The first half of the NBA season has been quite a wild ride. There have been the typically predictable outcomes, like Miami leading the Eastern Conference and the West being led by the Thunder and Spurs, but who would have predicted this far into the season that the powerhouse Lakers would be the laughing stock of the league. We have seen more injuries this year than I have ever witnessed in all my time following basketball and with the trade deadline quickly approaching every team is making their final panic moves to prepare for their end-of-the-season runs for the playoffs. Here is a quick recap of where players and teams stand so far and what I feel is going to happen next.
MVP Race: The obvious front runners for the MVP crown through the first half of the NBA season are perennial favorites Lebron James and Kevin Durant. Lebron is having just an unreal year with the 4th highest PPG (26.5) in the league and he is also filling the rest of the stat sheet with 8.3 RPG and 7.1 APG. His most incredible stat in my opinion is the fact that he is shooting an astonishing 55% from the field when his career average is only 48%. Durant is leading the league in scoring (29.6 PPG) and has led the Thunder the the NBA’s second best record (34-11). The two players that are trailing these two superstars, but not by far in my opinion, are Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul. Carmelo is having a career year leading the Knicks to the second best record in the East and only 1.5 games behind the Heat. Paul has help build relevance around a franchise that has been completely irrelevant throughout their existence. Any of these four players could win the MVP without too much argument but I think it will all come down to which players team finishes the season the strongest.
Conference Titles: The Eastern Conference is hands down the weaker of the two conferences. That being said, I still feel that the NBA Champions will come out of the East…maybe some biased there or maybe just sensibly sticking with the returning champs. As of right now the Miami Heat hold a 1.5 game lead over my New York Knicks for Eastern Conference supremacy. Even though the Knicks haven’t been this good in a while, most analysts (like myself) picked the Knicks to finish 2nd or 3rd this season with their successful off season. What most people didn’t predict is that the Boston Celtics would be clinging onto the 8th seed in the East, and with the loss of Rondo for the year they will most likely fall out of that position as well. The surprises in the East are the Chicago Bulls, who hold onto the 3rd spot sans Derrick Rose, and the Brooklyn Nets, who since the firing of Avery Johnson have gone 13-5 for the once choked out PJ Carlesimo (If you don’t get that joke look it up), have really been showing that they are a top tier team in the East.
The Western Conference is a whole other beast. There is no rhyme or reason to anything that is happening out West right now. The Spurs are once again defying the laws of age by holding the NBA’s best record (37-11) while the Lakers have shocked the world with a sub-.500 record this late in the season. The Thunder have been holding strong and the Clippers are proving that all of their recent draft picks as well as their Free Agent spending is truly paying off. The Grizzlies have established themselves as the scrappy team that needs no superstar to be successful. I feel the biggest surprises in the West are the the Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets, the Portland Trailblazers and especially the Golden State Warriors. All four of these teams are surprisingly over .500 and they all have a solid chance of making it in one of the bottom 4 seeds in the West. I do beleive that the Lakers will turn this slow start around and finish with the 6th or 7th spot in the West but I think the Conference for the most part is wide open for the taking.
The 2nd Half of the Season: Before the season started I predicted that the Lakers would be facing off with the Heat in the NBA Finals. With the D’Antoni cursed Lakers playing like absolute garbage I am now changing my prediction to the Heat versus the Clippers. Most people are going with the Thunder but I think that the depth that the Clippers have as well as their veteran leadership is just the perfect recipe for success. So technically my prediction for an LA vs. Miami Finals is still a possibility I don’t even think that the Heat are a 100% lock to make the Finals. The Knicks have had stretches of inconsistency lately but they have proven that with a fully healthy roster that they can beat anyone in the league. If the Knicks meet the Heat, whom they have beaten twice already this season in blowouts, in a seven game series, I do beleive that they will have a chance to dethrone King James and company. I also wouldn’t sleep on the Bulls because once Rose comes back healthy they will be considered a top 5 NBA team once again.
As for the end of the year awards, I feel that Vinny Del Negro deserves Coach of the Year for how he has the Clippers playing. I assume Lebron will win his 4th MVP but I would love to see Carmelo finally get one. Rookie of the Year will go to Damian Lillard and there are no questions about that. As for 6th man of the year, it’s a close battle between Jamal Crawford and JR Smith, but I think Crawford has the slight edge.
I have loved every minute of the first half of this NBA season and I can’t wait to see what’s to come.
Alabama beat the Tigers for BCS glory;
Tebow’s OT pass versus Steelers was another great story.
The Giants beat the Packers, but the best was still to come,
And Novak wasn’t joking at the Open when he won.
Jeremy Lin hit the scene bringing energy to the court
And thus Linsanity began with fans’ undying support.
A miracle for the Giants, as they took the Pats for it all,
And Rivers beat UNC with his 3-point game winning ball.
MLB stretched its legs as spring training begins,
And Dallas Seavey’s dogs took the Iditarod win.
But the most important thing in March for any true sports fan
Is setting up Madness brackets and winning bets…if you can.
Kentucky wins the NCAA title, 67 -59,
Calipari looked good, but after that he looked fine!
Hockey and Basketball take their leave and Baseball takes their places,
Luck and RG3 are drafted to become NFL’s brand new faces.
As NYBobby predicted, I’ll Have Another wins the Derby
Then he takes the Preakness, taking the horse world Topsy-Turvy.
In the playoffs the Heat eliminate my beloved Knicks,
And New Orleans wins the NBA first draft pick.
At Roland Garros, Nadal proves that he is the king,
And the Open was won by Webb Simpson’s winning swing.
The Heat won the East and the Thunder the West
But in the NBA Finals, Lebron showed he’s best.
Roger Federer won Wimbledon defying the laws of age,
Prince’s home runs were a hit on baseball’s All-Star stage.
London’s opening ceremony began with the Queen flying in;
The Summer Olympics started with a stroke and a spin.
The Fab Five won gold, and with a bang Phelps retired;
The USA shined, lighting America on fire.
Rory McIlroy dominates to win the PGA tour
Japan’s Little League team this year at the World Series soared.
Players suited up and the NFL Season began,
And Roddick retired early, upsetting all his fans.
When Murray won his Major he showed all his critics wrong
And Europe’s winning the Ryder Cup didn’t take too long.
Miguel Cabrera’s brilliance earned him the Triple Crown
But the Giants World Series sweep left him with a frown.
Hurricane Sandy caused lots of destruction and debris,
But nothing could stop the new Knicks/Nets rivalry.
This month had the Lakers with Mikes in and out –
Brown was let go, so D’Antoni came about.
Hurricane Sandy caused New York’s runners to sit,
But the Jets circus couldn’t blame her for playing like shit.
Avery Johnson was fired due to inability to perform,
And the NFL Rookies took the Football world by storm.
Seven coaches were fired for not doing well,
But Mark Sanchez is still working; what the hell!
The Sports Debaters have been here to give you the news,
We write lots of facts, but most is opinion and views.
We’re not often wrong, but we’re never not right –
And for 2012 in sports, all we can say is: Goodnight!
With both the Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers both winning, the Sports Debaters have started with a perfect 2-0 record in our playoff predictions. Yesterday’s games were relatively easy to predict while today’s quality matchups are not so cut and dry. I have to admit that while the Packers and Vikings always provide entertaining games, the battles that are happening today are the teams we were really looking forward to watching. I mean out of the two games today there are THREE rookie Quarterbacks starting. That is absolutely unreal! Here are our previews and predictions for the Sunday’s NFL Wild Card games.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Baltimore Ravens: The first contest of today’s games features two completely different squads. The Colts enter the game as one of the youngest teams in the NFL, while the Ravens boast one of the oldest. Indianapolis’ turn around is nothing short of remarkable as they were the worst team in the the league last year. With the first pick of the draft the Colts chose the heavily sought-after Andrew Luck who they expected to help rebuild their once prominent franchise. Little did they know that he would be able to return them to glory in his rookie campaign. Andrew Luck is starting to look eerily similar to the last quality QB that led the Colts to the Super Bowl not to long ago. The Ravens seem to always be in the AFC Playoffs and their way of getting there is usually the same strategy…DEFENSE! Sunday will mark the last ever home game for arguably the greatest linebacker in NFL history, Ray Lewis. Lewis announced he was retiring after this year, so the Ravens would love nothing more then to reward the dominant force with his second Super Bowl win. We feel that this game is going to come down to how well the Ravens can manage the clock. For Baltimore to be successful, they must be able to ride Ray Rice the entire game. If Flacco is relied on too heavily then the Ravens will sputter. For the Colts to win, they must clamp down on the defensive end and make sure that Rice doesn’t eat them alive. Luck will be able to provide enough offense to give them a win so if the defense plays their part then the Colts will move on. All that being said, we feel that the greatest story in football this year, Chuck Pagano, will have lots of Luck on his side to upset the Ravens in Baltimore.
Prediction: Colts 27 – Ravens 23
Seattle Seahawks vs. Washington Redskins: The second matchup on Sunday is without question the most intriguing Wild Card matchup in this year’s playoffs. Two of the most fascinating rookie QB’s in recent memory will face off in what should be a great NFC rivalry for year’s to come. The NFL Draft had the football world buzzing this past year with plenty of potential superstars, but one player that no one was talking about after the draft was the Seahawks Russell Wilson. In the offseason, Seattle went out on the Free Agent market and signed Matt Flynn to a big contract, so everyone thought that Wilson was being drafted to play the role of backup. A few months and a training camp later and Flynn found himself relegated back to his familiar spot on the bench while Russell Wilson proved that he shouldn’t have been overlooked by so many. Wilson plays with a poise that is rare to see in most veterans let alone a rookie who had to fight his way into the starting lineup. Benefiting from Wilson’s beautiful play is Marshawn Lynch who broke out with a career year and deserves way more recognition then he has been receiving. NYBobby and myself were talking about how sick Lynch has been these past few years yet he is never mentioned when people talk about the premiere backs in the NFL. Wilson and Lynch are going to have a hard time finding a grove as they will be playing in a Redskins stadium that hasn’t hosted a playoff game in 13 years. The Washington Redskins season has been quite a roller coaster as they started the season a dismal 3-6 and ended it with 7 straight wins to take the tough NFC East title. We feel that RG3 is the front runner for Rookie of the Year based solely on the fact that he completely redefined the QB position this season. He runs like a Pro Bowl back and throws like a Pro Bowl QB. He manages the clock like a seasoned veteran and he seems to be making everyone around him better. Along with RG3’s masterful play this season, we have witnessed the emergence of Alfred Morris, who looks like he will be a top back for many more years. The back and forth combination of Griffin and Morris has confused the hell out of every opponent in the second half of the season and we are expecting nothing less in this playoff matchup with Seattle. If the stadiums were reversed and the Seahawks had the advantage of their “12th man” then our prediction could have easily been swayed, but with the momentum that the Redskins have as well as Coach Mike Shanahan’s playoff resume, we feel that RG3 will escape this fun contest with his first ever playoff W.
Prediction: Redskins 21 – Seattle 16
Check in next week for our previews and predictions for next weeks playoff matchups and more!
The time has come. Even though we are a New York based site and both the Jets and Giants crapped the bed this year, that doesn’t mean that Sports Debaters interest in the NFL playoffs lessens. The Wild Card Round is upon us and there are some extremely exciting match-ups. Here is our breakdown and predictions for both of Saturday’s Wild-Card games.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Houston Texans: In a rematch of last year’s Wild Card game, the Bengals and Texans will face off in Houston to open this year’s festivities. The Houston Texans were in the drivers seat all season long, and many experts expected them to win the AFC’s home field throughout the playoffs. However, over the past few weeks, they have come back to earth and their loss last week to the Colts forced them into action the opening weekend. The Bengals have played an impressive brand of football the past few weeks, and their Week 16 nail biting win over the Steelers catapulted them into today’s game. Last year, the Texans beat the Bengals 31-10 behind QB T.J. Yates, as starter Matt Schaub went down with an injury heading into the playoffs. This year, Schaub is back and ready to prove himself in the post season for the first time. The Bengal’s Andy Dalton and AJ Green are easily among the best young QB/WR combinations in the NFL and it is a sure bet that they will be a presence in the playoffs for years to come. However, we expect the Texans, behind Arian Foster, J.J. Watt and the rest of the supporting cast to take care of business in front of their home crowd. Prediction: Houston 21- Bengals 17.
Minnesota Packers vs. Green Bay Packers: Anytime two division rivals matchup in the playoffs, players on both teams inevitably bring their best games. In a rematch of a game that was played only a week ago, the Minnesota Vikings beat the Green Bay 37-34 in a thrilling game to clinch a playoff spot. Adrian Peterson came into the game needing 208 yards to break the all-time rushing record one year after tearing up his knee, and he came a mere 9 yards short. In the two games against Green Bay this year, Peterson has put up 210 and 199 yards so we can expect a similar performance in this battle. Unfortunately for the Vikings, there is a well known QB opposing them in the likes of Aaron Rodgers, who has completed 75% of his passes against the Vikes in the past five seasons. Greg Jennings finally looks healthy and he will join forces with Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones as the best set of wideouts in the NFL. Although Viking’s QB Christian Ponder threw for three TD’s against the Pack last week, Green Bay’s Charles Woodson will return to action and will surely make life more difficult for the Sophomore QB who is 1-3 in his career against Green Bay. We expect a close, high-scoring game and a lot of Peterson yards but in the end Aaron Rodgers will out-duel Christian Ponder by a margin that even Peterson can’t overcome. Green Bay will make up for last year’s disappointing home loss to the Giants and a 2-4 record in their last 6 playoff games at Lambeau, and move on to the Divisional round next weekend. Final Score: Packers 38- Vikings 28
Check in tomorrow prior to kickoff for our predictions on the Colts vs. Ravens and Seahawks vs. Redskins.