2015-16 Boston Celtics First Half Recap

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The All-Star break kicks off this weekend which means the unofficial first half of the 2015-2016 NBA season has come to close. It’s a been a good one for the Celtics, who continue to just keep getting better and better under third year coach Brad Stevens. The Celtics were 19-35 at the All-Star break in 2014 during Brad Stevens first year as head coach. Last year, the Celtics were 20-31 at the break. Now the Celtics are 32-23 and have risen all the way to 3rd place in the Eastern Conference.

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A large part of the Celtics success season is due to the play of All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas, who was acquired at the trade deadline last year and sparked the Celtics to a  playoff berth. Thomas is averaging 21.5 PPG, which ranks 12th in the NBA, in addition to 3 RPG, 6.6 APG, and 1.1 SPG while playing in all 55 games this year and starting 52 of them. Thomas’ performance earned him his first career All-Star nod as an Eastern Conference reserve and the first Celtics All-Star since the Big 3 era in 2013.

 

Isaiah Thomas isn’t the only reason for the Celtics success. In fact, what makes the Celtics so good this year is a balanced attack at every position on the offensive and defensive side. Players like Jae Crowder, Jared Sullinger, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Evan Turner, Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, and Jonas Jerebko have all contributed significant minutes on a nightly basis to help this team win. As a team, the Celtics currently rank 4th in the NBA scoring 105.7 points per game, 7th in rebounds per game, 5th in assists per game, 2nd in steals per game, and 5th in free throw percentage. They also rank 4th in the NBA in opponent field goal percentage and are tied for first in turnovers forced per game. It is this type of balance that has helped the Celtics win 10 of their last 12 and defeat top tier teams like Cleveland, Oklahoma City, and the Clippers, and also taking Golden State to double overtime.

 

 

The Celtics will look to continue their path to the playoffs when they resume play in Utah on Friday, February 19th. They’ve been a fun to team watch all season, and if they stay healthy it will be exciting to see how far this team can go in the playoffs. With several draft picks and a ton of assets in stock, it will also be interesting to see which moves the Celtics will make with the trade deadline looming.

Can’t wait!

 

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Super Bowl 50 Preview and Prediction

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February 7th, 2016 @ 6:30 PM ET: #1 Denver Broncos vs. #1 Carolina Panthers (-6.5)

For the third straight year, the two number one seeds in the NFL clash on the game’s biggest stage as the 12-4 Denver Broncos face off against the 15-1 Carolina Panthers in Santa Clara. Two years ago, Denver entered the Super Bowl as the best offensive team in the NFL, but this year they enter as the NFL’s number one defensive team in yards allowed. On the other side, likely MVP winner Cam Newton leads the NFL’s highest scoring offense despite the loss of #1 wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin in the preseason. This game will feature the first ever matchup of quarterbacks taken with the #1 overall pick (Manning 1998, Newton 2010), the 3rd matchup of former SEC quarterbacks in the Super Bowl (Manning – Tennessee, Newton – Auburn), and the largest age differential between Super Bowl starting quarterbacks ever (Manning 39, Newton 26).

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Despite the high profile quarterbacks, this game may very well be a defensive battle. Defensive ends Von Miller and Demarcus Ware lead a formidable Broncos pass rush while Luke Keuchly and Thomas Davis provide a dynamic 1-2 linebacker punch for the Panthers. Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib anchor the Broncos secondary while Josh Norman has been shutting down #1 receivers all year for Carolina. Both teams will have to get the ground game going to slow down the pass rush. C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman provide  1-2 punch from the Broncos backfield while veteran Jonathan Stewart is a dual threat through the air and on the ground for the Panthers. However, the X-factors in this game may be the tight ends. Greg Olsen has been Cam Newton’s go to guy and has made big plays all year, while Owen Daniels broke out with two TDs in the AFC Championship game for the Broncos.

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I do think the Broncos will have some success slowing down Cam Newton and the Panthers offense. However, the Panthers defense led the league with 39 takeaways this season and is arguably just as good as Denver’s defense. Carolina won’t have to score even close to their average of 32 points per game to win this one. Peyton Manning will be under attack all game long, and the Broncos will be in big trouble if they get behind early. Carolina simply has no weaknesses. They have a QB who accounted for 45 TDs, a 1000 yard RB, the 2nd best tight end in the game, a receiver who caught 10 TDs, the best linebacking core in the league, the best cornerback in the league, and an outstanding offensive and defensive line. The only team they lost to this year, they also destroyed 38-0 during the same month. The Carolina Panthers are a historically great team, and I think they will win this game 23-16 and Luke Keuchly will be MVP.

Let me know your predictions in the comments down below!

 

 

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Psychology of a Sports Fan

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Who cares about a stupid kids game? Why are you so obsessed with this team? Why are you acting like a baby when your team loses? Why do you care about these millionaire athletes that will never know who you are? Why do you have so many jerseys? Why would you spend so much money on a baseball game? These are just a few of the many questions I’ve heard non-sports fans ask in reference to those of us that love sports. As crazy as some of the things we do as sports fans are, it’s actually very rational and normal behavior. The psychology behind being a sports fan proves why sports matter so much to us, and also show that if you are not a sports fan, you simply can’t understand all of the joy and heartbreak and general lifestyle decisions that we go through every single day.

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The word “fan” actually comes from a Latin word that means “insanely but divinely inspired.” One of the first reasons that we become sports fans is because it is one of our first connections to the community and therefore one of our first identities. Sports teams actually serve the same purpose as church and family: create a sense of belonging with those around you. One study even found that looking at a picture of your favorite sports teams caused the same reaction in the brain as looking at picture of your spouse. As humans, one of our basic needs is to feel like we belong. Whether it’s playing on a sports team with other athletes, or rooting for your favorite team with friends around you, sports very much satisfies this desire. Studies even show that sports fans have higher self-esteem, are less depressed, and are less lonely.

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But the true identity of a sports fan goes even deeper than being part of a community. It’s a phenomenon that psychologically connects us to the players and teams we root for. Our favorite teams become an extension of ourselves. The brain actually thinks that it is part of the team…which is why fans constantly refer to their teams as “we” when speaking about them. This is because of mirror neurons in our brain that cause us to live vicariously through the athletes we are observing. When they win, our brain experiences the same euphoria that comes with a victory, and when they lose, our brain experiences the same disappointment as if we personally lost. One study even found that male sports spectators experience the same testosterone level increases as the athletes they were watching on the field.

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So, to summarize, being a sports fan goes beyond just watching games and wearing our favorite team’s merchandise. It is psychologically ingrained into our very identity. A sports team is extension of oneself. We personally feel like we’ve succeeded when our team wins and feel like we failed when our team loses. When Roger Goodell attacks the Patriots and treats them unfairly, I feel like I am personally being attacked and treated unfairly. My hatred for Roger Goodell isn’t crazy, it’s actually a normal, logical response.

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Being a Boston sports fan has been, and always will be, part of my identity. They will bring joy and they will bring me heartbreak, but rooting for my teams isn’t simply some crazy, obsessive hobby. It’s who I am and it’s a way of life.

Sources:

http://www.sportsnetworker.com/2012/02/15/the-psychology-of-sports-fans-what-makes-them-so-crazy/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-psychology-of-why-sports-fans-see-their-teams-as-extensions-of-themselves/2015/01/30/521e0464-a816-11e4-a06b-9df2002b86a0_story.html

http://www.seattletimes.com/sports/the-psychology-of-being-a-sports-fan/

 

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2015 Conference Championship Preview and Predictions

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The NFL’s version of the Final Four is upon us and should be a good one, featuring three #1 overall picks, two Heisman winners, and the greatest quarterback of all time. Here is my preview and predictions for the games on Sunday.

January 24, 3:05 PM: #2 New England Patriots @ #1 Denver Broncos (+3)

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Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning has truly been one of the most historic rivalrys the NFL has ever seen. These quarterbacks have faced off against each other at least once every single year that they have both been healthy. They always making the playoffs, breaking records, and finding a way to win as their teams have evolved over the years. The only difference separating these two is playoff performance. Tom Brady is the greatest postseason quarterback of all-time, with an NFL record 22 playoff wins and a record-tying 3 Super Bowl MVPs in 4 Super Bowl wins. On the other hand, Peyton Manning has gone one and done nine times, eight of which his team was favored, and has an NFL record 13 playoff losses. The only things giving Peyton Manning a chance in this game is playing at home, the Broncos #1 defense, and a solid running game. When these two met in November, the Patriots were decimated by injuries and still took the Broncos to overtime in Denver. This time around, the Patriots have the far superior offense and the defense is good enough to slow the Broncos offense and force them to pass the ball, which will only help New England more. I like the Patriots to advance to Super Bowl 50, 23-17.

January 24, 6:40 PM: #2 Arizona Cardinals @ #1 Carolina Panthers (-3)

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MVP candidates square off in a rematch of last year’s NFC wild card game as Carson Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals travel east to face off against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Both teams boast strong defenses, but this game also features the #1 and #2 offenses in the league in terms of scoring. After a season-ending injury to star receiver Kelvin Benjamin and a slow start for the Panthers offense, Cam Newton caught fire in the second half the Panthers rolled to a 15-1 season and took down two-time defending NFC champion Seattle in the divisional round. Meanwhile, Larry Fitzgerald and Cardinals offense have thrived under a healthy Carson Palmer and the emergence of rookie running back David Johnson. Although I think Ron Rivera is a great coach for Carolina, and I think Bruce Arians has the edge in this coaching matchup. With the veteran presence of Palmer and Fitzgerald, and a defense that has been solid all year long, I think the Cardinals can make enough big plays on offense and frustrate Newton on defense to pull off the upset. Arizona wins 24-21.

Let me know who you think will advance to Super Bowl 50 in the comments down below.

Thanks,

Jeff

 

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Why are People Afraid to Think on a Deeper Level?

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I once heard someone say that the human condition is defined by our unbearable awareness of mortality. We lose sleep over the fact that one day we will no longer exist, and everything we create on this Earth – the idea of love, the institution of religion, the expression of creativity through art, poetry, and media – comes from our desire to create something that will not die as we do. We are seeking a purpose in life that will extend beyond our physical existence. My only question is: Have we found it?

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I ask this question because I can’t help thinking there is so much more than what currently gives people purpose here on this Earth. Many people would say they find purpose and satisfaction in their job, their family, their relationships, their kids, their hobbies, or their religion just to name a few. However, do these things really give us purpose, or do they just distract us from being unhappy? I want to distract myself from the thought that I may not be worth something, so I get into a relationship in order to have someone who makes me feel like I am worth something. I want to distract myself from the thought that when my life is over I will no longer be happy, so I join a religion that can give me purpose beyond life on Earth. Everything we desire in life really just comes down to being happy, but happiness just consists of the right balance of a series of chemicals in our brains. I can’t help thinking there is more to life than a series of chemicals in our brains. This is where we need to start thinking deeper.

 

Ironically, I think  our  best chance for discovering any meaning beyond what we already know is to examine the very thing doing the thinking in the first place. I believe the human brain is one of the most complex and powerful instruments in the universe, and this video shows what the potential that the brain can have on our very perception of existence. What if we could engineer and create software for the brain to upgrade what we perceive as reality? We could reach a whole new level of understanding  far beyond anything that exists today.

Instead of conforming to what society has established that makes us worth something, we could truly explore the very essence of human consciousness. I think there are people out there that realize this. There are people who are working tirelessly to understand the brain, and people working tirelessly to understand how our universe works. I think when all the pieces of this existential puzzle finally fit together, we will realize that what our true purpose was is something we would have never imagined because it is something that we cannot create. The only way to get there is to not be satisfied with temporary happiness and keep your mind open to all possibilities, even if they seem impossible.

Don’t be afraid to question what our world tells you your purpose is. Don’t be afraid to question what you think your purpose is. Don’t be  afraid to always think deeper.

 

 

 

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2015 NFL Divisional Round Preview and Predictions

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Wild Card Weekend is in the books which means it’s time to take a look at the upcoming matchups for the divisional round of the  NFL playoffs.

Jan. 16 4:35 PM: #5 Kansas City Chiefs @ #2 New England Patriots (-5)

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The intriguing thing about this matchup lies in the significance of the game these two teams played last year in Kansas City. A blowout by the Chiefs caused everyone to write off the Patriots, and sparked a run that saw the Patriots go 25-6 with a Super Bowl championship since that game. KC is riding high after a 30-0 blowout over Houston pushed their winning streak to 11 games, while the Patriots are hoping they are finally healthy enough to make another playoff run after an injury-riddled second half of the season. With a healthy Gronkowski, Edelman, and Amendola, Tom Brady and Patriots offense should be primed to get back on track even against a tough Chiefs defense. The status of Chiefs #1 receiver Jeremy Maclin could play a big factor as well. I like the Patriots defense to set the tone early in this game and the offense to establish the tempo. Patriots win 27-16.

Jan. 17 4:40 PM: #6 Pittsburgh Steelers @ #1 Denver Broncos (-6.5)

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This matchup will look a little different than the one four weeks ago in which Pittsburgh defeated Denver 34-27 at home. Peyton Manning will be starting this time, which some could argue hurts Denver’s chances, and Ben Roethlisberger may be without Deangelo Williams and Antonio Brown while battling an injury himself. The defense has been the story of the season so far in Denver, carrying them to the top overall seed. Therefore, this matchup may very well depend on the health of Pittburgh’s offense weapons. The running game will be key as well – the Steelers will have to find a way to slow down C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman in order to put the pressure on Peyton Manning. Despite Manning’s history of choking in the playoffs when his team is favored, I think Denver’s defense will get the job done and advance 17-14.

Jan 17 1:05 PM: #6 Seattle Seahawks @ #1 Carolina Panthers (-3)

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Seattle will be looking to avenge their earlier loss to Carolina this season in which they blew a 9 point fourth quarter lead at home to keep the Panthers’ quest for a perfect season alive. On the other hand, Carolina will be looking to avenge their postseason loss to the Seahawks last year. After an impressive regular season which nearly saw the Panthers run the table, MVP candidate Cam Newton will begin his quest for a Super Bowl title at home. These teams are very similar in style. Both have quarterbacks that can make plays with their arm or their legs, both have a solid running  game, and both have great defenses. The difference may be playoff experience. Carolina has failed to advance past the divisional round each of the last two years while Seattle has reached the Super Bowl each of the last two years. I think the Seahawks win this one 23-20.

Jan. 16 8:15 PM: #5 Green Bay Packers @ #2 Arizona Cardinals (-7.5)

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Just a couple of weeks ago, the Arizona Cardinals dismantled the Green Bay Packers in Phoenix to clinch a first round bye in the playoffs. Behind MVP candidate Carson Palmer, the Arizona Cardinals are firing on all cylinders as they enter the playoffs with the second best record in the entire NFL behind Carolina. Weapons on the offensive end include veteran Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Michael Floyd, and rookie David Johnson. The NFL’s leading offense is also backed up by a strong defense led by cornerback Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. On the other hand, Green Bay has no shortage of weapons itself. Unfortunately, those weapons have had a disappointing year. Eddy Lacy, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams have all been disappointments for Aaron Rodgers, who lost his #1 receiver Jordy Nelson during the preseason. Green Bay certainly has the capability to win a big game on the road in the playoffs with Rodgers and Mike McCarthy, but I think Arizona may be the most complete team in the playoffs this year. Cardinals win the rematch 34-24.

Let me know who you think will advance to the conference championships in the comments down below.

Thanks,
Jeff

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CFP National Championship Preview

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The second CFP National Championship is tomorrow in a battle of the ACC Champion and undefeated #1 Clemson Tigers against the SEC Champion #2 Alabama Crimson Tide. Alabama enters this game as heavy favorites as coach Nick Saban looks for his fourth national championship in seven years. Meanwhile Clemson will try to pull the upset and claim their first title since their lone championship in 1981.

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This game will feature two of the three Heisman trophy finalists from this year. Alabama running back Derrick Henry (left) and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson (right) are the best players on their respective teams and key players to watch in this matchup. Despite entering the CFP as the #1 seed, the Tigers have been flying under the radar all year and haven’t been getting the respect they deserve. They were underdogs against #4 Oklahoma in the semifinals before disposing of them in impressive fashion. On the other hand, Alabama has been praised as the best team in college football, which showed after after they dismantled Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl.

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Everyone knows about Nick Saban and his 4 national championships (3 with Alabama), but Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has done an impressive job of building this program the last several years and it has paid off with a spot in the title game. Clemson’s strengths are its defense and the play of QB Deshaun Watson, while Alabama’s strengths are…..pretty much everything. QB Jake Coker has been playing great, Heisman winner Derrick Henry is a monster on the ground, and Alabama’s defense led by their front 7 are matched by nobody. Simply put, this Crimson Tide team is just too good and it doesn’t matter who’s playing them on the other side. Alabama will win their fourth national championship in seven years by a score of 35-20.

Who do you think will win tomorrow night? Let me know in the comments down below.

Thanks,

Jeff

 

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