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March 22, 2013

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Page 16 BOSTON POST-GAZETTE, MARCH 22, 2013 HOOPS and HOCKEY in the HUB by Richard Preiss In the end, the very end, the visitors left with a vic- tory that humbled their high status while the members of the home team exited with their heads held high, know- ing that they had shredded the aura of invincibility sur- rounding their opponent. Yes, it was a tough loss that the Celtics experienced at the hands of the defending NBA champion Miami Heat at the Garden on March 18. But with a nationwide tele- vision audience tuned in, it was a contest where the highly thought of Heat struggled against a Celtics lineup that lacked the tal- ents of Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger. Miami won by just two points, a 105-103 count that only brought victory by a very narrow margin when Paul Pierce's three-point attempt for a win hit the rim and bounced away with seconds remaining. "I told the guys that this was our first playoff game," said Celtics head coach Doc Rivers in his postgame press conference. "I was looking forward to the game because I didn't know how a lot of the new guys were going to react. Overall, al- though we lost the game, we passed the test. As he looked out at the assembled media members he offered this realistic thought: "But losing the game is what you'll remember." In case you're wondering, Rivers felt it was the mis- takes that his players made, rather than the perfor- mance by Miami that cost his team the game. "I just think that overall we made too many mistakes to win the game," said Rivers. "As hard as we played -- and we played great -- I just thought that we made too many mistakes defensively switching and giving up layups. I just didn't like the defensive mistakes that could have been prevented." Indeed, Miami scored 50 of its points "in the paint" -- meaning from very near or under the basket. In addi- tion, "the turnovers killed us," noted Rivers. "They had 24 points -- that's almost a quarter of their points," com- ing out of turnovers by the Celtics. In a matchup with such a close finish a little improve- ment in any one phase of the game could have meant victory for the C's. "We missed some layups down the stretch," noted Rivers. Here's a couple of others: the Celtics made 15 of 24 free throws over the course of the game. If they had made just three more they would have won. They were 10 of 21 from three point land. Had they made another there would have been joy on Causeway Street. For most of the game it looked as ff the Celtics would win and halt Miami's 22- game winning streak while extending their own home winning streak on the par- quet to 12. The C's led at all the normal stopping points -- up 19-13 after the first quar- ter, ahead 59-53 at the half and out in front 82-78 after three quarters. Early in the second quar- ter Boston actually led by 17 but Miami clawed its way back and actually tied the game twice early in the third. The Celtics then went out in front again with a modest lead, one they would not give up until Miami star LeBron James made a layup to tie the game with 1:21 left in the contest. He then hit what proved to be the winning hoop (a 21-foot jumper) with 10.5 seconds remaining. "We have to run, that's who we are," said Rivers. "When we were doing that I thought we were terrific. When we tried to set things up we were not. But overall, I'll take the game. It was a fantastic game. I just don't like losing." The Celtics were able to keep command most of the way because of the play of for- ward Jeff Green, who scored a career-high 43 points. It was a huge announcement that Green was back. Re- member he was forced to miss the entire 2011-2012 season after he was diag- nosed with an aortic aneu- rysm and underwent surgery. There was a silver lining. He used his time off from basketball to complete aca- demic work towards his de- The Boston Bruins defeated the Washington Capitals 4-1 on Saturday,: March 16th. (Photo by Rosario Scabin, Ross Photography) gree at Georgetown, gradu- ating last May with a major in English and a minor in Theology. He then re-signed with the Celtics over the summer, inking a four-year, $36 million contract. "Jeff was terrific," said Rivers. "He attacked. Once he realized he had the ad- vantage, he took advantage and that was great." "It was the best team in the league and we took them to their breaking point," noted Green. "We've just got to continue to play like we did. When Kevin (Garnett) comes back, I think we will be more lethal. So long as we continue to attack and get stops we'll be in pretty good shape." One person who wasn't a factor was former Celtics guard Ray Allen. He played just over 30 minutes but only scored six points for Miami, while being booed by fans that once hailed him as a champion. From a prince of the parquet to a disliked member of the Heat (at least in this town) -- how fickle some fans can be. There's one more regu- lar season game left with the Heat -- at Miami on April 12. The Celtics only have seven home games remaining, including the Knicks (March 26), Brook- lyn (April 10) and Indiana (April 16). Miami will win the regu- lar season conference title but the remaining order of finish for the playoffs has yet to be determined. The C's could finish as high as second or as low as eighth -- it's that close. Every game is important in the home stretch. i ( by Sal Giarratani I Satchel Paige Once Said, "Never Look Behind or They'll Gain on You" For the last 27 years, America's sport has become football outpacing baseball as America's past-time. The steroid scandal really hurt as so many records were broken and many single sea- son and lifetime records were then called into ques- tion. Was Barry Bonds the all-time home run leader or should it still be Hank Aaron? What about Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens or Rafael Pal- meiro, Mr. Viagra, the only guy with 3,000 hits and 300 homers not in Cooperstown? Will this Steroid Era for- ever stain baseball and will we ever completely get over what happened? I hope so for the sake of baseball. Person- ally, I think the scandal sent fans elsewhere but many were already leaving the diamond due to the slow pace of the game. Most fans today want action and speed, base- ball too often drags onward. Throw in the enhancement drugs and it is the recipe for doom. I grew up in the '50s and '60s as a child of baseball. There were only two eight team leagues. I knew all the players' names. I could sprout out the aver~ ages of half of every team member. The Yankees were king of the hill and players. like Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron were legendary icons to all of us. We saw greats like Duke Snider play too. I remember when the Milwaukee Braves would come to Boston every other year for a Jimmy Fund exhibition game. The Braves actually started the Jimmy Fund. The Red Sox picked it up after 1953. Back when the Red Sox stunk to high heaven, I often wondered why the Braves didn't stay put and the Red Sox go to Milwaukee. I remember 75 cent seats in the bleachers. I remem- ber popcorn going for a quar- ter. I remember the Red Sox long before Red Sox Nation was even conceived. I remember when players had fun on the field and really connected with fans. Today, baseball is a business and the players with their millions far removed from everyday life. Most have become legends in their own minds and can't even be compared to baseball players of yesterday. I just heard that Derek Jeter's left ankle is getting pretty good and he hopes to be out there on Opening Day as the Yankees face off against the Red Sox. I also heard that. Dice-K is~ headed Satchel Paige to Cleveland to be reunited with Terry Francona. As bad as he seemed, Dice-K will still earn millions to throw off the mound for the Tribe. Meanwhile, Curt Schilling auctioned off that famed bloody sock for $92,613 to reportedly pay outstanding bills. Manager John Farrell is ready for his Red Sox team to get started and making people forget about Terry Francona's September 2011 collapse and Bobby Valen- tine's entire 2012 disaster. Jon Lester reportedly is look- ing at a possible contract extension. His current con- tract runs through 2013. The team already has an option for 2014 but before any more money heads toward the direction of Lester, he will need to show us the Lester prior, to August i, 2011 ~he, cause the Lester since hasn't been that great. I am a diehard baseball fan and will put up with the rather slow pace of the game ff only we can get truly honest with the stats once again. We can't undo the past damage done but we can move for- ward and hope baseball wins back our respect and atten- tion. However, you can't have the first without getting the second and vice versa. Even- tually, baseball will stop fall- ing downward but for now it has been replaced by football as America's past-time and for good reason. As for now most records seem mean- ingless, hopefully that will change too. Too bad it happened but glad it was exposed and finally addressed. It should have been done years ago, but remember baseball is a slow game, eh? For every cheat there is a Satchel Paige, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Bob Gibson, etc. The good always outnumber the bad. Some great players must pay the piper for their desire to be incredible hulks at bat or on the mound. These players spit all over baseball andmake Gaylord Perry a living saint. I also have more respect for Pete .Rose and that says it. all. When I think of those fakers during the Steroid Era, I remember so many great players in the old Negro Leagues like Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson who may have respectively been the best pitcher and slugger in all of baseball's history. People forget that Paige came up as a rookie with the Cleveland Indians in 1948 at 42 years old. He is the oldest ever Rookie of the Year and that is truly a very sad statistic for America to remember. Sadly also, since he pitched two scoreless innings for the Kansas City Athletics against the Boston Red Sox in 1965 at 59 years old. We can't undo the stains of the past but we can insist on doing the right thing now. Baseball survived Shoeless Joe Jackson and the Black Sox scandal of 1919, it sur- vived racism until Jackie Robinson came-along in 1947 and surely can move on from the PED scandal that gave us incredible and phony hulks during a sad chapter in the history of the game. Satchel Paige never looked back because it was not as important as knowing where you are headed. Good attitude for all of us in life toot .....................