Posts Tagged ‘Atlanta’

NBA: Sunday’s Game Will All but Decide the Eighth Seed in the East

April 10th, 2010

The Chicago Bulls have put themselves in a bad position, losing to the now 12-win New Jersey Nets for the second time this season Friday night, after the Bosh-less Raptors predictably lost to the Atlanta Hawks.

This makes Sunday's game against the Raptors in Toronto a must-win for the Bulls, as the Raptors own the tiebreaker no matter the outcome of the game.

If the Bulls lose, they will be one game behind the Raptors, but in reality it would be two games, due to the Raptors owning the tiebreaker, with two games remaining for both teams.

The Raptors would then clinch the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a win in the team's remaining two games against the Detroit Pistons on the road, directly after playing the Bulls, and the New York Knicks at home, who currently own a combined record of 54-104, or a Chicago Bulls' loss.

The Raptors, however, have simply been lost without Chris Bosh, losing all three games without him.

Those games were against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, and the Atlanta Hawks, who own three out of the four top spots in the Eastern Conference. Not only that, but the Raptors were able to somewhat stay in those games even without Bosh. 

Beating the Detroit Pistons and the New York Knicks is a whole different ballgame.

If the Raptors lose to Chicago, the Bulls magic number would be two, meaning the team would require either two wins by themselves, two losses by the Raptors, or a combo of a win by itself and a loss by the Raptors in the two remaining games.

Unfortunately for the Bulls, the team's two remaining games are at home against the Boston Celtics and on the road against the Charlotte Bobcats on back-to-back days.

The Bulls have no one to blame but themselves after being handed a win against a Lebron-less Cavaliers, one which the team barely was able to squeak out. Chicago then lost to the Nets with a chance to take a one-game cushion on the Raptors.

Had the Bulls taken care of business against the Nets, then beaten the Raptors Sunday, their magic number would have been one.

Instead, the Bulls find themselves face-to-face with elimination, depending on one road game against a team that has beaten them twice by a combined 42 points.

Bosh put up 28 points and 11 rebounds in one of those games, and 25 and 12 in the other on 18-for-33 combined shooting.

The Raptors, however, are without him, so if the Bulls were to lose Sunday's game, it would just be another tally on the "no one else to blame" board.

Are The Lakers, Cavaliers, and Magic The NBA’s Only Title Contenders?

April 10th, 2010

At some point during the NBA playoffs it's going to become clearly evident that your favorite team is not going to win the championship, unless that team happens to be the Los Angeles Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers, or Orlando Magic.

The NBA postseason is based on the premise that anything can happen, and every team has an equal opportunity to succeed in the course of a seven game series, but recent history has proved this theory to be false.

Since the beginning of the decade each NBA champion has shared one distinct quality which has been a common thread in their march to glory and that trait is a dominant perimeter player and a dominant post player.

The Lakers began the decade with Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, and they were succeeded by San Antonio's Tim Duncan and either Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili, in addition to Detroit's tandem of Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace.

The Miami Heat continued the trend in 2006 with Dywane Wade and O'Neal, and each champion since then has followed a similar formula on their way to a NBA title.

Of course there are many other variables that factor in winning a championship, but broken down to it's barest molecule, the truth of the matter lies in that dominant, perimeter, post combination.

The Lakers, Cavaliers, and Magic are the only teams in the league who can boast of that type of championship combination, and their ability to dominate from the paint and the perimeter gives them an advantage heading into the postseason.

The defending champion Lakers' Pau Gasol and Bryant are the best two players at their respective positions going into the playoffs, and the proof of their success is in last season's championship.

Bryant is one of the greatest players of this past decade, but he needed a dominant figure like Gasol in the paint in order to continue his aspirations for legendary player status.

How dramatic was Gasol's impact on the Lakers? Los Angeles has been the best regular season team in the west for three consecutive years, and have played in the last two NBA Finals since Gasol was added.

The Cavaliers recognized the need to add athleticism after getting torched by the Magic's combination of Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu, but they also added O'Neal to counter Dwight Howard, and give them a dominant post presence.

With a player like LeBron James, Cleveland didn't need much in the paint, but they did need a defensive deterrent for players like Howard, and the ability to at least feign dominance in the paint is critical.

O'Neal is not the player he once was, but he can offer a glimpse of his former self in spurts, and even if he doesn't still have uncanny quickness, he is still physically imposing, much like Howard.

Howard and his Orlando Magic team carry the label of true contenders because of his own stature in the paint, and Vince Carter's play on the perimeter, which is streaky at times, but still has dominant qualities.

The Magic's basic principles lie in placing Howard in the post and surrounding him with players who can score from the perimeter, and Carter is the best of those players in terms of scoring in a variety of ways.

There are other teams who are mentioned as true title contenders, but of those teams, only the Boston Celtics have the same formula as the Lakers, Cavaliers, and Magic.

The only question about the Celtics is, can their aging perimeter-post threesome of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen hold together for another chance at postseason glory?

That remains to be seen, and other teams like the Denver Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks, and Atlanta Hawks have great players, but none of them are dominant in the paint and the perimeter.

Denver has two of the league's best players in Billups and Carmelo Anthony, but they don't have anyone who can take command of a game from the post. NeNe is great, but is he a player who can be counted on for a basket as the shot clock winds down?

That talent is imperative in the postseason because the game often becomes a half court battle of wills, where a premium is placed on working the ball in the post for easier shot attempts.

The Mavericks face the same dilemma, because even though Brendan Haywood has upgraded their defense, he is far from a primary option when a critical score is needed in a tight contest.

That designation usually rests with Jason Terry or Dirk Nowitzki, who both make their living on the perimeter, and if Shawn Marion is your best offensive option in the post, then you are probably at a disadvantage.

The Hawks actually fit into my theory also because they do have superior players on the perimeter in Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford, and Al Horford has developed into a fierce presence in the paint.

But Atlanta still has a tendency to play an undisciplined style of basketball, and as good as Horford is, I question his ability to hold his own against the likes of a player such as Howard.

This theory has been the rule since Michael Jordan decided to retire, and before he won his six titles, with a few exceptions, a dominant post-perimeter combination was the surest recipe for postseason success.

The postseason of 2010 looks to be a mirror image of each team which has won a championship in the past decade, and although fans will hold out hope, unless you live in California, Ohio, or Florida your chances will likely die under those principles.

Fantasy Baseball Box Score Breakouts: 4/9/10

April 10th, 2010

Happy Birthday Lynn!

Here’s a look at the unheralded players who played well yesterday.

Miguel Tejada, Baltimore Orioles
Tejada went 3 for 5 with a HR and 4 RBI.

Clint Barmes, Colorado Rockies
Barmes went 1 for 4 with a three-run HR.

Jorge de la Rosa, Colorado Rockies
Jorge picked up where he left last year tossing seven scoreless innings. He gave up 1 hit, 1 walk, and struck out 9.

Martin Prado, Atlanta Braves
Prado is red-hot. He went 3 for 4 with 2 runs and 3 walks  to raise his average to .625.

Edger Renteria, San Francisco Giants
Renteria is as hot as they get as well. He went 3 for 5 with 2 runs, a HR, and 2 RBI. He’s hitting .688.

Mark Fontenot, Chicago Cubs
Fontenot went 3 for 5 to raise his average to .364.

Drew Stubbs, Cincinnati Reds
Stubbs had a big game. He went 2 for 4 with 2 runs, a triple, a HR, and 4 RBI. He’s hitting .333.

Jeff Francoeur, New York Mets
Francoeur hit a pair of HRs and had 3 RBI. He’s hitting .429 on the year.

Rod Barajas, New York Mets
Barajas also smacked a pair of HRs. He’s hitting .313.

Rafael Furcal, Los Angeles Dodgers
Furcal went 3 for 4 with a run and a SB (his 3rd) to raise his average to .375.

Placido Polanco, Philadelphia Phillies
Polanco continues to shine with the Phils. He went 4 for 5 with 2 runs and 2 RBI to raise his average to .579.

Jason Keppinger, Houston Astros
Keppinger went 3 for 4 to improve his average to .545. 

J.A. Happ, Philadelphia Phillies 
Happ just keeps on producing. He went five scoreless innings with 5 Ks to win his first start of the year.

Mike Cameron, Boston Red Sox
Cameron went 2 for 3 to raise his average to .385.

Rick Ankiel, Kansas City Royals
Ankiel went 4 for 4 with a HR , 3 RBI, and a SB.

Tim Wakefield, Boston Red Sox
Wake got a no-decision, but he gave up just 2 runs in 7 innings with 6 Ks.

Chris Young, Arizona Diamondbacks
Young went 3 for 5 with a Grand Slam and 5 RBI. He’s hitting .400 on the year.

Rajai Davis, Oakland A’s
Davis continued his hot start going 3 for 5 with 2 runs and 2 RBI. He’s hitting .375. More steals would be nice though.

Daric Barton, Oakland A’s  
Barton also had 3 hits going 3 for 4 with 2 runs and 2 RBI. He’s hitting .438.

Gio Gonzalez, Oakland A’s 
Gonzalez gave up 2 runs in 6 innings for the win over the Angels. He had six Ks.

Potent Middle Relievers :
Kevin Gregg, Toronto Blue Jays:  1 IP, 0 Runs, 2 Ks, Save
Jim Johnson, Baltimore Orioles:  1 IP, 0 Runs, 2 Ks
Mark Hendrickson, Baltimore Orioles:  2-1/3 IP, 0 Runs, 3 Ks 
Rafael Betancourt, San Diego Padres:  1 IP, 0 Runs, 2 Ks
Peter Moylan, Atlanta Braves:  1 IP, 0 Runs, 2 Ks
Doug Mathis, Texas Rangers:  1 IP, 0 Runs, 2 Ks
Jose Contreras, Philadelphia Phillies:  1 IP, 0 Runs, 2 Ks 
LaTroy Hawkins, Milwaukee Brewers:  1 IP, 0 Runs, 3 Ks 
Bob Howry, Arizona Diamondbacks:  1 IP, 0 Runs, 2 Ks 
Craig Breslow, Oakland A’s:  2/3 IP, 0 Runs, 2 Ks

Trouble Watch :
Mike Gonzalez:  2/3 IP, 2 Runs, Blown Save

Originally published at .

Javy Vazquez: You Are Back in the American League

April 10th, 2010

Someone once said: "Dorothy, you're not in Kansas any more."

Last night, Javier Vazquez at times looked as though he might have been looking for his Ruby Slippers.

Javy: "You're not in Atlanta any more."

Many of the Yankee fans and most of the Yankee brass has trumpeted the return of Vazquez as just what the Yankees needed. They point to the Yankees' lack of a fourth starter in the playoffs last season and proclaim that Vazquez solved that problem.

This writer has pointed out in other articles on this sight, since Vazquez was re-signed by New York, that you need to look very carefully at the difference between the way Javy pitched in the National League and the way he pitches in the AL.

It is just wrong to make too much of one start. But this start was so much like his performance over four years in the American League.

It is simply true that the offensive output in the AL, and especially in the AL East, is much greater than in the National League.

If you analyze Vazquez's wins last year, you will find a number of wins over teams with losing records. And you will find that Bobby Cox pampered Vazquez last year with extra days off and skipping him against certain teams.

It is true that he eats innings and always has. It is true his ratio of strikeouts to walks last year was just stupid.

But those who think Javy Vazquez will have an ERA under 3.00 and win 15+ games for the New York Yankees had better take off their rose covered glasses and begin their search for Javy's Ruby Slippers.

New York Rangers Best Philadelphia Flyers, Playoff Race Down to One Game

April 10th, 2010

In what many suspected would emulate a tight checking playoff game, the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers played an offensively spirited game last night in New York, with the Rangers emerging as the victors and in control of their playoff destiny.

The Rangers, who were facing playoff elimination if they had lost in regulation, pulled out the win by a score of 4-3, with goals from Chris Drury (14), tough-guy Jody Shelly (1), Brandon Dubinsky (20), with the winner going to sniper Marian Gaborik (42).

The Flyers got a tremendous performance from their captain Mike Richards as he posted two goals, including the opener and game-tying third goal.

In the end, Richards’ efforts were not enough, and now the Flyers sit tied with the Rangers at 86 points apiece.

What it amounts to is this: If the Flyers can beat the Rangers in regulation or a shoot-out, they are in the playoffs. Lose to the Rangers in similar fashion, and they are out.

The rematch is scheduled for Sunday at 3:00 PM ET, at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia.

The Flyers could have eliminated the Rangers with a regulation win last night. Sadly, the Flyers will now have to beat a Rangers squad that is 7-3-1 in their past 10 games and looking every bit like an upset team.

Jeff Carter, who had been out of the Flyers' lineup since March 21 when he injured his foot during a match against the Atlanta Thrashers, played a total of 16:16 last night, taking 24 shifts, registering three shots, and winning 66.7 percent of the faceoffs he took. Carter was held off the scoreboard, and by all accounts, was a little rusty, but he did put in a solid effort.

Carter is expected to be back in the Flyers lineup Sunday afternoon, and like every member of the Orange and Black, he will have to bring his “A-game” if the Flyers are to be successful.

While no team ever wants to go into a one-game elimination, things could be worse for the Flyers given their poor play (3-6-1) in their past 10. They could be on the outside looking in already, so the Flyers will take their shot and run with it.

Clearly, with Henrik Lundqvist in the Rangers' net, they will come into the game with a huge advantage. Flyers goaltender Brian Boucher looked shaky last night, struggling to find the puck and having difficulty moving it all night.

Clearly, Boucher will have to step up his play (as will all of the Flyers' stars) if they are to beat a very motivated Rangers squad.

For more NHL news and notes check out my website at .

Until next time,


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