NBA Finals – 2 Games In

After two games of the NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, it appears to be clear which of these two teams wants this championship more. The Celtics have played with a unity and desire to win that the Lakers have not shown. The Celtics seem to be rallying around their captain, Paul Pierce. After being down 5 at half time in Game 1, Paul Pierce started the spark that gave them the lead, and then when he was hurt the team rallied in his absence. When he returned it gave an emotional boost. I believe that this team lives and dies with Paul Pierce. As good as Kevin Garnett is, I feel that Pierce is the heart and soul.

So far in the series Pierce is shooting 62% from the field and 88% from behind the arc and is averaging 25 points per game. With KG getting a double-double in both games, Ray Allen averaging 18 points per game, and Rajon Rondo averaging 12 assists, this team is hitting on all cylinders. And I have yet to even mention Game 2’s player of the game, Leon Powe, who came in off of the bench and scored a staggering 21 points on only 15 minutes of action in last night’s game.

The Celtics have shown in Game 1 that they can come back from being down, and finish out a game strong to win and then showed in Game 2 that they can get a lead early and hold onto it despite a 4th quarter run by the Lakers. They have also shown that they can either contain Kobe Bryant and take him off of his rhythm and win, or that they can still win when Bryant has a 30 point performance.

From here on out the Celtics can have a losing record and still be world champions, and with the way they seem to be clicking I don’t see them losing game 3, and no team in NBA history has come back in the finals to win when facing a 3-0 deficit, and unless I’m mistaken I believe only one team has even come back to even force a Game 7. With that said, it sure is looking positive for the Celtics, especially if they can win tomorrow.

USA-Argentina

As I said earlier, USA played Argentina to a 0-0 tie in a friendly match tonight in New York City. I spent most of the first half trying to get my internet to run ESPN360, because I didn’t want to watch the game in Spanish. I saw bits and pieces of the first half, but not enough to give any sort of analysis. I did see that Argentina carried most of the play in the first fifteen. I thought the USA was in for a long night, but Tim Howard weathered the early storm and kept the game scoreless. He would get my Man of the Match award tonight.

Once I got it up and running, I was able to watch the second half without much trouble. The USA played much better than the parts of the first half that I saw and even produced the best scoring chance of the night when Oguchi Onyewu put his header off the crossbar. The chances were somewhat back and forth, which was great to see for the US. I figured Argentina would come out and put the game away early and cruise from there, but once Lionel Messi was taken off at halftime, they didn’t seem like the same team.

The US looked a little out of sorts at times, which could be because it was their 3rd tough game since May 28th. I felt like if their decision making had been just a split second quicker, their opportunities could have turned into goals. The best example came late in the game when substitute Sacha Kljestan took a pass at the top of the Argentine box and had a fairly open route to goal. He hesitated between carrying the ball forward and shooting and was quickly overtaken by the defense. He did manage to get a shot off but it was deflected harmlessly away.

A source of controversy came in the 71st minute when Pablo Mastroeni was sent off in what seemed to be a case of mistaken identity. Maurice Edu had been shown a yellow for a foul at the top of the American box and just before the free kick, the referee stopped play and red carded Mastroeni. Everyone, even the fourth official, was confused by this call. An isolated view of Mastroeni showed that he did not come in contact with or say anything to any of the Argentine players. All I could think was that he mistook Edu for Mastroeni and thought he had drawn his second yellow of the game. If that is what happened, it’s an egregious error on the referee’s part and he should be disciplined accordingly. Unfortunately, FIFA has had a terrible history of acknowledging an official’s mistakes.

Overall, I was pretty happy with the performance. Argentina is the best team in the world, so holding them to a tie is not anything to be ashamed of. I will say congratulations to Landon Donovan who became the 4th fastest player to 100 appearances in international soccer history.

World Cup Qualifying begins next weekend with a home and home against Barbados.

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