Curran: Peyton Manning cloud hangs over Indy

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Curran: Peyton Manning cloud hangs over Indy

INDIANAPOLIS - This heartland city is ready for its closeup.The most important one-day sporting event on the planet is here, America's unofficial national holiday, the Super Bowl. And in what state is the local NFL entrant? Utter and complete disarray. It's transcendent superstar, Peyton Manning, the man who made Indianapolis matter and put the city on the country's lips, is on his way out. The Colts paid Manning 26 million in 2011 and he was unable to play a snap because of neck surgery just before the season. The Colts are on the hook to pay him another 28 million on March 8. He's 36. His body may not allow him to play again. The Colts hold the first pick in the draft and Stanford's Andrew Luck is getting "can't miss" hype that hasn't been seen since 1998 when Peyton Manning was coming out. It's not a matter of "if" Manning and the Colts divorce occurs. It's "when." Bob Kravitz, an excellent columnist for the Indianapolis Star, spoke at length to both Manning and Colts owner Jim Irsay. He was the media's Mills Lane in an eye-opening dustup between quarterback and owner. I asked him Monday about the strange dynamic in which the world is being invited over for dinner in Indy while family problems are raging. "It's a really strange time because this is the big celebration and there's this sort of cloud that hangs over it," said Kravitz. "When's the other shoe gonna fall? When are we gonna find out that Peyton's either gonna retire or be cut? I don't think it's gonna happen during Super Bowl week . . . I know for a fact Peyton's gonna go underground during Super Bowl and Jim Irsay's smart enough to not open his big yap again."It won't be this week but the question is whether or not it happens before the Combine (also held in Indianapolis in late February)," said Kravitz.When Indy was awarded this Super Bowl, it wasn't far-fetched to think the Colts would be the first team to play for a title in its own stadium.But without Manning, the Colts went 2-14 and a housecleaning in which longtime team president. Bill Polianand his son, Chris, the team's GM, were fired soon followed. Then head coach Jim Caldwell was given the gate. Now Indianapolis has to smile and hold the door for the hated Patriots and their fanbase. And New Yorkers too? That's a brutal pill to swallow if you're from here. Kravitz says the event has seemed to trump the partisan football inclinations, though. "Even though (the disarray of the Colts) is a cloud in the minds of fans, I don't think it diminishes what's happening here," he pointed out. "What's been great here has been the community involvement. They needed 8,000 volunteers and they got 13,000 people sign up. They've really not used public money on this, it's all been private money. Really all corporate cash. This is their moment in the sun and they're gonna revel in it. I think (Peyton Manning) is on everybody's mind but I don't think it diminishes from what we've got going on."The demise of the Colts came faster than anyone expected, said Kravitz. "Everybody came into this year thinking they had two or three more years (of elite play) under Peyton," Kravitz theorized. "With Peyton, Reggie Wayne, Joe Addai, Dallas Clark. Everyone wondered how close the window was to 'closing' but we all thought two or three years. And then Peyton gets hurt. And it just keeps getting worse. And there hasn't been any good news that's come out of this thing in months. I think people realize that the glory days are gone."I asked Kravitz if the city is going to have a tough time entering football irrelevancy for a spell after being so prominent for more than a decade. "Once they get through the mourning of Peyton Manning, once the grieving process is done, they're really gonna embrace Andrew Luck because he's the next Peyton Manning," said Kravitz. "I think people are starting to understand how incredibly bleeping lucky they are," he stressed. "When you look at Miami and how long they've waited for another quarterback after Dan Marino, when you look at Denver and how long they've waited after John Elway. And we're gonna have in this city one bad year. And we're gonna go from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck and that's extraordinarily fortuitous."It is an amazing brightside to have. The curtain will fall on one superstar. And a new one will be born. Maybe Indy won't wind up irrelevant after all.

Celtics force overtime, come up short in 127-123 loss to Blazers

Celtics force overtime, come up short in 127-123 loss to Blazers

BOSTON – For the second time in as many games, the Boston Celtics ran into a team that played with a greater sense of desperation.

And the result was yet another defeat as the Portland Trail Blazers, playing their second game in less than 24 hours, were able to get off their losing skid with a 127-123 overtime win over the Celtics.

Boston (26-17) has now lost back-to-back games at home, while the Blazers (19-27) snapped a four-game losing streak.

In the extra session, Portland jumped out to a 117-113 lead only for Boston’s Al Horford scoring on a bank-shot in the paint and Thomas draining a go-ahead 3-pointer for Boston.

Portland regained the lead when Al-Farouq Aminu made a pair of free throws with 59.3 seconds to play to make it a 119-118 game.

Boston soon fell behind 122-118, but a pair of Thomas free throws with 44.8 seconds to play made it a two-point game.

Mason Plumlee scored with 24 seconds to play in overtime, and an Al Horford miss – rebounded by Plumlee who was then fouled by Horford – essentially put the game away with 13.5 seconds to play.

Boston found themselves down late in the fourth quarter and seemingly headed towards defeat, only to get an unexpected lift in the final seconds from Terry Rozier.

Trailing by three points late in the fourth, Boston had one last chance to force overtime so who did they turn to?

If you were thinking Thomas which is what the Blazers and most fans were thinking, you would have been dead wrong.

The fourth quarter may be Thomas’ time to shine, but at that point in the game it was Rozier’s moment as he drained a 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds left that ultimately forced overtime. He finished with 15 points, three rebounds and three assists off the bench.

The Blazers came into the game with the kind of potent scoring punch in the backcourt that strikes the fear into the heart of any defense, let alone one that has been as up and down as the Boston Celtics this season.

For most of the game, Portland’s 1-2 punch of Damian Lillard (28 points) and C.J. McCollum (35 points) lived up to the lofty billing as they combined for 63 points.

McCollum and Lillard both did their share of damage down the stretch, but it was their bench – specifically Meyers Leonard – whose play kept Portland in the game early on.

He finished with 17 points off the bench.

Boston led 65-56 at the half, but soon found itself in a 67-all game after McCollum made the second of two free throws.

But Boston countered with a put-back basket by Kelly Olynyk and a 3-pointer from Isaiah Thomas to push Boston’s lead to 72-67.

Once again the Blazers fought back and eventually took the lead 74-72 on a powerful put-back dunk by Haverill (Mass.) native Noah Vonleh.

Brad Stevens had seen enough of his team getting pushed around, as he called a time-out with 5:31 to play in the quarter.

It didn’t help as Portland continued to bully their way around the rim for second and third-shot opportunities with their lead peaking at 78-72 following a put-back basket by  Plumlee.

But the Celtics responded with a 7-2 spurt capped off by an end-to-end, driving lay-up by Rozier that cut Portland’s lead to 80-79 with 2:44 to play in the quarter. Boston continued to be within striking distance as the third quarter ended with the Celtics trailing 88-86.