Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spare Neurons - 03/20/2013

by Hal Bent, BostonSportPage.com

I had to bring back my "Spare Neurons" column because it seems to motivate me to write more than "Boston Sports Daily" did, not that I know why, but maybe my brain likes the idea of actually firing off thoughts.  Who knows?  Who cares? Off with the masks; on with the show!

BOSTON CELTICS:
The pain of Monday night's prime-time loss to the Lebron James led Miami Heat still burns in the gullet of Boston sports fans even today.  An out-of-this-world effort by Jeff Green went for naught as the Celtics gave up a lead of 17 points and 13 points as late as the fourth quarter.  The Celtics came out aggressive, hitting the boards and running the ball at Miami so as to limit their stellar half-court defense (and giving the rest of the league a blueprint how to compete or beat the Heat); however, turnovers doomed the Celtics in the end as the Heat got back in the game by converting the numerous turnovers into points and squeaked out the victory.

Any team that puts the ball in forward Paul Pierce's hands as often as the Celtics do, are going to have a lot of turnovers. When Miami forced Boston into half-court sets, they were able to come back under the strength of that defense.  The Celtics ran well without forward/center Kevin Garnett and, considering that there was no Rajon Rondo either, the team acquitted themselves well in the face of a superior opponent.  

That said, going out with KG and losing to New Orleans after blowing a lead, falling down 9 in the fourth and coming all the way back to lose on a tip-in with a second left is painful.  Another loss that should be a win will be felt in the summer when the seeding for the playoffs comes in.  The Celtics, hardly a championship contender this season, continue to frustrate in the win-loss column.  

Without Rajon Rondo due to injury, the Celitcs have a season for rebuilding the other 14 on the roster. Getting guard Avery Bradley back in the game this season has shown what a valuable performer he is keying the running game with his defense and making the team better just being on the court. Jeff Green came out strong building off his huge 43 point performance against Miami, and promptly crashes in the second half against New Orleans, not scoring at all. Having missed all last season after heart surgery, he still has a pass for inconsistency. But not for much longer.

This Celtics team is difficult to figure, as their key transition is still in progress.  The team has building blocks in Green, Rondo, Bradley and hopefully Jared Sullinger when he gets healthy next year.  That is a good core to build around as the end of the Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce era is inching closer to its inevitable conclusion.  I think General Manager Danny Ainge has some good pieces in place, and continuing to find hidden gems in the draft and then finding a free agent to come to Boston as a centerpiece of the team when Pierce and Garnett are gone will be the next piece to find.

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BOSTON RED SOX:
I am slowly starting to really like the 2013 Boston Red Sox.  This bullpen is a beast and should be dominant.  Starting pitchers Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have been lights out this spring giving hope that the rest of the pitching staff can compete and push this team toward 90 wins.  John Farrell has stepped in at manager and completely removed the horror of Bobby Valenitine and 2012, giving spring training a calm, Terry Francona-like vibe that seems to have restored some confidence. 

Even with designated hitter David Ortiz injured, this offense has plenty of pop and the big question is rookie outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr.  Bradley has looked like a star this spring, and with Johnny Gomes sliding to DH in Ortiz's absence, Bradley seems the logical fit for left field. The issue is that the front office wanted him in AAA all season and even if he comes up at some point, they want to follow Tampa's model of mid-season rookie call-ups as to not burn a year of pre-arbitration. That said, he has been fantastic and better than advertised this spring.  This is a tough call for the Red Sox, but the kind of good problem a team likes to have. 

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