Basketball Bits #1: What do the Celtics need to win it all?

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This year’s NBA off-season will be pivotal for many teams across the league. Going into free agency, I see no clear favorite to win the NBA Finals. Even the Warriors could fall out of contention if Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and DeMarcus Cousins all leave as free agents. A handful of big names will be on the open market, and whoever dominates in free agency should have a good chance to win it all. Even teams who struggled mightily in 2018-19 like the Knicks and Lakers have the chance to jump into title contention with the help of a strong off-season.

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The Celtics are in an interesting situation. Last season, they were expected to be serious title contenders with the return of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward from injury alongside the rise of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and others. But Kyrie Irving did not mesh well with the team, and he grew to dislike Boston. The expectation going into the season was that Kyrie Irving would return to the Celtics on a long term deal or at least 1 more year on his player option before agreeing to a long term deal. But now, Irving is expected to leave for Brooklyn, LA, or somewhere else.

With Irving expected to leave, what do the Celtics need in order to stay relevant and a potential championship contender? Do they need a star who will be a better leader than Kyrie was? Do they need multiple stars? Will they just roll with the young core of Tatum and Brown? Do they have enough cap space to do what they need to do? I researched every NBA champion in history and looked at how many star players they had, using 20 PPG as criteria for stardom. I also included the number of 25 PPG and 30 PPG scorers, as these players are less common. Check out my research as well as some Basketball Bits.

The Research

Basketball Bits #1_ Stars on Championship Teams – Sheet1

The “Basketball Bits”

  • The NBA has 73 champions all-time
    • Just 14 of 73 (19.2%) lacked a 20 PPG scorer
      • 35 of 73 (47.95%) had 1 20 PPG scorer
      • 22 of 73 (30.1%) had 2 20 PPG scorers
      • Just 2 of 73 (2.7%) had 3 20 PPG scorers:
        • The 2017-18 Golden State Warriors (Stephen Curry, Thompson, Durant)
        • The 2016-17 Golden State Warriors (Curry, Thompson, Durant)
    • 47 of 73 (64.4%) lacked a 25 PPG scorer
      • 20 of 73 (27.4%) had 1 25 PPG scorer
      • 6 of 73 (8.2%) had 2 25 PPG scorers
    • 67 of 73 (91.8%) lacked a 30 PPG scorer – nobody had more than 1
  • The Boston Celtics have won 17 championships:
    • None of them had a 30 PPG scorer
    • Only 2 of 17 (11.8%) had a 25 PPG scorer
    • 5 of 17 (29.4%) lacked a 20 PPG scorer
    • 8 of 17 (47.1%) had 1 20 PPG scorer
    • 4 of 17 (23.5%) had 2 20 PPG scorers 
  • In the last 25 years:
    • Only 3 teams (12%) have won it all without a 20 PPG scorer:
      • The 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs (Most recent)
      • The 2007-08 Boston Celtics
      • The 2003-04 Detroit Pistons
    • Only 10 teams (40%) have won it all without 25 PPG scorer
  • In the NBA’s first 25 years:
    • 6 teams (24%) won it all without a 20 PPG scorer
    • 21 teams (84%) won it all without a 25 PPG scorer
  • Between 1972 and 1994 (everything else):
    • 5 teams (21.7%) won it all without a 20 PPG scorer
    • 16 teams (69.6%) won it all without a 25 PPG scorer
  • There are only 3 franchises who have ever won a championship with a 30 PPG scorer:
    • The Chicago Bulls (4 times, Michael Jordan)
    • The Milwaukee Bucks (1 time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar)
    • The Golden State Warriors (1 time, Rick Barry)

The Verdict

In this era, the Celtics will need at least one consistent 20-25 PPG scorer to win a title, and a second would be helpful. You never know, maybe Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can be our guys. But I think pairing Tatum and Brown with a star point guard or star center would be ideal. The Celtics did win with a handful of 15-20 PPG scorers in 2008. That was in the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett/Ray Allen era. I doubt they can put something like that together again in today’s NBA with all these stars on the open market.

But if they sign one star player that can allow Tatum and Brown to thrive while that player still puts up 25 PPG, such as PG Kemba Walker, PG D’Angelo Russell, or C Nikola Vucevic, this team could have the chance to contend. They aren’t going to pull the trigger if it puts their future at risk. I don’t think that will happen. But do they have enough money? Do these stars want to sign in Boston unlike Kyrie Irving? I can’t wait to find out, and I’ll be releasing my predictions soon.

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NBA 2019 Playoff Predictions: Who Finally Takes Down Golden State?

I know, it’s a little late.  But before we know the surefire winner of each series, I figured I’d share my NBA Playoff bracket.  Believe it or not, I don’t think Golden State’s championship-winning streak will stay alive.  But who could possibly beat the Warriors?  See my prediction below:

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I have the Celtics taking down the Warriors in a 7-game series.  But how will they get there?

I think Boston should easily take down the Pacers.  With Victor Oladipo out of the picture, I cannot see Indiana doing much in these playoffs.  Kyrie Irving ruined the Celtics’ chemistry during the regular season, but I don’t think this will be as apparent in the playoffs, where the whole team will be motivated and willing to do whatever it takes to win it all.

The Pistons may have Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond to lead them, but that won’t be enough to pull off a series upset over Giannis Antetokounmpo and a powerful Milwaukee Bucks team.  However, the Celtics have multiple star players on their roster who will outplay Greek Freak’s teammates and help Boston win in the Eastern Conference semifinals.  I can’t see anyone getting in Toronto’s way until they face the Celtics.  The Raptors are by far the strongest team in their quadrant of the bracket, led offensively by Kyle Lowry and defensively by Kawhi Leonard.

But I do see Boston riding the momentum and overcoming adversity as they take down Toronto.  Their roster is stacked, so if the Celtics are on the same page motivation-wise and get off to a strong start (as I see them doing against Indiana), they could be a threat to Golden State.

The Warriors should not have a hard time with Western Conference opponents though.  Besides Boston, the Warriors are the only team I have sweeping their first round opponent.  The Rockets won’t be as easy an opponent as the Clippers, but a healthy Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant will outplay James Harden and Chris Paul.  I could see the Thunder, KD’s old team, making a run as well.  Portland is known for playoff choking, and Denver’s lack of experience could come back to haunt them.  I think they should be able to handle the San Antonio Spurs, but the Thunder might be a bit much for an inexperienced team like the Nuggets.

Golden State, however, will end Oklahoma City’s run.  With Marcus Smart back and the team united by a common goal, the Celtics should have a chance at Golden State and I’m staying optimistic with this bracket.  I’m sick of Golden State winning, and it would make it even better if the Celtics could be the team to finally beat them.  As long as Kyrie Irving’s selfish ways don’t come back to haunt them, the Celtics should have a chance.

That’s all for my playoff predictions this year.  Stay tuned for more Celtics playoff coverage soon.

Silver Medal APEX Celebration with the Lagasse Family

On Monday, I met up with Tyler Lagasse and his mom, Deb at APEX Entertainment Center to celebrate his Special Olympics USA Games silver medal win in Seattle.

We met at the sports simulators and I introduced Tyler and his mom to my mom and my brother, Ryan, who could not make it for the Seattle trip.  After that, APEX set us up for a round of golf, and we went live on Facebook.  The video includes Tyler’s first swing at the APEX golf simulator.  Here’s a sneak peek:

Click here for the full video.

We had the entire evening planned out as seen below:

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Since it was my first time playing any kind of golf (besides mini-golf), it took at least five swings for me to get the hang of it.  But with the help of Tyler, I caught on fairly quickly.  Since he is a lefty, he was especially helpful because watching him was like looking in the mirror.  By my 10th swing, I was driving the ball almost 100 yards in the simulator.  We only had time for a couple of holes, and Tyler dominated, but I still really enjoyed it.  I’m definitely eager to give the golf simulator another try, and you never know, golf could be a sport I could try to play.   Of course my broadcasting career will still come first.

Here are some highlights of Tyler and I at the golf simulator:

After finishing at the golf simulator, we had a few minutes to spare before our reserved private go-kart race.  We decided to take each other on in a Boston Celtics basketball arcade game.  I beat Tyler in this one, totaling over 60 points in two rounds.  After our basketball competition, it was time to race.

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Tyler, Ryan, my dad, and I were all in the race.  We walked back to the go-kart track and put our head socks on.  We watched a video on safety rules before putting our helmets on and getting settled in our go-karts.  They started the race very soon after.  After passing Tyler and my dad early, I knew I was doing well.

I beat Tyler by 0.119 seconds with a fastest lap of 38.015, but came in 2nd to my dad, who’s best time was 36.339.  Tyler’s fastest time was 38.134, putting him in 3rd place.  He was a few seconds ahead of Ryan, who had a best time of 41.441.

Here are the results, taken directly from an email I received from APEX after the race:

Thank you for your visit.

Here you can find your results.

Results for Session 30 at 5:18 PM

   Heat overview Best time
1. killerken (my dad) 36.339
2. AndrewrBSM (me) 38.015
3. tyler (Tyler) 38.134
4. Ryguy335YT (my brother) 41.441

Unlike last time, APEX gave us a sheet with more detailed results:

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Here are some highlights from the race:

After that, we headed upstairs to the classic arcade section.  We started by facing off in a few rounds of Olympic bubble hockey.

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In the first game, there were no goals for a long while, but Tyler beat me 1-0 after I accidentally shot it into my own goal.  However, I won the second game, and we both wanted a rubber match.  In the rubber match, it was a close one, as Tyler led 2-1 with seconds to go (It requires a goal to end the game).  If I scored, it went to overtime.  But after a lot of good defense, Tyler scored the game-winning goal to make it 3-1.

Tyler wanted to play Aerosmith pinball after that, one of my favorites.  It wasn’t my best day in pinball, but even if it was a good day for me, I wouldn’t have beat Tyler.  He had never played pinball before but he was a quick study, scoring over 30000 points, earning the multiball, and a winning a free game.  Here are some highlights from the arcade:

Tyler played out his free game, but after that, it was time to bowl.  Tayla Normandie, who was assisting Sean MacLaughlin in hosting us for the day, booked us for candlepin in Lane 1.  It turned out that Tyler’s mom had Tayla as a cosmetology student at Greater Lowell Tech, where she teaches.  She recognized Tayla at that point and caught up with her.  After that, Tayla gave us our bowling shoes, and Tyler, Tyler’s mom, my dad, and I began bowling.

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We were given full Pit Stop Tavern service from the lanes, and I ordered a delicious chicken tender and french fry meal with BBQ sauce on the side and a Sprite to drink.  Tyler ordered buffalo chicken tenders, one of his favorites.  I topped Tyler in our first round of bowling.  I had my best round in a while, including a strike on Frame 2.  But my dad had his best round in a long time with a strike of his own and a grand total of 93.  Between all of our competitions, Tyler and I were tied 4-4.  So we decided to play one more game of candlepin bowling, just the two of us.  I was off to a strong start, but Tyler just got better as he played, and he came back to beat me in a close one.  Check out some of the highlights from the bowling alley:

Below are all our competition results from throughout the day.  It is almost like we played each other in a mini Olympics.

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It turned out that there was a podium at the APEX, so before we said our goodbyes, Tyler and I took a picture on the podium based on our results from throughout the day.

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I’d like to thank Marcus Kemblowski, Sean MacLaughlin, Tayla Normandie, Tyler Lagasse, Nick Savarese, and Deb Lagasse for making this experience possible.  Stay tuned for more experience posts soon, including coverage of the Special Olympics Massachusetts golf championship.

This post is also available on the Flutie Foundation blog.

 

Fast Breaks Make An Impact, Celtics Comeback Against Knicks

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The Celtics had a miraculous 105-104 victory over the New York Knicks last night.  Isaiah Thomas had an amazing 32 points plus 8 assists, Jae Crowder had 20 points and 8 rebounds and Evan Turner got 21 points off the bench.  Jared Sullinger added 11 rebounds.  For the Knicks, Carmelo Anthony had 30 points and Robin Lopez had a 12-point, 12-rebound double-double.

The Celtics were trailing 58-53 at the half.  Between a lot of back and forth, the Celtics struggled to take a lead most of the games, and it started very dull, no big runs.  Despite Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder getting some pretty good points on big baskets and fast breaks in the first half, it lacked action.

The Celtics made the game more exciting in the 2nd half.  After a slow start to the 3rd, the Celtics broke away with a 15-2 run to take a 4 point lead after trailing 65-56 with 10 minutes to go.  Big three pointers by Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley highlighted the run.  By the end of the quarter, the Knicks had began a run of their own.  The Knicks had an 87-81 lead.

Through most of the fourth, the Knicks were cruising still.  They had an 100-92 lead with for minutes to go.  All of a sudden, the Celtics began to break away.  Basket after basket, the Celtics were coming back.  Jae Crowder shot a really impressive fast break layup that got everyone cheering.  They now had cut the Knicks lead to one point.

After a ‘Melo score, the Celtics got back to work.  First Jared Sullinger, then Evan Turner on a quick pass from Isaiah Thomas!  The Celtics led 103-102.  After a Knicks score, Avery Bradley made the game winner!  One of the most amazing plays was right after that, a strong block to prevent Carmelo Anthony from answering with a Knicks buzzer beater.  Ending the game on a 15-4  run, the Celtics took care of the Knicks 105-104.  Now for the stat wrap.

 

Stat Wrap

  • The Celtics have won 13 straight at the Garden, and 5 straight overall.  What a streak!
  • Isaiah Thomas, Evan Turner and Jae Crowder combined for 73 of the C’s 105 points.  That’s 69.5%!
  • In their home streak, they have gotten 100 points in each game!
  • The Celtics and Knicks were tied in the standings on January 12th.  Since, the Celtics have gone 19-6 and the Knicks have gone just 5-18!  That’s also the last 25 games for the Celtics!
  • The Celtics outscored the Knicks 30-4 in fast break points.
  • The Celtics are 38-25 and the Knicks are 25-38 after this game.  They have opposite records and best of all, the Knicks are 13 games behind their rivals!

 

The Celtics travel to Cleveland after a 5-0 homestand.  Last time, they beat the Cavs at the Garden in another miracle.  Can they keep it up and repeat in the Cavs rematch against Team Green?

Bradley’s Buzzer Beater Leads Celtics to Victory

The Boston Celtics were trailing most of the game but came back to win 104-103 in the second half.  Evan Turner had a good night, earning himself a double-double (19 points, and a career high 12 rebounds), plus 6 assists.  Isaiah Thomas also contributed with 22 points, and Tyler Zeller had 16.

LeBron James also got 30 points for the opposing team, J.R. Smith had 20 and Kyrie Irving contributed 19 points plus 6 assists.  No Cavaliers players had double-doubles like Turner despite King James’ scoring showcase.  James honestly goes untouched cause the NBA wants to further promote their best stars like James, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry.

For most of the first quarter, the Cavs were destroying the Celtics, making some amazing plays.  The Celts were down by 12 or 13 most of the 1st quarter, and they were down 32-20 when the quarter ended.  To make matters worse, Isaiah Thomas rolled his ankle.

The Celtics were still trailing in the second but began to come back.  Thomas was back but LeBron James took one little rest and Kelly Olynyk led the Celts on a 12-2 run.  It was easier on the defense without King James but he returned and the Cavs scored 5 unanswered points.  By the end of the half they had cut the lead from the end of the first half, trailing just 49-43.  From the end of the 2nd to the start of the 3rd, they went on a quick 21-4 run. The run lasted from 6:24 left in the 2nd to the first two minutes of the 3rd.

The scoring started to slow down at that point.  Kevin Love in the meantime hobbled off the court with an ankle injury.  By the last two minutes of the third the Cavs were once again up by six.  They had made a run gaining 9 on the Celts through most of the 3rd.  But Love being in the locker room wouldn’t help.  At the end of the 3rd, it was 73-65 Cavaliers.  The Celtics regained control in the 4th quarter.

With Kevin Love out, the Celtics started the quarter with a 10-0 run.  LeBron James ended it with some go-ahead free throws.  9 minutes left.  There wasn’t much scoring besides free throws for the few minutes after that.  The Celts had another 11-2 run from the 6.5 minute mark to the 4 minute mark.  After that, the Cavs surged back with 9 straight points to regain the lead, 93-92.  This is where it began to get exciting.

The Celtics tied it up, but the Cavs answered with two 2-pointers and a free throw.  The Celtics answered with a basket to make it 99-96 Cavs .     The Celtics called time with eighteen seconds to go.

The last 18 seconds were especially exciting.  The Celts were down 101-96.  The Celtics got the ball and Bradley missed a long three pointer off the in-bounds.  Sullinger quickly rebounded it and tossed it to Jae Crowder who made an amazing three pointer from the corner that cut the Cavs’ lead to two points with 8 seconds left!!  The Celtics immediately fouled and the Cavs made both foul shots.  103-99 Cavs.  The Celtics called timeout again to take the in-bound in Cavaliers territory.  Evan Turner got the layup in just four seconds!  This time the Cavaliers fouled on Turner’s layup.  With the Celtics down by two Evan Turner had to intentionally miss the shot.  The ball tipped off two Cavs players before going out of bounds. The Celtics had the ball with 4.1 seconds left.

The officials gave the ball to Jae Crowder in front of the basket they were shooting into, then he passed it to Isaiah Thomas and Thomas tossed it to Avery Bradley.  Bradley bobbled the ball momentarily but regained control with enough time left to attempt a shot.  Avery Bradley released the 3-point buzzer beater from the corner and made it as time expired!!!!

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Avery Bradley shooting the game winning buzzer beater

The Celtics came back from a six point deficit at the half to defeat the Cavaliers 104-103!  They were trailing by thirteen to start the first quarter and slowly but surely they came back to win!!!   The Celtics advance to 30-22, while the Cavs fall to 35-14.

The Celts next play today at 1, hosting the Sacramento Kings.  Hopefully I can catch that game.  The Celtics are on a 3 game winning streak and have won 8 out of their last 9.  Can they keep it up?

Celtics Win 2nd Straight vs. Suns, Great Weekend for Boston?

A great weekend is already brewing for Boston sports fanatics.  The Celtics had a nice win over the Suns last night, the Bruins beat the Sabres 4-1, the Pats are bound to pounce on the Chiefs for revenge, and the Red Sox and Joe Kelly avoided arbitration with a one year deal.  The Celtics and B’s also play again today.

The Celtics won 117-103 over the Phoenix Suns.  This is the first time Boston has played the Suns since Isaiah Thomas was on the Phoenix Suns.  Thomas and Marcus Smart, who had his first career triple double, the youngest to do it (10 pts, 11 assists, 11 rebounds), helped them to a big win.  The game puts the C’s at 21-19.

Marcus Smart shooting for two of his 10 points that contributed to his triple-double.

Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder also each contributed 17 points, Kelly Olynyk scored 21 despite limited court time, Thomas gave in 19, and Jared Sullinger had a double-double.  So the offense was still booming like the 4th quarter of Celtics-Pacers, when they came back by constantly doing this pattern, steal, pass, run, shoot.  It got them 4 unanswered baskets.  This time, they had such a big lead at half that 2nd half struggles didn’t matter, they still held a lead.

The start was rough.  While the Suns got to shoot more, the Celtics got more 3 pointers, and they led 16-12 with 6 minutes to go.  The struggles continued throughout the quarter, but they piled up enough extra points to lead by 7 by the end of the 1st. They grabbed on to their largest lead when they went on a 22-5 run to end the 1st half.  Kelly Olynyk led the offense during the run, responsible for 13 of the 22  points.  Olynyk finished the game leading the offense with 21 points and 9 rebounds, most of it coming from just that portion of the game.  He made four 3-pointers, three during the second quarter.

In the 3rd quarter, the Suns began to come back.   For most of the quarter, they did it slowly, but they had a short 11-4 run at mid-quarter.  The Suns just barely outscored Boston 31-28 in the quarter.  They continued the slow comeback, but the Celtics were just scoring too much overall for the Suns to get too much of a move on.  They went from a 21 point to a 14 point deficit but still won, 117-103.

Mirza Teletovic and Brandon Knight had decent games combining for 38 points, but the Celtics had 4 players with at least 17 points, the Suns only had two that had at least 16, one that had 22.  Two players on the C’s had double or triple doubles, Phoenix had none.  Best of all, Isaiah Thomas was second in points for us, with 19.  If he did the same for Phoenix, but not us, we would’ve lost 122-98.  So the Isaiah Thomas trade was surely worth it.  The Celtics are beginning to look like a young, but powerful playoff team.  Their conference is the easier one to do well in, and their division’s only competitors are the Raptors, and possibly the Kristaps Porzingis led Knicks.  The season continues on.

Also be on the look out for my NBA mid-season report soon.  I will include playoff predictions, and will be preparing it after the Celts play their 41st game today.