All-Star Weekend, Soccer, and More!

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Tuesday, 7 PM @ Rose Quarter, Portland, OR

Can the Trail Blazer slow down the frontrunner for MVP?

The Thunder are looking like the league’s best team, leading the NBA with 41 wins and a .774 win percentage, so they’ll give Portland all it can handle in this match up. However, OKC has stumbled away from home, going 18-9 compared to 23-3 at home. The Trail Blazers look to be what the Thunder were a couple years ago — a young team that came out of nowhere to eventually become the best in the West. Led by Damien Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge, the Trail Blazers will look to bridge the 4-game gap between them and the #1 Thunder.

#1 Syracuse vs. #25 Pitt
Wednesday, 7 PM @ Peterson Events Center, Pittsburgh, PA

Pitt will try to handle Cuse its first loss

Even with contests like Duke-North Carolina, Heat vs. Warriors, and Canadiens vs. Red Wings happening on the same day, this is the game you want to see. Syracuse is the unanimous #1 team in the country in both the AP and Coaches polls, but they’ll be at the Peterson Events Center in Pittsburgh for this one. Pitt has slipped a little recently after starting the season 16-1, losing 3 of their last 6 — including a 59-54 loss at Syracuse. The home-court advantage could be exactly the lift the Panthers need to get over the hump and hand the Orange their first loss of the season.

NBA Slam-Dunk Contest
Saturday, 7 PM @ Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA

John Wall will look to bring some new energy to the contest

The lineup has been OK at best for this event over the last few years, but in 2014 the NBA attracted some of the best. Paul George, Damien Lillard and John Wall are a few of the competitors looking to take down reigning champion Terrence Ross. Between jumping over cars and 360-windmills, we’re sure to get a show at the New Orleans Arena. Say what you will about the non-compeiative nature of the All-Star Game on Sunday, these guys want to win.

Arsenal vs. Liverpool, FA Cup Quarterfinals
Sunday, 4 PM @ Emirates Stadium, London, UK

Will Liverpool trounce Arsenal for the second time in a week?

A rematch of the 5-1 thrashing Liverpool just gave the Gunners in the Premier League on Saturday, this is a great contest between two of soccer’s best clubs. We are unlikely to see another instance of Arsenal giving up four goals in the first 20 minutes, but Liverpool’s attacking play is hard  to stop. Whether it’s Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge or Raheem Sterling, the Reds offense is set to send them back to the UEFA Champions League for the first time since the 2008-09 season. Arsenal looks to be headed back to Europe as well, but the club hasn’t won a trophy since the 2005 F.A. Cup. Lots on the line here.

 

 

Basketball, Basketball, Basketball…. and Hockey

It’s time for the NBA to shine, now that the Super Bowl has come, gone, and disappointed most of us. Bring on another 7-game NBA Finals to get us out of this funk, basketball. This week has a slew of good match ups, but not ones you would have been excited about before this year. With the emergence of the Pacers as the NBA’s best team (by record, at least) and the Trail Blazers, Rockets and Suns heading for the playoffs, we’re getting some exciting non-traditionally contests.

Oh, and there’s quite a bit of good hockey this week as well.

Boston Bruins vs. Vancouver Canucks
Tuesday, 7PM @ TD Garden, Boston, MA

These two teams still don’t like each other

It’s been a couple years since the fantastic Canucks/Bruins Stanley Cup Finals, eventually won by Boston, but the there’s still no love lost here. While Vancouver is fighting for one of the last playoff spots in the West, the Bruins are cruising with the second best point total in their conference. A loss at home for Boston would be a bit embarrassing, while the Canucks need something to get them going.

Portland Trail Blazers vs. Indiana Pacers
Friday, 7PM @ Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN

Two of the new titans of basketball

The Trail Blazers and Pacers have become two of the best teams in the NBA, led by some young stars that could be the faces of the league sooner rather than later. Paul George (pictured above) burst onto the national scene during last year’s playoffs, when he went basket-for-basket with Lebron James. Damian Lillard was named NBA Rookie of the Year in 2013 after putting up 19 ppg while never missing a game. Lamarcus Aldridge, Roy Hibbert, Nick Batum… you’ve got to believe these two teams could be taking the torch from the Heat and Spurs very soon, if they haven’t already.

Michigan Wolverines vs. Iowa Hawkeyes
Saturday, 2 PM @ Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City, IA

Can Michigan rebound from a loss to Indiana?

It’s the best college basketball matchup of the weekend, as #10 Michigan takes on #17 Iowa in Iowa City. The Wolverines took a beating from Indiana recently, but were about to best the Hawkeyes a few weeks ago in Ann Arbor. Iowa lost an overtime thriller to Michigan State, but have gotten back on track with a 81-74 win over the Illini. This game could have Big Ten title implications, and a win for the Wolverines will set the stage for a huge contest with the Spartans on March 6.

NBA Playoff Predictor: Minnesota Timberwolves

Can Kevin Love turn this team into a winner?

 

Full disclose on this one: I’m a Timberwolves fan. That said, this team is an enigma. You don’t know what you’re going to get from one night to the other. Minnesota is the 2nd-highest scoring team in the NBA, but the defense is lacking. They lead the NBA in 20+ point wins, but only recently won their first close (+/- 4 pts) game of the 2013-14 season. If they’re in the Eastern Conference, the Timberwolves are in 3rd place. In the West? Struggling for a playoff spot. Them’s the breaks. The Western Conference is an animal, and being the 8th seed is nothing to be ashamed of. But can Minnesota even get there? Let’s take a look at the stats.

  • 106.5 ppg, 2nd in the NBA
  • 147 blocks, dead last in the NBA by a large margin
  • 3 players averaging over 18 ppg
  • Margin of victory: 4.6, 7th in the NBA
  • Hollinger Playoff Odds: 58.4%

This is one of the most underachieving teams in the NBA, and it’ll be interesting to see if they can find a rhythm in the second half of the season. With wins over teams like the Thunder and Trail Blazers, they’ve proven they can be that team… but then again, they’ve also lost to the Kings and Lakers. There’s no interior defense, but the fast-paced offense led by Spaniard Ricky Rubio might be enough to overcome that. I’ll put Rick Adleman’s team at 50% to make the playoffs, which is actually not bad considering they haven’t made the playoffs in a decade.

Red Hot Chili Peppers to Cover Led Zeppelin for Super Bowl Halftime Show

The RHCP have been one of the best live shows for over 20 years.

 

The cat is out of the bag on what the Red Hot Chili Peppers will be playing during halftime of Sunday’s Huge Super-Important Mega Trademarked Football Game. It’s going to be a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused”, one of the greatest rock songs ever made. While Led Zeppelin may refuse to reunite for a tour (not a single tour since drummer John Bonham’s death in 1980), you can see “Dazed and Confused” live on the biggest stage in the world by one of the best bands of this era.

Even more interestingly, Flea has said there is a surprise involved. Could this be a collaboration with Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones? If you like Zeppelin, you don’t want to miss this performance and game. Here’s the band playing “Dazed and Confused” live:

NBA Playoff Predictor: New York Knicks

Grover is also disappointed in the Knicks

It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock ‘n roll, New York. The Knicks have tumbled down the Eastern Conference ladder, a year after being the #2 seed going into the playoffs and winning 54 games. The Knicks are now 15-26, sitting in 11th place. A 3-13 start to the season gave the team a bleak vision of the season, and another recent 4-game losing streak isn’t helping. The problem is simple — Carmelo Anthony doesn’t have a good team around him. His contributions are triple that of the 2nd best player on the team according to Win Shares, and he’s having another great season. He averages more rebounds than both the center (Andrea Bargnani) and power forward (Tyson Chandler), is second on the team in assists and has scored over 450 more points than any other Knicks player.  In short, the Knicks can’t wait to get Amare Stoudemire and his $22 million salary of their books and use that money to sign useful players.

  • 8th worst point differential in NBA
  • 6th easiest schedule for rest of the season
  • Lost last 4
  • 1-5 in games decided by 3 points or less (tends to average out through the season)
  • 3rd worst rebounding team in NBA
  • H0llinger playoff odds: 40%

Verdict: The Celtics and Knicks look like they’re racing to see who can miss the playoffs in worse fashion in seems. Even so, the Eastern Conference is woeful as a whole, with only two teams above .500. This gives them a chance to make the NBA playoffs, and a decent one at that. I don’t buy into the 40% given to them by Hollinger’s system, so i’ll go with 30%.