Wakeup Call: A starry day for Spoelstra

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Wakeup Call: A starry day for Spoelstra

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Monday, February 4.

BASEBALL
Spring training's just around the corner and Dice-K is still job-hunting. But, apparently, the Astros and Mets are interested . .. kind of. (NBC's Hardball Talk)

Hanley Ramirez not doing what the team wants. Go figure. (Hardball Talk)

Evan Longoria's "leg is ready," and so is he. (Hardball Talk)

Torii Hunter certainly landed on his feet -- there are worse places to play than with the defending A.L. champions -- but he still sounds a bit chapped about his departure from the Angels. (Hardball Talk)

After 16 years, Kevin Millwood calls it quits. (Hardball Talk)

Not Brandon Lyon, though. (Hardball Talk)

The Orioles come to their senses. (Hardball Talk)

BOXING
Reports of Muhammad Ali's death are greatly exaggerated. (AP via nbcsports.com)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
As are reports of Louisville's. (AP)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
If it's the offseason, it must be police log time. First up: A freshman backup quarterback at Texas. (AP)

Next: Texas A&M defensive lineman Kirby Ennis. (AP)

Not in trouble with the cops, but with the school: Purdue wide receiver O.J. Ross. (AP)

GOLF
Lefty goes wire-to-wire at the Phoenix Open. (AP)

Your other weekend winners: Karrie Webb at the Australian Ladies Masters . . . (AP)

. . . and Stephen Gallacher at the Dubai Desert Classic. (AP)

HOCKEY
The Penguins continue their early season surge, and the Capitals their early season stumble, in Pittsburgh's 6-3 win over Washington. (AP)

But don't worry, Caps: Has Mike Gillis got a deal for you! (NBC's Pro Hockey Talk)

The miracles of modern medicine: Eight days after his appendectomy, Max Pacioretty leads the Canadiens to their fifth straight home victory. (AP)

Turns out that emotional win in Boston Thursday night was just a mirage for the Sabres. (AP)

PRO BASKETBALL
Erik Spoelstra gets to coach the East in the All-Star Game since the Heat -- thanks to Sunday's victory in Toronto -- compiled the best record in the conference as of the Feb. 3 deadline. (AP)

The Lakers make it five wins in six games -- barely -- by hanging on to beat Detroit. (AP)

Brandon Roy sure sounds like a guy who's calling it a day after this frustrating, injury-plagued season is over. (NBC's Pro Basketball Talk)

Good news for those who saw Michael Kidd-Gilchrist being carried off the court Saturday night in Houston: He was cleared to fly and traveled to Miami with the rest of the Bobcats. (CSN Houston)

PRO FOOTBALL
When all is said is done, what we'll really remember about Super Bowl XLVII is the lights going out . . . and, apparently, Beyonce's halftime show had something to do with it. (AP)

They sure had a good time with the whole thing on Twitter. (NBC's Off The Bench)

By the time the power failed, the 49ers had pretty much sealed their fate . . . (CSN Bay Area)

. . . though they came back and made a game of it once the lights returned. (CSN Bay Area)

And two of the biggest reasons why? Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree. (Our very own Tom E. Curran via CSN Bay Area)

Not so much Randy Gene, a.k.a. The Self-Proclaimed Greatest Receiver Of All Time, as the final memory San Franciscans may have of him is an alligator-arm effort that drew some -- okay, a lot of -- scorn from Bill Romanowski. (CSN Bay Area)

Colin Kaepernick, though, blames himself. (CSN Bay Area)

Others, however, blame the referees . . . (CSN Bay Area)

. . . and Jim Harbaugh is one of them . . . (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

. . . though he seems to have forgotten that the 'Niners benefitted from some non-calls on the road to New Orleans. (Pro Football Talk)

Jim Harbaugh's sorrow took away -- a little -- from John Harbaugh's joy. (AP)

Who had the under on how long the postgame handshake would take? (Yahoo! Sports)

Still think he's not elite? (CSN Baltimore)

Hey, did you know this was Ray Lewis' last game? Yeah, I figured you might have missed it; he was kind of downplaying the whole thing. (CSN Baltimore)

Quite the homecoming for Jacoby Jones, wouldn't you say? (AP)

The whole thing was a throwback to the '70s. (Pro Football Talk)

Though some of the commercials -- particularly that one for godaddy.com -- were strictly new-millenium stuff. (the700level.com via CSN Philly)

If you're in Baltimore this week, clear your calendar for Tuesday. (CSN Baltimore)

So what did you expect him to say? (AP)

Now that it's over and the offseason has begun, look for the 49ers to try and trade Alex Smith. (Pro Football Talk)

Wait. Did anybody actually think Bill Parcells doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame? (CSN Philly)

TENNIS
Sam Querrey comes through in the deciding fifth match to lift the U.S. over Brazil and into the Davis Cup quarterfinals. (AP)

Canada's there, too, thanks to an upset of shorthanded Spain. (AP)

Poor Sloane Stephens: A week after being named to the U.S. Fed Cup, she has to pull out because of a strained abdominal muscle. (AP)

Maria Kirilenko wins the Pattaya Open for her first WTA victory since 2008. (AP)

Beyond The Numbers: C's need to get better on the boards in second quarter

Beyond The Numbers: C's need to get better on the boards in second quarter

CHICAGO -- Following Boston's Game 3 win on Friday against the Chicago Bulls, Brad Stevens was pleased with his team's performance but cautious about feeling too good.
 
"Gotta play better in Game 4," Stevens said at the time.
 
It's Coach Speak 101 to talk about the need to improve following a victory in the playoffs.
 
But Stevens is spot-on when he talks about his team needing to make on-the-fly improvements if it is to prevail again tonight in Game 4.
 
There are many areas that have been problematic for the Celtics in this series, but none as consistently worrisome as the way they've struggled in the second quarter in all three playoff games.
 
In the second quarter the Celtics have been outscored 74-49, or by 8.3 points per game.
 
Stevens recognized this going into Game 3, which was, in part, why Isaiah Thomas was subbed out after about six or so minutes in the first quarter, and returned to play all but 24 seconds of the second.
 
Good strategy, right?
 
In theory, it made a lot of sense. Thomas is your best scorer. Points have been harder to come by in the second quarter. Put Thomas on the floor in the second and . . . point-a-palooza right?
 
Nope.
 
In fact, Boston actually had its worst second quarter of the series in Game 3.
 
The Celtics shot just 22.7 percent from the field (5-for-22) in the second quarter after having shot 34.8 and 35.0 percent, respectively, in the second quarters of Games 1 and 2.
 
But Boston struggling to score in the second quarter isn't unusual.
 
During the regular season, the Celtics ranked among the NBA's top-scoring teams in the first (12th), third (7th) and fourth (1st) quarters of games.
 
But in the second, they were in the bottom 10 (23rd) with a 25.7 points-per-game scoring average.
 
The knee-jerk reaction is to put the blame on the bench players, who typically see most of their playing time in the second quarter. But as we saw in Game 3, with Thomas out there for most of the second, problems still arise before halftime.
 
What's at the heart of their second-quarter struggles?
 
The same thing that has been an issue for Boston all season: Rebounding.
 
It's been troubling for Boston all season, but those struggles have become magnified in the second quarter of this series.
 
For the series, Boston has been outrebounded by 12.3 boards per game. And with many of those rebounds being on the offensive end, it forces the Celtics' defense to play longer than it should due to Chicago getting multiple cracks at scoring. And the Bulls aren't giving up many offensive boards, which puts an even greater premium on Boston making shots since the likelihood of getting a second or third chance at scoring is unlikely.
 
And the massive rebounding advantage has centered around Chicago's ability to dominate the boards in the second quarter.
 
If you take away the rebounding numbers in the second quarter of this series, the Celtics are grabbing just 4.3 less rebounds per game than the Bulls, which is a palatable gap for Boston to have and still be successful.
 
So an improved effort on the glass in the second quarter is exactly what the Celtics to rid themselves of what has been a first-rate problem thus far in this series.

NBA fines Rondo $25,000 for attempting to trip Crowder in Game 3

NBA fines Rondo $25,000 for attempting to trip Crowder in Game 3

CHICAGO -- This has not been Rajon Rondo’s week.
 
First there was the fractured right thumb fracture that will keep likely keep him out for the remainder of Chicago’s first-round series with Boston.
 
And now comes the news that the former Celtic will be fined $25,000 for an attempted tripping incident involving Boston’s Jae Crowder in the first half of Boston’s 104-87 Game 3 win on Friday.
 
Crowder had made a 3-pointer near the Bulls’ bench. He then turned towards the bench and started running up court. Replays show Rondo stretching out his right leg in between strides taken by Crowder.
 
When asked about what appeared to be him trying to trip Crowder up, Rondo said his right leg -- the one he had surgically repaired following a torn ACL injury in 2013 -- sometimes stiffens up when he’s on the bench so all he was doing was trying to stretch it at that time.
 
I asked Jae Crowder about the incident as he was leaving practice on Saturday at Roosevelt University in downtown Chicago.
 
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he told CSNNE.com. “Was it intentional?”
 
Apparently, the league thought so.