Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day Ramblings (sport, gambling, food)

Memorial Day, the prototypical American summer holiday. Most Americans are expected to be either on the road, having a backyard barbecue, or at a baseball game. For the rest of us, there's not much else going on. Only one NHL and one NBA game on tonight. The French Open just started, and while it's prone to early upsets, the first week of a major is often just going through the motions.

So let's focus on baseball, since that seems to be the "sport" with the most exposure today. The Yankees have lost 9 of their last 10, don't have Ellsbury, couldn't get it up to win last night when they were honoring Bernie Williams, and are facing the best team in baseball (by run differential). So why are they -130 favorites? The funny thing is, though, if you hop onto any of the major sports betting forums, there will be a fair share of posts suggesting that this Royals pick is too easy and that this has to be a trap game. Gamblers are a strange bunch. I'm gonna go with the Royals here, and think that the line is skewed because the Yankees fans, and their much bigger wallets, are supporting their team now that they have a day off to actually watch them. And then they'll realize the error of their ways.

I know I haven't posted any food/restaurant reviews in a while, and in fact I have a blog post from a meal back in February that really should have been put up long ago. So I'm going to go for a compromise here, and shorten my reviews so that I can at least put some posts up in the near future, and go from there. Blogging as an unpaid hobby is always tough. I've seen so many blogs, especially those of a personal nature, just stop updating. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

2014-2015 NBA Playoffs Conference Finals Preview (sport, gambling)

We didn't take the quickest road to get there, but we ended up with the top seeds in each conference playing each other. I think this is a good thing considering how often people say that the regular season is meaningless in the NBA.

Eastern Conference

Cleveland Cavaliers (2) at Atlanta Hawks (1)
As if Mozgov wasn't sitting on the bench enough, he should get very little playing time against this Hawks team filled with stretch big men who can shoot. So a lot of the burden will fall on LeBron, like it usually has throughout his career, as he will anchor almost all their small ball lineups. But we've seen this LeBron vs an all-around team matchup before. It didn't work well against the Celtics and Pistons when he was younger, and it didn't work well against the Spurs either. That means Kyrie Irving needs to really deliver for the Cavs to pull this one out. Then again, the most pivotal player in the series might be Kyle Korver. I don't think Atlanta will pull out tight, close games against the Cavs like the way they did against the Wizards, so Korver's ability to keep the Atlanta offense going throughout the game will be key.

Western Conference

Houston Rockets (2) at Golden State Warriors (1)
I was one of many who thought the Clippers would easily dispatch the Rockets, but guys stepped up and the Rockets managed a well earned comeback from a 3-1 deficit. Now they face a team that they couldn't beat even once during the regular season, and I just don't think lightning strikes twice. The Warriors should win easily.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

2014-2015 NBA Playoffs Round 2 Preview (sport, gambling)

That Game 7 between the Spurs and the Clippers might have been the most entertaining non-Finals NBA game I've ever watched in real time. It was a crazy back and forth affair, and I don't think any team managed to get ahead by more than 6 points in the second half or hold a lead for more than a few minutes. Even if the grind of the long season makes you at best a casual NBA fan, the playoffs are definitely worth tuning in for.

Eastern Conference

Washington Wizards (5) at Atlanta Hawks (1)
Even with the great upset win on Sunday, I still think this series will go to Atlanta. This is just not a very good matchup for the Wizards, especially with Bradley Beal not being anywhere close to where he was last year. The Wizards' strength is their interior size and defense, and Atlanta essentially negates that with their spacing and shooting. The problem with that approach, of course, is that you will lose some games where you just go cold. The Hawks clearly relied too much on the three point shot at the tail end of game 1, but they were also just extremely unlucky with shots not going in. I expect the series to go to game 7, but what happens then will come down to whether those shots go in during that one game.

Chicago Bulls (3) at Cleveland Cavaliers (2)
Cleveland was never a very deep team to begin, so I don't think they can overcome the loss of Kevin Love. Without Kevin Love, they can't field an efficient small ball lineup, and their bigs Mozgov and Thompson are just way outclassed by Noah and Gasol. I think the Cavaliers win one, maybe two games at the most in this series, depending on how often Kyrie can go off.

Western Conference

Memphis Grizzlies (4) at Golden State Warriors (1)
A nightmare matchup for the Grizzlies, as Golden State is filled with players whose shots can go in no matter how good your defense is, while the Grizzlies are full of guys who aren't guaranteed to make open jump shots. Without Mike Conley, I wouldn't be surprised if this series ended in a sweep, but I think Warriors in 5 is the safe bet.

Los Angeles Clippers (3) at Houston Rockets (2)
Like I said in my first round preview, this is as prepared a Clippers team as any since the CP3 trade. The time spent without CP3 the past two seasons has made Blake Griffin into a superstar that can single-handedly carry this team of shooters, while the time spent without Blake has forced DeAndre Jordan into maturing his game. They'll still need Chris Paul, but winning the first game allows them to give him much more rest. With DeAndre Jordan now competitive against a past-his-prime Dwight Howard, James Harden just has too much of a burden to carry, surrounded by players well past their prime who aren't great shooters. This series should also go 5, depending on how much rest CP3 needs.

Monday, April 20, 2015

2014-2015 NBA Playoffs Round 1 Preview (sport, gambling)

Well, not sure how much of a preview this is since I couldn't get it out in time before the first weekend of the playoffs, but I'll just add in my thoughts based on what I thought going in and what we saw in the first set of games.

Eastern Conference

Brooklyn Nets (8) at Atlanta Hawks (1)
Someone told me an interesting stat last week going into the start of the playoffs. No one on the Hawks had scored more than 35 points in a game all season, and the only two other teams in NBA history to have that happen both won less than 20 games whereas Atlanta won 60 games this season. The good and the bad of this team-oriented approach showed itself in the first game against the Nets. With Milsap and Horford both dealing with nagging injuries, Atlanta did not look like a team that won 60 games in the regular season. However, their bench is very deep and works well enough within the system. Brooklyn just doesn't have the one true star who can take advantage of such a situation, so I expect this series to go 4-1 in favor of the Hawks, with the Nets needing a huge game from either Joe Johnson or Brook Lopez to steal one. Atlanta's main concern during this series is to try to get everyone healthy for the next round.

Boston Celtics (7) at Cleveland Cavaliers (2)
No matter how good of a coach Stevens is, the Cavs are just too talented and should sweep this series. The only thing the Cavs should be concerned about is getting Love and Irving some good playoff experience, so in my opinion it would actually work out better for them if the games were close, especially up in Boston.

Milwaukee Bucks (6) at Chicago Bulls (3)
This is just a horrible matchup for the Bucks, as they've struggled against big men all season, and Chicago has two of the best in the game in Noah and Pau Gasol. This was evident in the first game as Chicago outrebounded Milwaukee 52-41, even though much of the spotlight was on the two Bulls guards who scored over 20 points each. The real thing to look for here is whether the Bulls will sweep as they're supposed to. With a taskmaster such as Tom Thibodeau as their head coach, it'll be clear if they're ready to go deep based on whether they take care of business or are sloppy (they committed 19 turnovers in game 1).

Washington Wizards (5) at Toronto Raptors (4)
I expected this to be the closest series of the first round, and game 1 did not disappoint. While this could in theory still go either way, I think the Wizards will pull it out with their underrated defense. I feel they have more of an identity as a team and the veteran experience of Paul Pierce goes a long way. One of the more interesting things I noticed was that both Marcin Gortat and Jonas Valanciunas, two very capable centers, only played 26 and 24 minutes respectively in an overtime game. This should also be to Washington's advantage as I think they have a deeper and more suitable bench for small ball. After stealing game 1, Wizards should win in 6 if not 5.

Western Conference

New Orleans Pelicans (8) at Golden State Warriors (1)
Even though the Pelicans sneaking into the playoffs was a nice feel good story, they are completely outclassed here by the Warriors who play tremendous basketball as a team, and yet are capable of being carried in stretches by EITHER Curry or Thompson getting hot. But what really separates this Warriors team from previous years' versions is a healthy Bogut, who not only gives them a capable rim protector, but works as a very useful cog in that offense. This will be an easy sweep.

Dallas Mavericks (7) at Houston Rockets (2)
I expect this to be a much closer series than any of the individual game scores would indicate. Both teams are very good at home, and I expect this series to go to 7 games unless someone steals one on the road. I also expect most of the games to go over the over/under lines, as both teams are probably more concerned about playing their own offensive games than really stopping or slowing down the other team.

San Antonio Spurs (6) at Los Angeles Clippers (3)
I think the writing was on the wall when the Spurs couldn't win that last game of the season and fell from a 2 seed all the way down to a 6 seed. They should still play very well at home, but until Leonard is ready to really step up and take the position of the main guy on that Spurs team, I don't see them going back to the Finals any time soon. The Clippers, on the other hand, have slowly built up to this point where they are probably as competitive at the highest level as they've ever been. The absence of CP3 and Griffin at different times last season and this season have helped DeAndre Jordan a lot, and have made them a more versatile team than people give them credit for. I expect the Clippers to win this in 6 or 7.

Portland Trailblazers (5) at Memphis Grizzlies (4)
The past two regular seasons, Portland has been true to their name, coming out of the gate strong. And yet both seasons it seems they just kind of limped into the playoffs. The current Trailblazer regime has a history of playing their starters a lot of minutes, and with Wes Matthews out, they look completely out of gas. It doesn't help that Memphis still has one of the best team defenses in the game and are used to the grind. This series really shouldn't be close, but Portland should win one or two games just from Memphis' inability to consistently score.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

I'm Still Here (rambling)

Sorry I've been MIA, but just wanted to let you know that I'm still here and that I do plan to write posts more consistently at some point. I swear this is not an April Fools joke! :)

At the very least I should have a post for the NBA playoffs coming up and my (now not-so-recent) meal at Cosme, one of the hottest restaurants in NYC.

Friday, January 30, 2015

2014-2015 NFL Season Superbowl Pick (sport, gambling)

Honestly, I haven't really paid much attention to all the pre-Superbowl stuff going on the last two weeks. I made up my mind a while back that the Patriots are my Superbowl pick, and I think the deflate-gate thing is beyond stupid.

For me, any single game team sporting event where both sides are given enough time to prepare will always come down to matchups. While Seattle's defense matched up perfectly against Denver's passing game last year, the Patriots' tight end dominated short passing game will neutralize much of Seattle's advantage on defense. On the other side of the ball, I think the Patriots will commit to stacking the box against the Seattle running game, and let Seattle try to beat them one-on-one in the passing game against Revis Island. I just don't see Seattle sustaining drives against that kind of defense.

While there are plenty of well known names and personalities on display in this Superbowl, I believe the players to watch are the ones whom many casual fans haven't heard much about.

Tim Wright (TE, Pats)
Unless you're a Patriots fan or an avid daily fantasy football player, chances are you haven't heard of Tim Wright. Furthering that anonymity is the fact that he has played just 8 snaps so far in the postseason. In fact, according to an NBCSports article, some casino in Las Vegas is offering a Tim Wright receiving yards prop bet with a line set at half a yard. This line is so ridiculous in my view that I suggest anyone within driving distance of said casino to go down and put some money on that over.

Seattle has been weak against tight ends all season, especially in comparison to their performance against wide receivers in general. Add to that Belichick's willingness to play multiple TE sets, the short passing game, and the need for extra blocking bodies, I think Tim Wright will definitely have a role in this game, and it wouldn't surprise me if he scored a TD with Gronk getting all the attention.

Robert Turbin (RB, Seahawks)
The only real household names on that Seahawk offense are Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch, and both will be key points of focus for the Patriot's defense. Turbin will be important in offering a change of pace option in the running game. While Doug Baldwin is probably better than most people give him credit for in the passing game, Seattle will need to execute dump offs to Turbin and Lynch and hope for good YAC from both to sustain drives.

Overall, I think the Patriots win in a game where points will be hard to come by for both teams. According to the sportsbook director at the Wynn, it appears most of the money is coming in on the Patriots too.

Best bets:
The over on all Robert Turbin props, especially yardage ones. And on the off chance this game becomes a blowout in either direction, he'll benefit from garbage time too.

Lines per 5dimes:
R. Turbin rush attempts Over 4.5 +135
R. Turbin rushing yards Over 13.5 -120
R. Turbin receiving yards Over 8.5 +155
R. Turbin rush+receiving yds Ov 23 -120
R. Turbin has a reception YES -140

Good luck and enjoy the game everyone!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Happy 2015! (rambling, gambling)

I'm baaaack!

2014 was a very trying year for me, but I'm back and very much looking forward to 2015. It's unclear if I will write more, but I will try my best. In the meantime, I've changed the poll on the right sidebar to ask what you would like to see more of on this blog, so please vote!

I did say I'd be back before the NFL playoffs (just barely), so for this weekend's games, I like the under 37.5 in Carolina, and the Colts -3.5 in Indy. Good luck everyone, and have a happy new year!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

On Hiatus

Hi, readers!

I haven't been posting that regularly to begin with, but posts rate to be even more scarce for the rest of this year at least. Unfortunately, I tore my calf for the second time in three years while playing basketball a couple weeks ago, and blogging is way down on the list of current priorities. But I hope to be back up and writing soon, in time for the NFL playoffs at least.

For the foodies, happy eating!
For the game enthusiasts, good luck!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Underdog of the Week: 2014-2015 Season Week 10 (sport, gambling, NFLUnderdog14)

In this series, I will pick an underdog every week that I think will not only cover the spread, but also have a good chance at winning outright.

Didn't have a pick last week as there were no underdogs I liked. So for this week going to throw one in here that's really outside the box

Underdog of the Week:
DAL vs JAC (in London)
JAC +7
JAC +270 ML

It's a game at night in London, ,so who knows. But the Jaguars have certainly been playing more competitively of late. And when you add in all the travel to a running back who's already been used so much this season in Murray and a QB who might not be at 100% in Romo, this could be an easy situational upset.

ATS 2-5
ML 2-5 -180

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ramen Burger: More than a Passing Fad (food)

While the cronut ended up getting worldwide media exposure, it wasn't the only combination food fad that people in NYC waited in line for. There was also the ramen burger, which made its debut last fall at Smorgasburg, the Brooklyn Flea food market. While the hours-long lines for it have come and gone, the ramen burger is still available in the city at Ramen.Co, a ramen restaurant in the financial district opened by the creator of the ramen burger. I decided to give it a try with a friend a couple of weeks ago.

The first thing I noticed as I unwrapped my ramen burger was that it looked really small. And yet, I found it perfectly filling for lunch when I was done with it. The burger patty itself was decent. It won't come close to rivaling the many burgers in NYC vying to be the best, but it would beat most fast food and fast casual burgers, and was decently juicy for a relatively thin patty. The secret shoyu sauce was excellent, with a nice viscosity and sweetness, but more importantly, packing an umami punch. Of course the key product innovation here is the ramen bun, and I have to say I thought it worked really well. It managed to hold together as a bun without being hard to bite through. I am a big fan of springy noodles, and this compressed noodle patty somehow managed to convey that same texture as a whole. Altogether, it was a really well-composed dish that clearly had a lot of thought put into it.

My friend enjoyed her shredded beef version, which I guess one would call a sandwich rather than a burger. All the burgers come with very thick crinkle cut potato chips which I enjoyed but my friend thought were too thick. I think it depends whether you prefer crisp or crunch in your chips.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed it. I liked that the ramen/burger combo was more than just a novelty, and I thought the noodle bun worked much better than many rice buns I've had previously at fast food places. It makes me wonder what other bygone food fads I should try once there aren't huge lines for them any more.

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