What's your take on the Bulls (-5) tonight?

By Rich Winter

     If you read my post last night, what's your take on the Clippers (-8) you'll recall I called the Clippers big! While I didn't exactly call a 138-98 win, I did say the Clippers would handle it. 

From the piece:

 "I'm guessing that Blake Griffin gets a few calls or non calls tonight, after being saddled with foul trouble the whole game the other night. America doesn't want to see Griffin riding the pine, do we?

     I just get the feeling that tonight is going to be one of those game where Chris Paul rallies the troops and the Clippers dig down and reach for something extra."

     So I walk in this morning and check out the lines of the games tonight!

     Pacers -7 tonight - Who knows which Pacers team will show. I'd probably take Atlanta in that one as the Pacers don't have the mental fortitude right now to come forth with a game two beat-down.

Raptors -4.5 tonight - I want no part of that one. My gut feeling is that Toronto will have the first-game jitters out of the way and play much better. That said, I thought Jason Kidd and the Nets did a tremendous job on DeMar DeRozan and it could be difficult for Toronto to get past a veteran Nets team. 

Chicago (-5) - At first glance I look at Chicago's inability to score in stretches and I'm not sure that they can come up with the offense for a six point victory. That said, I think there is too much pride coursing through the veins of this team to not come out and put down a championship defensive effort. I expect the Bulls to really get after it defensively tonight and do a better job of letting the Wizards get out in transition. Translation, the Wizards have a tough first half and Chicago grinds em down in the second half for a somewhat convincing victory.

      That's my take and I'm sticking to it.

Sports Instigator, Out!

It boggles the mind that Mike D'Antoni is still the coach of the L.A. Lakers

By Rich Winter

      News on the coaching wire in the last 36 hours that Phil Jackson took the reigns and cleaned house and let Mike Woodson go. And then news from the Utah Jazz that the Ty Cobin replacing Jerry Sloan experiment is over.

Two takes on these developments.

1. Phil Jackson - If I'm a Knicks fan hoping to resign Carmelo Anthony, I'd say be encouraged that Melo might stay. I've heard from a number of people that Mike Woodson is a good coach but Phil came in and did his job, and if I'm a Knick player I'm paying attention to what the Zen Master is doing next.

2. If I'm a Utah Jazz fan, I'm looking at Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson ripping it up in the playoffs and asking aloud whether they had a couple of good pieces but a coach that just couldn't get it done?

    And then you have the Lakers who just went through one of the worst seasons in franchise history. They met, had the locker-room clear-out and the exit-interviews, and the word is??

    No word! It looks like the Lakers have decided not to make a move on the coaching front. They might, but timing on this stuff is crucial and just like every Laker decision since Jerry Buss died, this one reeks of the front office, Jim Buss, not knowing what he's doing.

     I called my Laker insider last night, White Mamba, and he and I were both just incredulous that the Utah Jazz had the balls to fire their coach but the Lakers seem to be content on being ho-hum until 2015.

    Kobe promises next season to be epic...How exactly is that going to happen with a front office that seems like they are on vacation all year long and then show up stoned to the summer meetings?

   When Buss came out the other day and said the Lakers would be a top four team in three of four years or he'd step down, I think Laker Nation held their breath and then screamed, "Three or four years, are you out of your mind?"

   In year's past, the Laker organization was a model of consistency and competitiveness. It was an organization that made swift, precise, decisions and one that wouldn't stand for mediocrity. 

    If the Lakers take that high pick in the lottery, they are almost consigning themselves to the lottery for the next two or three years. There will be no epic, only a faded, championship warrior fading into the sunset and probably doing so, a bit ungraciously. 

    If I'm the Lakers, I'm finding a way to move Pau Gasol and get pieces. I trade that No. 1 pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves and bring Kevin Love in. He's a UCLA boy and someone the Lakers can get behind and root for. If I was Kobe, I'd give half my salary back and go after a guy like DeMar DeRozan or an unhappy Paul George.

      But, as we've seen for the last 18 months the decision making in L.A. isn't the best. I'm guessing we talk long and hard about what the Lakers should do, but in the end, Jim Buss will be making the call.

   Good luck Lakers!

What's your take on the Clipper (-8) tonight?

By Rich Winter,

   Every since I hooked up with those boys over at Sports Bettors TV, I gotta say, I've been paying attention to who is favored and by how much.

   Let's just say my interest has been piqued. 

    I gotta say I looked at the line of the Clippers being favored by eight against the Warriors tonight and I zeroed in. 

     My first thought was to think that Golden State, as well as they played the other night, would make it a little more competitive and keep it close.

    My gut is telling me that the Clippers bounce back tonight with a big-time win that sends a message.

   I'm guessing that Blake Griffin gets a few calls or non calls tonight, after being saddled with foul trouble the whole game the other night. America doesn't want to see Griffin riding the pine, do we?

     I just get the feeling that tonight is going to be one of those game where Chris Paul rallies the troops and the Clippers dig down and reach for something extra.

   I think it will be a decently close game in the first half and then, at some point, the Clippers are going to reach down and give a special effort.

  They are too good not to!

   What's your take?

Is Paul Millsap the most underrated player in the NBA?

By Rich Winter

   Who else was impressed with Paul Milsap and the Atlanta Hawks over the weekend?

   I know I was pretty enthralled with the play of guard, Jeff Teague. This man is lightning quick and he can flat out ball. He finished with 28 points and five assists with only two turnovers.

   Most importantly, when it came time to finish, I thought he orchestrated that offense to perfection.

     But that's not why I'm here is it?

    By just looking at the stat sheet, Millsap stands out. He finished with 25 points and eight rebounds. Couple things impressed me with those stats. Millsap was only 7-17 from the field, but he showed an uncanny ability to make shots down low and get fouled if he didn't score. 

   Millsap was 9-11 from the charity stripe.

  You know what impressed me more than all of those stats that never really seem to jump off the page? 

   His toughness and willingness to sacrifice his body. He makes plays on both ends of the floor. Did ya see him stand in there and draw at least two charges?

     Ya start looking at the kind of season he had this year through some difficult circumstances with Al Horford going down with that injury. The Hawks were 25-21 at one point and it took them a while how to figure out how to play together. 

    Millsap has been a steady, all-star caliber performer with 18 points and 8.5 rebounds. 

  I think a lot of people look at Paul Millsap as an undersized power forward. When he played for the Utah Jazz, the Jazz, powers-that-would-be kept pointing to what the 6-foot-8, undersized power forward couldn't do, instead of looking at what he could do when on the floor for extended periods of time. 

    Maybe the knock on Millsap at Utah was that he couldn't consistently make the 3-point shot. Ummm, yesterday he was 2-4 from beyond the arc.

     As these playoff games resume and the Atlanta Hawks get ready to pull the upset of a No. 1 seed in the east, keep your eyes on this Millsap character.

    He's a rugged guy, a little bit undersized, but he's strong and tough. He's got good post moves down low and he's good enough around the rim with head-fakes and creative space-making to be a dominant player in this series. 

     Instead of thinking of him as a liability on defense, I can't imagine why people don't start respecting this guy as one of the most versatile, power forwards in the game.

     This is Millsap's eighth year in the league and it looks to me like he's at the top of his game. Don't be surprised if this Atlanta team makes a run at the east finals.

     And start paying attention to this guy so we can get him off the most underrated list.

  Sports Instigator, VENT of the Day...Out!

Is it Damien Lillard's time to shine?

By Sports Instigator, Rich Winter

      Did ya happen to catch the new Damian Lillard commercial over the weekend?

     If ya didn't, it's a must watch!

     Clearly corporate America has bought into this kid. What's not to like, didn't get recruited out of high school, played at Weber State, and is now, one of the rising young faces in the NBA. What's not to like? Clean cut, good looking, articulate, and oh yeah, he tends to stick daggers in people to win big games.

    Can't count how many times I saw Lillard hit, big, game winning shots. Is there a stat for that?

 Of course!

Clutch Stat of the day: "Clutch time" is defined as the final five minutes with the margin within five, and Lillard finished fifth in the league with 148 points on a ridiculous 47.3 percent shooting.

      Last night in the late game after Houston came out and scored the first six points of overtime and after LaMarcus Aldridge had fouled out, Damian Lillard showed up in crunch time. 

      Down three in regulation, Lillard scored on a double-clutched, game-tying three with a degree of difficulty through the roof. 

    And then, the man scored five of his 31 points in the final 44 seconds of overtime. 

    Once he drove baseline for an and one old fashioned three.

     Then, he broke his man down off the dribble twice and got to the rim. 

    Love the heart and grit and toughness of this kid. For being a guy that is still young, he's certainly showed some mental toughness for a fella that doesn't have a lot of experience at this big time playoff level. 

      Gonna be a hell of a series!

   



Are the Wizards good enough to get to the Eastern Finals?

By Sports Instigator, Rich Winter

     If you came away impressed with the Washington Wizards come-from-behind win over the Bulls yesterday, join the club, I'm in!

      While Bradley Beal and John Wall struggled a bit in their first playoffs, (7-25 totaling 29 points), the Wizards big boys looked playoff ready yesterday. 

  I loved the play of Nene yesterday, a guy I think doesn't get the pub he deserves. 

 Nene is a high energy guy, he's got a motor and he just keeps hustling. While he's not normally a big-time scorer for this club, he got it going yesterday with 24 points and 8 rebounds. Nene was 11-17 from the field yesterday, he had a ton of hustle recoveries and he even dished out three assists for a Washington team that looks like their bigs know how to distribute on the interior. 

 I love this Marcin Gortat guy. He is bigger and a lot more physical than I had previously thought. He was beast yesterday with 15 points and 13 rebounds. He's got a little bit of a mean streak in him, and with that body in there you are going to have collisions at the rim, battles that he's going to win.

  And then, how about the play of dinosaur Andre Miller yesterday? Miller showed some grit and some playoff experience and he showed he's a guy that can give you quality minutes. The man scored ten points on 5-7 shooting and really carried the Wizards while John Wall was on the bench. 

   Trevor Ariza had a nice game yesterday with 18 points, seven boards and three assists.

   Now, I'm not tossing the Bulls under the bus yet. I thought it cool last night when the Bulls fans were shouting MVP for Joakim Noah during the game. I love watching this team run the Princeton offense, and most times they run it pretty well.

      Chicago shot 42 percent yesterday and in crunch time they looked like they just didn't have enough offense. They couldn't score easily enough to maintain the pace the Wizards closed with.

    With the Pacers all but done, and the Hawks the likely opponent for this team going forward, either team has a chance in the next round. 

    Since I wrote the blog the other day entitled, "Can the Wiz be the shizz of these eastern conference playoffs?", I'm picking the Wizards to advance.

    Is there any better feeling than picking the underdog and coming out on top? Sports Bettors TV??

How much does experience count in the NBA playoffs

By Rich Winter

        By all accounts the contributions of Nets players Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in a 94-87, series opening win over the Raptors was pretty pedestrian statistically.

    But when it mattered, KG and The Truth delivered in crunch time.

    Pierce had a decent game with 15 points. Garnett grabbed eight rebounds and scored five points in 20 minutes of play. 

    After the Raptors had clawed their way back into the game, Garnett hit a jumper and Pierce scored at least six points to put some distance between these inexperienced Raptors.

   Toronto came out yesterday, like a team that was in the playoffs for the first time. They started terribly and DeMar DeRozan could never get untracked as the Nets shut down the Raptors best player. 

     And when the Raptors dug themselves out of a hole to make a ball game out of it, Pierce and Garnett delivered like the couple of playoff tested veterans they are.

     Out west yesterday, everyone prior to that game tossed the Warriors under the bus. How can the Warriors compete without Andew Bogut their best interior defender and rebounder?

  I'll tell ya how, insert playoff tested veteran, Jermaine O'neil and sit back and watch him deliver 13 points, three rebounds, an assist and a steal. I thought Marreese Speights gave this Warrior team a big 14 minutes with six points and five rebounds.

    You can talk all you want about how good that Clippers roster is but this Clippers bunch looked like a group that didn't know what to do down the stretch via a lack of playoff experience.

   You can talk all you want about how the Golden State Warriors are weak and shouldn't be able to beat the Clippers, but this Warrior squad had success in the playoffs last year with a series win and a tough six game series with the Spurs.

  They are playoff tested and it looked like it last night.

 The Warriors' Harrison Barnes had a terrific run in the playoffs last season and he stepped it up again yesterday hitting some big shots and giving the Warriors another gear.

    Based on yesterday's games and you can toss out the Hawks and the Thunder wins because the Pacers are done and the Thunder are just better than the Grizzlies, and you find a lot of examples where experienced players stepped up in key moments.

    Experience is everything! Good night Clippers!

Should NBA players and coaches be fined for criticizing officiating?

By Sports Instigator, Rich Winter

     Did it seem to anyone else like the instant replays at the NBA playoff games seemed to take forever to figure out yesterday?

     It seemed in the Golden State vs. L.A. Clippers game that a number of out-of-bounds, possession calls that just took forever to figure out.

    For me at home I finally had to shut Jeff Van Gundy off. Seriously, it seemed like every call on the floor they took back to the booth and they replayed it and Van Gundy would make his booth call as to whether the call was right.

      Even little charges or something. Van Gundy spent 90 percent of his commentary blabbing about the officials. Hey Jeff, find some new and interesting things to talk about instead of constantly criticizing the officiating. 

     Oh, and then the NBA is now showing live officiating review from none other than Steve Javie. If you have personally been screwed by Steve Javie at some point along the way, please raise your hand. 

      Seems like everyone gets to bash on the officiating except the players and the coaches, you know, the guys whom poor officiating affects the most?

       Look back at some of the all-time, game ending, ref screw jobs in history, I'm sure some of you can name specifics!!

     The Phoenix Suns a few years ago.

     On the Bad Boys, 30-for-30 the other night,  they showed a play at the end of that final game of the series where Kareem Abdul-Jabbar went for the sky-hook, missed, Laimbeer didn't touch him, and the ref gave him free-throws.

  And the Pistons lost by one in L.A.

   How can you come back to the locker-room and not have to question the officiating, especially if it changes the outcome of the game?

  How is a player and or a coach expected to reign in all that emotion that they felt like they got screwed but they have to wrap it in a nice pretty blanket before they can say anything because there are fines and penalties for a player or a coach questioning or talking negatively about the officiating. 

   I almost think we should remove instant replay because it is interrupting the flow of the game. If only we didn't have dirty-refs in our periphreal vision.

 I think for the most part the refs do a tremendous job, but we see things like the tuck-rule, Cheating Patriots, and it promotes discussion.

  But it does make me wonder out loud, why that pipsqueak Jeff Van Gundy can spend two hours ranting and raving about the officiating, when Blake Griffin and Andre Iguodala, who were saddled with some dinky fouls yesterday, couldn't publicly voice their opinion about the officials who kept them off the floor most of the game. 

   Van Gundy - Shut it next game and give me analysis and not over-analysis. 



How much is left in D. Wade's tank

By Sports Instigator, Rich Winter

       When the Miami Heat take the court for the Eastern Conference playoffs on Sunday, the one guy I'm looking forward to seeing is Heat guard Dwayne Wade.

       This season has been a good one for Miami's 1A option next to LeBron, but when you look at those season stats, Wade played in only a third of Miami's games.

   He played in just 54 games.

   We've seen that knee act up in the playoffs before but this year was a little different. I thought the Heat did a marvelous job of managing his minutes and keeping him away from those back-to-back games.

     That hamstring problem at the end of the season, now that's a conundrum.

     I heard the guys at ESPN breaking this one down the other day. They said, and I agree, that the hamstring problem, on the opposite side from the bad knee, is likely a result of overcompensating for the injured knee.

    So I'm guessing the extra missed games down the stretch was likely the cause of the Heat being extra precautions with Wade. I'm sure the hammie is 100 percent right now, the question is what will his availability be late in the playoffs?

Will he even be there?

Will he rest games against winnable opponents if the Heat are up in any east playoff race that looks to be put away?

  He still put up some great numbers this season in those 54 games he played. Nineteen points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists. 

   When healthy and the Heat get going defensively they are going to be a tough out for anyone in the east and probably well-rested and healthy for whomever they get in the finals. Providing they get to the finals (poke). 

   The bigger question then to be answered on another day is: If the Heat don't win a title are the big three going to opt out and be gone?

OOOOhhhh, enjoy some playoffs today. 

Does Tony Romo have what (It) takes to lead the Cowboys to the promised land

Romo...oh, where to start?

By Sports Instigator, Rich Winter

   Holy cow, I tossed this question out to two of my Dallas Cowboy bros, "Does Tony Romo have what it takes to lead the Cowboys to the promised land."

      That was three days ago and the Colombe Dynasty was still fuming this morning.

     Essentially, I got two, very different, answers to my question.

    Brown Mamba - Chad Whirlwind Soldier "Yes, Tony Romo has surpassed our great Troy Aikman in team stats. Yes, he's electrified America with late comebacks and long TD passes late in games to lead us to wins, but the answer is no to questions. I've said it five years ago and I'll say it again, Romo will not get us to a Superbowl. He doesn't have the "IT" factor. He folds under pressure! Call it a jinx, call it karma. Call it bad luck, but call it like it is. This Cowboy fan is read to move forward without Romo."

      From where I'm sitting, that's a spot-on analysis!

  Colombe Dynasty - Romo can be the guy to lead us to a title and he has done enough for us in the last few years. The problem is Jerry Jones. We don't have elite GM that it takes to consistently be above average in the NFL. We need someone who can make decisions on the roster besides signing the marquee names like Romo and Dez. Jerry is too reactionary. We need a clear vision on what the team is going to be and stick to it. 

Whoa!

     I could spend the time sifting through the stats but all it would spill out the same. Tony Romo is terrible - The Video Evidence is INDESPUTABLE