Tatum and the C’s dominate the Cavs to take 3-2 lead in the ECF

Team 1 2 3 4 T
BOS 32 21 23 20 96
CLE 19 23 18 23 83

Jayson Tatum and the Celtics utterly dominated the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, and are now one game away from the NBA Finals after taking a 3-2 series lead. Tonight’s victory improved the Celtics to 10-0 at home in the playoffs.

Here are a few takeaways from today’s game.

1. Bouncing back from Games 3 & 4

The Celtics’ woes on the road continued in Games 3 & 4, as they struggled to gain any momentum against LeBron and the Cavs. In both games, the Celtics dug early holes, as they started off ice cold from the field. For instance, they fell behind by 19 in Game 4, which made it extremely hard for them to come back. Aided by the raucous crowd at the TD Garden, the Celtics were able to start off hot, and take a 13 point lead at the end of the first quarter. 

When compared to the last two games of the series, the Celtics were much more composed, and made better decisions with the basketball. The C’s were able to absorb several Cleveland runs, including a decisive one in the fourth quarter which trimmed their lead to 12 points following a 9-0 run. With about five minutes remaining in the game, it appeared as if the Celtics were reeling after several head-scratching possessions, but a lob from Terry Rozier to Al Horford ensured that the game would not slip away.

2. A star in the making

Jayson Tatum has been absolutely remarkable for the Celtics in the playoffs, and his stellar performance continued tonight. Tatum logged 24 points to go along with 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals. Tatum was clearly the best player on the court for the Celtics and hit a number of key shots throughout the game which helped extend the Celtics’ lead. 

Tatum was thrust into the spotlight following Kyrie Irving’s injury, and his sustained brilliance has the Celtics one win away from a return to the NBA Finals.  

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(Photo by Matt Stone/Boston Herald)

3. Is Lebron tired?

Even though LeBron James had 26 points, it was still an off night for the King, as he had more turnovers than assists (six and five, respectively). LeBron had several careless turnovers which the Celtics benefited from, and it appeared as if carrying the Cavs in the early stages of the game had an impact on his effectiveness. On several occasions throughout the game, it was evident that LeBron was exhausted, which did not help the Cavs at all. 

 This could be attributed to the Celtics’ strategy of throwing several bodies at him, which requires him to exert more energy while driving to the basket. LeBron’s ineffectiveness made it much easier for the Celtics to utterly dominate the Cavs in Game 5. However, the Celtics cannot afford to let their guard down in Game 6, as LeBron will likely come at them with everything he has in an effort to stave off elimination.

LEBRON Game 5
(Photo by Charles Krupa/AP)

Looking ahead: With a victory in Friday’s Game 6, the Celtics would clinch a berth in their first NBA Finals since 2010. However, they must find a way to overcome their struggles on the road in the playoffs, as they are only 1-6 away from the TD Garden. 

 

 

Kyrie opts to undergo surgery on his troublesome knee

After missing the last few games with soreness in his left knee, Kyrie Irving has opted to go under the knife to relieve his discomfort. The procedure has been described as ‘minimally invasive’ by Celtics’ team officials, with no specific timetable for recovery. 

What does this mean?

The Celtics will need to prepared to continue playing without their best offensive player, as it may take time for Kyrie to get back to full strength. The playoffs start exactly 3 weeks after his surgery, which means that he will likely not be able to play. However, if the Celtics can lean on their top-notch defense and the newfound tandem of Al Horford and Marcus Morris, they may be able to advance in the playoffs and give Kyrie enough time to return. 

Get well soon, Kyrie!

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(GIF from GIPHY)

The Pats vanquish the Titans to advance to the AFC Title Game

 

Team 1 2 3 4 T
TEN 7 0 0 7 14
NE 0 21 7 7 35

The Patriots thoroughly dominated the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night, easily winning the divisional round contest 35-14. The Pats fell behind early, but rattled off 35 straight points to help them secure their seventh straight appearance in the AFC Championship Game.

Here are a few takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. Brady is back!

Brady had a shaky end to the 2017 regular season, as he had several uneven performances which featured uncharacteristic mistakes by #12. Brady erupted against the hapless Titans secondary, throwing for over 300 yards and three scores. TB12 looked comfortable in the pocket, and was not sacked by Tennessee. Many pundits in the media wondered how Brady and the Pats would respond to the outside noise regarding the alleged rift between TB12 and Bill Belichick, and the 40-year-old quarterback was able to silence his doubters with a vintage performance. If Brady continues to play at this level, it will be very hard for opposing defenses to stop the Patriots.

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(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

2. The Super Bowl LI heroes strike again!

Back in last February’s Super Bowl LI, the Patriots completed a monster comeback with the help of playmakers such as Danny Amendola and James White, who scored all of the team’s points (other than 2 field goals). Both of them were back at it today, with Amendola corralling 11 catches for 112 yards, and White scoring on both a rushing and a passing touchdown. White was inactive down the stretch for the Patriots during the regular season, and his presence clearly helped the Patriots last night.

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(Photo by the AP)

3. Don’t count out the Patriots defense

Similarly to last year’s Super Bowl squad, the 2017-18 Pats’ defense has been unheralded all season, with most skeptics believing that their supposed inability to stop the run and get after the quarterback would doom them in the playoffs. The Patriots’ defense was dominant throughout last night’s game, as they sacked Marcus Mariota 8 times, and held Derrick Henry to 12 carries for 28 yards. After giving up a touchdown in the first quarter, the Pats didn’t give up a point until garbage time in the fourth quarter. If the Patriots’ defense continues to play like this, they will have a good chance of defending their title.

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(Photo by David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

What’s next: The Pats will play the winner of today’s bout between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Clash with the Titans

The Blitz for Six continues today when the Patriots take on the Tennessee Titans in their Divisional Round matchup. Fresh off their first-round bye, the Pats hope to advance to the AFC Championship Game with a win against Tennessee.

Here are a few things to look forward to entering today’s game.

1. Does experience really matter in the playoffs?

Most of the players on the Patriots are experienced in the playoffs, and were a part of the last 2 Super Bowl runs. On the other hand, the Titans have very few players with actual playoff experience, and are heavy underdogs in Foxborough. However, anything can happen in the playoffs, and the Patriots should be careful to avoid overlooking the pesky Titans.

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(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

2. Stopping the run

The Patriots have struggled stopping the run throughout the season, and have been gashed by prominent rushers such as Le’veon Bell and Kareem Hunt. Today’s task won’t be much easier, with the behemoth Derrick Henry coming to town. Henry pounded through the Kansas City Chiefs last week, totaling over 156 yards on the ground. Henry’s imposing physique allows him to wear down defenses, as shown by the fact that he leads the NFL in fourth quarter rushing. The Pats will also have to contend with the threat that Marcus Mariota presents due to his ability to scramble outside of the pocket. Preventing Mariota from making plays with his feet will make it much easier for the Pats to win the game.

derrick henry.jpg
(Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports)

3. Gronk vs the Tennessee defense

Rob Gronkowski was absolutely brilliant for the Patriots in the last half of the regular season (apart from the season finale against the Jets), as he tore apart opposing defenses. Gronk may be happy with this week’s matchup, after watching Kansas City’s Travis Kelce have his way with the Tennessee defense. Kelce only played for half of his team’s loss against the Titans, but was able to wrack up over 60 receiving yards and a touchdown. Gronk should be able to have a field day if Tennessee gives him room across the field.

brady gronk dr.jpeg
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

PredictionPatriots 34, Titans 18

2017-18 NFL Playoff Predictions

In lieu of my weekly Patriots game previews (due to the Pats’ first-round bye), here is my complete playoff predictions, from the Wild Card Weekend to Super Bowl LII.

(Note that AFC predictions are in red, while NFC predictions are in blue)

Wild-Card Weekend

#6 Buffalo Bills at #3 Jacksonville Jaguars

Prediction: Jaguars

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(Photo by Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

 

#5 Tennessee Titans at #4 Kansas City Chiefs

Prediction: Chiefs

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(Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

 

#6 Atlanta Falcons at #3 Los Angeles Rams

Prediction: Rams

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(Photo by Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports)

 

#5 Carolina Panthers at #4 New Orleans Saints

Prediction: Saints

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(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

 

Divisional Round

#4 Kansas City Chiefs at #1 New England Patriots

Prediction: Patriots

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(Photo by Christopher Evans/Boston Herald)

 

 

#3 Jacksonville Jaguars at #2 Pittsburgh Steelers

Prediction: Jaguars

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(Photo by Logan Bowles/USA TODAY Sports)

 

#4 New Orleans Saints at #1 Philadelphia Eagles

Prediction: Saints

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(Photo via the Saints)

 

#3 Los Angeles Rams at #2 Minnesota Vikings

Prediction: Vikings

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(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

 

Conference Championships

#3 Jacksonville Jaguars at #1 New England Patriots

Prediction: Patriots

New England Patriots v Pittsburgh Steelers
 (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

 

#4 New Orleans Saints at #2 Minnesota Vikings

Prediction: Vikings

vikings playoffs 2.jpg
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

 

Super Bowl LII

#2 Minnesota Vikings vs. #1 New England Patriots

Prediction: Patriots

james white sb
(Photo from the Patriots)

The Pats ground the Jets

The Patriots wrapped up home-field advantage for the AFC playoffs during Sunday’s bone-chilling contest against the hated New York Jets. The 26-6 victory gave the Patriots a 13-3 record for the season, and wrapped up the 2017 regular season on a high note.

Here are a few takeaways from Sunday’s game.

1. Dion Lewis continues to lead the offense

D-Lew had another brilliant game, with 93 yards on the ground and a rushing touchdown, to go along with 6 catches for 40 yards and a receiving touchdown. Lewis has been absolutely dominant over the last month for the Patriots, providing the spark that the offense has needed when TB12 has been less than stellar. Lewis’ ankle-breaking moves, and tackle-breaking ferocity will definitely help propel the Pats to another Super Bowl run. 

dlew w17
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

2. The Pats’ defense had a great game

The Patriots defense carried forward its’ momentum from last week’s win over the Buffalo Bills, and didn’t give up an offensive touchdown for the second straight game. They only gave up 40 rushing yards (to 4 different rushers), and got after Bryce Petty throughout the game. Sunday also marked the debut of the former Steeler, James Harrison who had 5 tackles, 2 sacks (which occurred on the game’s final two plays), and a forced fumble which was recovered by New York. Hopefully Harrison will help ignite New England’s pass rush in the playoffs.

james harrison vs jets.jpg
(Photo by Charles Krupa/AP)

3. Looking ahead to the playoffs

As many pundits have noted, the Patriots have won their last 2 games in convincing fashion without looking very dominant on either side of the ball. This can be attributed to the injuries suffered by several of their key players. For example, the Patriots have been without Rex Burkhead (knee), Chris Hogan (shoulder), and James White (ankle), who are all important cogs in the offense. The defense has also been playing without Kyle Van Noy, and Alan Branch. Having a first-round bye will give all the injured Patriots more time to heal, and get back on the field by January 13th for the divisional round. The Patriots may also activate wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell who has been on the IR all season due to a knee injury. Mitchell was a key contributor during last season’s Super Bowl, and may help to make the Patriots’ offense more explosive. 

james white sb
Photo from the Patriots