Blazers, Bucks Facing Elimination Tonight

JT
JT

Can Jeff Teague and the Hawks gain a 3-1 advantage or will they head back to Atlanta tied at 2?

Atlanta (-4.5) at Brooklyn – The Nets came out flying in Game Three and then held on to beat the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks by eight to pull the series to 2-1 in favor of the Hawks. The win has to give Brooklyn some serious confidence heading into tonight’s Game Four because they played the Hawks tough in the first two games of the series in Atlanta.

While neither team was above 39% shooting from the field, the Hawks were absolutely abysmal from three-point range. They shot just 20% and top gunner Kyle Korver was 0 for 5 on the evening. Obviously that has to change dramatically because shooting the trey is such a big part of his and the Hawks’ overall offenisve game plan.

Oddly enough, Atlanta outscored the Nets 25-2 in fastbreak points and also held a 20-point advantage in points in the paint.

Trends: Atlanta is 0-5 against the spread in their last five games… Brooklyn is 8-2 straight in their last 10 games at home… The Hawks are 8-17 SU in their last 25 games at Brooklyn… The Nets are 1-7 SU in their last eight games against Atlanta.

The Pick: All signs make me think  Atlanta bounces back but I’ll take the Nets tonight getting the points.

Bulls

The Bulls need to bounce back and playing at home should help that.

Milwaukee (+8.5) at Chicago – When is the last time you saw a team win the rebounding battle with just 39 boards? That’s what happens when one team shoots almost 50% from the field and 56% from three-point territory. I guarantee you that Chicago Head Coach Tom Thibodeau will not allow his team to be so lazy on the defensive end in Game Five.

Conversely, look for the Bulls to take better care of the basketball as well. They turned the ball over 26 times in Milwaukee’s Game Four victory and I see both the defensive and offensive lapses as a result of being up 3-0.

Trends: Milwaukee is 3-7 against the spread in their last 10 games against the Bulls… Chicago is 7-1 straight up in their last eight games… The Bucks are 0-5 ATS in their last five games at Chicago… The Bulls are 9-2 SU in their last 11 games versus the Bucks.

The Pick: I like the Bulls to cover at home to end the series.

Memphis (+3) at Portland – From most reports, Memphis guard Mike Conley is looking at facial surgery. His status for the coming games is questionable at best until any medical procedures are done. Credit the Grizzlies with taking Portland’s best shot after Conley went out in the third quarter of Game Three. Credit them even more for eventually putting the Blazers away.

Portland was dominated in the paint in Game Three by a total of 48-30. If Portland is going to even stay in this series that margin has to be narrowed significantly. If you’re looking for a piece of history that might help the Blazers come back and win this series then forget it. The last time Portland came back from a 2-0 deficit was the 1977 NBA Finals.

Trends: Portland is 0-5 against the spread in their last five games… Memphis is 6-1 straight up in their last seven games on the road in Portland… The Blazers are 13-5 SU in their last 18 games at home… The Blazers have made just 21 more three-pointers than the Grizzlies over their last ten games despite attempting 117 more threes then they have.

The Pick: Despite the loss of Conley, I like Memphis to cover tonight.

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MLB Thoughts on the DH and Early Season Surprises

Max
Max

Max Scherzer sprained his thumb while batting and he thinks the National League needs the DH because of it.

If you want to see the ultimate in knee-jerk reaction than I give you Major League Baseball. Two pitchers in the National League both went down with injuries and both did so while batting. Cue the “We need the DH in the National League” screams.

In St. Louis, Cardinals’ fans are dealing with the loss of star pitcher Adam Wainwright. He is out for the season with an Achilles’ injury suffered while legging out a struck ball to first base. His injury is far worse than that of Washington Nationals’ pitcher Max Scherzer who suffered a sprained thumb while batting today against the Miami Marlins.

“If you look at it from the macro side, who’d people rather see hit: Big Papi or me?” Scherzer told CBS Sports. “Who would people rather see, a real hitter hitting home runs or a pitcher swinging a wet newspaper? Both leagues need to be on the same set of rules.”

Actually, Scherzer has it backwards. What I’d like to see is pitchers actually take hitting more seriously and I’d like to see the American League do away with the designated hitter altogether.

Wainwright

Adam Wainwright is likely out for the season after an injury suffered while batting.

God forbid we actually force American League managers to have manage a game rather than just send guys up to hit bombs all the time. That may be a stretch but I think you know exactly what I’m talking about. Look at Joe Maddon for example, the new skipper of the Chicago Cubs. He came over from Tampa Bay which is an American League team.

He’s already batted pitchers in the eighth spot rather than the traditional ninth in order shake things up increase the chances of an actual fielder in the ninth hole serve as a “second lead-off man.”

Another reason you have pitchers bat is to shorten games. Ya I know, time is money right? The longer fans are at the ball park the more beer, soda, food and merchandise they buy. Well count me as one who would much rather watch a 2 hour and 30 minute game than a three or four hour slugfest. I’m probably in the minority on that but too bad. I get more out of watching a good 4-3 game then I’ll ever get out of 10-7 one.

Want to eliminate the Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox brawling every other game? Get pitchers up there in the box. I’m not saying for one minute that pitchers batting would eliminate benches clearing or guys getting beaned but I would be willing to bet that you’d see a drastic reduction in such actions. Teams are not going to sacrifice one of their starting arms just for “revenge.”

At the end of the day, I get it; chicks really do dig the long ball don’t they? I’ll bet they’d also dig being able to get out of the stadium in under five hours too.

MLB a Month In – With baseball about a month old, here’s what I’m seeing so far in the early season.

Biggest Surprises: Tampa Bay Rays, New York Mets and Houston Astros. Did you see any of these three teams leading their divisions even this early?

Biggest Disappointments: Washington Nationals, Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians. It’s early, but there are some disturbing trends already emerging with these teams.

Manager on the Hottest Seat: Matt Williams, Nationals. This team was basically penciled in as the NL East winner from day one and many experts had them winning the World Series.

Best Offseason Acquisition: Alfredo Simon, Tigers. With Justin Verlander still not ready to go, Simon’s 4-0 record has been a welcome sign for the Central leading Tigers.

 

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Celtics, Raptors and Mavericks All Looking for Life

DN

 

DN

Could this be it for Dirk Nowtizki and the Mavericks?

Three teams could be headed for the offseason if they don’t turn things around today in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

Cleveland (-7.5) at Boston – I know it’s hard to swallow but if I’m a Boston Celtics’ fan and I’m down 0-3, there is actually something to be positive about. These Celtics under Brad Stevens have made tremendous strides this season and really have given the Cavaliers a lot more than most people thought they would.

If we stay in the present however, the Cavaliers are a win away from advancing to a huge showdown with Chicago and I guarantee if they get past the Bulls, they’ll be grateful they had the competition they did from Boston.

Trends: Cleveland is 1-4 against the spread in their last five games on the road… Boston is 6-3 straight up in their last nine games… The Cavaliers are 5-2 SU in their last seven games in Boston… The Celtics have won 17 of their last 23 games at home against the Cavs.

The Pick: Take the Celtics getting the points.

Rivers

Doc Rivers can only hope to be smiling after game four tonight.

LA Clippers (+6) at San Antonio – The Clippers were outrebounded by just nine and were dead-even in points in the paint with the Spurs at 40 apiece. At one point in game three however they trailed by 37 points. Hard to believe following the two excellent games the teams played in Los Angeles. When you’re held to 34% shooting and 26% in three-point shooting, it really doesn’t matter what else you may be even in with your opponent.

The Spurs turned up the defense and hit early shots to put the Clippers away before they even got their sneakers squeaky in game three. Obviously the Clips know they can’t go down 3-1 so I expect them to give every effort to make sure they are even going back to Cali. That said, if they should fall and go on to lose the series, questions will intensify about just how tough this Clippers team is.

We’ll see how they fare before we go there though.

Trends: The Clippers are 3-6 against the spread in their last nine games against the Spurs… San Antonio is 5-0 straight up in their last five games at home.

The Pick: I’ll take the Clips to bounce back.

Toronto (+5.5) at Washington – Done. Over. Get me the fork because the Toronto Raptors are fully cooked. Yes teams have come back from 0-3 deficits before but it’s not happening in this series and the biggest reason why happens to be 37 years old.

Paul Pierce isn’t ready to hit the rocking chair yet and he’s playing like it. I don’t see him letting this team fall.

Trends: Toronto is 0-5 against the spread in their last five games… Washington is 8-3 straight up in their last 11 games.

The Pick: Give me the Wizards to cover and close out the series.

Houston (-2.5) at Dallas – When you have one player who scores 42 points and another who grabs 26 rebounds I would say your chances of winning that game are pretty darn good. That was the case for Houston in game three as James Harden poured in 42 points and Dwight Howard recorded all those rebounds and they needed every one of both for the two-point win.

I give Dallas credit; I honestly thought between Chandler Parsons’ absence and Rajon Rondo’s ineffectiveness that the Mavs would just pack it in but they didn’t. That said, I don’t expect this series to return to Houston and that’s a shame. I thought this was going to be a classic.

Trends: Houston is 7-1 straight up in their last eight games against the Mavericks… Dallas is 6-2-1 against the spread in their last nine games against the Rockets.

The Pick: I’ll take the Rockets to cover.

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NFL’s New Conduct Policy Still Needs Work

Hardy
Hardy

Greg Hardy deserves every bit of his suspension but is the NFL still missing the point?

I’m really tired of the National Football League’s personal conduct policy. It’s already in its’ new phase and wouldn’t you know it? It has wasted no time in creating controversy. Earlier this week the NFL suspended newly signed Dallas Cowboy Greg Hardy for the first ten games of the 2015 season. Hardy has appealed as he should have and I believe he will be successful in his appeal.

Don’t for one second think that I’m glad his suspension will be shortened; the problem isn’t in what Hardy did but with how the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell doled out the punishment.

Last season, Hardy played in one game and was then suspended for the rest of the season but was still being paid. Not exactly a “stern” punishment but that was what the NFL had in terms of its’ discipline policy. Hardy will argue that he’s already served his punishment because the games missed last season but is that really a punishment when you’re making millions of dollars for doing nothing?

The National Football League Players’ Association will argue on Hardy’s behalf that he’s being punished twice for the same crime. They will also claim that Hardy isn’t even guilty of the domestic abuse for which he’s being suspended for which is laughable.

Let’s remember that Hardy was cited in four different acts of domestic abuse against the same woman. Hardy was found guilty by a judge in what is called a bench trial. Under North Carolina law however, he exercised his option to have his case tried in front of a jury of his peers. When the state went to find and prepare his former girlfriend, she was nowhere to be found.

What ever could have happened to her???? She didn’t disappear into thin air my friends. She took a very handsome monetary payoff from Greg Hardy and away she went. For some reason, many people are claiming that this means Hardy’s original verdict from the judge doesn’t matter. Perhaps it doesn’t legally in the state of North Carolina but in the eyes of the NFL, you can’t hide from what has been proven.

RG

If I'm Roger Goodell, I'm pushing for marijuana legalization since my guys can't seem to stop using it.

So how would I go about fixing the problem with the NFL’s personal conduct policy? I’m glad you asked.

First of all, I would start immediately pushing for the nationwide legalization of marijuana but I would do so behind the scenes until it happens. It’s obvious to me that many of the players already in the league and getting ready to enter the league (Hello Randy Gregory) are users of marijuana. Why continue to fight it? If it truly is worth fighting then players who use marijuana should be suspended longer shouldn’t they?

They know it’s illegal and they know it’s against the league’s personal conduct policy but why do they continue to do it? Until the drug is legal in all 50 states then I would punish it much more harshly.

The same goes for these persistent cases of domestic abuse and violence against women. Again, they know it’s wrong and they know it violates the law and the league’s personal conduct policy but they continue to do it.

Here’s an idea… Do it once and you’re out for a full 16 games. Do it again and you’re banned for life. Too harsh? Why? Why shouldn’t players be able to comprehend what is right and what is wrong?

Aren’t we in the rest of society supposed to know this?

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As the First Round Goes On, the Games Get More Important

Harden
Harden

James Harden and the Rockets head to Dallas up two games to none.

The first round of the NBA Playoffs are now in full swing. Only the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers are tied at one game apiece. The other seven series all have a team with a 2-0 lead. Don’t be surprised if some of those series become more competitive starting tonight.

Houston (+1) at Dallas – Chandler Parson is out. Rajon Rondo is out to lunch. Such are the problems with the Dallas Mavericks as they host the Rockets down 0-2. I really thought the Mavericks were primed to take this series thinking that getting to the playoffs is what they’ve been waiting for.

It hasn’t turned out that way. Dwight Howard and James Harden have been too much for them to handle and it’s going to be hard for Dallas to win four of six against these guys especially with the turmoil and injury issues.

Trends: Houston is 7-1 straight up in their last eight games against the Mavericks… Dallas is 6-16 against the spread in their last 22 games… The Rockets are 2-8 SU in their last 10 games in Dallas… The Mavs are 1-6 ATS in their last seven games against Houston.

The Pick: I see little life in these Mavericks so give me the Rockets and the point.

Lowry

Kyle Lowry needs to get his Raptors going if they are going to get back into the series in Washington.

Toronto (+4) at Washington – I was confident this would be a nice series but I didn’t see the Wizards going into Toronto and winning both games. Now the series shifts to Washington where the Wizards have all the confidence in the world while the Raptors are scrambling for their playoff lives.

The Raptors can help themselves out by hitting more of their three-pointers. In game two, they were just 7 of 18. If they aren’t going to dominate more in the paint, and right now that’s a wash, then they are going to struggle to even win a game in this series.

Trends: Toronto is 20-20-1 against the spread on the road this season… Washington is 17-23-1 ATS at home in the 2014-2015 season… Over their last ten games against each other, both teams are averaging exactly 7.2 steals per game.

The Pick: I think Toronto gets back in it. Take them with the points.

LA Clippers (+4) at San Antonio – The Spurs got a huge performance from the ageless wonder Tim Duncan in an overtime win in game two. His long-time teammate Tony Parker left in the fourth with an Achilles’ injury. What do the two have to do with each other? At their age, can they both recover in time for a quick turnaround to game three?

The Clippers really believe they gave game two away and I can’t disagree. They should have closed out the Spurs in the fourth quarter but let it get to overtime and now they are tied 1-1. The good news is that I get the feeling the Clips feel good about how they’ve played the Spurs and that might not bode well for the Spurs.

Where San Antonio gained an advantage though was in the point where they turned a game one deficit into a surplus of 10 in game two. As crucial as guard play is, the bigs will still settle this series.

Trends: The Clippers are 22-19 against the spread on the road this season… The Spurs are 21-18-2 ATS at home during the 2014-2015 season… In ten games against each other, both teams have each made 78 three-point shots.

The Pick: Give me the Clips and the points.

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The NFL Draft is a Week From Today, Thank God

Draft
Draft

The NFL Draft can't get here soon enough and I say that every year.

In a hotel room in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1936, the few teams that comprised the National Football League in those days were gathered to hold what would become the first-ever draft of collegiate players.

A grand total of 81 players were selected that day but only 24 would go on to actually play in the NFL. As amazing as this will sound, most collegians were more interested in pursuing further academia and starting their lives in the occupations they were in school to prepare for.

Flash forward to 2015 and we have ourselves a three-day event that will be televised from the first selection to the very last. There will be great picks and there will be “reaches.” There will be teams with draft grades of “A” and some with “D.” These grades are of course are about as asinine as they get because these players haven’t even laced up a cleat yet but hey, who am I to get in the way of entertainment and hyperbole?

It shouldn’t surprise us that the National Football League would capitalize on the draft’s growing popularity. No professional sport in America, or the world for that matter does better at marketing itself. It used to be that the NFL was about five to six months long. Now, it’s not a stretch to suggest the League is in fact a 365-day a year operation and the draft has become just one part of that.

fan

There was a time when the Draft brought great hope for teams like the Lions.

There used to be a joke in places like Cleveland or Detroit for example that as soon as those teams lost a game their fans would already start thinking about the next season’s draft. Today, every fan base, whether their team is winning or not is always guilty of keeping an eye on the players who will be available.

It’s hard not to after all considering the amount college football on television these days. It’s also hard to avoid draft talk if you are on social media as well. There are so many “draft experts” on Twitter, Facebook, etc. that discussing the draft is impossible so all we can do is just grit our teeth and hope that April gets here.

But then there’s another problem…

Because of the popularity of the draft, the NFL has been able to pretty much dictate when it’s going to be held. Last year it moved into May and this year at has moved altogether. For the first time during the common era of the draft, it will be held outside of New York City. The Windy City of Chicago will host this year’s draft and hey! Great news! It starts on April 30th!!!

Yes, the draft is still in April but does it matter? The NFL could host the draft at midnight eastern and it would still pull in big ratings. With the growing popularity of the combine in February and the new fad of showing pro days on television, the draft really has become a must-see event.

Consider that it’s now held on two different networks at the same time and you’ve got yourself a bona fide hit when it comes to the sports world. I admit, I enjoy the draft. I know what these young men have gone through to get where they are. It’s a special time for them and for fans who could see their teams’ fortunes change with just one selection.

I just wish it would get here already because I’m tired of hearing about it!

 

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NBA Playoff Action in the East and West on Tap Tonight

Williams

 

Williams

Can Deron Williams get the Nets back to Brooklyn with the series tied one game apiece?

The NBA Playoffs are in full swing so here’s the latest on tonight’s three games.

Brooklyn (+9.5) at Atlanta – The Atlanta Hawks lead this series 1-0 but they are like an army taking on heavy casualties. Center Al Horford has a banged up finger on his shooting hand and Paul Millsap is still dealing with a shoulder injury. I don’ think these issues will keep the Hawks from advancing in this round but I don’t think it bodes well for their future match-ups.

The Nets were nicely balanced in game one but they need to make their free throws and three-point shots. They shot just 66% from the charity stripe and were just five of 20 from downtown. Both of those things have to change. If that improves and the guys in the paint can control things they way they did in game one then the Nets aren’t out of this yet.

Trends: Brooklyn is 0-5 straight up in their last five games against the Hawks… Atlanta is 1-3-1 against the spread in their last five games… The Nets are 2-4 ATS in their last six games against Atlanta… The Hawks are 22-3 straight up in their last 25 games at home.

The Pick: I really like the Nets getting the points tonight.

LA

LaMarcus Aldridge needs some help if the Blazers are going to tie the series.

Portland (+7) at Memphis – You certainly can’t pint any fingers at Blazers’ big man LaMarcus Aldridge. He pumped in 32 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in his team’s loss in game one. The problem is that only two other guys were in double-figures and the highest of those two totals was just 15 points. Damian Lillard must do better than five of 21 shooting in order for this series to go back to Portland tied.

The Grizzlies have clearly noticed that without Wesley Matthews the Blazers just aren’t the threat from the outside they could be. Therefore, the Grizzlies are packing things in and that explains their dominance in the paint. I look for more of that in game two.

The other thing to look for more of is balance and that’s where the Grizzlies had a strong advantage.

Trends: Portland is 0-5 straight up in their last five games… Memphis is 5-1 SU in their last six games at home… The Blazers are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games at Memphis… The Grizzlies are 6-11-1 ATS in their last 18 games at home against the Blazers.

The Pick: I like the Grizzlies to cover tonight.

San Antonio (+2) at LA Clippers – Lost in the Blake Griffin-dunk fest from game one was the fact that Chris Paul poured in 32 points. If that combination continues the defending champion Spurs could be in big trouble. Despite outrebounding the Clips by three, the Spurs failed to own the paint. I feel very confident that you won’t see Griffin exploiting the Spurs quite the way he did in game one.

San Antonio had decent balance in game one but if a guy like Boris Diaw is going to shoot 12 times he needs to make more than just two shots. The young guys have to pick up the slack as Tim Duncan and Tony Parker are limited by age and fatigue. That means Kawhi Leonard and company have to get to the basket.

Trends: San Antonio is 4-2 straight up in their last six games on the road… The Clippers are 1-5 against the spread in their last six games at home… The Spurs are 15-5 straight up in their last 20 games at the Clippers… LAC is 7-1 SU in their last eight home games.

The Pick: Hard to see the champs go down 0-2 but I think they will. Take the Clips tonight.

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