Monday, December 31, 2012

Nikola Vucevic sets career high with 29 rebounds

In tonight's overtime loss to the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic had a career night.

Vucevic scored 20 points on 9-of-17 shooting and grabbed a career-high 29 rebounds including 11 offensive boards.

No player has had more rebounds in a game this season.  In fact, the next closest was Minnesota's Kevin Love with 24 rebounds.

It was his 13th double-double of the season and his first-ever 20-20 game.

If that weren't enough, he had three steals, two blocked shots and two assists as well.

Entering tonight's game, Vucevic was averaging 10.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Carlos Boozer has 22 points and 19 rebounds

For the fourth time in the past five games, Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer finished with a double-double. In fact, he was only one rebound shy of a 20-20 game.

Boozer scored 22 points tonight and finished with a season-high 19 rebounds, eight of which were offensive rebounds.

Despite having a performance of four points and three rebounds in the middle of the team's five-game road trip, Boozer is averaging 17.8 points and 12.6 rebounds during that span.

As a comparison, Boozer averaged only 11.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game in his first seven games of the season.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thaddeus Young has 29 points and 15 rebounds in loss

Sixers forward Thaddeus Young had a season-high 29 points and a career-high 15 rebounds in tonight's overtime loss to the Thunder.

Although it was the first time that Young scored 20-plus points this season, it was his second consecutive double-double and his fourth of the season.

Young added a season-high four assists, one steal and one blocked shot to his stat line as well.

On the year, Young is averaging 13.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Jack Taylor scores 138 points for D3's Grinnell College

Jack Taylor, sophomore guard for Grinnell College, hasn't met a shot he didn't like.

If you missed it, he set the NCAA single-game scoring record with 138 points (boxscore) last night.

Taylor was 52-of-108 from the field including 27-of-71 from three-point range and, as you might imagine, had zero assists.

In fact, Aaron Levin was the team's second leading scorer with 13 points, but he took only six shots from the field.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Kyrie Irving out four weeks with broken finger

Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Iriving will miss the next four weeks due to a hairline fracture in his left index finger, according to Bob Finnin of The News-Herald.

Irving, the No. 1 overall pick in 2011, currently ranks sixth in the NBA in scoring with 22.9 points per game. In addition, he is averaging 5.6 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game.

At this point, it's not known will start in Irving's place.

Coach Byron Scott could start Jeremy Pargo or Donald Sloan, or go with a backcourt of Dion Waiters and Daniel Gibson, currently the team's leading scorer off the bench.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire Options Heading into NBA Week 4

Now that we are several weeks into the 2012-13 NBA season, it may be time to make some tweaks for your fantasy roster(s) either due to injuries, lack of performance, etc.

I've put together a list of players worth adding that are owned in 50 percent or less of Yahoo! leagues that are worthy of consideration.

While some players that are owned in 60, 70, 80 percent of leagues could certainly make for better additions than the players on this list, the thought behind the 50-percent cutoff is that there is a better chance than not that the players on this list are actually available in your league(s).

Here are some players to consider adding in fantasy leagues (Yahoo! ownership in parenthesis):

PG - A.J. Price, Wizards (28 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues)

Until John Wall (knee) returns from injury, Price has decent value as the team's starting point guard.  Price is averaging 9.9 points, 6.4 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game through the first eight games of the season.

PG/SG - Jordan Crawford, Wizards (47 percent)

The Wizards backcourt of the future is clearly Wall and Bradley Beal, both top-three picks in 2010 and 2012, respectively.  Not only is Wall out with an injury, but Beal was benched in favor of Crawford on Saturday.

Crawford has scored 20-plus in 34-plus minutes in back-to-back games.  On the season, he is averaging 12.4 points, 4.0 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game.

PG/SG - Eric Bledsoe, Clippers (12 percent)

If given a larger opportunity, Bledsoe could really deliver for fantasy owners.  In only 18 minutes per game, he is averaging 10.6 points and 1.6 steals per game.  In addition, he is shooting 50.7 percent from the field and 86.4 percent from the line.

PG/SG - Alexey Shved, Timberwolves (13 percent)

Coming off a season-high 22 points, Schved has scored in double-digits in three consecutive games and is averaging 17 points during that span.  Over his past five games, Schved has at least five assists in four games and is averaging 5.4 dimes during that span.

SG/SF - Tony Allen, Grizzlies (38 percent)

While he won't help you in many categories, he will help you in one: steals.  Allen is averaging 1.8 steals per game, which is his average over the past three seasons.  Especially for a guard, Allen also helps with blocks (0.7 per game).

SG/SF - Kyle Korver, Hawks (36 percent)

In his past six games, Korver has averaged more than 30 minutes per game and has knocked down 19 of his 20 threes in those six games.  During that span, he is averaging 13.8 points and is shooting 53.8 percent from the field and 100.0 percent from the line.

SG/SF - Alonzo Gee, Cavaliers (17 percent)

With 17 points against the Sixers on Sunday, Gee has scored in double-digits in four of his past five games.  In addition, he has multiple steals in six of his 10 games played this season.  On the year, he is averaging 11.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game.

SF/PF - Tayshaun Prince, Pistons (29 percent)

Prince is not great in any one individual category, but he contributes some in them all.  On the season, he is averaging 12.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.  In 11 games, he also has five three-pointers, seven steals and five blocks.

SF/PF - Derrick Williams, Timberwolves (21 percent)

Williams, the second overall pick in 2011, scored 23 points and had four blocked shots, both season highs, in his last game.  Although his minutes will continue to vary once Kevin Love returns, Williams has played 12, 23 and 37 minutes in his past three games, respectively.

SF/PF - Shawn Marion, Mavericks (46 percent)

Although he's not a big scorer, Marion has the ability to contribute in multiple categories for fantasy owners, especially rebounds, steals and blocks.  Marion is averaging 7.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in his six games played this season.

SF - Kyle Singler, Pistons (seven percent)

Before Singler became a starter, the Pistons were 0-8.  Since then, they have won two of three games.  In those three games, Singler has scored at least 14 points in each game.

On the season, Singler is shooting 51.9 percent from the field and 47.8 percent from behind the arc.

PF/C - Larry Sanders, Bucks (49 percent)

As a reserve, Sanders is averaging 24 minutes (and 5.0 fouls) per game.  Sanders is averaging 8.3 points and 2.4 blocks per game and is shooting better than 60 percent from the field.

PF/C - Jason Thompson, Kings (43 percent)

Through 10 games, Thompson is averaging 10.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game.  Not only is Thompson shooting above 50 percent from the field, he is shooting 76.5 percent from the line as well.  Considering Thompson is shooting 66.8 percent from the charity stripe in his career, it's likely his free throw percentage dips.

PF/C - Tristan Thompson, Cavaliers (27 percent)

Thompson, the fourth overall pick in 2011, has back-to-back double-doubles and four of them on the season.  Despite being 6-foot-9, Thompson has only three blocks on the season, but he is averaging 9.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game.

PF/C - Patrick Patterson, Rockets (18 percent)

Patterson logs nearly 30 minutes per night and is averaging 11.2 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.  In addition, he will make the occasional three.

C - Samuel Dalembert, Bucks (49 percent)

Although Dalembert starts, he is averaging less than 17 minutes per game.  He has been more effective lately although his playing time has not jumped significantly.  In his past four games, Dalembert has scored in double-figures three times and is averaging seven rebounds per game during that span.

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Jose Calderon has season-high 18 assists

Toronto Raptors point guard Jose Calderon had a season-high 18 assists in today's win over the Magic.

With the exception of only nine assists last night, Calderon has double-digit assists in four of his past five games.  He has three double-doubles, one of which was his first-ever triple-double, during that stretch.

During those five games, Calderon is averaging 13.2 points and 11.6 assists per game.

Until Kyle Lowry returns, he should continue to be a great source of assists for fantasy owners.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Rajon Rondo had 20 assists vs. Raptors

Before missing Thursday's game in Brooklyn due to his ankle, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo had double-digit assists in every game he played this season.

Not only did he have double-digit assists against the Raptors today, he essentially had two games worth of double-digit assists.

For the second time this season, Rondo finished with 20 assists in a game although he finished with only six points for a second consecutive game.

On the season, Rondo leads the league with 13.4 assists per game and now has more assists (121) than points (120) through nine games.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Nuggets PF Kenneth Faried gets 4th Double-Double in 5 Games

It took two overtime periods for the Nuggets to beat the Warriors last night and Denver's Kenneth Faried played nearly 48 minutes.  (It was only his third game with at least 30 minutes played.)

On eight-of-13 shooting, Faried scored 18 points, his fifth straight game in double figures.

In addition, Faried grabbed 17 rebounds, blocked three shots and had two steals, all of which are season highs.

Nine of Faried's 17 rebounds last night were offensive rebounds and he has more offensive rebounds (39) than defensive boards (36) this season.

During the past five games, Faried has four double-doubles.  During those five games, he is averaging 17.8 points, 12.6 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.0 steals per game.

While he is shooting 56.0 percent from the field, he has made only 48.1 percent of his free throws.  While he is not a great free throw shooter, he shot 66.5 from the line last year so those numbers should improve.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Greg Monroe has triple-double vs. Kings

The Pistons dropped a fifth consecutive game to start the season, but it was certainly not Greg Monroe's fault.

Monroe had a career-high 11 assists, which is four more than he had in his other four games this season combined.

In the process, Monroe finished with a triple-double, the first of his NBA career.  In addition to his 11 dimes, Monroe scored 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting and grabbed a season-high 12 rebounds.

While he got off to a slow start in the team's first three games (no double-doubles), he has had strong back-to-back performances (double-double and triple-double).

On the season, he is averaging 16.0 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Lakers PG Steve Nash out for at least a week

Lakers point guard Steve Nash sat out of Friday night's loss, the team's third straight to start the season, and he's going to miss (at least) a few more games.

According to's John Schuhmann, the Lakers announced that Nash will miss at least a week with a "small non-displaced fracture in the head of his fibula."

Through two games, Nash has shot 4-of-12 from the field to score only nine points with eight assists in 50 minutes played.

With Nash out, Steve Blake played 39 minutes and eight points, two assists and one rebound last night.  He should continue to get plenty of minutes while Nash is out.

Josh Smith won't travel with Hawks to OKC

Per Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Hawks forward Josh Smith will not travel with the team to Oklahoma City for Saturday's game.

Smith will miss the game due to a sprained right ankle.

In the team's season opener against the Rockets last night, Smith finished with 18 points on 9-of-21 shooting, 10 rebounds and three blocks in 41 minutes.

After tonight's game, the Hawks don't play again until Wednesday night against the Pacers.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Kevin Love out 6-8 weeks with broken hand

Timberwolves forward Kevin Love will miss the next six to eight weeks with a broken hand.

According to reports, Love broke his hand while working out at his condo complex before today's practice began.

Coincidentally, Love broke his hand almost three years ago today, as Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune tweets, and missed 18 games of the season.
Love ranked second in the NBA in rebounding (13.3 per game) and fourth in scoring (26.0 per game).

With Love out up to eight weeks, it will give Derrick Williams, the second-overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, an opportunity for more minutes.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

NBA Finals Preseason Predictions for the 2012-13 Season

Earlier in the week, Kyle Baillargeon made his preseason predictions with final regular-season records for all 30 NBA teams.

[His team-by-team predictions here: Eastern Conference - Western Conference]

Of course, "winning" the regular season doesn't mean much unless you parlay that home-court advantage into a title.

With that said, Kyle makes his predictions for the conference and NBA Finals below:

Eastern Conference Finals: Boston over Miami in six games

The Heat can expect to be back in the finals for many years to come, and will likely win at least a few more, so long as LeBron is still there.  But the retooled Boston Celtics will put that dynasty on hold for the 2012-2013 season.  This Celtics team is on a mission to win.  More importantly though, this is the most complete Celtics team since the 07-08 squad.  The Heat still have Lebron, Wade, and Bosh, and they did add Ray Allen, but once again, depth is a question mark.  The Celtics' deep rotation will keep coming at the Heat, and eventually wear them down and take it in six games.

Western Conference Finals: LA Lakers over San Antonio in five games

The Spurs will have run out of gas by the time they face Dwight Howard and the Lakers.  This year should be the final stand for San Antonio, but the Lakers will not be stopped in the West.  Steve Nash's playmaking will prove to be too much, and Kobe Bryant is still Kobe Bryant.  But the key to this Lakers team will be Howard.  Assuming his back does not hinder him in any way, he and Pau Gasol should dominate the front court.  The Lakers will win this going away. 

NBA Finals: LA Lakers over Boston in seven games

This pains me to admit, but the Celtics likely won't be able to stop the Lakers.  Though Boston still has Kevin Garnett, and they did add a glut of seven-footers, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard are just too much for any front court.  Steve Nash may not be able to keep up with Rondo at this stage, and that may be Boston's best hope of winning the Finals.  Either way, expect a classic seven-game series in June 2013.

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Our FanDuel daily NBA leagues: October 30 (12 teams) - October 31 (12 teams)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Western Conference Preseason Predictions for the 2012-13 NBA Season

Earlier today, Kyle Baillargeon made his preseason predictions for the Eastern Conference.  Now it's time to take a team-by-team look at the Western Conference.

Here is how Kyle sees the Western Conference playing out:

1. Los Angeles Lakers - 61-21

The triangle offense is just a distant memory with Steve Nash at the helm, and this team should expect to score in spades.  When Dwight Howard comes back, assuming he is his normal self, watch out.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder - 60-22

The Thunder will be at or near the top for years to come, with only the retooled Lakers poised to stand in their way.  The Thunder should take last year's loss in the NBA Finals as a learning experience and expect to come into this season with something to prove.  It's also amazing to consider that KD35 just turned 24.

3. San Antonio Spurs - 59-23

Tempted to give the Spurs a lower record, simply because they know it's all about the playoffs and not the regular season.  But that's just silly.  This team will continue to be good until they prove otherwise.  

4. Los Angeles Clippers - 54-28

Chemistry is a concern for the bench, where Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford are not necessarily known for being quiet role players. CP3 combined with the talented and athletic front court should make for a four seed in the tight west.

5. Denver Nuggets - 53-29

This should be an exciting team to watch.  Denver will be running all year, and Iguodola gives them a defensive anchor.  With the right matchups, this team could surprise many and go deep into the playoffs.

6. Memphis Grizzlies - 51-31

Memphis opened some eyes two seasons ago in the playoffs, and they showed last season that they're no fluke.  We've seen in this league, however, that you need a star to be one of the elite teams.  Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay are all very good, but it's tough to imagine them in the championship with this squad as constituted.

7. Dallas Mavericks - 50-32

At this stage, Darren Collison is likely preferable to Jason Kidd, so that's an upgrade.  Though it isn't the same as Deron Williams, whom they tried hard to get. Assuming there aren't any chemistry issues with all the new faces, don't put it past Dallas to make another run.

8. Utah Jazz - 46-36

The Jazz proved you can still be a solid team after trading away your best player.  They just aren't ready yet to move up in this tough conference.  Thankfully, they're very young and in a few years we could be talking about them as championship contenders.

9. Minnesota Timberwolves - 45-37

If Rubio comes back quickly, this team could end up higher than this.  Minnesota has the best power forward in the league in Kevin Love, and they're somehow a very fun and potentially dangerous team.  Brandon Roy is a wild card, and if he can play anything like we've seen in the past, he's a fantastic addition.

10. Phoenix Suns - 41-41

The Suns are finally in the post-Steve Nash era, and things don't look quite so bad.  They won't contend this year or next, but patience and a little bit of luck in the lottery could help them out sooner rather than later.  Losing Channing Frye hurts, with no idea of when he'll return.  Kendall Marshall was a great pickup in the draft this year and should be a solid building block for the future.

11. Golden State Warriors - 39-43

This team is too much of an injury risk to put any higher.  If Curry and Bogut are healthy though, they could very well contend for the eighth seed.  Klay Thompson is ready to take another step and will hopefully avoid a sophomore slump.

12. New Orleans Hornets - 35-47

It's probably too much to expect this many wins out of such a young squad, but the talent is there.  Anthony Davis is a stud and Eric Gordon is ready to put a frustrating season behind him.  The rebuild could be quick for the Hornets.

13. Portland Trail Blazers - 34-48

The Blazers don't quite have an identity, but Aldridge is still young and a solid piece to build around.  Batum made headlines with his actions at the Olympic games, and he is hoping to make headlines with his play this season.

14. Sacramento Kings - 30-52

Jimmer Fredette was a big miss, and Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins are both talented but not of the right mindset to be leaders.  This team is a mess and the chemistry, or lack thereof, will certainly hurt them.

15. Houston Rockets - 28-54

The Rockets shot high in trying to get Dwight Howard, but all they did was shoot themselves in the foot, at least for this season.  It's well known that Daryl Morey believes you need to either be elite, or in the basement, and not somewhere in the middle.  The Rockets will most certainly be contending for the 1st overall pick this year.

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Eastern Conference Preseason Predictions for the 2012-13 NBA Season

With NBA training camps opening up, it's time for preseason predictions.  Kyle Baillargeon takes a team-by-team look into his crystal ball of all 30 NBA teams.

Here is how Kyle sees the Eastern Conference playing out:

1. Miami Heat - 64-18

The champs are back and they brought Ray Allen with them for this round.  Allen will find himself open far more often than he did last year, and he'll make the most of it.  Miami may even make a run for 70.

2. Boston Celtics - 61-21

Retooled and reloaded, the Celtics have been seemingly at the end of their run for the last three years. But they keeping coming back, ready to contend. This squad is bigger up front and could have the best four-guard rotation in the league.

3. Philadelphia 76ers - 50-32

Adding Bynum is huge for Philly, so long as he stays healthy.  Will the team miss Iguodala, though?  If Evan Turner plays to his potential, then the answer to that question is no.

4. Indiana Pacers - 48-34

With more teams going small at the center position, Roy Hibbert is somewhat of an anomaly.  The Pacers were built to succeed in a short season, but how will this team fare over 82 games?

5. Milwaukee Bucks - 44-38

The dropoff is steep in the Eastern Conference, and this number of wins says more about how bad the rest of the conference is as opposed to how good the Bucks are. Jennings, Ellis and crew should have no problem making the playoffs, where they'll hope to make some noise.

6. Brooklyn Nets - 41-41

A tough team to determine, considering the general overhaul.  Deron Williams and Joe Johnson is one of the strongest backcourts in the game.  And don't underestimate how the move to Brooklyn could positively effect the team's psyche.

7. Chicago Bulls - 40-42

It's going to be a long year for the Bulls, though they did play decently for stretches without Rose last year.  The team is not completely devoid of talent, but they just can't expect to contend without their star.  Rose may be ready sometime after the All-Star break, but the Bulls may be better off tanking the season and hoping for a high pick.

8. Atlanta Hawks - 40-42

The Hawks are in a quasi-rebuilding mode, as they still have enough talent to sneak into the playoffs.  However, if they start to slide downhill in the middle of the season, don't be surprised to see Josh Smith on his way out sooner rather than later.

9. Cleveland Cavaliers - 36-46

Irving is the real deal, and this team could surprise people in the east.  They'll definitely be an exciting team, which is all you can ask for right now in Cleveland.

10. Toronto Raptors - 35-47

Valanciunas was considered by many as one of the top prospects out of his draft, and now he gets to show Toronto what they waited for. There's not a whole lot else to be excited for in Toronto, as it seems as though they based their entire offseason on trying to get, and subsequently failing to get, Steve Nash.

11. New York Knicks - 35-47

It's tough to make heads or tails of what the Knicks are trying to accomplish.  Carmelo and Amare don't seem to work entirely well together.  Jason Kidd would have been a great addition if he were five years younger.  Meanwhile, Rasheed Wallace should be a wonderful influence on whatever young players the Knicks have.

12. Detroit Pistons - 33-49

Detroit may have themselves a bright future, but they'll have to make sure they don't waste their cap space after this season like they did a few years ago.  In a perfect world, everyone will stay healthy, they'll show some signs of real potential, and they'll get a high pick.

13. Washington Wizards - 33-49

John Wall is not Derrick Rose or Kyrie Irving, but he is still ultra talented.  This is his team, and he needs to raise his game.  If he does, then he and Bradley Beal could make for a great young backcourt.

14. Charlotte Bobcats - 25-57

The Bobcats did a great job of not screwing up their pick this year, and MKG is a great talent.  Kemba Walker has the keys to the squad now, and he can definitely make things happen on occasion.  This team is still a ways away, but hopefully their front office will make it a streak of good draft picks next year.

15. Orlando Magic - 13-69

Not many good things to say about Orlando.  They didn't get much for the best center in the league.  They would have been smart to stick with Van Gundy, however.

Later today, we will post Kyle's predictions for the Western Conference.

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Trifone: 2012 NBA Finals Prediction - Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Miami Heat

After an incredible Game 6 performance from King James, the Miami Heat were able to defend home court in Game 7 and advance to the Finals.  After a very competitive series, one that turned out to be far closer than I thought it would be, the Heat showed flashes of greatness.  However, they also showed some glaring weaknesses.

Miami is easily the most criticized and scrutinized team in the NBA, and while it's pretty clear why, it creates a very interesting dynamic.  Every time the Heat appear to be down (falling behind 2-1 to the Pacers, or falling behind 3-2 to the Celtics after taking a 2-0 lead), everyone, including myself at times, wants to pile on the Heat.  And the reason seems to be that our expectations for them are so high.  We think to ourselves that this team came together, three of the best players in the league, and yet we see them struggle the way any other team might.  It appears that the reality of the situation is that regardless of how they came together, the Big 3 of Miami are simply NOT substantially better than a handful of other teams in the league.

In the prime of his career, Michael Jordan and the Bulls were not challenged.  It was clear who the best team was, and Jordan's Bulls would usually have the series in hand before there was ever even talk of a Game 7.  We lived through this, and wonder why LeBron can't seem to yield the same results, in spite of joining forces with Wade and Bosh.

And the truth of the matter is that the league is just more competitive today; not as a whole, but at the top.  In the Jordan era, we didn't think there were five or six teams at the top, any of which could realistically win it.  I used to be a die-hard Knicks fan, and they were a playoff team year after year.  But I knew in my heart that Ewing and Starks and Oakley simply were not going to beat Jordan and Pippen.  And they never did.  Before free agency became as prevalent, teams simply did not change enough.  And Jordan and Pippen were simply better than Malone/Stockton, Olajuwon, Ewing, Barkley, etc.  The question was not which of a handful of teams will win it all.  It was will any other team rise up and really challenge the Bulls?

Today, we feel that Miami should be that team because of the way that they came together, and the incredibly high expectations we have for those three players.  But as we've seen, Miami is a very good team; often a great team.  But they simply are not head and shoulders above the rest of the league.  And when they struggle, we come down on them as if they should be Jordan's Bulls, rather than simply acknowledge that maybe they're not.

With all of that said, for the second straight year, Miami is headed back to the NBA Finals.  It wasn't always a pretty road and it wasn't always apparent that they would emerge, but once again they have, setting up the NBA's dream matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Celtics and Spurs put forth valiant efforts to make what appears to be one final run for each team, but in the end, we are witnessing the changing of the guard.  It's the two faces of the NBA, the three-time MVP versus the three-time scoring champion.  It's good versus evil in a series that will have just about everyone outside of Miami (and Seattle) rooting for the Thunder.

Oklahoma City was incredibly impressive against San Antonio.  All year, I have felt that the Thunder were a good team, certainly one of the best in the league.  But I definitely thought that they were still a bit young, and with the way the Spurs had been playing, I was more than a bit surprised that they were able to overcome a 2-0 deficit to win four straight.  It's ironic the way we judge Miami's Big 3, as OKC's Big 3 is every bit as good.  James Harden has been playing like the unquestioned best "third option" in the league, if we can still call him that.  And Oklahoma City seems to be winning by not only pouring on the points, but on the defensive end as well.

The Thunder are the favorite to win the title, and deservedly so.

They were more impressive overall than Miami was, and went through a more difficult road, knocking off three championship-caliber teams.  Still, I can't help but feel like LeBron isn't going to let anything stop him this time.  I felt the same way last year, and I still feel that Miami was better than Dallas was last year.  Just not at that moment in time.  Dirk Nowitzki had one of the top-five greatest playoff performances in history.  If Durant can mimic that kind of effort, it could spell the same kind of trouble for Miami this time around. 

However, LeBron is just as capable as Durant of having that kind of a series, and while the Heat have some weaknesses, James has been taking it to another level in the playoffs.  He appears to be less concerned about being criticized and is more focused on taking games over.  He looks like Cleveland Lebron, except he finally might have enough of a supporting cast.

I am as excited for this series as I have been for any series I can remember, and I look forward to watching the two best players on the planet go at each other.  When Dwyane Wade and Russell Westbrook aren't the headliners, you know you're in store for a pretty great matchup.  This series could go either way, but I've felt that in a seven-game series, Miami has been the best team all year.  And I still feel that way today.

Miami in seven.

[Editor's note: This post is by John Trifone (@JohnnyT0122).  Get tickets to the NBA Finals from TicketCity.]

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hornets win the 2012 NBA Draft Lottery

The 2012 NBA Draft is less than a month and tonight was the NBA Draft Lottery to determine the exact order of picks 1 to 14.  Although the Charlotte Bobcats had the best odds to secure the No. 1 pick for the right to draft Kentucky's Anthony Davis, they came in second.

For  playoff teams, their record determined their order in the draft from 15 to 30.

Here are results of the NBA lottery:

1. New Orleans Hornets
2. Charlotte Bobcats
3. Washington Wizards
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
5. Sacramento Kings
6. Brooklyn Nets (Portland Trail Blazers will make this pick)
7. Golden State Warriors
8. Toronto Raptors
9. Detroit Pistons
10. New Orleans Hornets
11. Portland Trail Blazers
12. Milwaukee Bucks
13. Phoenix Suns
14. Houston Rockets

I will update my NBA mock draft within the next few hours.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Eastern Conference Finals Prediction: Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics

Philadelphia had a nice run, but it will be the Celtics that will fly to Miami to face the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Fortunately for Boston, Miami will be without Dexter Pittman for the first two games of the series, so the Heat will have to rely more on LeBron James and D-Wade to carry the load.

In all seriousness, the status of Chris Bosh could potentially be a factor in the series.  Without him, many thought the Heat would struggle to get by Indiana.

As it turns out, just when many were ready to pronounce Miami dead, LeBron and Wade stepped up their game, and showed why they have been the favorite to win the NBA Championship all year.  The third quarter of Game Four was about as flawless as a duo can play.  It may as well have been two on five out there, and that still wasn't enough to stop them.  The key to their success was that they were not just playing isolation basketball, they were playing together and they were taking it to the basket, rather than settling for a contested mid-range jumper or a deep three with the shot clock winding down.

Boston has played like typical Boston this year.

When it matters, they still have it in them to turn it on, and they know what it takes to win a championship.  Still, they are getting too old to play that kind of ball night after night.  They struggled mightily on offensive against Philadelphia, and it's not going to get any easier against Miami, whose athleticism is a tremendous asset in helping them play real lockdown defense.  The biggest question for Boston will be if they can score enough to stay in games this series.

Historically, LeBron James has struggled with the Celtics, but recent history (last year's playoff series), tells a different story than a few years ago.  LeBron was awesome and played outstanding in the fourth quarter of those games, helping his team to get by Boston pretty easily in five games.

This year, I believe it will be more of the same.  Boston has showed resiliency to get back to the Conference Finals, and it's clear that this group wants to make another run at a title, but they are simply overmatched.  In a seven-game series, the better team is usually going to win, and Miami is simply the better team.

It's easy to lose sight of how good the Heat are because the expectations are so high.  They haven't challenged Jordan's Bulls' 70-win season, they fell behind two games to one in the second round of the playoffs against Indiana, a team with no real stars.  But at the end of the day, the first year they got together, they made the NBA Finals (knocking off the Celtics and MVP-led Bulls) and came up just short.  In this, their second year, they're back in the conference finals, and pretty heavy favorites to reach the NBA Finals once again.

LeBron is the best player on the planet, and regardless of who surrounds him, and whether you like him or not, his team is going to be among the contenders to win it all for years to come.  They made the Finals last year, and I believe they're going back again this year.  I don't expect the Eastern Conference Finals to be as close as the Western Finals.  I like Miami to jump out to a 2-0 series lead, then likely split in Boston, and close it out at home.

So I'm picking the Heat to win in 5 and set up a highly anticipated matchup with either the Spurs or Thunder (see my pick in that series).

Prediction: Miami in five games

[Editor's note: This post is by John Trifone (@JohnnyT0122), who also contributes at our NFL site: Eat, Drink and Sleep Football (see John's archives).]

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Hanson: 2012 NBA Mock Draft, 2.0

With just slightly more than a month before the 2012 NBA Draft, I updated the first round of my mock draft.

The NBA lottery will be held on May 30th, which means the order will (likely) change and I will update my mock at that point to reflect that change and then at least weekly until the NBA Draft.

Here is how I see things shaking out:

1. Charlotte Bobcats: Anthony Davis, PF, Kentucky

This is such a no-brainer pick that, as Kyle Baillargeon points out in his mock, GM Michael Jordan "can't mess this up."

2. Washington Wizards: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky

Aside from his outside shooting, there are virtually no holes in Kidd-Gilchrist's game. MKG is a tough-minded, versatile defender with good size and strength on the wing. With intangibles, leadership and a great feel for the game, MKG will make his teammates better.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andre Drummond, PF/C, UConn

Drummond has the ability and physical tools to dominate yet the propensity to disappear at times as well. With plenty of upside, Drummond has the size, strength and athleticism to contribute right away on the defensive end but is a work-in-progress on the offensive end.

4. New Orleans Hornets: Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas

Like Drummond, Robinson has good strength, size and athleticism. Unlike Drummond, there is no questioning Robinson's motor and his offensive game is much more advanced.

5. Sacramento Kings: Bradley Beal, SG, Florida

Both of my counterparts -- Kyle Baillargeon (view mock) and Brendan Donahue (view mock) -- have Beal going within the top three picks as do many other sites. If he is still on the board at this spot, Beal gives the Kings a shooter with great range and a good all-around offensive game.

6. Portland Trail Blazers: Austin Rivers, SG, Duke

Rivers, the son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers, can provide the Blazers with instant offense. Many of Portland's guards become free agents or can opt out this year: Nicolas Batum, Jamal Crawford, Raymond Felton and Johnny Flynn.

7. Golden State Warriors: Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina

Barnes did himself no favors in the tournament, but I don't have him slipping as far as Kyle has in his mock. Barnes has plenty of offensive skill, but often settles for jumpers and does not get to the line as much as you would expect for a wing player with his size and strength.

8. Toronto Raptors: John Henson, PF, North Carolina

Although he needs to add strength and bulk to his frame, Henson is an NBA-ready defensive player with the wingspan (7-foot-4) and athleticism to alter, affect and block plenty of shots. He will need to continue to improve his game offensively, however, but he has continued to improve on the offensive end at Carolina.

9. Detroit Pistons: Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State

Returning for his sophomore season means Sullinger will likely be selected (much) lower than he would have been in 2011. While he is not the most athletic player (or tallest for his position), Sullinger has great strength, polished moves in the post and was a dominant rebounder in college.

10. New Orleans Hornets: Jeremy Lamb, SG, UConn

Lamb has all the physical tools to be successful at the next level and he led the Huskies in scoring with the departure of Kemba Walker. That said, Lamb disappeared at times for a team that was a major disappointment given its talent and expectations.

11. Portland Trail Blazers: Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina

A skilled seven-footer, Zeller improved his game in all four seasons in Chapel Hill posting career highs across the board last year: 16.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 0.9 steals per game with 55.3 percent from the field and 80.8 percent from the line.

12. Milwaukee Bucks: Perry Jones, PF, Baylor

One of the more naturally-gifted players in the draft, Jones has the length and athleticism you can't coach. On the other hand, Jones has been often criticized, and rightfully so, for his inconsistent motor.

13. Phoenix Suns: Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina

With Steve Nash, the former "MP3," about become a free agent, the Suns may need to find his replacement. Marshall is arguably the best point guard in this year's draft class.

14. Houston Rockets: Terrence Jones, PF, Kentucky

Jones, who was a point guard early in high school, has the versatility to play and defend a variety of positions due to his length and athleticism.

15. Philadelphia 76ers: Arnett Moultrie, PF/C, Mississippi State

After sitting out a year since he transferred from UTEP, Moultrie averaged a double-double (16.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game) for the Bulldogs last year. Athletic with a high motor, Moultrie would fit well with the athletic Sixers squad.

Click here to see picks 16-30.

For more mock drafts, check out our mock draft database.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Western Conference Finals Prediction: San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

[Editor's note: This post is by John Trifone (@JohnnyT0122), who also contributes at our NFL site: Eat, Drink and Sleep Football (see John's archives).  John was a believer in the Spurs back in February; read below to see if that's still the case.]

This looks to be the best match up of the entire playoffs.  The Spurs have not lost a game since April 11, and more than that, haven't been challenged in many of their wins.  So far in the playoffs, they easily disbursed of the Jazz in the first round, and just kept rolling against the Clippers, who played very well in the first round to oust Memphis.  Even after falling behind by 24 points into the 2nd quarter of game 3, they went on to destroy LA for the remainder of the game, and won by double digits.

The Spurs look like the perfect team.  Tim Duncan is playing like he's 28 again, Tony Parker is having an outstanding season at the point, and they have few, if any, weaknesses.  They have a great coach, a deep bench, and play unbelievable team basketball.  They always seem to find the open man, and everyone on the floor is a reliable shooter.

The Thunder, on the other hand, have been pretty impressive in their own right.  I do think they have looked more vulnerable, as they have been in several very close games that could have gone either way.  In the first round of the playoffs, they swept Dallas, but realistically, could have easily gone down 0-2 at home.  In the second round, they blew the doors off against the Lakers in Game 1, but the next three contests could have, and maybe should have, gone to the Lakers.  Game 2, for example, had the Lakers leading by seven with just two minutes to go.  The flip side of the argument, of course, is that they keep finding ways to win these close games, which, of course, they have.

Clearly, Oklahoma City knows how to play well down the stretch and has several guys that can close.  While Durant is the biggest star on the team, Russell Westbrook and James Harden are perfectly capable of taking a game over when necessary, which makes it more difficult for defenses.  If you double up on Durant, you're looking at potentially leaving another stud with an open look.

While the Spurs and Thunder are a combined 16-1 in the playoffs thus far, this one certainly doesn't look like it's going to be a short series.  I'd guess that most people will be calling for a seven-game series and virtually flipping a coin on the winner.

Durant and Westbrook are the youthful superstars and future of the NBA, while the Spurs, though much less sexy, have pretty clearly been the best team in basketball for the last two months.  I think that the Thunder are a formidable opponent, but I just can't see them beating San Antonio.  In fact, I believe the Spurs will win in 5.

OKC has been a little inconsistent at times, and sometimes just start throwing up three-pointers in an attempt to make a quick run.  I don't think that's going to fly against the Spurs, and if the Thunder fall behind after three quarters, I don't expect them to be able to make the kind of runs they've made in the past in this series against San Antonio.  Don't get me wrong, OKC is incredibly athletic, they're fairly deep, they have some size, and they have multiple threats to score.  But Poppovich always seems to come up with a good scheme and I definitely give the Spurs the coaching advantage.  I also feel that the Spurs are so consistent that if OKC gets sloppy from time to time during the game, the Spurs will take advantage.  Ultimately, I like the Spurs to continue the amazing run they're on and advance to the NBA Finals over Oklahoma City.

Prediction: San Antonio in 5

Monday, May 21, 2012

VIDEO: Parody of Stephen A. Smith on SNL

If you missed the parody of ESPN's Stephen A. Smith on Saturday Night Live this weekend, it was pretty funny.

Here is the video:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

NBA Consensus Power Rankings, End of Regular Season Version

Each week, we respond to one roundtable question and here's this week's question as the NBA playoffs begin this afternoon: If the Miami Heat get to the NBA Finals (and lose), should their season be viewed as a "failure"?

John (follow on Twitter):

I have felt that the Heat have been the best team all year. Toward the end of the season, they failed to come up big in some key matchups, and my confidence in them has certainly waned. I do, however, feel that playoff basketball is a whole different animal, and I believe that Miami will be ready. Considering all of the mounting pressure on LeBron to win a championship, combined with the fact that the first year of the Miami experiment resulted in a trip to the Finals (only coming up short to a Mavericks team that got incredibly hot behind one of the greatest playoff performances of all time), and I'm very comfortable calling anything short of a championship a failure. There are some teams that just have different standards than the rest of the league. After enough time passes, 95 percent of teams would look back at a trip to the Championship as a successful year, even if they came up a bit short. But all-time greats like LeBron are not measured by the number of times they finish as the runner-up. And this season, more than any before this, is about LeBron James and his place in history. I think the Spurs are playing like the best team in basketball, and have been for the last half of the season. A part of me thinks that they are just playing too well, and will win it all this year. But ultimately, I'm just not ready to bet against LeBron (even though it would have been right to do so for the last seven years.) I think Miami has a complete championship-or-bust mentality, and there's no doubt in my mind that the entire team will view anything but as a failure.

Kevin (follow on Twitter):

As a fan of the game, my opinion changed of LeBron James after the whole "taking-my-talents-to-South-Beach" train wreck of an ESPN special. In other words, he went from being a player I liked (despite being a Sixers' fan) to the player I despised the most in the NBA. And having the whole welcome party with the predictions of countless championships the next day made strengthened those feelings. My feelings are more neutral now, but I am definitely not rooting for LeBron. With all that said, I would consider a trip to the NBA Finals and a loss to either the Thunder or Spurs to be neutral -- neither a success nor failure. For the season to be viewed as a success, however, it requires a championship. If they don't get to the NBA Finals, their season would be a failure.

Sean (follow on Twitter):

I don't know how anyone can argue the other way on this. If the Heat don't win it all, then they failed period. This team was assembled to win championships, not falling short. If they fail this year then they should really look into breaking up this team, and I'd start with Chris Bosh who is as soft as they come. The Bulls are the team to beat in the East, and they win by playing defense. D. Rose will also take the big shot at the end of the game where LeBron won't.

Dan (follow on Twitter):

The answer is unequivocally and emphatically yes that the Miami Heat's season will be a failure if they do not win the NBA title this year. After all, it was LeBron that said "... not 4, not 5, not 6, but 7," and how he was taking notes from all of the haters this summer on Twitter. If your goal is to join forces with Dwyane Wade, and become the most dominant team in the league, it's title or bust.

Here are some stats about this week's NBA Consensus Power Rankings:

- Biggest jump from last week: Utah Jazz (+3.33)
- Biggest drop from last week: Houston Rockets (-3.67)
- Team with widest difference between high and low ranker: Knicks, Grizzlies, Clippers and Magic (tied, 4)

To see where all 30 teams fall in our power rankings going through the end of the regular season, click here.

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Monday, April 2, 2012

NBA Consensus Power Rankings, Week 14

No other player has done it more than once this season and Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo did it for a fifth time Sunday.

In their 19-point beatdown of the Miami Heat, Rondo finished with a triple-double: 16 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds.

In addition, he had double-digit assists for the 13th straight game. That's the longest streak since Steve Nash had 14 straight games with double-digit assists back in 2005.

And who knows? Maybe Nash will be the Heat point guard in 2012.

Nash said on the Dan Patrick Show (via the L.A. Times) that he would be interested in, um, taking his talents to South Beach: "I would listen. He's phenomenal. I love what they're doing there. A lot of people don't like them because they put all that talent there. But they're professional, they play hard, they play together."

Both Nash and Rondo are the only two players to average double-digit assists this season.

Winners of five straight games, the Celtics are now in first place in the Atlantic Division and are the biggest mover up our Power Rankings board this week.

Here are some stats about this week's NBA Consensus Power Rankings:

- Biggest jump from last week: Boston Celtics (+4.92)
- Biggest drop from last week: Utah Jazz (-2.67)
- Team with widest difference between high and low ranker: Indiana Pacers (6) [See our full NBA Consensus Power Rankings.]

Each week, we respond to one roundtable question and here's this week's question: Excluding the top four seeds in each conference, which team will be the toughest out in the postseason?

John (follow on Twitter): Memphis Grizzlies

This one is easy for me, as I think that the Memphis Grizzlies are going to be a tougher out than some of the top four seeds in each conference. Because they are in the same division as San Antonio, who at this point has a pretty firm grip on the division, Memphis is unlikely to crack the top four by season's end, and will likely finish with either the 5 or 6 seed. The Grizzlies went on a run in last year's playoffs, and I was initially reluctant to assume that they had another run like that in them. I felt comparable about the Mavericks, who clearly have a team capable of being in contention, but are certainly not the favorite. Last year, Dallas surprised virtually everyone, getting extremely hot at the right time, and riding out one of the best playoff performances of all time by Dirk Nowitzki (a performance that for a short time, vaulted him into the conversation as a top 10 player of all time.) I feel a secondary run is extremely unlikely, even though they have the bulk of last year's championship roster. I felt similar about Memphis, but after watching them play the last few weeks, they are really built for the playoffs. They have a great mix of youth and experience, and have a team that is athletic enough to hang with the Oklahoma City's of the world. I think behind OKC and San Antonio, Memphis is the next team most likely to make a deep run, and it wouldn't shock me at all to see them in the Conference Finals.

Kevin (follow on Twitter): Philadelphia 76ers

My initial thought was to go with the Grizzlies, and while I think they will make some noise in the West, I'm going to go with the "homer" pick (Sixers). They are currently only one game out of first in the Atlantic so it's very possible that they end up with a top-four seed. Although they have been a mediocre .500 (9-9) since the break, they have plenty of attributes that make them dangerous in the East. The Sixers rank first in the NBA in team defense (87.8 points allowed per game) and first in the league in fewest turnovers (10.5 per game). They are unselfish and deep (Lou Williams leads the team in scoring off the bench) and they have elite perimeter defenders in Andre Iguodala and Jrue Holiday.

Dan (follow on Twitter): Memphis Grizzlies

I am going to go with the Memphis Grizzlies as the toughest non-top-four seed out in this year's postseason (much like last year). They have an awesome rotation of bigs with Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Rudy Gay, and solid scoring from both Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo. Memphis is also 17-7 at home, and have the pedigree from last year as a lower seed to spring an upset in this year's playoffs.

Sean (follow on Twitter): Memphis Grizzlies

The defending champ Mavs currently hold the No. 5 seed in the West, and would be the logical choice, but after watching them play over the past two weeks, I just don't think they can make a run. I'm going with the No. 6 seed in the West and that is the Memphis Grizzlies. Zach Randolph is back in the lineup, and they are going to be a very dangerous team in the playoffs. I think they would beat the Lakers right now in a series.

To see where all 30 teams fall in our power rankings going through Week 14, click here.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Final Four Prediction: Kentucky Wildcats vs. Louisville Cardinals (Trifone)

The premiere matchup this weekend is clearly Kentucky facing Louisville. Pitino vs. Calipari, vying for bragging rights and in-state basketball dominance. It is Michigan/Ohio St., Yankees/Red Sox, and Duke/UNC all rolled into one. And Pitino has done a masterful job putting all of the pressure on Kentucky. Of course, he's right, all of the pressure is on Kentucky. They are far and away the best team in college basketball, with what will likely be the top 2 picks in the draft next year.

Kentucky has steamrolled everyone.

There may have been a few moments during the tournament where a game appeared close, but that was short-lived. The Wildcats scored 102 points against Indiana in the Sweet 16, one of only two teams to knock them off this year.

102 points!

This wasn't the first round against the Savannah State Tigers or a team that went on a nice run to win their conference tournament even though they had a 12-28 record for the season. This was a top-15 Indiana basketball team in the Sweet 16. Credit Indiana, they actually played a great game. But Kentucky is just too good. For anyone that saw the first half of the Baylor game, there really isn't a lot of room for debate as to who the best team, and heavy favorite to win it all, is.

Louisville has also been fairly impressive. New Mexico posed a pretty tough challenge, but Louisville outlasted them in the Round of 32. Michigan State was the favorite to come out of the bracket, but the Cardinals smothered them defensively. The Spartans struggled against the press, but ultimately, it was their inability to score that kept them from making it a game. They scored a measly 44 points in a game that the Spartans just couldn't make any kind of run at winning. As great of a defensive game as Louisville played against the one seed, perhaps their most impressive win was over a hot Florida team. Louisville was able to stifle the Gator offense enough, and even though they were largely outplayed and trailing for most of the game, they were able to control the game down the stretch and come out with the victory. Pretty impressive that Pitino moved to 10-0 in Sweet 16 games and 7-0 against his former protege, Billy Donovan.

I'd love to go out on a limb and take Louisville to win this game. I am certainly hoping for an entertaining game, and I do believe that Louisville's defense will be able to slow Kentucky a bit. It will also be interesting to see what Pitino comes up with, knowing he is clearly overmatched from a talent perspective. The problem with taking Louisville is that even if Louisville can contain the Wildcat offense, Kentucky's defense is even better than their offense is. In a one-game situation, anything can happen although Louisville needs to be pretty close to perfect to come out on top. But I believe Kentucky is ready for the pressure, and on a mission to win the title.

Prediction: Kentucky 74, Louisville 58

[Editor's note: John Trifone (@JohnnyT0122) is the author of this post. For his prediction for the other Final Four matchup, click here.]

Final Four Prediction: Kansas Jayhawks vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (Trifone)

It seems that my predictive powers have waned as the tournament has gone on, and I'm left with just one Final Four team in my bracket; and realistically, how many people don't have Kentucky? Still, I'm undeterred and moving forward, confident as ever in my ability to pick the winners in the Final Four, as well as the eventual Champion.

Ohio State versus Kansas seems to be the forgotten matchup due to the enormous in-state rivalry between Kentucky and Louisville, but this promises to be an excellent matchup. Thomas Robinson squaring off against Jared Sullinger should be a great battle and offers a lot of star power to the game. Both players will be lottery picks should they decide to enter the draft, so both are likely looking at their final opportunity to win the National Championship.

Ohio State has looked good so far this tournament. Gonzaga in the Round of 32 has actually been their closest matchup, as the game was tied with under 3 minutes to go. The next two games against Cincinnati and Syracuse respectively, were decent games, but Ohio St. was playing with the lead for the majority of both games. Cincinnati didn't prove to be much of a challenge as Ohio St. pretty much cruised to the Elite Eight. Syracuse was a bit tougher, but Sullinger only played for six minutes in the first half, and 'Cuse could only manage a tie game after 20 minutes of play. The Buckeyes then stormed out of the gates and took a double-digit lead early on in the second half. Syracuse kept fighting back, but Ohio St. did not relinquish the lead.

Kansas, on the other hand, has been challenged in every game thus far. Detroit gave them more of a game than the 15-point margin would indicate, but for a 2-vs.-15 matchup, was not as big of a blowout as might have been expected. But I suppose with only 50 percent of the 2 seeds getting out of the first round this year, Kansas did pretty well. The next three games were different stories. Purdue led Kansas just about wire-to-wire. Robbie Hummel was brilliant, and Kansas was really fortunate to come away with the win. Purdue was the better team for 38 minutes, but the Jayhawks found a way to squeak by. North Carolina St. was another great game, though it was a bit more back and forth. Kansas had a bit less of a challenge than the Purdue game, but still only won by three, holding off a pretty furious push by the Wolfpack. Finally, the North Carolina game was another tight one. The lead changed hands several times. Bill Self made a nice defensive switch in the second half that Carolina struggled with, and in the final few minutes, Kansas was able to pull away. It may have been a different story if Kendall Marshall had played, but the Jayhawks once again did just enough to get the W.

The obvious pick here is Ohio St. They appear to be playing very well, with more convincing victories thus far, and the Buckeyes have a more talented squad. Call it a feeling, but I'm going to take Kansas to win though. Maybe it's partly rooting for Thomas Robinson and his heartfelt story, but I believe Kansas will rise to the occasion. I've felt that Ohio St. has been a bit overrated all year, although I must admit they've been playing great basketball of late. Still, Kansas has battled, and have come through when they needed to, and I believe they have one more game in them.

Prediction: Kansas 74, Ohio St. 72

[Editor's note: John Trifone (@JohnnyT0122) is the author of this post. For his prediction for the other Final Four matchup, click here.]

Monday, March 26, 2012

NBA Consensus Power Rankings, Week 13

When the Bulls host the Nuggets on Monday night, it is likely that point guard Derrick Rose (groin) will miss another game and perhaps a few more.

Through the first 50 games of this lockout-shortened season, Rose has missed a total of 16 games. Not surprisingly, the Bulls have a better winning percentage with Rose than they do without him.

That said, the Bulls have won 75 percent (12-4) in the 16 games they have played without the league's reigning MVP.

After Sunday night's win over the Heat, the only other team that has won at least 75 percent of their games is Oklahoma City. The Thunder are 37-12 (.755) while the Heat, who have the league's third-best record, are 35-12 (.745).

Here are some stats about this week's NBA Consensus Power Rankings:

- Biggest jump from last week: Utah Jazz (+3.17)
- Biggest drop from last week: Portland Trail Blazers (-1.67)
- Team with widest difference between high and low ranker: Houston Rockets (5)

[See our full NBA Consensus Power Rankings.]

Each week, we respond to one roundtable question and here's this week's question: At this point, who is your NBA Coach of the Year?

John (follow on Twitter): Gregg Popovich

For coach of the year, I'm going to go with Gregg Popovich. The Spurs had something of a dynasty years ago, but have declined in recent years. Coming into the season, the Spurs were largely written off due to their aging group and the shortened season. The Spurs have been anything but what they were projected to be, though, currently three games out of first in the Western Conference. With their experience and talent, San Antonio is a legitimate threat to make the NBA Finals. Given the circumstances of the season, Pop has done a great job this year. Other coaches also deserve recognition and consideration, but ultimately, I feel the Spurs have over-acheived the most.

Kevin (follow on Twitter): Tom Thibodeau

For me, it's a two-man race between Chicago's Kevin Thibodeau and Philadelphia's Doug Collins. The 76ers have surprised almost everyone as they have led the Atlantic Division from start to finish (or this point in the season). With a young, athletic team, the Sixers play great defense, are unselfish and don't turn the ball over, all of which is attributrable to Collins in some way.

That said, the Bulls have been without Rose for 16 games (as noted above), but Luol Deng, Richard Hamilton and others have also missed a considerable amount of action due to injury. Considered the best (or one of the best) defensive coaches in the league, Thibodeau has led the Bulls to a league-high 40 wins and has become the fastest coach in NBA history to reach 100 career wins.

Dan (follow on Twitter): Tom Thibodeau

For me, I am going with Tom Thibodeau of the Chicago Bulls as he has done a masterful job this year. To me, it was close between Gregg Popovich and Thibodeau as I think Erik Spolestra has one of the easiest jobs out there. At the end of the day, the Bulls have already clinched a playoff spot, and have posted the league's best record 'while having to play without Derrick Rose for a significant amount of time.

To see where all 30 teams fall in our power rankings going through Week 13, click here.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Trifone: First-Week Recap of NCAA Tournament

Although there haven't really been a lot of true buzzer-beaters that we are accustomed to seeing this time of year, this has been one of the most exciting first weekends of the tournament in recent memory. There have been a lot of double-digit seeds advancing, or at least contending for a full 40 minutes. Often times, a 15-seed comes out of the gates on an 8-2 run, only to get trounced by 25 points, and be out of the game by halftime. Not this year.

Thursday was chalk city, with the only real upset being VCU in the 12/5 matchup with Wichita St. Tough to call that too big of an upset, though, as Shaka Smart led the Rams to the Final Four last year. I was disappointed to see them get knocked out in the second round by Indiana, after leading the majority of the game.

Friday brought some history to the March Madness tournament, as for the first time ever, two number 15 seeds advanced to the round of 32. Up until this year, only four 15 seeds have ever knocked off a number two, and two more happened on Friday. First it was Norfolk St., upsetting the mighty Missouri. I have to say, this one shocked me. After following Mizzou for a lot of the year, they had all the talent in the world to make a deep run, and contend for the title. It was reminiscent of 2001 when a Marcus Fizer-led Iowa St. team that had similar aspirations got bounced in the first round by Hampton. As I had Missouri in my Final Four, I was not pleased with the outcome, although I couldn't help but feel torn, rooting against such a massive underdog.

The second major upset was less of a surprise to me. I felt Duke was largely overrated all year, and in fact picked Xavier to knock them off in the second round in my bracket. Still, the way in which it happened was quite surprising. Lehigh pretty much led from start to finish, and Duke never really got back into it. Every time Duke started to make a run, Lehigh had an answer, and down the stretch, losing the lead was never really in jeopardy for the Mountain Hawks. Lehigh came out strong against Xavier, but eventually blew the lead and were unable to become the first ever 15 seed to advance to the sweet 16.

Florida St. gave me a good scare, but were able to fend off the Bonnies and advance. Other notable first round upsets were Ohio over Michigan and South Florida over Temple, as 13 and 12 seeds respectively. Ohio moved on to the Sweet 16, after a strong second-half effort against the Bulls.

Saturday was mostly chalk again, but had some highly entertaining games with some tight finishes. Louisville won by three over New Mexico, Marquette used a late surge to defeat Murray St., who led most of the game, and Ohio St. had it's hands full with Gonzaga. After a close first half, the Buckeyes pulled ahead by double digits, but with under four minutes to go, the Zags managed to tie the game. Still, the higher seeds ended up coming out on top, returning to the normalcy we witnessed on Thursday.

Sunday saw a one seed taken to the the brink, as Saint Louis gave Michigan St. all it could handle. This one didn't really have the feel of an upset because Michigan St. led the whole way. But they just couldn't seem to pull away, and it was a two-point game with about three minutes to go. Michigan St. held on, though, for a four-point win. They play a tough Louisville team next.

Billy Donovan has thus far, been coach of the tournament in my mind. In what should have been a tough matchup against Virginia in the 10/7 game on Friday, the Gators destroyed the Cavaliers by 26 points. In the second round, they played in what can only be accurately described as a shoot around session against the same Norfolk team that knocked out one of the best teams in the country two days before. Donovan must have watched that game and come up with a game plan that Florida executed perfectly. They absolutely crushed Norfolk St. 84-50, in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicates.

North Carolina St. was another double-digit seed to make the final 16, upsetting Georgetown in a game that was pretty close throughout.

Purdue ALMOST pulled off another big upset, leading the game just about wire to wire. Kansas took a one-point lead with under three minutes to go, and Purdue hit two consecutive buckets to go back up three. With under a minute, Kansas made some great defensive plays and took the lead for good, winning a thriller by three. Purdue had a decent look to tie it when they inbounded it cross court with 2.5 seconds to go, but it bricked out as the buzzer sounded.

The final game of the night was a war of attrition between Cincinnati and Florida St. This was a true bracket buster for me since I had Florida St. going to the Final Four, whereas most others have Ohio St. No team led by more than five points until the final minute, but Cincinnati came out on top, making the state of Ohio an incredible 8-0 in the tournament this year.

Overall, some great action so far. Hopefully we'll see some true buzzer-beaters and some more good games next week as well.

[Editor's note: John Trifone (@JohnnyT0122), the author of this post, is currently tied for first place in our 98-entry March Madness group. In other words, feel free to follow him on Twitter and mock and heckle him.]

NBA Consensus Power Rankings, Week 12

Not necessarily in the same order every week, the top three teams in our NBA Consensus Power Rankings have stayed in the top three every week of the season so far.

Based on odds to win the NBA Championship (via, the Miami Heat (6/5 odds) are the prohibitive favorites to win it all. The other two teams in the top three -- the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chicago Bulls -- have 7/2 odds.

In addition to those three division leaders, the other three divisions leaders have the following odds to win the NBA Championship: Lakers (7/1), Spurs (15/1) and 76ers (25/1).

The two teams with odds of 25/1 or better to win it all that don't currently lead their division are the Clippers (13/1) and the Mavs (20/1).

Here are some more stats about this week's NBA Consensus Power Rankings:

- Biggest jump from last week: Phoenix Suns (+2.25)
- Biggest drop from last week: Portland Trail Blazers (-2.25)
- Team with widest difference between high and low ranker: Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics (5)

[See our full NBA Consensus Power Rankings.]

Each week, we respond to one roundtable question and here's this week's question: Which current division leader is LEAST likely to win their division?

John (follow on Twitter): Philadelphia 76ers

The current division leader that is least likely to win their division would have to be the Philadelphia 76ers. They have cooled off since a hot start to the season, and have the Boston Celtics breathing down their necks. Behind Rajon Rondo, the Celtics have pulled within 1.5 games of the division lead, and seem poised to move up to the four spot in the playoffs, rather than the seven seed as things stand now. The Knicks also seem to be playing well again under interim coach Mike Woodson, with three very convincing wins in a row since Mike D'Antoni's surprising resignation this past week. The Knicks are currently four games back. Philadelphia will have to pick it up down the stretch if they want to fend off either or both of the Celtics and Knicks and claim the division championship.

Sean (follow on Twitter): San Antonio Spurs

Philly is the obvious choice with Boston only 1-1/2 back, and New York 4 back, but I really like this 76ers team. I am going to go with San Antonio even though they are up four games right now. I think Dallas or Memphis can make a run and take the Southwest.

Kevin (follow on Twitter): San Antonio Spurs

Ruling out the top three teams, the easy answer, I suppose, would be to list the Sixers here. And the easy response, I suppose, would be to say that I'm a "homer" for not listing the Sixers here. While the Sixers may have lost five of their past eight games, two of their wins during that span have come against the Celtics and Knicks, two teams that I believe don't have the ability to overtake the 76ers down the stretch. While the Pacific division is tight, Kobe and the Lakers now how to close so I don't expect them to give up their lead.

The Spurs have strong veteran presence, great coaching and they know how to win. That said, the two teams behind them in the Southwest have legitimate shots of surpassing them. After all, the Mavs are the defending NBA champions and the Grizzlies made it to the Western Conference Finals last year. Either one of these teams is certainly capable of making a final-month run to win the division.

Dan (follow on Twitter): Philadelphia 76ers

This year we still have a few different divisions that are hotly contested in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Southwest, but the team that will not end up winning will be the 76ers. The Celtics have too much veteran savvy, are only 1.5 games back and the difference between having the No. 3 seed and the No. 7 seed will be enormous. Down the stretch, the 76ers will fold as they have not been in this position at all, and the Celtics are the team that will need the No. 3 seed.

To see where all 30 teams fall in our power rankings going through Week 12, click here.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Fab Melo out for the NCAA Tournanment

Syracuse just announced some potentially bracket-altering news.

The team will be without center Fab Melo for the entire tournament due to an eligibility issue, per Nicole Auerbach of USA Today.

Melo, who averaged 7.8 points per game, is the team's leading rebounder (5.8 per game) and is tied for 10th in the nation in blocked shots (3.1 per game).

As Auerbach points out, the team's biggest weakness just got weaker. Syracuse ranks 129th in Division I in rebounding and now will be without their leading rebounder.

The No. 1 seed in the East, Syracuse opens up the tournament against N.C. Asheville on Thursday.

Monday, March 12, 2012

NBA Consensus Power Rankings, Week 11

This is one of the best sports weeks of the year!

With March Madness set to start on Thursday (play-in games on Tuesday), the NFL free-agency period begins Tuesday and the NBA's trade deadline is Thursday.

This week's roundtable question will focus on the NBA trade deadline.

Before we get to that, this week's NBA Consensus Power Rankings have the same top four teams in the same order as last week: Miami, Oklahoma City, Chicago and San Antonio. However, the Lakers have replaced the Clippers as the top team in L.A. and as a top-five team in our power rankings.

At the bottom, there is no change to the bottom four teams: Charlotte, Washington, New Orleans and Toronto (although the Wizards and Hornets were tied at 28 last week).

For a second week in a row, the Knicks were big droppers. From Week 9 to 10, they were tied with the Blazers for the largest week-to-week drop. From last week to this week, the Knicks had the second-biggest drop. Just two weeks ago, the Knicks were the 12th-ranked team in our rankings and are now 18th.

That's Linsane.

Here are some more stats about this week's NBA Consensus Power Rankings:

- Biggest jump from last week: Boston Celtics (+3.25)
- Biggest drop from last week: Dallas Mavericks (-3.25)
- Team with widest difference between high and low ranker: Boston Celtics (6)

[See our full NBA Consensus Power Rankings.]

Each week, we respond to one roundtable question and here's this week's question: Will the Magic trade Dwight Howard before the trade deadline on March 15th?

John (follow on Twitter): All year I have believed Dwight Howard was going to be traded, and that it was only a matter of time. Of course, as we get closer to the trade deadline, I'm now changing my tune on the matter. It appears that Orlando feels that they have enough talent to make a legitimate run in the East, and that they still have hopes to re-sign Howard after the season. Howard's own mother voiced her opinion, that Orlando was the best place for him. I'm fairly certain that the Lakers and a few other teams may make a run at him, but they may also feel that they can get him after the season without giving up the high price tag that would obviously come along with trading for him. So overall, I believe Howard will stay put in Orlando, at least for the rest of the season.

Kevin (follow on Twitter): With the trade deadline fast approaching but coming a few weeks later than last year due to the shortened season, that also means that teams will have the services of any player(s) acquired for less time than they typically would. Of course, any team that trades for Howard will only pull the trigger provided they can agree to a long-term deal with him since his contract is up at the end of the season. I think the favorite to pull off a deal would be the New Jersey (soon-to-be Brooklyn) Nets, but I think they wait until the season ends to try to woo Howard and pair him up with Deron Williams.

Dan (follow on Twitter): The Magic will not trade Howard this year, as most teams have been trying to steal him for bargain basement prices. The Magic have a few contracts coming out their books this year, and they can pay the most for Howard next year as well. I believe the Magic will make a serious run at resigning Howard this year, as they cannot get fair market value for him right now.

To see where all 30 teams fall in our power rankings going through Week 11, click here.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Report: Ricky Rubio out for year with torn ACL

Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio left last night's game with a knee injury. The results from today's MRI are not good.

Per Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Rubio will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL.

Even after last night's loss to the Lakers, the 'Wolves are above .500 (21-20) and there was plenty of reason for optimism with the young duo of Rubio and Kevin Love.

The Timberwolves haven't finished with a .500 record since 2004-05 and haven't won more than 30 percent of their games in any of the past four seasons. In fact, they have already won more games this year than they did in all of last season (17) or the previous season (15).

Rubio ranks fifth in the NBA in assists (8.2 per game) and third in steals (2.2 per game).

With Rubio out, the fantasy value of Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea increases. Ridnour is owned in only 47 percent of Yahoo! leagues and Barea is owned in 11 percent of leagues.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Luol Deng (wrist) may miss a few games

Bulls small forward Luol Deng may miss a few games due to his wrist, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

"I hate talking about my wrist, but I'm going to talk with the medical staff and [coach Kevin Thibodeaux]," Deng said. "The past few games, it has escalated a little bit. We have to kind of bring it down again. I've been trying to avoid it and everything but it's a tough one."

But he's not considering surgery.

"I said it from the start: I'm not taking that route," he said. "Mostly it's going to be rest. It's definitely better than when I first did it and when I first came back. But there was a period of time when it felt great. The last few games, the pain is kind of high again. I have to control it and monitor it.

"I just have to find ways to adjust my game. I've proved I can play with it. Some days it's going to feel great. Some days it's going to feel terrible. We just have to bring it down."

Deng was only one-for-nine from the field in 39 minutes last night and 14-for-41 in his last four games.

Monday, March 5, 2012

NBA Consensus Power Rankings, Week 10

As it currently stands, the Minnesota Timberwolves are 19-19 and in third place in the Northwest Division behind the Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets.

If the season were to end now, the T'Wolves would just miss the playoffs as they are currently the 9th seed in the Western Conference.

Point guard Ricky Rubio is having a great "rookie" season with 8.3 assists per game, tied for fifth in the NBA, and 2.3 steals per game, which ranks second in the league.

Yet interestingly enough, if you look at Rubio's game log, he has shot exactly 1-for-8 in three of his past four games. Over his past five games, he is only 8-for-38 (20.6 percent) from the field.

Plus he had double-digit assists on March 3rd for the first time since February 7th although he had three games with nine assists and three games with eight assists in between double-digit performances.

In that 12-assist game on Saturday, Rubio set the franchise record with 10 assists in the first quarter.

Minnesota is still in the bottom half of our NBA Consensus Power Rankings (No. 18), but with Kevin Love (23 years old) and Ricky Rubio (21 years old), the future is only going to get brighter for the T'Wolves.

Here are some more stats about this week's NBA Consensus Power Rankings:

- Biggest jump from last week: Memphis Grizzlies (+5.25)
- Biggest drop from last week: Portland Trail Blazers and New York Knicks (-2.50)
- Team with widest difference between high and low ranker: Indiana Pacers (8)

[See our full NBA Consensus Power Rankings.]

Each week, we respond to one roundtable question and here's this week's question: Will the Timberwolves finish above .500 for the first time since the 2004-2005 season?

John (follow on Twitter): Below .500

After a big win on the road at Portland on Saturday, the Timberwolves reached a .500 record at 19-19. Looking ahead, it's going to be awfully close for them. They have their share of winnable games, but are definitely going to need to play well on the road, as they did last night. If this question was asking if Minnesota will finish at or above .500, I would say that they will. But in order to finish above .500, they would need to finish the season going 15-13 or better. As I said, I think it will be close, and I'll be rooting for them, but if I had to guess I'll say they come up a bit short. Maybe next year!

Sean (follow on Twitter): Below .500

I think Minnesota finishes under .500 this year. If they were in the Eastern Conference I would give them a better chance, but the Western Conference is too tough. The great news for Timberwolves fans is that Kevin Love is staying put, and he is one of the league's ten best players. I think we will see another Garnett/Nash combo with Love/Rubio, and the Timberwolves will be dangerous in years to come. They just don't have the pieces on this team now surrounding them unfortunately.

Kevin (follow on Twitter): Above .500

Not only have the T'Wolves not finished above .500 since the 2004-05 season, but they have won less than 30 percent of their games for the past four seasons in a row. Even though the T'Wolves have played only 38 games so far this season, they have already exceeded their win totals from last year (17) and the year before (15). Whether or not they finish above .500, they have finally given their fans a product worth supporting. Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio are a talented young combination and they are a deep team -- only three players are averaging more than 25 minutes per game. While I think they will be close to .500 either way, I'm going to say they go slightly over.

Dan (follow on Twitter): Above .500

The Timberwolves have finally found at least a medium of respectability this year. After many head-shaking moves by GM Khan, such as giving Darko too much money, and drafting two point guards back-to-back a few years ago, the Wolves are on the right track. Ricky Rubio has been as good as advertised, and Kevin Love is drawing Moses Malone-like comparisons for his ability to rip double-doubles. With their youth, Minnesota is poised to finish above .500.

To see where all 30 teams fall in our power rankings going through Week 10, click here.

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Deron Williams scores career-high 57 vs. Bobcats

The Nets are bad (although they aren't Bobcats' bad).

Today New Jersey's Deron Williams lit the Bobcats up, dropping a career-high 57 points including 40 of them in the second half. His previous career high was 42 points.

In addition, Williams broke the Nets' franchise record of 52 points.

Williams, who made all 21 of his free throws, was 16 of 29 from the field and 4 of 11 from three-point range. It was the first time in eight games that Williams shot over 50 percent from the field and he had scored only 12 points in each of his past two games.

It was only the second 50-point performance this season. Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant scored 51 against the Nuggets on February 19th.

Rajon Rondo gets 4th triple-double of season

It's becoming something of a habit for him.

Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, who has been the subject of trade rumors, had a triple-double in today's win over the Knicks.

Although the game went to overtime, Rondo had a triple-double in regulation and he finished the game with 18 points, 17 rebounds and 20 assists. Rondo did not have a great shooting game (seven-of-20 shooting), but he set season highs in both rebounds and assists.

There have been a total of 10 triple-doubles this season and Rondo has four of them. (No other player has more than one.)

Rondo now has two triple-doubles in his his past three games and three of them in his past eight games.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Russell Westbrook (ankle) is a game-time decision tonight

Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks said that point guard Russell Westbrook will be a game-time decision tonight against the Hawks, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman.

Westbrook, who is dealing with a sprained ankle, had 29 points, 10 assists and only two turnovers in the Thunder's win over the Magic on March 1st.

Although he has now had back-to-back double-doubles, Westbrook has only four of them all season. He has two double-doubles with points and assists and two of them with points and rebounds.

On the season, Westbrook is averaging a career-high 23.6 points along with 5.0 rebounds, 5.6 assists and a career-worst 4.2 turnovers per game. In each of the previous two seasons, Westbrook averaged at least eight assists per game and less than four turnovers per game.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rajon Rondo has third triple-double of season

Before tonight's win over the Bucks, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo had a total of one made field goal in the Celtics' previous four games.

In addition to being suspended for two games, Rondo was held scoreless by the Cavs on 0-of-6 shooting last night and made one of six field-goal attempts against the Pistons, before getting ejected, on February 19th.

Tonight went much better for Rondo, who got his third triple-double of the season.

Rondo scored 15 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and had 10 assists tonight. There have been a total of nine triple-doubles this season in the NBA and Rondo has one-third of them.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

NBA Consensus Power Rankings, Week 9

With the NBA All-Star Weekend now behind us, the top three teams in the NBA going into the second half are separated by only one-half game in the standings.

Based on NBA futures (from, however, the Miami Heat are the clear favorites to win it all.

Here are the odds to win the NBA Championship: Heat 6/5, Thunder 4/1 and Bulls 5/1. Coincidentally, that is the order of our top three teams in our Consensus NBA Power Rankings.

The No. 4 team in this week's rankings, San Antonio, has 15/1 odds to win it all while the Clippers (8/1), Lakers (10/1), Knicks (10/1) and Mavs (12/1) all have better odds.

Interestingly enough, the Knicks have a losing record (17-18) through the first half, but the surprising emergence of Jeremy Lin has the enthusiasm of Knicks' fans at Linsane levels. It's hard to imagine tickets for a regular-season game involving a team with a losing record going for more than tickets for the NBA Finals in the previous year, but that is what happened with Thursday's matchup between the Heat and Knicks.

When it comes to the Atlantic Division, the Sixers were the feel-good story at the beginning of the year as a surprise team. With a five-game losing streak to end the first half, they are getting little respect from oddsmakers.

Sportsbook has the 76ers at 50/1 to win it all.

While nobody should expect them to win it all, they have much higher odds than division foes with losing records: the Knicks (as noted above) and the Celtics (25/1).

Here are some more stats about this week's NBA Consensus Power Rankings:

- Biggest jump from last week: Portland Trail Blazers (+2.50)
- Biggest drop from last week: Memphis Grizzlies (-2.50)
- Team with widest difference between high and low ranker: Memphis Grizzlies and Philadelphia 76ers (5)

[See our full NBA Consensus Power Rankings.]

Each week, we respond to one roundtable question and here's this week's question: Out of the Knicks' remaining 31 games, how many will they win? (Over-Under: 18.5 games)

John (follow on Twitter):

In looking at the Knicks final 31 games, I'm going to take the under on 18.5 wins. I actually think it's reasonable to think they might get close, even 18 wins, but I'm not taking them to win more than that down the stretch. Jeremy Lin is coming back down to earth a bit, but he's not going to be facing the freak athleticism that Miami has every game. I think Lin will settle in to being a good point guard, which will help the Knicks stay firmly in playoff contention. Depending on how they gel after getting back some key players from injury, most notably Carmelo Anthony, I think the Knicks have the potential to make some noise in the playoffs. I'd also give them a 60-percent chance or so of jumping Philadelphia and winning the division.

Sean (follow on Twitter):

I'm gonna go with under 18.5 games. I think the Knicks will finish 16-15. The Knicks definitely have the pieces to be a good team, but I am selling because of one thing ... Defense. Amar'e/Melo have yet to "buy in" defensively, and that will be costly down the stretch. Mike D'Antoni looks like a deer in headlights too often. The Knicks will need a major shake up to contend with either Chicago or Miami.

Kevin (follow on Twitter):

Their first game after the break may not be so tough: Cleveland at home on February 29th. That said, the first half of March will likely dictate whether they go over or under that total. Six of their first nine games in March are on the road. Only two of those nine games are against teams with losing records (but both are on the road): Boston and Milwaukee. If they go 5-5 to start the second half, they will have a realistic shot to finish 19-12 (or .613). However, they do have a challenging start to April (at Indiana, at Orlando, vs. Chicago and at Chicago) as well. I think the Knicks, who were 17-18 in the first half, finish the season above .500 but will win 18 games or less in the second half.

[Note: Dan will return from a cruise through Central America today and won't participate in our consensus rankings this week, but it will be business as usual next week.]

To see where all 30 teams fall in our power rankings going through Week 9, click here.

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