NFL Conference Finals

falcons_vs_packers

patriots-vs-steelers

The race to the Super Bowl is tightening and although in the Divisional Series we had two run-away victories and a rather tough, fought and not that interesting game (Steelers@Chiefs), what happened in Dallas was an instant classic and worth all playoff games. What a great game with a breathtaking finish! It reminds us all why we love football.

The Patriots disappointed a little but as everybody expected, as soon as they woke up, they didn’t have much trouble. Falcons offense dominated the Earl Thomas-less Seahawks defense and Andy Reid’s team again failed in the playoffs (and before anyone asks: it was heartbreaking, but the referee was right. It was a holding).

Anyway, let’s try predicting the Conference Finals.

NFC

Atlanta Falcons vs. Green Bay Packers: As I said in the divisional round post, Matt Ryan is a serious contender for MVP. He has great receivers and running backs and the Falcons defense showed last Saturday that it’s improving. There’s only one problem though: they are going against Aaron Rodgers. It doesn’t matter that the Packers have a lot of injuries. The same thing I said about the game against Dallas remains true now: I can’t see any team stopping him. He is doing magic and the O-line is protecting him greatly. The last performances are putting him in discussions about being the best EVER. Honestly, I don’t know about that, we’ll have to wait when he retires and we can assess his whole career, but right now, no one can beat him. I’m expecting a shootout. Packers 42-38.

AFC

New England Patriots vs. Pittsburgh Steelers:  I just wrote that the Pats disappointed a little, unnecessarily struggling against a team they were clearly light years better. It was clear to me that they took the field thinking the game would be easy and then had to refocus during the football game. If they take the field against the Steelers like that, they can get in trouble (although I refuse to believe that a Bill Belichick coached team will commit this same mistake) due to the way Pittsburgh defense and the killer B’s (augmented by Chris Boswell now, he scored all their points against the Chiefs) are playing. However, New England’s defense is spectacular this year and when it’s all said and done the Steelers are facing Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in Boston in a postseason game. I don’t think they can handle it. Patriots 30-22.

Had the time finally come for us to witness maybe the greatest quarterback battle in the history of the Super Bowl, Brady vs. Rodgers? Let’s turn on our TVs this Sunday a find out. Good games to you all!

Current playlist:

Listening:

Starship – Greatest Hits (Ten years And Change 1979-1991)

John Mayall Bluesbreakers – Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton

The Cult – Electric

Watching:

The Warriors – The Director’s cut DVD

 

Be sure to check out my book “Straight and Lethal”

You can contact me at: carloantico666@gmail.com

Add me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/carlo.antico

Follow me on twittter: @CarloAntico

 

 

 

 

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NBA Conference Finals

Eastern Conference Finals

Western Conference Finals

Tonight starts the battles to see who will play in the 2015-2016 NBA finals. However, first let’s see how the conference semifinals went.

I thought Atlanta could at least win one game at home, but the way the Cavs shoot three pointers made it impossible for them. When Irving, Love and King James play like this, it’s really though.

The only score I got absolutely right was the Heat/Raptors series. Dwayne Wade did what he could but in the end the Raptors were a better team.

If Stephen Curry hadn’t hurt his knee, I would have probably got the Warriors/ Blazers series perfectly too. It’s amazing how Curry is playing. But kudos to a grinding Blazers team who made it really hard for them. Terry Stotts is definitely one of the best coaches in the league.

The greatest surprise was obviously the Spurs/Thunder series, especially after what happened in game 1. However, KD and Westbrook played like they did in 2012 and Tim Duncan unfortunately showed signs that time does passes for everyone. Steven Adams and Ibaka ruled the paint and the Spurs couldn’t hit that much from outside.

Now, let’s analyze and guess what will happen in the Finals.

Eastern Conference:  

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Toronto Raptors:  The Raptors are tired. It was a hard fought battle against the Heat and they managed to pass on the backs of a great game seven by Kyle Lowry. However, they’ll have to face not only a better team, a team that is dying to get back to the finals, with a superstar that sees the possibility of winning a title for his home-state as a life mission and they are rested. Even if DeRozan plays like he did in the regular season (something he didn’t do against the Heat) I don’t think they can’t handle Cleveland the way they are playing for four games. Maybe for one. Cleveland 4-1.

Western Conference:

Golden State Warriors vs. Oklahoma City Thunder:  Let’s not kid ourselves here: everybody was expecting to see a great matchup between the Spurs and the Warriors (the two teams with the best home record in the league) deciding the West. However, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook had other ideas. And now, what? KD and Westbrook will have to play even better to get through this Golden State team. Adams can guard Bogut in the paint and Ibaka can guard Green and/or Thompson, but can even Westbrook or Durant actually guard Curry? I don’t think so. And there’s the bench. Iguodala, Barbosa and especially Livingston are better than all bench options on the Thunder side. I won’t underestimate the hunger in this OKC team, but hunger can only get you so far. Golden State 4-2.

Now, let’s sit, back, relax, grab a cold one and enjoy the games.

Current playlist:

Listening:

Samael – Solar Soul

Volbeat – Beyond Heaven/ Above Hell

Molly Hatchet – No Guts… No Glory

Watching:

Sneakers (Blu-Ray)

Be sure to check out my book “Straight and Lethal”

You can contact me at: carloantico666@gmail.com

Add me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/carlo.antico

Follow me on twittter: @CarloAntico

NFL Conference Finals

NFL Conference Finals

One was expected, one was unbelievable, one had a late but not enough come back and one a fatal fumble. That’s how I would sum up the Divisional Playoffs last weekend.

The Patriots had a little trouble when they relaxed in the end of the game, but nothing to worry about. The Packers-Cardinals game was one more for the list of unbelievable games this year. I mean, again, the game was over. And Aaron Rodgers gets a Hail Mary to work out, AGAIN? And the coin doesn’t flip in the overtime toss? Afterwards the Packers defense made an unforgivable mistake letting Larry Fitzgerald run like that on overtime.

In my humble opinion, the Seahawks seemed a little startled with the Panthers intensity in the beginning of the game. Add to that a touchdown on the first drive and it proved to be fatal. When they noticed what was happening the game was gone. Not to take anything out of the Panthers, especially Newton and Kuechly who are playing wonderfully, but if the Seahawks had awakened earlier, they might have had a shot. Broncos-Steelers was an even game. Unfortunately for the rookie Fitzgerald Toussaint his fumble was decisive. Kudos to the Broncos defense that was great on that last drive and let’s hear it for the Steelers and Mike Tomiln who played great with an injured quarterback, rookies for running backs and without their main wide receiver.

All in all, I’m 7-1 in the playoffs – and much because I really wanted the Seahawks to beat the Panthers, but that’s no excuse. Let’s see how my record in gonna get with the Conference Finals.

AFC

Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots: Yet again another chapter in the Manning-Brady rivalry. Two of the all-time very best and we must relish the opportunity to watch then every time they take on the field. Unlike other decisive duels between them, this one will be on Manning’s home field. That can be a factor. However, I’m not sure Payton is 100% healthy. On the other side of the ball I’m positive Brady is 100% and Gronk, Amendola and Edelman are assets that cannot be overestimate as the game against the Chiefs showed. Of course, the Broncos defense can show up like they did on that Steelers last drive yesterday throughout the whole game and that would make things rather complicated for the Pats, but I’m seeing New England heading back to the Super Bowl for the second year in a row. Patriots 32-24.

NFC

Carolina Panthers vs. Arizona Cardinals: This one is much, much, tougher to predict. As I said above, Cam Newton is playing at MVP level and Kuechly is powerhouse on defense, but the way they suffer when Seattle started playing well in the end made me scratch my head. And the boost of morale that Arizona got after finishing the game against the Packers the way they did, cannot be underestimated. However, if Eddie Lacy, as almost the only running threat the Packers had, ran through Arizona defense the way he did, what can we expect from Cam Newton and Jonathan Stewart? And if they allowed a Hail Mary with zero seconds on the clock what can Greg Olsen and Ted Ginn do? But, if the Cardinals start the game matching Carolina intensity (something Seattle didn’t do), who knows what may happen? This one is really tough but okay, I’ll leave my Saints fan bias at bay and say that we’ll have a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVII. Panthers 36-24

The hardest thing will be waiting until Sunday.

Current playlist:

Watching:

The Beatles – 1+ (double Blu-Ray)

Reading:

Eight Man Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series – Eliot Asinof

Be sure to check out my book “Straight and Lethal”

You can contact me at: carloantico666@gmail.com

Add me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/carlo.antico

Follow me on twittter: @CarloAntico   

NBA Conference Finals

cavs-hawksrockets_v_goldenstate_

I know I wrote this before but I’m never tired of writing that I love this time of year. There are finals for two of the main American leagues and I admit I get overexcited about it.

Tonight we’ll start to know who will be in the NBA finals.

The Conference semifinals gave us some unforgettable moments (which is usual, but not in so many games in a row) and ended with logic in three series and a monumental comeback in the other.

Although I chose Chicago and Washington, Cleveland and Atlanta were not surprising winners. For a moment I thought Golden State could really lose, but Steve Kerr showed his competence and the team managed to finish the series on the road.

Now, how about the Clippers? This time they took the expression “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory” to a whole new level. They were winning by 19 points coming into the last quarter of game 6 and managed to lose! At home! God knows how they did that. It’s similar to the game 6 of the World Series between the Cardinals and the Rangers in 2011. After that loss, it was obvious the Rockets would win game 7.

And sincerely, I’m very happy for Kevin McHale. He deserved it not only as a coach but as a father who suffered such tragic lost in 2011.

With no further delay, let’s TRY to predict the Conference Finals.

Eastern Conference

Atlanta Hawks vs. Cleveland Cavaliers: It was well deserved that the Hawks were nicknamed “Spurs from the East” during the regular season. Not only their head-coach (Mike Budenholzer) is a former Pop’s assistant, they do remind San Antonio in the way they move the ball offensively. Al Horford is playing hard, Paul Millsap is playing good, they have Kyle Korver shooting from the outside and two great point-guards (Schröder and Teague) and DeMarre Carroll is also a great player. And they have home-court advantage. However, they’ll be facing LeBron James (maybe not the season MVP, but definitely the best player in the world today) and a great supporting cast: Kyrie Irving (maybe 90% recovered from his injury), Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov (taking care of the paint), J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert shooting lights out from outside and Matthew Dellavedova also coming in fine from the bench. This series reminds me a little of the Spurs-Heat finals from the last two years which had a team with a strong collective game (then Spurs, now Hawks) against a team with more talent (then Heat, now Cavs). But I think this Hawks team hasn’t got to the level of that Spurs team and this Cavs team is getting better with each game. Cleveland 4-2.

Western Conference

Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets: This is a much anticipated showdown between the season MVP (Stephen Curry) and the runner-up (James Harden). But let’s not forget all the other players and the coaches. It might be a rather interesting battle between two great former players: Kevin Mchale (Rockets) and Steve Kerr (Warriors). The Rockets are coming into the series with a huge boost in their morale after coming back from 3-1 against and a 19 (!) point difference coming into the fourth quarter on game 6 playing on the road. And it seems that Dwight Howard is committed with the team. Jason Terry, Josh Smith, Trevor Ariza and Pablo Prigioni are also helping a lot. However, they lost the four games they played against the Warriors in the regular season. And if the “Splash” brothers remain playing the way they did in the last two games against the Grizzlies, they are almost impossible to guard. And they have a good help from Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala and their inside game is working with Andrew Bogut and a David Lee that seem to have risen from the ashes. This is one that should be wonderful to watch and rather hard to predict, but I’m going with the Warriors. Golden State 4-3.

I’m dying of anticipation and I can’t wait for tonight to come!

Current playlist:

Listening:

Buzzcocks – The Way

Judas Priest – Defenders of the Faith (Special 30th anniversary Deluxe Edition)

Watching:

The Imitation Game

Interstellar

Be sure to check out my book “Straight And Lethal” winner of the NABE Pinnacle Awards 2014 Fall edition.

NewPinnacleAward3D2 (1)

You can contact me at: carloantico666@gmail.com

Add me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/carlo.antico

Follow me on twittter: @CarloAntico

NHL Conference Finals

SCCF

One more round of the playoff is in the books and the Stanley Cup Final is getting closer. There’s something pretty unique about hockey playoff games, especially those that go to overtime. It’s so tense and exciting.

And the hopes of the Great White North of conquering the Stanley Cup were once again shattered as there are no Canadian teams in contention anymore. And this time they had 5 teams in the playoffs.

Let’s start talking about the greatest mistake I made in my last predictions: I thought the Canadiens would prevail against Tampa Bay. Huge mistake. Tampa Bay played at lightning speed (pun totally intended) and managed to overcome Montreal. They got a little scare when the series went 3-2 but showed they were better prepared.

And how about the Rangers? As I expected, their series against the Capitals was the best of all playoffs, but I thought it would be a little easier. But they are playing their hearts out seeking the trophy that eluded them last year.

As for the Blackhawks and the Ducks series, they can be analyzed together. I thought both would pass with ease, but the end results surprised me a little. I never thought Anaheim could lose a game to Calgary and I was sure Minnesota would put up a fight with Chicago and not be swept. But at the end of the day, both Blackhawks and Ducks didn’t need to grind too much to punch their tickets to the Western Conference Finals.

Thus, let’s try to predict the two teams who will meet in the Stanley Cup.

Eastern Conference:

New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning:  As I said, the Rangers are playing their hearts out. It reminds me a lot of the way the Spurs played the NBA finals last year, when they went out to prove that they should have won in 2013. Of course, Tampa Bay got Stamkos and speed and they are fired up. But Henrik Lundqvist is playing as the best goalie in the world and an overtime win in Game 7 is something that boosts your morale like nothing else. Running the risk of Tampa Bay making me eat my words again, I’m going with NY. Rangers 4-1.

Western Conference:

Anaheim Ducks vs. Chicago Blackhawks: Will a California team again deny the hockey world the chance of witnessing a Chicago vs. New York Stanley Cup, just like the Kings did last year? I don’t know but I’m more than willing to find out. Anaheim got home-ice advantage which can be a factor, but ever since the beginning of the season I’ve been rather impressed with Chicago. If Toews, Kane, Hossa and Keith weren’t enough, Crawford is having a Henrik Lunqvist-like season. It will be hard fought but as I wrote on my last post: I’m through betting against Chicago. Blackhawks 4-3.

If my predictions are correct, I can’t wait for this year’s Stanley Cup Finals.

Current playlist:

Listening:

Danko Jones – Best Of

Thunder – Live At Brooklyn Bowl London

Uriah Heep – Outsider

Midnight – Complete and Total Hell

Watching:

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacations

Be sure to check out my book “Straight And Lethal” winner of the NABE Pinnacle Awards 2014 Fall edition.

NewPinnacleAward3D2 (1)

You can contact me at: carloantico666@gmail.com

Add me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/carlo.antico

Follow me on twittter: @CarloAntico

NBA & NHL Conference Finals

 

2014-nba-conference-finalsNHL

And then there were four. The hockey and basketball nations were at full throttle this last weekend, as the Conference finals of both leagues are under way.  It’s the last step before the Stanley Cup for those who play on ice and the last step before The Finals for those who play on the court.

In hockey as in basketball, one team has the chance to win back-to-back championships, although I think in basketball this chance is a little smaller. Anyway, this is a great time of the year and I’ll thoroughly enjoy it.

NBA

Eastern Conference – Indiana Pacers vs. Miami Heat

I thought Indiana troubles in the locker room would prevent them from even overcoming Washington, but I was totally wrong. They rallied to beat Washington and are now one game to nil in the finals. However, you can’t rule out Miami, a very experienced team with arguably the greatest player in the world today in LeBron James. It’s a tough call, but I think Indiana game inside the paint will prevail. Indiana 4-3.

Western Conference – San Antonio vs. Oklahoma City Thunder.

As I said before, I’m totally biased when it comes to San Antonio. I love the city and adopted them as my team in the NBA after my visits there. However, Kevin Durant is currently my favorite player in the league. I thought the Thunder would lose to the Clippers but KD stepped up and just decided the series (referees mistakes notwithstanding). If Tony Parker is not healthy, then the Spurs are in trouble. My guess is that maybe the coaches can have an important role in this and Greg Popovich is a way much better coach then Scott Brooks. It’s tough, but Spurs 4-3.

NHL  

Eastern Conference – Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers

This is a rematch of goalies from the Olympic finals. Henrik Lundqvist was the goaltender for Sweden and Carey Price goaltended for Canada. In Sochi, Price prevailed but here I don’t think he will. After a 7 to 2 massacre in the first game, I think it’s really hard for the Canadiens to come back. Besides, NY is with their spirits high because they were huge underdogs in the series before against the Penguins. NY 4-1.

Western Conference – Chicago Blackhawks vs. Los Angeles Kings

Yes, the Kings had a huge come from behind series against the Sharks and also beat the favorites Anaheim Ducks. But make no mistake, Chicago is the best team in the league for the second year in a row and are already up 1-0. After the team woke up in the series against the Blues, I don’t think anybody can stop them. To me the Hawks will get their back to back Stanley Cup title, so here they will prevail with a little bit of tranquility. Chicago 4-2.

Now, let’s grab a cold one (or many) and enjoy!

Be sure to check out my book “Straight And Lethal”.

You can contact me at: carlonantico666@gmail.com

Add me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/carlo.antico