Friday, January 25, 2013

Shameless Self-Promotion Time: Purdue Recap

(HT: mgovideo)

Here it is, as usual. Michigan wins 68-53, moving to 5-1 in the conference and 18-1 overall. Excellence is good, quoth Henne.

Michigan takes on the enigmatic Illini in Champaign on Sunday. Assuming Michigan doesn't get full on Paul'd (which, given the trolly nature of it is probably better spelled PAWLLLLLL'd), that should be another win for the Wolverines.

Either way, this is fun. I promise I'll actually post something of substance in this space at some point in the near, man. Get outta here, school.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Game No. 34 Preview, Bulls-Knicks: King of the Hill, Top of the Heap Pt. 3

Chicago Bulls (19-14) @ New York Knicks (23-12)

So, here we are again. Despite the Knicks' somewhat surprising season (I actually had a feeling they'd be pretty good, but not this good), they've struggled against the Bulls, dropping a game in both Chicago (Dec. 8) and more recently in New York (Dec. 21). In case you forgot, this happened the last time these two teams met: 

Good times. People were forced to go on timeout and many bad words were said. This just about sums up the New York perspective of this particular game: 

 The Bulls ambushed the Knicks with a 14-2 start and continued to lay it on as the game went on. Only at the end, after all Noah, Chandler, Anthony and head coach Mike Woodson did the Knicks mount a comeback of sorts that made the final score look much closer than the game actually was.

Chicago's aggressive defense frustrated the Knicks' potent attack, which, based on following several Knicks folks on Twitter, does not seem to be an uncommon approach for teams looking to beat the Knicks this season. 

Due to a lack of time, this preview will have to be a little shorter than normal. For the standard personnel rundown, check out my preview from the Dec. 21 contest

Anyway, things are a little different this time. Raymond Felton, who had been struggling mightily with his shot anyway, is out with an injury. Marcus Camby seems to have re-aggravated his plantar fascia injury last night in Indiana. This does not resonate as a huge blow on paper, but it does put a dent in New York's frontcourt, which often struggles when Tyson Chandler isn't around to patrol the floor and/or shooting laser beams out of his eyes.

Also of note, Rasheed Wallace is still out, so no change there. Speaking of Sheed, read this.

Since their 15-5 start, the Knicks have been thoroughly mediocre of late: they've gone 8-7 in their last 15 and come into tonight with a two-game losing streak (on the heels of a two-game winning streak featuring a thumping of San Antonio and a high-scoring W in Orlando). 

The Knicks took a tough loss against the similarly physical Boston Celtics, which you probably know about solely because of the post-game come-at-me-bro between Carmelo and Kevin Garnett. Last night, the Knicks got thoroughly Big Ten'd by the Pacers, an 81-76 defeat in which Carmelo was a DNP due to a one-game suspension stemming from the aforementioned incident. 

Combined with the fact that tonight is the back end of a back-to-back for the Knicks, New York's  less than stellar performance this week should at least allow for a solid shot at another win in Madison Square Garden for the Bulls. The Bulls didn't exactly look impressive themselves on Wednesday against Milwaukee, faltering in the fourth quarter after a big early lead (history, it repeats itself) en route to a 104-96 defeat

"Luckily," this game is not being played at the United Center. The Bulls have thrived on the road this season, having picked up big wins at MSG and against Miami more recently. Can they do it again? It comes down to this: 
  • J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony combined for 55 points the last time these two teams met, but on a mediocre 19/45 from the field (42%). High volume, low efficiency. This is the formula, but it is easier said than done. Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler did a masterful job containing and frustrating Melo last time; Melo will likely look to come out shooting coming off of his suspension, so they will need to bring a similar effort. 
  • Simply put, the Bulls starters need to get close to matching their shooting efficiency from the last meeting. Even Kirk Hinrich had an incredible performance, shooting 6/8 (4/5 from 3!) en route to a 16-point night and yet another underwhelming showing for Felton. 
  • Transition, transition, transition. The Knicks' transition game losing a bit of zip with Jason Kidd running the show, but everyone knows that he is still capable of Jamie Moyer-ing his way to some nifty assists on the break. As always, the following chain applies: good shots=fewer long rebounds=fewer transition opportunities for the oppoent=fewer soul-crushing Steve Novak corner threes, terrifying J.R. Smith thunderdunks, etc.. The Bulls got demolished in transition Wednesday night, so you can be sure this was a point of emphasis in practice yesterday for Tom Thibodeau.
  • Prediction? The odds are against the Bulls shooting the lights out like they did last time, and the odds are also against Carmelo Anthony being as relatively inefficient as he was on Dec. 21. In any case, with both teams coming off of ugly losses (for vastly different reasons), I think the energy will be high on both sides. With the Knicks' resurgence, this rivalry has easily vaulted into first place for me as a Bulls fan. Nothing will ever bring back the sheer intensity and venom of the 1990s, but that doesn't mean this still can't be a great rivalry. Unfortunately, I have a hard time picturing the Bulls reprising their first performance in MSG. The scoring will be much lower this time, and I'm envisioning the standard script: a tough game throughout marred by a lack of big plays down the stretch by the Bulls. Bulls 92, Knicks 99.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Shameless Self-Promotion Time: Nebraska Recap

As usual, here's my recap of last night's 62-47 win against Nebraska, available for viewing over at Maize n Brew for the low low price of $0.00. As The Boss would say, "you ain't a beauty but hey you're all right."

Michigan makes a visit to Columbus on Sunday for what should be the first real test of the young conference season.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Shameless Self-Promotion Time: Nebraska Preview

Hello. How are you? Hope your day has been nice. Anyway, it's the usual procedure: I wrote something about Michigan, but it is not here, so you will have to go somewhere else to read that thing.

Here is the link to said thing: a preview of tonight's Nebraska game!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Game No. 31 Preview, Bulls-Heat: Welcome to Miami

With Michigan's football season having recently ended, it's pretty much going to be all basketball around here (Michigan and Bulls) unless something important and football-related occurs. On that note, there will probably be some "final word" type pieces to officially close the voluminous and complicated legacies of Michigan's senior class...yes, Denard. Obviously.

Chicago Bulls (17-13) @ Miami Heat (22-8)

The Opponent 
Anywho, it's been a few games but here I am again. Since I last talked about the Bulls/wrote a preview piece for the Indiana game that was then cancelled, the Bulls picked up an ugly win against Washington, an ugly loss against Charlotte and what should've been a much more convincing looking win on the box score against Orlando.

The Bulls head to Miami tonight to take on the 22-8 Miami Heat, currently a game ahead of New York and first in the Eastern Conference. This is the first meeting between the two teams this season; during last year's shortened campaign, the Bulls went 2-2 against the Heat.

The Heat come in with a two game winning streak,both, strangely, overtime victories against Orlando and Dallas. So, maybe they'll be all tired out come tipoff tonight? Let's hope so.

In any case, despite the season that Carmelo Anthony is having and Kevin Durant being Kevin Durant, LeBron James still leads the league with a hilarious PER of 30.23. Speaking of LeBron, I read this post on The Basketball Jones and thought it to be mostly true:
It would appear that a little more than nine seasons into his microscopically analyzed professional career, LeBron James has reached a place few great professional athletes, especially in the NBA, ever dream of reaching: Being boring. Kobe Bryant has managed to play twice as long without EVER being boring for an entire month. Even in the few drama-free moments of his pro hoops tenure, the lack of news was newsworthy enough that people never went in ignorance of it. But without a title to chase, a troublesome teammate or coach to battle, or a facet of his game particularly thriving or lacking, there’s just no drama left in LeBron. He’s so boring now that he can’t stop listening to Wiz Khalifa.
 Pretty much. Perhaps I don't have my finger on the pulse of the NBA zeitgeist, but it would seem that, after winning that championship, the concept of LeBron James has been relieved of any sort of controversy. Now, he's just a guy averaging 26.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg and 7.1 apg. Indeed, LeBron is just quietly going about his business practically unnoticed, eviscerating defenses and probably dunking on your face.

Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are doing their things as well, averaging 20.6 and 18.0 ppg, respectively. Offseason addition Ray Allen provides the Heat with a fourth double digit averaging scorer (11.6 ppg) while continuing his ways as a frustratingly automatic 3-point shooter (46%).

The rest of the team also reads as a list of "dudes you already know." Shane Battier is still around filling the Bruce Bowen role (i.e. defense and threes); Battier is shooting a nice 42% from three. Even Rashard Lewis, who was sort of just an overpaid albatross in Orlando in the two years after their run to the NBA Finals, is hitting 47% from three, albeit in fewer minutes than anything he's averaged since right around Y2K. Udonis Haslem is not a high usage guy at all but does what he needs to do for an undersized Miami frontcourt.

Point guards Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers are spark plug sorts that can do some damage on nights when Wade or Bosh aren't on. I should stop talking personnel...this is Miami. You know who they are.

Points of Concern 
Uh, need it be said? The Bulls had trouble with the Heat in the 2011 playoffs because they only had one star (Rose) to Miami's triumvirate. Well, Derrick Rose isn't walking through that door (but hey, Rip Hamilton is).

Playing on the road isn't so much a concern to me because of: a) Miami's moribund at best home crowd and b) the Bulls handled the Knicks at MSG not too long ago. What does worry me is the fact that the Heat can push the tempo with LeBron and Chalmers, and I don't think the Bulls have the athleticism to keep up. As the minutes continue to pile up for guys like Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, you can hear those hinges getting creakier and creakier.

Three-point D is also a worry, as LeBron, Battier, Lewis and Allen all shoot it very well. The Bulls are 6th in the league in 3-point percentage defense, if that is a statistic that means something to you.

Miscellaneous Stats 
This is replacing the "What Needs To Happen" heading because I found that it often just reiterated what was said in the previous section. Anyway:
  • Points. The Heat are fourth in the league in points per game, averaging 103.6 per contest. 
  • Rebounding. If the Bulls can close the massive talent gap somehow, it's by winning the battle on the board a la Game 1 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals against Miami. Given the Heat's lack of traditional frontcourt options, they're second to last in the league in rebounding. They're rebounding just 21.3% of their misses their season (to Chicago's 28.8%). The Bulls are no longer the truly elite rebounding lords that they once were, but they are still good enough to be a serious asset. 
Useless Prediction Time 
Even in victory, the Bulls have looked a little shaky of late. Unfortunately, it seems that the win in New York didn't really give them that much momentum at all, but maybe I'm being a little too demanding.

This feels odd to even think about writing, but Carlos Boozer will need to bring a performance similar to the season-high 31-point game he had against Orlando on Wednesday if the Bulls have any hope of keeping up. Last year's numbers are naturally not encouraging, as the Heat blocked more shots (obviously) and were +13.3 per 48 minutes as opposed to just +5.9 in last year's four matchups.

I don't know that there's really a matchup on the floor that the Bulls win outright. I like Noah on Bosh, but it's sort of hard to compare the two because their games are so different. This is where the Bulls' bench would have made up the difference in the past, but, alas.

Anyway, LeBron is just too good and the Heat have too much firepower for a Bulls team that seems to be on the verge of being compressed into little disk-like things by the intense gravity of Thibodeau's minute meting SOP

Bulls 89, Heat 98.

Shameless Self-Promotion Time: Northwestern Recap/FLAWLESS VICTORY

 SOBOCOP receiving instruction (courtesy of my friend/photoshop sorcerer @billytrue)

Michigan went to Evanston and handled the short-handed Wildcats with ease, picking up a 94-66 victory. Here's last night's recap over at Maize n Brew.

Michigan held the SOBOCOP to just 7 points on 3/7 shooting, but he might not be so forgiving next time. On a serious note, this was a solid win for a team with several extremely young critical players. The Wolverines' next opponent comes in the form of the Iowa Hawkeyes on Sunday in the Crisler Arena Center Building.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Shameless Self-Promotion Time: Northwestern Preview

The Wolverines head to Evanston tonight for their B1G opener against the Fighting Warrior Poets of Northwestern. Here is a preview of this game, featuring an NU team missing Drew Crawford and Reggie Hearn (i.e. its top two scorers). I guess it's time for...

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Shameless Self-Promotion Time: South Carolina Recap

To say that I am in a glass case of emotion after that loss would be like saying Jadeveon Clowney hits "sort of" hard. There are a lot of things to be said after a game like that, especially with it being the last go for so many memorable players. On that front, more will be said later when we've all had a chance to sit back and see things at a macroscopic level.

Anyway, here's my last football game recap of the season over at Maize n Brew. I don't know that it's been a "fun" season, but it's definitely been interesting. Either way, despite the step down in the win-loss department, Michigan is competitive again. The Death Star likely won't be fully operational in 2013 (and maybe not even 2014), but Michigan is getting closer and closer.

It's going to be a long 240 days.