Wednesday, April 30, 2014

N.Y. Mets: Let's Be Friends To The End

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

why? Why? WHY?

NEW YORK METS: The Saul B.Katz Dilemma Knows No Bounds.  They're Not Too Proud To Beg After All.

On 4.3079th day in this Age of WILPONianism, let it be known, that in the Year Twelve A.D. (After Doubleday), the Saul B.Katz Dilemma dispatched this letter to its fans via email.  Check the link, because I'm not wasting my time regurgitating it here.

The contents therein rank right up there, if not exceed ownership's infamous, and impotent exhortation,
"I wanna play meaningful games in September."
Why does this ownership continually embarrass itself?  The Wilpons (Saul's Dilemma) are so flawed, they're almost endearing.  However, I stress the word almost.

I realize the organization doesn't necessarily care about me, because I'm already loyal to the team.  Their intention is to try and draw in the next sucker.  But, was this really the way to go about it?  The short answer is an emphatic - NO!  In a city of 8 million people, you shouldn't have to beg any body.  Build a winner, and they will come.

You guys were doing good this year too.  Now this.  What a ponderous thing to do.

Uncle Saul's partner just doesn't get it, does he?  Gotham has demonstrated time and again, we can easily fill both Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, with 3+ million fans a season if you just put a competitive product on the field.  Asking fans to give this year's team a fair shake, just like we did for the 1969 and 1986 teams, is such an amateurish tactic, it borders on independent league.

What's next, asking Father Carmine for his blessing before every game?  Putting Jeff in a dunk tank?

I know....

Instead of pleading with fans, potential or otherwise, for their unconditional loyalty, how about penning a lengthy apology to the fans for inaugurating the de-evolution of the New York Metropolitan Baseball Club.


N.Y. Rangers: With Nash In A Funk, Game Seven Needs A Hero


Philadelphia Flyers
New York Rangers

NEW YORK RANGERS: The Smallest Players Continue Playing A Big Role, While Rick Nash And His Size Remain In Obscurity.

Wayne Simmonds Played Big When His Team Was Faced With Elimination.
Now Rick Nash Must Do The Same For The Rangers.

The Rangers generated more shots - as many as they did in the first two games, and won more face-offs than Philly, which is something they've struggled to do this series.  Unfortunately, the Steve Mason they faced in Game Four showed up, and not the Mason the Rangers faced on Sunday.

That might work out well for the Rangers heading into Game Seven.  Steve Mason does not play particularly well in Madison Square Garden.  The Steve Mason the Rangers played on Tuesday and in Game Four has proven to be a far more formidable net minder when on home ice.

Other than that, things went horribly wrong in Philadelphia.

Whether Dan Carcillo should have played in Game Six is a non issue - not after a game like Tuesday's, because once again, the 4th line was the Rangers best line.  So, there's no use haranguing the issue.  But, in Game Seven Coach Vigneault might have to insert his energy, and grit into the line-up.  No one else on this team throws his body around like he does.

Let's face it, the final score of Game Six read 5-2, but that was effectively a whitewash, because the Rangers main player continues to get shut out.

Jakub Voracek carried the Flyers early in the series, and now (with a hat trick in Game Six, and 4 goals in the series) Wayne Simmonds is taking charge.  For the Blueshirts, I guess you can say Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis took early charge of the Rangers, however, Rick Nash remains mired in obscurity.

How is it that the Rangers smallest guy, Mats Zuccarello is the Rangers best player?  He got knocked around like a pinball in Game Six, but still scored a goal, and has authored some nice passes as well.  Martin St. Louis, Carl Hagelin, and MatsZucs should not be playing a more physical game than Rick Nash, who seemingly refuses to utilize his size.

All I hear out of Columbus is thank goodness Rick Nash is gone, and that they love Brandon Dubinsky. And, just to throw it out there, Brandon Prust is headed into the second round.

Let's just hope Coach Vigneault's power play wakes up tonight.  The Rangers will no doubt get opportunities.  But, the Flyers have been playing smarter of late, and are committing less penalties.  So, the need for the Rangers to capitalize on their dwindling chances this evening is paramount.  It also would not hurt if Coach Vigneault readjusts to Philly's adjustments.  The Flyers have taken control of the chess game. The next move is Vigneault's.

Clearly, the universal way of dealing with a Game Six loss is to let it go, and act like it never happened.  Life is now a one game matter now, which boils down to 60 minutes and intestinal fortitude.  It's gut check time. Let's see who shows up tonight, and who doesn't.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Brooklyn Nets: Deron Williams Leading The Team In Critics

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

Series Tied 2-2
I - BKN 94; TOR 87
II - TOR 100; BKN 95
III - BKN 102; TOR 98
IV - TOR 87; BKN 79

Brooklyn Nets
Toronto Raptors
North of the Border

BROOKLYN NETS: Dean Wormer Isn't F***ing Around Guys.  Deron Williams Is Now On Double Secret Probation.

I'm sure someone in Brooklyn appreciates how Deron Williams caught Kyle Lowry with an open-handed slap to the face - by accident of course.  Maybe Deron can audition for a part if The Lords of Flatbush revival ever hits Broadway.  But, right now, the Hoops of Flatbush need buckets, and they need them from their point guard Williams.

The Raptors covered Joe Johnson like a blanket last game.  Johnson was doubled, and triple teamed at times.  What does that mean?  Who brought the help on defense, and from where?  And as a result, who was the open man?  And, considering Kyle Lowry played Game Four with a bothersome knee,  I'll ask kindly, where the hell was Deron Williams in Game Four?

He scored 10 points and had 6 assists in 37 minutes.  He was 4/12 from the field, 0/5 from beyond the arch, and with only two buckets in three attempts, he clearly didn't do enough to get to the free throw line.  He additionally turned the ball over 5 times, and played with 5 personal fouls that caused him to play cautiously. Regardless, to date it was perhaps the most inconsequential games he's played as a Net.  Mind you, this came on his home court, and not to mention this is the playoffs.

This less about the Nets stopping DeMar DeRozan, than it is getting Deron Williams to lead the Nets.  He gets off to good starts, but so far has not finished well.  He appears content to defer to Pierce, and Joe Johnson, which is unfortunate, because as the point guard of this team, he is supposed to be the creator, the facilitator, and a decisive factor in crunch time.  Instead, a ponderous performance in Game Four leaves one with little choice but to be highly skeptical.


N.Y. Rangers: Vote No To Game Seven, Finish Tonight!


Rangers Lead Series 3-2
I - NYR 4; PHI 1
II - PHI 4; NYR 2
III - NYR 4; PHI 1
IV - PHI 2; NYR 1
V - NYR 4; PHI 2

New York Rangers
Philadelphia Flyers
The Broad Street Octagon

NEW YORK RANGERS: Blueshirts Give Bullies A Bloody Nose In Game Five; Look To Knock Out Philadelphia Tonight.


You know what I say - once is an event, and twice is a coincidence.  But, the Rangers scoring four goals in every other game is now a trend, or so we hope.  I'd settle for a 2-0 shutout tonight.  Try me.

The Rangers were actually out-shot in Game Five, but took a 3-2 lead in the series on the strength of their somewhat least likely scorers.  Steve Mason's teammates certainly failed him on two of them.  Mason had no answer for Marc Staal's booming shot from the left dot.  However, on the Rangers second goal, Mason accounted for every one in front of him, except Brad Richards who lurked off net.  During a loose puck scrum, four Flyers descended on the crease, left Richards uncovered, and paid a price.  Later, Mason was then failed by his teammate's piss poor puck handling on Dominic Moore's goal.

Without knowing which Steve Mason awaits them in Game Six, it behooves the Rangers to generate more shots, similar to the first two games.

Of course, Mason was a non-participant during Brian Boyle's closing goal.  There's no doubt the Rangers have 4th line fever.  After all the hard work he's put in this series, Brian Boyle finally scored.  Good for him.

Brad Richards scored his 2nd goal of the playoffs, and Martin St. Louis was robbed of the Rangers potential sixth goal of the game by non review-able whistle.  The big guns have by and large, shown up - all except Rick Nash.  He leads the team with 23 shots on goal.  So, the chances have been there.  He's just able to finish.  If he doesn't get going, the Rangers themselves risk not finishing.

Oddly enough, the Rangers have won three games without his scoring, and with a sputtering power play.  If I didn't know any better, in Game Five, it looked like the Rangers took a page out of the Flyers play book.  I watched the Blueshirts play after the whistle, I saw them crash Steve Mason, I saw them make questionable hits (they got away with..), and saw them glove wash a few faces as well.  I saw the Rangers play with an edge the Flyers did not match.

Another Flyer-like similarity was the Rangers putting Philly on the PP an uncharacteristic 5 times in Game Five.  While, the Blueshirts were only afforded 3 opportunities (and went scoreless).

The big question for the Rangers is, should Dan Carcillo play in Game Six?  I'm not as insistent on him playing like I was heading into Game Three, but I still think he should be strongly considered.  J.T. Miller deserves minutes too, and just may get 'em.

No one wants the series to return to Madison Square Garden.  We can do without a Game Seven for a change.  Finish!

And Let's Go Mets too.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Brooklyn Nets: Please Curb Your Dog

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

Team's Alter-Ego Rears Its Ugly Head Again

Series Tied 2-2
I - BKN 94; TOR 87
II - TOR 100; BKN 85
III - BKN 102; TOR 98

Raptors    87
NETS       79

BROOKLYN NETS: Ya Can't Blame This One On The Fans!

The game started off ugly for the Nets, got better, then finished in a Flatbush Avenue wreck.

This is why I have to question whether the Nets actually "tanked" the last five games of the regular season, because the team that played Sunday's game looked awfully familiar to me.  In those last five games, the Nets showed every reason why they should eliminate the Raptors, but also displayed every reason why the Nets would fail to get out of the first round.

The peaks and valleys, bumps and bruises that have been Nets basketball this season make Coney Island's famous Cyclone seem smooth and tame by comparison.  Instead of being up 3-1, the series is now a toss up, or a best of three depending how you see things.

The Nets have no one to blame but themselves.  Kevin Garnett can't blame the fans for this one.  I wonder if he would want the boo's to rain down upon him and the team, the same way he wanted fans to shower the Raptors general manager with venom?

Talk about making life difficult for yourself..........  Fuhgeddaboudit.

You kind of expect DeMar DeRozan, or Kyle Lowry, to have the types of game they did - if not both together, which is what happened.  DeRozan went for 24 points, and the Raptors got another 22 points from Lowry.  That, by itself is fine.

The Nets even provided a second straight answer for Jonas Valanciunas.  In fact, Toronto played with no bench support to speak of.  However, the only one who was able to put a stop to Amir Johnson, was Amir Johnson himself.  He started out on fire, but was forced to cool off because of foul trouble.  Otherwise, the Raptors had three players in double digit scoring, in the first quarter alone.

Amir was just one variable in Brooklyn's three part losing equation.  Deron Williams failing to at least match one or the other; DeRozan or Lowry; was a major factor, as was Jason Kidd's failure to devise strategies to free up Joe Johnson.

One can excuse Joe Johnson for Sunday's performance, but what of Deron Williams?  Well, he was 4/12 from the field, and was limited to 10 points in the game.  He was effectively outplayed by Greivis Vasquez, who came off the bench to score 9 points, and lead all players with 9 assists, while Deron Williams had 8 assists.

Did I say Greivis Vasquez?

It's ponderous, that after a horrible first quarter, the Nets still had this game tied 67-67 after three quarters. They just flat out blew it.  All the numbers added up for them.  While Toronto started the first quarter shooting a stupid 62% from the field, they ended up shooting 41.3% for the game.  The Nets ended the night shooting 41.2%, but with 7 less total shots.

However, the Nets made up for that with 6 more opportunities from the free throw line.  Rebounds were amazingly even, at 43 apiece.  If anything, the Nets lost the turnover battle, and it cost them dearly down the stretch, namely by taking a series of offensive fouls.

Scoring only 12 points in the 4th quarter ultimately doomed the Nets in their own building.  Their inability to hit a shot for long stretches at a time, is something we've definitely seen before.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Today For Rising Apple: Despite Sunday Loss, Allan Dykstra, Las Vegas 51's Continue To Roll

Here's My Latest For

Senior Staff Writer/Rising Apple

L.I. Ducks: Bobby Blevins Pitches Gem In Somerset

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

LONG ISLAND DUCKS: Bobby Blevins Fans Eight, And Plunks A Pair, In Dominant Performance Over Somerset Patriots.  Webbed Nine Win First, Avoid Sweep.

Starting pitcher Bobby Blevins turned in an exceptional day's work Sunday afternoon, in helping the Ducks gain their first victory of the season, and just as important, avoid an opening series sweep against the hosting Somerset Patriots.

Bobby Blevins surrendered his only hit of the game in the first inning, but a pair of errors gave the Patriots an early 1-0 lead.  From the end of the 1st inning however, through the 6th inning, he retired 16 straight batters.

After hitting the first two batters he faced in bottom of the 7th, Coach Baez made a move to the bullpen, and brought in reliever Jereny Accardo.  A double, and a 4-3 put-out later turned this into a 4-3 game, still in the Ducks favor.  Both runs were charged to Blevins.  That would be the last of Somerset's scoring though.

Otherwise, Bobby Blevins pitched 6 full innings, allowed 3 runs (2 earned) on just one hit, no walks, and struck out 8 batters to earn his first victory of the season.  He faced 22 batters, and threw 88 pitchers, with a very efficient 60 (68%) going for strikes.

The bullpen combined on 3 scoreless innings, and closer Leo Rosales recorded his first save.

Long Island used 8 hits, and 3 walks against Patriots pitching to mount a 6-3 victory.  Joash Brodin and Cody Puckett led the Ducks with 2 RBI each.  Ryan Strieby also drove in a run, while one Ducks run was unearned.  Brodin was 2/4 at the plate, while Puckett posted a 3/4 day.

The Ducks will now migrate to Southern Maryland for a three game series against the Blue Crabs before finally heading back to Long Island, for their opening day on May 2nd.


Brooklyn Nets: Time For Deron Williams To Seize The Moment, And A Borough

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

Toronto Raptors
Brooklyn Nets
Barclays Center

BROOKLYN NETS: Deron Williams Made a Big Decision To Sign, And Stay In Brooklyn.  The Time Has Now Come For Him To Seize The Moment.

Toronto Raptors May Have Poked The Bear

In three games against the Toronto Raptors, Deron Williams has been employing a wide repertoire of moves, and featuring a particularly strong cross-over.  There is a burst to his first step again. And, why not?  He's only 29-years old - the middle of his prime.

Since his arrival in New Jersey, then Flatbush, his critics have only grown in number.  And, truth be told, Deron Williams has been somewhat of a potential local superstar in suspended animation.

At the moment, knock on wood, ankle problems that caused him to miss 18 games early this season now seem like a distant memory.  But, the overall damage his ankles have caused him over recent years, have certainly taken their toll on the way Williams is perceived throughout the league, and most importantly, in greater NYC, and Brooklyn specifically.

Heading into the post season, no one was necessarily doubting Deron Williams' determination, or commitment to playing at a high level.  The debate raged instead, over how far he had fallen below elite point guard status.

At the moment, he finally appears to have health on his side again.  And, thanks largely to Billy King's maneuverings, Deron Williams also has veteran experience, floor leadership, scoring options, and bench depth all at his disposal.

It seems then, the conditions appear perfectly set for him to finally silence his many naysayers, and once and for all, endear himself to the borough.

Albeit hampered by said ankles, he averaged 14 points and 6.1 assists this past season.  But, according to his Per 36-minute averages, he posted 16 points and 7 assists.

On March 15th, the Nets visited the Washington Wizards, and were soundly beaten.  The Wizards overcame a 10 point deficit in upending the Nets.  Washington was led by PG John Wall, who scored 33 points, issued 6 assists, and also secured 4 rebounds.  Wall was 10/15 from the field, 4/6 from 3-point range, and 9/10 from the line.  Quite simply, he outplayed Deron Williams, by more than doubling his point output.

Deron Williams played 35 minutes that game, and was limited to just 14 points, with 7 assists and 7 rebounds.  He was just 4/14 from the field, 3/7 from beyond the arch, and 4/4 from the stripe. Afterward, Deron became incensed with his performance, and admitted as much numerous times.

He played his next game with fury, taking out his frustrations in Phoenix, where he torched the Suns for 28 points, on 11/13 shooting from the field.  Still upset, he followed by dropping another 25 points on the Bobcats, with 11 points coming in the 4th quarter.  He additionally led the floor with 8 assists.

In Deron Williams' final 23 games of the regular season, he averaged 16 points and 7 assists.  Over that span, Deron scored 20+ points 6 times - significant because, over his first 40 games of the season spanning October through February, he had only done that 7 times.  However, a significant level of anger dissipated from his game sometime between Washington and the final game of the season.

When Friday's game against Toronto started getting physical, Deron Williams took exception to one push too many, and eyeballed a Raptor player or two.  It was that moment when the look came back - his anger returned.  From it, I believe, evolves a killer instinct - something that has generally lacked in Deron's game, and from last year's entire team for that matter.

In three games against the Raptors, he is averaging 36.6 minutes, 20.3 points, and 5.3 assists.  He scored 24 points in Game One, on 8/20 from the field, and 6/6 from the line.   In Game Two, he scored 15 points, and issued 5 assists.  In Friday's game at Barclays Center, Deron scored 22 points on 7/14 from the field, and issued a game high 8 assists.  All this, while effectively outplaying Kyle Lowry.

Statistics aside, in the closing minutes and moments of the first three games, the ball has been placed in the sure hands of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, who won't panic under duress.  In Game Three, the ball was placed in Joe Johnson's hands late in the game, and has otherwise carried the team.

But, it is Deron Williams, not the others, who will ultimately define this initial era of Brooklyn basketball.  He will be the measure.  As he goes, so will the tale.  But, without the ball, that may prove difficult.

Last year's playoffs ended quickly for the Nets, not to mention in very disappointing fashion.  This time around, and three games into the post-season, he has yet to really seize an endearing moment.

Hopefully, there are many more games to come.  At some point, he'll need to make the closing minutes his showcase if he truly wants to make this era his.  Deron Williams made the decision to sign and stay in Brooklyn.  The time has now come for him to seize the moment.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

N.Y. Rangers: Power Play Singing The Blues


Series Tied 2-2
I - NYR 4; PHI 1
II - PHI 4; NYR 2
III - NYR 4; PHI 1
IV - PHI 2; NYR 1

NEW YORK RANGERS: Bring Back Emery!

The Blueshirts continue to out-shoot the Flyers, but Game Four's final score suddenly signifies something radically different about this series.  More than gooning things up, or taking advantage on the PP unlike the Rangers have since Game One, or scoring on a deflection, having Steve Mason back in net has proved itself to be the most dramatic turn in Philadelphia's fortunes.

Ranger fans are hopeful this is a simple case of scoring four goals every other game, but don't hold your breath.  Improved play between the pipes will only embolden the Flyers into taking more chances, or should I say liberties, knowing their back door is substantially more secure.

Two, One , Zero...., Scub.  That's the number of PP goals scored by the Rangers through the first three games.  Here's the more distressing part - the Flyers have 3 PP goals in 6 opportunities.  Sure the Rangers have done well to limit penalties....  The Flyers on the other hand, have afforded the Rangers with 16 PP opportunities, but the Rangers have only capitalized 3 times, and only once in the last two games, spanning 10 PP opportunities.

Don't look now, but Ryan McDonagh is hurt, ironically through no fault of the Flyers.  He appeared to bounce harmlessly into the boards, and immediately winced, then favored his left shoulder.  That brings to question how healthy he has actually been all this time.  His recent play suggests he indeed has been hampered with a bum shoulder which caused him to miss the last 6 games of the season.

Rick Nash, another five shots, still no goal.


Brooklyn Nets: Game Three - Jason's Kidds Narrowly Avoid Accident On Flatbush Avenue

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

Flatbush Leads Series 2-1
I - BKN 94; TOR 87
II - TOR 100; BKN 95
III - BKN 102; TOR 98

Game Three Final:
Raptors  98
NETS   102

BROOKLYN NETS: Flatbush Hoops Blow 15 Point Lead To Make Things Uncomfortable Down The Stretch.

Everything almost went according to plan.  The crowd was good enough, and the Nets similarly played good enough to win.  To be honest though, the crowd could have been better, at least in the first quarter, and the Nets could have played better, after all, they let a 15 point lead dwindle down to one with less than a minute left in the game.  Truth be told, Toronto screwed themselves in the closing minute by hoisting a series of bricks from the free throw line.

Now, because I live here, there's every chance I might be over critical of last night's game, but, when I see guys like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett buying into their Brooklyn experience more than perhaps some of the ticket holders, well..........  there's something about last night that wreaks to me of underachievement, or lacking killer instinct.

This is a resilient borough, but I warned you apathy runs deep here.  The Brooklyn Dodgers were not called The Bums for nuthin'.  Either that, or this place still has a lot to re-learn about being a major league town again.

Be better this Sunday!

The Brooklyn Nets took a 2-1 lead in their best of seven series against the Atlantic Division winning Toronto Raptors.  Joe Johnson continued leading Brooklyn's way with 29-points, which was only one behind DeMar DeRozan's game high 30-points.  Joe was 11/17 (65%) from the field, and 6/9 from the line.  He led all players with 40 minutes.

The Nets won Game Three's points in the paint by a 42-32 spread, largely thanks to Joe Johnson, who is getting to pick his spots on the floor.  Kevin Garnett and Mason Plumlee combined on 30 minutes and could only muster 6 points, on 3/7 from the floor, and 0-2 from the line.  They only pulled down 6 rebounds and blocked one shot.

Deron Williams was 3rd on the scoring list, with 22 points, and issued a game high 8 assists.  He was 50% from the field on 7/14 shooting.  There was a point we saw the angry Deron again, which is a good thing.  He glared at a few Raptors when the game started getting physical.  That was a look missing since Deron torched Phoenix for 28 points, in the first game after John Wall lit him up for 33 points on March 15th in Washington.

Shaun Livingston's contributions however remain minimal.  Be it because of Toronto's effort, a compromised toe, or feeling ill, Livingston has yet to give Brooklyn a true back court edge the three provided together during the regular season.  Yet, he led the Nets with 6 rebounds Friday.

Brooklyn closed the rebounding gap considerably over Game Two.  This time they only got out done by a 35-29 margin.  Defensive rebounds were almost even, but Toronto pulled down 5 more offensive rebounds than did Brooklyn.

However, the Nets defensive effort is still causing an abundance of Raptors turnovers.  They also continue to keep Kyle Lowry somewhat bottled up, and finally came up with a measurable defense against Jonas Valanciunas.

Andray Blatche fueled Brooklyn off the bench with 18 minutes, 12 points and 4 rebounds.  He was 2/3 from the floor and a perfect 8/8 from the line.

The Nets must continue holding court in Flatbush.  Sunday's Game Four at Barclays Center is set up for them to take a 3-1 strangle hold on the series.  Let's see what kind of killer instinct they play with then.


L.I. Ducks: Somerset Patriots Outlast Defending Champs In Season Opener

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Friday Final
Patriots   3
15 innings

LONG ISLAND DUCKS: Somerset Patriots Need Overtime To Unruffle Flock In Season Opener.

Patriots fans attending yesterday's Opening Day game in Somerset were treated to, among other things, free baseball.  That's because the Somerset Patriots and Long Island Ducks dueled for 15 innings last night, until the Patriots finally prevailed almost 4 1/2 hours after the call to play ball.

That's perhaps no consolation for the way last season ended between these two clubs, but Friday night's victory over the Ducks was a small measure of revenge nonetheless.

Last year's Atlantic League championship series MVP, John Brownell climbed the hill for visiting Long Island, and was opposed by Somerset's Erik Arnesen.

The Ducks fell behind in the 2nd inning, when Patriots first baseman Dennis Raben led off the frame with a home run off John Brownell.

Long Island would take the lead on the 4th however.  Lead-off singles by Chris McClendon and Fehlandt Lentini set up first and third for Lew Ford, who's sac fly gave the Ducks their first run of the season.  Then Ryan Strieby's two out single scored Lentini to give the Ducks a 2-1 lead.

Somerset knotted the game in the 6th, on center fielder Johnny Tucker's one out single, and a triple by second baseman Nate Spears.

John Brownell lasted 6 full innings, allowed 2 earned runs on just 4 hits, walked none and struck out 5 before departing the game.  Patriots starter Erik Arnesen lasted 7 innings, and likewise allowed 2 earned runs on 5 hits.  He walked no batters and struck out 8 before exiting.

The teams then played the equivalent of a new game, with each bullpen dueling to a scoreless tie through the next 8 innings.  Somerset finally broke the deadlock in the bottom of the 15th inning. With one out and a runner on first, Johnny Tucker factored once again, this time with a double to plate the winning run.

Reliever Casey Barnes took the unfortunate loss for Long Island.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Brooklyn Nets: The Team's 2.6 Millionth Man

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

BROOKLYN NETS: He Sed WuT?  F**K Us? F*****K HIM! Let'm C'mova Heer N'Say Dat.  Wut Is He High Or Su'um?

Doesn't what's-his-face know we wear Brooklyn like a red badge of courage, and don't mind being accused of stickin' it in peeplz faces, even to our own locals in the other 4 boroughs?

So, don't take it personal.

We Brooklynites happen to live in perhaps the most diverse 96 square miles on the planet, which makes us by and large, pretty tolerant people, if not the most tolerant people in the world.

But, once you're here, that's it.  No one really cares whence you came - nice word, aye?  We do, but we don't, ya know?  Where ever you were formally from, might get met with a  - Oh, that's nice.  Good luck with that.  But, even the most resistant denizens, whether newly transplanted or from the old school, eventually learn the hard way.

As culturally diverse as we are, there still remains a few local taboos, that if committed, should in most cases, guarantee a universal response.

That said, (Dude!...) you just can't go telling Brooklynites to go f*** themselves.  I know crime is at an all time low in the city, and people here feel safer than ever.  But, some things remain highly ill advised.  It just comes with the territory.  I love it here, but this isn't Disney World bro.  There's a saying - We do not discriminate because everyone pisses us off equally.

Of course, I speak in jest, after all, this is basketball, but there's grains of truth in everything, right?

Friday night, I anticipate Flatbush showing up in earnest to vocalize their displeasure with what's-his-face, respectfully of course.  After all, we're not animals.  We're more like that one funny talking guy in old war flicks that kept his unit's morale up with a uniquely Brooklyn view of things.

Life is indeed fun here, but every day presents its struggles nonetheless.  About that......, for the uh, the uh...., what's-their-faces, the visiting team, Barclays Center is going to box them in like a parking spot on Pacific Street.  It will then be incumbent upon Nets fans to make their captives guest's weekend visit to Brooklyn radically different from any they've experienced before.

Of course, I could be wrong.  Apathy also runs deep here.  Yooo'd be surprised.  So, there's a chance for what's-his-face to avoid an "egg cream" to the face yet.  But I doubt it.


Brooklyn Nets: Paul Pierce Detonates A Well Timed Team Improvement Device

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

Welcome To F#@king Brooklyn, Aye!

Series Tied 1-1
I - BKN 94; TOR 87
II - TOR 100; BKN 95

Toronto Raptors
The Borough of Kings

BROOKLYN NETS: Truth Is, We Enjoy That Kind Of Chutzpah Around Here.  So, Tell What's His Face To Come Get Some.

Don't Ya Know A Gut Check When Ya Hear One?

That's what you get when faced with The Truth.  Last season, Game Two would have been followed by a chorus of excuses, rationalizations, self loathing, and soft spoken dismay.  This season, Paul Pierce issued his rather pointed assessment of Game Two, and concluded the Nets were soft.

Pierce was not just popping off at the mouth.  His words were intentionally loaded.  First and foremost, his teammates should take what he said at face value, but above all, they should take his admonishment to heart, because he was right.

Who doesn't realize his words were meant to incite specific members of this team as they head into a pair of games at Barclays Center? Pierce was flat out challenging his team to dominate on their home court this weekend. And, for those who still do not get it, Paul Pierce's mind is already on Game Five.

Pat Riley always said the most important games in a seven game series were Three an Five. Paul Pierce understands that very well, as does Kevin Garnett, and Jason Kidd.

Despite his late game failings in Game Two, the Nets accomplished a necessary split on the road largely thanks to Paul Pierce.  Had he hit a few shots down the stretch in Game Two, the Nets could very well be up 2-0 in this series.  At the same time, if the Nets had secured just a few more second chance opportunities, the whole course of Game Two changes.

Who envisioned the Nets being this inept on the glass?  That said, Paul Pierce's words should have forced his teammates to stare themselves down in the mirror.  Sometimes leadership manifests itself in forcing people to feel uncomfortable by employing a less than delicate tact.  That's why he was brought here.  So, if these Nets truly want to represent Brooklyn at its finest, they had all better toughen up.

Paul Pierce is going to be in a position to win more games for the Nets, because he's Paul Pierce. The question he is trying to eliminate is, who's coming strong with him?

*          *          *          *

DeMar DeRozan was the only player to exceed 20 points in Game Two.  In fact, he scored 17 of his game high 30 points in the fourth quarter.  Toronto out-rebounded the Nets by a whopping 52-10 margin.

The Nets could not capitalize on 20 Toronto turnovers.  Their shooting went cold at critical times of the game.  Paul Pierce was a particularly frigid 2/11 from the field, and 0/6 from beyond the arch.

Deron Williams scored 15 points, and tied with Shaun Livingston with 5 assists.  Mirza Teletovic and Mason Plumlee combined on 18 points and 7 rebounds off the bench.  Joe Johnson led the Nets with 18 points.

Toronto now enters Barclays Center where the Nets posted a 28-13 home record this season, and at one point, won 15 consecutive games on their herringbone floor.  The Raptors played respectable basketball on the road, posting a 22-19 record away from Canada this season.


Latest For Rising Apple: Las Vegas 51's Enjoy A Well Deserved Day Off

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

L.I. Ducks: Somerset Patriots Prepare For Another Flock Invasion

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Open The Gates, And Play Ball!


Some Park In New Jersey

LONG ISLAND DUCKS: More Bling Please...! Title Defense Begins Against A New Division Foe, But An Old League Rival.

The 15th regular season of Long Island Ducks baseball picks up where 2013 left off, against the Somerset Patriots.  Of course, the Patriots are five time Atlantic League champions, who last year knocked off the league's top team (the mighty Sugar Land Skeeters) in the Freedom Division series to advance and face the Ducks for the Atlantic League championship.

Long Island won the first two games of last year's final, but Somerset stormed back to tie, and force a decisive Game Five.  The Ducks ultimately prevailed, capturing their second consecutive (and rather improbable) league title, and the organization's third overall.

A slight league realignment has now brought the Patriots and Ducks even closer together.  Somerset moves to the Liberty Division this season, while the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs will shift to the Freedom Division.

Friday evening, Somerset will no doubt be looking to punctuate their 2014 Opening Day festivities by gaining a small measure of revenge over their Long Island rivals.

At the plate, the Patriots will once again feature Cory Smith, who hit 20 home runs, and knocked in 84 runs last season.  In the outfield, Aharon Eggleston batted .294, with 8 homers and 56 RBI.

On the mound, Josh Lowey returns to lead the starting rotation.  He led the Patriots with a 14-8 record, and 2.89 ERA last season.  He struck out 124 batters in 155.2 innings pitched.  He'll once again team up with David Harden, who posted a 10-2 record with a 3.38 ERA, in 101 innings pitched.

Relief specialists Roy Merritt and Jon Hunton return to anchor the Somerset bullpen.  Last season, Merritt got in 38 games and pitched 64.1 innings, in which he struck out 71 batters, and posted a   4-2 record, with 2 saves, and a 1.95 ERA.  The Patriots closer, Jon Hunton, posted a 3.00 ERA in 54 innings, and saved 37 games.

After their three game weekend series against Somerset, the Ducks will move along to Southern Maryland for a three game set against the Blue Crabs.  Long Island will then host their home opener on Friday, May 2nd, against the York Revolution.


N.Y. Rangers: Game 3 - Dan Carcillo Kicks Sand In The Broad Street Bullies Faces


Rangers Lead Series 2-1
I - NYR 4; PHI 1
II - PHI 4; NYR 2
III - NYR 4; PHI 1

Flyers          1

NEW YORK RANGERS: Flyers Cheap Shots Failing To Rattle Blueshirts, Unless You're Benoit Pouliot That Is.....

When do you suppose Coach Vigneault will play Dan Carcillo?  I hope the answer is games Three and Four.  A game in Philly seems tailored for him..., no?  Doesn't the former Flyer have anything to offer, be it with his physicality, or on-ice composure in a familiar environment?  Put him in coach.  C'mon, let him bang some bodies. - Yeah, I said that.

Ray Emery finally played down to his abilities.  He let pucks get by him from up close, from far away, and from bad angles.  In other words, he was an equal opportunity Game Three failure.  The Flyers finally pulled him from net in the third period, and it's probably safe to say, the Rangers should expect to see Steve Mason the rest of this series.

For the first time this series, the Flyers out-shot the Rangers by a 32-23 margin.  After chiding The King in my last post, Tuesday night, Henrik Lundqvist was brilliant in stopping all but one shot. The Rangers also uncharacteristically put Philly on the PP five times, but successfully killed them all.  A stellar defensive effort, and Henrik's 31 saves were most certainly the determining factors of Game Three.

For the moment, the Rangers were able to seize back home ice advantage.

The rest, makes for a very colorful recap.

The Flyers crowd was taken out of the game early, by two Rangers first period goals.  Ray Emery gave up a bad angle goal in close quarters to Derek Stepan, on a Rick Nash feed from the far corner.  Then a little under seven minutes later, he gave up another on Dan Girardi's shot which was deflected in by Martin St. Louis.

Before the first period was through, the Flyers got one goal back, but nothing more.  Dan Girardi then cancelled it out with a booming second period shot taken from downtown Philadelphia, which Emery was helpless to stop.

Former Flyer Dan Carcillo provided the crowd with one final punch to the stomach, when he converted a great pass from Brian Boyle, and tapped it through the pads of Emery, to give the Rangers a 4-1 victory.  It was a marvelous turn of events for him.  After feeling dejected over committing a penalty, he scored right out of the box.  Back in the second period, he took a minor penalty for coming to the aid of Carl Hagelin.  Good man!  Good game.

Benoit Pouliot was clearly out of his mind though.  In fact, there was a point in the game when Pouliot and Carcillo were both going against everything Coach Vigneault preaches.  But, it may have served the Rangers well.  Winning certainly has a way of influencing perspective, and so I would say Carcillo and Pouliot both brought a high level of intensity, and even a measure of anger and raucousness, that perhaps Philadelphia needed to experience.

Once again, the Flyers resorted to their full repertoire of troglodyte tactics.  Wayne Simmonds continued his overall obnoxious behavior, and escaped the box after cross-checking Derek Dorsett in the face. Simmonds also continues to lead the Flyers in SOG.

Dan Carcillo took a deliberate shoulder to the jaw, which also went unnoticed by the stripes, who by the way, were particularly horrific this night.  If you were watching, how else can you explain Philly getting whistled only four times all game.  It was a ponderous performance by them.

Just prior to Philadelphia scoring their lone goal, I could have sworn Derek Dorsett and Simmonds agreed to drop gloves during their next shift, but the fight never materialized, unlike the series of punches Carl Hagelin endured during what the stripes deemed a non-fight against Jakub Voracek - an absolutely terrible job.

The Rangers are hopping a train back to New York City tonight, and will return for Game Four on Friday.  I don't blame them.  I wouldn't want to spend the night in Philadelphia either.

Enjoy a cold beer on the way home fellas.  Nice game.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Latest For Rising Apple: Weighing Potential Mets Line-Up Alternatives

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N.Y. Knicks: Please Phil, Don't Stop!

From the desk of:  DUTCH PANTS CAN'T JUMP

Taxi!  Airport please, and step on it.

NEW YORK KNICKS: "The Time Has Come For Change Throughout The Franchise..." - Phil Jackson.

I couldn't agree more with Phil Jackson's decision to fire the entire coaching staff.  It was the right thing to do Knicks fans.  He was correct to declare - "The time has come for change throughout the franchise...."

You're damn right it's time!  Gut it Phil!

Let Phil Jackson put his footprint all over this organization, and then own it.  But please, don't stop there!  Steve Mills should be next.  Purge every last remnant of the old regime.  Knicks history, basketball history, even world history says that's the thing to do.  Gut it all!

The defects to this franchise go far beyond preventative, or even corrective maintenance.  Above all, this organization has been polluted under James Dolan's ownership.  All you need to know is what Steve Kerr intimated - he's skeptical of MSG's overall environment, conditions, and dark, corporate climate that permeate the organization.

Everything that ails this organizations starts at the top.  So, if indeed Phil Jackson has full, and absolute autonomy, then yeah, act like you own it.

There can only be one alpha, and it can not be a man who A) - knows nothing about basketball, and B) - is more interested in his band.  Yes, he is a business man.  No doubt.  That's why he needed Carmelo Anthony in his building, and trampled all over Donnie Walsh to get him.  But, the time has finally come to put the game, and the team, ahead of the star system and entertainment.

Too bad for Mike Woodson.  I hope he lands on his feet.  Over time, we grew to understand his flaws as a head coach.  But, he was a good guy who shouldn't have to bear full blame for players that either turned on him, or tuned him out.  That's an indictment more of the players, than anything Coach Woodson tried.

The day he took over, he said he was going to ride Carmelo Anthony.  That was a smart ploy considering Mike D'Antoni wouldn't.  To Melo's credit, by and large he stayed loyal to Coach Woodson.  The same can't be said of Tyson Chandler, and Amare Stoudemire in particular.


Monday, April 21, 2014

N.Y. Rangers: Flyers Put A Few Extra Eggs In Henrik's Basket


Series Tied 1-1
I - NYR 4; PHI 1
II - PHI 4; NYR 2

New York Rangers
Philadelphia Flyers
Broad Street

NEW YORK RANGERS: A Quiet Ninety Mile Drive To Think About What They've Done.

I Tried Protecting The King, But There's No Hiding From The Numbers

On a personal note, I hate Sunday afternoon starts!!!  Absolutely hate 'em!  I digress.

Game Two was nothing short of an opportunity lost (literally), and must be called for what it was. It was Easter, so, yeah, they laid a rotten egg in the Garden.  After spending two days wiping the yolk off their faces, they better get hot on stealing a game in Philadelphia in order to recapture home ice advantage, otherwise, well.......

That won't be easy.

So far, the Flyers were made to play the Rangers style of game, and in Game Two, the Rangers were made to play the Flyers style.

More so in Game One, but, to a certain extent, Coach Vigneault was able to escape the Flyers physicality while on home ice.  As the series shifts to Philly, the Flyers now obviously get final line change rights.  That means the Broadway Blueshirts better prepare for the Broad Street Bullies. Coach Berube can sic exactly who he wants after the Rangers defensemen, particularly in the corners, and decide who gets to instigate, and when.  Advantage Flyers.

That's not good news coming on the heels of Sunday's meltdown.  Most aspects of Tex's Rangers game failed them.  Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi didn't have particularly good days.  Both posted a minus-2 for the game.  But, there's no possible way to take them to task over it.  Not them - not after all they do otherwise.

It's not like Philadelphia refrained from committing penalties.  They banked plenty of goon minutes, again.  In fact, they committed 6 penalties in consecutive games.  While the Rangers rode the strength of two PP goals in 6 chances in Game One, they were only 1 for 6 Sunday.  But, that makes them 25% in two games, which is superior to their 18.2% mark during the regular season. On the other side of the puck, the Rangers have limited the Flyers to just 4 PP opportunities in two games, but to the Blueshirts dismay, Philly has cashed in twice.  Numbers suck, don't they?

Not all things, but you knew at least some things would change heading into Game Two.  Getting limited to 15 overall SOG in Game One was something the Flyers were certainly going to rectify. This time, the Rangers mustered 33 shots on goal to the Flyers 24 shots.  That brings the team totals up to 69 SOG for the Rangers, and just 39 for the Flyers - rather lopsided numbers, aye?

But, the scoring breakdown is unsettling - six goals for the Rangers, and 5 for Philly.  Three of the Rangers 6 goals have come on the power play, while Philly has tallied 3 of their 5 goals at even strength.

Somehow, and certainly not to my surprise, the Flyers continue making numerous mistakes, yet they now hold serve.  Meanwhile, the Rangers have played very disciplined hockey, yet can not afford even the slightest misstep.

Think about it.  Outside of Jakub Voracek's goal Sunday, the Rangers are actually keeping the Flyers first line in relative check.  Claude Giroux still does not have a shot on goal.  Scott Hartnell only has a pair, and none in Game Two.  And Voracek had no SOG in the opener, but got the Flyers going in the second period of Game Two, on one of only two shots he took.  Even the sticks of Vincent Lecavalier, Matt Reed, remain dormant.

But I guess you can't keep your eyes on every one.  Wayne Simmonds is the one Flyer finding daylight.  What Jakub Voracek started for Philly Sunday night, Simmonds ended with a lights-out power play goal at 19:34 of the final period.  Wayne leads the Flyers with 6 total SOG.

You know where this all is headed, don't you?  Henrik Lundqvist is getting outplayed by Philadelphia's backup goalie.  Damn.  I said it.  The numbers speak for themselves:

Philly vs. Lundqvist - 5 goals on 39 shots = 12.8%
Rangers vs. Emery - 6 goals on 69 shots = .08%

It's not like Henrik's skaters are failing him.  The Rangers main forwards are getting their chances against a very porous Philly defense.  In two games, Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis have factored in the scoring, just as required.  When you include Rick Nash, the three have combined for 27 SOG.  Rick Nash leads the trio with 13 SOG, but is having an awful time finishing.  Brad Richards has 11 SOG and one goal.  So, the opportunities have been there, but the fact is, Ray Emery, particularly on Sunday, has stopped them cold.  Martin St. Louis has a goal in three shots. He was held without a shot in Game One.

Now what?  The answer might be simple.  Keep doing what you're doing, but with a more watchful eye on defensive detail.  Certainly, a marked increase in intensity over Game Two is warranted as well.  And as they say in the fight business, protect yourself at all times.

On that note, when do you suppose Coach Vigneault will play Dan Carcillo?  I hope the answer is games Three and Four.  A game in Philly seems tailored for him..., no?  Doesn't the former Flyer have anything to offer, be it with his physicality, or on-ice composure in a familiar environment? Put him in coach.  Let him bang some bodies.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Today For Rising Apple: Podcast - The Weekend Recovery Show, Or, Rant Talk Radio!

After attending Sunday's extra-inning victory over the Atlanta Braves,
fellow staff writer and friend, the Converted Mets Fan - Sam Maxwell and I, co-hosted 
the 70th episode of the Rising Apple podcast.

Sure, we talked about the game, Curtis Granderson, the rest of the outfield, Jose Valverde, Wilfredo Tovar and the Mets shortstop situation.  But, we also talked about cheap owners, baseball's old time alpha managers, Citi Field, the 1970 season, Gil Hodges, - you name it, and more.

We even went off campus and talked New York Knicks versus Brooklyn Nets basketball.

I do not usually link these, but I basically turned this particular episode into a 1 1/2 hour rant!


Or, as I later named it - Rant Talk Radio.

Senior Staff Writer/Rising Apple

Today For Rising Apple: Noah Syndergaard Taking His Lumps In The Pacific Coast League

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Brooklyn Nets: Game One - Raptors Foiled By THE TRUTH

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

NETS     94
Raptors  87

BROOKLYN NETS: "The Truth" - Paul Pierce Offers Up A Lesson In The Fine Art Of Closing Out Playoff Games.

Nine of Paul Pierce's Fifteen Points Came In The Final 3:30 Of The Game.

Paul Pierce finished unlike any Brooklyn Nets player ever has prior to his arrival.  Game One in Toronto demonstrated exactly why Billy King rolled his dice on Pierce, as well as Kevin Garnett. In the final 2 minutes of the game, the ball was in their hands, and they delivered Brooklyn to victory on the road against a tenacious Raptors team.

From the onset, the Toronto crowd heckled Kevin Garnett - KG SUCKS! - and he did.  Garnett couldn't buy a shot.  The Nets opted to get him the ball early, but he missed the Nets first three attempts of the game.  He was only 1/5 for the game, and 3/6 from the line.  But, his 1st basket came in the 3rd quarter, a free throw, which tied the game 51-51 at the 9:02 mark.  Then, his first field goal of the game was nothing short of clutch.  He gave the Nets a 79-76 lead with 3:30 left. Looking back, they were two of the several stabilizing moments in the game.

Kevin Garnett led the team with 8 rebounds, 7 defensive.  But more than anything, he combined with Paul Pierce in handling the ball with very sure hands in the closing three minutes of the game. His ability to gain the high elbow, and pass back and forth with Paul Pierce on the wing, without panic, exemplified their respective playoff experience at its finest.

For all Kyle Lowry's and Deron Williams' efforts, the respective back courts were still playing to a stalemate with less than 5:00 left in the game - 32 points each.  That's exactly when Paul Pierce started taking over.

Nine of Paul Pierce's 15 points came in the last 3:00 of the game.  With 2:57 to go, Paul Pierce's three-pointer opened up an 82-76 lead.  He followed on his next possession with a layup to make it 84-78 Nets.  At 1:30, he jumper made it 86-78 Nets.  After Greivis Vasquez responded with a three, Paul Pierce answer back with another jumper to give the Nets an 88-81 lead, with just 51.5 seconds left.

Once the Raptors resorted to fouling and stopping the clock, Brooklyn ensured the ball was in Joe Johnson's hands.  Mr.Big Shot nailed 4 free throws in the closing seconds to secure a 94-87 Brooklyn victory.

While Pual Pierce provided the finishing touches in Game One, it was Deron Williams and Joe Johnson who spent Saturday's opening game in the trenches.

Joe Johnson led all players with 45 minutes, while Kyle Lowry was a close second with 44 minutes. Johnson tied for the game lead with 24 points.  Joe also pulled down 8 rebounds, and distributed 8 assists.  He was 62% from the field on 8/13 shooting, and a perfect 8/8 from the line.

Deron Williams issued his opening statement with conviction, and won small victory over Kyle Lowry, who finished with 22 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds.  Deron Williams tied Joe Johnson with a game high 24 points.  He also had 3 assists and a rebound.  Deron was 40% from the field on 8/20 shooting, and 6/6 from the line.

The Nets got out-rebounded again.  Mason Plumlee put himself into foul trouble, and through three quarters, the rebounding disparity was considerable.  Garnett, Joe Johnson and Andray Blatche closed the gap somewhat, but Toronto won the battle by a 45-37 margin.  The Nets had absolutely no answer for Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas, who dominated the glass with 18 rebounds, and also added 17 points, and 2 blocks.

The Raptors also distributed six more (22-16) assists than Brooklyn.

Brooklyn suffered from poor shooting from several members: Garnett 1/5; Blatche 2/5; Mirza Teletovic 1/6; Marcus Thornton 0/4.  That equates to 20% FG average.

Toronto may want to limit their turnovers (17) in Game Two, but at the same token, several Nets just need to improve their accuracy.