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.

100 Maiden Ln/191 Pearl St
Manhattan, NY

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Underdog of the Week: 2014-2015 Season Week 8 (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.

Finally had a winner last week, and the first since week 1. Can't believe we're almost at the half-way point of the season. The NFL season has gone by so quickly, and the NBA is starting in less than a week!

Underdog of the Week:
SD +8.5
SD +320 ML

While I usually wait until the weekend to post my pick, there just weren't any underdogs I liked on Sunday. So I'm picking the Chargers on Thursday night even though I picked them to be upset last week and said that the previous two weeks was a sign that they aren't actually as dominant as some of their wins so far this season may have suggested. At the same time, Denver is rolling again, now that all their receivers are back.

So why do I like the Chargers here? It's not really for football reasons. First off, the spread is too big. Since Manning joined the Broncos, the Chargers have lost to the Broncos by more than 8 points just once, and that was a game when they led 24-0 at the half. Another thing I'm looking at is that the Broncos have both covered the spread and went over the total in their last 3 games. In fact, during Manning's tenure with the Broncos, Denver has done exactly that almost 40% of the time, well above the 25% as expected by random chance. But there is only one game tonight and it is in prime time. This is the first game between contenders on Thursday night football all year. Everyone will be watching this game and casual players love parlaying the favorite and the over. Do you really think Vegas would offer up such an easy layup?

ATS 2-4
ML 2-4 -80

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Delicious Day of Seafood (food)

A couple of weeks ago,I went to see the doctor for the first time this year. Given a clean bill of health, I decided to treat myself to a day of delicious seafood to celebrate.

Within walking distance from my doctor's office, my first stop was Takesushi for lunch. I've written about Takesushi before, and they continue to be great value.

UNI-DON ($17 with miso soup)
$17 is on the high side for a lunch set, even by Manhattan standards. But just look at that bowl of uni! It seemed like there was at least half a tray of uni on there! While they sometimes get Santa Barbara uni which I generally prefer, Takesushi usually gets most of its uni from Maine. Maine uni tends to not be as sweet and creamy as the Santa Barbara version, but has an added depth of umami flavor. This may have been the most uni I've ever eaten in one sitting, and it was glorious!

I happened to have an out-of-town friend visiting that same night, so I took him to Louro in the West Village. Here are some of the highlights:

Louro also has one of the best happy hour deals in the city, with beer, wine, and cocktails at $4,$6, and $8 respectively. Each drink also gets you a plate of petiscos, which are the Portuguese equivalent of tapas. When in season, they also have excellent, meaty oysters at a dollar each.

My friend absolutely loved this dish, especially the delicious dashi that it swam in. The fragrant mushrooms worked well with the subtle yet umami-rich custard and dashi. I'm not really a big chawanmushi guy, but this was excellent.

One of Louro's signature dishes, this hearty plate of pasta has been on the menu since they opened. It was as delicious as it was comforting, with occasional bursts of boar pancetta livening up the rich octopus ragu.

UNI, PORK BELLY (for comparison)
This was an absolutely special dish that currently ranks among my favorites of 2014. I suggest getting everything in one bite to experience the great interaction of textures featuring the crispy sweetbreads, creamy uni, and soft, yet not mushy, squash. The earthiness of the squash provided a great base and brought together all the flavors of this unique rendition of surf and turf. Great uni dishes are not new to Louro, as last year's uni with pork belly was also excellent in combining flavors and textures. This dish, however, featured layering, balancing, and interplay that was far superior, in my mind, to that already excellent dish.

I actually ate even more seafood as we also had Louro's signature piri piri shrimp and the kimchi fried rice featuring calamari, clams, and shrimp, which was just as delicious as it sounds. Louro is one of my favorite restaurants in the city, and one of the places I frequently recommend to people. I've never really written about it on the blog however, as they change the menu so frequently (including a new, unique themed menu EVERY WEEK) that it becomes hard to use one meal as a snapshot for a review.

What a great day! From lunch to dinner, this delicious day of seafood surpassed even my burger-pizza bang-bang in terms of indulgence!

43-46 42nd St
Sunnyside, Queens

142 W 10th St

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Underdog of the Week: 2014-2015 Season Week 7 (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 make an underdog pick last week, but not going to compound the problem again by picking two this week. After a long losing streak, let's try to get a winner on the board first.

Underdog of the Week:
KC +4
KC +170 ML

Last season in week 7, I focused on division games as those always provide good motivation for the teams. This week, there are only three division games, and this one seems to be the most competitive. I think the Chargers' narrow win last week's was a sign that they aren't actually as dominant as some of their wins so far this season (over the Jets and Jaguars) may have suggested. Except for their opening week loss to the Titans, the Chiefs have actually played some very competitive games against good teams, and are probably being underrated by the public.

ATS 1-4
ML 1-4 -250