Monday, April 29, 2013

Andray Blatche Leads Late Charge As Brooklyn Nets Force Game Six In Chicago

From the desk of:   THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

It's The Late Show With Your Host - Andray Blatche.
Chicago Bulls Night In Brooklyn Ends With CRASH!
Game Five Final
BULLS   91
NETS    110
Chicago Leads Series 3-2

Game Six - Thursday

Nate Robinson was at it again, with ten points in the first half.  But the Nets arrived on Flatbush Avenue this evening with Brooklyn Pride.  Led by Brook Lopez' seventeen points, the Nets took a 52-44 lead into the break.  Brooklyn's center also pulled down four rebounds - three on the offensive boards.  In fact, the Nets renewed effort on the boards was clear early in Game Five.  Brooklyn out-rebounded the Bulls by a 28-18 margin.  Reggie Evans was the only player to reach double-digit rebounds, pulling down ten boards, with eight coming on the defensive glass.  Deron Williams dropped eight points and assisted five times.  Joe Johnson had seven first half points.  Next to Brook Lopez, give credit to Kris Humphries for providing a spark off the bench, and lending some interior size, to go along with his eight points and four rebounds in nine minutes.  The Nets shot horribly from beyond the arch - 20% off two for ten shooting.  Otherwise, they shot 47.7% from the field versus 42.9% for Chicago.

Two minutes into the third quarter, the Nets led 59-49 to match their largest lead of the game.  With seven minutes left, Deron Williams scored his ninth point of the quarter to help keep the Bulls at bay.  But by the 5:30 mark, Chicago closed to within five points.  With just under five minutes left, Deron Williams nailed a three to put the Nets up (72-62) by ten again.  Joe Johnson was still toiling along with only seven points, and took a seat with four minutes left in the quarter.  With  2:34 left, C.J. Watson benefited from a friendly rim to give the Nets a 76-67 lead.  But with 1:14 to go, the Bulls were within two.  Nets shooting was hovering at 48% by the close of the third.  Chicago won the quarter 29-25, shooting a much improved 50% from the floor.  Deron Williams missed a three in the closing minute, while Nate Robinson was leading the Bulls with sixteen points.  As the third quarter buzzer sounded, the Nets lead stood at four, 77-73, with twelve minutes left on the Flatbush night.

With Deron Williams and Brook Lopez on the bench to open the fourth quarter, Nate Robinson scored his seventeenth and eighteenth points of the game to bring the Bulls within one point of Brooklyn.  But Gerald Wallace turned fading momentum around with a steal, and led a fast break with Andray Blatche filling the lane,who converted a lay-up.  At 9:24, Andray Blatche secured an offensive rebound and dropped a floater for two points, putting Brooklyn up by five again.  After an exchange of misses held the score at 87-84, Andray Blatche drove the lane at 6:58 and was victimized by a clear flagrant foul committed by Marco Belinelli.  By 6:09, Blatche was clearly exerting a huge impact on the fourth quarter with thirteen points.  With 4:29 left in regulation, the Brooklyn Nets were trying to protect and expand upon a 93-88 lead, as Chicago was now shooting upwards of 52.9% from the floor.  Nate Robinson shortly made it a 95-90 game, but Brook Lopez promptly answered at the other end with a baseline slam, and converted a foul to make it a 98-90 affair.

The three minute mark decended upon Barclays Center with the Bulls now shooting 54% from the field.  At 2:22, Brooklyn regained a ten point, 101-91 lead off Gerald Wallace's three pointer.  Then at the defensive end, Crash picked off a key pass, and finished emphatically at the offensive rim to give Brooklyn a 103-91 lead with two minutes to go.

Great baseline defense with 1:40 on the clock induced a Chicago turnover.  Deron Williams then took the ball up-court and connected with Brook Lopez to complete a 10-1 Brooklyn run, and bumping up the game score to a 105-91 spread.  At 1:01, the Brooklyn crowd rose to its feet and showered their club with thunderous applause of appreciation.  With fifty-six seconds left, Deron Williams departed the floor with twenty-three points, and a game high ten assists.  When the final buzzer sounded, Billy King headed back into the corridors of Barclays Center with a big smile on his face.  P.J. Carlesimo gets to coach another day.

Consistent throughout his first ever playoff series, Brook Lopez imposed himself in Game Five, finishing with a game high twenty-eight points, and ten rebounds.  Reggie Evans led all players with twelve rebounds.  Kris Humphries added six, and Blatche had five.  Brooklyn won the overall battle of the glass, 44-33.  Gerald Wallace's twenty-nine minutes were filled with pure impact.  The timeliness of his twelve points, two steals, and two blocks were impeccable.  It was good to see him punctuate the night late in the game, and effectively end any Bulls' notion of a comeback.

On to Chicago for Game Six.  There is now only one matter at hand - the next forty-eight minutes of basketball.  Were it not for beating themselves, all five games have been within Brooklyn's reach.  There is no reason for me to think Game Six will evolve otherwise.  The Nets can not afford to take a minute off on defense.  That's given.  But Game Five proves the Nets do not have to out-shoot Chicago.  The Nets merely need to avoid shooting 33% from the floor, which, on a regular basis, possesses them like the devil.

The differences in shooting from Game One to Games Two and Three were like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  That's the Nets.  Deron Williams shot nine of fifteen in the opener.  In the follow-up, he shot a dismal one of nine from the field.  Joe Johnson hit seven of thirteen in Game One, and regressed to six of eighteen in the second game.  In their Game One winner, the team shot 55% from the floor, then only 34.5% over the next two losses.  In the Game Five triple overtime chiller, the Nets were back up to 49.5% - but triple O.T. - is what it is.  On Monday evening, Brooklyn finished the evening shooting an even fifty percent.  As has been their trend all season, the Nets are literally a hit or miss team.  Their winning formula is simple, shoot better than thirty-three percent.  If they do that, the Nets will defeat the Bulls in Chicago, and bring a Game Seven back to Flatbush Avenue.


Brooklyn Nets: Time For The Nets Star To Rise Above Flatbush

From the desk of:   THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

Chicago Bulls
Barclays Center, Flatbush Avenue

BROOKLYN NETS - Inheriting An Old Refrain

For a new generation of Brooklyn sports fans, there is something a little old school about elimination games.  The Borough knew them well.  Too many came against the Yankees.  There is a seldom recalled instance in 1916 against the Red Sox, and a much more famous occurrence which took place in '51 against the hated Giants at the Polo Grounds.  The Hoops of Flatbush get to play on their turf tonight.  They need to win in order to force a Game Five in Chicago.  Should they loose, a circle of life will have made its round.  A defeat at Barclays Center would revive the old Brooklyn refrain - Wait Till Next Year.

If the Nets didn't learn some very hard lessons after Game Four, then tonight will be an ever greater course to absorb.  It's very simple - tonight is pass or fail.  Missed dunks, and blown leads aside, when I look at the line-ups, I still see a better team in the Nets.  Chicago has as much trouble scoring as the next team.  I would like to think Nate Robinson's recent outburst was an aberration.  Chicago will be without yet another player, Kirk Hinrich. No Derrick Rose - a suddenly recovered Joakim Noah.....ponderous.  I know the Nets can do better.  Games two, three and four were all frustratingly winnable.  The Nets have all the extra help they could have hoped for.  So, Game Five is set up for them to win.

But will they?  Joe Johnson was a virtual hero in Game Four.  However, it goes without saying Deron Williams still needs to lead his team to victory.  Not Brook Lopez, not anyone else - Deron Williams needs to be Brooklyn's star, and rise up over Flatbush tonight.  Fairly or not, if he doesn't, Deron could very well get blamed for dooming the third head coach of his career.  In truth, P.J. Carlesimo only has forty-eight minutes left to figure out a course back to Chicago and back.  Nothing after that is guaranteed.

We need part Gerald Wallace From Game One - part Joe Johnson from Game Three - the Deron Williams who reverse-dunked - and the continued all around solid play from Brook Lopez.  With  helpful contributions from the bench, I'll take my chances.

Get it done.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Brooklyn Nets: Flatbush Suffers Gut-Wrenching Loss In Third Overtime

From the desk of:   THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

Game Four Final
NETS  134
Bulls    142


Joe Johnson had his finest hour - time and again single-handed extending the Nets afternoon.  He finished with twenty-two points, but scored none bigger than the buckets setting up a second overtime.  The team faded late however, during the third overtime session and ultimately succumbed to the Chicago Bulls in a 142-134 gut-wrenching final.  This was the game they needed, but now may not recover from.  Brooklyn's backs are against the wall with their hearts in their hands, down three games to one in the series.  If the Nets do not win when the series returns to Barclays Center for Game Five, the Nets inaugural season on Flatbush will come to a hasty end.

Well after the game, little Nate Robinson no doubt still has to be the biggest pain in the Nets collective posterior.  He scored thirty-four freakin' points and absolutely went off in the fourth quarter after Gerald Wallace picked him off with the brick wall treatment.  Nate then wound up becoming the game high scorer with a ridiculous late game performance.  Prior to getting wiped out, he only had five points.  In fact, Nate was epic, as the Nets had a fourteen point lead with less than four minutes left in regulation.  Good friggin' grief man!

I can't think of much to say after a loss like that.  It was deflating to say the least.


Friday, April 26, 2013

New York Mets: Citi Field Needs Another Hero For Friday Night's Game

From the desk of:   HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

NEW YORK METS - If The Team Has Asked So Much From Matt Harvey This Early, There's Nothing Wrong With Fans Wanting A Big Game Out Of Dillon Gee, Right Now.

Flawed thinking is exactly what this team needs.  But I digress.

This season, much of the Mets misfortunes have been overshadowed by the feats and exploits of Matt Harvey.  Nonetheless, the team found itself flirting with .500 baseball again.  Facing mediocrity occurred much more sooner than last year, as April 2012 represented some of their brighter times.

So far in this young season, Harvey has been asked to stop losing streaks, and overcome Washington's own phenom, Stephen Strasburg, in a head to head match up.  Wednesday night, Matt Harvey was being asked to stave off futility. With a loss against the visiting Dodgers, the Mets would have fallen one game below the .500 mark.

Harvey wasn't dominating, but he pitched well.  Except for an early run, he kept the Dodgers scoreless long enough for the Mets to mount something - anything, which they couldn't.  So what the the Mets line-up couldn't provide in support of Matt Harvey's effort, Matt Harvey took upon himself.  The Mets pitcher clubbed a double off the left field wall, then scored on Ruben Tejada's rbi single to tie game at one apiece.

Matt Harvey was credited with a no decision, and perhaps not in vain.  Jordany Valdespin's 10th inning heroics gave the Mets a dramatic win, and the home plate celebration included Harvey as well.  He said he sucked, but also had fun, so why pooh-pooh the situation.  ...An otherwise great night for Mets fans.

The team indeed staved off the dreaded .500 level, improving to 10-9 on the season.  Then came Thursday afternoon's last inning loss.  Tough break for Jeremy Hefner who pitched very well, and for Scott Rice who took the loss.  The Mets stand at 10-10 now.  On Friday, Mets fans want an April hero.  Dillon Gee will be on the mound against division foe, the Philadelphia Phillies.  There's nothing wrong with wanting him to pitch a big game this early.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

N.Y. Rangers: Captain Callahan Leads Blueshirts Through Hurricanes


NEW YORK RANGERS - The Captain Leads. Ryan Callahan's Overtime Goal Propels Blueshirts Onto Postseason.

"THAT'S IT!" - Charlie Brown.

....Not the fact that the Rangers blew a 2-0 lead, (Good Grief!), and came back to defeat the Carolina Hurricanes in overtime, and in doing so clinched a playoff spot.  I'm talking about Carl Hagelin's first period pass from the left circle to Derek Stepan filling the slot.  I haven't seen that particular set up from Torts' Rangers, it seems like, forever.  The play looked similar to the crazy-ass open skating style of western conference hockey.  Yech!

Captain Callahan got credit for the secondary assist on Stepan's goal.  In overtime, Captain Callahan scored the game winning goal on assists from Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh.  If that sounds more like a blast from the past, it should.  And that's the way it needs to be from here on out.  With many new players joining the fold, the Rangers garnered vastly different results this season.  The playoffs are the playoffs however, where good teams win, and lesser teams get weeded out.  If these Rangers are as good as last year's Rangers, throw the regular season aside, for the post-season will tell us.  But until this team reaches the Eastern Conference finals, the debate over departed players versus the imported ones will continue.

Brad Richards scored the game tying goal on a power play with three minutes left in regulation.  It was a huge score for him personally, and the team as a whole, considering their pathetic loss to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, and that Winnipeg was ahead 2-1 over the Canadiens this evening, until Montreal pulled away.

Tuesday's loss by the way, was brutal - just brutal.  I'm glad I kept my mouth shut.  I can not say after today however, no harm done.  I disagreed with how Coach played Henrik.  I would have given Henrik Tuesday off.  Had the Rangers won, I would have given him off Thursday as well.  He started forty of forty-six games heading into Carolina.  This is all academic now.  Henrik will no doubt sit out Saturday's season finale against the Devils.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Brooklyn Nets: A Series Grows In Brooklyn; Bulls Win Game Two

From the desk of:   THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

Game Two Final
Bulls    90
NETS  82

Series Tied 1-1
Game Three and Four at Chicago

BROOKLYN NETS - They Played Best Of Games. They Played The Worst Of Games.

There, for all Barclays Center to see, Mr. Hyde in shorts, or, Dr. Jekyll possessed.  That's how bipolar, or should I say, schizophrenic , this team can be.  If you've watched them this season, then you know how dramatically their shooting can go from being pin point accurate, to suffering debilitating rim aversion.  What did I say after game one?  I'll remind you...

The Nets shot 55.8% from the floor versus 47.4% for Chicago. The Nets are very simple to figure - when they shoot like that, they usually win, for this has been a season riddled with too many 33% nights.

The Brooklyn Nets shot 35.4% from the field Monday night.  That's it.  There's your game.  Talk about a rejuvenated, or even reinvigorated defensive effort by the Bulls all you want.  I'll listen.  But I won't agree.  Deron Williams was 1 for 9 from the field.  Gerald Wallace shot 1 for 7, and Joe Johnson was six for eighteen.  In other words, Joe Johnson shot 33% from the floor.  The only Nets player not to lose his touch was Brook Lopez, who scored a game high twenty-one points.  The Nets additionally got out-rebounded by a 44-39 margin.  Three Chicago players had double digit rebounds.  Reggie Evans pulled down eight for Brooklyn.  Chicago turned the tables on Brooklyn, outscoring the Nets 42-30 in the paint.  That's the simple anatomy of game two's loss.

Now the series heads to Chicago for a pair, where the Nets will be forced to win back a game on the Bulls court.


Monday, April 22, 2013

New York Rangers: Fans To Devils - "Season's Over!"


Rangers Lead Series 2-1
I - NJD 3; NYR 1
II - NYR 3; NJD 2
III - NYR 4; NJD 1
IV - Saturday

NEW YORK RANGERS - Win Over Devils Gives Blueshirts Three Point Lead Over Winnipeg Jets For Eighth Seed.

I was there Sunday.  There was no revenge factor for me - just winning.  Regardless, MAAR-TY! was the anthem of the night. And it was fun.  Sunday's chant started a little earlier than most, thirty-four seconds into the game actually.  That's when Captain Callahan put the Rangers on the board, and sent the Blueshirts on their way.

The game was a bit unusual to watch as Rangers/Devils clashes go.  Neither team seemed to play with any aggression to speak of, towards each other.  It was more like a - Pardon me, Excuse me type of game.  In fact, Coach DeBoer was the most agitated person in the Garden last night.  And for good reason.  His Devils were in the midst of being eliminated from this year's playoff race, and going down without a fight.  If you remember, by this time last year, Coach DeBoer and Coach Torts were already exchanging slings and arrows.  This year, Sunday, Coach DeBoer vented on the stripes for good reasons, team motivating reasons, and no reason at all.  It's all he had left.  SEASON'S OVER!  SEASON'S OVER!  Coach DeBoer was reminded over and over by the crowd.  Not so much for him, but for me, there was a great atmosphere at the Garden, in an otherwise conflicting season.  The Rangers now have three games left to secure this eighth seed, or, their season will be over as well.

Tex's Rangers have now scored eighteen goals in the last three games.  Last night, the Captain scored the first and last goal of the day.  Derek Stepan continued his strong season with a first period goal, his sixteenth, and Taylor Pyatt added his fifth.

Henrik Lundqvist has started the last eleven games in a row, and twenty of the last twenty-one Rangers games.  The Blueshirts next game is Tuesday, against the Panthers in Florida.  Even though every point is critical right now, Coach Torts might want to consider giving Henrik the night off.  It would figure to be Henrik's last game off for whatever run the Rangers can muster.  Marty Biron made three starts in February.  He made his next start on March 10th, then his last start came on March 30th.  Henrik started forty games this season, Biron, six.  Henrik currently owns a 2.08 GAA, and a .927 save percentage.  Giving Lundqvist Tuesday's game off is a risk, but one worth taking.  The Winnipeg Jets are currently three points behind the Rangers, in ninth place with forty-nine points.  After Florida, the Rangers play in Carolina, and wrap up the regular season against the Devils again.  IF...Biron gets the start in Florida, and wins, I would give him another start in Carolina, before saddling up Henrik for a potentially, long bumpy ride through the conference.  What say you?


New York Knicks: Defense Clamps Down On Celtics In Game One

From the desk of:   DUTCH PANTS CAN'T JUMP

Celtics       78

NEW YORK KNICKS - Melo Defense!  Melo Defense!

The League's scoring champ did what the playoffs demand.  That's why Carmelo gets a bad rap - because the regular season is all about System.  In the playoffs, you need stars to rise up, and supporting players who know, and execute their roles.  When you consider the list of players who under-performed around Carmelo Anthony Saturday afternoon, then you know why the game was a two point affair with just a few minutes left.  Think about it - In twenty-two minutes, Iman Shumpert scored three points.  Tyson Chandler scored no points in twenty minutes.  Ditto with Chris Copeland - thirteen minutes, no points.  And those were the starters.  Jason Kidd played thirty-five minutes (!) with eight points off the bench.  Steve Novack was a non-factor.

Now for the big contributors.  Ray Felton played forty-three minutes and scored thirteen points, which is respectable considering his six assists.  And make no mistake, Kenyon Martin's ten points in twenty-eight minutes were huge, as was the way Kenyon Martin shut down he paint.  And there in lies the game - tenacious defense.  Tenacious team defense put Carmelo Anthony in a position to lead the rest of his mates to an 85-78 game one victory.  Forget Melo's first quarter.  It was good.  Melo's last two minutes stand tallest.  That's when most of the appreciable TV audience tunes in anyway, right?

Show me.  And Melo did.  He scored a game high thirty-eight points - twelve more than Boston's perennial thirteen point scorer, Jeff Green.  Think about that too.  Melo had one assist in the game.  It was huge, a hot pass to Kenyon Martin who converted.  He also had six rebounds, all on the defensive boards.  Lastly, Carmelo Anthony had four steals.

Defense.  It was the kind of defense the Knicks played back in November, if not better.  And Melo was a clear participant.  It needed to be that way, because no one wanted to score.


This season, J.R. Smith has teamed with Carmelo to form one of the more lethal duo's in basketball.  In game one, he scored fifteen points in thirty-two minutes.  With those minutes, he is no bench player.  In any event, I think Knicks fans sense a huge game coming from him shortly.  Carmelo Anthony will need the help.

Would this series be viewed differently if Jajon Rondo hadn't gotten hurt?  Definitely.  Felton and Kidd would be getting treatment on their ankles as we speak.  Until Kevin Garnett shows up, Melo and Smith look like they got this covered.  After game two, it's off to Boston.  That's when the really series starts.


Brooklyn Nets: Chicago Bulls Hit Heavy Traffic On Flatbush; Game Two Tonight

From the desk of:   THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

BROOKLYN NETS - Chicago Suffers Saturday Night Fever. The Hoops Of Flatbush Take No Bull On Home Turf.
Bulls      89
NETS   106

A little under 18,000 fans watched live, as history was being made on Saturday night.  The Brooklyn Nets basketball team won the first major professional playoff game in the Borough since 1956, when the Brooklyn Dodgers last played the Bronx Bombers in the 1956 World Series.  Saturday night's game inside Brooklyn's new downtown arena was only a first round affair against the Chicago Bulls, but was a huge inaugural step for the  club and its fans, not to mention an enormous benchmark for the billionaire owner who's primary goal is to secure the Borough a championship by the 2015 season.

For just over two and a half hours inside Barclays Center, the home team played like a championship caliber club.  In running through the Chicago Bulls by a seventeen point margin, the Hoops of Flatbush did everything near perfectly, and finished the game convincingly.  From the opening tip to the final buzzer, Brooklyn remained relentless.

Six Nets players ended in double-digit scoring versus just one, Carlos Boozer (25), for Chicago.  Deron Williams led Nets scorers with twenty-two points, and also distributed a game high seven assists.  Brook Lopez was next high with twenty-one points, and led all players with three blocked shots.  Joe Johnson dropped sixteen points, and Crash played a very solid game with fourteen points, six rebounds and two blocked shots.  The only starter who failed to score in double-digits was Reggie Evans.  As usual, his game contributions came in the form of a game high thirteen rebounds - the only player with double-digit boards.  Twelve of Reggie's rebounds came on the defensive end.  Unlike Tom Thibodeau, Coach P.J. Carlesimo made almost full use of his bench.  C.J. Watson scored fourteen and Andray Blatche added another twelve points in supporting roles.

The Nets shot 55.8% from the floor versus 47.4% for Chicago.  The Nets are very simple to figure - when they shoot like that, they usually win, for this has been a season riddled with too many 33% nights.  Brooklyn also won the battle of the boards by a 39-35 margin - something they are more accustomed to doing. The Nets additionally shot 82.4% from the free throw line, while Chicago struggled through 68.2% shooting.

Moving forward, if Joakim Noah is going to be hobbling around all series, then it sure makes sense to keep Brook Lopez and Reggie Evans on the floor together.  The two dominated down low as a tandem, and were chiefly responsible for outscoring the Bulls 56-36 in the paint.  Deron Williams also played a part in Brooklyn's paint domination, driving at will, pun intended.  His outside shooting solid, as was Joe Johnson's.  If Williams continues shooting nine for fifteen as he did in game one, the Bulls have to respect the outside.  Joe-Jo was seven for thirteen from the field.  Together, they shot 50% (four for eight) from three point land.

Chicago Bulls
Barclays Center, Flatbush Avenue

Point to the absence of Derrick Rose, and the present health of Joakim Noah if you will.  Success is relative.  I get that.  In game one however, Gerald Wallace appeared determined to become a factor.  He was five of seven from the floor, and three of five from the stripe.  In thirty-seven minutes, he did a little bit of everything.  He factored with points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals.  It was a complete night for him.  While it is perfectly clear this is Deron Williams' team to run, if the Gerald Wallace that played with Saturday Night Fever continues to suit up for the Nets, Brooklyn can make noise.  Before he gets to don his white suit when the series shifts to Chicago, first, the Hoops need to continue the Black-Out, and take care of business right here on their home turf of Flatbush.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

New York Rangers Can Help Themselves By Eliminating New Jersey Devils Today


Series Tied 1-1
I - NJD 3; NYR 1
II - NYR 3; NJD 2
Madison Square Garden
33rd Street at 8th Avenue

NEW YORK RANGERS - Protecting A One Point, Eighth Place Seed, With No Identity, Will Be No Easy Task, And Even Harder To Predict.


This has no doubt been a tumultuous season for Tex's Rangers.  And it is far from over.  From reaching the conference finals last season, they are merely clinging to playoff aspirations one year later, for the Blueshirts still maintain a precipitous hold on the eighth seed with four games remaining in the 2013 lockout shortened regular season.  A recent offensive outburst by the Rangers has been a welcome omen for better times ahead.  But if they really want to end their regular season the right way, and set the tone for a possible and prosperous playoff run ahead, they can start with exorcising last year's demons by repaying the New Jersey Devils a favor - eliminating them from contention today.

Despite the Rangers fall from conference leaders to eighth seed hopefuls, Madison Square Garden should be raucous today, even though Sunday afternoon games have usually been known as kid's day for years.  In today's particular situation, parents will either have to cover their kinder's ears, let it be, or keep them home and give their ticket to a die-hard drunkard buddy.

I'm sorry, but in my opinion, the Rangers, these Rangers, do not have an identity yet.  Beginning today, they have four more games to figure one out.  Fourteen goals in two games against the lowly Florida Panthers, and a rebuilding Sabres team should, for the most part, be ignored.  I am more interested in which team shows up today, and which team takes the ice over the final three games.  With fifty points, Winnipeg is only a point away with forty-nine.  A season which could potentially end with the New York Islanders in sixth place, and the Rangers missing out would be nothing short of a calamity.  While that would indeed be unacceptable, in Glen Sather's universe lacking oversight and free of accountability, he might be inclined to pass the buck, and fire John Tortorella.  But that's putting Glen Sather's cart way ahead of Tort's horses.  Let's beat the New Jersey Devils first, and free up their month of May for vacationing.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Brooklyn Nets: The Borough's First NBA Playoff Game, Tonight - Game One vs. Chicago Bulls

From the desk of:   THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

First Round
Barclays Center at Flatbush Avenue
BROOKLYN NETS - Let The Games Begin!
It only took seventy or so games, but the Nets are playing perhaps their most cohesive basketball of the season.  They are also the healthiest they've been all season.  And just in time - The Brooklyn Nets begin the 2012-2013 NBA playoffs as the Eastern Conference's fourth seeded team, and will face off against the Chicago Bull tonight in Barclays Center.  The Nets 49-33 regular season record and second place finish in the Atlantic Division entitled them to home court advantage in the first round.  They will need every advantage they can get.  The Nets were 1-3 versus the Bulls this season.
Now the fun starts.  They must win four games before Chicago does.  They must do so against a team that was clearly more physical than they were in four previous meetings, which also came minus the services of Derrick Rose, who will likewise miss the post-season.  Chicago is all about physical defensive play.  Much of that will be lacking however, if Joakim Noah fails to play tonight, or if he misses extensive time during the series.  Even then, under coach Tom Thibodeau the Bulls will play tough, relentless basketball regardless.
If Noah is out, that should free-up Brook Lopez to have a good offensive game.  Even with or without Joakim on the floor, still look for Chicago to play tough inside.  Expect Lopez to get a heavy dose of Nazr Mohammed.  That means Brooklyn's outside shot still better find its range.  We know at times what kind of endeavour that can be.  That said, very simply, it's time for Brooklyn's back-court to shine as advertised.  While this is clearly Deron Williams' show to run, and he's still considered in the midst of an exceptional second half, Joe Johnson must make the Bulls pay for any slack play in their perimeter defense.  He must be deadly accurate, and make them pay with points.  When he decides to be a factor, the Nets play formidable basketball.  Plainly said, Joe Johnson is expected to show up every night now - not just be around the way.
Gerald Wallace needs to find, and establish a role in this series.  Is he going to be a three-point shooter, and help push the floor?  Or, will be be Crash, and play near the paint.  Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche already have their mission - match Chicago's physicality, and pull down rebounds.
There is not usually much to say about any given game one scenario.  After tonight, we'll better know what each coach has decided to target, and try to take away from the other.  We'll also better know who came ready to play and who didn't.  Then..., it will be, series on!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Brooklyn Nets: On The Borough's First NBA Regular Season

From the desk of:   THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

49-33 .598
2nd Place - Atlantic Division
BROOKLYN NETS Berth In The NBA Playoffs Punctuates A Triumphant Return Of Professional Sports To Kings County.

On Thursday, March 21, 2013, the Nets Basketball Club clinched the franchise's first playoff berth since the 2006-2007 season when they still played in New Jersey.  This Saturday will mark the first time since 1956, a major league professional sports team from Brooklyn participates in any type of post-season play.


Kings County's first season of NBA basketball is in the books.  So how did ya like it?  Without looking forward into the playoffs, I would say the recently concluded regular season was an unqualified success.  I personally couldn't have been happier.  And why not, the team won forty-nine games which tied for the fifth highest mark in franchise history.  Four times since 1967-68, the ABA/NBA Nets surpassed fifty or more wins in a season.  Three of those came in the ABA.  As an NBA franchise, the Nets have only won fifty games or better once during the 2002-03 season.  Now, for the fourth time in their history, the Nets complete a regular season with a 49-33 record.  Lest we forget, the Nets posted a 22-44 record last season, their last in New Jersey, and they only recorded twelve wins (12-70) during the 2009-10 regular season.  So, to detract from what the team has accomplished in the recent short term just wouldn't be fair.

Today's level of team success has not come without casualties.  Who knows how things would have turned out if GM Rod Thorn had stuck around.  What went down between him and incoming owner Mikhail Prokhorov is academic now.  What turns out being fact, is that Billy King took over a team fresh off losing seventy games, while only winning twelve.  Today, the Nets have improved by thirty-seven wins since then, and by twenty-seven wins over last season.  The Nets might be capped out for the next three seasons, but King still has draft picks he didn't trade away.

Was the decision to fire Coach Avery Johnson the right decision?  The owner might have had in for in from the start.  But to Avery's credit, he was named Coach of the Month of November.  He also put in a lot of work during the overhauling of the roster.  Just when he started enjoying life on the other side of the mountain, a troublesome December got him sacked.  In the snap of a finger, Coach became riddled with perception issues.  Additionally, not only rumors, but body language and productivity perhaps hinted Coach lost his star player's attention.  The team got off to a hot November, but by the time of his firing, the Nets were (14-14) a .500 team.  For the cash Billy King invested into this team, that simply wasn't going to do.  I liked Avery Johnson.  But money changes everything.  However, he may not have been the right guy for the new roster anyway.  Which ever way you slice it, P.J. Carlesimo stepped in and righted the good ship Brooklyn.  The Nets played 35-19 basketball for Carlesimo.  P.J. is a local guy who..., just gets it.  He understands how this place works.

It helps that Deron Williams is now playing his best basketball since becoming a Nets player three years ago.  Many accused him of getting his second coach fired - See Utah.  I tend to focus on the fact he stayed in Brooklyn when it was easier for him to leave.  I also appreciate him coming to the city and avoiding no post-game microphones, and telling it like it is.  This currently assembled roster of slow, plodding, methodical players probably isn't the best group for Deron's style.  But it is what it is, which was good enough for second place in the Atlantic Division.  He finished the season as the team's number two scorer, with 18.9 points per game, and averaged 7.7 assists.

As far as the other half of Brooklyn's much hyped front court, you might say Joe Johnson lived up to his billing.  He's a proven scorer who takes and makes big shots, but also has a tendency to quietly disappear.  He did so this season both on the court, and off, via a foot injury.  In seventy-two games, Joe averaged 16.3 points - his lowest scoring average since the 2003-04 season.  His 36-minute scoring average of 15.9 was even slightly less.  Thus, the max contract Atlanta gave him, and assumed by Billy King will continue to be questioned.

In his fourth full season, and his first season after foot surgery, Brook Lopez averaged 19.4 points per game; his second best mark since his 2010-11 season, and averaged 6.9 boards per game, which is still off from when he averaged over eight rebounds during his first two years in the league.  However, in this season's per-36-minutes stats, Brook averaged twenty-three points and 8.2 boards.  Lopez also had a career best 2.1 blocks per game.

I'm a big Crash fan.  I mean, who isn't?  Yet, there is no getting around the Nets experienced ongoing problems at forward this season; and particularly small forward.  Collectively, I give Gerald Wallace, Andray Blatch, and Reggie Evans favorable mention.  I can not speak for Kris Humphries though.

The Nets finished in second place of the Atlantic Division, five games behind the Knicks.  They enter the playoffs as the Eastern Conference fourth seeded team and will face the Chicago Bulls in the first round.  The question that will now be answered is - were the Brooklyn Nets a paper tiger?  They only recorded a 15-27 record against teams with .500 records or better.  They were 32-6 in all others.  Are they just the best of the rest or fit for the test?

We'll see.  But for now, forget Moses could get his People across the Red Sea faster than a Nets fast break. Until Saturday and Game One roll around, Nets fans and Brooklyn fans should spend at least another day satisfied their team made the playoffs and validated a triumphant return of professional sports to the Borough of Kings.

By defeating the Indiana Pacers last Friday, the Nets earned home court advantage in the first round versus Chicago.  So let Friday be fun.  Gear up for the first playoff game in BroooKlynnn.


Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Ebbets Field ~ 100th Anniversary

55 Sullivan Place
Brooklyn, N.Y.
Picture From Brooklyn Spectator
1913  ~  2013

By 1912, Charles Ebbets entered into partnership with brothers, Stephen and Edward McKeever.  The three bought out departing partner, Henry Medicus.  Mr. Ebbets and the McKeever Brothers then entered into a 50/50 partnership and established the Brooklyn Baseball Club, Inc.  The team's nickname widely became recognized as the Dodgers (shortened from Trolley Dodgers) around this time.

On April 9, 1913, the gates opened to the newly completed Ebbets Field; the Brooklyn Dodgers new home.  Roughly 12,000  fans  endured rain to witness their Brooks lose 1-0 to the Philadelphia Phillies.  The Dodgers posted a 65-84 record in 1913, finishing  sixth in the circuit.  Inside their new park and in front of Brooklyn's faithful, they only managed to play .382 baseball, with a 29-47 mark.
3B - Red Smith
SP - Pat Ragan
Ebbets Field originally opened to accommodate 18,000 patrons, with standing room for 3,000 more.  The Dodgers drew 347,000 fans during Ebbets' inaugural season.  By the 1950's, up to 32,000 fans could fit into an increasingly undersized Ebbets Field.  Of course, the park famously opened with no flag to run up the pole.  Apparently, no one considered building a press box.  And someone forgot the keys to unlock the bleacher section.
In 1925, owner Charles Ebbets passed away.  Eleven days later, Edward McKeever passed away as well.  Both rest eternally in Brooklyn.  Charles Ebbets is buried at Greenwood Cemetery; Edward McKeever at Holy Cross Cemetery.
Pictured above, blueprint representation of Ebbets Field.  Below, seats from Ebbets.


Stephen McKeever continued running the club until his passing after the 1937 season.  With his death came the end of an era, and the beginning of another.  The regime that brought the Dodgers into a new century gave way to the Branch Rickey-Walter O'Malley era that would transform the Dodgers into baseball's World Champions.

On September 24, 1957, roughly 6,700 fans showed up to watch the last ever Brooklyn Dodgers game at Ebbets Field.  Danny McDevitt pitched a complete game, five hit shutout.  He walked one and struck out nine batters.  In the line-up playing for Brooklyn that day, was Roberto Clemente.  The 1957 team was minus the retired Jackie Robinson.  However, many of Brooklyn's favorites would go on to continue their careers in Los Angeles.  The 1957 team also had on it a young Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale.
In the winter of 1960, Brooklyn's beloved old ballpark arrived upon its fateful date with the same  wrecking ball that destroyed the Polo Grounds.  Ebbets was unmercifully reduced to rubble forty-eight years after hosting its first baseball game.  Within two more years, an apartment complex came to dominate the former parcels of land Charles Ebbets spent a small personal fortune amassing in an area of Brooklyn, not too kindly referred to as Pigtown.
The view down Bedford Avenue today.

The Bedford Avenue Bums may have moved three thousand miles away to Los Angeles.  The spirit of the Brooklyn Dodgers however, is still very strong throughout the Borough of Kings..
Earlier this year, the flagpole which stood atop the Ebbets Field scoreboard made a grand re-appearance in the Borough, and now resides at its new home in front of Barclays Center; Brooklyn's new arena which occupies the location Walter O'Malley wanted to build a new park for the Dodgers.  Sharon Robinson, daughter of Jackie and Rachel Robinson, was on hand for the flagpole dedication.


Monday, April 08, 2013

N.Y. Knicks - Bernard King Gets Call To The Hall

From the desk of:   DUTCH PANTS CAN'T JUMP

Bernard King
Elected To Basketball Hall Of Fame

His Name Resonated Through Every Playground
in New York City.

I do not remember the 1973 championship season - too young.  I became a serious fan during Clyde Frazier's and Dave Debusschere's last seasons.  I remember when Red Holzman, then Willis Reed, then Red Holzman (again) ran things here.  I was a Knicks fan when Mr. Bill Cartwright was drafted, and Sugar Ray Richardson played.  That leads us into Hubie Brown and Bernard King.

I was like most teenage boys in Brooklyn during summer.  When not engaged in baseball, I was in the park playing basketball.  You played three-on-three on the side, until "Next" for your five guys came up on the full court.  Winner stayed on the court - losers strayed back into three-on-three, or got angry and assembled another five.

Bernard King was part of all of it.  Born in Brooklyn, he became the measure of all things basketball in Gotham.  No playground was replete without the local version of BER-NARD!  Every team had at least three.  Every shot was patterned after his.  In my day, every shot was - In Your Face!  Swishhh!  Or just accompanied by a BER-NARD!

For a guy who's last name lent itself to mundane media metaphors, King was always BER-NARD to us.  I have followed the Knicks for nearly forty years now, and have either found favor or disgust with many players over that time.  Bernard King is without a doubt my favorite Knicks player of all-time, with Patrick Ewing coming in a considerable second.  Throughout the Knicks long playoff run of the 1990's, no player surpassed what Bernard King did to the Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics during the 1984 playoffs.  I only wish, like many Knicks fans of the time, Bernard King and Patrick Ewing could have played together.  A debilitating knee injury, and former GM Al Bianci's gross mismanagement of the team prevented that from happening.  I also pondered many times what Bernard King, Patrick Ewing, and Mark Jackson could have done together.  If only...

You can save your arguments opposing his election into the Hall of Fame.  When I think of Bernard King, one thing and one thing only pops into my mind - greatness.  He was a true King of the city.

He was....BER-NARD!


Friday, April 05, 2013

N.Y. Mets: Matt Harvey - Time Bandit

From the desk of:   HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

NEW YORK METS - Matt Harvey Wastes No Time.  The Great Ones Never Do.

In a word, Matt Harvey's first start of the season was a gem.  He pitched seven innings, only allowed one hit, walked two, and struck out ten Padres.  Harvey's was the kind of performance that should be affected upon a team of San Diego's caliber.  That he indeed dominated them was reassuring, if not amazin'.

If you remember way back to Matt Harvey's major league debut, which came in Arizona on July 26, 2012, he tossed 5.1 innings, allowed three hits, walked three, and struck out eleven DBacks.  He now has eleven major league starts and 66.1 innings pitched, which translates into six innings per start.  Matt has eighty strikeouts, while only allowing forty-three hits.  He issued twenty-eight walks so far, and sports a "career" 1.070 WHiP.  Since he allowed no runs in Wednesday's start, his ERA dropped to a 2.44 mark.  At twenty-four years of age, that's what Matt Harvey has accomplished in his MLB career so far.

So why does it seem he's done so much more?  It's not like he spent much time in the minors gaining vast experience.  It took almost two months to sign him after being selected seventh overall in the 2010 draft.  Otherwise, he could have commenced his pro career in Brooklyn or Savannah.  As it turned out, he spent 2011 split between Port St. Lucie and Binghamton.  Before his brief call-up last season, he spent the majority of 2012 at AAA-Buffalo.  Harvey only totalled 245.2 innings in two seasons before arriving in Queens.  He joins elite company in that respect.  Tom Seaver pitched one season of minor league ball in 1966, and tossed 210 innings at AAA Jacksonville.  In 1982, Dwight Gooden pitched a season split between Kingsport-rookie, and the A-level New York Penn League.  In 1983, he put in a full season of A-ball, and tossed 191 innings, for a grand total of 269.2 minor league innings pitched.

Matt will be pitching this season with no innings limit or general restrictions.  He is free to ply his craft.  Where he comes off with this much polish is beyond me.  The only thing I can peg is, in just eleven MLB starts, Matt Harvey has additionally exhibited the poise and confidence the two pitchers previously mentioned took to the mound with them very early in their careers.  Harvey certainly makes it seem as if he's been doing this a long time.  He was rather brilliant on an otherwise chilly, and blustery Wednesday night in Citi Field.  And that was just game one.  I can't wait till the warm weather hits.

* Mets Graffiti - Williamsburg

N.Y. Rangers: Glen Sather Pedalling A Vicious Cycle


NEW YORK RANGERS - Can't Stop The Dominoes Once They Start Falling.

Hit the music and let's sing an old song...  Welcome to the continuing domino effect born of mindless reactive general managing.  The team's present situation could have been avoided if Glen Sather would have just signed Colton Orr.  There was, and still is no defending the decision not to re-sign Orr - not with the ill-advised deals Sather gave Donald Brashear and Derek Boogaard, etc..  Brandon Prust finally stepped into Colton Orr's old role, and did so admirably.

Many fans still can't grasp the duality of the Rangers fighting ways of last year, with overall physical toughness.  Brandon Prust didn't just fight.  He helped maintain the offensive zone.  He did so with hard work, and a strong physical effort.  Brandon helped possess the puck, while it was the more skilled players responsibility to crash the net, get a shot on goal, and score.  But yeah, fighting helps.  Fists embed doubt in opponents minds.  It sets a tone.  Fighting is an effective way to impose your will on the ice.  Not once, but twice, Glen Sather hardly found those type of unheralded contributions  worth the monetary price, and twice he paid for it.  He is continually having to correct mistakes.  Sather's latest gross miscalculation demanded he replace some of the toughness he let get away.

Last season, this team lurched forward with the power and grace of a big blue glacier, that grinded down all opponents in their path - up until they met the New Jersey resistance.  As recently as this past Tuesday morning, they've been a shell of last year's team.  Even with Rick Nash, the Rangers have somehow managed to score less than last year's team.  Fighting is down, scoring is down, and Marc Staal is down.  Something had to give.  Now that the NHL trade deadline has passed, this team looks even less like the one that went to last year's Eastern Conference finals.

But I've been through all this before.  I just don't want to sound like a skipping record.

January 19 - Four Points of Concern
January 20 - Bruins Expose A Fistful of Problems
January 22 - Not Re-Signing Colton Orr Still A Mistake
January 24 - Getting Pushed Off The Puck, And Getting Pushed Around

I knew from the very beginning, that after the Rick Nash trade, this roster needed major reworking.  I've said it many times.  The Marian Gaborik trade was a curious one to say the least.  I just hope it works out.  There were actually more reasons to pull off such a deal, than not.  Big money and paltry results were very troublesome.  Salary cap wise, the Rangers needed the cap space in order to retain some of their current young talent - cap space they would not otherwise have had.  On the ice, Gaborik was increasingly falling more and more out of favor with Coach Torts.  Marian's style, and the Rangers style under Torts became incompatible.  Gaborik was also increasingly being excluded from third period play.  If that is what his situation degenerated to, then why keep him?

Don't ask me to get caught up in what Ryane Clowe, Derik Brassard, and John Moore contributed Wednesday evening against the Penguins during a 6-1 Blueshirt victory.  I was there.  Yeah, it was fun.  At the moment however, being sandwiched in between the Islanders and Devils in the Eastern Conference standings with twelve games left is a bit distressing.  These guys need to learn how to play together quickly.