MIAMI — Picked-up pieces while noting the loss of Jim Brown, the greatest football player who ever lived …
▪ The shocked and chagrinned Celtics have taken their significant talents to South Beach after metaphorical victory cigars exploded in their faces in two games at the Garden.
The eighth-seeded Miami Heat outhustled and outplayed your not-as-good-as-they-think-they-are Celtics and now the Eastern Conference finals move to Miami for Game 3 Sunday night at Kaseya Center.
It’s put up or shut up for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who were named two of the league’s top 10 players in 2022-23. Tatum and Brown carry themselves as if they have won multiple championships. By Boston Celtic standards, they have won nothing. And this is supposed to be their time.
The two Jays were no-show, turnover machines in crunch time of the stunning losses (the C’s are 4-5 at home in these playoffs). Boston blew a 13-point lead in Game 1, and led by 12 in the first minute of the fourth on Friday. Tatum did not record a basket in the fourth quarter of either loss. Brown on Friday was ineffective at both ends, scoring a mere 16 points and getting torched by the undrafted likes of Caleb Martin and Duncan Robinson.
Meanwhile, we had clueless Grant Williams foolishly getting in the face of Miami assassin Jimmy Butler. Great idea. Butler calmly took over the game with a series of daggers, several over the mouthy Williams.
After the game, when Brown was asked if Williams “poked the bear,” the Celtics star answered, “Next question.”
“Yeah, it’s mental from the standpoint of who can make the right plays at the right times,” acknowledged Boston’s overmatched rookie coach, Joe Mazzulla, “ ... who can make the simple plays, who can win those details and those margins. So, yeah, it’s definitely mental.”
Before the start of this series, something called ESPN Analytics stated Boston had a 97 percent chance of beating the Heat. How do you like your Celtics today?
Pantsed thus far by Miami’s Erik Spoelstra (ever think about maybe double-teaming Butler, Joe?), Mazzulla explains the late-game collapses with, “I thought we got good looks.’’
No! The Celtics’ late-game offense is a joke. It’s one-on-one hero ball, and lately has featured Tatum and Brown kicking the basketball around like it’s recess at Franklin Elementary School. Boston didn’t score a basket in the final 3:52 of Game 2. The C’s were outscored, 29-14, over the final nine minutes. That’s a home-court collapse.
I am reluctant to say this series is over. The Celtics certainly have enough talent to beat this incredibly tough Miami team. But thus far, the Heat have been worthy warriors.
The 2004 Red Sox lost the first three games of the ALCS to the Yankees, dropping Game 3, 19-8. It was utterly hopeless. But those Sox were tough. And won four straight.
Do these Celtics have that toughness? Or are they going to slink into spring in disgrace?
▪ Quiz: Name the two Major League Baseball teams with the longest playoff droughts. Both last appeared in 2014 (answer below).
▪ In late October of 1955, star running back Jim Brown and the Syracuse Orange came to Fitton Field at Holy Cross and destroyed the undefeated Crusaders, 49-9. Brown ran back two punts for 96 yards, two kickoffs for 61 yards, intercepted a pass, and kicked three extra points. Mike Barnicle was a young boy in Fitchburg and remembered, “my dad returned home after attending a Saturday football game between Holy Cross and Syracuse and told me he’d just watched the greatest football player ever. And he was absolutely correct.” (For the record, Brown was accused of violence against women multiple times.)
▪ Bruce Cassidy has Vegas in the Western Conference finals. You know what Bob Lobel would say.
▪ Mystics and statistics: It did not go unnoticed around here that the Celtics’ key surge in Game 7 against the 76ers was a 28-3 onslaught.
▪ Go see “It Ain’t Over,” a wonderful documentary on the life and times of Yogi Berra. It’s a great story of an American icon.
Did you know that Berra enlisted in the US Navy at the age of 18 and was in a rocket boat off Omaha Beach on D-Day? Did you know that he was a three-time MVP, won 10 championships as a catcher for the Yankees, and struck out only 12 times in 656 plate appearances while batting .322 with 28 homers and 124 RBIs in 1950? That he caught both ends of 117 doubleheaders? That he was married to Carmen Berra for 65 years?
Directed by Sean Mullin, with Yogi’s granddaughter, Lindsay, as executive producer and narrator, the film can be seen only in theaters. It is playing now at the AMC Boston Common, Kendall Square, Liberty Tree Mall, and Framingham 16. I have watched it twice and it is outstanding.
Everyone will come away with their own favorite moment from this American tale. Mine was learning the origin of the name of Berra’s youngest son, Dale, who had an 11-year big league career as an infielder with the Pirates, Yankees, and Astros.
It turns out that Carmen was in the stands at Yankee Stadium, seven months pregnant, watching Don Larsen throw his World Series perfect game (Yogi was catching) on Oct. 8, 1956. When Dodgers pinch hitter Dale Mitchell came to the plate representing the 27th and final out, Mrs. Yogi pledged that if Larsen completed the perfect game, she would name her child “Dale” regardless of the gender.
Mitchell took a third strike, Yogi jumped into Larsen’s arms, and Dale Berra was born on Dec. 13, 1956.
▪ New Red Sox Math promoted by Boston’s Baghdad Bobs: Last place is actually not a bad thing because the American League East is such a strong division.
▪ The Sox’ philosophy since 2019 — cutting costs while providing the illusion of contention when just about everybody (who’s not tanking) makes the playoffs — is best demonstrated by Corey Kluber pitching for the Sox instead of Nathan Eovaldi or Michael Wacha.
The Sox wouldn’t pay Eovaldi, who is 33, so he got a two-year, $34 million deal with Texas. The Sox replaced him with 37-year-old Kluber, who’s here on a one-year, $10 million deal. Going into the weekend, Eovaldi was 5-2 with a 2.83 ERA while Kluber was 2-5 with a 6.51 ERA.
Kluber is matched up vs. Wacha Sunday. Wacha, who is 31, was deemed too pricey after going 11-2 with a 3.32 ERA for the last-place Sox in 2022. He didn’t want another one-year contract so he left for a four-year deal with San Diego, where he is 4-1 with a 4.06 ERA.
▪ Bottom line matters even in bobblehead giveaways: On select days, the Sox give bobbleheads to their first 7,500 patrons. The Yankees hand out the freebies to their first 18,000 ticket-holders.
▪ Cooler Squared. Adrian Gonzalez, a.k.a. “The Cooler,” has co-founded the Calidad Beer Company, which makes a Mexican lager and is based in Greater Los Angeles. So now you can buy beer sold by The Cooler, pack it away in your cooler, crack it open to watch your favorite team lose, then explain that the whole thing is merely “God’s will.”
▪ Who says Boston is a tough media town? Here’s the Philadelphia Inquirer’s opinion-page headline the day after the Sixers lost to the Celtics: “Joel Embiid, James Harden Choke in a Gutless Showing in Boston.” One day later, Doc Rivers got the ax.
▪ When Rivers was fired, Rasheed Wallace took the opportunity to pile on, saying, “You got to be able to get somebody that the players respect. He doesn’t make adjustments … You got to be more than a locker room manager … When we were in Boston, we [players] were the ones that made the adjustments … Nobody wanted to believe me. Now look.”
Thanks, Sheed. But what I remember best was you being out of shape for the entire 2009-10 season. You said you were going to “play yourself into shape,” but that never happened.
After Kendrick Perkins went down in Game 6 of the Finals, you were forced to start Game 7 at the Staples Center. The Celtics took a 13-point, third-quarter lead, but you were winded, had cramps and back spasms, and needed to rest for key stretches. And the Celtics lost by 4 points.
▪ Anyone who wants to organize a hate-watch party should know that Deion Sanders’s first game as Colorado coach (vs. TCU) will be nationally televised on Fox Sept. 2.
▪ Excuse me, but how does Tom Brady work the Fox broadcast booth if he’s part-owner of the Raiders? We are told Fox “blessed” the potential arrangement and its obvious conflict. Swell. Why not have Jerry Jones serve as color commentator for the next Cowboys-Commanders game?
▪ If you are a New England sports fan of a certain age, you will appreciate being reminded that Oklahoma State sent Boston both Jerry Adair and Marcus Smart.
▪ Pass Go! and collect $200 if you knew that Pat Riley’s wife (Chris), Danny Ainge’s wife (Michelle), and Bill Walton all went to Helix High School in San Diego.
▪ Portland Sea Dogs manager Chad Epperson thinks Connor Wong will be the marquee player in Chaim Bloom’s return for Mookie Betts.
▪ The long drought continues: The last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup was the 1993 Montreal Canadiens.
▪ Ime Udoka looked rested and ready when he took his seat at the NBA draft lottery in Chicago Tuesday.
▪ Holy Cross greats Bob Cousy and Ron Perry Sr. are campaigning to get their former coach Lester “Buster” Sheary posthumously inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame.
▪ Happy to see that “Scores” opened in the sacred space that housed “The Fours” for so many precious decades on Canal Street outside Boston Garden.
▪ Sad to see that locally based Rockport Shoes may be shutting down. Red Auerbach wore Rockports for the last 30 years of his life.
▪ RIP Don Denkinger, a nice man and a good umpire. Also infamous. Denkinger made the call that blew the 1985 World Series for the Cardinals and also worked home plate for the Red Sox-Yankees “Bucky Dent Game” in October of 1978.
▪ Quiz answer: Angels and Tigers.