This Week in Boston Sports - 3/2/2011
Published: Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Updated: Thursday, March 3, 2011 14:03
The Bruins smothered the Flames last week, beating them 3-1 in Calgary. After some recent lackluster games in goal, Tim Thomas stood strong in the net, blocking 28 of Calgary's 29 shots. Milan Lucic scored two goals, one in the first minute of the game to give Boston the early lead. Thomas remarked that this goal aided his performance in the game, saying it "definitely helped a lot. It gives us confidence. When we're starting out and playing with a lead, you can play a little different game. It helps you relax." The other goal came courtesy of Brad Marchand in the third period.
Any player who returns to play his hometown team in front of his family and friends dreams of being the star of the game. This was the reality for Lucic as he scored the winning goal in the Bruins win over the Canucks at his home rink in Vancouver. Lucic grew up in the area and was able to put the Bruins ahead 2-1 in the third period and assist Patrice Bergeron in the final goal to give Boston the 3-1 win. Not only that, but Lucic's number 27 was entered into the Ring of Honor by his former team, the Vancouver Giants. "It's a perfect ending to a perfect couple days here in Vancouver for myself," Lucic said after the game. "From start to finish, it's been a hell of an experience. It's great to see our whole team battle the whole night to get that win."
Back from the All-Star weekend interlude, the Celtics were refreshed and came out strong, beating the Golden State Warriors 115-93 in Oakland. The Warriors made the Celtics work for this win, which involved them constantly hustling and running up and down the court for all four quarters. Rajon Rondo had a stellar night with 19 points and 15 assists. Not only was his ball-handling noteworthy, but his presence as a leader was felt on the court as well. "I thought Rondo, leadership-wise . . . he was a coach on the floor tonight," said coach Doc Rivers. "He was terrific." Garnett led the team in scoring that night with 24 points. Sadly, this would be the last game for the Celtics as we knew them.
In what would turn out to be the biggest shake-up for the Celtics team since the monumental Ray Allen deal in 2007, the team's ever-daring President of Basketball Operations, Danny Ainge, dealt Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City in exchange for center Nenad Krstic and forward Jeff Green, who, coincidentally, was a former Celtics draft pick and was given up by the team to acquire Ray Allen. Ainge also sent Semih Erden and Luke Harangody to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Marquis Daniels to the Sacramento Kings. After Boston lost to the Denver Nuggets 89-75 the night of the trade deadline, it was evident that fans and players alike were initially hit with disappointment and sadness upon hearing the news of the trade. Kevin Garnett was devastated. On the brink of tears and wearing a black suit that made him look like he had just come from an actual funeral, he muttered, "It feels like we lost a family member," We lost Semih, we lost Luke today…today is a very difficult day." He said that it was definitely a distraction that played a part in their loss to Denver. Pierce was also saddened by this loss. "It's a difficult time when you see one of your good friends and teammates go," he said. "That's probably the most difficult thing about this business, seeing a friend and teammate go, but you have to understand it's a business and things of that nature happen."
Now, before this turns into a special edition rant of "What were you thinking, Danny Ainge?!" let's discuss the benefits of this trade, because there are plenty. Perkins was going to be a free agent at the end of the season and was going to be asking for more money than the Celtics could give him. After tearing a ligament in his knee during the NBA Finals last year, Ainge wasn't sure that Perkins was going to be a sound $10 million per season investment. Perkins was going to be asking for about twice the $22 million for four seasons that Ainge was putting on the table. Even so, upon hearing the news that he was leaving Boston, Perkins "was real emotional, crying," said Nate Robinson, who tried to console Perkins by reminding him that his buddy will be right there with him. "I told him he's not alone. ‘We're going together. It's not like you'll be by yourself." Erden went out with a touch of gratitude and a bit of uncertainty, saying, "I'm surprised, but it is what it is. I thank the Celtics fans. This is my first NBA trade, so I don't know."
This trade also shows that the team has faith that Shaquille O'Neal will be healthy enough for the playoffs after missing the past seven games and counting with an inflamed right Achilles tendon. It proved to be difficult for coach Doc Rivers to play both Shaq and Perkins at the same time, and Shaq is the better of the two. In the case of Daniels, he suffered a spinal cord injury a few weeks ago, leaving no backup for Paul Pierce whose average game minutes are high and could wear him out for when he is needed the most.
The other side of this is what the Celtics are getting in return for this fairly significant loss. The new members of the family, Green and Krstic, look promising for a team looking ahead to Banner 18. Both are passionate and are ready to help the Celtics win another championship. As we welcome them to Boston, we say goodbye and thank you to Garnett's and the rest of the team's "brothers for life." They brought us riveting playoff games, "Shrek and Donkey", and a trophy, and we wish them well.
In their first game as a new team, the Celtics managed to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 99-92. After a slow start, it seemed that the team realized it was possible for them to win without their former teammates. After falling behind 47-40 by halftime, Boston powered back in the second half, scoring 34 points in the third quarter and 25 in the fourth for the close win. Not only did they show they could have success without Perkins, Robinson, Erden and Daniels, but they also proved that they could play well with their new teammates. Krstic scored nine points and grabbed six rebounds in his 21 minutes of playing time, and Green also had seven points and one rebound in his 17 minutes. The rest of the team played with tenacity and showed that wounds were finally healing. Pierce finished with 24 points, Allen with 22 and Garnett, who seems to be the one reeling the most from the trade, put up 16 points and snatched 11 rebounds. This performance was reassuring, as it was not certain how the new guys would blend with the close band of brothers, but they seem to be off to a good start.