What a confluence in Boston yesterday. NBA and NHL playoff games, and the Red Sox. All we needed was the NFL draft moved up a week, and we could've had a total situation.
The day ended well, with the Bruins rolling Montreal to go two up and the Sox beating Baltimore for their first three-game winning streak of the season. They have issues of their own, but the Celts must be dealt with first.
First, I don't want to hear another word about Kevin Garnett. As Rick Pitino would say, he's not walking through that door dressed to play until October.
Personally, it doesn't matter to me whether he's on the bench or not - that's a media-made issue. He got in guys' faces the first half (and he's damned good at it - he had Glen "Big Baby" Davis literally in tears earlier this season), then retreated to the locker room for the second half. Maybe he thought, with his team nine points down, he was being counterproductive. I can tell you from personal experience he was in a bad position - the summer I blew out my knee playing volleyball, I spent the rest of the summer at the other end of the beach after I recovered enough to navigate the sand on crutches - I didn't need the fun I was missing in my face, and didn't go back until I was physically ready to play again the next year.
And the Celts went 18-7 without him, including some pretty good road wins (San Antonio, Atlanta). While I agree with most of the pundits who claim the KG-less Celts won't get by Cleveland in the conference finals (unless LeBron goes down), this is not a woeful team without him. Big Baby grew up with the extended playing time. Leon Powe is back after an injury, too, so they shouldn't hurt too badly inside (and the return of Brian Scalabrine for Game 2 tomorrow might help, too).
But where was the defensive intensity yesterday? Yeah, Derrick Rose was terrific, but he shouldn't be throwing down 36 points against this team, KG or not. There was too much professional laziness yesterday - how could the Celts leave the lane unguarded for a Rose drive in the last minute of regulation?
And Paul Pierce and Ray Allen...were they just standing around waiting for Number 5 to join them? Pierce did come on after a lousy first half, but bricking the potential winning free throw with 2.6 seconds left in regulation was not Truth-like. And Allen...1-for-12 shooting. He left the eye at home.
If Celtics fans thought everything was a fight last year...they had to go seven games with Atlanta in the opening round, but the Hawks did not lay a glove on them at the Garden. Now, the boys will have to do something they didn't have to do against another young, hungry, hot team...steal a game on the road.
Three words, Green. Bring. The. Defense.
Last night was a little more fun. The Bruins laid a convincing 5-1 beatdown on Montreal, and played 100 percent better than they did in Game 1, which the Canadiens dominated for long stretches.
So far, this is playing the opposite of last season, when the Bruins managed just one overtime point against Les Habs in the regular season and went up 3-0 in the first round before Boston rallied to force a Game 7. This year, the Bruins have owned Montreal in similar fashion. They just need to slam the door if they get a chance.
Not that there aren't a couple of clouds on the horizon. Defenseman Matt Hunwick is done for the season after yesterday's emergency spleen removal, and Milan Lucic is at the mercy of the league after drawing a match penalty in the kind of third-period mixup you pray to avoid with a big lead.
Yes, the Sox crawled out of the basement last night and wiped out a 7-0 deficit Friday, but the readings are still quite mixed. The pitching hasn't been consistent yet, and we've got another case of WBC fever, with Daisuke Matsuzaka complaining of a tired arm. Jonathan Papelbon is 4-for-4 closing, but hasn't exactly dominated.
I'll feel much better than the offense when somebody other than Kevin Youkilis and Jason Bay steps forward (although J.D. Drew rang the past couple of nights). Big Papi has been a big, black .186 hole in the heart of the lineup - no homers. Jacoby Ellsbury? Tough to be a pest when you're batting .217. Dustin Pedroia? At .234, MVP hasn't had an RBI since leading off the season with a home run.
Then again, they could have the Yankees' problems.
And we have another triple bill tomorrow - the Sox' annual Patriots' Day morning game (served with a side of Boston Marathon), and two playoff clashes at night.