April 30, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 11

I'd be lying if I said it was just another day in the NBA Playoffs.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver handed down the verdict on Clippers' owner Donald Sterling, and that is that Sterling is banned for life.

I am pleased as punch.  A problem arose and Silver met the challenge accordingly.

Of course, the action on the court was noteworthy as well.  So let's get to that, shall we?

First up, Washington vs. Chicago.

Finally, this series is over.

But wait, it only went five games.  What's the problem?  Well, the problem is that Chicago basically had no offense, despite their only win.  They were just outmanned from the start and Washington was on their way to a sweep. Then Nene got a bit chesty and then a bit suspended.

So the sweep went by the wayside, but with Nene back in the fold, Washington clinched its first series win in nearly 10 years.

What's even more interesting is that they have a really solid chance of getting to the Conference Finals.  Let's face it, neither the corpse of the Indiana Pacers nor the plucky but ultimately toothless Atlanta Hawks should give Washington much of a problem.

Who know that Washington could be a playoff juggernaut?  Certainly not me.

Washington wins the series 4-1.  They advance to the second round to play Indiana/Atlanta.

Next, Memphis vs. Oklahoma City.

Once again the Thunder managed to look bad for the better part of three quarters.  And then in the fourth, they pulled even.  Thanks to a timely steal from Russell Westbrook and a made lay-up, they went to overtime for a fourth straight game...where they promptly lost.

Well, maybe not promptly.  There were a number of reviews and even a scolding from veteran referee Joe Crawford to someone at the scorer's table.

That scolding may well have broken Kevin Durant's rhythm and allowed Memphis to win the damn thing.

At any rate, despite having a triple-double (30-10-13, to be exact; points-rebounds-assists), and taking the game to OT to begin with, Russell Westbrook put up a typically inefficient shooting performance.  He was 10-for-31 on the night and as usual did nothing in OT.

So not only does this remain a problem, it appears to be growing larger.

I have to wonder what Scott Brooks' remedy for this is.  Or if he even possesses one.  Durant was no great shakes either, but geez...there's no way the point guard should be taking 31 shots.

The solution may be as easy as posting up Durant, if you believe Charles Barkley.  He points out that LeBron did the same thing and improved his game.  Not only that, but since LeBron posts up, it makes the other players on the floor better too.  All I know is that LeBron is the best and if he's posting up, it couldn't hurt Kevin Durant to try it.  Especially since he's being guarded by a little pest.

Memphis leads 3-2.  Game 6 is Thursday.

Finally, Golden State vs. Los Angeles.

That just might do it for the Warriors.  In a battle of the most overrated teams coming into the season, the Clippers took a series lead and can win it in Oakland.

Let's face it, Golden State got steamrolled by Griffin and Jordan.

Not only that, but Stephen Curry didn't do much.  If that's not a recipe for failure, I'm not sure what is.

So it looks like the Clippers will move on, proving that they can rise above the noise and keep their eyes on the prize.  Good for them.

Let's imagine, for a moment, that they advance and play Memphis.  Do you see the problem?  Because I certainly do.

Los Angeles leads 3-2.  Game 6 is Thursday.

Later today, Game 5 in San Antonio, Toronto, and Houston.  Portland can move on with a win in Houston.

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 14

A bit of a quiet night with so many first round series concluded.  There was one game and not much drama to be had, unfortunately.

NY Rangers vs. Philadelphia.

Game 6 was basically about two things: Wayne Simmonds putting up a hat trick, and Steve Mason shutting out the Rangers for two periods before giving up a pair in the third.

Honestly, the Rangers should probably be done with this series already.  But as usual, they screwed around and now have put themselves in the unenviable position of having to win Game 7 on a back-to-back.

At least they're at home.

But yes, they have to win Game 7 on a back-to-back.  This seems almost unfathomable, yet it's actually a rather nifty piece of strategy on the part of the NHL.  What they've done is to shoehorn all three Game 7's in the first round into one incredible night.

So for all the drama that last night lacked, Wednesday night should make up in spades.

Personally, I hope to see some good goaltending.  Even though Tuukka Rask (I mentioned Rask again, so DRINK, people!) won't be playing, it'd be nice for someone to step up.

That said, I imagine that Varlamov, Quick, and Lundqvist will do their damnedest to get their teams out of the first round.

And if San Jose happens to lose...well, them's the breaks, huh?  Bad grammar and dated references aside, it'd be pretty shitty for the Sharks to not even get out of the first round and for goaltending (which was better than average through the season) to be their undoing.

But more on that tomorrow, when I recap the results of the three series-ending games in NYC, Colorado, and San Jose.

April 29, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 10

Get out the brooms!  It's a recap of Day 10 of the NBA Playoffs.

Also, a #1 seed is in trouble.  And the other averted what could have been some seriously hot water.

First up, Miami vs. Charlotte.

Surprisingly, no Al Jefferson for the Bobcats was not the disaster that most thought it would be.  The Bobcats won three quarters of the game.

Of course, that ignores the third quarter, which Miami won handily 32-17.

Let's face it, this was going to happen with or without Jefferson.  Once he was injured, really, the lack of talent in Charlotte was doomed to fall in four or five games.  It just so happened that Miami found their killer instinct and though they let the Bobcats think they were in it in the first half, they managed to close it out without serious trouble.

Miami sweeps the series and faces Toronto or Brooklyn in the next round.

Next, Atlanta vs. Indiana.

Is it safe to say that Indiana is in trouble?

Hell, if not now, then when?

I feel comfortable saying that Indiana is in trouble.  They just have a bad matchup with the Hawks and their own unit is in such disarray that they've really had very little chance of coming out of this series with a win.

Roy Hibbert continues to struggle.  He was in foul trouble and thus had few minutes on the court, but in this game he had an assist and missed both shots he took.  Wow.  For a guy who was dominating series last season, this is not a good look.

It's not like the Hawks are a great team, either.  They've got some solid shooters, though, and that seems to be just enough to get them over the top against the Pacers.

I'll be damned if I can explain it, though.

Atlanta leads 3-2.  Game 6 is Thursday.

Finally, San Antonio vs. Dallas.

It's never good to be down 3-1 in a seven-game series.  San Antonio avoided this fate by winning Monday in Dallas.  The starting lineup was decent, but it was Ginobili and Boris Diaw off the bench that made the difference.

Although given some of the ugly turnovers in this game, that might not be entirely accurate.

I'm not sure how the best team in the league can suddenly have a problem with turnovers.  14 last night isn't too bad, especially when compared to 24 in Game 2.  Still, it's how some of them looked that is the bad thing.

And despite all the guys in double figures in scoring, it's hard to say that any of them (except Ginobili) played all that well.

Either way, San Antonio got the win they needed and now they've got home-court back.

The series is tied 2-2.  Game 5 is Wednesday.

Later today, Game 5 in Chicago, Oklahoma City, and Los Angeles. With a win in Chicago, Washington can clinch the series and move on to the second round.

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 13

Just when you think things are about to end, something strange happens.

And so we have two series in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs going to Game 7.

First up, Pittsburgh vs. Columbus.

Another 4-3 game, though this time it's the series-clincher for the Penguins.

Evgeni Malkin had a hat trick.  Both goalies had 24 saves, so even though neither had that many shots sent his way, both were rather sub-par.

All in all, not a particularly impressive series win for the Penguins, especially given Montreal's sweep and the Bruins 4-1 demolition of Detroit with Tuukka Rask being incredible from start to finish.

But Pittsburgh moves on and that's the most important thing.  Also, their opponent is yet to be decided.  So they gain the advantage of rest.  Assuming that's actually an advantage.

Pittsburgh wins the series 4-2.  They face the winner of NY Rangers/Philadelphia.

Next, Colorado vs. Minnesota.

It's funny, even with Matt Duchene returning from injury, most of the Avalanche players one would expect to do great things did nothing in Minnesota again.  Ryan O'Reilly continues to make things happen when the other guys can't, assisting on both goals.  Paul Stastny scored one, so his line wasn't completely lost in the wilderness.

Interestingly, Varlamov only had 18 saves and three goals allowed. Minnesota put two in the empty net late in the third period, which don't count against Varlamov but do make the end result look more lopsided.

Game 7 between these two...well, it's hard to say what will happen.  I'm inclined to think that since it's in Denver that the Avalanche will just roll right on through to the second round easily.  But maybe there'll be some trouble. I don't know for sure.

The series is tied 3-3.  Game 7 is Wednesday.

Finally, San Jose vs. Los Angeles.

The Sharks are falling apart in front of our eyes.

Despite the switch from Niemi to Stalock...yeah, that didn't make a damn bit of difference, now did it?  Sure, Stalock was fine through two periods, but then the levee broke in the third period.

Even with Game 7 in the Shark Tank, I'm exceptionally bullish about the Kings' chances to win.  And I'll admit, that pisses me off.  If there's anything I wanted to see in the first round, it was the Kings getting swept.

Of course, San Jose couldn't hold up their end of the bargain, with a shaky Niemi becoming untenable in net.  But now that Stalock flubbed his chance to win the series, there doesn't really seem to be a third option.

And now Jonathan Quick has rediscovered his form.  So the Sharks have problems.

The series is tied 3-3.  Game 7 is Wednesday.

Later today, Game 6 in Philadelphia.  With a win, the NY Rangers move on to face Pittsburgh.

April 28, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 9

Day 9 of the NBA Playoffs.  Almost all good, until the end.

First up, Chicago vs. Washington.

After leading 19-4 in the first quarter, I wondered aloud why the Wizards were only up 15 at halftime.  I guess the Bulls came to play in the rest of the first half, to be sure, but damn, Washington.  Close out, huh?

This series should have been over yesterday.

Seriously, I'm tired of talking about it.  Oh, and Nene missed the game because of suspension; he apparently headbutted someone in the previous game.

I have no idea who he headbutted or why.

Washington leads 3-1.  Game 5 is Tuesday.

Next, Los Angeles vs. Golden State.

Two things of interest here: first, Stephen Curry was awesome.  Second, the game was pretty even in quarters 2-4.

But that first quarter, damn.  39 points, the most the Warriors had scored in any quarter in the regular season or playoffs.  Damn.

And to be fair, it's not all Curry.  He's just the best player on the team.

And people thought they wouldn't be successful without Bogut.  Please.  What a ridiculous notion.  Did they all forget that they're playing the Clippers?  It's hard to think of a more fraudulent so-called contender in the last decade or so.

The Clippers did play hard after the debacle in the first quarter, though.  I'll give 'em that.  And there's also an unfortunate story developing that threatens to obscure the action on the court.

The series is tied 2-2.  Game 5 is Tuesday.

Next, Toronto vs. Brooklyn.

Much like Chicago/Washington, I just want this series to be over.  Yet it keeps dragging on.  Blegh.

I've talked up another former Rocket, Kyle Lowry, when discussing this series. Today, he put up 22 points, but that was about it, in an inefficient 7-17 shooting performance.  It's hard to say how either team wins, because neither of them can shoot, rebound, or put up 10+ assists.

The series is tied 2-2.  Game 5 is Wednesday.

Finally, Houston vs. Portland.

Obviously, this is the series I'm most vested in.  I think that was clear at the outset, though.

I think the officiating is turning in the Rockets' direction.  In the sense that the good teams tend to get the calls just a bit more often than their opponents, I think that time is coming for the Rockets, who have put together a core of guys that the NBA and its fans ought to like.

Now, I said it's turning, but it hasn't turned yet.  And I know I'm a Rockets fan, so anything I say past this will sound incredibly biased and short-sighted. Guess what, it is!

The officiating has really gone against the Rockets in this series, with Portland routinely shooting more free throws.  This is not helped by the Rockets' tendency to be stupid.

There are some who might disagree with that characterization.  However, the analysts who cover the series were basically imploring the team to "play smarter" in certain situations.  Maybe I'm making something out of nothing here, but to me, that clearly sounds like the team is playing stupidly and they should stop that nonsense.  Hence, play smarter.

Near the end of regulation, the Rockets had possession of the ball.  There were only a few seconds to go and they were down two.  What to do: go for the tie, or win the damn thing?

They went for the tie.

Then in overtime, with a few seconds to go and down three, they inbounded the ball to Patrick Beverley.  Not a terrible idea, as he's the point guard.  For some reason, James Harden headed toward the halfcourt line, drawing his defender with him toward Beverley.  Unsurprisingly, the flopping fish Wesley Matthews barreled into Beverley, causing a "turnover" which essentially sealed the game.

Matthews clearly tripped Beverley on the play, yet nothing was called.  He also clearly flopped many times, but the officials bought it.  This includes one particularly galling call when he flopped inside on Howard while Harden was shooting a three and being fouled by Aldridge.

Also of note: Portland's crowd was incredibly fairweather.

Oh, and let's not forget Mo Williams jawing with rookie Troy Daniels after the game.  Way to keep it classy.  Fortunately for the Rockets and their fans, neither Daniels or his teammates did anything in response.

Will the league do anything about it?  I'm not holding my breath.

Portland leads 3-1.  Game 5 is Wednesday.

Later today, Game 4 in Charlotte and Dallas and Game 5 in Indiana.  So basically, three of four from the previous post.  Bingo!

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 8

Day 8 of the NBA Playoffs.  Recaps!

First up, Indiana vs. Atlanta.

I'm still not sure how the Pacers managed to win this one.  Or how the Hawks so beautifully gifted it to them.

This series ought to be 3-1 Atlanta and it isn't, which annoys me.

One guy who doesn't annoy me is Luis Scola.  Of course, he played for the Rockets and was great.  Then he got amnestied and went to Phoenix.  They kinda stunk (or really stunk) and he was traded to Indy.  It seemed like a great move to strengthen a weak spot on the Pacers' team.

And so far, he's been great in the playoffs.  It's just too bad that the rest of the team can't raise their effort to match his.  Not that Indiana as a whole was so poor against Atlanta on Saturday...but then again, it's not like they've shown the potential they have, unless you count the third quarter of Game 3.

That potential is looking more and more like a mirage.  Still, it's tied, and that can't really be bad for Indiana...unless you thought they would sweep Atlanta gleefully.  And mercilessly.

The series is tied 2-2.  Game 5 is Monday.

Next, San Antonio vs. Dallas.


Is it possible for the second round of the NBA Playoffs to start without the top seeds?

It's still early, blah blah blah, small sample, blah blah blah.

Throw that nonsense out the window.  This is really happening here.

At least, it has the potential to happen.

Seriously, though, San Antonio was the best thing going in the NBA, winning 62 games and routinely trouncing teams not named "Houston" and/or "Rockets".  They still have their core of Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker.  They still have up-and-comers Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard.  They still have bruising center Tiago Splitter.

And yet, they're down 2-1 to a team that plays little defense and relies on Dirk and Monta Ellis.


Dallas leads 2-1.  Game 4 is Monday.

Next, Miami vs. Charlotte.

It's nice when a team who looks great does what is expected.  Miami looks great, with a rested Dwyane Wade, the ever-underrated Chris Bosh, and the best player in the land, LeBron James.  They're the two-time defending champions.  And they're close to sweeping Charlotte, who really have no chance of pulling an upset.

Even when they only put up 12 in the fourth quarter (how does that happen, btw?) they still keep a double-digit lead.

Miami leads 3-0.  They can sweep the series on Monday.

Finally, Oklahoma City vs. Memphis.

I wonder if they're getting tired of overtime?

I also wonder if Westbrook's teammates tire of him shooting 24 times and being completely inefficient.  Seriously, 25% shooting?  When you're doing it TWENTY-FOUR TIMES?!

It's enough to change the channel back to hockey.

Kevin Durant wasn't much better, so this game must have come down to Reggie Jackson and his ridiculous 32 points and nine rebounds.  Off the bench, shooting a mere 16 shots.

Oh, and the Thunder finally won in OT against Memphis.  Third time was the charm, apparently.

The series is tied 2-2.  Game 5 is Tuesday.

Later today...are games that I cover in the next post.  Yatta!

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 12

Day 12 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Things are getting serious and the second round is shaping up nicely.  Let's recap!

First up, Philadelphia vs. NY Rangers.

Sunday morning, I was channel surfing and found this game on an HDTV. Wow, hockey in HD sure is great.

That aside, it was a solid game for the Rangers.  Henrik Lundqvist continued to be one of the better goaltenders in the playoffs, allowing two and saving 24, earning the third star for the game.

I'm sure it'll be weird (and adversarial) should the Rangers clinch in Philly.

So obviously, I hope Carcillo nets the game-and-series winning goal.

NY Rangers lead 3-2.  Game 6 is Tuesday.

Next, St. Louis vs. Chicago.

Tied after the first period.  Second period continued the stalemate.

And then the dynamite exploded in the third period as the Blackhawks crushed the Blues' spirit and resolve, scoring four goals.  Captain Jonathan Toews was involved, as was D Duncan Keith.

Also, credit has to go to Andrew Shaw, who whipped a pass to Keith around a diving defenseman that Keith then shot into the goal after he corralled it.

Patrick Sharp scored a funny goal wherein he fell on his arse and slid, getting up before hitting the boards.  He then celebrated.

Keith blistered a shot at net that was tipped in by Shaw as well.

Really, the Blackhawks were just masterful in the third, which also happened to be what I saw of this game.

I also have to give credit to Corey Crawford.  He saved 35 yesterday, no mean feat, really.  He hasn't been at his best in every game, but when he has, like when he shutout St. Louis and yesterday, the Blackhawks win.  Obviously, for him to regain his 2013 form is of utmost importance.  Especially if Chicago ends up in the Final against Boston again.

Chicago wins the series 4-2.  They advance to play Colorado/Minnesota in the second round.

Finally, Anaheim vs. Dallas.

Just when you thought Frederik Andersen had regained his mojo, the Ducks return to Dallas...and Andersen gives up four goals in a mere twelve shots.

Here comes Jonas Hiller to be the savior.

And, well, he saved it.

Okay, that's not entirely accurate.  After all, no matter the sport, you have to score to win.  Devante Smith-Pelly (who stepped in for previously injured Matt Beleskey, if I'm not mistaken) and Nick Bonino did just that.

And since that was only enough to tie Dallas, Bonino figured, why not? ...and promptly scored again in OT.  Less than three minutes into OT, bang!  Game over, series over.

How confident can the team be going forward?  My guess is...slightly.  There is an obvious reservation in net as Andersen has taken steps back in brutal fashion and Hiller who previously stunk it up now seems back to normal.  If Hiller is in net and playing well, Anaheim can stand up to damn near anybody. That was proven over and over in the regular season.  If he and Andersen are both off at the same time...well, that's where it gets ugly.  Or that's where John Gibson steps in.  Who knows, at that point?

Anaheim wins the series 4-2.  They advance to play San Jose/Los Angeles in the second round.

Later today, the three Game 6's from the previous post!  Could be up to three teams heading to the second round.

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 11

Day late, dollar short?  Maybe so, but here's a recap of Day 11 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs!

First up, Detroit vs. Boston.

4-2 Bruins, Boston wins the series 4-1.  And Tuukka Rask is the first star.

Now, maybe it's just me, but Rask didn't earn that 1st star nod based just on Saturday night's play.  The guy was a beast in the five games against Detroit. He allowed only six goals, saving 96% of shots against him.

The usual suspects were on the scoresheet: Iginla, Chara, and Lucic. Bergeron and Krejci have been a little more up-and-down.  Not a problem.  They'll all be needed in the next round, though, as they face the Montreal Canadiens.

Next, Columbus vs. Pittsburgh.

So much for Fleury's big gaffes in the previous game, huh?

I'm sure some might explain it away as a case of home-cooking doing a guy right.  And I think there's quite a bit of validity to that explanation.  But perhaps this means that Fleury's hit a turning point?

I can't argue either way without more evidence.  And since this is the Penguins we're talking about, I'd really rather not argue in favor of them. They have enough people in their corner to do that, and more educated to boot.

Sergei Bobrovsky had 48 saves too.  So this game could have been a lot uglier.  I've heard that that many saves aren't just a product of goaltending, but of the defense allowing shooters past them to get at the goalie.  Perhaps this was the case on Saturday night?  At any rate, Bobrovsky was up for the challenge, but not quite good enough on a night when the rest of his guys couldn't get anything past Fleury.

Oh, well, that's how it goes sometimes.

Pittsburgh leads 3-2.  Game 6 is Monday.

Next, Minnesota vs. Colorado.

Speaking of home-cooking...wow.

Even though Varlamov allowed three goals, he was still a beast.  In fact, outside of Tuukka Rask, he's the best thing going as far as goaltending is concerned.  The guy comes to play every time he's been out there and just stops damn near everything coming his way.

It doesn't hurt that MacKinnon, Landeskog, and Stastny all contributed either, after being shutout in the two games in Minnesota.

And now Ryan O'Reilly is getting involved too.  The more guys Colorado has going well as they get ready to move on, the better, as far as I'm concerned. Despite dominating Chicago in the regular season...well, that really means nothing now that it's playoff time, doesn't it?

Colorado leads 3-2.  Game 6 is Monday.

Finally, Los Angeles vs. San Jose.

I have a feeling the Sharks are going to rue missing this chance.  They were up 3-1 after blowing the sweep and how'd they do at home?

Well, they got shutout by Jonathan Quick.

Yup, the guy who looked like he couldn't stop a damn thing just a couple games before shutout the Sharks.

Reminds me of Sabbath's "Killing Yourself to Live": "I don't know if I'm up or down/whether black is white or blue is brown".  Yeesh.

The series shifts back to LA and I have no idea who has the advantage.  Or what's going to happen next.  Maybe Antti Niemi will pull a shutout from his behind.  It'd be nice timing, to be sure, since he's been pulled from the last two games due to ineffectiveness.  Yeesh.

San Jose leads 3-2.  Game 6 is Monday.

Later today...oh, wait, those games already happened and I'm going to recap them.  So go and read that, if you like.  Thanks!

April 26, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 7

There are more ties to be broken!  Alas, no alliteration involved on Friday.

It's Day 7 of the NBA Playoffs!

First up, Toronto vs. Brooklyn.

I have a bad feeling about Toronto suddenly.  I was hoping that they would find a way to get past Brooklyn, but so far it doesn't look it'll happen.

Stranger things have happened, of course, and the series isn't over.  Still, it's disheartening to see them have such a deficit and then a comeback that inevitably falls short.

Honestly, I don't understand how Brooklyn has done it so far.  On paper, Toronto is the better team.  They won more games, they have the better point guard, etc.  There's just something about Brooklyn's old man ball that they can't quite figure out, I suppose.

There are series that get moved around the TV dial.  This appears to be one of them; it somehow ended up on ESPN2 last night.  Why is this notable? Well, it supports the notion that the people who make decisions on these sorts of things think that the series isn't worth watching.  And if Toronto doesn't prevail...I'd have to agree.

Brooklyn leads 2-1.  Game 4 is Sunday.

Next, Chicago vs. Washington.

Mike Dunleavy, Jr. was about as hot as a guy can get, and the Bulls won by 3.

If that doesn't say "fluke", as well as the fact that it was Dunleavy, a notoriously streaky player if there ever was one, then I don't know what does.

Seriously, though, Washington should have won this game.  Even still, it doesn't really matter.  Now this series will be over in five instead of four.

Washington leads 2-1.  Game 4 is Sunday.

Finally, Houston vs. Portland.

Troy Daniels was the hero of overtime for the Rockets.

Other than that, it was pretty much a steady dose of Howard and Harden.

Defensively, there are still things to work out; the Rockets held LaMarcus Aldridge to rather pedestrian numbers (i.e. he didn't put up 40, huzzah!) but let a couple of other guys, notably Batum and Lillard, run wild.

I'm still not impressed with McHale's coaching decisions on the fly.  He took out Harden as the second quarter started, which probably crimped his momentum, especially considering that monster shot Harden hit at the end of the first quarter.

Then again, I do have to commend him for having the cojones to put Daniels in.  With Parsons fouled out, the idea was that either Terrence Jones or Omer Asik would come in for defensive purposes.  McHale threw that out the window and went with the former D-Leaguer.

I hope he continues to hit big shots like that.

Portland leads 2-1.  Game 4 is Sunday.

Later today, Game 3 in Charlotte and Dallas, plus Game 4 in Atlanta and Memphis.

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 10

Two more teams are close to advancing.  It was Day 10 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs!

First up, NY Rangers vs. Philadelphia.

The Rangers got one goal on Steve Mason.  And that was that.

Ray Emery was solid, generally speaking.  But Mason is the #1 goaltender in Philly and today's game was an example of that.  Lundqvist wasn't bad by any means; giving up two goals is nothing to be ashamed of.

What's funny is that the Rangers outshot Philly by 13.  Putting up 38 shots is nothing to sneeze at.

The series is tied 2-2.  Game 5 is Sunday.

Next, Chicago vs. St. Louis.

I figured it would be interesting to see who lost at home first.  Turns out it was St. Louis, and that means an opportunity for the Blackhawks to close it out at home.

Of course, it was an overtime game.  Seems like most of them have been, doesn't it?  And since it went to OT, you knew that one of the Blackhawks' top players would step up; last time it was Patrick Kane, this time it was the captain.

Both goalies were solid with 27 saves apiece.

Even though Chicago can close it out, something makes me want this one to go seven.

Chicago leads 3-2.  Game 6 is Sunday.

Finally, Dallas vs. Anaheim.

I'm not sure what happened to the Ducks.  When they left Anaheim, they were up 2-0 and flying high.  In Dallas, they were not good, getting shut out and then losing 4-2 in Game 4.

Now all of a sudden they're back at home and damn near unstoppable.

This one turned into a beatdown in the third period; they put up three goals and the final of 6-2 looks lopsided.

As usual, Getzlaf and Perry made the difference; each had a goal and two assists.  They just make things happen consistently.

One other thing to note is that Frederik Andersen found his footing again after getting pulled in the previous game.  This could be something worth noting as the Ducks move forward.

Anaheim leads 3-2.  Game 6 is Sunday.

Later today, Game 5 in Boston, Pittsburgh, Colorado, and San Jose.  Boston and San Jose move on to the second round if they win.

April 25, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 6

TNT dubbed last night "Tiebreaker Thursday".  Sounds good to me!

Day 6 of the NBA Playoffs featured three series that were tied 1-1 coming in. And as usual, the unexpected resulted, although two teams did manage to hold serve on their home court.

First up, Indiana vs. Atlanta.

Uh oh.  I guess Indiana is back to being fraudulent.

I was one of those people who thought that the Pacers might finally have ended the skid they've been in now for months when they erupted in the third quarter of Game 2.  Yet, they went down to Atlanta and played poorly in the second half.

I'm sure people are going to talk about Frank Vogel and the job he's done (or not done).  Personally, I don't buy the "he's gonna get fired" nonsense.  Even if I were running the team, I couldn't do something that stupid and reactionary.  Sure, they're supposed to be on their way up; winning the #1 seed in the East along with their previous trajectory indicates as much.  But for them to stumble at this precise moment (or, rather, two months worth of moments) doesn't show me that Vogel is the problem.

In fact, it just might be the acquisitions of Andrew Bynum and Evan Turner.

Or it might be something else altogether.  The point is, we on the outside (of the Pacers' locker room, I mean) have no clue.

Atlanta leads 2-1.  Game 4 is Saturday.

Next, Oklahoma City vs. Memphis.

The Thunder were down big, went on a run to tie it up and send the game to OT, and then lost in OT because they look like they ran out of gas.

Sound familiar?  It ought to, because that's pretty much how Game 2 ended.

Oh, except this time it was Westbrook hitting the tying three-pointer to end the run and getting a four-point play to send it to overtime.

And yet, neither he nor Durant could do much of anything in overtime which led to the Thunder losing.

Memphis is making the Thunder play an inefficient style of basketball.  They're overly reliant on Durant and Westbrook to provide offense.  While Durant tends to be more free-flowing, trying to get his teammates involved as much as establishing his own rhythm, Westbrook tends to hog the ball and only look for his own shot...this despite being the point guard.

Meanwhile, while Memphis does get bogged down and/or tentative on offense, when they're running it through Gasol and Randolph, they can be quite effective.  Probably not the most efficient either, but still, they can generate half-court offense whereas the Thunder primarily run up and down in a full court style that is predicated on fast-paced play.

Memphis leads 2-1.  Game 4 is Saturday.

Finally, Los Angeles vs. Golden State.

The Clippers follow up their big win with another on the road.

Golden State didn't play particularly well.  They shot the ball inefficiently and had far too many turnovers for one game, let alone two or three.

And yet, they had a chance to win late in the game.

There were also questionable calls which marred my enjoyment.  But I'm willing to let those slide when it comes down to looking at how the game was won/lost.  Golden State wasn't quite good enough.

They've proven that they can win on the road.  Now it's time for them to do it at Oracle.

Los Angeles leads 2-1.  Game 4 is Sunday.

Later today, Game 3 in Brooklyn, Washington, and Portland.

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 9

Three more games to talk about as the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue!

No shutouts tonight, but the goaltending was solid in general.  Aside from San Jose vs. Los Angeles, there weren't a lot of goals getting through.

First up, Boston vs. Detroit.

It looks like Tuukka Rask is mortal after all, as he gave up two goals last night against the Red Wings.  Of course, given how great he's been so far, that's like another guy giving up four.  To his credit, Detroit goaltender Jonas Gustavsson made the best of an awkward situation having to sub in for regular goalie Jimmy Howard at the last minute.

And for the first two periods, it looked like Detroit was poised for the upset.

But the Bruins scored in the third to even it up and then got the winner in OT off of Jarome Iginla's deflection.

Boston leads, 3-1.  Game 5 is Saturday.

Next, Colorado vs. Minnesota.

I was going to focus on the Avalanche getting slowed down in Minnesota again, and then I looked at the shots on goal for both teams.  Minnesota had 32, while Colorado had a measly 12.


I'm not sure what happened with Darcy Kuemper, but he took over for Bryzgalov and run with it.

The Av's didn't do much of anything in Minnesota; they had one goal on 12 shots last night, and while Semyon Varlamov has been great so far, he can't stop everything.

Hopefully with the series shifting back to Denver the Avalanche will find their home-ice advantage.  They were speedy and quick, utilizing precision passing and shooting to get a 2-0 series lead.  Those things seemed to evaporate once they got out of the Mile High City.

The series is tied 2-2.  Game 5 is Saturday.

Finally, San Jose vs. Los Angeles.

Looks like the Kings have some fight in 'em after all.

They put up five on Antti Niemi, who to be honest has not been that great in the playoffs, plus an empty-netter.  Niemi was pulled for Alex Stalock, who saved all five shots he faced.

Now is really not the time for Niemi to be backsliding.  They missed a chance to sweep but can get the series concluded in their own building.  It's not the worst thing that could have happened, but giving the Kings hope is not a good idea either.

San Jose leads 3-1.  Game 5 is Saturday.

Later today, Game 4 in Philly, plus Game 5 in St. Louis and Anaheim.

April 24, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 5

What do you know, three supposedly good games coming in and two disappointing results.

I guess I was wrong about the East being boring.  Well, maybe not.  Those games weren't that interesting either, but the ones last night were just kinda sad and frustrating for me personally.

First up, Charlotte vs. Miami.

If Kemba Walker is more efficient than erratic, the series is tied.

Alas, he couldn't find his shot and was only successful in getting the Bobcats close enough to be like "damn, we were close".

Also, Josh McRoberts' play on LeBron should have him fined/suspended. Whichever one is more expedient.  It was a dirty play that I think should have him sitting for a game or two.  But that's just me.  And I don't necessarily fall in line with those that want to baby the so-called "superstars" of the league. He threw an elbow at LeBron's throat while not going for the ball whatsoever. No matter who does that, they should take a seat.

That wasn't a good hard foul like Charles Barkley talks about on occasion.

At any rate, it's looking good for Miami, but then again, look at who they're playing.  Let's reserve judgment until they're playing someone slightly better...and in either the conference finals or NBA Finals.

Miami leads 2-0.  Game 3 is Saturday.

Next, Dallas vs. San Antonio.

Manu Ginobili led the Spurs with 27 points off the bench.  And they lost by 21.

I guess we can point to a collapse on defense.  But there were some conspicuous absences on offense as well that contributed to this defeat.

Then again, the Spurs never really looked like they were in this game.  To wit, they were outscored in every quarter.  I'm sure that doesn't happen often.

The series is tied 1-1.  Game 3 is Saturday.

Finally, Portland vs. Houston.

Yeah, this one hurt.  After taking the 1st quarter, the Rockets were outscored in the next three, and that's all she wrote, basically.

Dwight Howard was superhuman, with 32 points and 14 rebounds.  The only problem is, nobody else showed up.  And then when he and Omer Asik were inevitably saddled with fouls (as was James Harden, who inexplicably fouled out of the game), the defense crumbled and the offense couldn't do enough to make up the difference.

Speaking of Harden...not only was he uncharacteristically foul-happy, but he still couldn't hit a shot.  He's been brutal in the first two games and went 6-19 tonight.  Blegh.  In addition to his now non-existent offense, he also didn't do anything on defense.  That's not a huge surprise, since he's apparently still developing as a defender.

Either that, or he's unusually lackadaisical on defense.  I don't know, and I honestly don't care.  As long as he gets a couple steals a night and keys the offense, it doesn't really matter.  But he's not doing anything with any efficiency or effectiveness, so his flaws look glaring.

Also, the bench is apparently only three men deep, because McHale refuses to try anything remotely out-of-the-box.  His coaching style annoys me during the regular season, but now that things clearly aren't working and the games are even more meaningful...yeah.  It's just a frustrating time to be a Rockets fan.

And can someone try to stop LaMarcus Aldridge?  Thanks.

If this series isn't a sweep, it sure as hell will be over in 5.

Portland leads 2-0.  Game 3 is Friday.

Later today, Game 3 in Atlanta, Memphis, and Golden State.  We'll see if these three who won on the road can hold serve at home.

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 8

Another intriguing day in the NHL.  Just when you think you've got something nailed down, things change and the known becomes unknown...and vice versa!

The goaltending was mostly missing in action last night.  No shutouts is one result of that.  Also, two games went to OT.  Either way, it's still exciting.

First up, Pittsburgh vs. Columbus.

A big lead for the Penguins turns into an overtime game.  And an overtime game, predictably, goes south in a hurry when Nick Foligno gets the game-winner.

I'm not a fan of the Penguins or their main goaltender Fleury.  Most observers have noted his tendency to flop in the playoffs, and that trend seems to be bearing fruit at the wrong time for Pittsburgh.  It's interesting when he did something that goalies do all the time, go behind the net into the trapezoid from which they're allowed to play the puck while stationed behind the goal line, and somehow managed to botch it up.

Goalies go into the trapezoid all the time and yet, this is only the second time in the playoffs that it's happened and the first (to my knowledge) that it had a disastrous consequence.  Sure, it happened in one of the games in Anaheim, but Dallas escaped disaster.

Sergei Bobrovsky hasn't been anything to write home about either, but once the Penguins got their three goals, he didn't let any more in.  So that says something.

The Blue Jackets are obviously a tougher out than I expected.  I mean, since I'm not a fan of the Penguins I don't really see anything that great about them.  But even I thought they'd finish this one in five or maybe six at most. Now that it's tied 2-2...well, I don't know how it'll go.

Game 5 is on Sunday.

Next, Anaheim vs. Dallas.

It's an understatement to say that things haven't gone Anaheim's way in Dallas.  Ugh.  On a night when Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne were out, the Ducks took a 2-0 lead in the first period only to let it slip away in the second and third periods.

Part of that has to do with Frederik Andersen flopping.  Jonas Hiller did some clean-up duty and mercifully stopped the bleeding.  But hell, the damage was done at that point.

Now we have to wonder whether or not Andersen or Hiller will start Game 5. Does it matter?  Yeah, it really does.  Might we also see John Gibson, who was quite good at the end of the regular season?

I guess we'll find out together, won't we?

The series is tied 2-2.  Game 5 is Friday.

Finally, St. Louis vs. Chicago.

I wasn't surprised that this one went into overtime.  Although I was a little nervous when it was 3-2 St. Louis late in the third period.  But then Bickell scored and all seemed right.

Really, it seemed inevitable that the series would return to St. Louis tied. It just took Patrick Kane in overtime to get it there.

Once again, neither goaltender was all that great.  Coming off a shutout in Game 3, Corey Crawford regressed back to the mean, allowing three goals in 33 shots.  Maybe I'm making too much out of his performance, but he surely doesn't look like the guy who was a stopper in net for the Blackhawks in last year's title run.

It's still early, though.

The series is tied 2-2.  Game 5 is Friday.

Later today, Game 4 in Detroit, Minnesota, and Los Angeles.  San Jose can sweep Los Angeles with a win and be the second team into the second round.

April 23, 2014

Bleach 578 - The Undead 5

There's a new Bleach chapter out, yada yada, yada yada.

Spoilers after the cut.

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 4

I guess it's just a quirk of the schedule that tonight's games were all in the Eastern Conference.  In any case, the Eastern is definitely the weaker of the two conferences in the NBA and the two-time defending champs weren't playing...so it wasn't what one might call the most scintillating display of playoff basketball.

Still, it may yet turn out to be a memorable night.

First up, Atlanta vs. Indiana.

Game 2 started off a lot like the first.  Atlanta was basically dominating through the first half, yet they didn't build a huge lead.  That probably came back to bite them in the second half.

The shot of the night from where I'm sitting is Paul George's buzzer-beater at the end of the third quarter.  It pretty much ended the game right then and there.  It capped off a 31-13 third; Indiana then outscored Atlanta 22-20 in the fourth.  So yeah, once that shot went in the outcome was not in doubt.

Does this mean that Indiana is "back"?  Not likely.  Discussion will revolve around Roy Hibbert's 24 ineffective minutes.

Let's face it, a dude that big ought to be playing 35-38 minutes and dominating the paint for most of that time.  Hibbert went 1-7 from the field (4-4 from the free throw line, at least), with six points, four rebounds, and one assist.  That stat line combined with the time he was on the floor basically amounts to a long, sustained fart.

Luis Scola gets maybe 1/10th of the pub that Hibbert gets, and he was spectacular last night.  Oh well.

The series is tied 1-1.  Game 3 is Thursday.

Next, Brooklyn vs. Toronto.

Already up 1-0, Brooklyn still managed to play hard (unlike, say, Golden State), but lost a close one 100-95.

I guess Toronto showed how good they can be.  Who knows?  I actually didn't watch any of this game when it was on.  I know they had leads which they then proceeded to blow.  That never looks good.

And really, they ought to have beaten Brooklyn handily in both of these games.  Are they really that much better?  Well, I know for a fact that Kyle Lowry is better than anything Brooklyn has.  That alone ought to mean something.  Maybe it will as the series progresses.

Or maybe Brooklyn's old man duo of Pierce and Garnett will strangle the Raptors with experience.

In the end, I doubt it matters much.

The series is tied 1-1.  Game 3 is Friday.

Finally, Washington vs. Chicago.

The result was less surprising than the route taken to get there.

This game really shouldn't have gone to OT, but Bradley Beal couldn't knock down the game-winner in regulation.  As it turns out, he couldn't knock down the game-winner in OT, either.

But thankfully for Washington, Chicago botched the opportunities they got. This should surprise no one, since the Bulls' offense is putrid.

Noah might have won Defensive Player of the Year, but so far he's been worked over by Nene and Marcin Gortat (whoever he happens to be guarding at the time).  It doesn't help that the Wizards have Beal and John Wall just in case the inside game takes a nosedive, much like what happened last night.

Washington leads 2-0.  Game 3 is Friday.

Later today, Game 2 in Houston, Miami, and San Antonio.  Or to put it another way: at least two of these three actually matter.  I'll leave it to the viewers to decide that.

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Day 7

One series down, seven to go.  Montreal is the first team into the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, while another has taken a 3-0 lead and looks to lock up their berth in Game 4.

First up, Tampa Bay vs. Montreal.

It's too bad that the Lightning didn't even get a game.  But the situation in net really sabotaged them from the beginning of the series.

Here, I would like to raise a point.  Given the performance of Kristers Gudlevskis in relief, why not start the game with him?  There was nothing to lose, obviously, except the series.  Which they did anyway.  But why not give Gudlevskis a fair shake?

He gave up the series-winning goal on the power play, sure, but that power play was gained by a way that will only provoke more discussion, especially given the context of the disallowed goal in the previous game.

Montreal won the series 4-0 and will play the winner of Boston/Detroit...whenever that series finishes.

Next, Boston vs. Detroit.  What a coincidence!

In three games, Tuukka Rask has given up one goal.  There are a couple goaltenders out there who might give up one of their limbs to have that kind of record at this point.

Rask has been spectacular, and aside from the Game 1 shutout, the rest of the Bruins have been quite good themselves.  It now looks like this series could end in five, unless Detroit finds a way to get their supposed advantage in speed to translate into more scoring.

But can they really find a way to get the puck past Rask without relying on the magic of Pavel Datsyuk?  Or why not just set him up and see what happens?

To be honest, I haven't watched the games enough to know what their strategy is when they get in the offensive zone.  All I know is that Rask is saving pretty much everything thrown at him and the phrase "not been tested" has been bandied about as well.  So apparently, Rask didn't even work that hard to get his 23 saves last night.

Either way, it's damn impressive.  And now the Bruins look like the team that won the President's Trophy.

Boston leads 2-1.  Game 4 is Thursday.

Next, NY Rangers vs. Philadelphia.

I guess my hand-wringing over the last game by Henrik Lundqvist was premature.  He allowed one goal on Tuesday and the Rangers won handily, again.  So why the hiccup in Game 2?

My guess is simply "that's how they roll".

If not for Rask, Lundqvist is probably the best goalie in the playoffs thus far. Even still, what he's doing is quite good.  I don't think Philly was an offensive juggernaut, though they certainly ended the season in a much better fashion than how they started it.

At any rate, I still feel comfortable saying that the Rangers will win the series.  Could be five, but probably six.

The Rangers lead 2-1.  Game 4 is Friday.

Finally, San Jose vs. Los Angeles.

This was the game of the night as it was close throughout and went into overtime.

But that goal in OT...wow.  I saw it live and on replay, and I'm still not sure how Marleau got it past Jonathan Quick.  I know that I've bashed Quick for being overrated and such (and the scores have really gone against him in the first two games), but that goal just looked like dumb luck to me.

Marleau's still a good player, so I guess it doesn't surprise me.  But damn, them's the breaks, huh?

It'll be hilarious if the Sharks get shellacked in the next series.  That seems doubtful given how they look so far in taking a 3-0 lead.  But maybe the Kings aren't out of it yet.  It'd be nice if they won one, I have to admit.

San Jose leads 3-0.  They can sweep and win on Thursday.

Later today, Game 4 in Columbus, Dallas, and Chicago.

April 22, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs, Day 3

Two games in the NBA tonight; one was dramatic and filled with intrigue while the other was a laugh from beginning to end.  It'll be a quick recap simply because there aren't four games to talk about!

First, Memphis vs. Oklahoma City.

Hard to say why, exactly, but it looked like Memphis just had OKC's number last night.  Whenever the Thunder would get the lead or close in on the lead, Memphis just had their number and OKC couldn't get over the hump, as it were.

Of course, it really comes down to two plays and execution in OT.

The first was Durant's four-point play.  Somehow, Westbrook got the ball to him, which was difficult enough.  Then Durant hit a three-pointer while falling away and getting fouled.  Is he serious?!

Apparently, because he made the free throw too.

Then when all appeared lost after a terrible shot by Westbrook (boy, does that sound familiar), Kendrick Perkins merely plucked the rebound out of the air and laid the ball in, thus tying the game and sending it to OT.

The wheels kinda fell off from there.  With Durant and Westbrook most likely tired (or at least fuzzy), the execution just kinda...stopped.  And the Thunder ended up losing by six.

Without a doubt, Memphis was the better team.  And it took the two aforementioned plays just to keep the Thunder in the game.  Now the series shifts to Memphis.

The series is tied 1-1.  Game 3 is on Thursday.

Last, Golden State vs. LA Clippers.

The Clippers won by 40.  Yup.  That happened.

Did the Warriors even show up?  It's hard to give an affirmative answer to that, 'cause, y'know...they lost by 40.

It was mentioned that the Warriors might just be happy with the split in LA. Personally, I think this is ridiculous.  They got outplayed by the Clippers on all fronts.  I hate to beat a dead horse here, but c'mon; the Warriors lost by 40.

I could keep going, but I've already made my central point three times and to be honest, this game wasn't that interesting.

The series is tied 1-1.  Game 3 is Thursday.

Later on today, Game 2 in Houston, Miami, and San Antonio.  I hope they're more interesting than that Clippers/Warriors game.