Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thermostat Check

     For the 20,000+ of you following my blog religiously, I sincerely apologize for my erroneous prediction that the Heat would win 72 games and breeze through the playoffs en route to a championship. 
     Through 17 games, the Heat are 9-8, hovering around .500 in search of an identity as a team.  Last season, the James and Bosh-less Miami team was 10-7 at this point.  Drastic improvement, huh? 
     I previously made a foolish claim that LeBron and D Wade would be able to coexist and thrive together on the court.  Boy was I wrong on that one.  Whenever the two elite scorers are on the floor at the same time, incessant miscommunication ensues and turnovers pile up quickly.  The two combine for 7.5 turnovers per game and are each shooting under 45% on the season.
     In last night's loss to an experienced Mavs team, LeBron walked off the court and "inadvertently" bumped shoulders with Head Coach Erik Spoelstra.  NBA analysts often overreact and go into a frenzy following the slightest feud between a player and coach.  Most of these feuds end up being trivial, yet this one clearly has deeper implications.
     The Heat look outmatched on both ends of the court.  Coming in at 22nd in the league in both points and rebounds per game, it's clear that this team has two pressing weaknesses.  Carlos Arroyo is simply not skilled enough to be a starting point guard in the NBA.  Big Z is about as much of an inside threat as Hasheem Thabeet (with inferior shot blocking ability, I might add). 
     Looking to rectify their issue of lack of size, the Heat acquired Erick Dampier.  Frankly, Dampier is not the answer to anyone's problems.  Last night, he posted one rebound in eight minutes, committing one foul. Sick!  Unbelievable!  The Messiah has come!  Heat fans, (if they hypothetically existed) bow down to your savior, Erick Dampier. 
     The acquisition of Erick Dampier evidently does absolutely nothing to enhance the interior presence of the Heat.  The ridiculously potent trio of big men in Jamaal Magloire, Juwan Howard, and Dampier cumulatively amasses to 104 years of living on this Earth.  104 years of missed layups and unnecessary fouls all packed into one massive package of merely taking up space on the court.
     There is a recurring theme in the box score of the Heat.  LeBron, D Wade, and Bosh all hover in the vicinity of 20-25 points, while no one else even reaches double figures.  Occasionally Mario Chalmers, James Jones, or Joel Anthony provides a tad of spark, but for the most part, there is simply no supporting cast whatsoever.
     It will certainly be intriguing to watch this drama unfold.  At least LeBron has some practice acting in his obnoxious, ego-centric commercial.  What should he do?  How about win games, LeBron?  I now change my prediction from 72-10 to 10-72.  Just kidding.  But seriously, the Heat will be lucky to get past the first round of the playoffs if they keep playing in such a discombobulated, erratic fashion.  Dwyane keeps saying it will just take time for this team to gel.  Well Dwyane, I'm pretty sure the time is now.  You might want to consider stepping it up a notch, because quite frankly, the Thermostat is plummeting into oblivion.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

All that Jazz and more

     The Utah Jazz have pulled off five consecutive come-from-behind wins.  Not only were the Jazz down in each game, but they trailed by double digits in each contest.  This incredible streak has captured my attention big-time.  Winning five games in a row against the Clippers, Heat, Magic, Hawks, and Bobcats is an impressive feat in itself, but coming back in the fourth quarter in each of these games is simply incredible.
     With the threat of Deron Williams, Paul Millsap, and Al Jefferson, the newly-conglomerated Big Three, (I'm fully aware that's a stretch - it's deliberate), the Jazz are on fiyahhhh.  Williams is averaging 21 ppg, 10 apg, and 5 rpg.  Though it's still early, I would qualify those as potentially MVP-caliber numbers.
     Deron Williams is the best point  guard in the league.  Sure, Rondo is a more skilled and deceptive passer and CP3 and D Rose are just as adroit at scoring the ball, but when you put everything together, D Will is the best-hands down.
     Paul Millsap has also emerged in the most explosive way this season.  In the overtime win against Miami, Millsap had a game-tying tip-in at the buzzer en route to a rather impressive 46 points.
     And "Hey, hey, hey, whaddaya know, it's Fat Albert."  I don't mean to insult the rather muscular (certainly not obese) Al Jefferson; rather, I want to remind those who follow the NBA avidly to not forget about Al.  He's quietly averaging 17 ppg, 9 rpg and having a solid year.
     Though the Western Conference is packed with talented teams like the Lakers, Mavs, Spurs, and Hornets, I advise you to not sleep on the Jazz (even if that's not your preferred style of music).  The team has recently shown its capability of coming back and playing well down the stretch.  Now if Utah can translate that energy and effectiveness to the first half, you're looking at one helluva team, yes one helluva team.
      Once they improve their play in the first half (I guarantee it will happen) the Jazz will be clicking on all cylinders and they'll be all that Jazz and more.  For sure.
     Oh, and don't forget about Francisco Elson and Kyrylo Fesenko.  The two ferocious monsters are averaging almost five points per game in total and will undoubtedly power the team to the Western Conference Finals with their unstoppable post moves (just so the casual fan is aware, this is a joke.  Fesenko and Elson have about as much potential as Semih Erden - So they're really good, right!?! - Nope).
     I'm quickly becoming a Jazz fan.  When Utah makes the Western Conference Finals, just remember, you read it here first.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ponders provide heroics once again

Ryan Salocks saw the keeper out of position.  He controlled the ball and sent a perfectly placed shot toward the upper left part of the net.  The Malden Catholic goalie, Kyle Lewis, sprinted back and reached up for the ball, but to no avail.  Salocks scored and gave the Ponders a 1-0 lead with 26 minutes left in the game.
            When Salocks found the net, the boisterous and devoted crowd went wild.  While the players swarmed around Salocks, vuvuzelas sounded and the fans erupted and cheered.
Following Salocks’ pivotal goal, the Ponders played with even more focus and determination.  Rather than stalling, AHS continued to attack Lewis.
            The Ponders’ incessant push for a second goal was rewarded 15 minutes later when Fernando Cuervo-Torello sent a laser beam past Lewis.  With the insurance goal, the Ponders doubled their lead and were able to hang on for a 2-0 shutout over the Lancers.
            Cuervo-Torello’s goal was his second in as many games.  His hustle and skill around the ball has been instrumental to Arlington’s success.
After a relatively even first half, the Ponders played more consistent soccer down the stretch, maintaining ball possession the majority of the time in order to preserve their lead.  Arlington counteracted everything the Lancers wanted to do offensively and passed the ball with precision.
            While the offensive production was superb in the second half, the defense was extremely solid throughout the entire contest.  Christian Fischer, Adam Long, Chris Hamblin, and Graham McInnis definitively shut down the speedy Nick Annesse and the rest of the Lancers.
            AHS goalie Sam Flavin was relatively inactive in net because the defense was so strong.  With that said, Flavin fulfilled his duty when he was challenged.
            Following this clutch win, the Ponders will take on undefeated Winchester in the semi-finals of the Division Two North sectional playoffs, as their incredible playoff run continues.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Spy Ponders push forward

After an hour long bus ride to Haverhill, the Spy Ponders were met by an abundance of torrential rain.  Even though the field was drenched, the Spy Ponders’ spirit was anything but dampened.
            Arlington came into the game with firepower and passion.  Matched up against the Pentucket Sachems, the number four seed in the Division Two state tournament, the Ponders were the underdogs on paper.  However, they defied the odds and posted a decisive 5-2 victory.
            Chris Hamblin started the action with a header goal early in the game, using the back of his head to propel the ball past the goalie.  Hamblin then added a second score, sending a rocket past a mystified keeper.
            Senior Captain Nick Coleman, the leading goal scorer on the team, made the score 3-0 with a follow off of a ricochet.  After a successful Pentucket penalty kick, Coleman made the score 4-1 with an arching left-footed kick over the Sachems’ backpedaling goalie.
            Coleman made a split-second decision and floated the ball into the air toward the goal.  The keeper staggered backward, nearly making a recovery.  He did not get there in time, however, and the Ponders augmented their lead to 4-1.
            Just a few minutes later, Fernando Cuervo-Torello tacked on one more goal for Arlington, finding the back of the net thanks to a Yannick Doyle attack that got the Sachem defense out of position.
            “It was probably one of the best games that we’ve had this year,” said Coleman.  “We’ve been facing teams of (Pentucket’s) caliber the entire season, but last night we stepped up and just played our game.”
            When the final whistle sounded, some of the players slid head-first onto the soggy turf.  The Ponders then acknowledged the devoted, rowdy fans who made the commute by doing a cohesive victory run toward the stands. 
AHS managed to overcome the weather and preserve a 5-2 score until the end of the eighty minute time frame.
            “The conditions (both the situation and weather) got us pumped up,” said Nathan Lobel.  “It was a good moment.  We did what we had to do.”
            After taking care of business on Sunday and Monday with two clutch wins, the Ponders will face Malden Catholic at home at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday November 11th.
            The Ponders are already in the quarterfinals and are looking to prolong their dramatic run.  Had Arlington not defeated Bedford and Weston in the final two games of the regular season, or beat Lynn Classical in penalty kicks (5-4) in a thrilling finish on Sunday, this game would not have occurred.
            With four consecutive do or die games, the Ponders have answered the call in every contest.  Each win brings this determined team one step closer to the ultimate prize…the Division Two state championship.  

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

San Francisco Giants: World Series Champions 2010

     Though I'm an ardent supporter of bad puns, I'm sick of every single headline including the word "Giant."  For example, "Giant victory" or "Giant feat for San Fran."  It's catchy to some degree, but when every single person starts incorporating it, it certainly becomes a bit hackneyed.
     While I'm nauseated by these trite headlines, I have to agree that this is a "Giant" accomplishment for the city of San Francisco.  Only the Cubs (oy vey) and the Indians had longer World Series droughts.  The Giants hadn't won in 56 years.  Prior to last night, the wonderful people of San Fran had never experienced the wonder of a World Series triumph.
     There are a few reasons why the Giants beat the Rangers 4-1 in the series.  First off: (this one's pretty simple)  Tim Lincecum.  The Freak beat the seemingly unbeatable Cliff Lee not once, but twice in the same series.  Throughout the post season, Lincecum out-dueled Derek Lowe, Roy Halladay, and Lee with an assortment off nasty pitches and an intelligent approach.  Like ESPN analyst Eduardo Perez said, "Lincecum did his homework."  After doing his homework, Big Lince (just made that one up.  Thumbs up, thumbs down?) certainly passed the test.  Posting 43 strikeouts and four wins, the two-time Cy Young award-winner was simply dominant.
     Brian Wilson's beard is arguably the best beard in professional sports.  Yes, opposing hitters should "Fear the Beard," but they should also fear Wilson's deadly assortment of pitches and overpowering stuff.  When Wilson comes in it's basically the end of the night for the opposing team.  Hey, that's kind of like Jonathan Papelbon...NAHT!
     Finally, the Giants have chemistry in motion.  Much like the Red Sox teams that won in '04 and '07, (Yes!) the Giants have a roster full of above-average players that work well together to accomplish the ultimate goal. From Freddy Sanchez (former Red Sox great) to Edgar Renteria (former Red Sox great, a.k.a. World Series MVP 2010?) the Giants have competitive players that will do anything for the team.  Talk about dedication...Aubrey Huff laid a beautiful sacrifice bunt down the first base line, moving the runners over to second and third.  It was Huff's first sacrifice bunt in 11 years in the league!  After "Huffing" and puffing down the first base line, Huff was called out.  Yet, after his unselfish act, Renteria hit a three run jack that just cleared the fences and gave San Fran the lead.  
     I would like to personally congratulate the San Francisco Giants for winning the 2010 World Series the right way.  Let me explain what I mean by "the right way."  Instead of seeing a team full of high-priced stars and mid-season acquisitions, (i.e. Yankees and Phillies) it was a pleasure to see the Giants win the Series.  Unlike the Giant teams in the '90s, this squad has no humongous juicers and no drastically overpaid players (insert whoever you'd like here.  Barry Bonds comes to mind for me...).  This time, it wasn't just "The Giants win the Pennant!  The Giants win the Pennant!"
     Rather, it was "The San Francisco Giants are World Series Champions!"  That has a better ring to it.  Though the Pennant call is a classic, this one is a bit more noteworthy.  
     What a "Giant" triumph for the city of San Fran.  (Damn, I thought I would make it the whole article without including a horrific pun)...truly a "Giant" mistake on my part.  I sincerely apologize.