Tatum looks for his groove

As I write this, Game 5 of the NBA Finals goes off tonight in San Francisco with the Celtics and Warriors tied at two games apiece.

That is vexing to me as a writer because you will not see this until after it’s over, and going in I have no idea what is going to happen.

Part of that has to do with the rhythm of any seven-game series, while the other part, as Yogi Berra might say, is mental. By that I mean since Game 1 of the Milwaukee series the Celtics just can not stand prosperity. The latest example is Friday’s Game 4, where with a 2-1 lead and playing in front of a ravenous, frothing at the mouth crowd the series was there for the taking, especially after they jumped out to an early double-digit lead. But they didn’t/couldn’t keep their foot on the gas and let Golden State back in the game, which eventually cost them as under a barrage of late-game Steph Curry bombs they lost.

Give GS credit for staying the course and being tough enough to win in that environment. And the Celtics are hardly the first team to get bulldozed by Curry. But still, it seems like the C’s let a golden opportunity to take command of the series slip away.

However if you’ve been following this playoff season it shouldn’t have been a surprise really, as it’s had only two constants so far. One is that, by somehow going just 6-5 at home, the Celtics seem determined to make it harder on themselves. The other constant is their resilience. Just when you think they’ve put themselves in a hole they won’t get out of by losing all those supposedly vital home games, they do, thanks to being a ridiculous 8-3 in enemy buildings.

All of which brings me back to my original statement. I have no idea what’s going to happen in Game 5, let alone 6 and 7.

However, Curry’s brilliance aside, the unpredictability of the first four games speaks to why I much prefer the NBA playoffs to the NCAA Basketball Tournament. It’s a to each his/her own world. But, while watching the run of a dark horse is fun, you can luck out to win in a one-and-done tournament (see Villanova–Georgetown 1985), but outside of losing a key guy to an injury, you can’t luck out in a long series. You’ve got to earn it by surviving the inevitable ups and downs that come when excellent teams face each other seven times in a row. It builds friction among players that leads to increasing physical play and the kind of hard feelings that can form the foundation of a real rivalry. That rarely happens in the tournament.

There’s also the overreactions of the fans and pundits from game to game to enjoy. Like Steven A. Blowhard saying the Warriors looked in trouble after Game 1. Ridiculous. The C’s famed Mother’s Day massacre of L.A. shows Game 1 is just one game. Instead, most times, these things go game to game. Especially in the first four.

Then there was just last year when Phoenix dusted the Bucks by double figures in the first two games, to have the media spouting OMG, they’re dead because only four teams have ever climbed out of an 0-2 hole to win a title. Well guess what? It’s now five times because the best player in that series took it over after Game 2 to lead Milwaukee to win four straight, culminating with Giannis Antetokounmpo’s historic 50-point game in Game 6.

Which brings us to the point of this diatribe. While sometimes, like Cedric Maxwell in 1981 or Grant Williams in Game 7 vs. Milwaukee, an unexpected surprise happens. I’m standing by what I said before the series: that for the Celtics to win Jayson Tatum had to play Curry even and Jaylen Brown had to outplay Klay Thompson. So far the latter has happened, but with Curry averaging 34 per and making several backbreaking shots in the GS wins, the former has not.

And that’s where the series lies in the last three games — in the lap of Tatum, who has not played well in either of the last two series. At least not to the dominating level he showed in series wins over Brooklyn and Milwaukee.

It speaks to a guy’s talent when a big mouth like me can say a guy averaging 22 a game isn’t playing well. But the way to tell if a star is struggling, beyond the stats, is hearing announcers like the ABC crew bending over backward to talk about Tatum’s improved passing and floor game. That’s great and speaks well to the future. But Tatum isn’t paid to pass. He gets the big money for scoring big and imposing his will on big games. That’s what’s needed here because the Celtics won’t win unless he does.

Can he do that? Yes. Will he do it? I don’t have a clue. Though as of right now I’d bet on Curry, because Tatum hasn’t reached the point yet where you know he’s going to come through even when he doesn’t.

It was like that with Larry Bird. But even he suffered through some tough times, like his miserable games 3, 4 and 5 vs. Houston in the 1981 Finals, where he shot 11 for 37 as he scored just 8, 8 and 12 points in those games.

You can say it’s not fair to compare Tatum to Bird. But at that point he wasn’t Larry Legend. He was just in his second season and yet to win a title. But he came back in Game 6 to put 27-13-5 on the board in a 102-91 series-ending win.

Which brings us back to resilience. It’s been their calling card so far and how you win. You keep moving forward to get your groove back.

We’ll know by now if Tatum found his in Game 5.


A Nashua sophomore talks about the March for Our Lives

On Saturday, June 11, students from Nashua North and South high schools gathered in Greeley Park in Nashua for a March for Our Lives protest as part of a nationwide movement to raise awareness about gun violence and advocate for gun control legislation. Nashua High School North sophomore Aarika Roy organized the event.

What is March for Our Lives?

March for our Lives is a student-led organization that was created by the survivors of the Parkland shooting, which happened in Florida in 2018. [Students] started doing marches … fighting for gun reform and justice.

How did you end up organizing one in Nashua?

When they had their first [march], Nashua students had organized one. At the time, I was only in the sixth grade. My mom [was] a teacher [at the time], and she figured it was important to get me exposed to the political world. … She brought me to the protests, and I joined kids from all different ages. It was honestly a really great experience for me. It’s how I got into activism. I was able to hear all these people give speeches, I was able to meet Maggie Hassaan as a little kid, and it was really great. After the Uvalde shooting, I felt like everything was getting [to be] too much, and I figured it was time for another [march]. I started asking around, like, ‘Hey, is anybody doing this?’ because I knew some people might be interested, and everyone was like, ‘No, I don’t have the time [to organize it], but I would go to it,’ so I was like, ‘OK, I can make the time to do it.’

What was the turnout and the response like?

There were at least 150 people. … We were expecting counter-protesters to be there, and they were, but it wasn’t that bad. … We got a lot of news coverage on this, which is great. There were a lot of different groups there, like Moms Demand Action, so we were able to meet a lot of people. Jim Donchess, our [Nashua] mayor, was there, and he commended a lot of us. We were able to get Sen. Maggie Hassaan to come, and we had speakers like Shoshanna Kelly, Alderwoman at Large … and Laura Telerski, who is a state rep.

What topics were discussed?

As the main organizer of the event, I was the first speaker. I basically just gave a quick introduction. Then, there were student speakers, and they talked about how they felt unsafe … how we feel scared to go to school … and how people need to put pressure on their legislators to sign in the right laws that will keep us safe, and to vote in the right people who will pass the laws to keep us safe.

What was involved in organizing the march?

I’m involved in a lot of socio-political organizations. I’ve been [involved] in organizing protests, but never organized one on my own. That’s the reason I was a little bit hesitant before I decided to do this protest, but I’m so glad I did, because I was able to learn a lot. It took two or three weeks [to plan]. … I started by … [designing] a flyer and posting on my social media … [calling for people] to get involved. I got a lot of really great responses. From there, I started organizing meetings. We figured out a location, which ended up being Greeley Park in Nashua. … We were able to get a lot of press coverage. … We got a lot of parents involved. … The day before, I was just making posters all night, and they turned out really great.

What are your future plans for the movement?

I don’t want to have to do this again. It’s awful that we had to have it in the first place again. If [a shooting] like this happens again, I will definitely take part in setting up and organizing another one again, but our hope is that it never happens again, not in New Hampshire or anywhere.

Featured photo: Aarika Roy, speaking at the March for Our Lives Nashua event. Photo courtesy of Aarika Roy.

News & Notes 22/06/16

Covid-19 update As of June 6As of June 13
Total cases statewide 327,358 328,834
Total current infections statewide 3,658 (as of June 2) 2,707 (as of June 9)
Total deaths statewide 2,542 2,555
New cases 2,985 (May 28 to June 6) 1,476 (June 7 to June 13)
Current infections: Hillsborough County 1,593 1,115
Current infections: Merrimack County 525 370
Current infections: Rockingham County 1,330 905
Information from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.

Fentanyl legislation

Sen. Maggie Hassan has helped to introduce a new bipartisan bill created to combat the fentanyl epidemic. According to a press release from the Senator’s office, “Bruce’s Law,” led by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, will support federal prevention and education efforts surrounding fentanyl, authorizing new community-based coalition enhancement grants to educate young people about the dangers of fentanyl, and giving drug-free communities coalitions access to additional funds to bolster their efforts to end deadly fentanyl use. “I am proud to cosponsor bipartisan legislation like Bruce’s Law to continue addressing the substance misuse crisis and pushing for necessary resources,” Sen. Hassan said in the release. The law is named afterRobert “Bruce” Snodgrass, who died of a fentanyl overdose in 2021 at the age of 22. “Bruce’s story echoes that of many Granite Staters whose families and communities continue to be devastated by fentanyl and the substance misuse crisis,” Hassan said. “This is an issue that should be approached from all angles to prevent more lives lost, which is why we provide educational grants in this bipartisan bill to increase awareness of the dangers of fentanyl.”

A boost for child care

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services will issue an additional $6 million to child care providers who qualified to receive American Rescue Plan Stabilization funds in the fall of 2021. According to a press release from DHHS, 486 child care programs are set to receive a sum, based on their licensed capacity, which could amount to up to $165 per child. Programs are encouraged to use the funds for staffing and occupancy costs, and about 75 percent of them have indicated that they plan to do so, the release said. New Hampshire has distributed more than $100 million in aid to child care providers throughout the state since the spring of 2020.

Better internet access

New Hampshire has been announced as the first state in the country to receive approval for a broadband expansion plan utilizing funds from the American Rescue Plan Act’s Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund. According to a press release from the office of Gov. Chris Sununu, the $50 million plan will improve access to reliable broadband in unserved and underserved parts of the state. New Hampshire had dedicated $13 million in short-term CARES Act Funds to broadband expansion in 2020, which benefited more than 4,500 households throughout the state, “well before the federal government even created a program to do so themselves,” Gov. Sununu said in a statement on June 7, when the news was announced. “Today’s announcement is another step forward as New Hampshire continues to serve as a leader in expanding broadband services.” New Hampshire’s Statewide Broadband Build Program will select local internet service providers for the expanded areas, working with broadband networks that are owned, operated by or affiliated with local governments, nonprofits and cooperatives as much as possible. It is expected to serve around 15,000 rural and remote residences and businesses, which represents approximately half of the locations that are currently in need of access to high-speed internet, the release said.

Covid vaccines for children

The first batch of Covid vaccinations approved for infants and young children could arrive in New Hampshire as soon as June 20, the New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human Services announced in an official health alert. Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines will be available to children ages 6 months through 4 years, and Moderna vaccines will be available to children ages 6 months through 5 years. NHPR reported that the state is expected to receive 12,200 doses in the first order, split evenly between Pfizer and Moderna, which will be distributed to local hospitals, health centers, doctor’s offices and other health care providers, while pharmacy chains that administer the vaccine will be issued doses directly from the federal government. The children’s vaccinations come 18 months after the first adults in the state became eligible for vaccination in December 2020.

A new traffic pattern is being implemented on Route 101 in Bedford as part of the red-listed bridge replacement at Pulpit Brook, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation announced. Daytime paving work was scheduled to take place Tuesday, June 14, through Thursday, June 16, weather permitting, to create a temporary traffic diversion. The diversion will require one-way alternating traffic from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and will remain in use until the Fall.

Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig will join Queen City Pride on Friday, June 17, at noon, at Manchester City Hall (1 City Hall Plaza) for the Pride Flag Raising, according to the Mayor’s public schedule.

The Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough will present a tribute to local educator Tim Clark on Saturday, June 18, at 11 a.m. Clark died shortly before the publication of his book Beginning Educator: Navigating A Second Career In Teaching, which features a collection of twice-monthly columns he had been writing for the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript. Clark’s wife, May Clark, and Jason Lambert, both of whom are also teachers, will read selected columns and remember Tim Clark’s life. Call 924-3543 or visit toadbooks.com.

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