbled while trying to deflect a pass to Gronk, allowing #87 to easily score his 71st career touchdown.

gronk spike jets
(Photo by Abbie Parr/ Getty Images)

5. The Patriots’ offensive line performed much better

One of the biggest worries for the Patriots going into yesterday’s game was the number of hits TB12 was taking per game. The Jets’ defenders made it known that they intended to come after Brady by taking advantage of the Patriots’ weak offensive line. The offensive line was able to protect Brady much better against the Jets, as Brady was sacked zero times, and only absorbed 4 hits. This is a good start for the Patriots’ offensive line who need to carry this momentum forward.

pats o line
(Photo by Keith Nordstrom/AP)

How Much More Can TB12 Take?

Tom Brady is the 20th quarterback in NFL history to play a game after his 40th birthday.  In the eyes of many pundits, 40 is the age when most quarterbacks fall off the wagon, because after all, Father Time is undefeated. Several quarterbacks who neared 40, saw most of their skills significantly decline. For example, Brady’s chief rival Peyton Manning performed at a less than satisfactory level in his final season, only 2 years after he shattered several single season records.

On the contrary, Brady is performing at a level so high, that many analysts believe that he is even better than he was in his mid-20’s. Brady’s mastery was in full display in February’s Super Bowl LI, when he dissected the Atlanta Falcons for over 450 yards, while leading the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. However, an alarming fact that has become quite evident in the Patriots’ last 5 games is the amount of hits Brady is taking.

NFL: New England Patriots at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
(Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

Brady has been sacked 16 times this year (1 more than all of 2016), and has been hit 32 times as well (1 less than all of last year). It is evident that the Patriots’ offensive line is struggling, as stars such as Nate Solder look like shadows of themselves. Last Thursday night, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got after Brady, a far cry from their previous games, where they struggled to get after the quarterback.

Over the last few months, Brady has been promoting his TB12 Method, which he claims helps him avoid injury, due to the ‘pliability’ of his muscles. In an interview with CBS, Brady claimed that he prepares his muscles for the beating he will take in upcoming games (he calls the process ‘prehab’). Brady maybe more efficient and ruthless than he was in his mid-20’s, but getting pounded every given Sunday is going to make it harder for him to succeed. Brady’s unique diet and training may help him perform at a higher level, but his body can only take so much at his age.

tb12 method
(Photo from Simon & Schuster)

With TB12 nursing a shoulder injury heading into today’s game against the New York Jets, it raises the question of how much more can he possibly take?

 

How Things Change…

On July 4, 2017, I was elated to hear that my Boston Celtics had signed Gordon Hayward away from the Utah Jazz. I immediately began to ponder on the ramifications of Hayward’s move.

This is what I came up with

  • Adds an All-Star to the east
  • Gives the Celtics a scoring wing player
  • Gives the Celtics some firepower to compete with LeBron James and the Cavaliers 

  • Relieves pressure on Isaiah Thomas 
  • Makes it risky for teams to double Thomas, as an open Hayward can make teams pay for lax coverage 
  • Adds an effective pick and roll player who is comfortable shooting 3’s. 
  • Helps the Celtics even when Thomas is on the bench (can generate his own shots and can distribute if necessary) 
  • Natural fit in Brad Stevens’ system (familiarity from their Butler days)
  • Has experience in big time games (played in the NCAA championship game)
  • Gives the Celtics a third star 

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    (Photo by Gerald Herbert/ AP)

I am writing this piece nearly 3 months later, and a lot has transpired since that day in July. In late August, Isaiah Thomas was traded to the hated Cavaliers in exchange for a disgruntled Kyrie Irving.

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(Photo by @Cavs/ Twitter)

Now instead of it being Thomas vs James, it is going to be Batman vs Robin, as LeBron will have to deal with his former sidekick in an attempt to remain triumphant in the East. More likely than not, the Celtics will face their former dynamo in May, and hope that he doesn’t have the same playoff magic.

With the 2017-18 NBA season ready to start, there is only one thing to expect, and that is the unexpected…