Sports Weekender

In this edition of the Weekender, the Celtics come up small, the Red Sox come up even smaller, and the Patriots draft linebackers, corners, and a quarterback (?)

It wasn’t so much that the Celtics lost a game in Atlanta this weekend. Only one NBA series looks like it’s headed for a sweep (Denver-LA), and from Phoenix to Toronto, underdogs made at least one impassioned defense of their home court in every other series. It was the way the C’s went down that was so disconcerting. They abandoned their offense, reverting to what Doc Rivers calls “hero ball,” (also known as a desire to go 1-on-5) and they played with all the intensity of a second game of a back-to-back in January.

The Hawks should have quit while Josh Smith was throwing in 3-pointers like he was Mookie Blaylock, but they couldn’t leave well enough alone. Al Horford, who has been the only consistent player for Atlanta in this series, took the time to taunt Pierce toward the end of the game, and the rest of the team can’t stop yapping.

If the Celtics are who they say they are (cue Denny Green), then we finally have a playoff game worth watching tonight.

It was a tough last few days for your first place Red Sox who finally succumbed to the flu, injuries, and the minor league atmosphere in Tampa Bay (Cow Bell Night? Really?) and got swept by the Rays.You can look at this two ways. The first: They got swept by Tampa???? The sky is falling, get rid of J.D. Drew, and please have someone drive Mike Timlin out to Revere and properly dispose of the body.

Or: Clay Buchholz finally pitched like the guy we thought we were getting, Josh Beckett was nasty, and it’s only a matter of time before the bullpen pulls it together.

Before this stumble, the Sox had put together a nice little winning streak, but it was fool’s gold, more 2005 than 2007. Late-game offensive heroics are awesome, but solid starting pitching is what wins game. The reason why the Sox had so few late rallies last year is because they were rarely behind late in the game.

The injuries are worrisome, true. But after 26 games, after enduring an insane schedule and an even crazier travel itinerary, a 15-11 record and a game and a half edge on the Yankees looks pretty good.

First reaction when the Bengals drafted Keith Rivers? Damn it. Then Mel Kiper started talking about how the one knock on Rivers is that he doesn’t make enough plays. Hmm. Next up: The Pats take Jerod Mayo, and the first thing Kiper says is that the kid makes plays all over the field. Oh, he’s also a three-year starter who can play inside and out, and he’s smart.

In the third round, the Pats took a quarterback named Kevin O’Connell, from San Diego State who also happened to be Ron Jaworski’s favorite among the second tier of QB’s. Now, Jaws is a blowhard on Monday Night Football, but the guy takes the whole film-watching thing very seriously, and he generally has a better handle on the QB prospects than any other analyst.

Add in a pass-rushing linebacker in Shawn Crable, a couple of corners (Terrence Wheatley and Jonathan Wilhite) and a possible special-teams ace, Matt Slater (who else drafts players strictly for special teams in the fifth round?) and it’s quite possible that Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli just pulled off another stellar draft like the one they had in 2003.