Monthly Archives: February 2011

Running Diary: A Carolina Basketball Bonanza

6:50 PM: Tonight is a big night for Carolina basketball; first on the plate will be the Charlotte Bobcats traveling to take on the Indiana Pacers. But that’s just the appetizer. We’ve got a treat tonight with the Tobacco Trail rivalry renewed. The Tar Heels are back in the Top 25 (at least the coaches poll) and we should be in for a great one.

6:52: Fun fact of the day….Sachel Paige was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971 today. Happy Black History Month, everyone!

6:54: Dell Curry and Steve Martin are pouring praise on Eduardo Najera. He has just 4.5 point and 2.5 rebounds in 20 minutes over the last two games! That’s horrible! Please get this guy off the court…

6:56: Charlotte will be without Kwame Brown because of a death in his family. I never thought I’d say this, but boy Kwame will be missed tonight!

Keep your eyes on these BFF's tonight.

Keep your eyes on these BFF's tonight.

6:57: We’ve got 1 Tarheel (Tyler Hansbrough) along with 4 Dukies in the building tonight (Gerald Henderson, Josh McRoberts, Mike Dunleavy, and Dahntay Jones). Also, Shaun Livingston committed to Duke before entering the draft straight out of high school.

7:05: The Bobcats are gonna be really short on big men tonight…. Tyrus Thomas, Kwame, and Gana Diop are all out, so be prepared for a lot of Boris Diaw, Naz, and Derrick Brown. Dear God, please no Najera!

7:07: Every time I see Brook Lopez or Roy Hibbert go up against the Cats I always cringe. Which draft day disaster was worse: taking DJ Augustin over Lopez or trading for the #20 pick to draft Alexis Ajinca or Hibbert and ending up with Hibbert?

7:09: Charlotte really needs a win tonight. They’re only a half game out of the eighth seed and another game out of the seventh seed. If you’re gonna make the playoffs, you absolutely have to beat the Pacers.

7:10: Another funny story…Matt Carroll almost missed the game because his chauffeur was pulled over for speeding to the airport. But that’s not all. He didn’t have a license and his windows were tinted to dark. Oh, the pain of a millionaire….

7:11 Bobcats win the tip-off, DJ misses a fadeaway, but Naz is able to tip it to Jack for a 2. Indy misses and Jack hits a three. Then DJ hits a three. 8-0 Cats.

7:13: How funny is it that the ACC all-time leading scorer, Tyler Hansbrough, is coming off the bench behind Josh McRoberts? McRoberts couldn’t get anything going at Duke and left for the pros after his sophomore season.

7:14: Who do you want for just this season: Gerald Wallace or Danny Granger? I’m giving the edge to Granger because of his age, scoring ability. It’s certainly close, especially given Crash’s defense, rebounding, and overall drive.

7:15: Indiana has to be the most awkward running team ever. Hibbert and McRoberts cannot run and dribble, and Dunleavy has to be the most immobile 2-guard in the league.

7:17: If you’ve ever wondered how people in Indiana get charged for basketball, its to the song “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” Yup, you heard me right.

7:19: Pacers go on a 14-4 run and suddenly are up 16-14. Bobcats playing sloppy D, giving up the ball too much.

7:21: Oh, not the Pacers are blaring a trumpet rendition of “We’ve Got the Funk.” I’m so happy I live in Charlotte….

7:22: Granger hits two more shots to bring his first quarter total to 7. Cats down 23-18. Still no D, especially from the normally dependable Gerald Wallace.

7:24: Darren Collison is running an up-tempo offense and it is absolutely killing Charlotte. Cats still in striking distance, only down 22-25.

7:26: Pacers and Bobcats both fired tougher coaches this year (Larry Brown and Jim O’Brien) for free-er, looser coaches (Paul Silas and Frank Vogel. Their team’s responses? 6-2 and 4-1 streaks for their respective teams. Maybe if Orlando would just fire Stan Van….

7:29: Ahhh, our first Psycho T and OG sightings! Hansbrough still looks helpless on the rebounding end.

7:31: End of the 1st and the Pacers are up 29-28. Very little defense on either side.

7:34: Livingston and Najera come in to start the second quarter. Already bracing myself for multiple airballs.

7:35: Knee Man draws two quick fouls and short-but-sturdy Sherron Collins comes in to run the point. Boy he is small! (and fat…)

7:37: Jeff Foster looks so strange out there. Maybe its just I’m not used to seeing three white guys on the court not in Duke jerseys.

7:38: The OG gets on the board before Hansbrough with an uncontested layup. Cats trail 34-39, 8:52 left in the second quarter.

7:42: Just checked in on ESPN.com and guess who is last among all players in +/- tonight? Yup, Eduardo @#$%ing Najera…

7:43: I’m not sure if this is the least inspiring basketball music or the most inspiring organ music. Quite the culture shock.

7:46: Pacers continue their hot shooting, pestering D, grow the lead to 8. And Eduardo Najera is still on the floor. That’s the thing I hate most about him–he tries hard and doesn’t get tired. But that’s not a good thing. He tries so hard he ends up airballing threes and layups, blowing coverages, and missing rebounds. He even said “I think (defense is) about the only thing I’ve got left.”

7: 51: Naz isn’t especially effective on defense, but he is competent of offense (ahem, Kwame) and only has one foul.

7:52: DJ has done a great job of penetrating; he has 11 points with 4 minutes and change left in the half. I’d like to see him take more shots, especially with the likes of McGuire, Najera, and Collins getting so many minutes.

7:55: Roy Hibbert is absolutely gigantic. He’s the anti-Greg Monroe — great defender, questionable on offense.

7:57: Collison is absolutely shredding the Bobcats’ D. And some people wonder why Charlotte is down 9.

7:59: If you need an explanation as to why the Bobcats beat the Celtics on Monday and are falling farther and farther behind Indy, they’re 13-13 at home and 9-16 on the road.

8:03: I don’t care if you just made a layup, I never EVER want you to shoot again, Eddy Najera.

8:04: After disappointing first half, the Bobcats trail 58-48. Just unacceptable. Second half adjustments? Get Jack and Crash more involved on offense and maybe try playing tougher defense. Maybe.

8:17: Another key to the second half–score 11 more than the Pacers. But seriously, try to slow the game down and stop Indy from running so much.

8:21: Starters come back to start the second half, and Boris Diaw fouls Hibbert seven seconds in. How auspicious.

8:23: Naz tips back in two straight misses, but Charlotte still isn’t playing defense. 54-62.

8:25: The lower bowl can’t even be half filled. I guess not everyone is as anxious as I am to see Henderson and Hansbrough fight for rebounds.

8:28: Just got an interesting trade idea from my boy Josh … trading for Ron Artest. He’s becoming a cancer out in LA, and Denver already said they don’t want him in a trade for Melo. They might just be desperate to package Artest with a pick to get him out of Orange County.

8:32: Charlotte isn’t adjusting at all to Indy and they’re still down 10. We all know the definition of insanity: trying the same thing over and over and hoping for a different outcome.

8:35: New defensive strategy: make Psycho T shoot jumpers. I think this just might work…

8:37: Random, but I’d love to have Ron Artest as a sideline reporter. I’m sure he’d have some interesting nuggets to add. (Yes, the game is this boring right now).

8:39: Henderson into the game for an energy transfusion. The OG has been incredibly clutch in the last handful of games, let’s see if Charlotte can cut the lead down from 10.

8:41: I have no idea why FOX continues to hype up the Daytona 500. If someone was going to watch it, they’d be at the game, or already know when it is going to happen. No one just says, “Hey, I have nothing to do on February 20th at 1 PM. Maybe I’ll try out NASCAR!”

8:44: Bobcats are really missing their big men, they’re being killed on the glass. Please, come back, Tyrus!

8:46: Not a great third quarter. Late basket by Henderson helped, but they two missed tip-ins in the last few seconds, and those would have been huge. 70-81, 12 minutes to go.

8:48: I’m officially for Duke’s next BEAT EM DOWWWWWWN!!! victim.

8:49: Playoffs or lottery pick… which one would be better. Unless they play Chicago or Atlanta, they have next to no chance of advancing. At the same time, players like John Henson and Jimmer Freddette aren’t nearly as inspiring as the players at the top of the draft board (Jared Sullinger and Kyrie Irving) are.

8:54: Henderson has been playing great, drawing fouls, hitting his shots, and playing stellar D. I’d love to see him, Jack, Crash, and Diaw on the floor together with either PG.

8:56: Cats slowly chipping away by attacking the rim and forcing turnovers. It’s about time, but will they be able to pull off the comeback? 76-85 with two DJ free throws coming, just under 9 to play.

9:01: Shots are finally falling… Jack and Hendo make it 83-89. Plenty of time left to pull this one off.

9:02: Roy Hibbert is wreaking havoc on Charlotte’s “big men.” Najera’s miraculous trey brings the deficit back down to 7.

9:04: Louisville and Notre Dame, what are you doing on ESPN? It’s overtime and the Irish are up by 10. Can we just call this one a night and switch back to Cameron Indoor? Thank you.

9:09: Who are you Eduardo Najera? Why do you keep making these random shots? Cats down just 3…. what a turnaround 5 minutes to go.

9:13: Yeah, not a great start for Duke.

9:15: Roy Williams must be a wizard. He turned the greatest high school basketball player since LeBron James into an average swingman. Boy, Harrison Barnes is getting quite the ovation.

9:16: Jack is left open for the three and nails it. Hint to teams playing the Bobcats: don’t give the man five seconds to put up a three. Cats pull within 2! Never saw this happening at the start of the fourth…

9:18: Big Shot Jack strikes again! Deep two ties the game up at 102. This ending is more entertaining than the start to Duke/Carolina (gasp!).

9:20: I have a feeling the JordanCats are going to lose this one. Eddy Najera is closing out the game again matched up against Hibbert at center.

9:21: Every time they pan to Kyrie, it’s like a shot through the heart. This team would have been all-time great if his toe was never injured. Funny story–I was running indoors yesterday (don’t do it) and tripped over a carpet. I may have broken my toe. I can feel the inner Kyrie in me.

9:23 Huge defensive stop leads to free throws for Gerald Wallace. Down 2, a pair of freebies to go, 29 seconds left. And he misses the first…

9:26: I don’t know if letting the clock running out is the best idea, there won’t be too much time left for a shot.

9:27: That is the single most outrageous ending to a game I’ve ever seen. Jack was blatantly fouled. Utter. Horse. $#%@. Jack was knocked in the chest on the final three. Charlotte would have won.

9:28: I’m sorry, but that’s completely unacceptable. The refs didn’t even check a replay. Jack went up for a shot. And he was nearly tackled. No nothing?

9:32: That’s just outrageous.

9:33: Duke is playing without a sense of urgency, Carolina looks like they want it more right now. They’ll need the bigs to really step up.

9:38: Big three for Singler. He needs to be on his game tonight. Duke loses when he and Nolan can’t shoot.

9:41: Cameron is out-of-this-world loud. You can never underestimate the power of this crowd.

9:42: I was reminded of a great point by Bomani Jones: Kendall Marshall has a name that’s so ugly it make you hate to lose to him. The same thing applies to Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald.

9:48: This is what happens when you shoot 33%…..

9:51: Duke’s rebounding is pitiful. And the shot selection is even worse. This team is totally different without Kyrie.

9:53: What I would do to be a fly on the wall in Duke’s lockerroom…

10:03: I don’t know whether it is the Bobcats ref, Duke’s performance, or the fact that I’ve been blogging for over three straight hours, but I’m in total confusion right now. Am I really watching Duke play?

10:09: Kyle Singler is a lot more effective at the 4 because of the mismatches he forces. When he’s a wing player, he’s just another scorer. Let’s see if Duke can change his role before it’s too late.

10:11: That’s the way to start the half! Nolan hits a couple of shots and the deficit is down to 10. The crowd is alive and another turnover is forced.

10:13: It’s pretty clear which team came out of the break better prepared. Carolina just doesn’t look ready to compete, Duke is ready to show who is the top-5 team.

10:15: Curry does what all Currys do. Hit. Their. Shots. This is taking all to long for Duke to hit stride…

10:16: This game would be the other way around if Kyrie was playing. He’s just that good, that much of a natural leader. Oh, what could have been…

10:22: Nolan Smith is playing huge. If Kyle Singler steps up, this game will flip flop very quickly.

10:25: People don’t realize how great of a shooter Seth Curry is. If he wasn’t buried behind Nolan Smith, Andre Dawkins, and Kyrie for part of the year, he’d be putting up 15-18 points per game. He led freshman in scoring two years ago with 20 per at Liberty.

10:30: Curry does remind me of J.J. Redick in one way: he’s not afraid to pull up for a three on a fast break. Now, he’s not nearly as accurate, but very few are.

10:35: Would there be a better shooting team in the nation next year better than Seth Curry, Kyrie Irving, Austin Rivers, and Andre Dawkins? Next year should be another fantastic season.

10:36: Curry is unstoppable! He’s hitting everything and anything and Carolina has nothing to respond with. Except another turnover.

10:37: When 6’11” Ryan Kelly is raining threes on you, you’re done. Curry and Kelly have sent this crowd into an absolute frenzy. The Cameron Crazies are going bonkers. Nuts. Psycho.

10:41: Duke just ripped the momentum away from Carolina. This one is all but done. Yes, I know there is over six minutes left, but the Devils are absolutely taking over.

10:43: This is turning out to be a better game than I could have possibly imagined. Let’s just hope it ends cleaner than the other game today….

10:45: I don’t know if it’s the crowd, the inexperience, or the fatigue, but Carolina is missing way too many put backs and short jumpers. The Crazies are intimidating, but this is just something else.

10:49: Just heard the line of the night by my main man Zachary (@zdp5000) “the refs co*kblocked stephen jackson from makin love to pressure.” That’s just amazing!

10:51: Duke is up 6….and Kyle Singler is shooting just 3-17! That’s 17.6 percent! Even Kobe Bryant shot 25% in Game 7 of the Finals!

10:53: I love how excited Carolina fans got tonight. And then how they’re playing it off like they expected it the whole time.

10:56: Gotta love the whirling dervish references. You just might be alienating half of your audience.

10:59: I can’t be the only one who wants to see a starting lineup of Plumlee-Plumlee-Plumlee-Kelly-(Insert White Guy Here)

11:01: If Barnes really is the next big thing, he woulda made that three. Then again, he could be a young LeBron from downtown. Good job, Wizard Williams!

11:06: If I didn’t like Duke, I’d hate Kyle Singler and Ryan Kelly. Tall, white, weird faces, combed hair, and likes to shoot threes. They’re just those players we should all hate.

11:07: Well, Sean May hasn’t sung yet, but this one is a wrap, folks! Great game.

11:10: More likely to stay…Harrison Barnes or Kyrie Irving? Probably Irving, but that could very well be my inner Dukie poking through. But when’s the last time a Blue Devil left after just one season? When Luol Deng transferred in?

11:11: Make a wish, er’body! Carolina needs some really good luck to win tonight and could use some help licking their wounds.

11:12: Great night of basketball. Bobcats got robbed, but the better team won in Durham.

11:13: Thanks to all who survived through any part of my first running diary; I’d love to hear some feedback. The next one probably won’t be until the NFL or NBA Draft, but I’m always open for suggestions.

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Categories: College Basketball, NBA, Running Diary | 1 Comment

A Clash of the Classics

Cheeseheads and Terrible Towels. Lambeau and Heinz Field. Green and Gold and Black and Gold. The Packers and Steelers are two of the most storied franchises in NFL history, and they also have the best fan bases in the league. What team deserves it more than these?

Between their nine Super Bowl wins in ten games, these two teams have had plenty of success. But 1967 doesn’t affect this game. It doesn’t mean a thing.

Here are perhaps the two most complete teams of the season. Green Bay can air it out as well as anyone, and their running game–specifically rookie James Starks–has really stepped up in the postseason. Plus they’ve got that trademarked Dom Caper aggressive D.

The Steelers are exactly who they appear to be. They’ll shove it right down your throat, but if they need to make a big drive in a short window, Ben Roethlisberger is your man. And then there’s that defense.

How weird is it, though, that a sixth seed who barely made the playoffs is favored over a near-dynasty by three points? It’s the classic example of a underdog team with a quarterback who is hard to hate (and also happens to be replacing one of the most hated figures it football) versus a meat-head quarterback who is hard to like. Between that, two great all-around teams, and a semi-feud between rappers Wiz Khalifa and sudden-Packer backer Lil Wayne, we’ve got ourselves a game.

Going into the game, most fans will ask the question ‘Can the Steelers out-score Green Bay?’ I have a better question.

Can the Packers beat the Steelers if they can’t run the ball?

Pittsburgh had by far the best run defense in the NFL this season when they limited opponents to 3 yards per carry and 62 yards per game. They ratcheted up the Run D even more in January, holding the opposition to 2.6 yards per carry and 52 yards per game. Their defenders are big. They are strong. And they WILL decapitate you if they have to. But seriously, no team in the NFL has a better front seven in the league.

The Packers have been able to skate by thus far in the postseason without a great running game. James Starks had a breakout game against Philly for 123 yards, but has since come back to reality, totaling 140 yards on the ground in the next two games. Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn have also been splitting carries, but they are certainly nothing to run and tell that about.

Without much of a running game to work with, Green Bay won’t be able to control the clock, especially late in the game when they’ll need it most. Aaron Rodgers will have to have the game of his life against the vaunted Steelers defense, a unit which hasn’t given up 250 yards in two months 5th and 300 yards since Halloween.

But if we’re talking about quarterbacks, y’all need to hide yo kids and hide yo wife cuz Ben Roethlisberger is coming to Dallas! The man may not be the perfect role model off the field, but he’s the definition of a winner on the field. Dude is 10-2 in the playoffs, including 2-0 in the Super Bowl. Sure, he’ll try to force one too many passes to a receiver early on in the game, but if you need someone to take you on a drive to win the big game, he’s your man.

You may not want him to marry your daughter, but if you need someone in your foxhole, Big Ben is your guy.

You may not want him to marry your daughter, but if you need someone in your foxhole, Big Ben is your guy.

At a massive 6’5″ 240, Big Ben is easily the hardest quarterback to bring down. You hardly ever see the first pass rusher sack him, Ben finds a way to escape the pressure, shake off a defender, or squeeze in the perfect throw. Another thing that makes his special is his mobility; he will roll out under pressure and can either rumble for a solid gain or make a throw on the run, similar in a way to what Cam Newton did for Auburn as he led them to the BCS National Championship this season.

These two teams didn’t play this year, but they did way back in 2009. For the most part the teams were the same. What happened? Pittsburgh won a shootout with a last-second heroic pass from Big Ben to then-rookie Mike Wallace for a 19 yard touch down strike. Big Ben lit up the Packers’ secondary (which still had Atari Bigby and Al Harris along with linebackers Nick Barnett and Brady Poppinga) for a whopping 503 yards. He had 19 passes for double-digit yardage, ten of which were for over 20 yards, including 4 for over 30 and 2 over 50 yards. Like a surgeon, he was able to slice his dice his way through Green Bay.

Aaron Rodgers wasn’t so bad himself, he threw for 383 yards of mistake-free football. But unfortunately, his teammates only managed 60 yards rushing, and he couldn’t single-handedly put his team on his back and will his team to victory.

Oh, and one other thing. Troy Polamalu wasn’t playing.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a non-quarterback who makes a bigger impact on his team than Troy Polamalu. With him, Pittsburgh is 25-5. Without him, they’re only 6-7. Troy doesn’t just make an absurd amount of of plays thanks to his blazing speed and incredible instincts, he inspires his teammates to play to their top abilities. Pittsburgh plays with exponentially more confidence with Polamalu and his flying locks of hair on the field.

Ultimately, this game comes down to preparation. Whichever team can come up with the best gameplan and execute best will be the winner. To be honest, I’m not even sure if Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy is a great coach. Yes, he led his team to three straight road victories to launch themselves to the Super Bowl, but he never exuded much confidence, and Aaron Rodgers did most of the work. Mike Tomlin, however, is by far one of the best coaches in the league. He knows exactly how to get to his players and inspires his players as well as anyone else in the league.

Not only that, but Pittsburgh has a distinct edge on defense. Led by the great Dick LeBeau, puts The Fear of God into the other team, and Green Bay doesn’t exactly have the best offensive line.

The Steelers have been there and done that. Big Ben wins big games, and I can’t think of any other way to classify the Super Bowl than a big game. Rashard Mendenhall will be able to pound the ball throughout the game, and Pittsburgh will bring the heat and make Aaron Rodgers make the big mistake.

This game will be a great one, and the last thing I expect is a blowout. Get your towels ready cuz it’s about to go down.

Pittsburgh 24, Green Bay 20.

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