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Tag:Paul Pierce
Posted on: May 1, 2011 6:59 pm
Edited on: May 1, 2011 7:38 pm
 

History says not to panic about the Celtics yet

Posted by Royce Young



Saturday, May 1, 2010. The Boston Celtics drop Game 1 to the Cleveland Cavaliers 103-96 after a dominant second half in which the Cavs outscored Boston 58-39.

I remember all the reaction after it. LeBron has done it. The Cavs are different. These Celtics are vulnerable. The guard is changing. I remember all the chatter, all the reaction, after Game 1. And what happened next? The Celtics went on to finish LeBron, and the Cavs as we know them, off in six games.

Now. I'm not at all inclined to say the same fate is awaiting LeBron and his new team after their 99-90 win over the Celtics in Game 1 Sunday. And yes, I'm the same dude that just got through writing about how Game 1 could decide this series in the end. (Tone, statement, momentum and all that Jazz was my thinking there.) And I'm not saying it won't.

But let's pump the brakes on thinking at all that the Celtics are overmatched here. Maybe before we all say, "Looks like the Heat are the superior team after all," we let Game 2 happen. This was played on Miami's home floor, remember. And they still have to replicate this three more times to get past Boston.

LeBron's Cavs weren't able to do that. The Celtics are masters of adjustment, and will have a little something different Tuesday. The goal for any road team in the first two games is to win one and claim homecourt advantage. And that opportunity is still there for the Celtics.

A big reason LeBron made the switch to join Dwyane Wade is precisely what happened Sunday against the Celtics. He had a great deal of help, and the Heat were able to put it to the Celtics on both ends. Rajon Rondo didn't control the game and save for some spectacular-but-normal-for-him shooting from Ray Allen, Boston stayed close. Other than that, the Boston offense stalled. The Celtics didn't get to the free throw line (just 18 attempts), shot just 42.7 percent and only had three players in double-figures. Rondo's line -- eight points and seven assists -- really says it all.

It also says to me that the Celtics didn't play their best game. It does feel like there has been a shift in this matchup from the control Boston had in the first three meetings. It does feel like the Heat have found some confidence and swagger against the Celtics. But it also doesn't feel like this series is even close to over. You know that, and I'm insulting your intelligence by telling you, but I feel like I need to say it.

I picked the Heat to win in seven games, and my mind hasn't really changed much from that. The Heat held serve on their end because of 38 from Wade, 22 from LeBron and 25 from... James Jones? See, just that part alone should make Celtics fans feel a bit better. That's not happening again.

Again, I said myself how important this game was. Much more so for the Heat. Lose Game 1 and whoa boy, are they hearing about it. Lose Game 1 and now the Celtics are playing with house money. Lose Game 1, and it's very likely the Heat are in a hole that, mentally, they can't get out of.

They didn't though. They took care of business. But I think the Heat would admit, the Celtics can, and will, play better. It's a four-point game and the Heat scored the first point. I can promise you, Doc Rivers isn't panicking. Neither is Paul Pierce, Allen or Kevin Garnett.

But Game 2 is where the Heat are going to have to make their money. LeBron's Cavs conceded in that situation last year, and it ended up costing them. Boston took its talents to South Beach with a hope to win two, but with a goal to take just one. That opportunity is still there. And it comes down to Tuesday night. After that, maybe we'll be able to draw a real conclusion or two.
Posted on: May 1, 2011 6:04 pm
Edited on: May 2, 2011 1:56 am
 

Paul Pierce ejected after screen on Dwyane Wade

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce was ejected after setting a screen on Dwyane Wade. Posted by Ben Golliver.

Any time an All-Star is ejected from a pivotal playoff game, there's bound to be controversy. But Sunday's Game 1 showdown between Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce and Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade will have people talking for days.

With Miami leading 87-74 at the 7:00 mark of the fourth quarter, Pierce set a pair of screens on Wade. After the second screen, Wade was whistled for a foul for running into Pierce and the two All-Stars exchanged some words. Without hesitation, the baseline official, Ed Malloy, whistled a double technical on both players. 

The only problem? Pierce had received a technical earlier in the game for getting into the face of Heat forward James Jones. By rule, Pierce was ejected from the game for receiving his second technical foul. 

For a full explanation of both technicals on Pierce from Dan Crawford, Sunday's officiating crew chief, click here. Regarding the second technical, Crawford stated: "It's what we call a verbal taunt. He directed profanity towards (Dwyane) Wade. And in the rulebook, that is a verbal taunt. And it just so happened to be Pierce's second technical foul." 

For more on the post-game reaction to the call, read this column by Jamey Eisenberg for CBSSports.com.

Here's video of the screen and scene that got Pierce tossed. 



Pierce left the game with 19 points, seven rebounds, two assists and one steal.
Posted on: April 30, 2011 6:05 pm
 

Playoff Fix: No room to breathe with Heat-Celtics

Posted by Royce Young



One Big Thing: Does anyone else get the sense that Game 1 is really, really important in this series? Either way, a tone is getting set. Either the Heat make a statement that things have changed and they're ready for the Celtics or Boston makes one saying it's more of the status quo.

Heck, package it in even tighter than that. The first six minutes of this game could say a whole lot about it. There's going to be a real mental aspect to this series and every little play is going to feel extremely large. I still haven't wrapped my head around this just being the Eastern Conference Semifinals yet.

The X-Factor: It's Rajon Rondo. There's absolutely no doubt about it. Miami has no one to guard him and with him getting his feel and command back against the Knicks, Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra likely haven't slept the last 72 hours. The good Rondo changes every little thing about this series. If he's keyed in, breaking down the Miami defense and distributing, it's hard to see how the Heat can guard Boston for 48 minutes.

The Adjustment: Would Spoelstra dare get creative with his matchups? Mario Chalmers was good in Game 5 for the Heat, but could we see a lot of Dwyane Wade on Rondo? Of course now you've got to account for Ray Allen, but I get the feeling Mike Bibby and Chalmers have a better chance chasing Allen off screens than they do slowing Rondo off the dribble.

The Sticking Point: The season series tilted 3-1 in Boston's favor with the one Miami win coming when Rondo was in his post-Perk funk and the Celtics slipping a bit as a team. Hard to really take too much from that. Except maybe that the Heat built some confidence. I mean, remember at All-Star Weekend when James Jones beat Ray Allen and Paul Pierce in the 3-point contest and said, "We finally beat you guys in something. " To that point, the Celtics were in their heads. Maybe just that simple regular season win has removed some of that doubt.

The Celtics conceded home court in this series with a poor finish. Not that Miami has a great advantage there (Fan Up, amirite?) but still, it's called "advantage" for a reason. Starting at home fresh off that win could be a big thing for the Heat. And with this first game, the first six minutes, heck the first possession being big, that could be the edge the Heat need to get started right.
Posted on: April 29, 2011 3:05 pm
Edited on: April 29, 2011 3:30 pm
 

Celtics-Heat: The X's and O's

How do the Heat and Celtics match up on both sides of the ball?
Posted by Matt Moore




It was inevitable, really. From the moment the Triad formed last summer, the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics have been eyeing one another. The dominant team in the East doesn't like any team acting like they're in the same league with the defending champs, much less a team that hadn't played a single game together saying they're going to win multiple NBA championships. A 3-1 advantage in the regular series gives Boston the mental edge, but the Heat took the lone meeting after the Celtics traded Perkins and destabilized their chemistry. 

Playoffs are hugely influenced by matchups. Here's a look at how various matchups land in favor of the Heat or the Celtics. 

PG: The Celtics of course have a natural, traditional point guard in Rajon Rondo, a pure point, while the Heat largely use Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers the same way the Lakers use Derek Fisher. James and Wade spend a majority of the time at point. 
When the Celtics have the ball: We don't have to talk much about this, right? I mean, Rajon Rondo is Rondo and Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers are not. Defensively, the Heat won't match up either of their point guards on Rondo. Either Wade or James will try to check him. It's a testament to Rondo's ability that neither is able to effectively handle him. Even against two of the faster players in the league, and two of the better defenders, Rondo simply outmaneuvers either one. James isn't fast enough and Wade struggles with Rondo's agility. Off the pick and roll, a hard trap isn't effective, thanks to how quickly Rondo can move the ball Garnett for the pick and pop or to the roll man. There's not a great solution outside of bringing help and hoping the perimeter shooters miss. You know, Ray Allen not being considerably reliable in terms of outside shooting, all-time 3-point shooting record holder that he is. 

When the Heat have the ball: On offense, when the Heat go to Wade or James running point, Rondo will attack whoever crosses the timeline with the ball in most instances. Rondo can get backed down by James in the post, but that's something LeBron seldom does. Likewise, Wade can cross him over, but then you're looking at a pull-up jumper which you live with. It's not that Rondo's a better player than James or Wade, those guys will get theirs (unless Wade's nightmares against Boston continue) but Rondo's physical versatility allows him to guard the other well enough to guide them into the teeth of the Celtics' help defense. 

Wings: Going traditional "SG and SF" designations are largely useless here. It's true that Wade is listed at guard and James at forward, but in reality, both operate on the perimeter and handle the ball, while not operating in traditional roles. James is too on-ball to be considered a true small forward, and Wade's versatility causes the same problems. So instead we'll look at it from the perspective of wings.

When the Celtics have the ball: The hardest part about guarding the Celtics is their consistency in running their offense. They'e not going to blow you away with new sets. But they run what they run to such precision that it's near impossible to stop them. The biggest problem is chasing Ray Allen through screens. Allen will usally cut baseline to baseline through closing screens. The result is Allen getting open for 3-pointers while the defender is still trying to recover from brutal off-ball screens by Glen Davis and KG, and the announcers saying "How can you leave Ray Allen wide open?!" as if the thought of defending the greatest pure shooter (limited to non-ball-handlers who just shoot 3-pointers, please leave your MJ/Kobe debates at home, kids) never crossed their mind. Wade will be assigned to try and get through, but his body isn't built for the wear and tear. Mario Chalmers might be a better cover here, as Bibby isn't tall enough to defend in the first place and would get murdered on the screens. Chalmers needs to study tape of what J.J. Redick has done to get through those screens and he can't afford to lose Allen, even on broken plays or rebounds. If you take your eyes off Allen for a second, that's three points. 

Pierce is considerably easier to guard from a strategic standpoing; he's coming right at you. The problem with Pierce is he just knows his moves so well. James has historically done a pretty good job on Pierce. But when James goes out, there's absolutely no one to guard Pierce. James Jones can't hang with him on the drive or the step back. Mike Miller may do a decent job, but again, that elbow jumper's tough and when he throws in the pump-fake, that's going to be trouble. Pierce is also very adept at finding the trailer 3-pointer, and when the defense collapses off Rondo, Pierce is open.  It's the basic Celtics problem. Pierce is a great offensive player on his own. When he's used off-ball, it becomes even harder to stop him. James and he nearly cancel each other out at both ends. 

When the Heat have the ball: When the ball rotates to whichever one is working off-ball, Allen will take Wade, with the requisite help coming weak-side.  Pierce will take James. Help will be quick on the drive in both instances, and since neither has figured out how to move off-ball outside of transition, the defense will focus on the ball-handler. The roll man's defender on the pick and roll will show hard, with the other low-post defender rolling to cut off the lane. If the ball-handler cuts back, a third defender will be there. Essentially, the Celtics are well prepared for whatever attack the Heat have shown. There will be times when the Heat get open looks off of their athletic ability to get past the defense for the drive and kick, usually a jump-pass. When those occur, the Heat have to knock them down. You can't waste open shots against the Celtics. 

Down Low:

When the Celtics have the ball: Kevin Garnett normally isn't a threat in the post. He doesn't have the muscle left to deal with the contact against most power forwards. Except Chris Bosh. He can pretty much do whatever he wants there. Bosh has to hold on his own, because the Heat can't afford to double in the post with the other weapons on the floor for Boston. The best option might be to give Joel Anthony a run on Garnett and risk the inevitable fouls. Anthony will struggle with Garnett at the elbow, but you've got to live with it somewhere. 

When the Heat have the ball: Bosh has played pretty aggressively in the playoffs and through the last month of the season. But against Garnett, it's just not a good matchup for him. Glen Davis is a better matchup for him, where Bosh's length will allow him to go to the mid-range. Off the pick and pop, Bosh has to have a quick trigger and good aim. Bosh has to completely change this dynamic for the Heat to win. 

Centers: The Heat have aging centers with diminished skills and a poorly coordinated young player with questionable decision making on offense. The Celtics have aging centers with diminished skills and a poorly coordinated young player with questionable decision making on offense. It's a wash. 

These matchups look like they favor Boston for a reason. But that's dependent on the Triad not being able to counter Boston's defense. If LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh are able to put in performances worthy of their reputations, the Heat can overwhelm Boston, especially without Perkins. From a strategic standpoint, the Heat are clearly the underdogs, but their whole approach has been to overcome with talent. They'll need to do the same to get to the Conference Finals. 
Posted on: April 24, 2011 3:07 pm
Edited on: April 24, 2011 3:26 pm
 

D'Antoni: 'I'd like to see (Rondo) play on Minny'

Posted by Matt Moore with special thanks to Ken Berger

You know what I'd do if I were head coach of a team that was down 0-3 in a series and heading in to an elimination game against the defending Eastern Conference champs? I'd question the ability of the point guard who just dropped the second ever 20-assist playoff triple-double on me. Great idea, right? I'd question how he would play were he not surrounded by three Hall of Famers who also happen to be very protective of said enigmatic point guard, and also happen to be very capable of taking out their frustrations on the court. That's what I would do... if I were a masochist. 

Mike D'Antoni is said masochist. 

From Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, live from Madison Square Garden for today's Knicks-Celtics Game 4: 




Mike, it isn't like Rondo just had an okay game or series. He didn't just hit a double-double one night to help out his club. This is the guy who dropped 20 assists on you in a triple-double... twice! Of the eight times such a feat has been accomplished, regular season or playoffs, Rondo has done it three times. Two of them have come against New York.  

D'Antoni may need to spend more time in the countryside. The expression, "You mess with the bull, you get the horns?" It has a literal meaning which might help him avoid tweaking players who have the proven skillset to totally dismantle his club on the hardwood, and, this time, send them packing into the longest NBA layoff in 12 years. 

D'Antoni's point isn't without merit, though. We have never seen Rondo without the three Hall of Famers. Rondo's ball-fake, slip-pass, lightning fast whip passes wouldn't produce as many points if he were slinging to Michael Beasley, Travis Outlaw, Sasha Vujacic, Donte Greene, or any of the other casts of the lotto squads. But Rondo's learned so much with his time among the Big 3 that it's not like he'd fall off the cliff. We'll get a chance in a few years to see what Rondo looks like when he's the best player on the team from a career perspective, and whether that translates to the same kind of success he's had among the greats in Boston. 

D'Antoni did tell reporters, "But Rondo's a very, very good basketball player. Really good. There's no doubt about that." But does he think that part of the quote is what's going to get put on the bulletin board in the Celtics' locker room, or pasted on highlight reels before clips of Game 4? D'Antoni's greater philosophical point may be worth examination, but within the context of the series, and in its timing, it was a poor decision. 

Horns, Mike. Horns. 
Posted on: April 24, 2011 2:22 pm
 

NBA Playoffs: Amar'e Stoudemire will play Game 4


Posted by Matt Moore

From Ken Berger of CBSSports.com before today's Game 4 between the Knicks and Celtics, an elimination game for New York:




If the Knicks are going to have any shot at making this a series, they need a great Amar'e. Stoudemire will give it a go. Without Billlups, Toney Douglas will go again. We'll see if it's as amusing as it was last time. 

For more on today's Knicks-Celtics Game 4, follow Ken Berger on Twitter
Posted on: April 24, 2011 2:52 am
Edited on: April 24, 2011 3:47 am
 

Series Reset: Celtics at another level than NY

Can the Knicks get one for their pride? Or will the Celtics make another statement in the Garden? Either way, this series is over. 

Posted by Matt Moore





The Narrative: Were the Knicks exposed in Game 3? Even without Billups, it certainly felt like it. The Celtics hit the gear we've been waiting for them to hit for months. They looked every bit the team that most thought would contend for the title in June, with or without Perkins. The Knicks? Well, they looked like a team that traded half their roster for a high-usage scorer with questionable defensive ability and never addressed their gaping, vaccumous hole at center. The Celtics are unlikely to play that well again. But the Knicks had two winnable games in Boston, and blew both of them. The Celtics woke up, and look like they're ready to end things quickly, quietly, and mercifully for the Knicks. This game feels more like a chance for the Celtics to make another statement than the Knicks' last stand. 

The Hook: Amar'e Stoudemire is "iffy" for Game 4. Which means the Knicks have to run more, which they've completely forgotten how to do. A Mike D'Antoni team that doesn't know how to run the break? So it's basically a bad defensive team that doesn't do anything well offensively. Yeah, this should end well. Stoudemire wasn't very effective in Game 3; you could tell the back spasms were really hurting him. Without him, it means the Knicks' forwards have to step up. If you can name them, enjoy your tickets to the game. Shawne Williams, Bill Walker, Ronny Turiaf, Jared Jeffries? Yeah, this just isn't working out too well. Maybe Melo will score 100, though. That would be pretty cool. The Knicks might still lose, but hey, it would make for good headlines. 

The Adjustment: Toney Douglas has to be more aggressive. In Game 3, Douglas pulled up on transition opportunities while his coach begged him to push. Against a better defensive team, you cannot operate in the half-court set and hope to win. Douglas has to be hyper-aggressive in every opportunity they're blessed with, and push the ball. If Douglas can't get it done, give Anthony Carter a try. Trying and failing is better than not trying at this point. The Knicks' half-court offense is entirely ISO sets at this point. The Knicks have to try and open that up by pushing the ball and getting some of their scorers some confidence, and firing up the crowd. The half-court set just means more plays Rondo can make and more Allen 3-pointers. The Knicks have to play to the team D'Antoni assembled ... or what is left of that team after James Dolan gutted it to get a scoring forward. 

The X-Factor: Jermaine O'Neal. O'Neal has been huge in this series, which tells you a lot about where the Knicks' center rotation is at. O'Neal has had the mid-range going, has worked the glass, has defended at the rim, and has given the requisite hard fouls. If O'Neal keeps up this play, and stays healthy, this could be a huge factor in the playoffs going forward. And as long as he plays decently in Game 4, the Knicks will have lost the positional matchup at center. Again. 

The Sticking Point: The Celtics are awake, now. And the gap between the two franchises, the two rosters, the two teams was evident in Game 3. How do the Knicks respond to that kind of face-kicking? The problem is that it doesn't matter, nor does the great atmosphere of the Garden. The Knicks could win Game 4 in a special combination of elements, but barring an outright miracle, this series isn't going further than five games. The Celtics struggled in the first two and the Knicks still couldn't get a win. Now, the Celtics are motivated and ready to contend for a title. And, after a frustrating couple months, the Knicks are the first team they're taking their frustrations out on. Even if the Knicks win, they don't win. The future's exceptionally bright for New York, and that's why the trade was made. But, right now, in this moment, they simply can't measure up. 
Posted on: April 22, 2011 10:54 pm
Edited on: April 22, 2011 11:27 pm
 

NBA Playoffs Knicks-Celtics: 4 Horsemen Riding

The Knicks were routed out of the Garden by Four Horsemen that doomed them to an 0-3 deficit. 
Posted by Matt Moore




You had to expect this. A raucous home crowd thinking the first two games were close enough to support a win for the hometown boys in their own house. Over-performance from a super-thin Knicks roster in Games 1 and 2, with some top-heavy help from the stars who the Celtics would work to figure out. Sloppy play from the Celtics to wake themselves up, even after a win. And then, you know, this reality. 

The Boston Celtics are much better than the New York Knicks. 

In the Celtics' outright dismantling of the Knicks, the Celtics rode in like it was Revelations and they were brining the end of the world to Knicks fans. There were four factors that really led to this beatdown. Here then are the four horsemen of the Knickocalypse. 

More on Celtics at Knicks
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1. Pestilence: The Celtics had 20 turnovers, which is a huge amount. But almost none of them hurt them. Know how many fast break points the Knicks, a Mike D'Antoni team, had? 10, on 4-8 shooting. The Knicks had 18 turnovers, which the Celtics used to help convert 8-12 fast break opportunities into 23 points. The Celtics turnovers were on account of trying to do too much, being too confident, moving too quickly. The Knicks' turnovers were on account of sloppiness, dribbling into double teams, throwing terrible passes, freezing movement, and working right into Boston's hands. The Celtics' defense made the Knicks' offense sick to its stomach by closing off lanes and pressuring the Knicks' terrible, and I mean terrible, ball-handlers. But the Knicks also vomited on themselves time and time again with lazy, unfocused and unprepared play. 

2. Famine: James Dolan should buy himself a beer tonight. It was his bungling of the Melo trade that left the Knicks with such a wretched supporting cast and their bench starving for talent. Jared Jeffries played exceptionally well in Game 2, and still managed to lose the game on consecutive possessions. In Game 3, there was no such upside. Jeffries blew easy passes underneath. He was slow to rotate, got lost repeatedly, and failed to execute with any clear purpose. And he had a much better game than Ronny Turiaf. Not only didn't Turiaf do all of those things, but he got completely manhandled down low. The Celtics' reserves were just as bad, and as D'Antoni kept trying to send different lineups, trying to find a spark, the gap in talent was pretty obvious. 

Then there was Toney Douglas. This should have been his opportunity to shine. With Billups out another game, building off of Game 2, with a home crowd, the situation was ripe for him to make an impact. His line's not bad. 15-3-3. But Douglas also failed to recognize Amar'e Stoudemire, the giant power forward with insane leaping ability who's the star of his team, slashing towards the basket on multiple fast breaks. He repeatedly froze fast breaks instead of pushing. Which is really what you want to do when you're running a D'Antoni offense. Slow it down. The Celtics actually dislike fast break teams quite a bit. That being the case, they loved Douglas tonight, because let them keep everything in front of them, nice and settled. 

3. War: The Celtics' defense wasn't everywhere it should have been in Games 1 and 2. It was omnipresent in Game 3. Particularly at the rim. The same principles which have led the Celtics to two finals appearances in three years were in play. Carmelo Anthony was challenged on the perimeter tight by Paul Pierce and others, electing to force him into the drive. When he drove, he was met outside of the paint with multiple defenders creating a wall. Melo's runners bounced off backboard, and contrary the games in Boston, the Celtics came to hit the glass. Boston allowed only a 29 percent offensive rebound rate to the Knicks after allowing over 40 percent to be snagged by New York in both games in Beantown. The formula's simple. Pressure, attack, communicate, help, choke off the offense and get the rebound. The Celtics are defined by those principles, and they were in full effect Friday night. 

On offense, the Celtics came in and raided the Garden, especially from the perimeter. Ray Allen had a bombardment of 3-pointers, in classic form. The Knicks' defense was abysmal, don't get me wrong. But those offensive rebounds came into play. Boston had a 38 percent offensive rebounding rate on their own. That lead to second chance opportunities, which created a scrambling Knicks defense out of position, at which point Allen calmly slipped to a corner and nailed three after three. Most of it was a lack of communication and poor defensive principles by the Knicks, but Boston also calmly executed over and over again. Paul Pierce, who came in 1-10 in ISO situations in this series, was dominant. He and Allen combined for 70 points between the two of them.  Pierce had everything going -- the jumper was crazy wet. Check out their shot charts from GameTracker.





23-34 on jumpers. That's pretty much insane. It was a prolific performance from two Hall of Famers. The embers from the Nets at the Garden are still burning. 

4. Death, thy name is Rajon Rondo. 15 points, 11 rebounds, 20 assists. The first 20-assist triple-double since Magic Johnson in 1991. Those offensive rebounds that lead to those threes? Six of them for Rondo. The floater, the mid-range, and dish, after dish, after dish. The Celtics were on a whole different level than the Knicks tonight. Rondo was on a level beyond that. He was so good his teammates couldn't keep up at points. Rondo was dribbling between his legs and behind his back on the baseline after offensive rebounds. It was as brilliant of a pure-point performance as you'll see in the league. The Rajon Rondo from the beginning of the season is most definitely back. 

The Knicks could have defended better. They could have rebounded better. They could have passed, shot, played better. But with Rajon Rondo owning the game in the way he did, it's hard to see that there was much this Knicks roster could do. The one from earlier in the season, with more depth, more versatility, and more chemistry? Maybe. But this one was simply overwhelmed by the horsemen. 

The end may come on Sunday. 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com