2017 NBA Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Preview and Prediction

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It was an interesting year in the Eastern Conference as we had the familiar faces in Cleveland and Toronto return the playoffs, but also a few surprises as the Celtics grabbed the #1 seed and Milwaukee Bucks returned to the playoffs. Below are my previews and predictions for all four Eastern Conference playoff series.

#8 Chicago Bulls vs. #1 Boston Celtics

Chicago Bulls v Boston Celtics

Thanks to a lackluster regular season performance by Cleveland, 53 wins was all it took for the Boston Celtics to clinch home court throughout the Eastern Conference. The big signing over the summer was free agent center Al Horford, who left the Hawks to join Boston. However, the biggest story of the season for the Celtics was Isaiah Thomas, who averaged 29 points per game (3rd in NBA) and dominated the fourth quarter all season to the point of being in the MVP conversation. The Bulls have been an up and down team all year, but with a trio of playoff veterans on their team, it will provide a tough matchup for the Celtics. Rajon Rondo will have some excellent motivation against his old team and has the ability to expose Thomas on defense, while Jimmy Butler had a fantastic season and is arguably the Bulls best player. Throw Dwayne Wade into the mix and the Celtics may have their hands full right off the bat in these playoffs. However, I think they break through and win their first playoff series since the The Big 3 era. Celtics in 7.

#7 Indiana Pacers vs. #2 Cleveland Cavaliers

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The Cavaliers begin their quest for a third straight Eastern Conference title by taking on the Indiana Pacers in somewhat of a renewed rivalry. Lebron James faced against the Pacers three straight years, including two straight Eastern Conference Finals, as a member of the Heat and won the series every time. The key matchup will of course be Lebron James against Paul George. George had another great season, but the team around him is nowhere near as good as it was when he was playing Lebron in the Conference Finals. James is having yet another MVP caliber year, and with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving healthy, the Cavs should have no problem disposing of Indiana. Cleveland sweeps Indiana.

#6 Milwaukee Bucks vs. #3 Toronto Raptors

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The young Bucks surprised many people this year by returning to the playoffs, and look like a team that wants to make a run as well. Giannis Antetokounmpo, aka the Greek Freak, became the first player in NBA history to finish Top 20 in the NBA in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. With young stars such as Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton, this may be the beginning of things to come for the Bucks. On the other side, Toronto is back in the playoffs again led by their star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan. The Raptors took the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers to six games in the Eastern Conference Finals last year before losing, and will be looking to make a return appearance. The addition of Serge Ibaka at the deadline helps improve their front court depth and teams an excellent shot blocker up with fellow big man Jonas Valunciunas. I think this will be the biggest upset of the first round. The Greak Freek will have a monster series and Bucks will beat the Raptors in 6.

#5 Atlanta Hawks vs. #4 Washington Wizards

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There weren’t a lot of expectations for the Atlanta Hawks this year after losing star center Al Horford to free agency over the summer. However, the addition of Dwight Howard and the excellent play of Paul Millsap and Dennis Schroeder have Atlanta back in the playoffs for the tenth straight year. Meanwhile, the Washington Wizards may have exceeded expectations even more than the Hawks did this season. The dynamic back court of John Wall and Bradley Beal not only carried the Wizards to a playoff berth after a miserable year last year, they got home court advantage in the first round. The Wizards went 3-1 against the Hawks this year, but after briefly owning the #2 seed at one point they were mediocre down the stretch. Meanwhile, Atlanta put together impressive wins against Boston and Cleveland (twice) in the final weeks of the season to finish strong. I think Atlanta’s veteran team will carry them past the relative newcomers in this series. Hawks beat Wizards in 6.

Let me know what your predictions are in the comments down below.

-Jeff

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2017 NBA Western Conference Quarterfinals Preview and Predictions

nba playoffs

The regular season has concluded and the 2017 NBA Playoffs are set to open on Friday, April 12th. Below are my previews and predictions for every series in the West.

#8 Portland Trail Blazers vs. #1 Golden State Warriors

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors

In one of the better point guard matchups in this first round, Damian Lillard’s Trail Blazers take on Stephen Curry and the mighty Warriors. Lillard averaged 27 PPG, 5 RPG, and 6 APG to lead Portland while Curry had another outstanding year with 25/7/5 and a second straight season with over 300 threes. I expect some high scoring games with both back courts leading the charge. The Warriors swept the three game series against Portland this year and I expect them to have little trouble with the Blazers in this series. Golden State overwhelms Portland in 5 games to advance.

#7 Memphis Grizzlies vs. #2 San Antonio Spurs

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If you like grind it out possessions on offense and a heavy emphasis on defense, this will be the first round matchup for you to watch. These two teams split their 4 games series this year, with the home team winning all four games and either team topping 100 points just once in the whole series. The Spurs have not missed a beat in their first season since Tim Duncan retired, as they put up yet another 60+ win season. Kawhi Leonard has carried some serious MVP consideration with his play this season and Lamarcus Aldridge is filling Duncan’s void nicely. The Grizzlies are led by Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, as they try to pull off the upset. The Spurs have been here time and again and will have no problem handling Memphis. San Antonio sweeps the series.

#6 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #3 Houston Rockets

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Top 2 MVP candidates Russell Westbrook and James Harden face off against each other in what will be the most anticipated playoff matchup in either conference. Westbrook averaged the first triple double for a season since Oscar Robertson (31 PPG, 10 APG, 10 RPG), while Harden wasn’t far behind with 29 points, 11 assists, and 8 rebounds. Mike D’antoni’s high powered Rockets lead the league in 3 point attempts and look to get back to the Western Conference Finals after a one year absence, while Russell Westbrook has willed his team to the playoff’s despite the loss of superstar Kevin Durant. At the end of the day, Harden has a lot more around him than Westbrook does and the Rockets will beat the Thunder in 6.

#5 Utah Jazz vs. #4 Los Angeles Clippers

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After a four year drought, the Utah Jazz are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Gordon Hayward, whose is likely to opt out of the final year of his contract this summer, averaged 22 points per game during the best season of this career to this point. The Jazz front court is anchored by big man Rudy Gobert who averaged 14 points and 13 rebounds this season. Meanwhile, the Chris Paul – Blake Griffin led Clippers seem to be a 4 or 5 seed every year, but have yet to break through beyond the second round. I think the Clippers experience and the realization that their window may be closing with the upcoming free agencies of Paul or Griffin will have them playing motivated basketball in the first round. Los Angeles wins a hard fought series in 7 games.

Let me know what your predictions are in the comments down below.

-Jeff

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2017 Boston Red Sox Preview

MLB: ALDS-Cleveland Indians at Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox are set to open up the 2017 MLB season against the Pittsburgh Pirates tomorrow, Monday April 3rd, so here is my preview and prediction for the Red Sox this year.

The Offseason

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The biggest story to begin the offseason was the official retirement of David Ortiz, who went out on top after a monster .315/38 HR/127 RBI season at age 40. This will certainly leave a hole in the lineup as the Red Sox experiment with the DH position throughout the season. However, the Red Sox did pick up a nice lefty bat in first baseman Mitch Moreland. Moreland hit .233 with 22 HR and 60 RBI for Texas last season and is a nice addition to the bench.

The Red Sox traded Travis Shaw to Milwaukee in exchange for pitcher Tyler Thornburg. Thornburg is a great pickup that will boost a bullpen that lost Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, and Brad Ziegler. Thornburg went 8-5 with a 2.15 ERA in 67 games for the Brewers last season. However, trading away their starting third baseman indicates that Red Sox expect a bounceback season from Pablo Sandoval, who has been nothing short of a disaster since signing in Boston after the 2015 season.

The Red Sox saved their best for last by acquiring Cy Young caliber starter Chris Sale from the White Sox in exchange for a package that included #1 prospect center fielder Yoan Moncada. Sale won 17 games with a 3.34 ERA and 233 strikeouts for the White Sox last season. The Red Sox now have three starters – Porcello, Price, and Sale – that could be dominant #1 starters throughout the season.

The Lineup

outfield

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The Red Sox may have lost their best hitter from last season, but they still have an MVP candidate in the prime of his career in Mookie Betts. In 2016 Betts hit .318 with 214 hit, 31 Home Runs, 113 RBI, 122 runs and 26 stolen bases for a first place Red Sox team. Betts is an all around player as well, bringing speed and playmaking ability to the outfield. I personally predict that he will be even better this year and bring home the MVP trophy. There are high expectations for another member of the Red Sox outfield as well, rookie left fielder Andrew Benintendi. Benintendi hit .295 in 105 AB for the Red Sox last year after being called up.

I expect Pedroia to be the same Pedroia both on and off the field this year and put together another solid season. The key for him will be to stay healthy, as injuries had derailed him in recent seasons before last year. Pedroia may also be looked on to play a bigger role as the veteran leader of the clubhouse now that Ortiz is gone. The big question mark in this lineup will be Pablo Sandoval. The Red Sox traded away both third basemen they had in Shaw and Moncada, which seems to indicate that they think Sandoval can turn it around. However, if he gets off to a bad start or gets injured, things could get ugly quick. I expect the Red Sox to be a Top 5 offense in the MLB this year.

The Rotation

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There are high expectations for the Red Sox pitching staff this season, which features a trio of Cy Young caliber pitchers. The current ace is Rick Porcello, who went 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA and won the AL Cy Young award. Porcello was the benefit of lots of run support last season, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t match last season’s win total. However, he has been nothing but consistent since the second half of 2015, and I expect another very solid season from Porcello.

David Price was the biggest signing of the 2015 offseason, but had a disappointing first year in Boston. After a rocky start, Price did play better in the second half of the season. However, he once again got rocked in the playoffs, which has been an issue for him throughout this career. He will begin this season on the DL, but the pressure will be back on when he makes his season debut.

One thing that might help take the pressure of Price is the trade for Chris Sale. Many would consider Sale the best pitcher on this staff now. However, he will have to deal with the same Boston pressure that Price dealt with last year, so it will be interesting to see if he thrives in it or can’t handle the big stage.

The Prediction

The Red Sox went 93-69 and won the AL East last year. I expect them to be right around that number again this year. My prediction is that the Red Sox will go 94-68 and win the AL East for the second straight year.

Let me know you predictions in the comments down below.

-Jeff

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The 2017 NCAA tournament has not had quite as many upsets as in recent years, but despite that fact there are 2 teams making their Final Four debut and another returning for the first time since the inaugural tournament in 1939. Two one seeds remain in the Final Four in North Carolina and Gonzaga, while Oregon represents the Pac-12 as a 3 seed and South Carolina comes out of nowhere as a 7 seed. There will be plenty of storylines heading into this Final Four. Can UNC redeem themselves after coming up seconds short last year? Can Gonzaga finally quiet the haters who say they play in a weak conference? Will Oregon bring the trophy back to the Pac 12? Will South Carolina become one of the most unlikely champions in recent memory? It will all be decided in Phoenix this Saturday and Monday night.

Saturday, April 1st at 6:09 PM: #7 South Carolina vs. #1 Gonzaga (-7)

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The South Carolina Gamecocks are easily the most unexpected participant in this year’s Final Four. They are led by veteran coach Frank Martin and SEC player of the year Sindarius Thornwell, who is averaging 26 points per game in the NCAA tournament. The Gamecocks have used their defense to knock off #10 Marquette, #2 Duke, #3 Baylor, and #4 Florida en route to winning the East regional. On the other hand, the Gonzaga Bulldogs have been dominant all season long, losing just one game the entire season during their path to the Final Four. Long time Gonzaga coach Mark Few and star big man Karnowski defeated #16 South Dakota State, #8 Northwestern, #4 West Virginia, and #11 Xavier to win the West regional and their first ever berth in the Final Four. Both of these teams have a solid defense, but ultimately Gonzaga is much more well-rounded and one of the best teams in the entire country. The Bulldogs end South Carolina’s Cinderella¬†run 78-64.

Saturday, April 1st at 8:49 PM: #3 Oregon vs. #1 North Carolina (-5)

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The North Carolina Tar Heels are easily the veteran squad of the four teams left. Roy Williams, Justin Jackson, Joel Berry, Kennedy Meeks, and Theo Pinson lead a veteran Tar Heel team to the Final Four for the second consecutive year looking to finish the job they came just short of last year against Villanova in the championship game. North Carolina’s biggest strength is offensive rebounding while one of their key weaknesses is three point shooting. The health of Theo Pinson, who rolled his ankle against Kentucky, will be a key factor in this game depending on how effective he is. UNC defeated #16 Texas Southern, #8 Arkansas, #4 Butler, and #2 Kentucky to win the South Regional and earn a trip to Phoenix. Although many people liked UCLA or Arizona as the most likely Pac 12 team to make the Final Four, coach Dana Altman’s Oregon Ducks are the ones who have the chance to win it all. The trio of Tyler Dorsey, Jordan Bell, and Dillon Brooks have¬†been sensational during Oregon’s tournament run. Oregon defeated #14 Iona, #11 Rhode Island, #7 Michigan, and #1 Kansas to win the Midwest regional. Despite last year’s Final Four experience and a thirst to win it all this year, I think North Carolina will fall to the hot team right now. Oregon carries it’s momentum to the championship game 85-81.

CHAMPIONSHIP PREDICTION: GONZAGA 76, OREGON 69

Let me know your predictions in the comments down below.

Thanks,
Jeff

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Movie Review: Get Out (2017)

Get Out is a horror movie directed by Jordan Peele about a young African American male (Daniel Kaluuya) who goes to visit his white girlfriend’s (Allison Williams) parents’ house for a weekend. He is nervous that there may be racial tensions when her parents find out that he is black, despite her reassurance that everything will be fine. However, once they arrive, he not only finds out that he’s being treated differently, but realizes there is something far more mysterious about the family.

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First off, I liked that this movie was not afraid to explore the racial tensions that unfortunately still exist in the United States today. Racism was a key theme throughout this movie and it was blended in perfectly to the horror dynamic in a way that I haven’t seen horror movies do before. I also enjoyed the psychological aspect that made this movie so thrilling. Instead of mixing several jump scares to make this movie terrifying, there was a slow realization throughout the movie about what was actually happening which kept the audience on edge throughout the entire movie. Overall, I thought Get Out was really well done movie and certainly something unique that we haven’t seen before. It starts off a little bit slow in the beginning, but the camera angles and the music were so well done that you could experience exactly what the main character was thinking even if he didn’t say anything most of the time. I also thought the ending was really good and tied things up, while also not being too obvious about how it was going to end.

IMDB: 8.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 99% critics, 89% audience
My Rating: 8.7/10

Let me know your thoughts on the movie in the comments down below!

Jeff

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TV Review: Westworld Season 1 (2016)

Have you ever questioned the nature of your own reality?

HBO’s hit drama Westworld is about a futuristic park of the same name that was created to resemble the wild west and allow tourists the opportunity to live out their wildest dreams. The creators of the park used artificial intelligence to build hosts, which are essentially robots that resemble human beings both in physical features and emotional ones. The hosts are programmed with several different storylines and even some improvisational capabilities that are so realistic that guests cannot even tell the difference between real humans and the ones that only exist in the park. Guests are allowed to do whatever they want – shoot up a village, have sex with prostitutes, drink at the local bars – but cannot be harmed in any way while they are in Westworld.

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The idea of a place like Westworld is a really interesting concept. What if there was a theme park you could go to that perfectly resembled the real world except for the fact that there are no consequences for you while you are there? However, what really makes the show interesting is when it explores the true nature of human beings. Most of the time, guests use the park to satisfy primal urges such as killing, having sex, and drinking. Humans want to be able to do these things with no consequences. On the other end, the hosts are so artificially intelligent and so smart that they slowly start to become self-aware of the nature of their own reality. Westworld really makes you think about how blurred the line could become between humans and technology.

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I loved the concept of Westworld and thought the producers of this show did a really good job at exploring several different complex philosophies relating to artificial intelligence, human nature, and in particular human consciousness. I thought the acting was really great and the cinematography was amazing. The opening credits of each episode essentially show how Westworld was created using a 3D printing like technology, and I believe the physical setting for Westworld was in Utah which had plenty of beautiful landscapes to use. My one criticism of the show would be that it was very confusing at times, especially during the finale. I felt like the show could have slowed down a bit more and be drawn out to 12 or 15 episodes so that there was more time to absorb and process things. However, the confusing nature of the show also opened the door for many theories and discussions among fans which gives you several different perspectives.

IMDB: 9.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 89% critics, 92% audience
My score: 8.5/10

Let me know what you thought of the show in the comments down below!

-Jeff

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2016 Year in Review + Bonus One Second Everyday Compilation

The year 2016 was full of great memories and experiences. The video below shows the highlights from my life that were captured on camera during the past year.

 

On February 20th I downloaded an app called One Second Everyday where you take a one second video each day using the app and then create a mashup of all the videos together. While the video above shows the top highlights of 2016, the mashup below showed a representation of the day to day activities in my life.

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