Rising to the Top of the League

Remember all of those people who said the Celtics couldn’t beat the Warriors because they just weren’t good enough? That their 13-game winning streak didn’t mean much because their opponents were easy (a paraphrasing of Charles Barkley’s words during the pregame show on TNT)? Well, they were obviously wrong! The Cs stunned the defending champions, defeating them 92-88. Yes, you read that right. The Cs held the #1 offense in the league to 88 points, the lowest the team has ever scored when their ‘Big 4’ start (Curry, Thompson, Durant and Green).
The Warriors blew a 17 point lead and it is the second time this year that they’ve blown a lead that big. They fell apart in the second half and made a lot of mistakes. But let’s give credit to the Celtic’s defense that forced those mistakes, namely due to Marcus Smarts’ defensive play in the third quarter. Golden State was held to 40.2% shooting and 31.3% from three. Now, here comes to funny part: the Celtics only shot 32.9% from the floor and 21.9% from three… and they still won! They should definitely be proud of themselves for pulling out the 14th straight win, but the Warriors have to be absolutely embarrassed.
Jaylen Brown, who played after the death of a very close friend, provided the inspiration his team needed to keep fighting. He was the difference maker in the third, hitting a few clutch threes to help the Cs go on a 19-0 run and eventually finishing with 22 points (along with a swift steal off of Steph Curry and monster dunk early on). Kyrie Irving ditched his mask late in the game and finished with 16 points, making some clutch free throws late. And don’t forget Horford (18 points), Morris (12 points) and Tatum (12 points) who also came through for the team after only having 12 points off of the bench. Two of Tatum’s 12 points were extremely significant, coming with just seconds left on the clock to seal the deal and put the Cs up by four.
The ‘Big4’ looked pretty small if you ask me. Steph Curry was held to 9 points, shooting 3-14 overall and 2-9 from three. Klay Thompson hit two late three’s that put the Warriors up late, but it wasn’t enough. Draymond Green only had 11 points (and surprisingly no technicals). Kevin Durant’s 24-point performance was the only exception, but didn’t matter this time due to below average offensive production by his teammates. Being the #1 offense didn’t help last night, and there will be other times when it won’t. You can’t just hope to outscore opponents (the Warriors have given up 100+ points in 12 of their 15 games). At some point, defense has to become a priority as well, and Brad Stevens’ Celtics have the perfect formula. Who’s the best team in the league now?

The King, the Queen and the Princess

No one looks forward to a Cavs and Knicks matchup but last night, we did. After the Cavs beat Dallas on Saturday, LeBron had some glowing remarks about their rookie Dennis Smith Jr. , basically saying the Knicks should have drafted him instead of letting him fall to the Mavericks. Well, this comment didn’t go over well with the Knicks, especially Enes Kanter, who felt this was a shot at their rookie Frank Ntilikina. LeBron then clarified that his comments were not a shot at Ntilikina but at Phil Jackson for the way he handled the team (and in defense of his bestie Carmelo). He then took a shot at Kanter for ‘always having something to say’ (per ESPN). All of this pre-game aggression had us fans amped for this game.

The Knicks gained a 23 point lead by halftime, though they eventually lost the game by three after LeBron and Kyle Korver stepped up for the Cavs. But the thing that everyone is talking about is the fight that almost occurred between Kanter and LeBron, in addition to their post-game comments directed at one another. Kanter got all up in LeBron’s grill to defend his rookie Ntilikina after LeBron seemed to have picked on him. I say this because after the basket he made, LeBron basically tried to stare down the kid and square up, even though we know he’s not about that life. The rookie responded with a few shoves, basically because he was not in the mood to play the intimidation game. It appeared as though LeBron was ready to teach the rookie how to respect his elders, but when Kanter stepped up he was more than ready for someone to come to his rescue. Then, like a kid trying to justify his actions in a lunchroom squabble, LeBron tries to plead his case to the referees. I can only imagine what he said: ‘they started it, I didn’t do anything! You saw me right?’ Either way, the Cavs got the last laugh; the Knicks weren’t able to play for a solid 48 minutes.

Snide comments, childish Instagram posts (like Arthur’s fist with the caption ‘Mood’) and antics like convincing the team to take the subway to the game (then posting it on social media) is the reason why Kyrie left. Everyone wants to be mad at him for leaving Cleveland but I honestly don’t blame him because like Skip Bayless said, LeBron is a drama queen (I guess Kanter’s post game comments were on point). Now, there’s nothing wrong with being a big kid, but there is something wrong with being petty and that’s exactly what LeBron is. What he fails to realize is that his shot at Phil Jackson was also a shot at Ntilikina; although indirect, it was still a shot. At 7-7, no one on that team should be saying anything at all until they can get their act together. But what most us fail to realize is that LeBron is being ‘extra’ in order to distract from the fact that his team is not performing the way everyone expected them to (and the fact that they don’t play defense).

Give Dabo Swinney His Props!

Dabo Swinney, head coach of the Clemson Tigers, simply does not get the credit he deserves. In the 2015-2016 season, he coached this team to a record of 14-0 (8-0 in their conference). They were ranked #1 and faced #2 Alabama in the College Football Championship. Unfortunately, they were defeated 45-40 an ended their season at 14-1.

The very next year, they finished with a record of 12-1 during the regular season. They defeated Virginia Tech in the ACC championship and then went on to defeat Ohio State for a chance to have their rematch against Alabama. In a thrilling game, the Tigers scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to come from behind and defeat the Crimson Tide 35-31. The whole world was stunned (not to mention the whole Alabama sideline) by this upset. Clemson’s QB Deshaun Watson had a night to remember; not only did he and his team outplay Alabama in the fourth, he also had some pretty impressive stats: 36/56 passing and threw for 420 yards and 3 TDs. This team was determined not to come up short the second time around.

Now they are in the 2017-2018 season, and look just as good as they had the previous two. They started their season ranked #5, then climbed up to as high as #2 after winning 3 straight, but fell to #7 after being upset by Syracuse 27-24. They would bounce back and win their next three matchups, one of them being against NC State (ranked #20 at the time). After winning their matchup against a struggling Florida State team on Saturday, the AP now has them at #4. This is an impressive position for this team to be in, considering the Tigers lost 6 players to the 2017 draft, one of them being QB Deshaun Watson. But Swinney has been able to coach junior QB Kelly Bryant and this team to success, despite some of his best players moving on to the NFL. Swinney and the Tigers are 9-1 with three games left.

It looks like a few coaches in the NFL could use some pointers from Swinney. His combination of great recruiting and great coaching has ensured his team a seat at the table for the past three seasons. In regards to coaching, I would have suggested that Mike McCarthy have a conversation with Swinney, though he did win his game against the Bears yesterday; but, it was the Bears… they were expected to win. Either way, Dabo Swinney has got it all figured out at Clemson, and people should start paying closer attention.

Seeking 12th Straight

The Celtics defeated Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Hornets Friday night 90-87 to grab their 11th straight win. It was a hard fought matchup, as the Celtics were without Horford for the second straight game due to concussion and they lost Irving early after taking an elbow to the head. He was held out for the rest of the game to be monitored for concussion–like symptoms, breaking the hearts of many Celtics fans. The team was down 57-41 at halftime and it was looking bleak. But they were able to rally and outscore the Hornets in the third and fourth quarters to win the game. Shane Larkin stepped up and had 16 points off the bench, while Jayson Tatum returned to add his own 16.

The Celtics host the Raptors at 3:30 today. Al Horford will be back for the Cs, while Irving will sit out. He sustained a minor facial fracture after taking an inadvertent elbow to the head from teammate Aron Baynes and will be fitted for a mask. The Celtics look to extend their win streak to 12 without Irving and show people once again that they can get the job done without (a) key player(s).

                                 

Patriots Ride High into Denver

The New England Patriots come off of a bye week to face the Denver Broncos in week 10 of NFL action. The Pats had two uncharacteristic losses occur at home in week 1 against the Chiefs and week 4 against Carolina. But they bounced back after the Carolina loss and won four straight. They are now 6-2 and sit atop the AFC East.

At 40 years old, Tom Brady is proving to us that he’s still got it. Before last night’s Seattle vs. Cardinals game, Brady led the league in passing yards with 2, 541 (R. Wilson now leads by just 2) and continues to lead this team to wins. Although he only has 16 passing TD this season, he has still found a way to bail out the defense when necessary, especially early on in the season. After nearly escaping with a 24-17 win against the Jets in week 6 (due to a controversial overturning of a TD), the defense did a complete 180 in week 7 when they shutout the Falcons for three straight quarters. In the next game against the Chargers, they were able to hold Philip Rivers to just 212 yards. That’s pretty good considering every quarterback they faced in weeks 1-6 threw for over 300 yards.

The Pats should be feeling pretty good about themselves heading into Denver. Although Chris Hogan didn’t practice yesterday (or at all this week for due to his shoulder), they were able to add a familiar face to the roster this week. Martellus Bennet was picked up on waivers after being released by the Packers for not disclosing an injury. It seems he has a torn rotator cuff, but he plans to play through it (I would too if I was reunited with the defending champs).

Denver on the other hand, has been struggling. They lost to the Eagles 51-23 and at one point the Eagles put in their back up QB Foles; that’s how embarrassing the loss was (as if the score wasn’t bad enough). They have lost four straight games and were shutout in one of them. But they have the upper hand against the Pats, who are just 10-21 overall when they have to play in Denver. Brady himself is just 6-6 against Denver while Belichick is 9-13 overall (9-9 with NE).

Oh, but wait! The Patriots are 27-18 when they have to play on Sunday night, with Brady personally owning an 18-10 record. Brock Osweiler will be starting for the Broncos after throwing 2 INTs against Philly. The Pats defense will have to step up with the loss of Hightower, and Dorsett will have to do the same since it’s likely Hogan won’t play Sunday. Osweiler and Denver will continue to struggle while Tom Brady and the Pats will add one to their win column on Sunday.

(Shoutout to the Patriots App for the solid series (Denver/Pats) info!)

College Tip Off!

It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: NCAA Men’s Basketball! The season tips off tomorrow with a day full of exciting match ups starting at noon. All eyes will be on the defending champion UNC Tar Heels, as well as Coach K’s young squad at Duke.

The Tar Heels open their season at home against Northern Iowa. Their title defense begins with a new look, as they have lost Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks to the NBA. These three players were their top scorers and will be sorely missed, but now it is time for others to step up. Joel Berry is back for his senior year after averaging 14.7 points a game last season (though he will miss the first few games with a hand injury) and junior Luke Maye is back after hitting that game-winning shot in the Elite 8 matchup against Kentucky last season. This team also has six incoming freshman, and head coach Roy Williams will be looking to his juniors and seniors to step up and lead these young guys.

Duke opens their season tomorrow night as well against Elon with a completely new look, as Grayson Allen is the only senior on this roster. The team lost some top scorers to the NBA as well: Luke Kennard, Jayson Tatum, Frank Jackson and Amile Jefferson. Coach K has eight freshmen coming in this year, with the most anticipated being Marvin Bagley III. This kid is 6’11”, 220 pounds and will make a poster out of his opponents without a second thought. But with all the hype surrounding ESPN’s #1 overall recruit, we’ve forgotten that three other incoming freshman are in the top ten on ESPN’s list (Carter Jr., Duval and Trent Jr.). It’s clear that expectations are high for this team, seeing as they came in at #1 on the AP Poll (UNC is #9). The Blue Devils look to shatter expectations this season as they help their freshmen transition into NCAA athletes.

Another player to watch out for is Michael Porter Jr., who came in at #2 on ESPN’s top 100. He will be at unranked Missouri, and they will most likely look to him to provide that spark.

                                                                                                                                                                          

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjwDQd_6BbY (Check out Marvin Bagley III)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gItF3xsbrWU (Check out Michael Porter Jr.)

The Unicorn

The Carmelo Anthony trade is the best thing that could have happened to Porzingis and the Knicks. The Unicorn has taken lead of this team and is averaging 30.2 points per game on 50% shooting, 7.8 rebounds, 1 assist and is shooting 82.6% from the free throw line. After talks of leaving this past summer due to displeasure with Phil Jackson, I bet the organization is glad they made the decision to part ways with Jackson instead. They realized he was a bully who was trying to drive away their best players, and he succeeded with Anthony; though they weren’t going to let him drive away their Unicorn. Smart move.

Porzingis has scored 30+ points in almost every game this season. He dropped an impressive 40 points against the Pacers on Sunday, helping the Knicks to a 108-101 win. On Tuesday he saved his team with a tie-breaking three-pointer with 1:48 left in the fourth quarter against the Hornets. He would then help his team go up another two points with 11 seconds left before Courtney Lee closed it out with a couple of free throws led Knicks are now 6-4, making them over .500 for the first time since the 2012-2013 season. No doubt they have been exciting to watch now that the smoke has cleared (Dolan/Phil Jackson/Carmelo/etc. issues), but the cast of First Take on ESPN wonders if the Unicorn can sustain this level of performance. This could be a valid point, considering he has relatively the same stature as Yao Ming, and one; they went on to win 118-113.

 The Porzingis- could argue that Ming’s size contributed to a lot of his lower body injuries (over time of course, with all the wear and tear). But I guess only time will tell. The Knicks head to Orlando tonight, seeking their fourth straight win against Gordon and the Magic, who look to bounce back after losing two straight.

Just a sports fan with an opinion