Sunday, December 30, 2012

New NFL Division Format

The NFL Playoff system is a mess. This year, there thankfully weren't any teams with terrible records making it over teams with better records. But the seeding is still a mess as always.

I propose both conferences have two super divisions of 8 teams apiece. The NFC East would combine with the South and the North would combine with the West. The teams in the former NFC East would play each other twice every year. The teams in the East would play teams in the South once each. The teams in the NFC East would play four teams in the AFC each year on a rotating basis (as they do now). Teams in the NFC East would play two teams from the other NFC super division. The AFC East and North would be in one super division and the South would combine with the West.

The two division winners in each conference would earn byes. There would be four wildcards in each conference.

In the NFC, the playoffs under this new system would like this:

1) Atlanta (13-3), 2) San Francisco (11-4-1)

3) Seattle (11-5) vs. 6) Minnesota (10-6)
4) Green Bay (11-5) vs. 5) Washington (10-6)

1) Denver (13-3), 2) New England (12-4)

3) Houston (12-4) vs. 6) Cincinnati (10-6)
4) Indianapolis (11-5) vs. 5) Baltimore (10-6)

In both conferences, this new system allows Seattle and Indianapolis to have home playoff games that they deserve. This new system is simply more fair than the current one where teams with worse records are awarded home games because of a glitch of in the current format.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Comeback Thwarted

Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton were among the New York Knicks sitting out this game with the Sacramento Kings. After a dramatic shorthanded victory over the Suns on Wednesday, the Knicks faced a reeling Kings team on Friday.

The first half was utterly dreadful. The Knicks played with an uncharacteristic unprofessionalism. To the Kings' credit, they were on fire from three. They raced all over the court for loose balls. At one point, the Knicks were down an incredible 27 points. The lead was 21 at the half.

The Knicks stormed back int he second half. Jason Kidd and Chris Copeland were two big reasons why. Kidd was magnificent the entire game, the only one trying int he first half. He wound up with 16 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds. Copeland added 23 on 8 for 16 shooting.

J.R. Smith added 25, although he took 25 shots. Tyson Chandler had 21 points and 18 rebounds although he struggled from the line. Steve Novak went 3 for 5 from distance. The Knicks cut the lead to six by the time the fourth quarter rolled around.

The Kings' shooting had gone cold and their energy had waned. It seemed inevitable that the Knicks would pull away with an improbably comeback victory. But late in the fourth quarter, Jason Kidd made two uncharacteristically bad passes that were both picked off. The second one came with the Knicks up two and the time about to run out.

The Kings took the ball up the court and ran a play similar to one a team filled with headless chicken might run. Eventually, the ball was flung out to James Johnson who was standing behind the arc. He let fire. There was no way this fumbling team would win the game on this fumbling play after fumbling away a 27 point lead. But sure enough the ball swished through the hoop. The Kings celebrated and the Knicks's players bent at the waist in exasperation.

The Knicks lost 106-105 despite only giving up 36 points in the entire second half. The Knicks fall to 21-9.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

J.R. Smith Does It Again

If I told you that Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton, and Amar'e Stoudemire were all injured, who on the Knicks would you assume takes the bulk of the team's shots? It's got to be j.R. Smith, right? Of course.

He's already knocked in a game winner in Charlotte earlier this month. With the Knicks trailing by two, Smith dribbled around and produced a scant sliver of space from D.J. Tucker of the Phoenix Suns. It was enough to fade away while twisting to squared up to the rim. The ball glided off the finger tips of his right hand and swished through the basket. The shot barely beat the shot clock. The game was tied with 10.6 second left.

The Suns turned the ball over with a second remaining. Smith cut towards to near corner and stumbled. The ball was passed anyway and Smith managed to regain his composure, catch the ball, turn, and fire all in one motion. There was no doubt the ball wouldn't even graze the rim on its way to the bottom of the net. The Knicks pulled off an improbable win in Phoenix, 99-97.

Smith's overall game was rockier than the final 11 seconds suggest. He scored 27 points, but it took 27 shots. He had five steals, but four turnovers. He added 6 rebounds and 5 assists, but had three of his shots blocked.

Tyson Chandler (14 points, 12 rebounds), Jason Kidd (23 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, and Chris Copeland (14 points) all helped out. James White got the start over Copeland and it was a rare miss by Mike Woodson, who deserves a lot of credit for this short-handed road win.

Jared Dudley poured in a career high 36 points for the Suns. After a close first quarter, the Knicks scortched the Suns int he second and took a comfortable ten point lead into halftime. Phoenix's starting point guard, Goran Dragic, was injured on a dubious flagrant foul call against J.R. Smith. Dragic skied in order to score as Smith ran past him, attempting to avoid contact.

But the Suns roared back in the third without Dragic to tie the game. The contest swayed back and forth int he fourth. The Suns had retaken the lead late before Smith's heroics saved the day.

The Knicks are now 21-8 and 9-6 or the road.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Knicks Fall to Surging Lakers

The Knicks, wearing hideous Christmans jerseys, lost to the Lakers in Los Angeles. Carmelo Anthony was on fire, scoring 34 points on 13 for 23 shooting. Unfortunately, the rest of the team was cold. Still, the Knicks kept things close throughout the entire game, even taking a small lead into the fourth.

Raymond Felton shot terribly from the field although he did amass 6 assists and no turnovers. J.R. Smith scored 25 points including a fade away three as the shot clock ran out, but his overall play was less impressive than his numbers suggest. Dwight Howard got the better of Tyson Chandler. And the Knicks couldn't stop Kobe Bryant, who scored 34.

Jason Kidd has a decent all around game, with 6 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists. Kurt Thomas also had 6 points on 3 for 3 shooting. But the story was the impressive play of the Lakers. Steve Nash, in his second game back from injury scored 16 and dished 11. He gave teammates easy buckets, such as the one dropped off to a wide open Howard for a power dunk. Meta World Peace went crazy in the second quarter with 16 of his 20 points in that period. The Lakers have now won five straight.

The Knicks had only 10 turnovers, but more were in the last quarter than in any other one. This was a rare game in which the Knicks committed more turnovers than made threes (9). The Knicks lost 100-94 and fall to 20-8.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Another Obnoxious Pound-for-Pound List

Here is the updated version of my obnoxiously unnecessary and utterly superfluous list of the top 10 pound-for-pound boxers. The previous list was posted on September 22.

1) Floyd Mayweather (43-0, 26 KOs), [Previous Rank: 1]
2) Juan Manuel Marquez (55-6-1, 40 KOs), [PR: 5]
3) Andre Ward (26-0, 14 KOs), [PR: 3]
4) Sergio Martinez (50-2-2, 28 KOs), [PR: 4]
5) Nonito Donaire (31-1, 20 KOs), [PR: 9]
6) Wladimir Klitschko (59-3, 51 KOs), [PR: 6]
7) Manny Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KOs), [PR: 2]
8) Timothy Bradley (29-0, 12 KOs), [PR: 7]
9) Vitali Klitschko (45-2, 41 KOs), [PR: 8]
10) Carl Froch (30-2, 22 KOs), [PR: 10]

Friday, December 21, 2012

Bad Game for the Referees

People have bad days at work. That was certainly the case for the three officials, Zach Zarba, John Goble, and Olandis Poole, who oversaw the Knicks-Bulls games tonight. At first, the Bulls took advantage of being allowed to mug the Knicks in plain sight of the cameras. The three men must have accidentally sat on sticks during halftime and blew their whistles as of that was the case.

Carmelo Anthony was inexplicably tossed from the game after a second, dubious technical foul. Joakim Noah was thrown out after his second technical (the first being questionable). Tyson Chandler was ejected at the same time as Noah as the two puffed their chests at one another. It was Chandler's first T and there was no basis for the ejection beyond egotism.

J.R. Smith fouled out of the game, or at least the refs decided it should be so. Smith called for six fouls although a couple of them are missing and presumed never to have occurred. Coach Mike Woodson was tossed for speaking truth to power.

In reality, this game seemed more like an experimental therapy session for the referees than an NBA basketball game. It was sad. The players, fans, and the league deserve better than what Zarba, Goble, and Poole gave us on this day.

But the refs' despicable performance shouldn't diminish the Bulls'. Chicago had a comfortable 13 point lead at the half in MSG. The Knicks unraveled in the third. For the game, Anthony had 29 points and Smith had 26, but the team shot poorly from the field, both near and far.

Raymond Felton, who had really struggled with his shot, decided to penetrate to the tin int he fourth and helped spark a dramatic comeback. But the Knicks were in too big of a hole thanks to the refs' ridiculous calls.

The Bulls won 110-106. The Knicks fall to 19-7.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Knicks Trounce Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Nets were supposed to be a suitable rival for the New York Knicks. After eking out a home win in November, the Nets have not played their part in the so-called rivalry. The Knicks beat the Nets in Brooklyn thanks to Carmelo Anthony in their second meeting of the season. With Anthony hot again and at home, Brooklyn never really had a chance.

The game was close early. But the Nets simply cannot guard Anthony. He shot 12 for 22 for 31 points, his worst game against Brooklyn this season so far. He was 4 for 8 from three. Anthony is 38 for 71 (53.5%) from the field, and 12 for 20 (60%) from three point range against Brooklyn this season. He's averaging 37 ppg in those three contests.

J.R. Smith and Chris Copeland were efficient off the bench. In 15 combined attempts from the floor, they missed only 5 of them. Smith scored 19. Tyson Chandler has placed a mortgage on the paint. He grabbed 12 rebounds, not including his customary back-taps to teammates. He scored 16 points on 7 of 12 shooting. He leads the league in field goal %.

Raymond Felton struggled to shoot again. But the pick and roll with Chandler was a work of art. Chandler's points were mostly alley oops from Felton. Jason Kidd also shot poorly again, but contributed in other ways.

Many believe the Knicks' success is an aberration. They claim that the Knicks shoot too many threes and their hot shooting can't possibly keep up. Those people haven't been watching the games. The Knicks shot poorly from distance in this one. The Nets and Knicks shot similarly from the field and made a similar number of threes. They acquired a similar number of rebounds. There were two major differences. The Knicks got to the line more often and turned the ball over less often.

The Knicks won 100-86 to advance to 19-6 and maintain the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Knicks Fall to Rockets

The Carmelo Anthony-less Knicks were blown out by the Houston Rockets at MSG. It marked the second consecutive dominant performance for the Rockets over the Knicks this season.

The primary problem was the ease with which Jeremy Lin and James Harden penetrated to the basket. Lin had 22 points and Harden had 28. The two starting guards combined to shoot over 50% from the field. The combined for 14 rebounds and 11 assists as well. Lin's and Harden's numbers would have been better had they not missed multiple wide open layups.

The Knicks uncharacteristically shot poorly, defended the perimeter poorly, defended the paint poorly, and turned the ball over a season high 17 times. Otherwise, the Knicks played halfway decent. New York couldn't hit from three or the free throw line.

Chris Copeland became an NBA player in this one .In his second career start, he scored 29 points on 11 for 19 shooting. J.R. Smith scored 17 on 7 for 13 from the field. Pablo Prigioni added 16 in garbage time. But Jason Kidd and Steve Novak both were subpar. Raymond Felton had more shots than points and nearly as many turnovers as assists. Tyson Chandler grabbed 18 rebounds, but wasn't a factor offensively.

Houston led for most of the first half, thanks to 27-11 second quarter. But the Knicks cut the lead down to 5 in the third quarter. The Rockets were done playing. The lead immediately ballooned up to 18. It hovered over 20 and the Knicks were done. They fought back enough in the fourth to make the score respectable.

With the 109-96 loss, the Knicks fell to 18-6 and lost their first game of the season at home.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Knicks Squeak by Cavs

A masked Kyrie Irving had his career best game with 41 points. The Knicks, though at home, didn't have Carmelo Anthony due to a sprained ankle. The Knicks shot poorly. And yet, New York was able pull out a close contest.

Tyson Chandler had 23 points and 10 points, but that doesn't include all of his back-taps to teammates. Chandler has shot amazingly from the field and this game was no different. He was 9 for 10. Steve Novak nailed four key threes for 13 points.

Raymond Felton tends to think he's a scorer when Anthony is out. He shot a respectable 9 for 20 in this game for 25 points. J.R. Smith also chuck up a lot of shots when Anthony is out. He was 6 for 20 for 16 points.

Jason Kidd did not shoot well, but as usual, he did all the little things. He ended with 8 assists and 2 blocks. Chris Copeland was 4 for 5 for with 11 points in his first start.

This was a close game throughout. The Knicks looked like they would run away with it in the fourth but for the greatness of Irving. Down two in the waning seconds, Anderson Varejao drove and drew a foul. He made the first free throw. But he missed the second and the Knicks grabbed the rebound. That solidified the win, 103-102. The Knicks have won four straight and are 18-5. They're 10-0 at home.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Knicks Smoke Lakers

The Knicks poured in 41 points in the first quarter. Carmelo Anthony couldn't miss. The Lakers' defense was atrocious.

Despite the occasional isolation play, the Knicks have been so adept at moving the ball. Contrasting the Knicks style of play with that of the Lakers, it's obvious why the Knicks have been so good and the Lakers so bad. Unselfishness, taking care of the ball, and perimeter defense are the three main reasons.

Anthony scored 30 points in only 22 minutes on 10 for 15 shots. He hurt his ankle crashing to the ground in the third and didn't return. Anthony seems to spend an awful lot of time on the floor grimacing. He was one of five players to score in double figures for the Knicks. Steve Novak shot 4 for 5 from three for 12 points. J.R. Smith, Tyson Chandler, and Raymond Felton were the others.

Both teams nailed 12 threes. The Knicks shot 25 while the Lakers shot 37. The Knicks shot 53.2% from the field while the Lakers were at 41.7%. The Knicks turned the ball over only six times. The Lakers did so 13 times. The Knicks were able to get to the rim with ease. Dwight Howard blocked only one shot and didn't alter many more.

New York would be the only team in NBA history to hit more threes than commit turnovers if they keep their current pace. Some have questioned their supposed lack of rebounding. The Knicks have a negative differential. But it's a misnomer. The Knicks have shown themselves to be good rebounders, particularly Chandler (who only 4 in this one, although he had numerous taps to teammates). The Knicks are far and away the best team in turnover differential. Since the Knicks' field goal % is similar to their opponents' , that means there are fewer defensive rebounds for the Knicks to grab. New York actually leads their opponents grabbing offensive boards.

The Knicks were up 58-32 at one point. The Lakers whittled it down to 6 at one point, but never truly challenged. The final score was closer than was the game. The Knicks won 116-107 and are now 17-5.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Knicks Comeback to Beat Nets

The Nets jumped on the Knicks in Brooklyn early. The Knicks struggled defensively. They spent the rest of the half cutting away at the lead slowly. A 14 point lead was cut to 4 by the break.

Carmelo Anthony scored 45 and has dominated the Nets this season. He shot an impressive 15 for 24 including 5 for 7 from three. He took over in the fourth. He moved effectively without the ball. He drive effectively off picks. He shot effectively. He was effective.

Jason Kidd also played extremely well. 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists on 6 for 9 shootinmg give some indication, but perhaps an example would work better. With under a minute to go, Kidd shot a three while throwing his legs in the air as if he were performing jumping jacks. The ball went int he hoop and a defensive foul was assessed to the Nets.

J.R. Smith continued to miss threes, but he was the only other Knick to hit double figures and shot better. He was 7 for 15 from the field for 16 points. The Knicks have won this season thanks to great team ball. Not in this one. New York won thanks to Anthony's greatness and Kidd's intelligence.

The Knicks had 20 assists and turned the ball over 10 times. The Nets' numbers were comparable. Three pointers were the statistical difference. The Knicks shot 50% (14 for 28). The Nets were 4 for 18 for 22.2%.

Deron Williams moved the ball well. Andray Blatche and Joe Johnson shot well. But Anthony controlled the game. He nailed a turn around jumper when Gerald Wallace went down after banging knees with Smith. The Nets missed a last second three to tie the game. The Knicks won 100-97 in what sometimes seemed like a Knicks home game. The Knicks are now 16-5.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Knicks Win in Anthony's Return

Carmelo Anthony returned to the lineup against his old team after missing two games with a finger injury. He scored 34 points on 10 for 24 shooting. He was able to get to the line. 16 times in fact.

The Knicks and Nuggets each grabbed the lead back and forth, focusing on their strengths. The young Nuggets were agile and mobile in transition. The veteran Knicks showed guile in the halfcourt. Jason Kidd received a knot on his head after drawing fouls by pump faking. The Knicks ball movement was at winning level.

Denver turned the ball over 16 times. New York did so only 9 times. Denver shot only 17 threes and did so poorly. New York made 40% of their 30 attempts. Yet, the Nuggets held an 88-80 lead early int he fourth quarter.

That's when Steve Novak nailed a couple of threes. Kidd continued his brilliance. For the first time this season, his numbers vaguely resembled his importance out on the floor. He scored 17 and assisted 7 times. Tyson Chandler kept up his strong rebounding, grabbing 12. He also shot 7 for 8 from the field for 15 points.

The Knicks rolled off a 12-0 run to take a 4 point lead. The lead stretched even more and it became evident that the Nuggets didn't have the maturity to win this one. Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith shot poorly once again, combining for a 9 for 34 night from the field. They went 2 for 9 from beyond the arc. Smith had 15 points and 9 rebounds, however. But both men struggled for again. Smith is in a shooting slump.

The Knicks won 112-106 and are now 15-5. The Knicks are the only undefeated team at home in the NBA.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Knicks Fall to Bulls Without Anthony

The Knicks did not utilize their customary ball movement as the ball stuck to Raymond Felton's hand in a loss to Chicago last night. Without Carmelo Anthony, other players needed to step up. But a more balanced distribution of shots would have served the team better.

Felton took 30 shots and made only 9 of them for 27 points. The rest of the starters only took 24 shots combined. J.R. Smith wen 4 for 14 for 15 points, but had 5 turnovers. Felton and Smith took a combined 44 shots. The rest of the team shot only 40 times from the field. Together Smith and Felton were 13 for 44 (29.5%) and were 3 for 11 from the three point range.

The Knicks were 8 for 23 from beyond the arc and had 14 assists and 15 turnovers. The Knicks did force 19 turnovers. But only three players scored in double figures. Tyson Chandler was one with 14 points and 18 rebounds

The Knicks got off to a quick 6-0 lead. But that would be their largest lead throughout the game. The Bulls erased the lead immediately. Chicago led by a maximum of 7 as it was a close game throughout. But the Bulls executed better late and extended the lead to 8 by the end.

The Knicks lost 93-85. New York is now 14-5. They're undefeated at home (7-0) and 7-5 on the road.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Knicks Blowout Heat Again

Carmelo Anthony was out with an injured finger. The Knicks traveled to Miami to face the defending champions. It was the second night of a back-to-back. Things didn't look good.

Hot shooting by Raymond Felton, gritty work by Tyson Chandler, and the steady presence of Jason Kidd kept the Knicks in the game in the first half. Kurt Thomas had his best game of the season with inspired play early. The game was tied at 53 at the half. Steve Novak contributed with sharp shooting int he second quarter.

The Knicks destroyed the Heat int he second half .A 37 point third quarter helped. Felton ended with 27 points on 10 for 20 shooting. Novak had 18, and Chandler had 13. J.R. Smith, Rasheed Wallace, and Kidd all scored in double figures as well, though none shot the ball well from the field.

This was a total team effort. Five players grabbed six or more rebounds, including Pablo Prigioni and Thomas. James White even added 7 points by making all three of his shots. Felton and Chandler worked beautifully int he pick and roll. The Knicks were able to move the ball and find the open man. The team shot 18 for 44 from three. They've shot 85 three pointers in the past two games.

LeBron James was the only Miami player who showed up. He scored 31. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh shot a combined 6 for 25. The Heat turned the ball over 14 times. The Knicks gave the ball away only 7 times.

The Knicks won 112-92, their second straight twenty point win over Miami. The Knicks are now 14-4 and extended their lead for the best record in the Eastern Conference. New York has won five straight.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Smith for the Win!

J.R. Smith stuck his hand into the passing lane. He received the ball with a chance to win the game in the waning seconds at Charlotte last night. Smith was indecisive. The seconds rolled away. The Knicks would need to battle the Bobcats without Carmelo Anthony in overtime as Anthony had suffered a laceration on his finger two minutes earlier.

Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler frantically called timeout to regroup. Mike Woodson called the play for Smith who cradled the ball 18-feet from the hoop. He dribbled, faded, and shot. The ball swished through the basket as time expired. The Knicks won 100-98.

This was an interesting game, closely contested throughout. Charlotte shot much better in every facet. The Knicks shot a shocking amount of threes (41) and made only 13. The Bobcats had 26 assists to only 12 turnovers. Kemba Walker and Gerland Henderson were both on their games.

But the Knicks only turned the ball over 8 times during the entire game. Three of Charlotte's turnovers came late and were committed by Ben Gordon, who otherwise played well. Anthony scored 20 points in the first half for the Knicks, but only three in the second.

Chandler dominated the low post for much of the duration, but especially in the first quarter. He grabbed 17 rebounds, 8 of them offensive, but those numbers don't tell the full story. Chandler ripped away contested boards. There were times when it was hardly believable that Chandler came away with the ball in traffic. He added 18 points.

Charlotte accumulated more total rebounds and more offensive ones as well, but Chandler's were more timely. The two teams committed a similar number of turnovers, but the Knicks capitalized to a far greater degree, eviscerating the Bobcats with second chance points.

Raymond Felton's 17 points and 9 assists came on 19 shots and 6 missed threes, but he didn't turn the ball over. Kidd, who returned from injury to come off the bench, was crucial in the second half. He swiped 2 steals and blocked 3 shots.

The Knicks were down 98-92 with nearly four minutes remaining in the game. From there, the Bobcats went cold and turned the ball over. Methodically, the Knicks came back when Smith hit the game winner.

The Knicks are now 13-4 and have won four in a row.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Knicks Outlast Suns

The Knicks held a big lead for much of the game until the Phoenix Suns chipped away in the fourth quarter. The Knicks won by limiting turnovers, creating turnovers, and key second chance points. Carmelo Anthony didn't shoot particularly well, but scored 34 points.

Raymond Felton took 17 shots and made 10 of them for 23 points. He added 7 assists. Tyson Chandler got to the rim, scoring 15 points and adding 13 boards. The Knicks only went with a 7 man rotation  J.R. Smith struggled badly from the field. Steve Novak was 4 for 9 from three for 12 points.

Rasheed Wallace received two technicals in the first quarter and was ejected after playing for less than a minute and a half. Upon receiving the second T, 'Sheed reminded the refs, "Ball don't lie."

The Suns cut the lead to four at one point late in the fourth quarter with some timely outside shooting, but they weren't consistent enough. That was due to the Knicks superior defense. When the game became competitive, the Knicks forced tough contested shots when it most counted.

Jason Kidd sat out another game, but the Knicks won 106-99. The Knicks are now 12-4.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Knicks Trounce Wizards

If the Knicks wanted to score against the Wizards, they could. All they had to do was try. When they played one-on-one ball, it was the only chance the Wizards had to stop the New York attack.

Fortunately for the Knicks, they were on their game.The ball movement was crisp and the Wizards' defense awful. New York shot 53.1% from the field and 41.4% from beyond the arc on 29 threes. Carmelo Anthony got to the basket. He made 7 for 10 from the line for 20 points. J.R. Smith made 9 of his 13 shots for 20 points. Five players scored in double figures and Steve Novak, Rasheed Wallace, Pablo Prigioni, and Chris Copeland scored in the high single digits. This barrage came without Jason Kidd, who still is suffering from back spasms.

The Knicks won by only 21, 108-87. The word only is applicable because it was in truth thorough domination. The Knicks turned the ball over only 8 times. The Wizards- who shot terribly from the field, beyond the arc, and from the line- turned the ball over 17 times and accumulated only 11 assists.

The Knicks advance to 11-4.