X-Mas Special – The 4th Issue

Welcome back to the final edition of the Sports Dojo NBA Christmas Special. It’s time for part IV. The final piece devoted to some of the best highlights around the league so far this season. As always we’ll start with the lighter side of the NBA.

The Small Moments That Aren’t About Basketball

-Udonis Haslem and Michael Beasley having fun with a kid before the game.

-Shawne William’s blows powder in Nick Young’s face during a game.

-Nikola Pekovic having fun with teammate J.J. Barea on the bench.

-Zach Randolph gives his warm-up shirt to a Grizzles’ fan with special needs

The Best Celebrations After Gettin’ Buckets

-Jonas Valanciunas and-one celebration versus the San Antonio Spurs

-Pau Gasol after hitting a 3-Point shot; he’s only made 38 his whole career.

Most Creative Passes

-Kevin Love’s full court pass. How does he know there’s a guy on the other end of the court?

-This could go down in another category but a great pass by LeBron nonetheless.

-More of a hustle play but a great all around effort by the Spurs’ players.

-Can’t get over how much Tim Duncan curves this pass.

The Best One-on-One

-Lance Stephenson with yet another great individual move.

-I expect nothing less from Jamal Crawford.

Enjoy the rest of your holidays everyone. We’ll see you in the new year and as always, continue to enjoy. 

Joe Meola

NBA Christmas Special – Part 3

Welcome back to the Sports Dojo NBA X-Mas Special: Part 3. You know the drill by now so let’s just get right into it. We’ve spent the past two days looking at the “playoff teams” if the NBA postseason were to start on Christmas. It’s time to turn our attention to the teams on the outside looking in. If you’ve missed out on the first two parts, you can find them here and here.

Eastern Conference: (number reflects current playoff position)

9. Chicago Bulls (10-16): Unfortunately I don’t see this team hanging around and advancing to the playoffs. After Derrick Rose dropped out, there chances were slim to none. They average 91.8 ppg, tied with Charlotte for worst in the league. One of the best small forwards not named LeBron James or Kevin Durant is Luol Deng. Quietly averaging 19.6 ppg and 7.0 rpg, he is the reason the Bulls have won as many games as they have. Although his play has been remarkable, he’s been plagued by a nagging Achilles injury. Never count this team out at home, as they are 7-5 and surprisingly have a 9-9 record against Eastern Conference teams.

10. Cleveland Cavaliers (10-16): Kyrie Irving has not had a lot of help so far this season. Remember when the Cavs shocked the NBA and took Anthony Bennett with the #1 overall pick? Well he’s averaging 2.2 ppg, 2.0 rpg, and 0.2 apg. Basically sums up the season for the Cavs so far as they have not performed well. Especially on the road, going 2-12.

11. Brooklyn Nets (9-17): There aren’t many bright spots to this season as the Nets recent lost Brook Lopez to injury. They’ve gone 5-11 against the East and have struggled in all areas. Definitely not the season Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce imagined when they came to Brooklyn in the offseason.

Western Conference: (number reflects current playoff position)

9. Golden State Warriors (16-13): Over the past couple of days the Warriors have slipped into the 8th seed, but because of the timeline of these posts, we’ll keep them in the 9-hole. Stephen Curry has been brilliant, posting 24.3 ppg, 9.2 apg, and 24.6 PER. He’s attempted the most 3-pointers in the league (205) and made the 3rd most (85). One area to watch is Curry’s turnovers. He has committed the most in the league (102), which is not something to boast about. This team is starting to play well with Andre Iguodola coming back from injury to help guard some of the tougher small forwards in the league.

10. Los Angeles Lakers (13-14): One of the best stories in the NBA (other than the Derrick Rose comeback) was the Kobe Bryant comeback. It was cut short when he went down with a knee injury. Simply put, the league is better with Kobe playing and every game he plays in should be cherished, knowing he’s closer and closer to the end of his career.

11. Minnesota Timberwolves (13-15): If you’re looking for one player to watch on a given night, watch Kevin Love. He has failed to reach a double-double in just two of the 27 games he’s played this season. Just look at this monster stat line: 25.9 ppg, 13.9 rpg, 4.2 apg, .458 FG%, .381 3P%, and 27.9 PER. He is an absolute stud. Ricky Rubio is an assist machine and gets the award for most creative passes but he needs to find that scoring touch. Although he lacks a scoring instinct, he has the most steals in the league (75) and fourth most assists (225). I expect this team in the discussion for the final two or three playoff spots in the league.

Predictions:

(East)

Chicago Bulls – 10th seed

Cleveland Cavaliers – 9th seed

Brooklyn Nets – 12th seed

(West)

Golden State Warriors – 7th seed

Los Angles Lakers – 10th seed

Minnesota Timberwolves – 8th seed

Although I promised some of the top individual shots, passes, and moves so far this season, we’re going to hold off one more day, but I can’t help myself from giving a little preview. Here are two highlights of what you can expect to see from the NBA greats.

-This guy is up there with Jamal Crawford for best one-on-one moves. He’s blossoming into one of the best 2-guards for years to come.

-This is just one of the many reasons why Ricky Rubio is a magician with the ball.

Just wait, the moves get better and the passes get more creative. As always, continue to enjoy.

Twitter: @brosephmeola

E-mail: senseimeola@gmail.com

NBA X-mas Special Part 2

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Welcome back to the second of a four-part mini series devoted to all things NBA. Today is a look at the mighty Western Conference. There have been some surprises and some busts so let’s jump right into it. As usual, here’s another glimpse of the comedic side of the NBA.

-For once it isn’t a Heat player, but another example of how frivolous some NBA players are. Courtesy of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry

Western Conference:

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder (22-4) – Through 27 games, they have  an impressive 13-1 record at home. It’s extremely difficult to slow down this team as they average 106.0 ppg. In the Eastern Conference Review, I referenced LeBron James’ impressive 30.0 PER. In the West, Kevin Durant is right there with him owning a 28.2 PER. Reggie Jackson has quietly averaged 15.2 ppg over his past five contests, relieving some of the pressure placed on Durant and Russell Westbrook.
  2. Portland Trailblazers (23-5) – If you want to watch an entertaining team, look no further than “Rip City”. Currently the leagues most explosive offense, they average 108.4 ppg. The Trailblazers have been lead by strong play from LaMarcus Aldridge (23.1 ppg + 11.0 rpg), Damian Lillard (21.5 ppg + 5.8 apg), and Nicolas Batum (14.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 5.3 apg). Greg brought up an extremely important point in our most recent spar when he discussed the heavy workload of the Portland and Indiana starters. These three players are also all ranked in the top 10 of total minutes played and will need rest with the playoffs on the horizon.
  3. San Antonio Spurs (21-6) – This team has different players contributing in different ways every night. They’re the second best shooting team in the league behind the Miami Heat with a .489 field goal percentage. The Spurs also are ranked second in total assists (690), meaning they love to share the ball. The Spurs are built for the post season so until then, they’re on cruise control.
  4. Los Angeles Clippers (19-9) – Another team with an explosive offense. The Clippers average 104.5 ppg and have the number one producer of assists in the league thanks to Chris Paul (304 total/11.3 apg/27.7 PER). One element of their team that can plague them in the playoffs is the amount of personal fouls they commit (618), which is ranked 3rd most in the league.
  5. Houston Rockets (18-10) – After a 5-4 start to their 2013 campaign, the Rockets have started to mesh well with the arrival of Dwight Howard, going 13-6 since that mark. A weakness of this team is their free throw shooting. As a team their FT% is .696; second worst in the league. Although they lack the ability to hit from the charity strike, they’re sandwiched in between the Trailblazers and the Thunder for most points per game (106.4). If the playoffs were to start today, they would face a matchup with the Clippers, which may be the most intriguing matchup of the first round.
  6. Phoenix Suns (16-10) – Wow, what a surprise! I must admit I didn’t think the Suns had it in them. As Christmas rolls around they are still very much in the hunt for the playoffs, but it’s difficult to trust they’re consistency. At one point they were 9-9, but out of no where they have gone 6-1 over their past seven games and have quality wins over the Mavericks, Nuggets, Warriors, and Rockets. It’s hard to pin their early success on one player but the guard play of Eric Bledsoe (19.1 ppg/6.3 apg/21.4 PER) and Goran Dragic (18.7 ppg/5.9 apg/20.2 PER) has been remarkable.
  7. Dallas Mavericks (15-12) – They have a weak record against other Western teams (8-9) and can never seem to get a string of wins together. This is another team much like the Spurs, who love to share the ball (23.3 apg as a team – 6th best in the league). A very confusing team in my opinion considering in the month of December they have two bad loses to Phoenix and Golden State but a quality win against Portland. Between Dallas and Denver, I think only one will make the playoffs. One aspect of this team that I love is their free throw shooting. As a team they are the 3rd best team in the NBA in FT% with .804, one of only three teams above the .800 level.
  8. Denver Nuggets (14-12) – The success of this team hinges on the play of Ty Lawson as he contributes in various statistical areas. Through 24 games played, he averages 17.6 ppg and 7.9 apg with a 20.4 PER. These are one of the teams I don’t expect to finish in the top eight because of they’re record against Western Conference teams (7-10) and with Golden State and Minnesota on their tails.

While the West may appear as the dominant of the two conferences, there will only be one winner. All of these teams are extremely talented but they continue to beat up on each other which is why the race for seeds 6-10 will be so interesting to watch. You thought the AFC playoff picture was interesting in the NFL? Just wait until you see the Western Conference in about three months.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a look into some of the teams on the outside looking in from each conference as well as some of the best individual shots, passes, and moves so far. Here is a preview to get you in the right mood. 

 

-Did you think Blake Griffin could do this? I sure didn’t. 

Don’t be afraid to leave comments and feedback and as always, continue to enjoy.

Twitter: @brosephmeola

E-mail: senseimeola@gmail.com

Sports Dojo NBA Christmas Special

Welcome back once again. Seeing as Christmas is right around the corner, it’s the perfect time for a four part; all you can read NBA mini series. There are new developments in the NBA every night, leading to great clips of buzzer beaters and draw dropping plays. We’ll start with the playoff standings as of December 21st and break down how each “playoff team” got there. The first piece will follow the Eastern Conference and the second will be devoted to the Western Conference. By the 4th article in the series, you will know everything going on across the NBA leading up to the tremendous match-ups scheduled for Christmas day. As always, let’s begin with the lighter side of the NBA.

Eventually there will be a piece devoted to the various ways James, Wade, and Bosh photo bomb each other, but for now add this one to the collection.

Eastern Conference:

  1. Indiana Pacers (21-5) — There isn’t much surprise here. They’re keeping pace with the Western Conference powerhouses and their inter conference rivals, the Heat. Between Indiana and Portland, these two teams boast the most top to bottom starting five. In addition to this, they are getting valuable minutes from Luis Scola and CJ Watson off the bench. Things only get better as Danny Granger is expected to return from injury sooner rather than later, making this lethal team even more dangerous.
  2. Miami Heat (20-6) — South Beach has been rather quiet lately, that is if you believe Dwyane Wade‘s comments on the Heat. In a sit down interview with the one and only Stephen A. Smith, Wade claimed that the Heat let their play do the talking, not their mouths. Interestingly enough Wade also hinted that he believes the Pacers are a team the Heat will have to go through to get to the Finals. Why can’t it just be May already? LeBron James leads the league in PER with an impressive 30.0 while also putting on one of the best statistical shooting seasons of his career; flirting with .601.
  3. Atlanta Hawks (15-12) – Jeff Teague is one of the best guards that no one talks about. Everyone hears about John Wall, Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, and Damian Lillard but people forget about Teague’s talent. He’s helped the Hawks climb out of an early hole and 6 wins over their past 8 games. Teague also ranks 13th in free throws made (124) and 4th in total assists (217).
  4. Boston Celtics (12-15) — I don’t know if this is a pleasant surprise or not because I had high expectations for an extremely poor season. Brad Stevens is easily my favorite coach in the NBA this year and what he’s done with what he’s got is rather impressive. The emergence of Jared Sullinger as a Kevin Love 2.0 is promising with his knack for double digit rebounds and new found sweet spot beyond the 3-point line. What hurts any Celtics’ player is the rotation Stevens uses during games. Leading to up and down numbers but Sully is emerging as a solid piece for years to come.
  5. Charlotte Bobcats (13-14) — If there is one surprise from this list of teams, the Bobcats may be it. It’s baffling actually when you consider their ranked 28th in Field Goal percentage (.423), 28th in points per game (92.0), and dead last in 3-point field goal percentage (.305). Kemba Walker has been a workhorse for the Bobcats so far. Ranked 12th in the league in total minutes played (955), 20thin field goals made (179), and 17th in total steals (42).
  6. Detroit Pistons (13-15) — Through this point in the season, this team is my pick for biggest bust. Of course every team needs time to mesh so I will cut them some slack, but they’re playing in an Eastern Conference with only three teams with winning records. The collective talent level between Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith, Andre Drummond, and Greg Monroe seems to indicate that they’re ready to take the next step to an elite level but this team needs some time. I’ll continue to harp on these guys all season long so I apologize in advance. They do own the crown for most rebounds (1245) and that is a big reason why they were able to claim a huge victory over the Heat in Miami.
  7. Washington Wizards (11-13) — The two unsung stars of this team are Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza. A lot of credit has gone to John Wall, which is well deserved, but Wall is getting more help from his supporting cast. Beal averages 20.3 points per game which leads the team while Ariza chips in 15 ppg, 5.8 rpg, and 1.9 steals per game.
  8. Toronto Raptors (10-14) – Unfortunately I don’t see this team sneaking into the playoffs, but hey, for now they’re playing the Pacers, so they got that going for them! They’ve had a stretch of 5 wins and 5 loses which doesn’t help them move up the standings but they have a chance to get into the playoffs thanks to a weak Atlantic Division. The Celtics can easily tank and lose games and open up a possible 3 or 4 seed for the winner of this division. They are not a good rebounding team. They’re ranked 27th with 1034 total rebounds.

From past articles, you can certainly notice the weakness of the Eastern conference. Eastern conference “playoff teams” have a combined record of 116-96. Which is above .500 but when you look at the Western Conference (143-65) they have a little bit of catching up to do.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a look at the Western Conference playoff picture and more NBA. As always, continue to enjoy.

Twitter: @brosephmeola

E-mail: senseimeola@gmail.com

Dojo Sparring – NFL Playoffs are taking shape

Joe to Greg

Detroit Lions reaction after Justin Tucker’s 61 yard field goal.

It’s been a little bit since we’ve done one of these and a lot has happened across the sports world. Lets get the NFL out of the way first. What are your thoughts on this past week of NFL action? The Ravens looked good and bad from what I saw. Good in the sense that I’m pretty sure everyone knows Justin Tucker now. Bad in the sense that Justin Tucker was their sole source of points against the Lions. The Patriots ended up on the wrong side of another close game, which is expected when you hinge your team’s success on fourth quarter one minute drills. The Bengals lost an opportunity to get the #2 seed. December is a great month for football because of all playoff implications, which conference are you more intrigued by based on the playoff races?

Greg to Joe

Tom Brady's face when he realized he wasn't going to the Super Bowl last year. (Photo Cred: Screenshot of CBS Broadcast)

Tom Brady’s face when he realized he wasn’t going to the Super Bowl last year. (Photo Cred: Screenshot of CBS Broadcast)

Actually, your Pats have a shot to blow the two seed as well and the Ravens and Bengals can get it. There is a scenario that is fascinating in my mind. It starts like this the Pats lose out, the Dolphins win out, the Colts lose to the Jaguars in Week 17 (may not be for anything, they are basically locked into the 4th seed no matter what so it is entirely possible they rest and lose) and the Bengals win next week against the Vikings. Now this leaves the Pats at 10-6, Dolphins at 10-6, the Bengals at 10-5, and the Ravens at 9-6. The Ravens-Bengals game decides everything. The Bengals win, and they get the two seed. The Ravens are out, and the Patriots get the 6th seed because they lose the tie breaker with the Dolphins. The Ravens win, the Bengals get the 6th seed, Ravens get a bye AND the Patriots are not a playoff team. I think all of these crazy scenarios set up for a great end of season run. It should be one of the best and it all starts with the Ravens huge game against the Patriots next week. I am of the belief that the Ravens are trending upward and playing better than they did at the beginning of the season. The Patriots are starting to revert to beginning of season form without Gronk. He is so important to that offense and I think that it is very different without him. Next week will be an awesome game and it has so much on the line. I think that answers your question about the conference that intrigues me the most.

The NFC isn’t that interesting to me. Basically if the Panthers win next week against the Saints, it comes down to whether or not the 49ers can beat the Seahawks in Seattle in the NFC Championship.

Your thoughts on the races? And the scenario that the Patriots do not get into the playoffs?

Joe to Greg

I think it goes without saying that the AFC is the most wide open and most interesting conference. I don’t see the Patriots losing out even though that could make for an intriguing end to the playoff races. Having both teams, the Pats and Ravens, with playoff implications  makes for a more exciting game so good luck to you this weekend sir.

On the NFC side the Philadelphia-Chicago matchup is interesting to watch considering that both teams are atop their divisions and trying to give themselves an extra cushion going into the last week of the season. Both teams currently sit at 8-6 while another matchup featuring teams looking to finish strong is New Orleans at Carolina. This game features two 10-4 teams competing for the 2nd and 6th seed in the NFC playoffs. As of today, the Saints hold the 2nd seed while the Panthers own the 6th. Another great example of why December games are so great.

In the NBA, the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat faced off twice in a span of eight days. Each team  claimed victories on their home court and each game going down to the final two or three minutes of the game. Two noticeable injuries occurred this week. Kobe Bryant came back from his Achilles injury only to injure his left knee and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. The second was a minor ankle injury to LeBron James, which seems like a thing of the past considering he posted 23 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists. What are your thoughts on the Indiana-Miami series and also the stellar play of Damian Lillard? Also any closing thoughts for the NFL week.

Greg to Joe

NBC made a big mistake flexing the Philadelphia-Chicago matchup to the night. There is a big chance that both of those teams have NOTHING to play for. If the Cowboys lose, the Eagles can clinch the East with a win. However, if the Cowboys win, it doesn’t matte what happens at night, the Eagles have to beat the Cowboys in Week 17 to win the division. I think it was a dumb mistake, and it could be a poor matchup. However, it has so many huge fantasy implications for almost everyone’s fantasy championship. Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and the list goes on. I am gonna have to watch to make sure my team brings home the two titles that they deserve!

 

However, I think that NBC has to repay the Ravens and will give them the night game next week. You’ll see why with my prediction at the bottom.

I think that Indiana is going to have big problems in the playoffs. They have a very short rotation and I think their starters are going to worn out come playoff time. I see Miami winning the East purely for that reason. Indiana’s dependence on their starters, much like Portland in the West. Lilliard is bonkers. His late game shots are unreal, and I think he is only going to get better and that Portland team is for real and will be for awhile. Can’t wait to see your NBA stuff this upcoming week up until Christmas.

Patriots @ Ravens Predictions

Joe

Patriots 24 – Ravens 21

Shane Vereen has a nice bounce back game after the poor showing last week and gets a TD. Stephen Gostkowski hits a late field goal to win it.

Greg

Patriots 17 – Ravens 23

Wikipedia screenshot after Justin Tucker's 61 yard field goal. (Photo Cred: Wikipedia Screenshot)

Wikipedia screenshot after Justin Tucker’s 61 yard field goal. (Photo Cred: Wikipedia Screenshot)

The Patriots defense isn’t as good as the Lions so I think the Ravens will be able to put up two touchdowns. I also think that the Patriots offense is not nearly the same as it was with Gronk. I think Tom Brady and Joe Flacco each have something around 250 yards and 2 touchdowns, but the kickers change the game. Tucker is 3 for 3 and Gostkowski goes 1 for 2.

 Greg Danchik and Joe Meola