Yesterday was a big day in Boston sports for me – I got to watch Tom Brady’s Funny or Die video, catch a Red Sox game from directly behind their dugout, and watch one of the finest performances of Rajon Rondo’s career. Phew – what a day. I think I learned a few things along the way…
Let’s start with the Celtics. First and foremost, they lost the game and this series is as good as over. Sure, there were undoubtedly missed calls, but those tend to even out over the course of any series in my eyes. But we did learn a lot about Rajon Rondo last night. I’ve been preaching the Rondo gospel for the past couple of years now, but also faulting him for the attitude that so frequently pisses off Celtics fans. That attitude was on display after game one, where Rondo blatantly called out D-Wade and Lebron James – a particularly ballsy move if you ask me. That said, Rondo put his money where his mouth was and stuck it to those guys to the tune of 44 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds, and 3 steals. Better yet, Rondo was 2-2 from the 3-point line, 10-12 on free throws, and 16-24 from the field. It was a flat-out fantastic game, and it showed me that Rondo can play with anyone in this league. You get him ticked off enough and not only is the heart there, but he’s going to burn you – even if you are the NBA’s poster boy.
I’ve also been saying for quite a while that Derrick Rose is the single quickest player I’ve ever seen play, and hence, has a better first step than Rondo. Rondo’s entire game was elevated to another level last night – I saw him make crossovers and other moves I’ve never seen from anyone before, ever, Derrick Rose included. But it was Rondo’s ability to hit jump shots that truly showed the player Rondo can be if he continues to develop even a decent mid-range jumper. With his speed and a shot, Rondo would be perhaps the most difficult guard in the league to defend. It’ll be very interesting to see who is suiting up for the Celtics next season.
Transitioning to the Red Sox, I think this team is going to be just fine. While we’re still a little thin in the pitching department, our pitchers have started to actually pitch and I suspect we’ll land another arm at some point this season. Daisuke is still set to return, as are Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Cody Ross, and Carl Crawford. And even without those guys, the Sox have a surplus of talented players – so much so that we’ve got Adrian Gonzalez playing right field. Ryan Sweeney has been fantastic which was unexpected, Will Middlebrooks may be the future of the Red Sox, Mike Aviles is arguably the best offensive shortstop in the AL at this point, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia may very well be the starting catcher for the AL in the all-star game. The Red Sox are now two games over .500, and the entirety of the AL East is within 2.5 games of each other. Craziness.
Yesterday’s game saw David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, and Will Middlebrooks go yard, and a struggling Adrian Gonzalez drove in the go-ahead run. All that said, it was Jon Lester’s performance last night that showed me first hand why Boston is the best place in the world to play baseball. So much is made of the pressure and the expectations that come along with playing at Fenway that often the benefits are left behind. Lester pitched OK last night, pitching 6 2/3 innings while allowing 4 runs and striking out 7. He allowed three early runs, then generally settled down and kept the Red Sox in the game while eating up close to 7 innings. Lester was visibly upset at being yanked from the game, but received a thunderous standing ovation for his efforts (he’s struggled in general this season) as he walked to the dugout. How many fan bases have you ever seen support a struggling pitcher by giving a guy that went 6 2/3 innings and allowed 4 runs a standing ovation?
It certainly feels like this team is starting to come together after beating Detroit in 3 straight games, with Beckett on the mound for the series finale tonight. Following tonight’s game, the Sox open series with Toronto and Baltimore – and could very realistically be sitting atop the AL East standing at the end of that stretch. Will they? Who knows. But with so many key pieces returning later this year, there’s reason for optimism.