Good morning, Brian Beaupre here filling in for Bruce on vacation. The weekend started off with promise, as the Celtics pulled out their best win of the season on Friday night against the Cavs (and the stripes), and the Bruins bounced back on Saturday with a strong home win against Chicago, however, both suffered tough losses yesterday. We did receive a bit of good news on the Red Sox front last night though with news of Jon Lester close to a 5-year, $30MM deal to stay in a Sox uniform potentially through 2014.
Finally, we say goodbye to the sports abyss, which for me ends this week with the Big East/ACC tournaments, transitioning right into Selection Sunday. Let’s get started.
Well it looks like the injuries finally caught up to the green yesterday in a tough home loss to Orlando, as Rajon Rondo was a late scratch due to the ankle injury suffered Friday night, and Glen Davis had to leave after rolling an ankle as well. The Celts fought hard to grind their way back into this game, and were it not for an Eddie House three that basically hit the bottom of the net, Ray Allen’s missed three after closing to within three, or the atrocious off-the-ball foul call on Powe with 30 seconds left, the Celts could’ve pulled this one out. Not to be that insufferable homer complaining about the officials, but some of the calls this weekend in the Celts games were mind-boggling, especially Friday night’s 38-12 advantage in free throws for Cleveland, and the refs giving Rashard Lewis two free throws to expand the lead to five and basically handing Orlando the game with 20 seconds left. But I digress. Mark Murphy looks at the tough loss for the C’s and wonders whether Rajon Rondo’s absence, if extended, will be more difficult to overcome than any other injury. Frank Dell’Apa has the Celtics finally waking up in the final quarter, but too late to dig out of the hole they dug themselves. He also has Doc Rivers second-guessing his decision to start Stephon Marbury over Eddie House. Shalize Manza Young has the Celtics struggling offensively without Rondo is the lineup. Lenny Megliola has the Celts not using injuries as an excuse for the loss, rather the lack of defensive intensity. Bill Doyle looks at Doc’s decision not to start Eddie House and how it impacted the slow start for the offense. Steve Bulpett looks at the excellent play of Ray Allen down the stretch, as he single handedly put the green on his shoulders in the final frame. Jessica Camerato highlights yesterday’s game as the toughest game for the Celts to win without KG.
Marc Spears has the injuries really starting to pile up for the Celtics, creating some serious lineup issues for Doc Rivers during a critical stretch of the season. Steve Bulpett looks at the timetable for Kevin Garnett’s return, with the Celts indicating he may be held out beyond next weekend and the 3-week timeframe given a few weeks ago. Paul Flannery has more on the injuries coming at the worst time for the Celts. Frank Dell’Apa’s notebook has more on the potential return of KG, and Paul Pierce entering some elite company yesterday, passing Robert Parish as the third-highest scorer in Celts history. Steve Buckley has Pierce excited about his place in Celtics history, but more proud of the fact his name is attached to a championship along with the all-time greats. Young’s notebook has more on Doc’s second-guessing, KG’s injury, and Pierce’s milestone. Doyle’s notebook looks at the Celtics struggles at home on Sunday’s during these early tip-off’s. Scott Souza has a piece on how Doc Rivers continues to get on Leon Powe, despite his recent play.
The Bruins lost a tough one on national TV yesterday behind some, er, less than stellar goaltending from Manny Fernandez. Stephen Harris has the Rangers more lucky than good yesterday in their win over the Bruins, with Fernandez suffering from some unlucky bounces. Kevin Paul Dupont has the Bruins feeling good about their play depsite the struggles of Fernandez, but ultimately unable to overcome a tough game by their goalie. Harris’ notebook has more on Manny’s struggles, and highlights the “moral code” of fighting displayed by Shawn Thornton yesterday during his fight with ex-Bruin Colton Orr. Mike Milbury was loving this on the air. Dupont’s notebook has more on the gesture from Thornton, as well as Byron Bitz playing some center in yesterday’s game, earning praise from his head coach. Joe Haggerty discusses the challenges the Bruins face for the stretch run, as their eastern conference foes also improved at the trade deadline.
In a continued effort to lock up young, homegrown talent on the rise, we received word yesterday that the Sox were close with Jon Lester on a 5 year, $30 million extension, with a club option for 2014. This is one of those stories that makes you smile when thinking back to what Lester has had to overcome at such a young age, and how quickly he has established himself as an elite pitcher, as the financials around the deal suggest. As broke by Yahoo! Sports, Amalie Benjamin references the story and gets some vague comments from the tight-lipped sox brass on rumors of the deal. Alex Speier has more on Lester staying true to his desire to stay in a Red sox uniform for the long haul. Ron Borges’ notebook has more on the potential extension for Lester, as it represents the largest deal ever given to a pitcher with only two years of service time. Joe McDonald has more on the potential extension for Lester and Theo’s continued efforts to show money to homegrown talent that buys into the Red Sox system. John Tomase has Pedroia and Youkilis in Toronto excited for Lester’s new deal. Jon Couture has more on the rumor of Lester’s extension.
Borges has Julio Lugo remaining confident in his abilities and making his case to be the starter both on and off the field. Dan Barbarisi has more on Lugo not pleased with needing to compete with Jed Lowrie for the starting shortstop job, but hoping it brings out the best in him. I’m not quite sure what Lugo has done around here to think that the SS job was going to be handed to him, or that he’s better than a utlity player, which he so vehemently opposes in this piece. Maureen Mullen has more on Lugo with something to prove and confident he will bounce back. It hurts to wrap my head around the fact that Lugo is making $8MM/year with the Sox and has produced 95 RBI’s in two seasons, while players like Bobby Abreu (100 RBI last year) and Adam Dunn (40+ HR in past 5 seasons) will make $5 and $10MM, respectively, in 2009. Ouch. Tomase has New England leading Team USA in a rout of Venezuela last night in the WBC, with Pedroia, Youkilis, and RI-native Chris Iannetta providing the offense. Adam Kilgore’s notebook has Brad Penny working his way back from bad habits he developed last year trying to pitch through injuries, and Justin Masterson continuing to pitch well this spring.
In a shameless alma mater plug, Holy Cross defeated Colgate yesterday to advance to the Patriot League Championship Friday at American. That’s all for today, Bob Ekstrom will be back this afternoon with some links to get you through the day. Please shoot me any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you back here on Thursday.