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

Super Week is Here

“Super Week” has arrived and man does it promise to be exciting for me. Not only do I get to enjoy the game on Sunday but my daughter will be turning one on Friday! Seems like the time flew by. There’ll be a party on Saturday. I can’t wait for the day when these two forces collide and we have a Super Sunday. Anyways we have the two teams in that game – Atlanta Falcons & New England Patriots – but there’s a bigger match to me taking place on Saturday in London between Chelsea & Arsenal. I care a LOT MORE about that one than the Super Bowl but I’ll touch on both along with some NBA.

The Super Bowl could be a shootout or it could be a blowout. Vegas had New England as a 3 point favorite after both teams won their respective Conference Championship. Matt Ryan has already received the MVP nod from a couple of publications. Matty Ice has been on a tear thanks to his slew of weapons on the offensive side of the ball. One of them – Julio Jones – needs no introduction if you follow the game. Atlanta’s young defense has stepped up and shown that they’re coming to bring some pain, just ask Mr. Discount Double Check.

On the other side, we have the boring and methodical cheat- my bad Patriots. Belichick and Brady have been here before (this will be their 7th Super Bowl together) and they’re looking to bring back their 5th ring. Brady’s Bunch is mostly a gang of no names with the exception of LeGarrete Blount and Martellus Bennett. Both of them are talented and have shown that they can produce on the field but both are guys that I enjoy for other reasons. Look for New England’s defense to grab, hold, chuck, and whatever else they can get away with. Malcolm Butler said he “dreamt of covering Julio Jones” though he never stated whether that was a sweet dream or nightmare. Guess we’ll find out on Sunday. If you’re a Patriots fan then look away because I’ve been known to jinx a team or two and it could be your team’s turn. Brady brings back ring number 5 as the New England defense and run game on offense slows the high powered Falcons. Score: New England 28-17

Saturday morning at 6:30 before I get to running around doing party stuff I’ll be up ready to watch Chelsea and Arsenal duel. This time last year Arsenal was in a similar spot. They had an early February match against Leicester City. On that day, Arsenal won on a last minute goal and closed the gap between 1st and 2nd. Unfortunately Arsenal collapsed afterwards and watched as Leicester claimed the League title. This time around Chelsea sits in first place with an 8 point cushion. Both teams have a match midweek with Chelsea going away to Liverpool and Arsenal hosting Watford. If the Gunners are to have any hopes of catching Chelsea then they’ll need to start by winning these next two matches. Some help from Liverpool would be nice too but their form leaves a lot to be desired. Chelsea has been the cream of the crop in the Premier League since getting thumped 3-0 at Arsenal in September. The Gunners have been knocked down since then but are trying to regain traction in what could be a heated title race. The same question still remains for Arsenal – Do they have the mentality to win the title? – as they head into this big match. I jumped the gun last year after they beat Leicester but it won’t happen again this season. Even with the best case scenario of Chelsea losing twice and Arsenal winning twice there’ll still be a long ways to go before the title is settled.

You know the NBA is heating up because arguments of various types have started. We’ve seen quarrels amongst teammates. We’ve had the annual who should/shouldn’t be voting for All-Star Starters debate along with who should/shouldn’t be on the team/starting. We know one thing is clear; Golden State is the hands down favorite to win the title. The Warriors have the best record, best offense, best defense, 4 All-Stars (2 of them starting), 2 MVP candidates, best crowd, a new arena in the works…need I continue? The ONLY thing that can stop Golden State from hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy will be themselves. Many games have to be played but the Warriors are buzzing and it could get ugly as they continue to fine tune things for the Playoffs.

But that doesn’t mean the rest of the league will sit quietly and let GSW have their way. Russell Westbrook and James Harden continue to put on a show for their teams. Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers is running away with the Rookie of the Year. Will Carmelo be traded? The rumors continue to swirl but nothing solid has come up. Melo could swing things for a potential Playoff team. I saw John Wall live and in-person for the 2nd time this season. He’s very good and so are the Washington Wizards. Scott Brooks has done an excellent job with that team.

Dion “Waiters County” is heating up in Miami as they continue to win games for some strange reason. The Heat are on an 8-game winning streak and inch further away from a top draft pick. We’ll see how long this string of winning continues.

It’s an exciting week ahead to say the least. My weekend will be filled with two of my joys, family and sports. I look forward to both as the kids will be all over the place and I’ll be busy helping out. Also I’m sure the Falcons fans that know me will be happy because I didn’t pick them. It’s Super Week folks…enjoy!

Super Week is Here