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Thoughts on Celtics/Bulls Game 7 & Pacquiao/Hatton May 2, 2009

Posted by pacejmiller in Basketball, Boxing, NBA.
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What a big night of sport it’s going to be! Unfortunately from where I am, it’s going to be very late when:

(1) the defending champs Boston Celtics take on the Chicago Bulls in game 7 of the first round of the NBA playoffs in arguably one of the most thrilling series of all time; and

(2) pound-for-pound boxing champ Manny Pacquiao takes on Ricky Hatton in their scheduled 12 round bout in Las Vegas.

Not that it would have mattered anyway because they’re not showing either event free (sob)!  Looks like I’ll have to look for places to watch the things online tomorrow (any suggestions?).

Nevertheless, here are my thoughts.

CELTICS VS BULLS, GAME 7

Derrick Rose vs Rajon Rondo has been great

Derrick Rose vs Rajon Rondo has been great

This game has gotten every NBA and basketball fan awfully excited.  The 2nd seed in the East and the defending NBA champs Boston Celtics are being pushed to the brink by 7th seed Chicago Bulls.  Thank goodness Kevin Garnett (of the Celtics) is injured, or else we wouldn’t be witnessing such a close encounter between two extremely well-matched teams.

Just to put the excitement and magnitude of this sudden-death game into perspective, here are the results of the first 6 games in the series:

Game 1: Bulls narrowly defeat Celtics 105-103 in overtime in Boston to shock the defending champs and taking away their home court advantage.  Chicago’s Derrick Rose in his NBA playoff debut: 36 points, 11 assists, 4 rebounds.  Boston’s Rajon Rondo’s stat line: 29 points, 7 assists,9 rebounds.  Bulls lead series 1-0.

Game 2: Celtics win 118-115 in Boston, with Ray Allen hitting the game winning 3-pointer with 2 seconds to go.  Chicago’s Ben Gordon erupts for 42 points in a losing effort.   Rajon Rondo records a triple double with 19 points, 16 assists, 12 rebounds, and Ray Allen scores 30.  Series tied 1-1.

Game 3: Celtics dominate Bulls 107-86 in Chicago.  Rondo again leads with way with 20 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals.  Celtics pull ahead 2-1.

Game 4: Bulls edge Celtics 121-118 in double overtime in Chicago.  Derrick Rose narrowly misses a triple double with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists, but has 7 turnovers.  Rondo does record a triple double with 25 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists, Paul Pierce adds 29 and Ray Allen chips in with 28.  Series even 2-2.

Game 5: Celtics edge Bulls 106-104 in overtime in Boston.  Rajon Rondo continues his strong play with 28 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds, but Paul Pierce is the hero, hitting a jumper to force overtime and 3 more in the final 77 seconds to lead the Celtics to victory with 26 points.  Brad Miller missed two free throws (that would have sent the game into another OT period) after being smacked in the face and while sporting a bloody lip.  Celtics lead 3-2.

Game 6: Bulls nip Celtics 128-127 in triple overtime in Chicago, with Derrick Rose blocking Rajon Rondo’s jumper with 3.2 seconds to go to seal the victory.  And get this: Ray Allen erupts for 51 points include 9-18 from 3-point range.  Derrick Rose has another solid game with 28 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, and John Salmons breaks out with 35 points.  Bulls pull even again 3-3.

So now, after 106 lead changes, 5 out of 6 games decided by 3 points or less, 7 overtime periods, we finally have a game 7.  There is a good chance this final game will turn out to be a disappointment, but if it manages to duplicate the half the excitement of the first 6 games, this series should go down as one of the greatest of all time, notwithstanding the fact that this is only the first round of the playoffs.  Check here for ESPN’s top 10 moments of the series so far (all with video)!

Prediction

It would only be fair if I made a prediction.  Conventional wisdom says the Celtics – they have the championship experience, they’re playing at home, they just came off a loss, and perhaps the Bulls have used up all their energy and luck.  But given the way things have gone so far, it would be awesome if the Bulls were able to pull it out.  To do so, they would need either a dominant performance by Derrick Rose or a scoring outburst by Ben Gordon or John Salmons, or both.  Brad Miller will be the X-factor.  My guess is that if the Celtics win, it’ll be a big win, but if the Bulls come away with the victory, it’ll be another close one.  So what will it be?  I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Bulls to shock the world!

PS: by contrast, the only other series that has gone 7 games in the first round is between the Miami Heat and the Atlanta Hawks, and that series hasn’t had a single game decide in single digits and not 1 lead change since the first bucket in game 1!

MANNY PACQUIAO VS RICKY HATTON

Pacquiao vs Hatton

Pacquiao vs Hatton

I consider myself a casual boxing fan (who has followed all the ‘major’ fights over the last 10 years or so).  In boxing right now, there are no bigger boxers than the Filipino pound-for-pound champ Manny Pacquaio and British superstar Ricky Hatton.  This fight has been billed as the battle between the East and the West.

Let’s have a closer look.

Tale of the Tape

Manny Pacquiao:

Record: 48-3-2 (36KO)

Trainer: Freddie Roach

Stance: Southpaw

Age: 30

Height: 5’6 1/2″

Reach: 67″

Ricky Hatton:

Record: 45-1-0 (32KO)

Trainer: Floyd Mayweather Sr.

Stance: Orthodox

Age: 30

Height: 5’7 1/2″

Reach: 65″

Matchup

Most boxing experts and fans are predicting a Pacquiao victory, and with good reason.  Pacquiao is at the top of his game, having thoroughly demolished Oscar De La Hoya in December 2008, sending the Golden boy into permanent retirement.  He’s considered the pound-for-pound king right now and has been arguably getting better with each fight.  His has a strong bond with his trainer Freddie Roach., having fought under him for many years, whereas Hatton has only been with Floyd Mayweather Sr for one previous fight (against Paulie Malignaggi).  No matter which wauy you look at it, he has a speed advantage on Hatton, and though his power at 140 pounds is uncertain (having never fought at this weight), one can make a good argument that he will pack more power than Hatton, who is known to be more of a ‘wear ’em down’ type of fighter with his trademark thudding body shots.

On the other hand, you cannot write off Ricky Hatton.  There are some experts who believe Hatton can pull out the victory, and even some of those who are siding with Pacquaio believe it will be a tough fight for the Filipino.  Hatton has a pressure-style which can ruffle Pacquiao, and he has apparently improved significantly through his new trainer, particularly with his jab and defensive techniques, turning into a more complete boxer.  Even though he is only an inch taller and has shorter reach than Pacquiao, Hatton is arguably the biggest opponent Pacquiao has ever faced (considering Oscar was weight drained when he fought Pacquiao and the fact that Hatton will presumably come into the fight heavier than Oscar was).  Most importantly, though Pacquiao has fought at 135 pounds and 147 pounds, he’s never fought at 140 pounds, whereas Hatton has fought almost exclusively at 140 pounds and has never lost at that weight (his only defeat coming against Mayweather Jr at 147 pounds).

Subplots

The many subplots to this fight make this interesting matchup even more intriguing!  First of all, you’ve got the pound-for-pound champ Pacquiao, who has never fought at 140 pounds, taking on Hatton, a guy who has never lost at 140 pounds.  Secondly, you’ve got a two fighters who are national heroes, a Filipino and a Brit, fighting in neutral territory in Las Vegas.  Thirdly, you’ve got a long-term trainer in Freddie Roach for Pacquiao against a new but proven trainer in Floyd Mayweather Sr.  This is made even more complex by the fact that Roach brought in former champ Michael Moore as an assistant trainer (which could have a negative impact on Pacquiao’s routines and mental preparation) and rumors from Hatton’s camp that Hatton has not been happy with Mayweather’s habitual tardiness and style (though this has been brushed off as mere ‘mind games’ from Pacquiao’s cam).  Throw in the animosity between Roach and Mayweather Sr (possibly the worst rapper/poet of all time), who have been jawing at each other from the very beginning, trading personal insults all the way through.  Contrast this to the workman-like attitudes of Pacquiao and Hatton, who appear to be on good terms and don’t consider the fight to be personal.

Moreover, you’ve got Oscar De La Hoya, the man Pacquiao sent into retirement less than 6 months ago, promoting Hatton.  This is made more interesting by the fact that the Golden Boy almost signed Pacquiao (but failed) not that long ago in a bitter legal battle against Bob Arum’s Top Rank (who used to promote De La Hoya).  Oh, and don’t forget that Floyd Mayweather Sr’s son, Mayweather Jr, is the only boxer who has beaten Hatton, and now it’s been confirmed that Mayweather Jr will come out of retirement, and will probably fight the winner of Pacquiao/Hatton in the next mega-fight, presuming he takes care of Juan Manuel Marquez (on July 18), the guy some people believe beat Pacquiao twice (but instead got a draw and a loss).

Prediction

Boxing is one of the most unpredictable sports out there.  Remember when everyone was picking De La Hoya to smash Pacquiao?  No need to remind people how that turned out.  Same as when Bernard Hopkins dominated Kelly Pavlik.  So don’t be surprised if an upset happens here.

However, I can’t go against Manny Pacquiao in this one.  He’s simply too fast and too strong and too on top of his game right now for me to see him lose to Hatton.  That being said, it’s not going to be an easy tight.  If Hatton can get away with his rough tactics then he might be able to get Pacquiao in trouble.  ESPN did a simulation of the fight on EA Sports’ Fight Night Round 4, and Pacquiao came out the victor via KO in round 11.  I personally see Hatton making it to the end of the 12 rounds but losing on a close but unanimous decision.  There, I said it.  Pacquiao by unanimous decision!

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Comments»

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[…] hours after I posted a prediction that Manny Pacquiao would beat Ricky Hatton by an unanimous decision, the Filipino national hero […]

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[…] Hatton that I almost forgot about game 7 between the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls, which I gushed about being possibly one of the best NBA playoff series of all time (and certainly the best first round […]

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