Friday, April 17, 2015

2015 NBA Playoffs Predictions Round 1


By Rick Morris

 

Atlanta over Brooklyn in 4

Cleveland over Boston in 4

Chicago over Milwaukee in 6

Toronto over Washington in 6

Golden State over New Orleans in 5

Dallas over Houston in 7

San Antonio over LA Clippers in 6

Memphis over Portland in 6

 

CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

Atlanta over Toronto in 6

Cleveland over Chicago in 6

Golden State over Memphis in 6

San Antonio over Dallas in 6

 

CONFERENCE FINALS

Cleveland over Atlanta in 6

San Antonio over Golden State in 7

 

NBA FINALS

Cleveland over San Antonio in 6

 

NBA FINALS MVP: Kyrie Irving

Monday, April 13, 2015

2015 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions Round 1


By Rick Morris

 

New York Rangers over Pittsburgh in 6

Washington over New York Islanders in 6

Tampa Bay over Detroit in 6

Ottawa over Montreal in 7

Minnesota over St. Louis in 6

Chicago over Nashville in 7

Anaheim over Winnipeg in 5

Calgary over Vancouver in 7

 

CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

New York Rangers over Washington in 7

Tampa Bay over Ottawa in 5

Chicago over Minnesota in 7

Anaheim over Calgary in 5

 

CONFERENCE FINALS

Tampa Bay over New York Rangers in 6

Chicago over Anaheim in 6

 

STANLEY CUP FINAL

Tampa Bay over Chicago in 7


CONN SMYTHE WINNER: Steven Stamkos
 



Monday, April 6, 2015

Why Kentucky lost


By Steve Kallas (posted by Rick Morris)

 

It certainly wasn’t a total shock that Wisconsin was able to beat Kentucky, 71-64, in their national semi-final game on Saturday.  But, an upset?  Absolutely. 

 

What happened?  Was it the athleticism of Sam Dekker?  The offense and defense of Frank Kaminsky?  Or was it the poor play of Kentucky’s guards in not being able to get their star (now recognized  -- better late than never – by virtually everybody), Karl-Anthony Towns, the ball in the post down the stretch?

 

Well, it was all of the above.  But the least discussed and, it says here, the most important, was Kentucky’s inability to get Towns the ball in the post.

 

POINT GUARD PLAY IN THE 21ST CENTURY

 

Once upon a time, at all levels of basketball, if you had a big man who had an edge in talent and/or physical size, point guards were routinely taught to “give it to the big man,” especially if it was a guy like Towns, that is, a guy who plays hard, rebounds, runs the floor, can use both hands (a lost skill), etc.

 

In the “old days” of the 20th Century, guards were taught to pound it inside and, if someone on defense played good overplay defense the first time you looked in, guards were taught to look in a second or even a third time to get the ball to “the bigs.”

 

Now more of a nuanced play, virtually all guards trying to get the ball down low to the big guy take one look at them and, if he’s “covered,” they simply swing the ball around the other way.  The patience in guard play has long ago left the building.

 

A TALE OF TWO GAMES

 

Let’s take a look at Kentucky’s final two games of the season from this perspective – first the Notre Dame game, which they almost lost and then the Wisconsin game, which they did lose. 

 

The final eight minutes of both games shows the difference – for this Kentucky team – between winning and losing.

 

Against Notre Dame, Towns was in the game for nine of the final 11 possessions (he was in foul trouble and coach John Calipari played offense/defense a few times so Towns wasn’t in the game for two of those 11 possessions).  In those nine possessions, Towns got the ball in the post ELEVEN times (on two possessions, they threw it down to him in the post twice).

 

In those possessions, Towns scored four baskets (including one three-point play) and passed out of a double team to a wide-open Tyler Ulis for an open three.

 

Towns was, without question, the key to Kentucky’s comeback victory.

 

So, what happened against Wisconsin?  Kentucky’s guards, after feeding Towns at will in the Notre Dame game, totally went away from him.  In Kentucky’s  (almost) final 13 possessions (not counting the final two, where they threw the ball away at midcourt and took a long, meaningless three at the buzzer), Towns got the ball in the post a grand total of THREE times.

 

 

While the game analysts correctly pointed out that Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin’s excellent big man, was doing a good job “challenging” Towns, what they never said was that Kentucky’s guards, after looking in once, never looked in again in each possession, never realized that Towns was still fighting for position, never realized that Towns did get open, literally a second or two after Kaminsky had shut off the potential post pass.

 

This was the (offensive) death knell for Kentucky.  By not being patient and getting the ball into Towns, it led to an eight-foot airball from Andrew Harrison on one possession and a 12-foot airball from Aaron Harrison as the shot clock was ending on another possession (and a poor shot that barely hit the front rim on still another possession).  That’s separate and apart from the airball three from Aaron Harrison very late in the game.

 

On the three touches that Towns did get, he scored on Kaminsky, he was stripped by Kaminsky (who was helping Dekker, who was guarding Towns on that particular possession), with Kentucky recovering the loose ball, and he was fouled by Kaminsky, making one of two free throws.

 

While it is subtle and nuanced in today’s game, the inability of Kentucky’s guards to get Towns the ball down low towards the end of the game was the reason Kentucky lost the game.  While Notre Dame had nobody like Kaminsky to guard Towns in the post, the “give-up” nature of the guards whenever Kaminsky overplayed Towns took Towns pretty much out of the game (although, to Towns’s credit, he had a number of offensive rebounds down the stretch).

 

From the time Towns scored with 6:35 left in the game until Kentucky’s next field goal with :56.2 seconds left, Towns touched the ball in the low post exactly once.

 

Game over.

 

WHAT ABOUT THE SHOT CLOCK VIOLATION THAT WASN’T?

 

Kentucky fans will correctly complain about Nigel Hayes’s basket with 2:40 left.  Clearly it was a shot-clock violation.  But Kentucky had earlier gotten away with a clear flagrant foul by Trey Lyles (which was reviewed and inexplicably not assessed).

 

I’ve never been one to say that these things even out (because they don’t).  There should be a way that potential shot-clock violations are reviewed throughout the game.

 

Would that have made a difference?  Well, we’ll never know.  But, if reviewed, Kentucky would have been up two with the ball instead of tied.  Wisconsin still had to win the game.

 

And Kentucky still had to lose it.

 

This, of course, goes directly to coaching.  If Calipari didn’t tell his guards to get Towns the ball, and, if he was overplayed initially by Kaminsky, to try again (and even again with a 35-seconde shot clock), he made a huge mistake.  If he did tell them and they didn’t do it, then he should have put someone else into the game who would do it. 

 

During the possession around the 1:25 mark, Kentucky inexplicably posted up Lyles (as opposed to Towns).  Wisconsin virtually let him get the ball and, frustrated at the other end by Sam Dekker (more on that shortly), he simply ran Dekker over for a crucial offensive foul.

 

WHY WISCONSIN WON OFFENSIVELY

 

While, for some reason, Frank Kaminsky seemed to have been given most of the credit for Wisconsin’s victory (maybe because he was so much better this year than last?), it was, without question, Sam Dekker’s athleticism and talent that lifted Wisconsin and won the game for them.

 

Calipari didn’t seem to understand that Trey Lyles couldn’t guard Dekker.  Dekker took Lyles to the basket with about 4:27 left with a stunning drive to cut Kentucky’s lead to two.  Then he hit a step-back three with 1:41 left to put Wisconsin up three.  Finally, he blew right by Lyles to get to the basket and get fouled (admittedly a phantom foul) by Aaron Harrison.  Dekker made one of two with 1:06 left to make the game a two-possession game.  Dekker also took that huge charge from Lyles down the stretch.

 

While Kentucky would cut it to one with 56 seconds left, they would never get back over the hump.

 

NEXT YEAR FOR KENTUCKY

 

A tough pill to swallow for Kentucky but, it says here, Wisconsin deserved to win the game. 

 

While there probably won’t be a next time for Karl-Anthony Towns at Kentucky, maybe next year Kentucky will work more on getting there guards to get the ball to their best players down low – and, if at first they don’t succeed, try, try again.

© 2015 BY STEVE KALLAS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

NBA power rankings for start of April


By Rick Morris

 

Previous rankings are in parentheses, from start of season to present.

 

TOP TIER

1 Golden State (2-1-1-1-1-1-1)

SECOND TIER

2 Atlanta (10-4-2-2-2-2-2)

THIRD TIER

3 Houston (6-9-6-6-5-4-5)

4 San Antonio (5-13-11-10-8-8-7)

5 Cleveland (13-11-14-12-11-10-6)

6 LA Clippers (8-10-8-4-9-6-8)

7 Memphis (1-5-4-3-3-3-3)

8 Portland (4-3-3-9-6-5-4)

FOURTH TIER

9 Chicago (11-8-10-11-10-9-10)

10 Toronto (3-2-9-5-4-11-11)

11 Dallas (7-7-5-7-7-7-9)

12 Oklahoma City (22-17-15-16-14-12-12)

13 Washington (9-6-7-8-12-14-14)

14 New Orleans (18-14-16-14-15-15-13)

FIFTH TIER

15 Phoenix (12-12-12-13-16-16-15)

16 Milwaukee (14-15-13-15-13-13-16)

SIXTH TIER

17 Brooklyn (20-16-22-20-22-20-23)

18 Miami (16-18-18-17-18-22-21)

19 Boston (24-23-25-24-20-18-18)

20 Utah (23-22-24-22-23-19-19)

21 Charlotte (28-25-20-18-17-21-20)

22 Indiana (19-21-23-25-19-17-17)

SEVENTH TIER

23 Detroit (29-27-19-19-21-23-25)

24 Denver (17-19-17-21-24-25-22)

25 Sacramento (15-20-21-23-25-24-24)

EIGHTH TIER

26 Orlando (21-24-26-26-26-26-26)

27 LA Lakers (27-26-27-27-28-28-27)

NINTH TIER

28 Philadelphia (30-28-28-28-27-29-28)

29 Minnesota (25-29-29-29-29-27-30)

30 New York (26-30-30-30-30-30-29)

 

BIGGEST RISERS: Brooklyn (6 spots), Miami (3 spots)

 

BIGGEST FALLERS: Indiana (5 spots), Memphis and Portland (4 spots)

 

RANKINGS BY DIVISION – 1 POINT PER RANKING SPOT FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL TEAM, LOWEST SCORE IS BEST

 

1 SOUTHWEST 39

2 PACIFIC 74

3 SOUTHEAST 80

4 CENTRAL 85

5 NORTHWEST 93

6 ATLANTIC 104

 

RANKINGS BY CONFERENCE

1 WEST 206

2 EAST 269

 

NHL power rankings for start of April


By Rick Morris

 

Previous rankings are in parentheses, from start of season to present.

 

TOP TIER

1 Anaheim (2-8-1-1-1-4-5-2)

2 New York Rangers (20-17-11-10-14-10-6-1)

3 Tampa Bay (5-5-6-4-4-8-9-3)

4 Montreal (1-4-5-5-7-3-2-4)

5 Nashville (9-2-4-2-3-1-1-7)

6 Chicago (17-11-2-9-9-9-10-9)

7 St. Louis (4-3-7-6-2-2-3-5)

8 Minnesota (18-14-22-24-24-16-13-12)

9 Vancouver (6-7-10-15-16-15-14-13)

10 Detroit (12-9-8-7-5-6-8-8)

11 Pittsburgh (3-6-9-12-8-7-7-10)

12 Washington (22-19-12-8-13-11-12-17)

13 Boston (8-12-17-14-10-17-17-11)

14 New York Islanders (7-1-3-3-6-5-4-6)

15 Winnipeg (15-16-13-11-11-12-11-16)

16 Calgary (10-10-19-16-15-13-16-14)

17 Ottawa (14-21-21-22-22-23-19-18)

18 Los Angeles (11-13-15-19-20-18-15-15)

SECOND TIER

19 Dallas (24-24-20-20-18-19-20-21)

20 Florida (23-20-16-17-21-21-18-20)

21 Colorado (26-22-25-18-17-22-22-19)

22 San Jose (16-18-14-13-12-14-24-22)

THIRD TIER

23 Columbus (29-30-23-23-25-25-26-25)

24 Philadelphia (21-28-27-25-19-20-21-23)

25 New Jersey (19-23-28-26-23-24-23-24)

26 Carolina (28-27-29-27-27-27-25-26)

FOURTH TIER

27 Toronto (13-15-18-21-26-26-27-27)

FIFTH TIER

28 Edmonton (27-29-30-29-29-29-28-28)

SIXTH TIER

29 Arizona (25-25-26-28-28-28-29-29)

SEVENTH TIER

30 Buffalo (30-26-24-30-30-30-30-30)

 

BIGGEST RISERS: Washington (5 spots), Minnesota and Vancouver (4 spots), Chicago (3 spots)

 

BIGGEST FALLERS: New York Islanders (8 spots), Los Angeles (3 spots)

 

RANKINGS BY DIVISION – 1 POINT PER RANKING SPOT FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL TEAM, DIVIDED BY THE NUMBER OF TEAMS, LOWEST SCORE IS BEST

 

1 CENTRAL 11.57

2 ATLANTIC 15.5

3 METROPOLITAN 17.13

4 PACIFIC 17.57

 

RANKINGS BY CONFERENCE

1 WEST 29.14

2 EAST 32.63

 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lounge on YouTube: 2015 NFC South early preview


By Rick Morris

Here is Mini-Episode #543 of THE FDH LOUNGE, taking an early look at the 2015 NFC South with FDH Lounge Dignitary and Vegas handicapping veteran Kyle Ross.


       


       


       


       


 

Lounge on YouTube: Royal Rumble History – Part 1E - 1992


By Rick Morris

Here is Mini-Episode #542 of THE FDH LOUNGE, the 1992 chapter in our Royal Rumble Anthology with FDH Lounge Dignitary Kyle Ross.


       


       


       


       


 

Lounge on YouTube: Mini-Episode #541 – Justified Episode 6.10 review


By Rick Morris                                          

As we referenced previously, our pals at Sportsology are hooking us up for live segments that we’re doing with guests and remote FDH Lounge Dignitaries these days.  We’re happy to report that we’ve been able to produce many segments on our own, but we’re thrilled for the help on some of these with guests and the thanks all go to our great friend Russ Cohen.

Mini-Episode #541 reviews Justified Episode 6.10.


       


       


       


       



 

Lounge on YouTube: 2015 NFC North early preview


By Rick Morris

Here is Mini-Episode #540 of THE FDH LOUNGE, taking an early look at the 2015 NFC North with FDH Lounge Dignitary and Vegas handicapping veteran Kyle Ross.


       


       


       


       

Lounge on YouTube: Royal Rumble History – Part 1D - 1991


By Rick Morris

Here is Mini-Episode #539 of THE FDH LOUNGE, the 1991 chapter in our Royal Rumble Anthology with FDH Lounge Dignitary Kyle Ross.


       


       


       


       

Lounge on YouTube: Mini-Episode #538 – 2015 NCAA hoops tournament preview


By Rick Morris                                          

As we referenced previously, our pals at Sportsology are hooking us up for live segments that we’re doing with guests and remote FDH Lounge Dignitaries these days.  We’re happy to report that we’ve been able to produce many segments on our own, but we’re thrilled for the help on some of these with guests and the thanks all go to our great friend Russ Cohen.

Mini-Episode #538 features a preview of the 2015 NCAA hoops tournament with FDH Lounge Dignitaries Nate Noy and Steve Kallas.


       


       


       


       

Lounge on YouTube: Mini-Episode #537 – Justified Episode 6.9 review


By Rick Morris                                          

As we referenced previously, our pals at Sportsology are hooking us up for live segments that we’re doing with guests and remote FDH Lounge Dignitaries these days.  We’re happy to report that we’ve been able to produce many segments on our own, but we’re thrilled for the help on some of these with guests and the thanks all go to our great friend Russ Cohen.

Mini-Episode #537 reviews Justified Episode 6.9 with FDH Senior Editor Jason Jones.