Celtics Finish Strong

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The Celtics capped off their 110-96 win over the Raptors at TD Banknorth Garden last night in style, with Gerald Green taking a pass off the backboard from Tony Allen and converting a ridiculously athletic one handed jam. The likes of which these eyes have not seen from a Celtics player…ever. Shira Springer says the dunk might stick out to the Raptors as well, who may recall it to memory next week when the two clubs meet up north of the border. At times last night, the Celtics put on a ball movement clinic. Steve Bulpett notes the ball movement was most evident down the stretch of the ballgame as the Celtics put away the Raptors. Shalise Manza Young says that the ball movement and defense of the Celtics was so successful last night that they might want to consider trying to those things again sometime. Bill Doyle notes that the Celtics have been very successful against teams in their own division this season, especially at home. Doug Smith of the Toronto Star has coach Sam Mitchell upset at his team’s inability to control Paul Pierce.

Frank Dell’Apa says that the Celtics made a statement with their passing last night, he talks with Delonte West, who says that the C’s “simplified the game to its basic principles”. Bulpett has Larry Bird weighing on on Tommy Heinsohn’s comments that Paul Pierce could be the greatest offensive player in Celtics history. The Legend is characteristically sharp with his wit, noting that he played nine months a year, while Pierce has usually only played six. Good job by Bulpett calling Bird up and getting his reaction. Scott Souza looks at the Celtics getting the win to remain within possible striking distance of the final playoff spot.

Springer’s notebook has the Celtics shutting down Al Jefferson and his balky ankle for at least the next three games in an attempt to try to get it to heal up. Bulpett’s notebook has more on Jefferson being forced to rest his ankle. Young’s notebook also looks at Jefferson, who is disgusted by his inability to move on the floor and admits it hurts his already shaky defense. Souza’s notebook also looks at ankle sprains, leading with those of Paul Pierce and Kendrick Perkins instead, both of which are much less severe than Big Al’s. Doyle’s notebook has more on Jefferson.

With all the hand-wringing over the departure of Patriots players this offseason, Tom E Curran notes the following:

Since 2001, the Patriots haven't been wrong about letting a player go. Despite much hand-wringing that they would be.

That may end in 2006. But the Patriots track record to date makes that a risky bet to make.

That’s quite a track record, and Curran is in sharp contrast to many members of the media in the region who are resorting to hysterics over the losses of Givens, McGinest, Vinatieri, et al. It seems that most of them simply are not capable of understanding how the Patriots carry out their business, nor are they even interested finding out. Case in point one: Nick Cafardo. The longtime Globe scribe who has made his reputation on getting close to players…too close it would seem as he is incapable of separating feelings from business. For Nick, it’s about the touchy-feeling stuff, such as contacting Vinatieri’s father as he does in this morning’s Globe, no doubt trying to get him to rip the Patriots. The hysterics that have been on the airwaves this week, on FSN and WEEI have been nothing short of embarrassing. John Tomase says that Vinatieri’s new agent, Gary Uberstine appears to have been central in directing the kicker to the Colts. Bill Reynolds says that we saw two examples this week that the relationship between players and teams these days is strictly business.

Michael Felger says that adding Mike Vanderjagt to replace Vinatieri would be a bad, bad move. Tim Weisberg says he is off of the Bill Belichick bandwagon after the decision to let Vinatieri go. Michael Parente reminds the panicked that there is still time this offseason to build the Patriots roster with quality players. Tomase’s notebook has Vinatieri saying goodbye to New England. Curran’s notebook looks at the Patriots re-signing CB Chad Scott.

The Red Sox and Yankees renewed acquaintances last night, and got things off to a testy start, as pitchers from each side took turns drilling batters. Chris Snow looks at the players getting acclimated to the rivalry and there is plenty of Johnny Damon in the mix as you might imagine. Jeff Horrigan looks at warnings being tossed and tempers flaring last night in Tampa. Dom Amore also looks at the one and only spring meeting between the teams. Sean McAdam notes that the Red Sox have a couple of spare parts on their roster at the moment, namely Tony Graffanino and Dustan Mohr, and will need to work out something to address the situation.

Tony Massarotti looks at the Yankees thin rotation which has got to worry Joe Torre, even if he won’t admit it. Horrigan looks at Jonathan Papelbon, who is willing to pitch wherever the team needs him. Massarotti looks at Manny Ramirez, who asked to make the trip and be put into the lineup so he could get some practice batting under the lights. Horrigan has more from Johnny Damon, who continues to be perfectly willing to tell anyone who will listen that the Red Sox pushed him into signing with the Yankees. David Borges also looks at Damon, who is happy to be in pinstripes.

There’s plenty more Red Sox/Yankees coverage as well as stories on Gary Sheffield’s alleged steroid use as documented in the book “Game of Shadows” on the New York Sports Pages.

Snow’s notebook is quite extensive, leading off with a look at Jonathan Papelbon who may start getting ready to work out of the bullpen. He also gives a Juan Gonzalez update and a look at Manny Ramirez’s spring thus far. In the Gonzalez section, Snow quotes the agent for Gonzalez as dismissing rumors that the former MVP had decided to sign with the A’s instead. He says Gonzalez is under contract to the Red Sox. Horrigan’s notebook reports that Gonzalez has signed with the A’s. Who to believe? McAdam’s notebook has Damon toning down the negative remarks toward his former club. Borges’ notebook has more on Papelbon.

Bob Ryan looks at the 16 teams remaining in the NCAA men’s tournament and the makeup of those teams. Zach Roca takes a look at the matchups for this coming weekend. Mark Blaudschun also has a look at the 16 remaining teams, which feature a high number of mid-major schools. Michael Vega looks at the Boston College bench, which has provided a spark in getting the Eagles to the Sweet 16. Mark Murphy looks at BC’s flex offense, which is gathering attention around the country.

Steve Conroy says that the Bruins failures this season can be boiled down to an inability to hold on to leads and finish out teams. Nancy Marrapese-Burrell says that the clock is ticking for the frustrated Bruins.

CBS has Duke/LSU at 7:00 and UCLA/Gonzaga at 9:50.

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