Saturday, May 23, 2009

LeBron's Last Second Heroics Even the Series

Before it started LeBron James had called Game 2 of the Conference Finals a "must win" for the Cavaliers. With time expiring James made sure Cleveland 'did win', with his game winning 3-pointer. This was an important game for the Cavs, going into Orlando down 0-2 would have pretty much made this series over. Early on it looked like Cleveland was going to run away with the game. They were up by 20 points in the second quarter and led by 12 at halftime. With LeBron James on the floor and the home crowd in the stands, that lead should have equaled a win. But the Magic battled back and tied the game in the fourth. Then in the final seconds forward Hedo Turkoglu hit a jumper to give the Magic the two point advantage with just one second remaining on the clock. That didn't matter to James as he took the inbound pass and drained the game winner from the top of the arc.

Despite tying the series, there is plenty of concern for the Cavaliers. In both games now Cleveland has come out hot and dominated early. They entered halftime in each game with a double digit lead, only to watch it slip away in the 2nd half. If not for LeBron's final shot the Cavs would have blown their home court advantage in series. Cleveland has to find a way to transition their success in the 1st half, into a victory at the end of the game.  Overall I still like the Cavs in the series. The Magic haven't shown they can slow down James, while Cleveland limited Dwight Howard to 10 points in Game 2. Also, the Cavaliers bench hasn't been much of a factor yet in this series. I think the Cavs will still come out on top, but the Magic aren't gonna go away without a fight.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bad Day in the Windy City

May 21st, 2009 is probably a day that the Chicago White Sox and their fans wish they could have back. Initially the day started out promising, with news coming out of San Diego that the Sox were in negotiations to acquire 2007 Cy Young winner Jake Peavy. The day looked even brighter when details of the trade started coming to light. The White Sox would hang on to their top prospect, SS Gordon Beckham, and center the deal around Aaron Poreda. Poreda, Chicago's 2007 1st round pick, is no slouch of a prospect, but he doesn't really profile as a star either. Any deal that centered around him and fellow pitching prospect Clayton Richard seemed like a win for the White Sox. The day began to take a turn as the White Sox started their afternoon game against the Minnesota Twins.

Chicago took the first two games of the series but couldn't complete the sweep. Instead the Twins embarrassed the White Sox with a 20-1 shellacking. It was by far the White Sox worse loss of the season, and it was the most runs the Sox had given up in almost two years. The Twins chased Chicago's starter Bartolo Colon after two innings. The news got worse for Chicago's starting rotation later in the afternoon. As their potential savior Jake Peavy exercised the no trade clause in his contract, and declined the move to Chicago. 

After today the White Sox are now 6.5 games out of first place in the A.L. Central, and still without their ace. They rank 24th in the league in ERA, and need to add some pitching if they are to contend in the Central. Now Chicago will have to go back to the drawing board to find a deal to add a starter. If the White Sox don't start improving soon they may become sellers rather than buyers at this year's trade deadline.

*Major credit goes to MLB Trade Rumors for their coverage of this potential deal from start to finish.

Magic Upset the Cavs to take Game 1

The Orlando Magic went into Cleveland last night and knocked off the Cavaliers 107-106, with a Rashard Lewis 3-pointer with 15 seconds remaining. The Magic were down by 15 at halftime, but battled back to be within four points by the start of the 4th quarter. Orlando overcame their deficit by just out shooting the Cavaliers. Both teams had 43 field goals and 12 free throws, but the Magic had nine 3-pointers to the Cavs eight and that was the difference in the game. Orlando was more efficient with their shooting. Going 55.1-48.9% from the field and 85.7-70.6% from the line. The Cavs had 10 extra shot attempts from the field (including two in the final 15 seconds) and three extra free throws, had they made any one of their FG's or two FT's they would have won the game. The Magic came in and took a crucial game one, and now have put pressure on the Cavaliers.

The Cavs shouldn't be too worried about their performance last night. They dominated the Magic in the first half of the game. It looked as if the Cavs picked up where they had left off in their first two playoff series. Then in the second half Cleveland just came out flat and had a bad third quarter. The Cavs should still be considered the favorite to win this series, one misstep shouldn't be cause for concern. Cleveland is coming off an eight day layoff between series so there was bound to be a little rust last night. Overall the Cavs are the best team and have the best player, and that should win out in the end. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Playoff Predictions


Detroit Redwings vs. Chicago Blackhawks: 

Redwings in 5 games. The Blackhawks are a nice young exciting team but they can't match-up against the Redwings for an entire series. Detroit has too much talent, depth and experience to lose this series. The Redwings are already up 2-0 in this series and should have it wrapped up by next Wednesday when they get back on their home ice. 

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Carolina Hurricanes:

Penguins in 6 games. Carolina has had an amazing postseason run, winning in dramatic fashion two game 7's on the road, but I think their luck has run out. The Penguins are looking to redeem themselves for last season's Stanley Cup loss. They have been pretty good so far this postseason and overcame a 2-0 series deficit to come back to beat the Capitals 4-3. With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh will have the two best skaters in the series and that is usually a recipe for victory.


L.A. Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets:

Nuggets in 6 games. The Lakers may have taken game one but I think the Nuggets will take the series. The Lakers played sloppy in their 2nd round series against the Houston Rockets. They have an impressive double digit win one night and then get blown out the next. That is not the mark of a true championship caliber team. I think the Nuggets are playing their best basketball right now and over the series that will come through in the end. The Nuggets have better overall depth and talent inside than the Lakers. They are playing too well as a team to be stopped.

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Orlando Magic:

Cavaliers in 5 games. There is a lot to like about the Magic going into this series. Orlando had a great series to knock off the defending champion Celtics in 7 games. The Magic have the best big man in the nation in Dwight Howard. Also Orlando won the season match-up against the Cavs 2-1. Unfortunately I don't think any of that will be able to stop LeBron James and the rest of the Cavaliers. James and company have been playing excellent ball so far this postseason, winning all of their games by double digits. James has dominated the postseason so far and is playing flawless basketball. I don't think the Magic have a true answer for LeBron. The Cavs will face their toughest challenge in Orlando, but should still wrap this series up pretty quickly.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

MNF Makes a Trade

Big new from ESPN Monday Night Football. Tony Kornheiser steps down from his seat in the broadcast booth and will be replaced by Jon Gruden. Kornheiser will stay with ESPN as part of PTI with Michael Wilbon but will no longer be calling games. 

Personally I like this while I've enjoyed reading Kornheiser's columns over the years and love him on PTI, I never liked him as part of the Monday Night football team. Kornheiser would too often try and add a comedic element to the booth but would come up short. If MNF wanted comedy they should have just stuck with Dennis Miller, he's at least funny. The other issue with Kornheiser is he wouldn't always let the game dictate his comments, which I always found frustrating. A good broadcaster needs to respond to whats going on in the game and not what they want to talk about. Now I don't know Gruden will be an upgrade or not I do think he has the potential and personality to help make MNF more enjoyable.

Monday, May 18, 2009

NBA Playoffs: Lakers Outlast the Rockets

L.A. Lakers over the Houston Rockets: (89-70) The Lakers were widely favored going into the series and many thought they'd win it in no more than 5 games, but Houston forced them to game 7. The Rockets did it without their two star players, Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. McGrady has been out since February and Ming got injured in Game 3 of the series. Undersized and undermanned the Rockets came up with two big wins in Games 4 and 6 to even the series up. Through the first six games the Rockets had exposed a serious weakness of the Lakers. They showed that if L.A. doesn't play like a team and you force tough shots then the Lakers can fall apart. Too often L.A. relies on Kobe and they live and die with his jump shot. 

Game 7 was a different story though. The Lakers won the game in large part because they had a balanced offense and used their size advantage. Kobe Bryant had an unspectacular game, but Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Trevor Ariza all picked up their game. Kobe was more of a decoy and only hit 33% of his shots, but his threat on the outside allowed the big men to dominate the paint. Gasol led the team in points (21) and rebounds (18) and set the tone for the entire game. He caused all sorts of match-up problems for Houston and controlled the defensive glass. Bynum added 14 points and 6 boards in only 22 minutes. The Rockets were noticeably missing Yao Ming in the middle, as they allowed to many easy shots inside and had no presence on the glass. The Lakers allowed the Rockets only five offensive boards and 33 total all game compared to their 55. The Lakers will now face a tough match-up against the Denver Nuggets. They will have to continue playing like a team, instead of a collection of stars to advance to the NBA Finals for the second straight year.