There is arguably no fan base in professional sports as vocal as the one here in New England.
Last Wednesday, the Oklahoma City Thunder bolted into TD Garden for a nationally-televised matchup with the Boston Celtics, and looked every bit like a Western Conference contender in dispatching the C’s, 130-109.
As the game wore on, the action on the court grew more irrelevant, as the Thunder’s talent advantage over the Celtics was clearly evident. But Celtics fans were quick to turn their attention to a prospective free agent superstar who could very well be wearing green next season.
Throughout the second half, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, who will be the most coveted prize on the NBA market this summer, was serenaded with chants of “Come To Boston.”
I hope general manager Danny Ainge was in the building and heard his fan base.
I know, Durant will likely demand a maximum contract, but the Celtics have the flexibility to pursue him this summer. The Celtics are a good, scrappy basketball team, but the reality is, until they can lure a superstar like Durant to Boston, they will have no shot to win a championship. Even if Boston can get hot in the Eastern Conference playoffs and somehow make it to the Finals, there’s no way, as this team is constructed, that they can beat teams like the Thunder or the Warriors in a seven-game series.
However, surrounding good young players like Isaiah Thomas with players like Durant will instantly make the Celtics one of the favorites in the Eastern Conference. There’s still a lot of basketball to be played this season, but the upcoming off-season is surely to be a hot one in New England.
TOUGH FINISH FOR UMAINE WOMEN
The eight seniors who will exit the University of Maine women’s basketball program will leave with a legacy of helping turn the program from an America East cellar-dweller to a return to the top of the conference.
Even though their careers came to a crashing halt in Friday’s 90-44 Women’s NIT loss at Quinnipiac, this group of Black Bears leaves with the program in good hands.
When they came to Orono, this program was in a very tough spot. But they depart having shared the conference regular-season title the last two seasons, played in two WNITs and coming a jump shot away from playing in the NCAA Tournament this spring. Had Maine survived Albany in the America East title game, the Black Bears had the talent to pull an upset of a Power 5 team, just as the Great Danes did to Florida before falling to Syracuse.
In spite of the season not ending the way the Black Bears wanted, they have nothing to hang their heads about. Losing your last game of the season is a tough pill for any athlete to swallow, but coach Richard Barron and this group of Black Bears deserves a lot of credit for the job they’ve done in turning this program around.
Again, I hope fans of the men’s hockey team were paying attention. It won’t be long before the men’s hockey team is playing for trophies again.
WILL MIDNIGHT STRIKE FOR NORTHEASTERN?
A high percentage of the UMaine hockey team’s fan base hopped aboard the Northeastern bandwagon as the Hockey East playoffs concluded last weekend.
The Huskies completed their remarkable run through the conference playoffs, edging UMass Lowell 3-2 on Saturday night to claim the program’s first league championship since 1988, when the Huskies defeated – you guessed it – your Black Bears.
Remember, Maine fans, Northeastern needed overtime – twice – to knock out the 11th-seeded Black Bears in the first round of the tournament.
This is a Huskies’ club that is playing well at the right time. Northeastern is among six Hockey East schools to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
Northeastern’s reward for such a remarkable run: A trip to Cincinnati to play arguably the best team in the country in North Dakota. I figured the NCAA would do its best to keep the Hockey East champs as close to home as possible, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.
North Dakota will be penciled in as a national champion on a lot of people’s brackets, mine included. But that doesn’t mean they are not beatable. Remember last October when Maine beat them in a shootout in the IceBreaker tournament? The Fighting Hawks are loaded with future NHL talent, but Northeastern has the speed, skill and goaltending to match up with North Dakota.
Will Northeastern be the Cinderella story? My brain says midnight may strike against North Dakota, but I’ll probably join some of my friends who went to Northeastern in rooting on the Huskies.