Tag Archives: Playoffs

Fear The Blue

Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan describes his show as being ” a story about a man who transforms himself from Mr. Chips into Scarface.” For those of you who haven’t seen Breaking Bad (what is wrong with you? Watch it now!) it is the story of a meek and mild mannered chemistry teacher named Walter White who, after being diagnosed with lung cancer, decides to use his science knowledge to cook meth.

Somewhere between the beginning and the end, Walter White becomes bad. Like really, really, bad. All at once you realize this sad sack of a man, this humble school teacher is the main villain of the show and you’re not quite sure when that happened.

Enter the Los Angeles Dodgers. They started the season in average fashion. Literally. They were a .500 ball club during the month of April winning 13 games and losing 13 games. They were worse the next month posting 10-17 record, which is on par with the Houston Astros. The awful, awful Astros. They were also average in the month of June. A smidgen better but still basically average.

But July? July was the month they put it all together. The Los Angeles Dodgers achieved a National League best 19-7 record. It looked like Mr. Chips was becoming Scarface right before our eyes.  There was no stopping them now. The Dodgers were (and still are) on a roll. They have won, wait for it…41 of their last 50 games. That is so ridiculous and incredible I’m nearly prompted to invent a word but I have too much respect for both myself and the english language.

This start, as it always does and should in baseball, with pitching.

Pitching 

I hope that it’s no secret at this point that Dodger’s ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball. It’s not even close to debatable. Kershaw’s ERA (earned run average) is an astoundingly low 1.80, which is the lowest in the MLB. This year he’s making a strong case for a second Cy Young award to add to his trophy case. His low ERA combined with his league best WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) 0.85, is solid proof that if you are a batter facing Clayton Kershaw, the odds are very greatly against you hitting the ball, much less getting on base. Clayton’s 4-seam fastball is the nail in the coffin for most batters.

Zack Greinke is my favorite pitcher, and not just because he’s a top 15 pitcher. He’s my favorite because he’s tough. Zack Greinke will never back down from a fight.  Which he clearly demonstrated when a pitch got a way from him and hit Carlos Quentin of the Padres earlier this season. An enraged Quentin, charged the mound, and in the ensuing tangle caused Greinke’s collar bone to fracture. Zack Greinke did not back down. Which wasn’t great for the team at the time since they missed they way he retired batters and dominated games with his  fastball. However, the Dodgers have back their 2.81 ERA man , and he’s got 12 wins for the team.

How do you spell underrated? You spell it Hyun-Jin Ryu. How do you pronounce it? Don’t ask me that. What I do know is that the young pitcher from Korea, Hyun-Jin has a 95 mph fastball that has location to back up it’s speed. That 2.85 ERA is no joke either.  The man can pitch and when he does, the Dodgers roll.

Batting

There’s nothing scarier than a well rounded team thus, the scariest thing about the Dodgers is that they can pitch and hit. The Dodger’s team batting average is .268 and their on base percentage is .331, making them top 5 in both statistical categories. They are also 15th in the MLB in RBIs (runs batted in) with 496 so far this season. This makes them a nightmare to pitch against despite the fact that they don’t hit a lot of home runs,  because they are always generating points.

If the Dodgers could be reduced down to one man on the team, that man would be Andre Ethier. He’s the prototypical 2013 Dodger. He’s got 45 RBIs this season, gets on base pretty frequently with an OBS of .361 (which is a Dodger season high) and he’s batting .288, so by all accounts a good season. Ethier is extremely consistent. He’s as rock solid as they come and in fact, has been his entire career.

Adrian Gonzalez celebrates the winning run. (Associated Press/Mark J. Terrill)

Adrian Gonzalez in his first season as a Dodger has been the team’s most reliable offensive threat. He’s batting .299, making him one of the best hitters in the league right now. His patience at the plate is on of the key reasons for this. Gonzalez, to be blunt, just knows when to swing. He’s used his knack for making contact with the ball to get players in scoring position home. He’s got 78 RBIs tying him for 16th in the league. The Dodgers received Gonzalez last year in a trade with the Red Sox in an attempt to win right away. I’d say it worked out just fine.

There are rookies and then there are super rookies. You know the guys; RG3, Lebron James, and Mike Trout. Athletic freaks of nature that are incredibly good at what they do. So, I present for you consideration, Yasiel Puig.  On June 2nd the Dodgers called up their 22 year old rookie from their double-A team, the Chattanooga Lookouts. In just 70 games Puig is looking like a star. He’s already got 12 home runs this season, he bats .346 and is a quality outfielder. Already. Very rarely does this guy look like a rookie.

Matt Kemp deserves a mention. He got injured July 21st and should return sometime in September according to Manager Don Mattingly. Kemp was having another solid season for the Dodgers. Matt Kemp’s return may complicate a few things for the Dodgers though. With Kemp they have to find a way for 4 outfielders to play, but there are only 3 outfield positions. With Andre Ethier, Yasiel Puig and Carl Crawford playing at the level that they are, Don Mattingly will have to figure out what to do with this team.

Are the Dodgers the best team? The Braves might have something to say about that. There’s no denying it though. The Dodgers are baseball’s hottest team. Los Angeles can hit with the best of them and, pitch better than the best of them. They’re dangerous title contenders, and are not to be taken lightly. Watch your back Atlanta. Scarface has arrived.

 

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Young Teams Rise In The East

The thing about the NBA is that, very much like pop music, it’s all about star power. That, and depth I suppose, but mostly star power. Almost always in the NBA, the team with the best stars win. You could build a band with Ringo Starr and Ronnie Wood if you wanted to but, I’d imagine that Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger sell the tickets. Likewise, it’s not impossible to build a good team with Chris Bosh and Joakim Noah but, the star power lies with Lebron James and Derrick Rose.

The NBA’s eastern conference has had a bit of a shake up in the last couple of years. A few stars have changed teams, and hopefully a few future stars have been drafted into the league. This has given some teams in the east the ability to, for the first time in years, make it to the playoffs.

Wizards point guard John Wall (left) and Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (right).

The Cleveland Cavaliers are going to be in post season contention if they can stay healthy. They have a number of pieces at their disposal and some potential stars. They’ve made some moves that give them an opportunity to be in the post season for the first time since Lebron James left.

Two years in, and Kyrie Irving is an emerging star. He’s an extremely reliable scorer, has handles for days, is great in crunch time and has court vision to boot. Apart from making Jason Kidd, Brandon Knight and Damian Lillard look silly; Kyrie specializes in shooting. He shoots the ball very well from basically everywhere on the floor. While he does lack a strong defensive presence, he always a threat on offense getting easy shots for both himself and his teammates.

Andrew Bynum is an all star caliber center who averages a double-double when healthy. His biggest problem being, of course, that he is not always healthy (or ever; in the case of the Philadelphia 76ers who never once saw Bynum play a regular season game in their uniform). Andrew Bynum is the perfect example of a player that is worth the risks taken on him. He’s a legitimate 7 footer with a variety of useful and often times crafty post moves. While Andrew Bynum may have red flags concerning his maturity but, he is worth the risk if he plays up to his potential.

Anthony Bennett is the number 1 overall pick in this year’s draft. This came as a surprise to many but, not too surprising since Cleveland general manager Chris Grant tends to be, shall we say, unconventional in his moves at times. The Cavaliers hope that Bennett can bring the athleticism that he showed when he played at UNLV. Bennett is explosive and is capable of finishing above the rim. He’s got a quick first step and speed when running the open floor. Anthony Bennett is not a consistent jump shooter and doesn’t play active defense, those are coachable issues however. Look for Bennett to contribute right away.

Not to be forgotten: Dion Waiters 14.7 ppg 2.4 rpg

The Detroit Pistons are ready to put their previously disappointing seasons behind them. General manager Joe Dumars through some form of magic (most likely) has found a way to keep his job despite putting together a myriad of bad teams. These bad teams directly preceded the  team that won an NBA Finals in the 2003-2004 season and had four other conference finals appearances, that Dumars also built. In a return to form, Joe Dumars has made a number of shrewd moves in the offseason in an attempt to bring the Pistons back to prominence.

Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond have a lot in common. They are both versatile big men. Both are 6’10” and are both highlights waiting to happen. They move well on the fast break. They are both smart and willing passers. Greg Monroe has 3 NBA season under his belt while Andre Drummond just wrapped up his rookie season. Monroe played 33 minutes a game to Drummond’s 20 minutes most likely because they occupy roughly the same place on the floor, and Andre is a rookie. Both show a lot of promise and skill.

Josh Smith is more than capable of being an all star. He isn’t but he could be. Josh Smith has strength not unlike a bull. When he attacks the basket he’s difficult to slow down. On the low block, he’s a nightmare to defend. He’s athletic and has tremendous leaping ability. The Pistons were able to acquire the former Hawks forward for a relatively affordable 4 year $56 million. If Josh Smith had a downside, it would be his tendency to settle for jumpers. He’s big, strong and fast yet is completely satisfied with taking some bad 10-15 foot jump shots.

Brandon Jennings (since we’re on the subject of bad jump shots) joins the Pistons roster via a sign and trade with the Milwaukee Bucks. In exchange the Bucks got point guard Brandon Knight. In Brandon Jennings the Pistons get a bit of a boost in scoring ability. Jennings is more of a volume shooter but he has his nights where he scores extremely well. He’s left handed and unsurprisingly goes to his left a lot; he avoids finishing with his right hand almost to the point of phobia. Brandon Jennings is a much better passer than he gets credit for, even averaging 6.5 assists per game on a team with Monta Ellis on it. Jennings is an improvement at the point guard position and is a better fit than Brandon Knight for this team.

Not to be forgotten: Chauncey Billups 8.4 ppg, 2.2 apg

The Washington Wizards believe this is the year they can make it to the post season. They’ve dealt with everything from bad injuries to just having bad players. This year their roster is stronger than it’s been in a long while giving them hope that they can end a very long drought. They haven’t been to the playoffs since 2007 and haven’t won a playoff series in about 25 years.

John Wall signed a 5 year $80 million deal with the Wizards earlier this summer. This is the maximum amount of money that he could have been paid. While Wall’s career numbers thus far do not justify this pay day, the Wizards believe that he can be an all star caliber point guard in the NBA. 2013 saw a marked improvement in Wall’s jump shot, which is still a work in progress. Wall at 6’4″ is a big point guard yet, he has incredible speed and is capable of going baseline to baseline in under 6 seconds. His jumper is his biggest barrier. At this point nobody takes it seriously. What is taken seriously is his court vision, passing ability and speed that leaves defenders standing still. Wall is also a very good defender.

Bradley Beal just finished his rookie season and it was very impressive. He’s an accurate shooter who, if given any daylight at all, can score at will. Beal can attack the basket both on the fast break, and in the half court. He runs through screens effeciently. Bradley Beal’s biggest draw back is ball handling. He’s not bad but when John Wall was injured earlier in the season he did not seem comfortable in the position of primary ball handler. However, his off ball skills are not to be over looked.

Otto Porter the rookie from Georgetown is a player in development. He looked like the most anemic of the rookies drafted this year when he participated in NBA Summer League play. He is adapting to a new offense and a new role. The Wizards re-signed veteran Martell Webster who plays the same position as Porter, so Otto shouldn’t have too much pressure on him early. He will likely not start. Otto Porter is extremely long and his huge wingspan gives him a defensive advantage. Otto was a good defender in college and an extremely scrappy player diving on the floor for loose balls, actually boxing out and sticking with broken plays.

Not to be forgotten: Nene 12.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg

All of these teams are either trying to develop stars or acquire them. That’s what it takes to win in the NBA. They are on the right track to get to the playoffs and to maybe one day compete for a title.

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Lights Out! Or How The Ravens Survived the Surging 49ers to win Superbowl 47

A Super Bowl review four days after the big game?! Unthinkable. I thought so too but, now I get to cram all the delicious post-Super Bowl action into here. No body has to lose any sleep over this. Even if (disappointingly) this my first post since the “fail mary” that lifted the Seahawks past the Packers and made Aaron Rodgers angrier than Rich Eisen covering a Brett Favre comeback.

So, without further ado, the notable moments of Super Bowl 47 and it’s after math.

The San Francisco 49ers Start Slow and Pay For It.

In my opinion, San Francisco was too conservative in the first half. This hurt Colin Kaepernick’s rhythm , because San Francisco did not line up very often in the pistol formation nor did they use the read option very much. This is odd because the Ravens’ defense showed a susceptibility to it against the Redskins earlier in the season, and later in the game. The Ravens respect for the run game makes the read option effective against them by opening up holes in their secondary. A weakness the 49ers did not exploit until the second half.

Kaepernick was often times indecisive with his throws early in the game, which led to a 1 interception and no touchdown half for the second year quarterback.

On defense, San Francisco was determined not be beaten by Baltimore’s speedy receiver Torrey Smith. They double teamed him on nearly every play he was in the game, though the Ravens took shots in his direction anyway ( I assume in an effort to keep the defense honest). This allowed slant passes and other underneath routes to be highly effective against them. Torrey Smith didn’t do nearly as much damage Anquon Boldin and tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson did. This was eventually their undoing on the defensive side because the Ravens picked up a number of crucial third and longs by winning those routes.

The Baltimore Ravens Soared Early and Held On Late.

The  much maligned Joe Flacco ended his post season with 11 TDs and no interceptions, including his 3 TD first half performance that netted him the game’s MVP award. Flacco, in a contract year, played like a franchise player deserving of his self glossed elite status.

There was however, more to this game than Joe Flacco. Wide receiver Jacoby Jones turned in his own MVP-worthy performance as well, receiving 1 TD pass and returning a record setting 108 yard kick return at the beginning of the second half to keep the Ravens in the driver’s seat.

Despite Flacco’s stellar first half, he came to earth and was pretty human in the second. The power outage may have had something to do with this, stymieing the Ravens momentum but, regardless Flacco was not playing at his first half level in the second half as far as red zone play is concerned. The Ravens were still moving the ball well but settled for field goals inside the 20 yard line on a couple of possessions that may have iced the game.

The Ravens game plan was very balanced. Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell deserves credit for that. Running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce shared 32 carries between the two of them. Flacco threw the ball 33 times. The Ravens disproportionately racked up yards in the air with 287 passing yards as compared to their meager 92 rushing yards. However Flacco was hot for most of the game and the 49ers have an especially stout run defense. 49ers linebackers Navarro Bowman and Patrick Willis made sure that life on the ground was going to be tough for Baltimore.

On the other side of the ball, the Ravens played smart and out witted Kaepernick for much of the game. Especially on Colin’s first half interception. This was a typical Ed Reed performance where, he made deep passes a dangerous option for the opposing quarterback. Reed tracked the play from beginning to end, and as he often does, found himself in the perfect position to make a play on the football.

After the power outage the Ravens had trouble with the mobility of Colin Kaepernick. However, on crucial plays the found ways to hold firm.

Officiating

The referees let the players play in the big game. There were only 7 penalties committed on Sunday by either team.

The most notable officiating moment is the no call on Ravens defensive back Jimmy Smith who made contact with receiver Michael Crabtree at the end of the game. A no-call, that in my opinion, was a good one. Both Smith and Crabtree made contact prior to the ball being thrown and Crabtree pushed off after the ball was thrown.

The Aftermath 

After the Super Bowl 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh (obviously) took offense to the game ending no-call.

Joe Flacco called himself “a Raven for life” which is important because this is the end of his contract. The Ravens can re-sign him or slap him with the franchise tag. He also learned that the MVP of the Super Bowl wins a car.

Colin Kaepernick took blame for his teams’ loss, citing early mistakes as a reason.

John Harbaugh said his brother was the best coach in football as he won a brotherly rivalry for big brothers everywhere.

Ray Lewis did one last squirrel dance after the parade for all of the Baltimore fans, and it was as epic as you thought.

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A Look at the MLB’s One Game Playoff

“I think it’s stupid, to be honest with you, But Major Lague Baseball wants a bunch of teams in the playoffs. There’s nothing like cut-throat baseball for the fans. And people love that 163rd regular-season game. They’ve loved it in the past. I’m sure that’s probably what’s promoted a second wild-card team. I wish they would’ve done it a year earlier so we would have had a chance last year. but it is what it is.” -Chipper Jones

Love it or hate it, the Major League Baseball’s one game wild card round in the playoffs is here to say. Even if you agree with Chipper Jones, and think it’s stupid.

Chipper Jones opinion on this matter is particularly relevant because his Atlanta Braves will most likely be in that playoff game. Ironically this game could be against the St. Louis Cardinals, the team that slid into the playoffs last season while the Braves imploded and missed the playoffs entirely. Chipper acknowledged this as well.

“I wish they would’ve done it a year earlier so we would have had a chance last year. But it is what it is.” Jones said.

Chipper Jones is far from the only player and manager who disagrees with the one game playoff.

However, as a fan of the game, I think there’s a lot to love. While this does feel like an attempt on the part of the MLB to expand the playoffs in an attempt to gain more revenue, there is also a lot of good that can come from this.

It makes the last games of the season a bit more meaningful. This is basic math. An extra playoff spot means that more teams are in contention. This of course means that their games near the end of the season have more value as they attempt to grab that last spot.

Another thing this does is add that 163rd game that everybody loves. I understand that part of the 163rd game’s novelty is that it doesn’t happen very often but, the wild card is a very meaningful game. This creates an air of appointment television. This will be the only game that is not a game seven, that is actually like a game seven.

I think the wild card game is a way to add meaning to the regular season and start October off with a bang with an elimination game. If you don’t want to be in the elimination game, you do have the other 162 games of the regular season to avoid it.

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-John Wall talks to Dime magazine about the expectations he has for himself  and the Washington Wizards this coming NBA season. The last time the Wizards made the playoffs was the 2007-2008  season and they have never made the playoffs with John Wall at point guard. An improved roster and, for Wall, an improved jump shot gives the Wizards a bit more hope to make a playoff run.

You wanna do it all, You wanna be an All-Star. You wanna be one of the top five best point guards. You wanna make the playoffs, and get this city back to where they know they can be. When you have the playoffs, I heard how crazy it could be when everybody is wearing all white. That’s what I want to get to. I want to be the savior.

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Golden State Warriors Offseason Moves Make Them Playoff Contenders.

It may have been easy to miss what the Golden State Warriors are building. It may have been easy to miss the Warriors fortifying their bench by acquiring, Jarrett Jack, drafting Draymond Green, and re-signing Brandon Rush. You may have even missed the drafting of Harrison Barnes and the signing of rookie free agent Kent Bazemore. The one thing you shouldn’t miss is the big picture.

 

The big picture is this, the Warriors have put together a solid team. When you add to all the offseason acquisitions to an already solid base that includes Stephen Curry, Andrew Bogut, Richard Jefferson, and Klay Thompson.

The Warriors have had trouble staying healthy in the past. Especially Bogut and Curry who both battled more than their fair share of injuries last season. That’s another reason why this offseason was good for Golden State. They now have the depth to sustain injuries with quality backups at every position. When they lost Curry last season they didn’t really have a person to go to. Nate Robinson, now with the Bulls, was to erratic and unreliable.

If Andrew Bogut can stay healthy and Draymond Green provides production inside the paint that could open up Curry and Thompson to shoot three-pointers from long range. This is crucial for Thompson because he is a very good shooter and he didn’t exactly show a propensity for getting to the basket. Kent Bazemore of Old Dominion University averaged 15.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. He’s adds depth to the shooting guard and small forward positions.

At worst Golden State is a very deep playoff team at their best they could do some damage in the west and even put themselves in position to take another huge step next offseason.

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Daily Rain 5-18-12: Pacers Crush Heat, Chris Paul Stopped Again In San Antonio & Kings Keep Rolling

Dwayne Wade and the Heat Lay Get Stomped In Indianna

To say that the Miami Heat miss Chris Bosh would be like saying a construction worker misses his hammer or a singer misses her voice. It seems that important. Bosh apart from being the glue guy that makes many of Miami’s play work, is the closest thing that they have to a big man. This easy to notice in the difference in rebounds. Miami got their clock cleaned on the boards. They were outrebounded 52-36. An unencumbered Roy Hibbert contributed 18 rebounds alone.

George Hill played a great game with 20 points and 5 assists. He really stepped and easily played his best game of the series. While that was happening though, Dwayne  Wade scored just 5 points. Just 5. He was outscored by fellow teammate, non-superstar, and non-franchise player Mario Chalmers who scored 25 points. Wade and Spoelstra also had an argument in the huddle as the team unraveled. The Heat lost and for once the blame should be place no where near Lebron.

Wade was 2 of 13 from the field and seemed to be an offensive liability but, the Heat have no other options. Especially when fellow starters Dexter Pittman and Shane Battier combined for 0 points in total. They were 0 of 9 between the two of them.

Miami needs a more efficient way of scoring than 3 point shots of which they were 4 of 20 as a team. The Pacers out rebounded them and these bad shots are a part of the reason why.

San Antonio Wrote The Book On Basketball, Apparently.

If there is a kid that you know that wants to play basketball, make them watch the Spurs, specifically the Spurs in these playoffs. The Spurs play the game of basketball the right way. They move the ball to all the right places. They San Antonio plays, its just cool to watch because everything makes so much sense. Every shot they take is the result of an offense that has moved the Clippers out of place defensively that most of their shots are nearly uncontested.

With Tim Duncan looking like the 2007 version of himself the Spurs really do look unstoppable. Duncan had 18 points making 9 of 14 of his shots. Once Tim gets going it opens up things for Tony Parker who scored 22 points and the rest of the Spurs. Duncan was also a presence to be reckoned with defensively. He deterred many would be Clipper shots. He didn’t block any but just being there makes Los Angeles really think twice about going inside.

There’s been a lot of Blake Griffin hate lately. Not from me but it has been around. I like Blake as a player. I think he’s a better and more well rounded player than people give him credit for. He doesn’t have that many post moves or a consistent shot but, he is better on the low block than he’s given credit for and his mid range jumper, though not great, is a whole lot better than people give him credit for. Blake scored 20 points on 7 of 16 shooting and it wasn’t all just dunks. Offensively he played well. All of that being said though, Blake Griffin needs to rebound. His team needs him to. Griffin grabbed a single rebound. Just the one. This is nearly as shocking as Dwayne Wade’s 5 points. A big man must rebound. It should be a law. A guy with Blake’s size and jumping ability grabbing a single rebound in a playoff game is nothing short of a heinous sin. Especially when Chris Paul the team’s highest scorer is fighting multiple injuries. Having a few extra possessions could come in handy.

“All the King’s horses and all the King’s men kicked the Coyotes butts all over again.” — Barry Melrose

That about sums it up. In a game Phoenix had to win they didn’t. They weren’t able to stop the Kings in almost any capacity. The Kings out shot them 28-19. This is despite the fact that Los Angeles had more giveaways than Phoenix did.

If anyone still has doubts about how good Anze Kopitar is they should probably let go of them now. The guy is legit. At the beginning of the playoffs I didn’t know the guy from Adam but, in the postseason he’s really come on and is proving to be a threat that must be watched.

The eight seeded Kings are one game away from shattering expectations. I didn’t have them making it this far. The level of parity in the NHL is unreal. Even in the Playoffs its hard to know who can turn it on and compete and who can’t.

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Daily Rain 5-17-12: Celtics Destroy Sixers, Lakers Give Game 2 Away to Thunder & Devils Even Series

The Boston Celtics Amp Up the Defense and Embarrass The Philadelphia 76ers At Home

The Celtics trailed the 76ers by 5 points going into the 2nd quarter of this game but upon regaining the lead never trailed again. In fact, wether or not the Sixers would ever see the lead again was never in doubt as the Celtics rolled on to a 107-91 victory. There are two main differences between this game 3 and game 2.

The first difference is, that Paul Pierce was more aggressive and more productive. In game 2 Pierce scored 7 points while shooting an anemic 2 of 9 in that game. In game 3 Pierce started the game with two dunks. He would go on to score 24 points on 6 of 17 shooting. That’s the Paul Pierce the Celtics are going to need if they plan on winning this series or any future ones.

The second difference, is defense. Boston murdered Philadelphia on the defensive glass gathering 37 defensive boards. Also none of the Sixers starters scored over 20 points. In fact, none of them scored greater than 15 points. Philadelphia shooting guard Evan Turner was held in check as he scored just 4 points and made 1 of his 10 shot attempts.

The Sixers are not out of this series but will need to make some offensive adjustments to match the re-emergence of the Celtics defense.

 The Oklahoma City Thunder Erase A 7 Point Deficit In the Final Two Minutes to “Steal” A Game At Home.

In the first quarter of game 1 of this series it became apparent that the Lakers had a distinct size advantage inside over the Thunder. When the Lakers wandered away from what many perceive to be their game plan, pounding the ball down low, they spiraled out of control allowing the Thunder to run and hit shoot  often uncontested jump shots. In game 2 the Lakers stick to the game plan and control much of the game thanks to the dominating play of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. So L.A. wins right?

Not so fast amigo. A series of gaffes nearing the end of the game caused Los Angeles to surrender a 7 point lead in the final two minutes of the game. First Kevin Durant stole an inbound pass from Kobe Bryant and slammed home an easy 2 points. Then James Harden was allowed to go coast to coast for an easy lay up that brought the Thunder within 1 point. Kevin Durant hit the floater on the baseline that would give the Thunder a 1 point lead. The Lakers last possession was a flare for Kobe Bryant but Metta World Peace caught Russell Westbrook sleeping on the inbound pass and hit a wide open Steve Blake. Blake however would not hit the wide open 3 point shot and the Lakers lose by 1 point.

Steve Blake had a few options. He could have made the shot, he could have used the fact that Westbrook had to jump to recover to defend him and pump faked and then drove to the basket for a better look, or he could have passed it to Bynum who had emerged on the low block. He had 5 seconds. That’s more than enough time. Despite all of this to blame the loss on Steve Blake would be asinine.  The Lakers attempted 77 shots before that last one and if they had made more than 30 of those this game may not even have been close. If anyone is to blame it should be Kobe. He shot a an inefficient 9 of 25 from the field and hit none of the 6 3-pointers he attempted. None. Steve Blake played a hand in the loss but Kobe’s impact was certainly bigger.

New Jersey Devils Even The Series Against the New York Rangers

When the Devils took the ice in game 1 of the NHL Eastern Conference Finals they got run over. Plain and simple. They didn’t look ready and the Rangers looked very ready. New Jersey did a great job of bouncing back in game 2. They were able to do something few teams this season have. Fool Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, arguably the league’s best at his position. This did so with a number of redirected shots including David Clarkson’s go ahead shot in the 3rd period. Clarkson has proved once again in the playoffs that he can be relied upon for clutch plays.

Speaking of clutch plays, Devils goalie Martin Brodeur made an amazing save. As Rangers right wing Marian Gaborik attacked the goal he tried to flip a shot over Brodeur who had fallen over. Brodeur raised his right leg up, as he was on his stomach, and kicked the puck away saving a goal. I gush about Henrik Lundqvist being the best in the league but it’s plays like those that remind us why the 40 year old Brodeur is a legend and one of the best to play the game. Ever.

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Daily Rain 5-15-12: Lakers rocked by Thunder, LA Dodgers Lose Matt Kemp are they in trouble?

The Oklahoma City Thunder Destroy The Los Angeles Lakers

The Thunder shot an other-worldly  53% from the field on a night that would see them rout the Lakers 119-90. The Thunder great shooting night came on multiple pick and roll plays that the Lakers seemed unable to defend. All players for the Thunder have ability to knock down jumpers including their big men. They had many open shots created the dribble penetration Russell Westbrook

Serge Ibaka was a help defender that was also able to recover and hassle Pau Gasol. The Lakers stopped going to Bynum and Gasol in the mid-second quarter. The Lakers opted to trust their guard play over their size advantage down low. The first quarter was the only competitive quarter of the game and that was the quarter in which Bynum and Gasol were most involved.

The Sixers Edge Out the Celtics

In Philadelphia’s 82-81 victory over Boston the main discussion seems to be wether or not Kevin Garnett’s screen at the end of the game was really a foul. I think it was and I think it should have been called. He stuck his elbow out and stepped into the screen.

You be the judge.

However, anytime a team leaves a game in jeopardy, especially to the point where one call can mean the decision between victory or defeat, they deserve the result they get. The Celtics did and they deserved that loss. Paul Pierce scored 7 points. Igoudala played great defense Pierce is an NBA star and 7 points on 2 of 9 shooting is not near good enough to beat the Philadelphia 76ers consistently.

The Dodgers Lose Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp has been placed on 15 day DL because of a hamstring injury. Is it possible for the Dodgers to keep rolling without him. Kemp is the best player in the National League. He has 29 runs and 12 homers as well as a batting average of .726, so there’s no doubt that his offensive production is going to be missed. With that said I don’t think the Dodgers are in trouble. Andre Ethier may be able to hold down the fort offensively, he’s batting .361 with 8 runs so far this season. He doesn’t have to be Kemp he just has to continue to produce.

The Dodgers have a capable pitching rotation. Clayton Kershaw is one of the best in the game and Chad Billingsley is a winner as well.

 

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Daily Rain 5-10-12

New York Rangers vs Washington Capitals Proves That NHL Is  More Exciting Than The NBA (in the postseason anyway).

As a fan of the Capitals I’m glad that they were able to force a game seven of this second round series. More importantly, I’d like to take this time to say that the NHL playoffs are better than the NBA playoffs.

The NHL is less predictable. In the NBA there are about four contenders for the title and we’ve known who they were about halfway through the season. Barring injuries, we know who will win in the NBA playoffs. In the NHL the eighth seeded Los Angeles Kings were able to beat the first seeded Vancouver Canucks and the second seed in the St. Louis Blues. The NBA may give us some great games but we know who is in and who is out most of the time. The first round of the NBA playoffs have been awful.

There are too many teams in the mix that have no chance of winning a title. Lebron can praise the strengths of the Pacers until he’s blue in the face. He knows the Heat are winning that series, I know it, and the Pacers are going to know it too soon enough.

In Hockey it really feels like anything can happen.

What’s Next For The Knicks?

The New York Knicks were run over by the Miami Heat. With the exception of game 4 in this series where Carmelo scored 41 points, the Knicks looked like anything but a playoff team. They were outclassed, pounded, and they seem to have very few options offensively outside of Carmelo. Coach Mike Woodson did a good job with what he had but, what he had wasn’t much.

The Knicks should consider moving Amar’e to add pieces around Melo. Stoudemire has a lot of mileage on him and he doesn’t seem to ever be healthy enough to be a viable number two option for that offense. Tyson Chandler doesn’t score consistently and J.R. Smith plays well but he is not dominant.

I know I’m piling on and it’s been said before but, Carmelo Anthony needs to show up next season in shape. He needs to add strength and stamina. Mostly stamina since, the thing that suffers the most when he’s tired is his defense and he wasn’t really great at that already.

The Clippers Are In Trouble. Big Trouble.

Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph started game 5 of the series like men on a mission. The two men had been successfully tamed for the greater part of this series however, they started last night’s game rebounding and attacking the bucket early. This lead to a big first quarter lead that proved to be the difference maker in the game. When Gasol and Randolph play their best basketball they’re a hard to team to beat and the Clippers are too soft inside to actually stop them.

Adding to the Clippers woes, Blake Griffin hyperextended his knee and Chris Paul re-agitated a groin injury. While Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro assured everyone that his two stars would be okay it seems that injuries, especially those two injuries would have some kind of effect. If Griffin can still jump the Clippers can still use him but Chris Paul cannot afford to be hampered. Especially since the speed of Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley has proven troublesome for the Clippers defense.

I think this series goes seven games.

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