Highway 82

This weekend Alabama will travel over to Starkville, MS to play Mississippi State in football. MSU enters the game ranked 16th in the College Football Playoffs poll while Alabama is 2nd. A lot is on the line in this one. State hopes to keep their slim chances of winning the SEC West alive while Alabama looks to keep their perfect season and march to another appearance in the College Football Playoffs alive. No fan is being extra when they say “this is a big game.” And in the history of this matchup, big game carries different meaning.

The two towns where both schools are located – Mississippi State University in Starkville, MS and University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, AL – are about 83 miles apart. That’s a one hour and thirty minute drive if you’re traveling on Highway 82 on a good day. The close proximity in location is the only thing “close” when we discuss the history of this matchup. Since the 2 teams started playing in 1896, Alabama has a 79-18-3 record against the Bulldogs of Mississippi State. They’d have 81 wins if 2 weren’t vacated because of NCAA violations. Alabama currently owns a 9-game winning streak versus MSU. The average margin of victory in those games for Bama is 23.5 points. The last few seasons State fans have taken to Twitter to come up with slogans such as #HailState only to see their beloved Bulldogs catch some tough losses. The toughest of all recently occurred in 2014 when State entered the game ranked #1 in the Nation. On that day, State got off to a slow start and was beaten 25-20.

For more perspective of how one-sided this matchup has been, from 1958 to 1995 Mississippi State beat Alabama once! That one win for MSU – 6 to 3 – happened in 1980. Since 1982 State has beaten Alabama 6 times including a 3-peat from 1996-1998. The 3 wins occurred during the Jackie Sherrill Era. Those State teams were solid but Jackie’s best team at MSU still came up short against Alabama. In 1999, State went to Alabama undefeated and ranked #8. They left with a 19-7 defeat and went on to finish the season 10-2.  So what happened in 2007, the last time MSU was able to beat Alabama. Well it was Sylvester Croom’s only winning season at MSU. The Bulldogs had a talented running back in Anthony Dixon and a stingy defense that helped push State that day. They even got an amazing 103 yards “Pick 6” from Jackson native Anthony Johnson.

Most, including myself expect Alabama to win. It’s been 10 years since the last time MSU beat Alabama and a few things are similar. State has a stingy defense and they have a tough runner in the backfield in QB Nick Fitzgerald (he’ll need to run smartly on Saturday unless he wants to die). Mississippi State enters Saturday’s game as a 14.5 point underdog but what’s a Vegas spread when you’ve been the underdog for over 100 years? Go give ’em hell State cause I’ll be on Twitter waiting if you don’t.

Information courtesy of:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1999_Mississippi_State_Bulldogs_football_team

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alabama%E2%80%93Mississippi_State_football_rivalry

https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/boxscores/2007-11-10-mississippi-state.html

 

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Highway 82

How Did We Get Here?

The title of this blog sounds like the moment a couple realizes a relationship is over. The couple starts analyzing things and remembering all the good and bad times. If you follow the United States Men’s National Soccer Team (USMNT) then that’s where they or we are this morning. How did the USMNT fail to qualify for the 2018 World Cup? The answer to that question is too broad and too tough to come up with right now. There are a lot of contributing factors. Last month Alexi Lalas went at the team but it didn’t help.

 

 

On September 29, I was invited to join U.S. Soccer Voices. If I remember correctly the group will consist of about 10,000 “fans”. I had to answer a series of questions in order to join the group (before they sent back an email a week later saying I was accepted”). They asked questions about age, race, sex, etc. along with questions about my knowledge of US Soccer. This is one step in the right direction. I don’t think 10,000 fans have the answer. I do feel listening to us will help. I also think that having a diverse group to receive feedback from will help. Soccer in the United States of America – especially at the youth level – is a rich man’s sport i.e. predominantly white while in other countries it is played by all. An effort has to be made to get more people in the United States interested the game. From youth all the way to adults.

The next thing I’ll touch on is how and where we play soccer. For the most part soccer in America is confined to 11 on 11. A friend jokingly asked me “what is the term for a ‘pick up game’ of soccer?” I could only laugh because I had no answer for him. To his point though, where are the ‘pick up games’ of soccer being played? On some days you may be able to ride by a field and see some people kicking about. That’s nice but it’s nothing like that in other countries. They play soccer the way we play 3 on 3 basketball…anyway or anywhere possible. It’s a part of their culture. I watched a documentary called Concrete Football a few weeks ago. Nike went to different parts of France and looked at the way they play “5 a side”. 5 a side is a 5 on 5 game of soccer played anywhere possible. In the documentary they showed how the games were very similar to pick up games of basketball in America.

 

 

Since diving into soccer I’ve become familiar with a bunch of terms related to the sport. Two terms that stick out are technicality and tactics. It has been stated at nauseam that the USMNT often walks into major International competitions with average talent. The lack of talent leads to another tricky debate so I’ll stay away from it. I mentioned technicality above, in soccer this term refers to a player that is able to dribble, pass, think, and create with ease while the ball is at his or her feet. Basically skills. The USMNT don’t have many players that can do that. At this moment, many will argue that they only have one – Christian Pulisic – that can. The other term I used is tactics. Tactic or tactical ability can also relate to a player’s ability to maneuver with the ball. In this case I’d like to use it as it relates to setting up a team to play a match. The USMNT has no idea of how they want to setup tactically. Meaning they don’t adjust or show any ability to adjust to their opponent. The USMNT has been credited for their ability to win the endurance side of matches but that’s not enough against the best. Matter of fact it hasn’t been the enough to win against what many consider to be inferior opponents. Running around the field like the Road Runner doesn’t help if you don’t have technical skills or tactical awareness.

The takes will be sizzling over the next few days and that’s to be expected. It’s what happens when things cool off that will matter. I bolded four words for a reason: Diverse, Culture, Technical and Tactics. They all go hand in hand if the USMNT wants to move forward. Like every good relationship you need a solid foundation to stand on. Not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup has rocked the USMNT’s foundation so I leave you with this from Deborah Cox. USMNT please change our minds…

 

 

How Did We Get Here?

Odds & Ins

IMG_3561

2017-2018 – NBA MVP – Odds to Win courtesy of Bovada Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada

 

Bovada Casino in Las Vegas released their “Super Early” odds on the players favored to win the NBA MVP Award. To no surprise,  the reigning League MVP – Russell Westbrook – and Finals MVP – Kevin Durant – top the list. Behind them in the top 5 are Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, and James Harden. The list from Bovada includes two surprise names and one glaring omission. The two surprises are Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers. Both players are young and talented but have yet to show much on the NBA level. Embiid was finally able to see some time on the court last season after missing two seasons due to injuries. While playing in 31 games, Embiid flashed potential that has Philly fans excited about the process. Ben Simmons was the #1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft out of LSU but never played a minute last season because of a broken right foot. At 66/1 for Embiid and 50/1 for Simmons an ambitious person could take a chance on one or both of them and be in for a nice pay day. The missing name that had a few fans going nuts was “Rudy Gobert” of the Utah Jazz. Gobert is the anchor in the middle for Utah. With Gordon Hayward’s departure during free agency this is now Rudy’s Team. He’ll need to step up his production on offense but his 1st Team All-Defensive selection and 2nd Team All-NBA selection show the type of player he is. According to basketball-reference.com Gobert was top 10 in eight of the NBA’s traditional statistical categories and top 10 in fifteen of the NBA’s advanced statistical categories. Any fan that follows the NBA closely knows that if Utah has success next season Rudy will be a legit MVP candidate.

It’s too early to be considering an MVP in the NBA but I’ll have a bit of fun.

Most likely to be the media favorite: Kevin Durant (Did you see the 2017 NBA Finals?)

Most likely to be the darling pick: Giannis Antetokounmpo “The Greek Freak” (The NBA media is always looking for the next young guy to ride. Right now it is Giannis)

Most likely to be slept on: Steph Curry (KD came to town and everyone forgot about Steph! With another ring under his belt, look for “The 2-time League MVP, Unanimous and first of his kind, Father of the disrespectful 3 point shot, from North Carolina” to unload and help those that are sleeping wake up.

Most likely to lose some votes: Russell Westbrook (The addition of Paul George will help Russell and OKC in a major way. Unfortunately for Russ that may cost him some MVP votes)

Most likely to gain some votes: James Harden (Yes I know Chris Paul joined the Rockets. That’s the main reason I feel Harden will gain some votes. Harden’s movement without the ball while allow him to be more efficient (scary huh?). Also don’t be surprised if you see Harden step up a bit on the defensive end.

The Odds I wouldn’t pass on: Gordon Hayward (The 70/1 odds on him is amazing and down right impossible to pass on. New team – in a bigger market – in the weaker Conference is just one of many reasons to consider wagering on Gordon. Some fans are skeptical but I expect big things from Boston’s new Small Forward.)

Lastly I leave you with a question. Would you wager $1,000 on one player or put different amounts on 3 or 4 players? I’m still contemplating on what I’d do.

 

Odds & Ins

Game. Set. Match.

This won’t be a post about GOATs or Ghosts. Just appreciation for a sport and one particular player. I have two distinct memories of Tennis. One is of my dad trying to teach me and my siblings how to play the sport. We all gave it a half hearted try but we weren’t interested. The other memory is of Wimbledon. During my childhood I spent many summer mornings watching Wimbledon on HBO. I looked forward to the Tournament every summer. In the time spent watching Wimbledon I was able to learn the rules of Tennis and the great history of this particular tournament.

Wimbledon is one of the four major events – Grand Slams – in professional tennis. The other 3 are the Australian Open played in Melbourne, Australia; the French Open played in Paris, France; the US Open played in New York City. Wimbledon which is played in London, is the oldest of the four Slams and was founded in 1877. The competition in London is played on a grass surface while the French Open is played on clay and the Australian Open and US Open are played on hard court. I’ve had many fond memories of Wimbledon like the first time the Williams Sisters played each other in the final or that time Serena “C-walked” after winning a Gold Medal there during the 2012 London Olympics. Another great memory is from 2010 when John Isner and Nicolas Mahut played the longest match in Wimbledon and tennis history. The match started on Tuesday, June 22, 2010 and ended on Thursday, June 24, 2010 lasting 11 hours 5 minutes.

Far and above all of those memories is watching Roger Federer play. Four years ago, I was asking for Fed to retire – as if we know each other personally – via Twitter. My exact words were “Don’t want to see him out there flabby and sick.” Cause at that point he was. 2013 marked the first time he had failed to reach at least one Grand Slam Final since 2002. He regained a bit of form in 2014 and 2015 to reach 3 finals out of the 8 Grand Slams he played. But in 2016 he again failed to reach a final. He skipped the French Open and US Open while reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open and Wimbledon. Many fans (myself included) felt that we wouldn’t see him win another Slam Championship. Tennis has always been seen as a young person’s sport and now with Roger in his mid-30s it looked like his playing career was nearing an end. Roger has found a way to amaze us once again despite the negativity around him. He started the year by winning the Australian Open and then skipped the French Open. Then on yesterday he won the 19th Grand Slam title (most amongst Men) of his career. Federer put himself at the top of the list for most Men’s Singles titles won (8) at Wimbledon. He has long been seen as one of the best to play on grass and he didn’t disappoint this year by winning every set he played in the tournament. In the Open Era, Federer has not only won the most Grand Slam titles but has also appeared in the most finals (29), semifinals (42), quarterfinals (50), match wins (321), and appearances (70). He has a winning percentage of 86.3 which puts him 3rd. To put that in perspective, from 2004-2010 Federer played in 21 Grand Slam finals and won 15 of them.

If you watch a tennis match that features Roger Federer you will often hear the announcers speak about his grace and elegance on and off of the court. There is a ball of fierce competition that powers Roger when he steps on the court. Without it there’s no way he would’ve turned around his game at this point in his career. Tennis is an individual sport but after winning yesterday Roger was quick to thank – his team, family, opponents, fans – everyone. I took solace in the fact that even for a player at Federer’s level there has to be joy in what he’s doing. We should all keep that in mind.

Game. Set. Match.

The Truth

I have a lot to cover. This sports weekend was one to remember and one to forget for me. We had a World Championship Boxing match that gave us some great action. The 2nd Round of the NBA Playoffs are finally here. We also had the only Game 7 of the Playoffs thus far on Sunday. That Game 7 also saw the end of a career for “The Truth” Paul Pierce. Finally and most sadly for me Arsenal was thumped once again. This time by their rivals Tottenham in the North London Derby.

First the boxing, Anthony “AJ” Joshua was able to defeat – via 11th Round TKO – Wladimir Klitschko in an EPIC Heavyweight match. Both guys looked like some giants or as many proclaim “Super Heavyweights”. No fat to be found on either fighter. Both all muscle and chiseled. The fight moved along well and took off in the 5th Round when Anthony Joshua came out of his corner swinging and caught Klitchko with a good right. Joshua would then chase down his opponent until he was able to drop him. Joshua, a bit too excited had celebrated prematurely AND punched himself tired. Wladimir was able to get up off of the canvas and nearly drop Anthony in the same round. Smartly AJ either leaned against the ropes or held onto his opponent for dear life. The 5th ended with me going nuts. When the 6th Round started it was Wladimir that came out like a house on fire. He set the tone in the round and dropped AJ with a crushing right hand. This was the first time that AJ had been knocked on his backside in his pro career. Joshua was clearly hurt but he managed to survive the round and make it out standing. Klitschko was in control of the fight at that point and went on to control the following rounds. But during that time, AJ pulled another savvy move. He purposefully spit out his mouthpiece and had to get another one from his corner. This was smart because it allowed him to buy some time to catch his second wind and thoughts. In the 9th Round – I was surprised the fight made it that far – Joshua appeared to kick it up a notch. He controlled that 9th and then the 10th. In the 11th, AJ came out fiercely once again. He caught Wladimir with a nice combo that staggered the former champ. Wisely AJ didn’t get anxious in his pursuit of the KO. Instead he stalked his opponent into the center of the ring and caught him with a vicious uppercut. An uppercut similar to the one Tommy Hearns delivered to Martin on that boxing episode. Somehow Klistchko didn’t fall after that punch but he was down a few seconds later after a barrage of punches.  AJ would drop Wladimir again before the referee stopped the fight with AJ swinging away in a corner. This was the type of fight that the sport of Boxing needed from its top division. The star of Anthony Joshua will continue to grow and he’s expressed interest in fighting anyone that wants to go. He’s now 19-0 with all 19 by KO.

 

The Game 7 between the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers ended up being a dud. Utah sent the Clippers home after winning 104-91. Utah will now face the Golden State Warriors with that series starting on Tuesday night in Oakland. Utah’s starting center Rudy Gobert was in foul trouble from the jump and eventually fouled out in the 4th quarter. The Jazz turned to Derrick Favors who provided a solid performance despite fouling out too. Favors had 17 points and 11 rebounds. Rodney Hood and Joe Johnson combined for 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists off the bench for Utah. The star of the game was Gordon Hayward. Hayward just happens to play the position- small forward – that the Clippers have never been able to fill. Hayward had 26 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists. He was also a perfect 6-6 from the free throw line. On the other side Chris Paul tried hard to get the Clippers going but had no luck. Paul finished the game with 13 points and 9 assists. He also had a terrible day shooting the ball. CP3 was 6-19 overall and 1-7 on three pointers. DeAndre Jordan was able to provide a whopping 24 points and 17 rebounds despite shooting 6-15 on free throws. Jamal Crawford was the only other Clippers player with a pulse as he provided 20 points off of the bench. The Clippers only got 14 total points from their other 3 starters.

After the game, twitter blew up as expected. Another team featuring Chris Paul is out of the Playoffs again in the First Round. CP3 is a great player but there’s only so far a team will go if he’s the lead player. Chris will be a free agent this summer and must make a decision on the path of his legacy. He can stay in L.A. and get up to $200 million over the next 5 seasons or he can consider a move to San Antonio. He’ll be teamed with a top notch coach in Gregg Popovich and a current top 5 player in Kawhi Leonard. I fully expect him to take the money and stay in Los Angeles. Really can’t fault him for that. If he chooses to stay; the Clippers will have a lot of moves to make in order to get “better”.

The first game of the NBA Playoffs 2nd Round saw Washington take on Boston. Washington jumped out to a 16-0 lead in the 1st quarter. Boston made a run as expected and trimmed that lead to 5 by halftime. Boston outscored Washington 36-16 in the 3rd quarter and never looked back thanks to stingy defense and three point shooting. The Celtics shot 19-39 from three point range as the Wizards never stopped Isaiah Thomas (33 points and 9 assists) from driving and kicking to the perimeter. Jae Crowder was 6-8 from three point range and finished with 24 points. Al Horford was one rebound shy of a triple double. The Wizards got most of their production from their starters. They’ll definitely need help if Markieff Morris isn’t able to return from an ankle injury. As for predictions, I was 7 out of 8 in the First Round. I chose the Clippers instead of Utah. for the 2nd Round I have Cleveland over Toronto in 6 games; Boston in 7 games; Golden State over Utah in 6 games; Houston over San Antonio in 6 games.

Paul Pierce played his final NBA game on yesterday for the Los Angeles Clippers. Pierce aka The Truth is most notable for his time spent in Boston. He was a 10-time All Star and 2008 NBA Champion and Finals MVP. He battled LeBron James a countless number of times and there are some great behind the scenes stories about those two. I first started watching Pierce during his time at the University of Kansas. He was an AP First Team All-American in 1997-1998. He was then drafted by the Boston Celtics and went on to have some fun times playing alongside “Worker #8” Antoine Walker. I couldn’t stand Pierce after he was joined by Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in Boston to form the “Big 3”. He’d hit a dagger shot one minute and then be stretchered out in a wheelchair the next like his life was over. His final 4 seasons he hit a few big shots in Brooklyn and Washington before joining the Clippers close to his hometown of Inglewood, CA. Thanks Paul for a great career and this hilarious moment. It’ll always remind me of why I hate Boston.

 

P.S. I would talk about Arsenal but that’d make me feel like Paul Pierce in the wheelchair. Ok I’m done.

Stats courtesy of:

http://www.basketball-reference.com

The Truth

NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs

The Playoffs start on Saturday, April 15 and the Eastern Conference teams are set. I’ll give a brief preview of each series and who I expect to win.

Boston Celtics (1) VS Chicago Bulls (8)

The season series was tied 2-2. Boston outlasted the Cleveland Cavaliers and secured the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. This was important for Boston after getting thumped at home by the Cavs on April 5th. The Celtics will face a Bulls team that ended the season 10-6 in their final 16 games. The better performances to end the season came after a 5-game losing streak that included a 20 point defeat to the Celtics. both teams held down their home court in the regular season games. Boston’s main attack was the 3-point shot. Boston made an average of 13 3s per game versus Chicago while shooting 39.9% from long range. The Bulls played well in of the 3 of the 4 games. Dwyane Wade returned from an elbow injury and is back in the starting lineup for Chicago (the team seemed to play better without him). Isaiah Thomas 3rd in scoring and 2nd in 4th Quarter scoring at 9.8 points/4th Quarter. That was second only to Russell Westbrook. Jimmy “Buckets” Butler will help the Bulls scrap and claw their way to 6 games but it won’t be enough to win the series.  Boston in 6.

Washington Wizards (4) VS Atlanta Hawks (5)

Washington won the season series 3-1. The Wizards are back in the playoffs thanks to Coach Scott Brooks getting the most out of John Wall and Bradley Beal. All-Star John Wall had career highs in points/game, assists/game (2nd in the NBA at 10.7), steals/game, shooting % and double-doubles. Beal who was an All-Star snub – to himself and some fans – had career bests in points/game, assists/game, shooting % and free throw %. Both players also had offensive and defensive ratings that equaled or bettered previous career highs. Otto Porter Jr. faded towards the end of the season but was knock down shooter from the corner 3. The Hawks are led by Paul Millsap, Dennis Shcroder and Dwight Howard. Tim Hardaway Jr. was a pleasant surprise as he posted career highs in points, rebounding, assists, and shooting %. Washington had the 9th best offensive rating during the regular season. They were also 5th in points per game, 8th in 3 point%, 6th in assists, and tied for4th with 30 wins at home. Atlanta ranked 4th overall defensive rating. The Hawks had the best defensive rating in the league for the games that they won. Both teams ranked top 5 in deflections per game and were 10th and 11th in PACE. I expect this to be a fun series. Lots of end to end action from both teams. The Wizards takes this series in 7 games thanks to the home court advantage.

Toronto Raptors (3) VS Milwaukee Bucks (6)

Toronto won the season series 3-1. Milwaukee’s only win during the season over Toronto came at the beginning of March while Kyle Lowry was out with a wrist injury. Lowry returned to the team on April 5th and most fans hope he’s 100%. There are a bunch of intriguing matchups in this series. Demar DeRozan will have to deal with the length of the Bucks. One of those players is Giannis Antetokounmpo aka the Greek Freak. Giannis has had an All NBA caliber season for Milwaukee. Malcolm Brogdon – 2nd Round pick out of Virginia – is a Rookie of the Year candidate and has been steady for the Bucks all season. Toronto will lean on veterans Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker for some defensive toughness. Both players came to the team via trades in February. Tucker will likely spend time guarding the Greek Freak. Milwaukee must shoot better from 3 if they want to beat Toronto. The Bucks shot 30.3% from 3 in their three losses to Toronto and averaged 13.7 turnovers in those games. Toronto ranked 4th in Net Rating was top 10 in both Offensive and Defensive Ratings. Toronto depends on their starting guards a lot. This is a series where they will need Jonas Valanciunas to step up and negate the length and size of the Bucks. Toronto wins in 6 games. I wouldn’t be shocked if Milwaukee won this series in 6 games.

Cleveland Cavaliers (2) VS Indiana Pacers (7)

Cleveland won the season series 3-1. The regular season couldn’t get over quick enough for the Cavs. Their regular season matchups against the Pacers highlighted some of the issues they had all season. Cleveland gave up 100-plus to Indiana in all four games. They had 22nd best Defensive Rating in the NBA. Some will argue that they can “turn it on” but that could be dangerous if they advance. The Pacers were a middle of the pack team all season and their ranking in the advanced statistics categories of Offensive/Defensive/Net Ratings showed the same. Paul George and LeBron James will definitely go at it but in the end Kyrie Irving’s ability on offense will be the deciding factor in helping Cleveland end the series in 5 games.

Stats courtesy of:

http://www.basketball-reference.com/leagues/NBA_2017_leaders.html

http://stats.nba.com/

NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs

NBA Western Conference Playoffs

The Playoffs start on Saturday, April 15 and the Western Conference teams are set. I’ll give a brief preview of each series and who I expect to win.

Golden State Warriors (1) VS Portland Trail Blazers (8)

Golden State won the season series 4-0. Golden State had two blowout victories (largest margin 45 points) and two close wins (smallest margin 2 points). The Warriors scored an average of 125 ppg while shooting an average of 52.7% in all 4 games. The two teams haven’t seen each other since January 29th. Portland added Jusuf Nurkic – who is likely to miss this series because of a broken leg – via trade in February. The Warriors had some rocky games (started 2-5 without KD) but dealt with the knee injury to Durant very well. The Warriors rattled off 13 wins in a row before KD returned on April 8th. Golden State wins this series. Only thing to consider is number of games. GSW beat Portland 4-1 last season in the Playoffs.

 

Los Angeles Clippers (4) VS Utah Jazz (5)

Los Angeles Clippers won the season series 3-1. This is the 2nd most intriguing matchup in the Western Conference First Round. I’m not sure how exciting it will be though. The Clippers had 3 victories that ranged from 13-15 points. In those 3 defeats, Utah was simply unable to score averaging only 80.7 ppg. The Jazz shot a woeful 27.9% from 3-point range in their losses to LAC while shooting a sizzling 66.7% in their only win. Utah attempted an average of 22.3 shots from 3-point range in the season series against the Clippers. The terrible shooting from long range is surprising because Utah has shot 37.2% on 3-point shot attempts (which is 9th best in the league as of 4/12/2017). The Clippers are slightly better at 37.5% on 115 more attempts. The teams aren’t much different when you look at the League’s Advanced Statistics. Both teams are top 15 in Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating while being top 6 in Net Rating. The one difference is the pace that each team plays at. Utah is 30th (last) in PACE and the Clippers are 17th. The team that can dictate the flow of each game in this series will likely be the winner. I have the Clippers being that winner in 7 games.

Houston Rockets (3) VS Oklahoma City Thunder (6)

Houston won the season series 3-1. Easily the most exciting matchup in the First Round of the NBA Playoffs. This series could feature the MVP, Coach of the Year, and 6th Man of the Year winners. I expect this series to be fast and exciting just like the 4 games played during the regular season. 3 of the 4 games were decided by 3 points or less. Both teams averaged over 110 ppg and shot plenty of 3-pointers in each game. Houston true to their motto averaged 40! 3-point attempts while OKC averaged 28.3. This series will be built as “Harden VS Westbrook” but it’ll be more than that. Both players are top 3 in points per game (Westbrook 1st & Harden 3rd) and assists per game (Harden 1st & Westbrook 3rd). Houston’s overall firepower and ability to shoot the 3 will be the deciding factor. Westbrook will be able to will his teammates to a couple of victories but in the end the series will go to Houston in 6 games.

 

San Antonio Spurs (2) VS Memphis Grizzlies (7)

Season series was 2-2. I have no desire to watch this series let alone type this paragraph. But here I am. Both teams won their home games. The games were tough and rugged as you’d expect. Both teams had average field goal percentages in the low 40s during the 4 games. Each team barely got over 90 ppg for the season series. Memphis will grit and grind their way to a win or two but the Spurs will ride MVP-candidate Kawhi Leonard into the 2nd Round. Spurs in 6 games.

Stats courtesy of:

http://www.basketball-reference.com/leagues/NBA_2017_leaders.html

http://stats.nba.com/

NBA Western Conference Playoffs