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Looking forward to 2011

Posted by Tony Massarotti, Globe Staff  December 30, 2010 08:45 AM

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Peering into the crystal ball while bidding adieu to 2010 …

Jan. 5: Playing without Kevin Garnett, the Celtics lose to the San Antonio Spurs, 103-89, at TD Garden. The loss is the Celtics’ fifth in seven games and prompts comparisons to last season, when the Celtics went 23-5 in their first 28 games and 27-27 over their final 54.

"We just need to get healthy," says Paul Pierce.

Jan. 16: The Patriots open the playoffs with a 34-33 win over the Baltimore Ravens in Foxborough behind 341 yards and four touchdown passes from Tom Brady, who does not throw an interception. Incredibly, the Patriots defense allows 550 yards of offense to the Ravens, who do not commit a turnover. Baltimore has possession for 36 of the game’s 60 minutes and gets into the red zone nine times, managing three touchdowns and four field goals. Twice, the Ravens are stopped on fourth down.

"I can’t figure it out," says Ravens coach John Harbaugh. "We held every conceivable statistical advantage and still lost the game. I’m not sure how that is possible."

Jan. 22: Garnett returns and the Celtics throttle the Washington Wizards, 110-82, at the Garden. The victory improves the Celtics to 31-12 and reignites the belief that the Celtics can win their 18th banner.

Jan. 23: The Patriots host the AFC Championship Game in Foxborough and defeat the Kansas City Chiefs, 14-13. Brady is confounded throughout the day by Chiefs defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, whose schemes lead to four New England turnovers, including three interceptions by Brady. The Chiefs rack up nearly 400 yards of offense, but quarterback Matt Cassel also throws three uncharacteristic picks. Chiefs field goal kicker Ryan Succop misses three field goals – one of the crossbar, one off each upright – including a 34-yarder as time expires.

Asked of his impressions following the game, which delivers the Patriots to their fifth Super Bowl appearance of this millennium, coach Bill Belichick replies: "It looks to me like Charlie [Weis] has put some weight back on."

Feb. 6: Michael Vick and the Eagles defeat the Patriots, 43-42, in Super Bowl XLV in Dallas. Vick passes for 350 yards and runs for another 150, compiling exactly 500 yards of offense from scrimmage. He also returns a punt 31 yards to set up the Eagles’ final scoring drive. Faced with the prospect of going to overtime by kicking an extra point, Eagles coach Andy Reid instructs his team to try a two-point conversion, which Vick successfully executes with 52 seconds left.

After the Patriots regain possession, Brady attempts to orchestrate a winning scoring drive with no timeouts, but his efforts go for naught when a final pass slips through the hands of wide receiver Brandon Tate and is intercepted by Asante Samuel.

The Patriots finish the year with a 16-3 record, the best mark in football.

Feb. 9: The Bruins rip the Montreal Canadiens, 6-1, to improve to 17-5 over a 22-game stretch, 37-16-4 overall. Rookie Tyler Seguin scores two goals, his 21st and 22d of the season, and owner Jeremy Jacobs tells a Boston radio station that he believes his team has a chance to win a trophy.

Feb. 11: The Bruins lose to the Red Wings, 4-3, on a fluke goal late in the third period. Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom fires a slapshot from the point that deflects off the leg of Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, hits the stick of winger Dan Cleary, grazes the arm of Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron and deflects off the boards before striking the back of Tim Thomas’s helmet and rattling between the pipes and barely crossing the goal line. Irate Bruins fans at the TD Garden, deprived of a trophy for going on 39 years, start calling for the dismissal of coach Claude Julien.

March 13: Before a spring training game, Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon expresses frustration at the presence of Bobby Jenks, whom the Red Sox signed to a two-year contract over the winter. Asked how he could be upset at the presence of Jenks when he has repeatedly said that he intends to become a free agent, Papelbon shrugs.

"That’s not my problem, man," he says.

April 1: The Red Sox open the season with a 14-0 victory over the Texas Rangers at The Ballpark in Arlington. Starter Jon Lester pitches seven shutout innings with 12 strikeouts while newcomer Adrian Gonzalez belts a pair of homers, including a grand slam. Carl Crawford steals four bases.

Says Sox manager Terry Francona: "I like our team."

April 8: The Red Sox defeat the New York Yankees in Fenway Park opener, 11-2. Gonzalez hits another homer, his sixth in seven games. Crawford steals two more bases, bringing his season total to 10. Josh Beckett strikes out 13 and does not allow a hit to a lefthanded batter.

After the game, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera and shortstop Derek Jeter are seen dining together at Davio’s. Sources indicate that Rivera and Jeter were overheard wondering whether they should have signed with the Red Sox.

April 9: Before a nationally televised game against the Yankees, Red Sox president Larry Lucchino tells Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports that the Red Sox have installed smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in the bullpens at Fenway Park, stressing that "bullpen safety" remains chief among the Red Sox’ concerns.

April 10: Freed of all responsibility to other human beings in the wake of his divorce, Tiger Woods wins the Masters by seven strokes. Woods shoots a 66 on the final day and birdies the last three holes.

April 20: After beginning the playoffs as the No. 3 seed in the East, the Bruins annihilate the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs, sweeping the series in four games. Boston radio airwaves are suspiciously silent as Bruins fans have nothing to complain about.

May 15: The Celtics begin an Eastern Conference Finals series against the Miami Heat after breezing through the first two rounds of the playoffs. LeBron James tells ESPN that the Heat should be regarded as underdogs in the series because the Celtics have more talent and have played together longer. He also says that the Celtics have an edge in coaching.

May 30: The Celtics defeat the Heat in Game 7 at the Garden, 99-94. Dwyane Wade scores 51 points for the Heat and hands out 11 assists while James takes just seven shots. Seemingly disinterested throughout the affair, James says his legs were weary as a result of having played too many minutes during the regular season. He refers all questions to "Coach Spo."

June 18-19: On consecutive nights, the Celtics and Bruins win championships, the Celtics over the Lakers and the Bruins over the Red Wings. In the case of the latter, the Bruins’ victory is anticlimactic because they overcame a 3-0 series deficit in the Eastern Conference finals to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games.

Apprised by Boston mayor Tom Menino that the city would be hosting a joint "rolling rally," Bruins owner Jacobs is irate because he feels his team deserved its own parade. Bruins fans and Boston media universally agree with him.

July 17: Tiger Woods wins the British Open, making him 3 for 3 in the majors this year. Woods beats the field by eight strokes. During his victory press conference, he flirts with a female reporter.

July 19: Accenture and several other corporations rehire Woods as a spokesman.

July 26: The Red Sox play their 100th game of the season and wallop the Kansas City Royals, 10-3. The victory improves the Red Sox to 65-35 on the season, an even 30 games over .500. His team on pace for 105 victories, Red Sox manager Terry Francona says the club will be active approaching the July 31 trading deadline.

July 31: In need to a power righthanded bat for the middle of their lineup, the Red Sox acquire first baseman Albert Pujols from the St. Louis Cardinals for a package of prospects that includes outfielder Ryan Kalish. The Red Sox say that Pujols will replace David Ortiz as designated hitter and the club has no interest in signing him beyond 2011 because Pujols is seeking an average annual salary of roughly $30 million.

"We can’t afford what he’s looking for,’’ says owner John Henry. "We’re not the Yankees."

September 8: The Pats open the 2011 season with a 27-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Foxborough in the annual NFL Thursday night opener. New England’s defense is stifling and holds the Chiefs to 142 yards of total offense.

"We’re committed to being a complete football team this year," says Belichick.

October 3: The Bruins open the season with a 4-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres that is preceded by the raising of a championship banner. During a pregame ceremony, the Bruins invite back a host of greats, from Bobby Orr to Ray Bourque. Following the banner-raising ceremony, Bourque cracks that he expected the banner to say "Adams Division champions."

October 26: The Red Sox win the World Series in four games over the Milwaukee Brewers, completing a perfect 11-0 postseason. Combined with their regular season, the Red Sox go 118-55 and are regarded by experts as one of the greatest teams of all time. Club officials thank fans for tuning out them out a year earlier, inspiring the Red Sox to get far more aggressive in free agency.

Nov. 2: The Celtics open the season with a 104-92 victory over the New York Knicks and raise their 18th championship banner to the Garden rafters. Celtics fans clap politely during the ceremony and the Garden begins to empty late in the third quarter with the Celtics holding a 30-point lead.

Dec. 24: The Patriots cream the Buffalo Bills, 31-0, in Week 16 of the NFL season. The victory improves the Patriots to 12-3 with one week remaining in the regular season. New England has secured a first-round bye and, with a win over Miami in Week 17, can secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Dec. 30: Tiger Woods is named Sportsman of the Year by both Maxim and FHM, who praise the golfer for winning the grand slam and for "leading the life that every man wants to live." The announcement comes as no surprise following Woods’ completion of the Grand Slam at the PGA championship.

The following morning, an exotic dancer names Woods in a paternity suit.

Tony's Top 5

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5
The final chapter on Teixeira and How Red Sox pitchers work the strike zone Jan. 7, 2009 and July 17, 2009. Some actual reporting – an obsession with Mark Teixeira and the art of pitching.
4
For 2011 Red Sox, there was plenty of blame to go around Oct. 1, 2011. The disgraceful collapse of the Red Sox stoked the fire in all of us.
3
Behind Garnett and James, Celtics and Heat are digging in June 4, 2012. Improbably, the Celtics pushed the Heat to the limit.
2
Thrill is back for Patriots Jan. 30, 2012. Another Super Bowl has even Bill Belichick musing.
1
You’ve got to believe June 15, 2011. On the morning of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, we all had reason to believe.
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Updated: Mar 1, 07:24 AM

About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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