Celtics Boot Cavs


Here's a message from more than just a few Cleveland Cavaliers fans to Mr. LeBron James on this 'day after': Don't let the door hit you on your butt on the way out of town!

Okay, so maybe not everyone in the rock-n-roll city is feeling quite that way right about now but James -- who may have posted the phoniest triple-double stat line in NBA Playoff history with his 27 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists in Thursday night's 94-85 loss to the Boston Celtics -- had his playoffs finished with a whimper and not a big bang.

James drilled a couple of triples to start the fourth quarter of Game 6 at the TD Garden but, after that brief offensive flurry, he and the rest of the Cavaliers melted down faster than an ice cream cone in mid-August. In fact, the Cavs literally quit on the game with a minute-plus remaining and down nine points -- okay, so the likelihood of storming back to win at that late stage was from the slim-and-none variety but to just sit back and let the Celtics party on instead of giving yourself any sort of hope was truly disconcerting.

Heck, if we were Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, we would have been tempted to fire head coach Mike Brown right on the spot -- and then turned to James and say 'farewell'to him and many of his underachieving teammates.

So, the end has arrived for the 2009-10 Cavaliers -- the betting favorite to win it all at the start of these playoffs (they were listed as 'even money', folks) and too bad the Celtics' series win had to take a backseat to James and his impending free agent status.

We'll get to both Game 6 and what we believe will happen with James this summer in just a moment but now hear this:

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Boston 94, Cleveland 85 -- Celtics win series 4-2

Let's get two quick things on the table right here and right now: Anyone that had the Celtics at the + 340 price to win this best-of-seven series, kudos to you! It's not all that often you can cash an NBA Playoff series ticket and get nearly 3 1/2-to-1 odds with a championship-caliber team but the Celtics showed true heart, team teamwork and more than just a little guts in getting this done: Remember that the Celts won twice in Cleveland (see Game 2 and Game 5) and really put a whole lot of pressure on themselves to get things wrapped up here so that Boston would not be forced to try and win for a third time at Quicken Loans Arena.

And number two: Lest anyone ever again claim that Boston head coach Doc Rivers is not a 'top coach'just remember that he beat a Phil Jackson-coached (and heavily-favored) Los Angeles Lakers team in the NBA Finals two years ago and now just orchestrated a series shocker over James who -- like 'em or not right this minute -- is the league's reigning two-time Most Valuable Player.

In this series-clinching win, Rivers totally outfoxed Brown (no shock there, actually!) and made playing perimeter defense the key. The Cavs shot just 5-of-17 from beyond the three-point stripe in Game 6 and many of them were contested shots plus Rivers and Company made quite sure the Cavs' fast-break game never did get into overdrive and you'll note Cleveland scored only eight fast-break points while the Celtics scored 19 points (or 20 percent of their total points) on fast breaks with sizzling-hot point guard Rajon Rondo (21 points, 12 assists, 5 steals and only 4 turnovers in a team-high 44 minutes of play) the main motor man.

Throw in some throwback-type games from Celtics teammates Kevin Garnett (22 points and 12 boards) and key reserve Rasheed Wallace (13 points in 23 minutes including a pair of gigantic trifectas) and it's Boston that's moving on to the Eastern Conference Finals with a date -- starting Sunday -- against the Orlando Magic.

And speaking about moving on ...

The James debate raged on all night long -- didn't you see ESPN and its family of networks cover this thing like a Presidential election? -- and will continue to rage on until the ultimate decision is made.

Where next, LeBron?

Here's the choices we believe will be in front of him (and then a quickie line on each):

Cleveland -- Gotta believe all the negativism from this series will bother the thin-skinned James but do keep in mind he still can get the biggest dollar contract from his current club. When all the dust settles, we think he'll still stay put.

Chicago -- The Bulls are gonna have a very busy summer but count us among the folks that don't believe he'll wind up here even with all the chit-chat about pal John Calipari coming to coach the Windy City Five.

New York -- Hey, we would claim this makes total sense providing the Knicks first sign up free agent Chris Bosh to make 'em more attractive but believe us when we tell you that LeBron simply might not be able to handle the Big Apple.

New Jersey -- Folks, if the Nets were moving from New Jersey to Brooklyn in time for the 2010-11 season, we'd give 'em a real good shot but two more years in the Garden State means this will be a forgotten franchise a little longer.

Los Angeles Clippers -- Imagine multiple showdowns each year between James and the Lakers' Kobe Bryant? One of 'em might be playing games next year with five rings on his fingers (and it wouldn't be the new kid in town, you know).



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Let's check in on the marquee matchups in each league this May weekend:

In the National League, it's ...

LOS ANGELES DODGERS (17-17) at SAN DIEGO (22-12) -- Fri, Sat & Sun
No, that's not a typo when you check out the NL West standings -- the SD Padres do indeed enter this mid-May weekend on top of the pack and fresh off a three-game sweep at San Francisco.

Believe it or not, Bud Black's bunch has won all six of its games played against the Giants in 2010 and now gets set to play five of its next seven games against the 'other'divisional rivals from Cali -- wait a second, could the Pods be threatening to make this a runaway?

No doubt that pitching has been at the heart of San Diego's success story -- the Padres just allowed a grand total of four runs to the Jints in the just-completed sweep in the Bay Area with starters Clayton Richard (a 5-2 winner on Wednesday night in San Fran) and Mat Latos (a 1-0 one-hit, complete-game winner at SF on Thursday afternoon) snagging wins -- and did you realize that 3B Chase Headley (.311 and a team-best 41 hits) is turning heads on a team with an absolute no-name lineup save for 1B Adrian Gonzalez (6 HR and 17 RBI)?

P.S., the Dodgers swing into town off a three-game sweep in Arizona and winners of a season-high four in a row.

In the American League, it's ...

MINNESOTA (22-12) at NEW YORK YANKEES (22-12) -- Fri, Sat & Sun
As you can see for yourself, the Twins and Yankees enter this weekend series in The Bronx with identical records (if not exactly identical payrolls!) but the arrow is pointing up these days for Minnesota -- winners of seven of its last 10 games -- while the defending World Series champions have hit their first real bump in the road.

Four games in three days this week in Motown -- and only one Yankees win thanks to star RHP Phil Hughes (5-0, 1.38 ERA) -- and so Joe Girardi's club returns home to rev up a seven-game home stand with more than a few glaring holes in the lineup:

Centerfielder Curtis Granderson -- the prize pick-up of this past off-season -- remains sidelined with a groin injury and don't look for him to be back anytime soon and 1B/DH Nick Johnson will be out 'several weeks'(wrist) with just the latest of his debilitating injuries. Now, toss into the mix the fact that RF Nick Swisher (biceps) missed Thursday's non-competitive 6-0 loss in Detroit and SS Derek Jeter finally snapped an 0-for-16 drought with an infield hit to open Thursday's tilt and then was hit by a Justin Verlander fastball on the right hand in the top of the fifth inning.

Don't look now but Jeter is hitting just .269 and his inability to get on board has gunked up the rest of the order that continues to include a powerless 3B Alex Rodriguez (.272, 3 HR and 22 RBI in his first 121 at-bats).

On the flip side, the Twins have managed to stay the course (and with a 2 1/2-game lead over the Tigers heading into today's action) despite the fact catcher Joe Mauer missed seven full games with a heel injury -- and hats off to Triple A catcher Wilson Ramos who stepped into the void and hit .296 (that's 8-for-27) with three doubles and a RBI.

Now, Mauer is back but SS J.J. Hardy (bruised left wrist) is on the DL until May 20th and, of course, Minny's been consistently winning even without closer Joe Nathan (Tommy John surgery in March) but Jon Rauch's nine saves in 10 opportunities has been a major revelation.

Two quickie notes on the Twins -- one good, one bad:

They've committed only 8 errors so far this season (best in the bigs) -- now that's mind-boggling stuff. Yet this AL Central club is hitting just .160 with runners on base this year with only a mere eight hits in 90 team at-bats with the bases loaded.


Lots happening off the field in NFL-land these days and so let's tackle one of the hot topics here: Will the New England Patriots prove to be 'mentally tough'this 2010 NFL season?

According to megastar QB Tom Brady, the Pats didn't have that quality in 2009 when the AFC East team lost six-of-eight road games and were blitzed 33-14 at home in a first-round playoff game. Brady -- who told Boston radio station WEEI this past week that, 'When the going got tough, we didn't get going'last year -- may well have been laying the foundation for a new feeling in/around the Patriots this year but can New England fans really expect anything more than the usual on-field contributions from their three-time Super Bowl-winning signal-caller?
Consider that last season Brady threw for 4,398 yards (and a 65.7 completion percentage) with 28 TDs and 13 INTs while the Pats scored a grand total of 50 touchdowns in all. If Brady is trying to fire anyone up here, it might just be the New England defense that did surrender 5,123 yards -- but shouldn't that challenge to be 'mentally tough'than come from one of the Pats' reigning defensive starters such as NT Vince Wilfork ... or is the fact the Patriots might be without a defensive leader these days (no more Tedy Bruschi and no more Rodney Harrison) a reason why Brady is stepping into this newfound role?

No doubt New England -- who now hasn't won a Super Bowl since the 2004 season -- will be able to answer lots of 'leadership'questions in the very first month of play as Bill Belichick's crew will square off against three divisional rivals following that Week 1 home game against Cincinnati: The Pats are at the New York Jets in Week 2, home to Buffalo in Week 3 and at Miami in Week 4 before getting a Week 5 bye.
As long as we're talking schedules, the Patriots will play non-divisional road games this year at San Diego, at Pittsburgh and at Chicago -- Brady's no doubt counting on no worse than a .500 road mark this year and a first-round playoff bye or the Brady/Belichick 'marriage'could be over after the 2010 campaign.

NOTE: Catch more NBA Playoff Updates in the next edition of Jim Sez including a Celtics-Magic breakdown with regular-season meetings included -- and don't forget that we'll analyze/examine the NBA Western Conference Finals in Monday's column space.


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