The Boston Celtics: “Control the Controllable”

Marcus Smart
Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics

Is this the end of an era? It just well may be.

LeBron James had a 21 point first quarter and a 42 point, 10 rebound, 12 assist virtuoso, triple double performance in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics; but it wasn’t enough.  LeBron made an incredible, instant classic, step-back three-pointer in that same, ridiculous first quarter, but it wasn’t enough.  The miracle, circus shot was absurd, even by LeBron James’ standards, but it wasn’t enough.

Here’s how Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer put it:

“A step-back, fadeaway, late-clock 3-pointer with one of the league’s best defenders draped all over him. And video of the first-quarter spread like wild-fire on social media as sort of a “Look at what LeBron is doing!” snapshot of his 21-point first-quarter barrage in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Here’s the thing: The Boston Celtics liked that possession an awful lot, too. They liked how Marcus Morris made James work just to navigate from the blocks to the 3-point arc in order to set an initial screen. Or how Marcus Smart, who switched onto James, prevented the Cleveland Cavaliers star first from rolling to the basket, then denied James’ initial attempt to back Smart down.

Yes, James eventually got the ball back and made a ridiculous shot, but the Celtics made him work hard for a low-percentage look. And therein lies one of the secrets to Boston’s success through the first two games of the series: making everything hard for James.

‘If you can, watch every possession. We have a bunch of guys coming out that give everything we got every possession,’ Morris told ESPN. ‘LeBron is great, we all know that. That’s something that everyone knows. So, at the end of the day, we can’t hang our heads on shots that he makes. We know he’s going to take those shots, we know he’s going to make some shots. ‘t the end of the day, we control the controllable.’”

We control the controllable.

That’s the quote, and that’s the lesson. We must control the controllable. There’s so much in this life that we can’t and don’t control. We can’t control what others say or do. We can’t control other’s actions or emotions or responses, but we can control what comes out of our mouths and what goes on in our hearts and heads. And we can absolutely control how we treat people. You may not feel like being kind or caring or forgiving or forbearing, but you can control how you act and you react.

So control the controllable. Control what you can, and don’t worry about what you can’t.

Now, back to the presumptive Eastern Conference Champions, the Boston Celtics:

“What the Celtics have controlled is their turnovers, which has eliminated easy transition opportunities. They’ve controlled access to the paint, limiting the chances for James to drive and create for either himself or his teammates. And the Celtics have controlled the intensity, dispatching a never-ending stream of versatile defenders, essentially tasking every player in their rotation with defending James at some point.

The other thing the Celtics control: the series (2-0). Yes, Boston knows it cannot relent in its defensive tenacity as the series shifts to Cleveland for Saturday’s Game 3 (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). But an already irrationally confident group took a James haymaker in Game 2 (42 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists) and still won by technical knockout”.

http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/23541621/boston-celtics-defending-lebron-james-east-finals

And so the moral of the story is this: Exit, LeBron, enter Boston.

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Can Houston and Harden Whip the Warriors? . . . Hardly

USP NBA: HOUSTON ROCKETS AT PHOENIX SUNS S BKN USA AZ
James Harden Is Looking Up (becasue he needs all of the help he can get against the Warriors) 

The Houston Rockets lost Game One AT HOME to the defending NBA Champs, the Golden State Warriors.  Now, Game Two is a must win for Harden and the Rockets. James Harden and the Houston Rockets have just one shot at dethroning the Golden State Warriors in the 2018 NBA Playoffs: Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. 

Houston can’t lose Game 2 and head to Oakland and expect to win the Western Conference Finals.  They just can’t.  It’s is possible? Anything is possible to those who believe. But this one I gotta see. Judging by the way the Warriors played in Game One Monday night, it just aint gonna happen.

So all of the chips are down and all of the money is on Harden coming through in a clutch, do or die situation, one which the Rockets have been waiting for since Harden jumped ship and left OKC for Texas. And since they acquired Chris Paul after he jumped ship from the NBA’s graveyard, I mean the LA Clippers last summer, they’re supposed to be built to win now. Well, now has come.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni never had any doubt that the Harden-Paul duo would work, having been on the Team USA staff when they played together in the 2012 London Olympics. “I say sometimes flippantly that there isn’t really a superstar store in the NBA where you get to go and pick out which one you want,” Rockets GM Daryl Morey said.

Making it fit and making something happen works only when you have chemistry. And this year, the Rockets certainly had chemistry and “fit”.  The Rockets rolled to the NBA’s best record (65-17) and earned their chance to meet the defending champions in the Western Conference finals in large part because of a series of summer moves Morey executed with beating the Warriors in mind.

I love what Morley said about taking advantage of opportunities: “You have to jump on the opportunities as they come and sometimes make them fit.  But in this case, we didn’t really have to [make them fit]. The fit was really incredible from day one.” Morey acknowledged that he particularly wondered how the “alpha dogs” would coexist in crunch time. The answer: even better than the Rockets could have reasonably hoped.

But it will all be for naught if they lose tonight.

The Boston Celtics?

 Boston-Celtics-Logo

Yes, the Boston Celtics. And I hate the Boston Celtics, but more on that later.

The Boston Celtics sent my Philadelphia Sixers home packing in only five games after jumping out to a 3-0 series lead. The sometimes clumsy and always inconsistent Sixers practically gifted the Celtics Game 2 of their Second Round Playoff series.

Philly’s ancient rival had something to prove in the 2018 NBA Playoffs because everybody had hastily picked the Sixers to advance to a chance to beat LeBron, but it wasn’t meant to be. And then when they blew a late game lead in regulation and then completely lost it in OT in Game 3 to effectually lose the series, the Celtics knew that it was their time. The Sixers had something special going this season, and they were on the verge of something really special. But the Celtics had other plans. And now it’s the Celtics who are on the verge of something special.

The LeBron’s (a.k.a., the Cleveland Cavaliers) are NOT the Sixers, and yet Boston had a 29 point lead on these same Cavs in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. But lest we forget, Cleveland lost Game 1 to Indiana in the first round, and we were asking if LeBron was out of gas then. And the answer was a unanimous “NO!” LeBron came roaring back to take out the Pacers, and they just thumped the hapless Raptors in a surprising sweep. Now LeBron finds himself in the Eastern conference Finals once again.

So, the question is this: can the Celtics, who are playing without Kyrie Irving, win the East and beat King James, the reigning King of the NBA pop culture?  LeBron is still LeBron, and one game aint no series. So we’ll see.

And in case you didn’t know, I’m from Philly, so I HATE the Celtics. I just love to hate them. And that’s where the whole love your enemy like your neighbor part comes in.  Did I get that right?  Anyway, since I’m from Philly, I mean, I just have to hate all Boston teams, right?

One Point

Ben Simmons After Loss
Ben Simmons Scores One Point in Loss to Boston in 2018 Playoffs

Ben Simmons, the Philadelphia 76ers rookie sensation point guard, the same point guard who is the consensus Rookie of the year in the NBA this year, scored one point in Game 2 of their much anticipated series with their hated and heated rivals, the Boston Celtics. One whole point.

But it was a good loss, and I’ll tell you why.

 The Sixers lost by five.  It was a close game down the stretch, and the team from South Philly was even up by five late in the fourth quarter. But they lost every lead they managed to build. Little leads. Big leads.  All kinds of leads. They lost the leads and the game.  By just five points. 

So they (and we) need to learn how to play (and live) when losing and when leading. And that’s a life lesson.

Big Ben only scorned one.  One point. So just think, a few made baskets, even just two, and a few more made free throws would have made a difference. But nooooooooooooo. Ben picked a bad time to have an unbelievably bad game. And it hurt his team. Not that the rest of the team is not culpable.   The Sixers blew a 21 point lead in the second quarter, and that is where the game was lost.

So what’s next for the Sixers?  They play the next two games at home. But if they  lose this series, and they may well may get blown right out of the gym the next two games, it will be a short time loss but, hopefully a long-term gain.  Teams general, and these Sixers in specific, need to learn how to play with a lead. And the Sixers haven’t figured that part out yet. Oh well. It was a great season. It’s not over yet, but it sure feels like it’s over.

One point. One lousy point. It will count if they learn from this, and this will be a good loss, if, that is IF, they learn. Maybe this series, and maybe not. But certainly this lesson must be learned down the road.

My Book Is Out! “Upsets, Comebacks & Turnarounds” Coming Soon

UCT Cover

Hey Everybody! I birthed a book!

After years of writing and editing and kneading and massaging this baby of an idea inside of me, voila, my book is here!  It will be available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com soon so stay tuned! I hope you read and enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. It’s a pick me upper and a shot in the arm for all who love the little guy and the also-rans in sports and in life. 

Here a few excerpts from the back cover:

In the World of Sports, there’s nothing like an upset win, a comeback from way back, and a complete turnaround. The same is true in life. In sports, we celebrate the underdogs, both the teams and the players who are at a distinct disadvantage and are expected to lose. Yet some way, somehow, these teams and players  find a way to triumph in spite of adversity.

Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds looks back to those who have alreadly overcome and looks forward to those facing overwhelming obstacles yet to be overcome.

This book examines the intersection of God and sports . . . and is a tribute to all of the biblical long-shots; to all of those who, in sports and in life, “didn’t stand a chance.”

Sixers vs. Celtics: Just Like Old Times

Here we go! The Sixers and the Celtics are getting ready to go at it in the playoffs one more time. And it will be just like old times, right? For those that can remember, Dr. J. played against Larry Bird all season long and almost every year in the playoffs. They went toe to toe, duking it out, sometimes literally, each leading their team, each vying for Eastern Conference supremacy. It was great theater and better basketball.

And here we go again. Now we have Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid versus a new band of Bostonians including Al Horford, Terry Rozier and rookie sensational Jason Tatum. It should be an instant classic series. All of Philly and all of Boston are sitting on the edge of their seats already in gleeful anticipation — and the opening tip off hasn’t even come yet.

And that’s the anticipation that Christians have living in these toxic and turbulent times. We don’t fear what’s going to happen next. We anticipate the lively hope we actually already have, and now enjoy the promise of the soon coming of Christ. The gloom and doom of yesterday and today will fade in God’s tomorrow as Christ will usher in a truly golden age of bountiful blessings for all who trust and believe in Him.

We have the promise now, and will inherit a retirement package second to none. The theologians call it “the already and not yet.”

And that’s the lesson that this new, highly anticipated Philly/Boston NBA Basketball Playoff series teaches us. Anticipation and expectation are spiritual things. And they belong in church and in sports too.

LeBron James: Still The King

LeBron James just hit a buzzer beater to beat the Indiana Pacers 98–95 in Game Five of a 2018 First Round playoff series. It was vintage LeBron.  The king delivered a certified instant classic with an epic performance at home to give his team a 3-2 series lead. He almost had a triple double:  44 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists. He had an attack dog mentality as he dominated his opponent and carried his team on his back, again,

LeBron had a huge block when Indiana could have taken the lead. And the block came right after he turned the ball over under his own basket with under a minute to play. Instead of an embarrassing defeat, with only three seconds left on the clock, king James hit a three pointer from the top of the key. Instead of overtime and a possible loss at home, the king of the NBA led his team to yet another thrilling victory with yet another buzzer beater and yet another demoralizing defeat for an opponent that could’ve stolen a game from the James. But not so.

Cleveland is not a great team but they still have the game’s greatest player. The argument for the greatest of all time still rages as the jury is still out because the verdict is not in. Is James better than Michael? Kobe? Magic? Wilt Chamberlain? Oscar Robertson? Larry Bird? Bill Russell? The debate rages on. For now, once again, the great one proved that he is still the reigning undisputed heavyweight champion of the basketball world.

The great ones always find a way. Always. And once again this great player found another way to win.

The corollary is clear. You might not be that good or that great. None of us are. But with the great God we serve, you’re still great. And every day and in every “game” you have the chance to win even though you’re down and it looks like you may be out. But not so. Not with the the King of Kings and Lord of Lords on your side.

Jesus is the ultimate greatest One, and He will always find a way for you to win. Always.