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.