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Monday, December 1, 2014

NBA Power Rankings #1

1. Memphis Grizzlies 15-2
2. Golden State Warriors 14-2
3. San Antonio Spurs 12-4
4. Dallas Mavericks 13-5
5. Houston Rockets 13-4
6. Toronto Raptors 13-4
7. Portland Trailblazers 13-4
8. Los Angeles Clippers 11-5
9. Chicago Bulls 11-6
10. Washington Wizards 10-5
11. Miami Heat 9-7
12. Cleveland Cavaliers 8-7
13. Phoenix Suns 10-8
14. Atlanta Hawks 9-6
15. Milwaukee Bucks 10-8
16. Sacramento Kings 9-8
17. New Orleans Pelicans 7-8
18. Denver Nuggets 8-8
19. Brooklyn Nets 6-9
20. Indiana Pacers 7-10
21. Orlando Magic 7-12
22. Utah Jazz 5-12
23. Oklahoma City Thunder 5-12
24. Boston Celtics 4-10
25. Minnesota Timberwolves 4-11
26. Los Angeles Lakers 4-13
27. New York Knicks 4-14
28. Charlotte Hornets 4-14
29. Detroit Pistons 3-14
30. Philadelphia 76ers 0-16

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Showdown of the Favorites

The two favorites to make it to Super Bowl 49, the Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots, will meet this Sunday. The 9-2 Patriots are atop the AFC standings, while the Packers are 8-3 and 1 game back from the 9-2 Cardinals for 1st place in the NFC. That's the same Cardinals team that just lost much-maligned-yet-miraculously-rejuvenated starting quarterback Carson Palmer to a season-ending ACL tear, but hey at least they have a good backup quarterback. Their backup and fill-in starter is Drew Stanton, one of 5 quarterbacks to start for the 0-16 Lions team back in 2008. OUCH. The point is, it appears that, at least at the moment, these two teams will likely be standing atop their respective conferences at year's end. Alas, this IS the NFL, and one play can change a team's entire season. So although it's not a given, these teams look like the two best teams in their conferences. Green Bay's road to the NFC's #1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs would be hindered, and possibly destroyed, if they lost to New England this week. The Patriots, meanwhile, are on an 8 game winning streak ever since all the "experts" counted them out, and denounced Tom Brady as in "steady decline." This is not that team. They dismantled their two biggest threats, the Denver Broncos and the Indianapolis Colts, in smashing fashion. They beat emerging star Andrew Luck's Colts 42-20 and Peyton Manning and the Broncos 43-21. The Packers are also on a hot streak, having looked shaky in the first couple weeks, they have been simply sensational since superstar quarterback and leading MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers went on the radio and told Packers fans to "Relax." All this game really comes down to is one simple thing: home-field. It seems to me that these teams are equally matched, with the Patriots maybe being slightly better, simply on the merit of much superior coaching. While on a neutral field New England is. at the moment, the better team, this game will be played in Green Bay on the Packers home field in front of a rowdily ecstatic crowd, so I'll take Green Bay and their thousands of cheering supporters in this one. Plus, the Packers simply need it more. As I touched on earlier, the Packers are in a tense race with the Cardinals [and maybe even the Eagles, over whom they would own a potential tiebreaker, thanks to their 53-20 victory in [score]], for 1st place in the NFC and losing this game, assuming the Cardinals win this week against the lowly 4-7 Falcons [who in the putrid NFC south are winning their division] would put them 2 games back from home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and that coveted #1 seed. The Patriots, meanwhile, look as though, barring a total meltdown, they will clinch the #1 seed. The Colts, well, the Colts have simply fallen apart, although it's been subtle. They're 7-4 this year with wins against the Jaguars [twice], Titans, Ravens, Texans, Bengals, and Giants. Two wins against teams over .500, the Ravens and the Bengals, both of whom are fighting for a playoff spot, and could be on the outside looking in when the playoffs start. Their losses? To the Broncos, Eagles, Steelers, and Patriots. Two of those losses were by 17 or more points and they gave up over 30 points in all 4. Simply put, with an reasonable schedule for the rest of the season, when Indianapolis finishes 11-5, it won't be a legitimate 11-5, it'll be a shaky 11-5. The Broncos, meanwhile, are not doing so hot themselves. They lost two weeks ago to the 4-7 Rams 22-7. the lowest output of points for Peyton Manning in his entire career with the Broncos. Last week, they narrowly defeated the frisky-and-underrated-possible-contender-yet-maybe-not-there-yet Miami Dolphins, 39-36, in a game that could of gone either way, and likely would have gone the other way had it been played on a neutral field. Speaking of the Dolphins, since nearly losing his job, third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill has become rejuvenated and the Dolphins are officially a legitimate contender. However, I don't believe this is their year, they've been too inconsistent which is to be expected of such a young team. It should be noted, however, that Miami almost beat the scorching Packers earlier this year, in fact, it even came down to the final play. They also beat the stacked Patriots in week 1 33-20; yet another signature showing by an underrated team. At 6-5, the Dolphins are on the playoff bubble. Anyway, back to the Broncos, they go into Sunday's game at 7-4 Kansas City in a dangerous position. Should they lose, they'd be tied with the Chiefs record-wise, holding the tiebreaker because of a better in-division record. Then there's the Chargers, who also stand at 7-4, who with a win this week and a Broncos loss, would be part of a three-way tie for 1st place in the AFC west. After this week's showdown in Kansas City, the Broncos will have to travel to Cincinnati to face the 7-3-1 Bengals, and also travel to San Diego to face the Chargers. They do however, have two gimmes at home against the Bills and Raiders. So let's say that Denver lose this week, then goes 1-1 in their remaining road games and 2-0 in their remaining home games. That leaves them at 11-5 for the season. The Chiefs, meanwhile, are much better than that loss they suffered to the Raiders last week in the ultimate trap game. Here's their remaining schedule and my prediction for each game:   

vs. Denver: Win 

@ Arizona: Loss

vs. Oakland: Win 

@ Pittsburgh: Loss 

vs. San Diego: Win 

That leaves them at 10-6 for the season, which may or may not be enough for a playoff spot with the 7-4 Steelers and Ravens and the 6-5 Dolphins and Bills breathing down their neck. Here's what San 

@ Baltimore: Loss

vs. New England: Win 

vs. Denver: Win 

@ San Francisco: Win 

@ Kansas City: Loss 

That would put them at 10-6 for the season as well, so while I do still see the Broncos winning the AFC west, a little slip-up could change everything. My pick for this week's Green Bay-New England game and all the other games [besides the ones on Thanksgiving] can be found below: 

[Home team in capital letters] 

COLTS 34-23 Redskins 

TEXANS 34-14 Titans 

BILLS 24-17 Browns 

RAVENS 41-31 Chargers 

Giants 37-16 JAGUARS 

BUCCANEERS 20-17 Bengals [In Overtime] 

RAMS 44-7 Raiders 

STEELERS 45-27 Saints 

VIKINGS 14-9 Panthers 

Cardinals 30-17 FALCONS 

PACKERS 37-34 Patriots 

CHIEFS 27-20 Broncos 

Dolphins 31-30 JETS 

Enjoy a great weekend of football everybody!

The Sports Kid 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Starting QB Rankings


1. Aaron Rodgers 
2. Phillip Rivers 
3. Andrew Luck 
4. Peyton Manning 
5. Matt Ryan 
6. Drew Brees 
7. Russell Wilson 
8. Matthew Stafford 
9. Eli Manning 
10. Tom Brady 
11. Jay Cutler 
12. Tony Romo 
13. Joe Flacco 
14. Austin Davis 
15. Colin Kaepernick 
16. Brian Hoyer 
17. Alex Smith 
18. Ben Roethlisberger 
19. Geno Smith 
20. Andy Dalton 
21. Mike Glennon 
22. Cam Newton 
23. Kirk Cousins 
24. Nick Foles 
25. Blake Bortles 
26. Ryan Tannehill 
27. Kyle Orton 
28. Derek Carr 
29. Teddy Bridgewater 
30. Carson Palmer 
31. Ryan Fitzpatrick 
32. Charlie Whitehurst 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Taking a break

I'll be taking a break for the rest of August. 

Be back in September,

The Sports Kid 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Eli Manning Entering Make-or-Break Year

He's won Super Bowl MVP twice. But he's also been top-two in league interceptions twice, including leading the league in picks last year. Now, at the age of 33, Eli Manning is entering a make-or break season. A season in which he will either rejuvenate his storied career, or enter a sharp decline from which he will never return. That's what this year looks like for the starting Quarterback of the New York Giants. 

The news broke on Monday. The news that David Wilson would be joining Chris Snee in retirement. Snee, a former Pro-Bowler and longtime Giant retired after an offseason back injury, saying he physically couldn't go through the grind of playing anymore. Wilson, at just 23 years of age, was also forced into retirement by an injury. He had spinal neck fusion surgery this offseason, and after announcing he was cleared to play just a few weeks ago, was told by doctors after suffering a practice injury that he could be permanently paralyzed if he ever played in the NFL again. Not only were these injuries devastating to the players that suffered them, they were also devastating to the Giants' 2014 season hopes. 

The loss of Snee makes an already appalling offensive line even worse. While the loss of Wilson not only weakens the Giants' already-poor running game, it also hurts the team's spirit. If that breaks at any point during the season, it may be too much for Tom Coughlin & co. to handle. 

Now: back to Manning. In a recent study, one sportswriter/mathematician did a study and found that if you do a study of all 27 of Eli Manning's interceptions last year, do you know how many were actually his fault? Two. That's right, two of Eli Manning's 27 interceptions last year were his fault. He threw an interception on 4.9 percent of his passes that year, an abysmally high number, especially for a Quarterback with such high prestige league-wide.

But, and there always is one, if you use the metric in which just two of his interceptions are his fault (which I firmly believe to be true), then his interception rate drops from 4.9 percent to a whopping 0.362 percent. That would put him ahead of Aaron Rodgers (2.1), his brother Peyton Manning (1.5), and even the league leader in this statistic for that year, Nick Foles, who had a 0.6 interception rate. 

It's really important that we know just how many of a Quarterback's interceptions are actually his fault before judging him on that statistic. 

Eli Manning played with the following wide receivers last year: Victor Cruz (double-teamed every game), Hakeem Nicks (zero touchdowns in what was supposed to be his breakout year), and Reuben Randle (wildly inconsistent and an above-average third Wide Receiver at best). That is the grand list of the New York Giants' 2013 receivers. 

Meanwhile, Eli's older brother, Peyton, had three Pro Bowl wideouts (Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker), as well as a Pro Bowl Tight End ("Orange" Julius Thomas), and a Pro Bowl running back (Knowshon Moreno). The younger Manning had to settle for Brandon Myers at Tight End and Peyton Hillis at Running Back. 

Hillis is perhaps the worst Running Back to start an NFL game in recent memory. Said Hillis after being signed by the Giants, "I stopped working out. I pretty much knew my NFL career was over, and I was living on my couch." Wow. That's not even a joke. The New York Giants starting Running Back for a lot of last season was working harder to get into shape than he was on actually scoring touchdowns. While Peyton Manning had Knowshon Moreno to hand-off to when in doubt, the younger Manning was handing the pigskin to a guy who had been signed off his couch, a guy who was still rounding himself into shape. 

Offensive lines matter, too. That's why the loss of Chris Snee is so huge. Manning was sacked 39 times last season with Snee blocking for him. Imagine what the line will look like this year without him. Those 39 sacks are not an outlier; the offensive line is also a big reason why Manning threw so many interceptions. If I was him I'd throw the ball too to avoid being smashed by a 300-pound monster too. And as I said earlier, a lot if times when he threw the ball with pressure on him he threw to an open man, only to see the ball be tipped and intercepted. 

The Giants brought in a new offensive coordinator in Ben McAdoo this offseason, to replace the fading Kevin Gilibride. McAdoo has said that  Manning's goal for this year is to complete 70 percent of his passes. While implausible, this is not entirely impossible. (The most recent person to do it was then-49ers Quarterback Alex Smith, who was benched that same year.) I don't know whether Manning will have a bounce-back year or another 20-plus interception year, but I do know this: it's a make-or-break year for Eli Manning, and this year may just decide the rest of his career. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Pacers' George out for season; Giants' Wilson retires

Indiana Pacers Forward Paul George will miss all of the 2014-15 NBA season with an injury to his leg that he suffered during a scrimmage between the US team for the 2014 FIBA World Cup. On a play in which he went for a chase down block against Houston Rockets Guard James Harden, George landed the wrong way and his foot bent sideways like a snapped twig. The injury is bad for the Pacers, considering they already lost their best on-ball playmaker, Lance Stephenson, to the Hornets in free agency. They also lost 6th man Evan Turner to the Celtics. Remaining starters George Hill, David West, and Roy Hibbert will need to step up, as well as newly-acquired C.J. Miles, and Damjen Rudez if this team wants to contend for a playoff spot. The good news for Pacers fans is that George's injury was a clean one, and he is expected to make a full recovery, with his left leg expected to be even stronger than it was before the injury once he returns. It's still a devastating blow to a team that, until the injury, had strong championship aspirations. 

New York Giants running back David Wilson has announced his retirement from the NFL. Wilson, 23, was told by doctors that it would be unsafe for him to play due to lingering neck issues prior to his third season. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fantasy Football Rankings

Quarterback 

1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers 

2. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos 

3. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints 

4. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers 

5. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts 

6. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers 

7. Tom Brady, New England Patriots 

8. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions 

9. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers 

10. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins 

Sleeper: Eli Manning, New York Giants 

Running Back 

1. Lesean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles 

2. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs 

3. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears 

4. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings 

5. Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins 

6. Demarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys 

7. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

8. Ryan Matthews, San Diego Chargers 

9. C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills 

10. Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams 

Sleepers: Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals; Monte Ball, Denver Broncos  

Wide Receiver 

1. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys 

2. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons 

3. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers 

4. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions 

5. T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts 

6. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals 

7. Victor Cruz, New York Giants 

8. Desean Jackson, Washington Redskins 

9. Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos 

10. Wes Welker, Denver Broncos 

Sleeper: Corradarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings 

Tight End 

1. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints  

2. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots 

3. Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins 

4. Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers 

5. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers 

6. Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens 

7. Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins 

8. Owen Daniels, Houston Texans 

9. Jason Witten 

10. Dwayne Allen, Indianpolis Colts 

Sleeper: Zac Ebron, Detroit Lions 

Defense 

1. San Francisco 49ers 

2. Seattle Seahawks 

3. Carolina Panthers 

4. Arizona Cardinals 

5. St. Louis Rams 

6. New Orleans Saints 

7. New York Jets 

8. Cincinnati Bengals 

9. New England Patriots 

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Sleeper: Oakland Raiders 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Manchester United looking to improve from last year

Manchester United will be looking to improve on last year's poor season, in which they finished 7th in the league tables. They fired manager David Moyes, and hired the superb Louis Van Gaal, who is also the manager for the Netherlands. The Red Devils have plenty of talent, with star strikers Robin Van Persie of the Netherlands and Wayne Rooney of England, but the defense will be a big question mark after the news came out that right back Patrice Evra has left the club to go to the Italian Juventus. This will require defender Phil Jones to step up and play a bigger role in the 1st team. They also have a few solid players in the midfield that could potentially step up and be game changers this season, namely Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher, Nani, and Luis Antonio Valencia. There is also Javier "Chihcarito" Hernandez of Mexico, who could be entering a breakout year. Known for being just a young, sparky bench player, this could be the season he maintains a consistent level of solid, above-average play and cements his place on the 1st team. He could possibly pass Wayne Rooney as the team's #2 striker, who has had transfer rumors surrounding him for the past 2 years. His transfer fee could bring in enough money to sign a Van Gaal favorite such as Wesley Sneijder or Arjen Robben, players who are on the backend of their careers, but are still great players. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

James Rodriguez signs with Real Madrid

Colombian star James Rodriguez has signed with Real Madrid for a transfer fee somewhere between 101-102 million dollars. Rodriguez led the World Cup with 6 goals, and made it to the quarterfinals before losing 2-1 to the home Brazil. Rodriguez played just as well [and better, in my opinion] than some of the Cup's other biggest stars such as Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr. He also outperformed the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, and Xavi Hernandez, who all had underwhelming Cup performances. His arrival to Real Madrid bolsters the midfield and makes up for the loss of German star Mesut Ozil. Real Madrid also signed German midfielder Toni Kroos and Costa Rican goaltender Jesus Navas, both of whom had stellar Cup performances. The addition of this three, when paired with Real Madrid's already existing big three of Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, France's Karim Benzema, and Spain's Sergio Ramos, makes this team even better than they were last year, when they won the UEFA Champions League, a tournament of all the best clubs in the world. This makes Real Madrid the most valuable sports franchise in the world, valued at approximately 3.48 billion dollars. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Giants' Wilson Cleared To Play

New York Giants Running Back David Wilson announced he has been cleared to play on Twitter this week. He had been suffering from a neck injury that could've potentially ended his career. He had a rough season for the Giants in 2013 before getting hurt, but has the speed and potential to be a dynamic Running Back soon. He will, however, need to stay healthy to do so. In other news, Giants Pro Bowl Guard Chris Snee has retired. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Paul George talks about what he can improve on next year

Indiana Pacers Forward Paul George has said recently that he will play more physically next year, and take more contact. He also said he would be working on his post moves to potentially compliment 7"2 Center Roy Hibbert. This would help the Pacers' offense significantly as Hibbert was the only menacing threat in the paint last season, save for an aging veteran in David West, who usually resorts to a midrange pick-and-pop shot instead of getting dirty in the post. What George is doing sounds a lot like what superstar Lebron James did after leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010. He redefined his game so that he not only was a decent jump shooter and great at getting to the rim, but he put on weight and developed more of a post game. And after doing so, what happened? That's right. He won two championships. Do it, PG. Work on that post game. And if George does succeed, he'll have the physicality to no longer let James push him around, a big weakness in Indiana's defense last year. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Early 2014-15 NBA Predictions

EAST 
Playoffs
1. Indiana Pacers
2. Chicago Bulls
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
4. Atlanta Hawks
5. Washington Wizards
6. Toronto Raptors
7. Miami Heat
8. Charlotte Hornets

Round One
Indiana Pacers 4-1 Charlotte Hornets
Chicago Bulls 4-3 Miami Heat
Cleveland Cavaliers 4-1 Toronto Raptors
Washington Wizards 4-3 Atlanta Hawks

Round Two
Indiana Pacers 4-2 Washington Wizards
Cleveland Cavaliers 4-1 Chicago Bulls

Round Three
Indiana Pacers 4-2 Cleveland Cavaliers


WEST
1. Oklahoma City Thunder
2. Los Angeles Clippers
3. San Antonio Spurs
4. Houston Rockets
5. Memphis Grizzlies
6. Golden State Warriors
7. Portland Trailblazers
8. Phoenix Suns

Round One
Oklahoma City Thunder 4-0 Phoenix Suns
Los Angeles Clippers 4-1 Portland Trailblazers
San Antonio Spurs 4-2 Golden State Warriors
Memphis Grizzlies 4-1 Houston Rockets

Round Two
Oklahoma City Thunder 4-3 Memphis Grizzlies
San Antonio Spurs 4-2 Los Angeles

Round Three
Oklahoma City Thunder 4-2 San Antonio Spurs

FINALS
Oklahoma City Thunder 4-2 Indiana Pacers

Lebron returns to Cleveland

We all remember when Lebron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Sumner of 2010, and in doing so alienating himself from his hometown of Akron, and angering the entire state of Ohio. But now, after four years and two championships, James is going back to Cleveland, which has welcomed him with open arms, after their complete and total irrelevancy the past four years since James' departure. Here's what James said in a letter announcing his return:

"When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.

"I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. (He knows he's probably not going to be able to beat Indiana next year. Sorry, I had to.) 

"I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home."




Sunday, July 6, 2014

Top 50 Players in the NBA: #50

50. Derrick Rose/Kobe Bryant 

I was torn on this one. 

While Derrick Rose is a top-5 player when healthy, he has missed most of the past two seasons with a nasty knee injury. He suffered a torn ACL in the 2011-12 playoffs and sat out the entire 2012-13 season. Then shortly after returning in the 2013-14 season, tore the ACL in his OTHER knee. Now, no one knows what to expect from him. But before he tore his ACL the first time, Rose was the best Point Guard in the NBA, and had just won the league MVP award, the first time a Point Guard had win the award since (blank). 

Kobe Bryant, meanwhile, has finally relinquished his throne as the NBA's best player to Lebron James. After going out with a torn achilles in Game 4 of a 4-0 first-round playoff loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2012-13 playoffs, Bryant rehabilitated during the offseason, and said he would be ready to go by the opening game. However, he did not play until the middle of the season. When he finally got on the court he looked, obviously, rusty. After a few ugly games, the 37 year old tore his achilles AGAIN and missed the rest of the year. No one knows what he could bring the table were he fully healthy, but he could be a top-10 player for sure. 

I can't say much about either one of these guys' game's, because it's been so long since they last played. They certainly deserve a spot in this list, but until they both come back HEALTHY from their respective injuries, it's unclear exactly WHERE they should be placed. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I've been taking a vacation from this blog for a while while I'm on vacation in Florida. Thanks! 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

World Cup Preview

Group A: 
1. Brazil, 9 points 
2. Mexico, 4 points 
3. Cameroon, 2 points 
4. Croatia, 1 point 

Group B: 
1. Spain, 7 points 
2. Chile, 3 points 
3. Australia, 2 points 
4. Netherlands, 2 points 

Group C: 
1. Columbia, 7 points 
2. Ivory Coast, 5 points 
3. Japan, 4 points 
4. Greece, 0 points 

Group D: 
1. Italy, 5 points 
2. England, 5 points
3. Costa Rica, 3 points 
4. Uruguay, 2 points 

Group E: 
1. Ecuador, 5 points 
2. Switzerland 4 points 
3. Honduras, 3 points 
4. France, 2 points 

Group F: 
1. Argentina, 9 points
2. Bosnia-Herzegovina, 4 points 
3. Nigeria, 4 points 
4. Iran, 0 points 

Group G: 
1. Germany, 7 points 
2. Ghana, 7 points 
3. Portugal, 1 point 
4. United States, 1 point 

Group H: 
1. Belgium, 7 points 
2. Algeria, 4 points 
3. South Korea, 2 points 
4. Russia, 2 points 

Round of 16 

Brazil 3-2 Chile 

Columbia 2-0 England 

Ecuador 2-1 Bosnia-Herzegovina 

Germany 4-1 Algeria 

Spain 2-1 Mexico 

Italy 2-2 Ivory Coast (Italy 5-4 on Penalty Kick's) 

Switzerland 2-1 Argentina 

Ghana 2-0 Belgium 

Quarterfinals 

Brazil 3-2 Columbia 

Germany 2-0 Ecuador 

Italy 2-1 Spain 

Ghana 3-0 Switzerland 

Semifinals 
Germany 1-0 Brazil

Ghana 3-2 Italy 

Final 
Ghana 1-0 Germany 














Tuesday, June 3, 2014

NBA Finals Preview

We finally know which two teams will be in the NBA Finals, which begin on Thursday, June 5th. It will be a rematch of last year's Finals, in which the East's Miami Heat just barely defeated the West's San Antonio Spurs, coming back from down 3-2 and a 5-point deficit with 28 seconds left in Game 6. Now, the Heat are looking for a third straight title, and the Spurs are looking for revenge.

Miami Heat 

The Journey 

The Miami Heat began the year as the favorites to win the Eastern Conference. They seemed to have greatly improved themselves in free agency by signing Forward Michael Beasley and Center Greg Oden, two players who were thought to have a chance to make significant contributions off the bench. But the two averaged just 9.9 points and 3.4 rebounds in the 24.3 minutes combined to play per game. Worse than that for the team, semi-star Dwayne Wade missed 28 of the team's regular season games with injury. They were also one of the oldest team's in the league, and many people questioned whether or not they would be fresh enough to win the Eastern Conference for a third-straight year. Miami finished the season a measly 11-14, including a three-game losing streak to end the season which prevented them from getting the East's coveted #1 seed. However, they showed no signs of fatigue once the playoffs rolled around, sweeping the #7 seeded Charlotte Bobcats [who later changed their team name to the Charlotte Hornets] in 4 games, with superstar Lebron James averaging averaging 30 points per game. In the second round, it seemed they would face a formidable challenge against the Brooklyn Nets, whom they lost 4-0 to in the season series. Before the season, it was mused that the Nets could potentially upset Miami should they meet in Round Two of the playoffs. But Miami's biggest weakness is their lack of interior defense, and the Nets' best post-player, Brook Lopez, missed the series due to a broken foot. The Heat won both games by an average of 16.5 points. Traveling to Brooklyn for games 2 and 3, the Nets finally broke through and won Game 3 104-90 thanks to a team effort in which six Brooklyn players scored in double-digits. Game 4 would also be played in Brooklyn, and the Nets would have a chance to tie things up with the defending-champs. But it did not happen, as James scored a playoff-high 49 points in a 102-96 victory, which made up for the fact that the rest of the team scored just 53 points combined. The Heat managed to edge out the Nets in Game 5 96-94, despite 34 points from Brooklyn Guard Joe Johnson, to close out the series. Then, came the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers were no strangers to Miami, they'd been the team that eliminated Indiana in the past two seasons. in the Conference Semifinals in 2012, and in a thrilling 7 game series in the Conference Finals in 2014. After Dwayne Wade missed so much time with health issues, and Indiana Forward Paul George blossomed into a potential MVP candidate, the Pacers felt like this was the year they would overtake the Heat. And they certainly played like it in Game 1. Six Pacers players scored in double digits, and Indiana shot 50 percent from the field en route to a 107-96 Game 1 victory. But the Heat came storming back in Game 2 behind 22 points from James and 23 points from Wade to tie the series 1-1 with an 87-83 win. As the series headed to Miami for an important Game 3, it was announced that Pacers star Paul George  had suffered a concussion due to a play in which Dwayne Wade's knee hit his head. He did play in Game 3, however, he was not himself and shot just 5-of-13 from the field as the Heat won commandingly, 99-87, to take a 2-1 series lead, making Game 4 virtual must-win for Indiana. They did not answer. James and Center/Forward Chris Bosh combined for 57 points and Indiana Center Roy Hibbert, Miami's supposed "kryptonite," was held scoreless. The Pacers did manage to win Game 5, but it was too late. The Heat destroyed Indiana 117-92 in a closeout Game 6, at one point winning by as many as 40 [40!!!] points against the 56-26 Pacers. Now, they've established themselves as the best team in the East, and will look to win their third title in three years. Standing in there way…

San Antonio Spurs 

The Journey 

The San Antonio Spurs have been one of the best team's in the league for a long time, but they have not enjoyed the spotlight as much as the more glamorous Lakers or Celtics. They've won 4 championships under Head Coach Gregg Popovich, and now he's looking for a fifth. After a crushingly heartbreaking loss to the Miami Heat in last year's NBA Finals, San Antonio kept intact the same core, a core that continues to defy what we think of aging players. Star Tim Duncan is 38, semi-star Manu Ginobli is 36, role-player Matt Bonner is 34, and star Tony Parker is young at 32. The Spurs are the first team in NBA history to claim the best regular-season record despite not playing any players more than 30 minutes per game. That's a main reason why this team continues to contend every year, Popovich doesn't overwork his guys, and often lets them skip the second game of back-to-back games, citing an "injury" that is not really there. It also helps when you have one of the best bench-units in the league. Forwards Boris Diaw and Marco Belinelli, and Center Matt Bonner all average over 40 percent shooting from three-point range. Guards Patty Mills and Manu Ginobli average a combined 22.5 points per game to lead the backcourt off the bench. The Spurs have a large collection of players that can go out and give you 30 minutes of good basketball, and overall the San Antonio is an incredibly efficient team, with five players shooting over 50 percent from the field. Although the Oklahoma City Thunder are a much younger team than the Spurs, a 19-game winning streak towards the end of the season helped them earn the #1 seed and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. In the first round of the playoffs, it seemed the Spurs would easily be able to beat the washed-up Dallas Mavericks, who had the #8 seed and a 49-33 record. After narrowly defeating Dallas 90-85 in Game 1 with 27 points and 7 rebounds being provided by Tim "The Big Fundamental" Duncan, San Antonio dropped the next game to the Mavericks 113-92, despite the 27 points poured in by Manu Ginobli. Heading to Dallas for Game 3, the Spurs narrowly lost a heartbreaker, 109-108. The sky was supposedly falling in San Antonio, but then the Spurs came back and just barely beat Dallas, 93-89. They won Game 5 109-103, before losing 113-111 Game 6. That set up a crucial deciding Game 7. But it was not as close as some thought it might be, San Antonio led 35-23 at the end of the 1st quarter, and 68-46 at halftime. They handily defeated the #5 seeded Portland Trailblazers in 5 games in the Conference Semifinals. They beat the rival Thunder in Games 1 and 2 of the Conference Finals by an average of 26 points, then traveled to Oklahoma City and lost Games 3 and 4 by an average of 11 points. They closed out OKC easily though winning Games 6 and 7 by an average of 16.5 points to seal their ticket to a second-straight Finals and a rematch with the Miami Heat. 

Match-ups 

Backcourt 

The Heat have an above-average backcourt led by Mario Chalmers and Dwayne Wade. However, Wade missed 28 games with a knee injury, and Chalmers has taken a step back from last year. Meanwhile, Tony Parker and Danny Green of the Spurs have been playing just as good if not better than last year. It will be an interesting matchup here, and it will be necessary for Chalmers to cancel out Green, who can get hot from three-point range at any time. Wade versus Parker will also be interesting. Parker is instrumental in orchestrating San Antonio's offense, while Wade is a dominant off-the-ball scorer. If they cancel each other out, the advantage will most definitely go to the Heat, since Parker is San Antonio's leading scorer. But it probably won't be enough. Wade, Lebron James, and Chris Bosh are the three most consistent scorers on this Heat team, and no one else can consistently put up big numbers. If San Antonio took away one of the Heat's top scorers, at the expense of giving backup Point Guard Patty Mills more points, they would happily do that. 

Frontcourt 

This is also an interesting matchup. The Heat have arguably the best frontcourt in the NBA with Lebron James, Udonis Haslem/Shane Battier/Rashard Lewis, and Chris Bosh. The Spurs, too, have a great frontcourt trio of Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, and Tiago Splitter. Leonard is an excellent defender, and was recently named to the All-NBA First Defensive Team. He could potentially disrupt Lebron James' offensive game, as he did inconsistently give James headaches in last year's Finals. This year, the 22-year old is a year older and a year better. In order for the Heat to win this series, James will have to average at least 30 points per game, with more than one 40-point explosion. And on the other side, the Heat have no answer for Tim Duncan, the greatest Power Forward in NBA history. Though Lebron James' mystique gives the Heat the slight edge in this category, it should be very close. 

Bench 

The Spurs have one of the best bench-units in the NBA, with Guards Patty Mills, Manu Ginobli, and Cory Joseph, Forwards Marco Belinelli, Aron Bynes, and Boris Diaw, and Centers Tiago Splitter, Jeff Ayres, and Matt Bonner. The Heat also have a deep bench, but as I elaborated on earlier, San Antonio has the best bench in the league. 

Coaching

C'mon, we all know who the better coach is. Miami's Erik Spoelstra is a good coach, but San Antonio's Gregg Popovich is the greatest coach in NBA history. 


Overall this should be a great series. But I see the Spurs winning the rematch. Danny Green gets hot, and Lebron James struggles as San Antonio wins Game 1. 

Series Prediction: Spurs in Six 

Game 1 Prediction: Spurs 109-102 Heat 

  

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Pacers offseason to-do-list

Another lost season, another lost cause. After getting BLOWN OUT by the Miami Heat 117-92, a game in which they were down by as many as 40 points, the Indiana Pacers will be headed home in the Conference Finals again, and this is the third straight year that they were eliminated by the Heat. One thing I don't quite get, though, (besides the Pacers absolute lack of effort,) is the headline on espn.com. It reads: "For a third straight year, Miami ended Indiana's season. Friday's blowout also signaled an end to the rivalry."

What?!?! The Indiana Pacers are NOT just going to fade away and wither. Maybe they would if they had an average team President. But they don't have an average President, they have Larry Legend, the greatest Small Forward of All-Time, and also one of the greatest basketball minds of All-Time. He's the one that drafted Paul George and Lance Stephenson. He's the one that signed David West. He is the person that keeps this team relevant. 

Without him, even in today's weak Eastern Conference, the Pacers would likely be lottery-bound. But The Legend has an interesting predicament here. There's no way the Pacers are beating the Heat with their current core unless they improve their offensive game, and they also MUST improve their bench which is deprived of everything but frustration. Does he keep Lance Stephenson, the annoying hothead, who sometimes can't control himself?

If I were Larry Bird, I would think long and hard about whether or not to keep Stephenson. He's a good player and has potential, as witnessed by his incredulously frustrating inconsistency and occasional dominance, but is he worth $8-12 million dollars a year? That would definitely hinder what they can do to their bench. 

Also, right before the start of the playoffs, a story broke that Stephenson and 6th Man Evan Turner, (who is supposedly the "insurance" in case they can't re-sign Stephenson, even though Turner was benched in the Conference Finals,) got into a practice-floor fistfight. As in, a brawl. This sounds dangerously like the former Ron Artest, and as the Pacers have learned from past experiences, that kind of guy on a playoff-team never works out. Especially when he's the star.

There is also the matter of Roy Hibbert. He had an outstanding first half of the season, being one of the best Center's in the league, but then, in the second half of the season and the playoffs, Hibbert was frustratingly ineffective. He did have a few monster games (Game 2 against the Wizards and Game 1 against the Heat,) but besides that, he played like a bench-warmer, and had 5 games in which he was scoreless, which SHOULD NOT happen to an All-Star who makes $15 million dollars a year. The Legend is going to have to decide whether to keep Hibbert or look to trade him.

Then, there are two more things. 

One, George Hill. He is actually a pretty effective 6th Man, at SHOOTING GUARD. Unfortunately, the Pacers have Hill in the starting lineup and at POINT GUARD, a position he cannot play efficiently, since he is not a great ball-handler. What Indiana really needs is a true Point Guard, but they may not have the cap-space to sign one in free agency, and don't have many assets with which to acquire one in a trade.

The other thing is, of course, the infamously, mediocrely deflated bench. Basically, what Indiana needs to do is completely rebuild the bench, from the ground up. A full rebuild is needed when it comes to the bench. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Why Paul George Could One Day Be A Top-Two Player

Watching Paul George play, if you're a Pacers fan, is excruciatingly frustrating. You see, George often mistakes himself for Lebron James. When he does so he starts to delve into 1-on-1 isolation plays on offense, but when guarded by James, and already being just an average shooter, George will take many mid-range jump-shots that clank off the rim and into the hands of an obliged and waiting Heat player.

One day, George may be near the level James is at offensively. He may get there...one day. But it is not his time yet. He is just a young 24-years old, still not fully equipped with the skill and stamina it takes to guard the best player in the world almost every possession, and carry the bulk of the offensive burden.

We could say, George is just a younger Rudy Gay. But that would not be accurate. Rudy Gay was an inefficient shooter, just like George currently is. But, Rudy was also always known (and rightfully so) for being an inexplicably bad defender. That is not the case with George, one of the best defenders in today's game, despite his youth.

Rather, George is more of a rich man's Kawhi Leonard. They are both lockdown defenders, and are both inconsistent, though good, shooters. The most frustrating thing with George though, is not all the Rudy Gay type isolation monstrosities he shoots. 

No, it is that George will occasionally and randomly rip off a Lebron-esque hot-streak where he simply cannot miss a shot. We saw one of those random outbursts in Game 5 against Miami, when he scored 21 of his 37 points in the 4th quarter. That's the most points in the 4th quarter of a playoff game since a guy named Reggie Miller. You know, that guy that is one of the 10 greatest NBA players of All-Time? 

We saw a hot-streak from George similar to the one in Game 5 against the Heat (though not as spectacular), in Game 4 against the Wizards during Round Two of this year's playoffs. When George caught fire and started hitting those jump-shots that he normally misses, you just knew there was no way Indiana was losing that game. 

The challenge for George as his promising career continues to unfold dramatically, is if he can sustain those runs of excellence, and if he can exude them consistently. Because if he improves his offensive game, the sky is the limit. 

Lance's World, II

                  I got it, coach.


All-NBA Team Picks

1st Team 
Guard, Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
Guard, Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers)
Forward, Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder) 
Forward, Lebron James (Miami Heat) 
Center, Joakim Noah (Chicago Bulls)

2nd Team 
Guard, James Harden (Houston Rockets) 
Guard, Goran Dragic (Phoenix Suns) 
Forward, Paul George (Indiana Pacers) 
Forward, Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers) 
Center, Roy Hibbert (Indiana Pacers) 

3rd team 
Guard, Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors)
Guard, John Wall (Washington Wizards)
Forward, Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks)
Forward, Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves) 
Center, Dwight Howard (Houston Rockets) 

All-Rookie Team 
Guard, Victor Oladipo (Orlando Magic)
Guard, Michael Carter-Williams (Philadelphia 76ers) 
Forward, Giannis Antetukuempo (Milwaukee Bucks) 
Forward, Mason Plumlee (Brooklyn Nets)
Center, Gorgieu Deng (Minnesota Timberwolves) 

All-Defensive Team 
Guard, Tony Allen (Memphis Grizzliies)
Guard, Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls)
Forward, Paul George (Indiana Pacers) 
Forward, Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs) 
Center, Roy Hibbert (Indiana Pacers) 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Lance's World

If Paul George doesn't play on Saturday against the Heat (concussion), there's almost no way the Pacers can win.

Almost. 

I know what you're probably thinking: "How could they possibly win without Paul George, their best player?" I've got two words for you: Lance. Stephenson.
I wrote an article about the hot-headed Indiana Guard's transformation from bench-warmer to X-factor, which you can find here (link).

Right now, the Pacers' slogan is: "In Lance we trust." That's what really scares me. Last year Lance was an inconsistent, though still solid, starter for this Indiana team. Now? He's carrying the burden of not only stopping one of the most explosive scorers the game has ever seen, but also with the load of carrying the offense. 

You see, last year, when Lance played well Indiana mostly won, but even if Lance had a bad game they could still win. That is most certainly no longer the case. Even if Paul George plays, and plays well, there's no way the Pacers can survive if Lance gives them two klunkers in games 3 and 4. But Lance is different than your average inconsistent young Guard.

Because when he's at his best, he's on the same level as Lebron James and Kevin Durant. He's just never sustained it for a full game, let alone multiple games. The only way I could see the Pacers winning game 3 or 4 if George is out, is if Lance finds a way to sustain those unique outburst of excellence that he inconsistently exudes and takes the team on his back to put up 40-60 points and spur the team on until George gets back. 

The terrifying thing for Pacers fans is that Lance is arguably the most unpredictable player in the NBA. He could game out in Game 3 and go off for 60 points, or score 0 points and shoot 0-for-12 from the field. At this point, neither one of those would surprise me. As scary as it is to Pacers fans, this is Lance's game, and he's going to be the deciding factor as to whether or not Indy will go back home tied up at 2-2, or down 3-1.

It's all on Lance Stephenson. And as I've learned through his frustrating inconsistency, the only person that can stop Lance Stephenson is Lance Stephenson.