Will Melo Think About Then Now?

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Will Melo Think About Then Now?

Before last nights game, Carmelo Anthony sounded like a man who was beyond the Boston Celtics. Like a man with nothing to prove against the five-time defending Atlantic Division champs and a team barely removed from the Eastern Conference Finals.

Honestly, we dont even think about them, Anthony told reporters at yesterdays shoot around. No disrespect or anything. We focus on ourselves. Just happens the Boston Celtics are the next game on our schedule.

No disrespect? OK, fine. But not much respect either. At least not compared to what his teammates had to offer:

Theyre not done at all, Jason Kidd said. Theres a lot of basketball left. They have a great coach and know what it takes to win.

Boston is a veteran team, Tyson Chandler added. They do things late in the season. Theres not much of a sense of urgency as far as the regular season goes, because they know theyve been together a long time and can turn it on.

Once again, here's Melo: Honestly, we dont even think about them.

Twelve hours later, he was standing out in the cold, wearing an awesome red hat and locked in a staring contest with a bus. He was so consumed by the Celtics that he that he didn't even shower or talk to the media. That he reportedly needed to be restrained by Rasheed Wallace (Ha!), and even before that, had come dangerously close to getting himself thrown out of the game.

What set him off?

In an abbreviation: KG. But it had to be something more than that, right? Something above and beyond Garnett's typical trash talk. Did he drop another cancer line? Make another joke about Bin Laden? Was it Lala? Did he DARE bring up sweet Lala?

Whatever it was, Anthony was irate. Way past angry. In the kind of volatile state that typically leads to overly emotional and idiotic decisions like, say, trying to pick a fight outside the opposing team's bus.

It will be interesting hear what Melo has to say the next time he meets with reporters. You figure by then, once he's done standing on KG's front lawn screaming "Cowwaaaaaaard!" at the top his lungs, Anthony will want to discuss what happened. And I hope he gives us the full story. But in the meantime, here's one thing we know for sure:

Carmelo Anthony will be thinking about the Celtics.

He came into the game acting like it was nothing. As if two months of solid Knicks basketball had already erased five years of Celtics dominance. It was basically: "Oh, Boston's in town? That's cool. Just another speed bump."

The Celtics turned out to be a brick wall. And I think it caught Melo by surprise. I think he was looking past the Celtics to begin with, then they lost Rondo, then the Knicks jumped out to an early 10-point lead and Anthony was flying high. Like LeBron, he had officially cleared the green hurdle, and was ready to leave the Celtics in his dust.

But then Boston fought back. Playing without Rondo, they delivered the most entertaining and spirited performance since last year's playoffs. Pierce and KG were in post-season form. Avery Bradley was all that he can be. Jason Terry found ways to contribute (five assists, four rebounds) despite his missing jumper. Courtney Lee played defense like the Courtney Lee we all expected. Jeff Green took perfect advantage of Steve Novak. Brandon Bass had the jump shot working. Jared Sullinger continued his crusade to become every single Celtics fan's favorite player.

As the game went on, and the Celtics continued to click, Pierce and KG started having some fun. And why not? How many more chances will either of them have to play in a game like that at Madison Square Garden? Can you imagine how great it must have felt to play on that stage after everything's that's happened this season? Of course they're going to get fired up.

For Pierce, that means doing stuff like this. For KG, that means talking. And he clearly said something to get under Melo's skin. And I imagine Anthony, already dealing with the shock of defeat, was thinking: "What he hell? I thought I was done with this. I thought I was done with these guys. They've got no right to talk to me like that and . . ." Scene.

I don't know. Maybe that's just my romanticized version of it.

But either way, from here on out, the Celtics are no longer just another game on Carmelo Anthony's schedule. He's going to start taking notice. After the events of the last five days, a lot of people will.

And with a 10-dayfive-game home stand set to kick off tomorrow night against Phoenix, the Celtics have a serious chance to run with the hype and finally start making an impact on this 2012-13 season.

Now if they can only do it with Rondo.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

BOSTON -- While it’s debatable whether the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards are rivals, there’s no question there has been a heightened level of animosity towards one another when they play.

When these two met on Jan. 11, the Celtics came away with a 117-108 win.

But the game itself featured plenty of back-and-forth trash talk, finger-pointing, cries of dirty play and NBA fines.

IN FACT . . . Washington plans to bury Boston

“It’ll be a physical game,” said Jae Crowder who was hit with a five-figure fine for his role in a post-game incident involving Washington’s John Wall. “We have to answer the bell; we’ll be ready.”

Crowder knows he and his teammates must balance being the more physical team, with not losing their cool because if tonight’s game is anything like previous ones, there will be trash talk … lots of trash talk.

“They talk a little bit more than other teams,” said Crowder who added that was a factor in the incident him and Wall which cost them $25,000 and $15,000, respectively.

Crowder said a flagrant-foul committed by Washington’s Bradley Beal against Marcus Smart was what really cranked the level of animosity that was already at a high level.

But Beal probably hasn’t fully put behind him an incident last season in which Smart broke his nose and put him in the league’s concussion protocol program on a Smart drive to the basket.

As far as the hard foul that Beal delivered to him earlier this month, Smart said, “you take exception to every hard foul.”

Smart added, “It’s the game of basketball. You play with your emotions and intensity and everything like that. It comes with the game.”

While Crowder understands the Celtics have to play a physical brand of basketball, he’s not looking to do anything that might result in him having to cut another $25,000 check which was the amount of his fine from the Jan. 11 game against the Wizards.

“I’m looking at it as another game we have to win,” Crowder said. “I’m not looking at it as a rivalry or anything like that. I’m not coming in talking; they might.”

For the Wizards, winners in four of their five games since losing to Boston, a major key to their success lies in the play of their backcourt.

John Wall and Bradley Beal are the latest high-scoring backcourt tandem that the Celtics have to be worried about.

And making matters worse for Boston, the Celtics will have to try and make due without Avery Bradley who is still dealing with a right Achilles injury.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said the 6-foot-2 Bradley was not going to be with the team in Washington and would most likely be out all this week.

That means Boston will lean heavily on Smart to not only help the offense run relatively smooth, but also provide some much-needed defense to help limit Wall and Beal who collectively rank among the higher-scoring starting backcourts in the NBA.

“We have to slow them down; by any means we have to slow them down,” Thomas said. “We know they go as far as those two take them. It’s going to be a tough game. They have a lot of momentum at home. It’ll be a tough game for us. But we’re ready for the opportunity.”

Wall and Beal are just the latest in a string of high-scoring backcourts that the Celtics have had to contend with recently.

In Saturday’s 127-123 overtime home loss to Portland, C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard combined to score 63 points on 20-for-42 shooting from the field.

“This stretch of backcourts is exceptionally difficult,” Stevens said. “They (Wall and Beal) both should be and certainly are in the discussion for the all-star team. It’s a real difficult challenge. Our guys are going to have to be really good on both ends of the floor.”

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.