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March 10, 2017     Post-Gazette
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PAGE 12 BOSTON POST-GAZETTE, MARCH 10, 2017 REMINDER - THIS EVENT IS SATt IRDAY!!!! O Happy St.-Patrick's Day from.Great Boston Area Irish Fighters! 4, Irish Tommy Connore 4, 6 The Leprechaun 4, 6 Irish Johnny Hasson 4, 4, Irish Danny Long 6 4, Irish Larry Carney 4, 6 Irish Billy McCluskey 4, 6 Irish Jimmy Connors 6 6Irish Johnny Coiley 6 IIrish John L. Sullivan 6 The North End Athletic Association (NEAA) will be holding a benefit Hockey Game against the Boston Bruins Alumni, including Ray Bourque, Rick Middleton, Bob Sweeney, Al Pederson and Terry O'Reillyl Raffle prizes include: $7,500 or more in 50/50 raffle Coach the Bruins for one period Kowloon Gift Certificate Raflie prizes willbe drawn at the After Pary. Winners need hot be present to win. The game will be held on Saturday, March 11, 2017, at 5:00 pm at Steriti Rink on Commercial Street in Boston's North End. There will be an After Pary immediately following the game at Filippo Ristorante, 283 Causeway Street, Boston, beginnig at 7:30 pm. Proceeds will benefit Boston Children's Hospital and NEAA. For game info, call Madison at 781-853- 0029 or email bian adisonprint.eom To purchase tickets or to make a do- nation, make checks payable to: Boston Bruins Foundation and mail to: John Romano, c/o NEAP,, 247 Burlington Ave., Wilmington, Mass. 01887. Children under 12 are free. For more information, email jromano45@ gmail.eom. HOOPS and HOCKEY in the HUB by Richard Preiss It isn't often in the NBA that the defense can be publicly proclaimed for winning a game. After all, at a level of the game where contests are often high scoring affairs, does real tight defense really matter? Yes it does. And it can be the reason games are won or lost. A case in point was the Celtics memorable 103-99 victory over the reigning NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers at the Garden back on March 1st. It was a game to circle on the calendar and it didn't disappoint. The contest was probably the best home game of the regular season between two teams who may very well meet in the Eastern Conference Finals in the spring. Just how good was it? Well, the game featured 24 lead changes and was tied 19 times as each side briefly held the upper hand on numerous occasions. As it does in a fair number of NBA games, this one came down to the final minute -- or rather to the final 38 seconds, during which the Cs effectively shut down the Cleveland scoring spigot, blanking the Cavs during those final 38 ticks on the clock. On a night where LeBron James would record his seventh triple double of the season and the 49th of his career with 28 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, it was all about shutting down King James and teammate Kyrie Irving (also 28 tallies} as those precious last seconds went by. And indeed it happened. After Irving scored on a driving reverse layup with those 38 seconds left, the Cavs would not score again in the most crucial moments of the game. Some 10 seconds later, Isaiah Thomas, an excellent 91 percent from the line this year, would sink two free throws to give the Cs 101-99 lead with 28 seconds remaining. And then came the biggest stop of the year. For the next 23 seconds, the Cs threw up an iron curtain. No one could penetrate the defensive wall of the Celtics. King James tried but could not; several other also made attempts but to no avail. Finally, with one second remaining on the 24 second clock, Deron Williams let fly a three-point attempt from 25 feet out. Boston's Jae Crowder gathered in the rebound, was fouled by James, and then calmly sank two free throws to give the Cs a four-point, 103-99 lead with just four seconds left, effectively putting the game out of reach and sealing the deal on a sensational triumph by the Celtics. Postgame, the corridors seemed like a receiving fine as coach Brad Stevens made the long walk from the Celtics locker roomto the media room for his press conf ence. It seemed as though everyone stationed in the corridors wanted to shake his hand. Stevens indicated that as the team prepared for the game, he was more concerned about quality of play. "I told them I wasn't as concerned about the result,~ explained Stevens from the podium. "I just wanted to play with a real purpose from possession to possession and maximize as many of those as possible. We did a better job of that than we have in a lot of games this year. We just played with the right poise and purpose. Hopefully we can keep doing itf The coach singled out Avery Bradley for his job defending Irving. "Irving is a tremendous scorer,~ observed Stevens. "He's a hard guy to stop. But hav- ing a guy like Avery out there means something. He makes it as tough as humanly pos- sible when he's guarding somebody. And Isaiah Thomas, a pacesetter for the Celts, felt that the strong defensive effort "was very important. If we want to win, we have to play that way. We tried to slow down their transition points and keep them off the glass. I think we did a good job with that and we got the win." Fast forward to March 7th and the Celtics were atop the Atlantic Division, having finally overtaken the Toronto Raptors. They were also the second best team in the Eastern Conference, trailing the Cavaliers by just 2Y2 games to play with 19 games remaining in the regular season. Of course, anything can happen, but right now it looks like the Celtics stand a pretty good chance to play the Cavs in the Eastern Conference finals in May. While that scenario may not come to pass, it shows the vast improvement that the Celtics have made that we can even consider the possibility. The teams will meet once more in the regular season -- on April 5th at the Garden -- as the countdown to the end of the regular season on April 12th looms. This should be a big game, offering a possible playoff preview and possibly impacting the conference standings in a significant way. Regardless of how the Celtics fare against the Cavs, the feeling of several members of the media along press row is that while the Celtics can beat the Cavaliers on any given night, they would probably not be able to win four games in a best-of-seven series with Cleveland. The feeling is that the Celtics are a key player or two away from being able to do that. Right now, the Cavaliers represent a big bump in the playoff road for the Celtics. One gets the feeling that Ca, as presently constituted, would have a very good chance of advancing through the first two rounds of the playoffs. It's in the Conference Finals where they would probably be stopped, a situation that may not be remedied for this spring, but will definitely be addressed by GM Danny Ainge as he heads into the NBA June Draft and the summer free agency period.