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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Must See Sports – Fourth Weekend of March 2013

Last two week's advantage/disadvantage record: 5-4
2013 Advantage/Disadvantage Record: 12-9 

The NCAA Tournament is underway. The Hat Trick weighed in on the Big Dance yesterday and will discuss the regional semifinals and finals in next week’s “Must See”. With college hoops off the menu, this week’s edition is limited to the pros.

Sunday, March 24

PGA Tour

Arnold Palmer Invitational – Final Round

Tiger Woods needs to win a major tournament to shake the post-Elin monkey off of his back for good. But there has been a clear improvement in his game going back to last year. Woods is the defending champion at Bay Hill in Orlando, Florida. He got off to a solid start this afternoon, shooting a 69. He is four strokes back of Englishman Justin Rose, who shot a 65. Rose has been cracking the top ten with more regularity since 2012, but only has two tournament wins since 2011. His lead can be overcome.

Out with the old and in with the new, Lindsey Vonn. 1
Monday, March 25


Los Angeles Lakers at Golden State Warriors

The Lakers rescued themselves from early season doldrums to put themselves back into the Western Conference playoff picture, currently in 8th place in the West. On paper, the Lakers are among the hottest teams in the West, with a 19-8 record since February. In practice, this team is on track to be swept out of the first round of the playoffs.

They don't play defense well and point guard Steve Nash (13 PPG, 7 APG), between injuries and discomfort with Head Coach Mike D’Antoni’s scheme, has yet to “go Steve Nash” for any sustained period. In my opinion, he is the Lakers’ “X-factor”.  Their “hot streak” has also been more of a “warm streak”. Sure, they have won 70% of their games since February, but against teams currently among the top eight in the Western Conference? They're 0-3.

Golden State is a young team on the rise under Head Coach Mark Jackson. They are currently in a dogfight to hang on to sixth place in the West with the Lakers, Houston Rockets, and Utah Jazz on their tales. They have almost no shot of reaching fifth place. They have climbed back on the horse after being rattled by a six game losing streak in February. Recent losses, in March, to the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers have probably stifled fan confidence in this team, but with a scoring machine like point guard Stephen Curry (22 PPG, 7 APG, 4 RPG), they're capable of competing with any team.

Golden State is at home and the Lakers’ road record against quality Western Conference teams is not good.

Advantage: Warriors

The Lakers need Nash to be MVP-like down the stretch. 2
Tuesday, March 26


New York Knicks at Boston Celtics

I could label this game “Fool’s Gold at Old Gold”. The Knicks are the worst post All-Star break division leading team I've seen in quite some time. This is a team with three frontcourt players with 8-figure salaries in small forward Carmelo Anthony (27 PPG, 6 RPG), power forward Amare Stouremire (14 PPG, 5 RPG), and center Tyson Chandler (11 PPG, 11 RPG). Yet they cannot seem to play well together. When Anthony or Stoudemire have been out due to injury, the Knicks appear to win more games more convincingly…completely dysfunctional.

The Knicks were on a five game road trip and had their teeth kicked in, going 1-4. They rebounded at home against possible lottery winner Orlando at The Garden last night. The Celtics are aging, but, if anything, they are consistent and play very well at home. The circus that is the Knicks stinks on the road.

Advantage: Celtics

Wednesday, March 27

Miami Heat at Chicago Bulls

Winners of 24 consecutive games, the Heat are must see sports against any opponent. Against the second place team in the Central Division, it becomes more engaging. Considering that former MVP Derrick Rose could possibly play…keep a supply of popcorn on hand.

Rose, who has not played since the 2012 playoffs (knee), has been cleared by doctors to play basketball. Rose recently said that only God knows when he is returning, but the language on Rose’s absence has begun to soften. The Bulls said that he is “likely” out for tonight's game against the Portland Trailblazers. That is a far cry from “no way, no how”. A nationally televised game against the defending champs possibly on the verge of an NBA record winning streak would be an exciting stage for Rose’s return.

There are no guarantees in professional sports, but with the Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Bobcats, and Orlando Magic on the Heat’s schedule before next Wednesday with two of those games in Miami, I would be shocked if the Heat’s streak is not 27 games by the time the Heatles travel to Chicago. While the Heat’s Achilles heel is play in the paint and that happens to be the Bulls’ strength, without the scoring threat of Rose I cannot see the Bulls pulling off the upset. On the other hand, you heard it here first, if Rose does return and plays 30 minutes or more, I think the streak stops in Chicago.

Advantage: Heat (if Rose plays < 30 minutes), Bulls (if Rose plays > 30 minutes)  

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