Western Conference: Who will advance?

Golden State vs. New Orleans

First off, congrats to Anthony Davis and his Pelicans for clawing their way into the NBA playoffs! Golden State can and will stretch the floor against the Pelicans making it impossible to keep them under 110 points in any game. Davis will do his thing, but one player will not be able to tame these Warriors. Look for Tyreke Evans to emerge as a star player in this series being their wing stopper on defense and their dribble drive man on offense. Draymond Green will look to stymie his penetration making it hard for New Orleans to compete without stroking it from an extremely high percentage from outside the arc. I don’t like the chances that New Orleans gets a game here, but this should be a high scoring highlight reel series to watch!

Warriors win 4-0

Houston vs. Dallas

The battle of Texas! This should be the most intriguing match-up out west but can literally go anyway. i could see Rondo clamping down and showing the world why Dallas brought him in, Houston running up and down the floor and stroking it from 3-pt en route to a sweep and I could also see that efficient Dallas offense come back to life and give Rondo a front row seat to a playoff rout. But which one will happen? I think Houston is for real this year. They have wings that can guard in Trevor Ariza, Josh Smith and Corey Brewer and have an array of guys that can come in the game and give them an offensive punch. Couple that with my league MVP, James Harden, and you have an offensive masterpiece. Dwight should be Dwight here, whatever that is now-a-days, and I see the Rockets being too deep and too good on the offensive end for Dallas to handle

Rockets win 4-2

Los Angeles Clippers vs. San Antonio Spurs

What a match-up here! Chris Paul and Blake Griffin will look to take the next step and win a big playoff series. This time they will have a third superstar to get it done with, DeAndre Jordan. I think the Clippers have a real chance to showcase their athleticism in this one and make it difficult for San Antonio to match-up. It will come down to whether LA can stop San Antonio in crunch time. I’m not so sure San Antonio matches up very well on the defensive end and the Clippers should have their way on the boards and in transition. The Clips can space the floor with shooters and also have two superstars that can take the ball and go isolation. I am going against the grain on this one and picking the Clippers based on their elite athleticism going against just the opposite. Farewell Tim Duncan!

Clippers win 4-3

Memphis vs. Portland

The Grizzlies, as the five seed, will actually hold the home court advantage in this one. Portland comes in banged up and what a shame, as this could have been one of the best series to watch. Memphis is tough down low and has an elite point guard defender to check Damian Lillard, that is if he is healthy. If Memphis can play with a healthy Tony Allen and Mike Conley, I think they take this one fairly easy. Look for LMA and Lillard to showcase their stuff, but with a beat up roster it just isn’t the year for these Trail Blazers. Memphis will bruise them inside and on the glass and have just enough transition game off of turnovers to win this one easily.

Grizzlies win 4-2

Eastern Conference: Who will advance?

Hawks vs. Nets

The Brooklyn Nets lack of mental fortitude alone should oust them in this first round matchup. This team relies on “superstar” players to carry the load and they don’t stand out on either end of the court. The hawks pass first, free flowing offense should have no problem eclipsing 100 points in every game of this series. DeMarre Carroll will have the chance to be the X-factor in this one as he looks to show off his scrappy game checking Joe Johnson throughout the series. Look for Atlanta to move the ball with their “Spur-like offense” resulting in different players standing out in every game. Atlanta should clean this one up with ease and move to the next round.

Hawks win 4-1

Cavaliers vs. Celtics

The Celtics have been playing some of the hottest Basketball in the league coming down the stretch; it’s a shame they had to draw Cleveland. This Cavs team can do it all; 3-pt shooting, inside outside game, fast break, and the ability for one player to take over the game from multiple positions. Boston has gotten where they are with excellent shooting, a fast pace of play and an incredible coaching job by Brad Stevens. I don’t see any way this blueprint will translate to success over this Cleveland Cavalier team. I like to Cleveland to clean things up quickly.

Cavaliers win 4-0

Chicago vs. Milwaukee

This one is going to be a battle of opposites. A young Milwaukee team does battle with a bunch of veterans in Chicago. The young un-experienced Bucks will be on its first playoff run with new coach, Jason Kidd, and its first run with this roster in place. Although they hold size advantage at point guard and can turn a team over and get out on the fast break, the playoff experience of Chicago should be enough to smother the Bucks. The playoffs are just what Chicago needs to improve their defense. Pace of play will slow down with every possession meaning so much more and that should benefit a Chicago team that is getting healthy at the right time. The Bucks are feisty, but simply not experienced enough to deal with this Bulls team.

Bulls win 4-1

Toronto vs. Washington

This match-up will provide the hype for the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. These are two teams that have emerged over the last few seasons and look to take that next step. Lowry/Derozan vs. Wall/Beal is as good a back court matchup as you will see these playoffs and will most likely be the deciding factor. The Raptors have a lot of punch in their starting lineup and coming off the bench. Sure to be 6th man of the year Lou Williams is making a huge impact in Toronto while they also boast two top 5 field goal percentage shooters in Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson. Role players like Ross, Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez can make an impact in this series. I like the depth and the star power the Raptors boast and think it will be tough for the slipping Wizards to match-up with them. The quick back court the Wizards possess will always give them a chance in games, but their lack of depth could hurt them here. Young Otto Porter, old Drew Gooden, Kris Humphries and Rasual Butler will be outmatched by the Raptor bench. I like the Raptors to show off their depth and star power and take this one easier than most expect.

Raptors win 4-2

The hot Jazz cover a big spread vs the Rockets

The Utah Jazz tip-off in Houston against the Rockets at 8:00 pm ET. The Jazz have been eliminated from the playoffs for weeks, but the team is red-hot since the all-star break going 19-9 since then and winning 4 of their last 5 including a 17 point win over the Mavericks two nights ago. Houston is playing for everything in the West with seeding to be gained and lost. There are many scenarios for the Rockets relying on other teams to win and lose, but a win puts the team at home for the first round of the playoffs. Vegas has the line at Utah +12, thats a lot of help for a team playing good basketball right now. The Rockets should win the game, but I like the Jazz to keep it close playing the spoiler role giving themselves at least a chance to take this one.

Utah Jazz (+12) over the Houston Rockets

Jazz play spoiler in Portland?

Tonight, the Utah Jazz go to battle with the Trail Blazers in Portland. Portland has remained steady, 3-3 over their last 6, but will play tonight without star, LaMarcus Aldridge and guard, Arron Afflalo. Portland has come across a string of bad luck with injuries at the wrong time as they are fighting to secure home court advantage. Utah on the other hand has been great since the all-star break, sporting the fifth best record in the NBA. They have been playing great on the defensive end and look to capitalize on a banged up Trail Blazer team tonight. I like the chances that Utah can take this one outright, but I’ll take the six points just to be safe.

Utah Jazz (+6) over the Portland Trail Blazers

Davis and the Pelicans play for their lives

The Pelicans picked up a HUGE win last night over the West leading Golden State Warriors and now control their own fate in the Western Conference race for the 8 seed. They now travel to Memphis to face off with the slumping Grizzlies, losers in 4 of their last 6 contests. Jeff Green left their previous game with back spasms and is questionable for tonight’s game. The Grizzlies have been lacking an offensive punch on the perimeter and have had trouble scoring the ball lately, period. The top NBA front court of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph will have their hands full with NBA shot blocking leader Anthony Davis tonight. I like the Pelicans tonight, in win or go home mode, against a team that is trending in the wrong direction at the wrong time. The Grindhouse will be rocking, but I like the chances that the Pelicans can keep this one close, if not pick up a season defining, second half of a back to back win.

ON THE RECORD: New Orleans Pelicans (+4 ½) over the Memphis Grizzlies

Masters preview: Who will be there on Sunday?

Spring is in the air! That can only mean one thing; the best in the world are ready to tee them up at Augusta National. It’s been ten years since the folks at Augusta lengthened the course with hopes of frustrating its competitors year after year, and boy has it worked. Eight under is the score to keep an eye on as it is the average champions 72 hole score since the course was lengthened. No matter what course the PGA stops at, it takes perfection to win, but what should be the focus at the Masters when it comes to picking a champion?

How to win the Masters:

You have to be deadly accurate with your approach shots. At first glance, Augusta showcases big greens to land on, but in reality most greens have one or two areas where the ball will actually stick and stay. Two areas about the size of a bed sheet are the targets here, and to hit those you will need to excel at hitting greens in regulation.

Greens in Regulation (2015)

  1. Stewart Cink 73.4%
  2. Henrik Stenson 72.9%
  3. Jason Day 72.2%
  4. Jim Herman 72.2%
  5. Lucas Glover 71.4%

Other notables include Webb Simpson (70.7%), Jim Furyk (70.3%) and Paul Casey (70.1%) Jimmy Walker (69.7%).

Once you land safely on the green, it is crucial to be aggressive with your putting as birdie putts are hard to come by at Augusta. Putting in general is important, but a certain aspect of putting could be the difference between playing par golf and sneaking a few birdies in along the way.

1 Putts from 10-15 feet

Notable golfers include Matt Kuchar (9th), Jimmy Walker (25th), Stewart Cink (31st) and Patrick Reed (48th).

Lastly, you need to be able to stroke the ball off the tee. Augusta National has been able to change with the times, consistently lengthening their course over the past few decades. Since the big change in 2006, driving distance has been key in producing Masters Champions.

Driving distance

Notables include:

  • Dustin Johnson (1st)
  • Bubba Watson (2nd)
  • B Holmes (7th)
  • Jason Day (9th)
  • Keegan Bradley (12th)
  • Jimmy Walker (17th)
  • Paul Casey (31st)

Now with the PGA season still being young, these stats should not be the end all that sways your Masters prediction, however they are a strong indicator of how the player progressed into this season and if it showing on the links.

Masters prediction:

Taking a look at where players are in this seasons stats, coupled with their recent form on the course, On The Record will be selecting Jimmy Walker as this year’s Masters Champion. With ten events under his belt this year, he has five top ten finishes with two wins, including two weeks ago at the Texas Open.

The non-mention of Tiger Woods, up until this point, was no accident. While it is impossible to predict Tiger’s play this week at Augusta, I think he’ll be a cut line guy that fades through the weekend. Look for Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Patrick Reed to be familiar faces on the leader board and for Rory to have a poor second round that keeps him behind the pack throughout the weekend. Last year’s champion, Bubba Watson, should be around on Sunday with his powerful tee shot at a course that favors lefties. When all is said and done, Jimmy Walker will be slipping on the green jacket.

National Championship analysis and breakdown

The Duke Blue Devils and the Badgers of Wisconsin will square off tonight in the NCAA Men’s National Championship game. Wisconsin is favored by one point in what is sure to be a back and forth affair that will showcase NBA first round talent at multiple positions. From guard play to the big men down low, I think this one will live up to the hype surrounding it as we take a look at the match-ups that will decide the big game.

Guard play:

Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook set the pace for this Duke team combining for 27.1ppg and chipping in a generous 8.4 assists per game. These two can really stroke it from long distance averaging 4 triples a game with the ability to get hot and stretch the floor for their bigs. These two guards showcase great quickness that allows them to play in your face man defense. This is what stifled the Spartan attack in their final four game on Saturday; the Spartans could not get the ball flowing with Duke applying their man-to-man pressure. Add Matt Jones to the mix and these pesky Blue Devil guards will be up in your face for forty minutes. One edge the Badgers have at guard is their size. In relation to Jones and Cook, 6’1’’ and 6’2’’, respectively, the Badger guards, Josh Gasser and Bronson Koenig, are both 6’4’’. Gasser and Koenig combine for 15.5ppg and 4.1apg, almost half the production from the Blue Devil guards. Guard Traevon Jackson will come off the bench for the Badgers and look to be the scoring punch they need from their back court in which Duke seems to have the decisive advantage. Look for the Blue Devil guards to get open looks and play pesky in your face defense all night long in this one.

Advantage Duke

Forwards:

Nigel Hayes, averaging 12.4ppg and 6.3rpg is playing well in the half court, but is really showing his stuff when a team pressures the Badgers in the full court. Hayes’ athleticism is really coming to the fore front this tournament as his draft stock in on the rise, being a 6’7’’ versatile forward that shoots the ball well and can play both ends. Hayes could see a favorable match-up tonight with Matt Jones, a 6’5’’ guard, taking the bulk of the defensive responsibilities on him tonight with Justise Winslow having his hands full guarding Sam Dekker. Speaking of Dekker, the 6’9’’ Junior has emerged as a go to guy for the Badgers scoring 14 a game sporting some clutch shooting late in games. The Badger forwards will have a full plate tonight with Duke Freshmen Justice Winslow, who is emerging as a top lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Winslow plays a little under size at the 4, but his athleticism more than makes up for it, scoring almost 13 a game in his do it all role for the Blue Devils. Look for Winslow to emerge tonight as a matchup problem no matter who takes the responsibilities of checking him. This is the spot where Wisconsin will have to take the edge tonight holding a height advantage and an experience advantage over the young Blue Devils.

Advantage Wisconsin

The big man match-up

Senior vs. freshmen. Player of the year dual. 6’11, 270 pound Jahlil Okafor will do battle with 7 foot, 234 pound “Frank the tank” Frank Kaminsky. No, this is not a boxing match, but the two will surely be slugging it out tonight. Wisconsin’s offense bolsters multiple pick and rolls making it hard for a team not to switch, so don’t be surprised if you don’t get the epic one-on-one back downs the mainstream media is portraying. Kaminsky has the advantage of a 3-pt shot which could take Okafor out of his comfort zone on the defensive end. I like the chances that Okafor gets his tonight with his incredible back to the basket game that should translate effectively into the NBA next season. Both guys should leave their stamp on the game tonight with their effective offensive games and that is why the EPIC BIG MAN MATCHUP will not be the reason this game is won or lost. Nonetheless, I think Wisconsin has the chance to frustrate Jahlil on the defensive end leading to him forcing looks on the other end.

Advantage Wisconsin

On The Record game prediction:

Take a look at last year’s National Championship and I will rest my case. Smaller, quicker guards playing in your face defense and making big shots; that is what you will see tonight. What a game it will be as there is star power everywhere you look, but it will be Quinn Cook stealing the show with big shots as Duke wins a back and forth slug fest with the Badgers.

ON THE RECORD: Duke Blue Devils (+1) over Wisconsin Badgers

Houston wears down Westbrook

In a high scoring Easter day affair, we have the Houston Rockets heading over to Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder. This should be a must watch with the Thunder clawing for a playoff spot and a Houston team that is looking to start clicking at the right time, being winners in 6 of their last 7 contests. Dwight Howard has returned, but not necessarily to form as of yet. Look for Dwight to make a difference on the defensive end in this one. James Harden has been lights out and the wire to wire MVP in my book. Who better to show that against than fellow MVP front runner Russell Westbrook. I’m afraid Oklahoma City is running Russ into the ground at a time when they cannot afford that. I like the Rockets on the road today as they round into contender form while the Thunder trend in the opposite direction.

ON THE RECORD: Houston Rockets (+1.5) over Oklahoma City Thunder

Aaron Hernandez: Trial update and why it doesn’t matter

The Aaron Hernandez trial appeals to some, but for most we just want to know the simple answer, will he be found guilty? The answer is simple, it doesn’t matter. Great insight right?

There are two people that you need to know if you want to be up to date on the Hernandez trial, Shayanna Jenkins and Alexander Bradley. Shayanna Jenkins is the Fiancé of Hernandez and testified before prosecutors earlier in the week. The testimony is widely considered to have hurt the prosecution’s case more than it helped. The prosecution can virtually place Hernandez at the scene of the crime but has never found the murder weapon. Shayanna was caught on video surveillance throwing away a small box that the prosecution believes was the murder weapon. Shayanna hurt their case by saying that the box smelled of Marijuana and never looked or asked what was inside of it. This furthered the defendant’s case that Hernandez was into drugs hence the reason he was acting paranoid and suspicious upon his investigation. The testimony of Shayanna Jenkins furthered the fact that Aaron Hernandez is a loser, but did not help the prosecution toward their goal of prosecuting him for murder.

The prosecution now calls, Alexander Bradley. Now at the surface, Mr. Bradley seems like the character that can bust this case wide open for the prosecution. Bradley has reportedly seen Hernandez’s gun, seen him use the gun on other people, and HAS BEEN SHOT IN THE FACE BY HERNANDEZ. Sporting a fake eye, Bradley took the stand UNABLE to talk about past events between him and Hernandez…how stupid is that. Bradley was unable to testify about Hernandez’s violent streak, knowing first hand as he is currently wrapped up in a lawsuit against Hernandez for shooting him in the face and leaving him for dead. Bradley was able to confirm that he has seen a gun that belongs to Hernandez but it does not fit the description of the murder weapon used on Odin Lloyd. Once again, the prosecution called on a witness that may have aided the defense in proving Hernandez has a screw loose but is not guilty of murder.

So why does none of this matter? Hernandez, guilty or not, will remain in jail after this case because he is up for another double murder charge, this time with former friend Alexander Bradley. This time Bradley will be able to testify against Hernandez citing his violent past and his firsthand account of Hernandez shooting the two men. The case will be much easier against Hernandez in this one having a witness that can place Hernandez at the scene and is willing to throw him under the bus to reduce his own sentence.

So next time someone tells you Hernandez will be found innocent of Odin Lloyd’s murder and be playing football next year, tell them they are an idiot. Hernandez will remain where he deserves to be, in jail for a long long time, regardless of the outcome in his current murder case.

Sooners cool off Spartans behind balanced attack

Tipping shortly after 10:00 tonight the Spartans of Michigan State will do battle with the Oklahoma Sooners. Michigan State has turned into the darling of the NCAA tournament and the public loves them; judging by their status as two point favorites over the Sooners. I’m not so sure. The Spartans have collapsed late in games all season and some of that can be attributed to their extremely poor free throw shooting at an alarming 63%! Their defense seems to have come to life at the right time, but has it really? Stifling a stagnant Virginia team and a mediocre Georgia team does not impress me. The Sooners love to get out and run, averaging almost 20 fast break points a game, which will make it hard for the Spartans to replicate their tough defense played in the first two rounds. Oklahoma has shooters from multiple spots and will make it hard for Michigan State to play their gritty brand of basketball. The red hot Spartans will cool off tonight and America can shift their focus to the next underdog story.

ON THE RECORD: Oklahoma Sooners (+2) over Michigan State Spartans