Friday, October 19, 2012

Knicks Blown Out by Raptors in Montreal

Friday, October 19 2012
Final Score: New York Knicks: 88 Toronto Raptors: 107
Knicks Blown Out by Raptors in Montreal
The Knicks struggled tonight against the Toronto Raptors, getting blown out most of the game after a very strong first quarter eventually falling 107-88 to the Raptors.  The Knicks struggled with continuity and had a lot of lapses on the defensive end, leading to easy baskets for the opposition.

Amar’e Stoudemire made his first appearance this preseason and played well in his return.  Stoudemire finished with 18 points and five rebounds and one block in 27 minutes. 

Stoudemire clearly needs to get his endurance up, as he had his shot blocked a few times as his left started to wane as the game went on but showed great burst when getting some rest as he had some monstrous dunks.  Stoudemire also had his jump shot working, scoring from multiple areas on the court.

Carmelo Anthony struggled with his shot tonight, going 0 for 7 from three point range and 8 for 20 overall.  Anthony was able to get to the line frequently, knocking down 8 of 11 free throws.  Anthony finished the game with 24 points, six rebounds and three assists. 

Anthony and Stoudemire need to step up on the defensive end, as offense is no longer the main problem with both of them on the court.  Anthony finished -18 tonight and Stoudemire -15, as the effort just was not where it needed to be tonight on the defensive end of the court. 

Raymond Felton really struggled tonight also; turning the ball over six times and being badly outplayed by Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry.  With the point guard struggling, the offense was never able to get into a rhythm and was off all night.  The Knicks need to get back to the pick-and-roll offense, as at times they were very stagnant tonight and just hoisted jump shots from the perimeter.
Pablo Prigioni and Jason Kidd did have solid games in the backcourt off the bench, combining for nine assists and only two turnovers between them.  Prigioni also showed great effort on the defensive end, getting three steals.

James White was solid for the Knicks tonight too.  After a slow start, White got a talking to from the coaching staff and came back into the game with a sense of urgency and played with higher intensity.  White’s stats won’t jump off the stat sheet, as he scored six points and had two assists, but did play great on the defensive end.  If White can knock down the corner three point shot, he will have a valuable role on the second unit for the Knicks.

The glaring problem tonight for the Knicks was in the paint, as the Raptors outscored the Knicks 46-44 in the paint and out rebounded the Knicks 45-32.  The Knicks did not bring the intensity needed tonight, as the Raptors showed up and brought it to the Knicks.  The Knicks struggled to get second opportunities, as the Raptors attempted 19 more shots than the Knicks did.

Another big discrepancy in the game was in shooting percentages, as the Raptors shot 46.2 percent from the three point line, going 12 for 26 and the Knicks shot a putrid 5 for 27, good for 18.5 percent.  Perimeter defense is something that should be shored up once Ronnie Brewer and Iman Shumpert return from injury, but perimeter shooting can be a problem for the Knicks all season as Steve Novak is the only consistent threat the Knicks have from deep.

Next up for the Knicks is another game against the Celtics Saturday night at 7:30 P.M. in Albany, New York.  The Knicks lineup will have a different look to it, as many starters may not see the court at all.  Amar’e Stoudemire has already been ruled out of the game, as it is the second game of a back to back.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Giants Team Grades: Week 6 vs. San Francisco 49ers

Sunday, October 14, 2012
Final Score: New York Giants: 26 San Francisco 49ers: 3
Giants Team Grades

The Giants headed into San Francisco with no one giving them a chance and left with many people believing that they might be the best team in the NFL.  The Giants went into Candlestick Park and destroyed the 49ers in every facet of the game, leading to a dominating 26-3 victory.  The Giants came into the game prepared and ready to go, evident by how every unit of the squad was clicking on all cylinders.
Passing Offense Grade: A
Eli Manning did not put up otherworldly stats, but it wasn’t necessary on this afternoon.  Manning completed 15 of 28 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown.  What was important was that Manning did not turn the ball over at all.  The offensive line was also able to keep Manning clean and upright, as the 49ers were unable to register a sack against the Giants quarterback.
Hakeem Nicks returned for the first time since week 2 and was visibly limited.  He did not have the burst or speed he normally has, but gutted it out.  Nicks even made an impressive catch along the sidelines in the second quarter, making the catch despite a pass interference call.

Domenik Hixon and Victor Cruz again were the biggest beneficiaries in the receiving game.  Hixon made receptions of 39 and 16 yards on the Giants first touchdown drive, putting the Giants in position for Manning to hit Cruz with an eight yard pass for the touchdown. Hixon ended the game with 78 yards receiving on four receptions and Cruz finished with 58 yards on six receptions.

Rushing Offense Grade: A+
Ahmad Bradshaw continued his role as the bell cow for the Giants running game and he responded in a big way against one of the top defenses in the NFL.  Bradshaw ran for 116 yards and a touchdown against a 49ers defense that just does not allow 100 yard rushers.  Only Marshawn Lynch has ran for 100 yards or more against the 49ers in their last 44 games, making this week’s feat more impressive in the minds of many people than his career high 200 yard rushing game against the Browns the week prior.
The offensive line dominated at the point of attack, opening up big holes for Bradshaw to gash the 49ers defense.  David Diehl made his return this week and made the most of his return as an extra blocker as head coach Tom Coughlin opted to keep Sean Locklear and Will Beatty at the tackles.
David Wilson also saw an expanded role in the offense and made the most of the opportunity.  Wilson had seven rush attempts for 35 yards, ripping off a 20 yard back-breaking run in the fourth quarter to help put away the 49ers.

Pass Defense Grade: A+
The Giants were able to get into the head of 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, throwing him off his game and causing numerous mistakes made as the Giants intercepted Smith three times.  Antrel Rolle had two of those interceptions and Prince Amukamara had the other. 
The pass rush, which had been non-existent all season, finally showed up as the Giants totaled six sacks for the game.  Jason Pierre-Paul led the onslaught with two sacks.  Mathias Kiwanuka, who also tallied a sack, was played up front more and less at linebacker, a trend that may continue with the success the Giants had against the 49ers.

Rush Defense Grade: A
The mission of the Giants defense was to shut down the running game of the 49ers and make them a passing team. The 49ers are the top rushing team in the NFL, averaging 178.6 yards per game, so the task is easier said than done.
The Giants made it looked much easier than it actually was, as the defense shut down 49ers running back Frank Gore, holding him to only 30 rushing yards and allowing 80 total rushing yards.
This was an area that was important for the Giants to dominate because with no run game, the 49ers became one-dimensional and easy to pick apart.  It also allowed the Giants to dominate the time of possession, enabling to have Manning and the offense on the field while the defense rested up.
Special Teams Grade: A-
Lawrence Tynes had one of his field goal attempts blocked, but knocked his other four attempts through the uprights, giving Tynes a very solid 17 field goals made out of 19, with his only misses being the block in this game and the 54 yarder missed against the Eagles.

Wilson continued his strong performance as the kick returner, ripping off a 66-yard return right after halftime to put the Giants in position to add to their lead right out of the break and crush the spirits of the 49ers. 
The Giants coverage teams were great also, as they held the electric and dangerous Ted Ginn to only 22 punt return yards.
Coaching Grade: A+
Tom Coughlin did it once again; getting his team up for a big game against an elite opponent.  Coughlin set the tone from after the Browns game, saying that no one gave the Giants a real chance of going into San Francisco and beating the 49ers.
The coordinators, Perry Fewell on defense and Kevin Gilbride on offense, also deserve a lot of credit.  Fewell made the necessary adjustments to spark a pass rush that had been dormant the whole season before Sunday and Gilbride stuck to the game plan even faced with going against a defense as imposing as the 49ers.
This was the epitome of a team win, as every unit was clicking on all cylinders and the Giants parlayed that into a steamrolling of one of the top teams in the NFL.

Yankees Season Rests on Arm of Hughes
With the Yankees in an 0-2 hole in the American League Championship Series, Joe Girardi will depend on Phil Hughes to save the Bombers season. 

The Yankees will be in Detroit for Game 3 tonight against the Tigers, and feel that maybe going on the road to play will help the team loosen up and get out of their offensive funk. The Yankee offense has been non existent this postseason, and have now put the Yankees two games away from elimination, and every game becoming a must win. So, much for loosening up at the plate. The Yankees lineup has struggled from top to bottom, with few bright spots. 

Raul Ibanez has carried the Yankee offense this postseason with three home runs, all coming in the ninth inning or later to to tie or win the game. Ichiro Suzuki has also been hot at the plate, especially in the ALCS. Suzuki is hitting .400 with a home run and two RBI. After Suzuki and Ibanez, no Yankee is hitting above .250 this series, and have combined for zero home runs along with zero RBI. 

The Yankee pitching has kept this team in the postseason, and still give the Yankees hope if they can continue to keep the Tigers lineup at bay. Tonight the task of taming the Tigers is given to Phil Hughes. In Hughes' ALDS start, he went 6 2/3 innings, giving up four hits, striking out eight, and the only run he allowed was a solo home run. 

Hughes will be facing the reigning AL Cy Young and AL MVP winner Justin Verlander tonight. Hughes faced Verlander in Detroit during the regular season, and out dueled Verlander with a complete game. Hughes allowed four hits and a solo home run in the Yankees 5-1 win over the Tigers. Unfortunately for Hughes, he will have to put up a similar performance tonight, and hope the Yankee bats can get him any kind of run support. 

Every game has become do or die for the Yankees, and a loss tonight in Detroit spells the end of the season for the Bronx Bombers who have been anything but. If the Yankees need some inspiration to climb out of this hole they have dug, perhaps they should look at the 2004 ALCS where they were up three games to none on the Boston Red Sox, and ended losing the series 4-3. 

Game 3 between the Yankees and Tigers will start at 8:00 pm tonight.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Giants Dominate NFC Championship Game Re-Match

Sunday, October 13th 2012
Post-Game Recap
Final Score: New York Giants: 26 San Francisco 49ers: 3
Giants Dominate NFC Championship Game Re-Match

Tom Coughlin came into the week proclaiming that no one believed the Giants could beat the 49ers, not giving his team any chance of winning in San Francisco against the team many considered the best in the NFL.  Someone forgot to tell Coughlin, his staff and players because the Giants decimated the 49ers in their own house to the tune of a 26-3 whooping. 
The Giants had not played the strongest of schedules thus far, but limped out to a 3-2 record and wanted to try their hand against a contender; the 49ers wish that the Giants had not.  The Giants reminded everyone who the reigning Super Bowl Champions are and just how great of a team they are when it matters most.
The Giants made a statement in this game, even though it was the 49ers who were supposed to be out to exact revenge and take it to the Giants, especially since the game was at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. 
Eli Manning had an efficient game behind an offensive line that kept him upright for most of the game, as the 49ers were unable to sack Manning.  Manning completed 15 of 28 passes for 193 yards and one touchdown.  Manning totaled 176 of those yards in the first half, as the Giants used a pounding run game to finish off the 49ers in the second half.
Ahmad Bradshaw once again led a very solid run game for the Giants, giving them a dimension on offense they have lacked for over a season.  Bradshaw ran for 116 yards on 23 carries and one touchdown, amazing statistics because the 49ers have one of the top rush defense and overall defenses in the NFL, giving up under 100 rushing yards a game and only 187 through the air.
David Wilson is becoming more of a frequent site on the field during offensive possessions and he is making the most of his opportunity.  Wilson relieved Bradshaw and received seven carries for 35 yards, delivering a back-breaking 20 yard run on a seven-plus minute drive by the Giants to finish off the game in the fourth quarter.
Hakeem Nicks returned to the lineup for the Giants, catching three balls for 44 yards, but it was his replacement Domenik Hixon who once again played a big role for the Giants.  Hixon caught four balls for 78 yards, taking advantage of the third cornerback the 49ers were using and putting the Giants into position for their first touchdown of the afternoon.
Victor Cruz was solid as always for the Giants, catching six passes for 58 yards and one touchdown, delivering his patented Salsa dance for the 49er crowd.  As the game went on, the chants of “Cruz” became louder and louder as the Giant fans started to take over.
The defense has been called out and questioned over the past few weeks and they showed up Sunday afternoon, showing some of that Super Bowl swagger they had been missing.  “How will they slow down Vernon Davis,” naysayers asked, yet that’s exactly what they did.  Davis, who destroyed the Giants en route to scoring three touchdowns in two games last season, was held to three catches for 37 yards and was invisible when the 49ers needed him most.
Alex Smith is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, no chance the Giants slow him down people said.  The Giants destroyed Smith Sunday, rattling him early and getting into his head with hit after hit.
The Giants pass rush had been non-existent throughout the season thus far, but they showed up just in time for this big matchup.  The Giants accumulated six sacks, led by two from Jason Pierre-Paul.  This constant pressure on Smith got him off his game, as he threw three interceptions.
Antrel Rolle was responsible for two of those interceptions, with Prince Amukamara getting the other.  Those interceptions are significant because Smith has become a very good protector of the ball, rarely turning it over, even setting the 49ers franchise record for passes in a row without an interception.
The Giants defense was also able to hold the vaunted 49ers rushing offense in check, not allowing them to break the century mark and limiting them to 87 yards, holding them 89 yards under their normal output of 176 yards per game.
These are the kind of wins that are staples of long winning streaks and the Giants looked poised to start one of their own.  Sitting on two wins in a row, the Giants head into two straight divisional match-ups with a ton of momentum.  The first of those match-ups is Sunday afternoon back at MetLife Stadium as the Giants will face off against Robert Griffin III for the first time.  The Giants will look to beat the Redskins for their first division win of the season.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Knicks Drop Celtics in Second Preseason Game

Saturday, October 13 2012
Final Score: New York Knicks: 98 Boston Celtics: 95
Knicks Drop Celtics in Second Preseason Game
If the preseason is any indication of how the regular season is going to go, the Knicks and Celtics are going to have some memorable match-ups this coming season.  For a preseason game, the competition was fierce and players were going at it with high intensity.  Like any time the Knicks and Celtics meet on the court, there was trash talking and tough play, as there was two technicals and flagrant fouls.  The Knicks were able to take this one against the Celtics 98-95, with fans hoping more of the same come the regular season.

The Knicks pick-and-roll offense once again was clicking tonight even without one of the main weapons on that scheme in Amar’e Stoudemire.  Tonight, Tyson Chandler and Chris Copeland took advantage as the screener. 

Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni all ran the pick-and-roll well tonight, rotating as the main ball handler while on the court.  They provided precise alley-oop passes to the rolling screeners and opened up great scoring opportunities with the lanes being created. 

The ability to play the pick-and-roll led the Knicks to 44 points in the paint, outscoring the Celtics who manage 34.  When Stoudemire returns from injury, he will add yet another dimension to the offense, as he can be the screener or set up at the wings prepared to take jump shots.

Defense tonight was a strong point for the Knicks, as the second unit really stepped it up in the fourth quarter.  Led by Kidd and Prigioni each getting two steals, the second unit played outstanding and was a big reason the Knicks came out on top tonight.  Copeland, who didn’t play in the first half, scored 21 points in the game and grabbed four rebounds, putting on his best Carmelo Anthony impersonation.  The performance tonight should give Mike Woodson and his staff a positive feeling of where the second unit is heading, even without top gun J.R. Smith, who sat out tonight with a sore left ankle.  

There were some negatives the Knicks need to work on tonight, with one glaring negative being transition defense.  The Knicks managed only two fast break points compared to the 12 the Celtics score; a number that could have been much higher for the Celtics.  Rajon Rondo presents a nightmare for any opposing defense, but the Knicks will need to limit these opportunities for their opponents as they are more geared towards grinding it out in the half-court.

The Knicks need to also continue to build continuity on the offensive side of the ball, as they became very stagnant at points tonight, with players just standing around the perimeter watching the play.  Anthony needs to continue his development of becoming more of a facilitator on the court and Woodson needs to keep working on schemes to get people into better positions to score.  The offense still is a work in progress right now, especially with a main cog like Stoudemire sidelined currently.

Back to Copeland, who played himself into a roster spot with tonight’s performance.  Copeland gave the Knicks spirited effort tonight, banging in the paint with the Celtics bigs and playing very physical down low.  He attacked the basket on the offensive end, scoring 21 points and attempting 13 free throws, making nine.  Copeland also looked very strong as the screener in the pick-and-roll with Kidd and Prigioni throughout the fourth quarter and overtime.
Copeland gives the Knicks something they lack in a young inside presence.  With the age of Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby, who is already nursing a calf injury, it would not be the worst to have a young alternative in Copeland on the bench.  The health of Stoudemire isn’t a given either, so having as many able bodied options as possible is a must.

The Knicks will look to continue building on what has been a strong preseason thus far as they will travel north of the border Friday, October 19th to play against the Toronto Raptors at the Bell Centre in Montreal.