Triple Double Sports

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Hello readers and followers. It’s been a little while since the last update, but that’s because I’ve been observing a lot, and analyzing the game like a scientist in order to present diligent findings and information.  Now I wasn’t the brightest chemistry student, but I knew it well enough to ace a couple of exams and apply it to the real world and other things in life (which is really what you’re supposed to do). Anyway, the 2013-2014 NBA season was a pretty decent one, but a very predictable one as it closely mirrored the previous season.

Because of a league imbalance due to the dominance of specific teams, primarily the Miami Heat, folks in Vegas and experts knew who was slated to head back to the Finals in the East for the fourth straight time.  With the West, its always competitive and we saw great teams battle and go through adversity all year long to get the chance to face off against Miami and prove their worth.  I for one thought the Spurs didn’t have it in them, but I was certainly wrong and am giving them all the praise in the world in this piece.  Their hunger for more and desire for revenge against Miami fueled them to another extremely successful season and a title shot.  However, more so than ever before, and perhaps any other title before this one, the Spurs showed why and how absolute effective team basketball will put you at the top regardless of anything else. 

We are now in an era where (in the majority if sports) two main players aren’t enough to seal a championship anymore. Let me rephrase that: Since the end of the Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls era, and more or less the Kobe/Shaq era, championships have been won by complete team efforts.  Competition has elevated and shifted a bit, and superstars need all the help they can get if they’re going to go the distance.  The component I am implying that completes the championship formula for today’s game is that third guy, which can either be that one other person that completes a big three and is always there to aid the main two stars OR instead (and even better), a group of hardworking role players and bench players willing to make sacrifices for the benefit and betterment of the entire team.

If we rewind time and look at the championship teams of the past decade like the San Antonio Spurs, ’04 Pistons, a veteran’s Mavericks team,’08 Celtics and the resurgence of a “Big Three” importance, Kobe and the twin towers (Pau & Bynum) with D Fish, and now Miami – it is evident that these rosters were a bit more hefty and much more cohesive than the rest.  Hell, the fact that only 6 different NBA franchises have won in the past 14 years indicates that the league isn’t just up for grabs year in and year out.  The times of one player imposing their will entirely (as MJ did) is over; neither Melo nor KD nor Kobe (now) nor even LeBron (as beastly and unstoppable as he is when he wants to be) can lead their teams to the Promised Land completely alone.  Again, a unified effort must be present and the saying “There is no I in team” has never been truer in today’s game.

By looking at an atrocious example such as the New York Knicks this past season it is very easy to see why this team wasn’t successful, even though it may be hard to understand at times because of the talent they actually have (and had) roster-wise.  The Knicks are a team that relies heavily on its superstar Carmelo Anthony, and regardless of whether he scores 62 (unless its against Charlotte), 44, or 18, they still found a way to lose game after game this past season because they do not play as a unit.  In their first 30 games last season, the Knicks were giving teams fits and running them out of the gym because they were effectively sharing the ball and playing together.  Despite the fact of not actually having a true distributive or demonstrative point guard (good riddens Raymond Felton), it is still evident in the way this team played and operated that potent chemistry and a true offensive and defensive systems were missing.  The inverse of this catastrophe would be a team with less talent that meshes well and uses what they have to the best of their abilities, such as the Portland TrailBlazers, Dallas Mavericks, Washington Wizards, and Toronto Raptors – two tough Western Conference teams, and two Eastern Conference teams on the rise. 

The difference there is that teams with less talent are forced to play harder, smarter, and together in order to overcome more talented and well-meshed opponents.  Its simple logic and I’m not writing anything that you shouldn’t already know, but instead I’m trying to bring it to light in a more intricate way.  Hard work and cohesiveness definitely beats talent when talent fails to illustrate the intangibles.  Of course even talented teams who do play hard can’t win every game or every matchup, that’s not the way sports works.  In every sport there are different factors and equations that go into every game and whomever executes better as a whole often wins.  However, that still doesn’t take away from the fact that if a team plays like a cohesive unit with or without a superstar, they can do great things.  College basketball is a good example of that if you look at teams like the Wichita State Shockers this past season and what they accomplished as a team that is usually not in the top tier and didn’t have a premier superstar even though Ron Baker definitely held it down with the help of Knicks rookie draft pick Cleanthony Early, who wasn’t a known name or face of the team but was the only one from the Shockers to land himself in the NBA.

Even more so, now that the NBA Finals are over, the Champion San Antonio Spurs ONCE AGAIN serves as a testament to my thesis.  Sure there were plenty of other formidable teams (in the West at least) that had a fair chance at going to the Finals but they didn’t have that extra component or overall team effort to get them over the hump.  Maybe things would have been different had the Thunder not lost Ibaka, but they’ve been playing with multiple lineups all year, no bench, and too much output from KD, even though the MVP posted monster numbers all throughout.  Regardless, earlier I talked about the “third guy” being important and crucial to aiding the superstar and your second best player, but in some cases that “third guy” can be teamwork instead of another individual and the San Antonio Spurs certainly proved that.  When Tony Parker didn’t have huge statistical nights, it was guys like Danny Green, Patty Mills, Marco Bellinelli, and even other tough role players stepping in to aid Parker, Duncan, and Ginobili.  There are very few teams, if you can truly name any besides the Spurs that have had the sheer ability to carry on without big superstar performances against stiff competition and younger talent.  As a unit they got the job done professionally and executed on all levels consistently, which only bred a winning habit and the confidence to beat other great teams along the way.

The equation of chemistry ultimately boils down to different, but proper compounds effectively and unselfishly coexisting for a successful end result.  You can have a nice car with a great sounding engine, but it has to be oiled well and the other parts that don’t get as much attention and allure have to function for the sake of the whole to run as it is modeled to be. The teams that use their chemistry and translate them into wins night in and night out through adversity usually go the furthest and that’s what you saw with the Spurs.  The Heat who haven’t been challenged much all year, especially in the postseason, broke down in the Finals.  Their parts and role players weren’t there to help LeBron James, and the back-to-back champs got dethroned and destroyed by a better team (that should’ve beat them last year too in an epic Game 6 that Jesus left his mark on).  Because of the debacle, and supporting my point about a true team entity, the Miami Heat had a quite interesting offseason, as implications were that they would need to make big changes with virtually no cap space unless players took less money to help rebuild a better roster and stay at a championship caliber.  Nonetheless, hats definitely go off to them over the past 4 years, doing what they set out to do by dominating the league and winning two out of four NBA titles, but all good things must come to an end in an ever evolving and competitively growing league.

Teamwork makes the dream work, and with the way free agency has shaken up the league this offseason, changes will be evidently seen for the teams who have indeed made key moves.  We saw back in 08’ that all it took was that one year for a “Big Three” to form and prosper, and again when LeBron joined Miami and went on an NBA Finals tear every year.  With all the changes that were made this offseason during free agency and throughout the draft, (which will be discussed in my next article) we look ahead to a more interesting season all throughout the league and one that I believe is going to be the best in the past decade without question, and of course, I’ll explain why…. [See free agency article].

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Will he stay or will he go?  Carmelo Anthony’s future has been heavily talked about within the past weeks, and for New Yorkers and Knicks fans especially its been nerve racking and worrisome.  The hot topic of Melo’s future is similar to LeBron’s big decision 4 years ago, and the curiosity of what’s to come is as foggy as an Amsterdam “coffee” shop.

Without a doubt, Carmelo Anthony has been SPECTACULAR to Knicks fans.  Most refer to him as the Knicks’ savior, and even though he certainly is in a sense, Carmelo Anthony won’t save the Knicks this season and it’s not his fault.  That alone is why I can’t and won’t blame Carmelo Anthony if he decides to leave New York after this embarrassing, atrocious season.

For a guy that goes so hard night in and night out and has been extremely healthy, it’s very frustrating to lose with a team that should be winning.  Tyson Chandler recently echoed the same sentiments when he let out his frustrations and declared his uncertain future with the Knicks.  For the Big Apple faithful, it’s very unfortunate that things turned out this way and the Knicks have backtracked this season after slowly progressing the previous two.  After this season ends without a playoff appearance, or an embarrassing one, it’s back to a drawing board with virtually no utensils for the Knicks who have no draft picks to look forward to and immovable and unwanted pieces (Amare Stoudemire, Raymond Felton, J.R. Smith, and whoever else angry New Yorkers want to throw in the fire).

As for Melo, he’s the pinnacle of it all and the center of attention.  The Knicks want to keep their superstar and there’s no doubt in my mind that Carmelo Anthony is comfortable in New York and actually wants to stay and succeed in the Mecca, but his window is seemingly closing and the future looks dim and uncertain unless he (and now new Knicks President Phil Jackson) can attract players to come to the Garden.  Nonetheless, it’s no secret that Carmelo wants to win a championship title more than anything else, and that’s exactly what it boils down to for athletes nowadays in sports – they want the glory and they want the precious ring and allure that comes with it.  LeBron James made the necessary move and decision and look what happened, 3 straight NBA Finals appearances and 2 rings.  Alliances and good personnel form for the common goal of winning at any cost, and for Melo specifically, winning isn’t revealingly imminent in the Big Apple even with Phil Jackson new to the front office.

Not to be negative Nancy the analyst or anything, but the last time I checked Phil Jackson was not an active NBA player.  Even if he was, (besides from being a little too old to currently play) in his prime we all know Phil Jackson was an off-the-bench role player in the background of superstars such as Willis Reed and Walt Frazier.  On the other hand, if he decided to coach again, it’d be a completely different story because everyone knows what Phil brings to the table as a coach, and certainly that in itself would lure players to the Mecca.  As far as luring players from the front office and making the best possible moves for the Knicks, I simply question, “How?”  The Knicks have big salary cap issues, no draft picks like Shumpert or Hardaway on the way, and players that other teams would not want in trade proposals or future deals.  I have no doubt that Phil Jackson IS the right man to help the Knicks franchise turn their fortune and reputation around, but as far as an instant and significant change I’ve got to see it to believe it this offseason and next season.

This very predicament has led to the debate of will Melo fight or flight.  Other suitors that could land the all-star forward have been names like the Los Angeles Lakers (Clippers too), Houston Rockets, and Chicago Bulls, even though every team that can offer him will offer him one way or another.  If he does jump ship, wherever he goes will presumably be a title contender automatically just like the Miami Heat were when LeBron came to town.  Sadly for the Knicks, there are other teams out there with better personnel and team chemistry that need a Carmelo Anthony to ultimately seal the deal and push further than they have in recent years.

Melo in L.A. has been implied for a while, but it doesn’t seem likely.  It would make a lot more sense if Kevin Love went with him too, but Love declared otherwise when he noted that the Timberwolves were a better team.  Nevertheless, a Melo/Kobe tag team doesn’t scream a championship right away, but it could be something that would be scary if it actually meshed together and worked.  Think about it.  Although both stars primarily occupy the ball most of the time, if they attacked from separate wings with Kendall Marshall at the point, and some more interior help, you have a classic Lakers title team.  In addition, Bryant and Anthony are basically best friends and I’m sure they could make it work better than most people initially assume and Kobe would surely sacrifice a bit to get one more ring and help Melo get his first.  It’s a long shot that doesn’t seem to fit on paper, but with an organization like L.A. that always makes moves and attracts players, I wouldn’t completely turn my cheek.  The fact that Jeanie Buss and Phil are engaged still wouldn’t mar a deal because they’ve been put on notice by the NBA, and Jeanie doesn’t deal directly with the basketball operations anyway, so there is a slight possibility.  With Nash and Kobe basically being the only players signed through next season, this team has a lot of upside and room to grow, and it would ultimately be Melo’s team to inherit in a season or two anyway with the exit of Kobe Bryant and shedding of his major contract, which would allow them to continue to sign and gain more high profile players to contend as they always have.  A long shot scenario, but not too farfetched.

Two other sensible places that will probably offer Carmelo would be Houston and the L.A. Clips.  These two teams already have their main pieces and superstars in place, but by adding a primary focal point and veteran whose ready to win ASAP in Carmelo Anthony, they’d be virtually unstoppable and a Western Conference Finals front runner automatically.  While the contract situations and roster scenarios may be a little cloudy with these two teams and their ability to sign a high profile player like Melo, if they can they will certainly attempt to do so. I’m sure the Rockets would trade Asik, Parsons, and Terrance Jones in a heartbeat, and the Clippers would clip anyone but D.J., CP3, and Blake to add another Jordan Brand athlete to the mix.  But of course, we’ll have to wait and see how realistic those two destinations could really be in terms of logistics.

Lastly, the most sensible and possible place Melo could be playing for next year is the Windy City.  With the Chicago Bulls I think an instant championship is imminent.  He would join a team who is strong and can win games without their superstar point guard.  Despite having to let go of Carlos Boozer in order to acquire Melo, the Bulls would still boast a stronger interior and frontcourt than the Knicks with all-star center Joakim Noah bringing his hard-nosed intensity every night.  The shedding of Luol Deng’s contract also helps because that freed cap space to sign someone else in the offseason and make more moves to add to the frontcourt.  Even more so they have great role players and a team system like the Miami Heat do and all they’d need is a solid backup big man or two, and possibly a stretch two guard. 

All Carmelo would have to do is come in and be the same superstar talent he has been for the Knicks.  Rose can take tons of pressure off of himself by catering to Melo, and players like Noah, Jimmy Butler, and whoever else they acquire would help round out a great group of championship contenders.  It makes the most sense for Melo to go to Chicago because of what they already have in place, and the likelihood they’d have in winning the East and subsequently an NBA Championship.  With the Knicks, Carmelo Anthony is currently wasting his efforts by putting up career numbers and percentages while the rest of his teammates post subpar seasons and numbers.  With the Bulls, Melo would get paid 4 million less (which he’s stated he doesn’t mind) and would be with a better squad, coach, and fans.  He and Rose could be the first to bring them a title since Jordan left, and we know Melo loves to embrace and take on challenges, so it wouldn’t be a lost cause leaving New York because he’d be doing the same thing for Chicago upon landing there.  This would be the perfect place for him to naturally fit into and chase a realistic championship ring with other hungry guys and an outstanding coach also looking for their first. It’s really a no brainer: if he leaves the Knicks, he’s going to Chicago. The deal is just too sweet and it makes so much sense.

As a Knicks fan it KILLS me to say that, but it’s the ugly truth.  In order to stop that from happening, hopefully Phil Jackson and a huge offseason move or signing could influence Melo’s decision sooner, but if it’s not an elite point guard or someone demanding to be a Knickerbocker it’s going to be a sinking ship for the Knicks if Phil alone can’t persuade him to stay, and everyone’s going to wonder why James Dolan didn’t trade Carmelo Anthony before the deadline if he really does leave.  On the other hand, if Carmelo actually does stay after he’s had the joy of testing out free agency, whatever that means, that loyal factor would positively boost his character, image, and integrity, and earn him even more respect in a sense.  Him returning and being part of a major conquest for a desperate New York championship would be significant, and if he eventually gets it, it would be asterisked and weighted like a challenging college course or seminar.

When it comes down to it, the acquisition of Zen Master Phil Jackson may have allowed the force to be with us, and saved Melo from running away from a despicable, incomprehensible team.  I commend Phil Jackson for returning to his roots and his love of basketball by taking on the challenge to clean up New York’s mess.  I have no doubt or worries that New York is headed in the right direction within the next 2 to 5 years, and the fact that Melo has been reassured that he is the focal point of those plans may be all that is needed to keep the superstar in the Garden for good.  Its all depends on fate and the basketball gods now about the future of Carmelo Anthony, but if I were Phil Jackson, I’d just say “Thank me later.” 

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Given there were one, and now there IS one through TripleDoubleSports very own MONSTER OF THE MONTH SERIES, the Monster of the month AWARD without a doubt would have to go to KD, the “Durantula” -  Known to be from the arachnid animal class, this spider-like species dominates the court with his ability to use his advantageous size and his silky smooth features – similar to that of a Tarantula, its kin.
If you haven’t noticed what the noise is about, its not because superstar Kevin Durant is silently killing, its because you’re not paying attention.  Iceman Slim is echoing the boisterous sound that thunder brings by making noise all around the league with his tremendous play.  It seems like every time KD laces up, it’s going to be a BIG game.
Kevin Durant is undoubtedly a top 3 player in the NBA.  Even though he’s very young, his upside is scary and he’s rarely fails at torturing defenses that dare try and stop him.  The kid goes out for 30 every night, but isn’t afraid to push it past that and get you oh lets say 48 and mmm…maybe 54 on a given night as he did recently against the Warriors.  In KD’s post game interviews he often stresses how he can do more for his team and is always willing to – a modest but respectful statement.  Even more fittingly, his favorite player is known to be Larry Bird, whom he has a lot of similarities to on a personal level, professional level, and legacy level. 
It is no secret. From the look you decipher on Durant’s face, to the way he plays the game with a combination of competitive urgency and genuine passion, it’s clear to see he wants to go back to the Promised Land.  For certain, Kevin Durant realizes winning is priority to him, especially when you have a supporting cast like he does, it just makes the time that much more prestigious and opportune.  OKC is currently 4th in the league  in points per contest and 2nd in the league in rebounding.  Correlatively, their efficient rebounding combats the opposing team’s second chance points, which, is why they’re 7th in the league in points allowed per contest.  There’s just no doubt about it, the Oklahoma City Thunder are a cohesive, deep unit (even with Westbrook out) and will go deep into the playoffs this year as they try to earn a trip to their 2nd NBA Finals appearance in just 3 years.
So far, in the month of January (10 games) KD is averaging 36 ppg on 50% shooting from the floor, 6 assists, and nearly 2 steals.  His numbers are productively high, across the board, and they are definitely no magic tricks even those his performances may seem like magic shows (similar to the one he put on at Rucker Park when he netted 66).  This is the same animal that posted 3 straight scorning titles, not to mention his first (30 ppg) came in his 3rd year of the league. He was the youngest player to do that so it just goes to show and prove naysayers wrong that KD isn’t ready, because obviously the stud is young and very much ready.
With all that said sign him up for MVP honors. He deserved it two years ago when he first took OKC to the Finals (and yes captured the scoring title), and he’s matured/improved since then.  His first NBA MVP should be in the bag due to the type of season he’s having WITHOUT fellow co-star PG Russell Westbrook (who will be back soon), and don’t be shocked if his first title comes sooner than later as well.  The Heat have tremendous pressure to 3-peat and become legendary, and they have bigger competition with the likes of the Pacers sitting on top of them in the East right now, so anything can happen come late April and early June.
Its still early, but this is a primed Thunder team that went on an 8 game winning streak, lost one, then went on a 9 game winning streak to go 17-1 though 18 games.  In their last 10, they’ve won 6 and they are trying to build on a 3 game win streak since defeating Houston, Golden State, and Sacramento.  They’re next two games are against Portland whom they’ve yet to defeat, and then the Spurs.  In a another week, KD will get a chance to go at LeBron on the 29th, so stay tuned to continue to see what this team is made of and what they’re fighting for.
All in all, KD is destined for greatness and all throughout the rest of his career he is a player who will surely be mentioned in NBA title talks year in and year out. He’s a certified all NBA 1st Team pro, and deserves the respect, recognition, and every ounce of allure he gets because he IS that great and will continue to be as a team leader and elite franchise player.  Look out for Kevin Durant to take home MVP honors this season and really make a case for himself and his team in a Finals run and return.  Don’t sleep on OKC, you’d be a fool. 

Given there were one, and now there IS one through TripleDoubleSports very own MONSTER OF THE MONTH SERIES, the Monster of the month AWARD without a doubt would have to go to KD, the “Durantula” -  Known to be from the arachnid animal class, this spider-like species dominates the court with his ability to use his advantageous size and his silky smooth features – similar to that of a Tarantula, its kin.

If you haven’t noticed what the noise is about, its not because superstar Kevin Durant is silently killing, its because you’re not paying attention.  Iceman Slim is echoing the boisterous sound that thunder brings by making noise all around the league with his tremendous play.  It seems like every time KD laces up, it’s going to be a BIG game.

Kevin Durant is undoubtedly a top 3 player in the NBA.  Even though he’s very young, his upside is scary and he’s rarely fails at torturing defenses that dare try and stop him.  The kid goes out for 30 every night, but isn’t afraid to push it past that and get you oh lets say 48 and mmm…maybe 54 on a given night as he did recently against the Warriors.  In KD’s post game interviews he often stresses how he can do more for his team and is always willing to – a modest but respectful statement.  Even more fittingly, his favorite player is known to be Larry Bird, whom he has a lot of similarities to on a personal level, professional level, and legacy level. 

It is no secret. From the look you decipher on Durant’s face, to the way he plays the game with a combination of competitive urgency and genuine passion, it’s clear to see he wants to go back to the Promised Land.  For certain, Kevin Durant realizes winning is priority to him, especially when you have a supporting cast like he does, it just makes the time that much more prestigious and opportune.  OKC is currently 4th in the league  in points per contest and 2nd in the league in rebounding.  Correlatively, their efficient rebounding combats the opposing team’s second chance points, which, is why they’re 7th in the league in points allowed per contest.  There’s just no doubt about it, the Oklahoma City Thunder are a cohesive, deep unit (even with Westbrook out) and will go deep into the playoffs this year as they try to earn a trip to their 2nd NBA Finals appearance in just 3 years.

So far, in the month of January (10 games) KD is averaging 36 ppg on 50% shooting from the floor, 6 assists, and nearly 2 steals.  His numbers are productively high, across the board, and they are definitely no magic tricks even those his performances may seem like magic shows (similar to the one he put on at Rucker Park when he netted 66).  This is the same animal that posted 3 straight scorning titles, not to mention his first (30 ppg) came in his 3rd year of the league. He was the youngest player to do that so it just goes to show and prove naysayers wrong that KD isn’t ready, because obviously the stud is young and very much ready.

With all that said sign him up for MVP honors. He deserved it two years ago when he first took OKC to the Finals (and yes captured the scoring title), and he’s matured/improved since then.  His first NBA MVP should be in the bag due to the type of season he’s having WITHOUT fellow co-star PG Russell Westbrook (who will be back soon), and don’t be shocked if his first title comes sooner than later as well.  The Heat have tremendous pressure to 3-peat and become legendary, and they have bigger competition with the likes of the Pacers sitting on top of them in the East right now, so anything can happen come late April and early June.

Its still early, but this is a primed Thunder team that went on an 8 game winning streak, lost one, then went on a 9 game winning streak to go 17-1 though 18 games.  In their last 10, they’ve won 6 and they are trying to build on a 3 game win streak since defeating Houston, Golden State, and Sacramento.  They’re next two games are against Portland whom they’ve yet to defeat, and then the Spurs.  In a another week, KD will get a chance to go at LeBron on the 29th, so stay tuned to continue to see what this team is made of and what they’re fighting for.

All in all, KD is destined for greatness and all throughout the rest of his career he is a player who will surely be mentioned in NBA title talks year in and year out. He’s a certified all NBA 1st Team pro, and deserves the respect, recognition, and every ounce of allure he gets because he IS that great and will continue to be as a team leader and elite franchise player.  Look out for Kevin Durant to take home MVP honors this season and really make a case for himself and his team in a Finals run and return.  Don’t sleep on OKC, you’d be a fool. 

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With the NFL Wildcard round completed, 8 teams remain in hopes of marching on to Super Bowl XLVIII (48).  The Super Bowl will be played at MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Giants and New York Jets who both missed the playoffs this year.  Whoever does punch their ticket to the Super Bowl should be expecting a cold trip to New York (or New Jersey rather) – something that has been a controversy because of teams and players known not to perform well in the cold.  Nonetheless, the stage and the matchups leading up to the Super Bowl are set so lets weigh in on the Elite 8 that will be squaring off.

In the AFC, the Chargers and Colts emerged as Wildcard victors and will play this upcoming weekend.  Unfortunately for the Chargers, their luck will run out against my Super Bowl favorite the Denver Broncos in the Mile High city.  Denver is already the favorite by more than a touchdown as they should be, and it is going to be a tough task for the Chargers to go in and try to stop the unanimous MVP (in my eyes) Peyton Manning.  While this game seems easy for the Broncos on paper, their last loss actually was at the hands of San Diego in Denver Week 15 (their only home loss on the season).  The Chargers kept the Broncos off the offensive side of the field for a great portion of the game and fittingly executed plays and drives with the help of a game sealing interception on Manning in the late 4th quarter.  A valiant and timely win for Rivers and crew, but I wouldn’t harp on it too much going into this game even though all of the pressure is on the Broncos and Peyton Manning specifically to succeed in the playoffs as opposed to the regular season.

The Broncos are set on not leaving any room for error after last year’s playoff debacle against the Ravens, and they know the road ahead will be tougher.  For them it’s a road of redemption because they’ll have to defeat two of the only three teams that handed them a loss in the regular season.  For Peyton Manning personally, the pressure centers around proving the naysayers wrong about winning in the playoffs.  If he loses at any point this post season he will pass Brett Favre for most losses by a QB in the post season with 12.  Peyton has had 7 one and dones in his career, and he looks to avoid number 8 this weekend.

On the bright side, Denver has performed like a machine this year and separated itself from the rest of the NFL early in the season, which is why the expectation level is so high for Manning and his overly equipped arsenal.  With a win this weekend, they’re slated to face a tough AFC team in the Conference championship, and another tough team if they punch their ticket to New York.  Fortunately, the Broncos are still the best offensive team in the league across the board statistically (Total YDS, 1st downs, 4th down conversion %, & TDs).  Having gotten some needed rest due to the first round bye combined with home field advantage, Denver is primed to walk away with a win on Sunday.  In addition, they’re also one of the most prepared and well-disciplined teams with Peyton Manning at the helm.  If anyone knows Peyton Manning, they know he is more than a student of the game and that he will rally his troops to be pumped and prepared to throttle the Chargers at home.

The other AFC matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots is much more interesting and will be a hard fought game between the two, similar to the Colts high scoring battle against the Chiefs last weekend.  The quarterback matchup itself gets fans and analysts alike craving for this game particularly.  Two of the game’s best quarterbacks in Andrew Luck and Tom Brady will duel in a new school meets old school type fashion to move on to the Conference Championship game.  Luck threw for the most yards this past weekend with 443 and 4TDs.  Even more so, the Colts are riding a 4 game win streak going into Gillette Stadium, but it can easily get snapped because the Patriots are all too familiar and comfortable in playoff situations at home in the cold Foxborough atmosphere.  Tom Brady will be without Rob Gronkowski, and even though that is a major blow to this team’s offense, Brady doesn’t make excuses and will get it done either way, even if he turns to the ground game which the Patriots have gotten better at. 

Both teams suffered defeats from the Bengals and the Dolphins earlier in the season so I guess you can say they’re more similar than different if anything.  They’re team statistics aren’t too far apart and they’ll allow each other to throw for the average amount of yards per game they usually tally up respectively, so this game is definitely going to come down to defense and who takes care of the football more.  Although Luck shows no fear and plays with the poise and the skill of a veteran, Tom Brady at home (like Peyton Manning) is tough to combat off of good rest and good preparation.  I will not rule out a Colts win whatsoever, but this is simply the Patriots game to win or lose.

As we swing over to the NFC, predictions are at a boiling point for the Seahawks and 49ers (who split the season series) to give us a “pre-Super Bowl” if you will after this week is all said and done.  Not to discredit the Saints or Panthers who both tore up the NFC South and had great seasons, but the odds are not in their favor this upcoming week.  When the Saints come Marching into Seattle they will have to play 11 against 12 at all times.  If you didn’t know, Seattle has been deemed the toughest and loudest place to play in the NFL and the fans are considered an extra man, hence the “Fan 12” jerseys and signs you’ll be seeing.  For the Saints to pull off an upset they are going to have to forget about a horrendous Week 13 loss where Brees was held to only 147 passing yards and a TD in addition to only 44 yards on the ground, and New Orleans is going to have to go deep into their playbooks and their concentration banks to execute against the Seahawks and leading “interceptionist” Richard Sherman if they wish to have any chance of winning this game.  On the flipside, you can’t go wrong with Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch.  The Saint’s secondary is a bit tarnished right now, and Russell Wilson is just fine with that, especially if Percy Harvin is ready to go.  The Saints will be back and better, but their road ends Saturday afternoon without much second guessing or contemplation unless Brees has a MONSTER game.

The second best matchup of the weekend will again involve the heavily watched and favored San Francisco 49ers as they take on the Carolina Panthers.  This matchup is highly anticipated because it features two of the top 5 rushing quarterbacks in the league.  Cam Newton holds the quarterback-rushing crown with 585Yds and 6TD, while Kaepernick is 4th with 524Yds and 4TD (only behind Terrelle Pryor and Russell Wilson in yards).  This is a rematch of a Week 10 contest that gave Carolina their 5th straight win.  They were able to hold the 49ers to 151 total yards and a final score of 10-9 in their favor on the road.  Carolina’s defense has been a bigger story and benefit to the team’s progress than Cam Newton himself has been even though he’s resurfaced as the QB many thought he would turn out to be.  The Panthers are 2nd in stopping the rush, 6th in stopping the pass, and have probably the best LB in the game with Luke Kuechly who has 4 interceptions to go along with the 4th most tackles in the league.  Kaepernick’s QBR isn’t very good against top defenses, so we’ll see if he can rise to the occassion on the road like he did last week against Green Bay.

Moreover, Cam Newton’s skills will still be put to the test once again in his first ever playoff appearance.  After a disappointing 2012 season and heavy scrutiny, Cam Newton picked his head up this season and lead his team to the NFC South division title, and has a chance to lead them to the NFC Conference Championship Game against what will most likely be the Seattle Seahawks even though they’d relish another matchup with the Saints (given they themselves get the job done against San Fran).  This is a close toss up just like the Colts/Pats matchup, and ultimately this game too will come down to who defends the best and stops the other quarterback from their usual 20 plus YD scrambles.  Many are going with San Francisco as the favorite and its very hard not to considering how they’ve been playing as of late with the return of Crabtree to the roster and the overall team chemistry and experience.  Not to mention, 6 of the last 8 Super Bowl champs have been wildcard round winners, and if we are going to choose 1 of the 4 that advanced this past weekend, the 49ers are a no brainer.  Winning on the road isn’t a problem for the 49ers, but the Panthers are also a strong home team only losing there once this season.  This one should be another nail biter, so expect to see a 4 quarter battle for the glory between these two great teams.

Either way you slice it, the NFL playoffs bring a lot of excitement and great games.  We are in for 4 great games this upcoming weekend and maybe even some surprises even though I’ve picked out Denver, New England, Seattle, and San Francisco.  Nonetheless, the gridiron heroes will be revealed soon enough and I’m sure there will be lots to talk about soon after!  Stay tuned this weekend and check back next week for an NFL Final Four update! 

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To no surprise, no one (outside of Oregon at least) would’ve predicted the Portland Trailblazers to be one the NBA’s best teams through 30 games. Lo and behold, Portland is 24-6 and the Blazers ARE the competition right now although many don’t believe they’re the best in the West just yet.  The Thunder boast a better record by one game, but the Portland Trailblazers are more than formidable and are making their case for an admirable playoff push against teams like the Warriors, Clippers, and Rockets (whom they’ve already beaten). The Trailblazers have been taking care of business this season and running through teams as if they’ve been doing it for years.
This is a team that missed the playoffs last year and had absolutely no help from it’s bench, thus why it’s starting five averaged the most points in the league last year.  Fittingly so, Portland leads the league this year in points per game, while they are also an above average rebounding team and are 4th in the league in assists per. Their young star point guard Damian Lillard is playing with the same poise and confidence that he displayed last season as the indisputable rookie of the year.  Lillard is continuing to come out of his shell by scoring and distributing at a rate this franchise hasn’t been accustomed to in season’s past.
However, the main difference this year is the attitude and subsequent performance Portland is displaying as an entire team. They’re playing like a more cohesive, experienced unit with understood individual roles. Kudos can of course be given to a better bench than last year’s with players like Mo Williams, Dorell Wright, Thomas Robinson, and Meyers Leonard, but the starters especially have gelled more and gotten stronger as a group. Just by watching one of their games this year it’s easy to see how their level of play and comfortability as a team has elevated.
Another BIG reason should be accredited to LaMarcus Aldridge who is playing like he’s trying to prove something.  If he is it’s working because he’s definitely standing out by putting up numbers and giving opposing bigs trouble night in and night out.  While averaging 37 minutes a game, the All-Star forward is pouring in a team leading 23.4 points per game with 11 boards.  He is without a doubt a team leader and essential engine along with Lillard, and he will be a huge factor in determining this teams longevity and continued success.  With him holding down the paint and the high post as well, it gives Robin Lopez a chance to bang and rebound more (which is all they really need from him on the offensive end), and Nicholas Batum a chance to stretch the defense by spacing himself for an open shot he can easily knock down.  Along with the dynamic undrafted Wesley Matthews, this team can hurt you from the paint or the perimeter on any given night. 
The Blazers can get even better if they step it up on the defensive end and turn other teams turnovers into points.  They’re allowing 103 points per this season which is very high, but I feel this is a team that can learn how to play defense together similar to how Miami executes theirs with a mixture of a younger and older personnel.  In addition, the Blazers do have a secret weapon when rookie point guard C.J. McCollum returns from a foot injury.  McCollum is another one of those unforeseen talents and really lit it up at Lehigh University in the Patriot League (I would know I went to Holy Cross).  He is an above average scorer with great speed, and an overall good feel and grind hard approach to the game.  If he can get some time in behind or over Mo Williams, they can really benefit from his skills and add more depth to their squad at the guard position.  
So what is it that we can look forward to with this Blazers team?  For one, some positive early implications of future success is that they’ve defeated multiple notable Western Conference powers as aforementioned, and have only lost to one Eastern Conference team, the defending champion Miami Heat.  Even more so, they’re on pace for 50 plus wins and posting their best season in the last 5 years.  This team has nothing but upside if it can avoid injury.  The NBA playoffs are completely imminent but how the Blazers will put on amidst post season pressure still remains to be unseen, especially since it’s too early to seed and predict first and potential second round playoff matchups.   All in all, it will certainly be interesting with Portland’s new intensity and liveliness to see how this team develops as the season thickens and gets more serious.  In the meantime, scratch these guys out as a push over on your betting sheets folks, they’ve come to play and impress this season!

To no surprise, no one (outside of Oregon at least) would’ve predicted the Portland Trailblazers to be one the NBA’s best teams through 30 games. Lo and behold, Portland is 24-6 and the Blazers ARE the competition right now although many don’t believe they’re the best in the West just yet.  The Thunder boast a better record by one game, but the Portland Trailblazers are more than formidable and are making their case for an admirable playoff push against teams like the Warriors, Clippers, and Rockets (whom they’ve already beaten). The Trailblazers have been taking care of business this season and running through teams as if they’ve been doing it for years.

This is a team that missed the playoffs last year and had absolutely no help from it’s bench, thus why it’s starting five averaged the most points in the league last year.  Fittingly so, Portland leads the league this year in points per game, while they are also an above average rebounding team and are 4th in the league in assists per. Their young star point guard Damian Lillard is playing with the same poise and confidence that he displayed last season as the indisputable rookie of the year.  Lillard is continuing to come out of his shell by scoring and distributing at a rate this franchise hasn’t been accustomed to in season’s past.

However, the main difference this year is the attitude and subsequent performance Portland is displaying as an entire team. They’re playing like a more cohesive, experienced unit with understood individual roles. Kudos can of course be given to a better bench than last year’s with players like Mo Williams, Dorell Wright, Thomas Robinson, and Meyers Leonard, but the starters especially have gelled more and gotten stronger as a group. Just by watching one of their games this year it’s easy to see how their level of play and comfortability as a team has elevated.

Another BIG reason should be accredited to LaMarcus Aldridge who is playing like he’s trying to prove something.  If he is it’s working because he’s definitely standing out by putting up numbers and giving opposing bigs trouble night in and night out.  While averaging 37 minutes a game, the All-Star forward is pouring in a team leading 23.4 points per game with 11 boards.  He is without a doubt a team leader and essential engine along with Lillard, and he will be a huge factor in determining this teams longevity and continued success.  With him holding down the paint and the high post as well, it gives Robin Lopez a chance to bang and rebound more (which is all they really need from him on the offensive end), and Nicholas Batum a chance to stretch the defense by spacing himself for an open shot he can easily knock down.  Along with the dynamic undrafted Wesley Matthews, this team can hurt you from the paint or the perimeter on any given night. 

The Blazers can get even better if they step it up on the defensive end and turn other teams turnovers into points.  They’re allowing 103 points per this season which is very high, but I feel this is a team that can learn how to play defense together similar to how Miami executes theirs with a mixture of a younger and older personnel.  In addition, the Blazers do have a secret weapon when rookie point guard C.J. McCollum returns from a foot injury.  McCollum is another one of those unforeseen talents and really lit it up at Lehigh University in the Patriot League (I would know I went to Holy Cross).  He is an above average scorer with great speed, and an overall good feel and grind hard approach to the game.  If he can get some time in behind or over Mo Williams, they can really benefit from his skills and add more depth to their squad at the guard position. 

So what is it that we can look forward to with this Blazers team?  For one, some positive early implications of future success is that they’ve defeated multiple notable Western Conference powers as aforementioned, and have only lost to one Eastern Conference team, the defending champion Miami Heat.  Even more so, they’re on pace for 50 plus wins and posting their best season in the last 5 years.  This team has nothing but upside if it can avoid injury.  The NBA playoffs are completely imminent but how the Blazers will put on amidst post season pressure still remains to be unseen, especially since it’s too early to seed and predict first and potential second round playoff matchups.   All in all, it will certainly be interesting with Portland’s new intensity and liveliness to see how this team develops as the season thickens and gets more serious.  In the meantime, scratch these guys out as a push over on your betting sheets folks, they’ve come to play and impress this season!