Yankees Podcast, 5/30/13: Reaction to Mets’ sweep of Yankees

Video

I rip the Yankees a new one following a sweep at the hands of the Mets. Of all teams

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Mike Trout and Bryce Harper Are Baseball’s Newest Generation of Young Superstars

Throughout the history of sports, there comes the appearance of a generation of superstars whom along with their clubs, rival each other in terms of team superiority, statistical races, and award chases.

In the NBA, you had Russell vs Chamberlain in the 1960s, Larry vs Magic in the 1980s, Jordan vs everyone else in the 1990s, Kobe and Shaq vs Duncan and Robinson in the late 90s and early 21st century, and now we have LeBron vs Carmelo vs Durant.

In other sports, you have greatest ones like Nicklaus and Palmer, Tiger and Mickelson, Sampras and Agassi, Ali and Frazier, and Nadal and Federer, but baseball has some of the most classic rivalries you’ll ever see and they reflected their time.

In the pre-WWI dead-ball era, the two greatest players were Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner, and they faced off in the 1909 World Series, with Wagner’s Pirates defeating Cobb’s Tigers.

In the 1930s and 1940s, a time when America was trying to recover from the Great Depression and WWII, the legendary Yankees-Red Sox rivalry was highlighted by the performances of the Yankee Clipper Joe DiMaggio and Boston’s Ted Williams. Williams may have been the better overall hitter, but Jolting Joe’s Bronx Bombers consistently won it all and DiMaggio won three MVPs to Williams’ two (though voter bias played a role)

In the 1950s, the world of baseball centered around New York City, much like how the rest of the world did and and still does. The Yankees of the Bronx, the Giants of Manhattan, and the Dodgers of Brooklyn were at their peak. The baby boomers looked up to NY’s great three hall of fame center fielders: The Commerce Comet, Mickey Mantle, the Say Hey Kid, Willie Mays, and the Silver Fox, Duke Snider, and the often clashed throughout the season and the World Series as well as fought for MVP votes and the love of fans’ hearts.

In the 1970s, a time of chaos, was reflected in the epicness of baseball’s biggest events, and the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry because more intense than ever, and centered around the clashing catchers Thurman Munson and Carlton Fisk, as well as the in-house fighting of Reggie Jackson, Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner.

In the late 1990s and early 21st century, the shortstop was further advanced as Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra, and Alex Rodriguez became the center figure of their respective franchises in a competitive AL that was dominated by Jeter’s Yankees but A-Rod and Nomar put up the hardware and numbers.

Now, there is a clash between the game’s newest young superstars: Washington’s Bryce Harper and the Angels’ Mike Trout, both Rookies of the Year in their respective leagues last year.

Clearly, Harper and Trout were born and destined to be rivals. Harper was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16 year old in Nevada. He idolized and bases his game around another mid-western kid who broke in the big leagues at 19: The Mick. But his cockiness and “I’m-better-than you” attitude resembles A-Rod.

The same year Harper was touted as baseball’s answer to LeBron James, Trout was a sleeper pick in the late first round out of high school in Southern New Jersey. Although growing up a fan of the Phillies, he idolized another legend on 161 St and River Ave, Derek Jeter, and seems to take after his balanced approach to the game: Speed, patience, contact, defense, power, everything. His calmness and humbleness seems to be inspired by his Pinstriped idol.

Both have already made their impact in the sports world. Harper became the first teen since Ken Griffey, Jr. to mash 20 HRs on his way to winning NL ROY. He led the Nationals to their first playoff appearance since they were the Montreal Expos last season. He’s only improved: 12 HRs in 139 ABs and a whopping .995 OPS. He can’t even drink alcohol yet, not that he would want to, famously.

Trout was just a bit better than Harper last year, finishing as the unanimous AL ROY and the MVP runner in a close debate with Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. He’s certainly not suffering a sophomore slump either, posting just under a .300 batting average with a .944 OPS. On Tuesday, he became the youngest American League player ever to hit for the cycle at 21 years and 288 days. It may not be too soon to call him the greatest overall player in the game at this age and time, and he’ll only get even better.

Although the two players will likely not to meet until a potential World Series matchup or next year in interleague play, they seem to be the new faces of the game and throwbacks to a time before the era of steroids.

Both players, at their peak, could be dominant in every single asset in the game. Both are very good outfielders, they can hit for .300+ averages, they have plenty of speed (although Trout may be faster), they have excellent throwing arms, and they can crush the ball (although Harper may have even more). Don’t be surprised if one or both accumulates a 40-40 season, a batting title, 50 HR season, or a couple of MVPs and championships by the time they are both done.

They are both that good. They are this generation’s answer to each era of baseball’s individual rivalry and excellence.

Through About 40 Games, the AL East Is Clearly for There for Taking for Yankees

Going into the 2011 season, 45 of 45 so-called experts on ESPN predicted the Boston Red Sox, to win the American League East crown. None picked the real champions of the division of that year, your New York Yankees and nobody could have predicted Boston to fall to pieces like they did that September.

Those “experts” apparently didn’t learn their lesson. Most of them picked the Toronto Blue Jays, this year’s version of the 2011 Red Sox, to win the crown and barely any of them picked the Yankees to make the playoffs. 

Of course, given all the moves the Jays made and the injuries the Yankees have sustained for the last several months, you couldn’t blame them and boy do they look foolish yet again.

Here the Yankees are, in first place in the AL East and only half a game out from the best record in baseball. Love it or hate it, it’s one of the biggest story-lines of the season. The idea was to tread water for the first couple of months until key players came back, but right now you can just laugh at the idea. 

No Derek Jeter, no Alex Rodriguez, no Mark Teixeira, no Curtis Granderson, and many more injuries have occurred but the Bronx Bombers have not slowed down whatsoever. A bunch of has-beens and replacement level players have scored enough runs for a pitching staff made of an ace losing velocity, a couple of old geezers still getting it done, and the greatest reliever in baseball history still doing his thing after missing last year thanks to an ACL injury. 

Which is why the division is actually theirs for the taking this year – yet again! Nobody gave them a chance on Opening Day, and they could be the favorites as of right now.

Of course, the AL East is absolutely wide open. Going into the season it was the consensus that just about any of the five teams had at least a decent shot at winning. Each team has very specific weaknesses but also some big time strengths.

Let’s start with the Boston Red Sox. They lost 93 games last year and have seemed to been rebuilt overnight literally and figuratively. The new regime in Beantown has put together a decent team that can mash the ball, led by newly acquired Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli. Their two big aces, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester, have rebounded and leading the charge.

Boston’s primary and potentially fatal weakness: Pitching depth, quite a familiar one. Both of their top relivers, Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan, are on the DL. After Lester and and Buchholz, their rotation is quite awful and thin. They’ve lost 8 of their last 10, and they could be in trouble because of this quagmire. 

The Toronto Blue Jays, everyone’s favorite to win the division and possibly the World title, have been a major disappointment. Nine games under .500, last in the division and the second worst record in the AL. They’ve had their usual injuries, but the facts are simple: they have the second worst team ERA in baseball and the guys they brought in, 2012 NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle have to pitch to their baseball cards. They’re way too talented to be this bad. 

The Baltimore Orioles, the darlings of 2012, are so far proving they are no fluke. They’ve scored the most runs in baseball and have gotten great performances from the young Manny Machado, franchise star Adam Jones, slugger Chris Davis, and others. Their pitching has improved a bit, and could get even better if top prospects Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman find their way to the big leagues this year. 

Next we got the Tampa Bay Rays, always a threat and a force to be reckoned with. Only 19-18, one has to wonder when they’ll get hot. Indeed, their usual suspects, 2012 AL Cy Young winner David Price, 2011 AL Rookie of the Year, and 2012 AL Comeback Player of the Year and closer Fernando Rodney, haven’t been themselves.

Given their success in Tampa, however, you can be sure that they’ll come around and they will make the Rays a serious problem for the rest of the East. Evan Longoria is carrying the offense and will continue to do so as long as he is healthy.

Lastly we got your first place New York Yankees. How did they do it? Is it sustainable? Well, let’s be honest. They haven’t been overly fantastic or overwhelming. They’ve just been winning games. They are 7-1 in one-run ballgames and 15-4 in games decided by two runs or less, both best in MLB. You can owe that to a shut down bullpen, led by David Robertson and Mariano Rivera, who is 15 for 15 in save opportunities in the young season.

 

The Bronx Bombers haven’t put up eye popping numbers. They are only scoring 4.36 runs per game, which is their worst mark in 22 years. They’ve been getting the numbers from a usual suspect, Robinson Cano. He’s played like an MVP candidate this year in his walk year. Supporting him are unusual suspects: veterans Lyle Overbay, Vernon Wells, and Travis Hafner. One has to wonder if they can continue their hot hitting ways and stay healthy.

You could expect the decline given all those who are out, but it’s enough to win games because of the bullpen and Mo, and most of all, the starting pitching. 

Overall, the Yankees’ staff is in the top 1/3 in the AL in ERA. The rotation ERA is 6th but only .05 points off from 4th. Hiroki Kuroda has been absolutely spectacular, 5-2 with a 2.31 ERA, 179 ERA+, and a sparkling 1.05 WHIP. Andy Pettitte has been all you can ask for, consistently grinding through innings like he always does. Phil Hughes has had a couple rough starts but has pitched better lately save Friday’s start in Kansas City. The major concern is CC Sabathia, who has been pitching good enough but with lost velocity. If he’s still can’t touch over 90-91 mph on his fastball in June or July, it’s a problem.

If you’re a Yankee fan, you have to be very pleased with the results so far. The goal many pundits expected of them was to “tread water” until regular players like Jeter and Teixeira came back. They’ve exceeded that. And guess what, there’s help on the way. Curtis Granderson is close to returning after going seven for 17 with a homer in four rehab games in Triple-A. Mark Teixeira isn’t close but could be back in a month and a half.

You have to think, what will this Yankee team look like in July? Will the replacements still be playing well? Will their primary problems at the moments (offense vs. LHP, infield depth) rear their ugly head? How will the team transit with likes of Granderson, Jeter, A-Rod, and Teixeira returning to the lineup? Who knows, all you can do is enjoy the ride they’re on right now and hope when it all comes together, the Yankees will their way and have a chance to be there in the end. Right now, things are looking mighty good in Yankee Land 

Yankees’ Weekly Minor League Round-up (5/6-5/12)

Not a lot of success on the farm this week, but you could see some big movements being made very soon in Yankee Land.

Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders:

2B Corban Joseph: 6-24, 4 R, 2 2B, 2 BB, 4 K

1B David Adams: 5-17, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 4 K

OF Zoilo Almonte: 5-26, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K

3B Ronnier Mustelier: 4-25, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 6 K

OF Melky Mesa: 5-21, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 9 K

OF Curtis Granderson (rehab): 7-17, 2 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 4 K

OF Thomas Neal: 3-8, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K

RHP Chien-Ming Wang: 12.2 IP, 14 H, 8 R, 1 BB, 8 K, 2 HR

RHP Brett Marshall: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 8 K

RHP Mark Montgomery: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 5 BB, 6 K

RHP Graham Stoneburner: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HR

RHP Chris Bootcheck: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HR

RHP Dellin Betances: 2.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K

 

Double-A Trenton Thunder:

OF Ramon Flores: 7-28, 1 R, 3 2B, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 5 K

2B Jose Pirela: 6-27, 3 R, 3 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K

OF Tyler Austin: 5-22, 2 R, 1 2B, 4 RBI, 3 BB, 4 K

C JR Murphy: 6-19, 4 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 5 K

1B Kyle Roller: 8-24, 3 R, 4 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 4 BB, 8 K

OF Slade Heathcott: 5-22, 2 R, 1 2B, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 8 K

OF/DH Neil Medchill: 2-11, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 8 K

LHP Matt Tracy (carried no-hitter into the 6th in 1st start): 12 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 6 BB, 11 K, 1 HR

RHP Jose Ramirez: 4 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 HR

LHP Nik Turley: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 7 K, 2 HR

RHP Zach Nuding:  6 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 1 HR

RHP Mikey O’Brien: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K

RHP Jose Ramirez: 6 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 1 HR

High Single-A Tampa Yankees:

OF Mason Williams: 4-20, 3 R, 1 2B, 3 BB, 3 K

OF Ben Gamel: 6-11, 5 R, 2 2B, 2 BB, 3 K

2B Robert Refsynder: 8-18, 3 R, 3 2B, 8 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K

C Gary Sanchez: 5-19, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 5 K

RHP Bryan Mitchell: 4 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 5 BB, 3 K

RHP Corey Black: 4 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K

RHP Shane Greene: 8.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 12 K, 1 HR

Single-A Charleston RiverDogs:

OF Jake Cave: 6-17, 3 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 5 K

SS Cito Culver: 4-19, 4 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 5 K

1B Gregory Bird: 5-19, 3 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 3 RBI, 4 BB, 4 K

3B Dante Bichette, Jr.: 2-20, 2 R, 2 RBI, 5 K

C Peter O’Brien: 6-23, 5 R, 1 2B, 6 RBI, 9 K

2B Claudio Custodio: 2-8, 3 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K

RHP Jose Campos: 3.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K

LHP Evan Rutckj: 10.1 IP, 13 H, 9 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 11 K, 1 HR

RHP Rafael DePaula: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 12 K

RHP Gabriel Ecinas: 2.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 K

Position Player of the Week: 2B Robert Refsnyder- Put up a .444/.476/.611/1.087 line for the week. The Most Outstanding Player for the 2012 National Champion Arizona Wildcats continues to rake. The 22 year old is quickly emerging as one of the Yankees’ top rising prospects.

Pitcher of the Week: RHP Rafael DePaula- He has a ridiculous 15.7 K/9 rate along with a 2.70 ERA on the season. Is he due for a promotion after seven starts and 33.1 innings of brilliance? We’ll see.

Note: Yankees’ All-Star CF Curtis Granderson made four rehab appearances at Scranton this weekend, going 7 for 17 with a game winning HR and 3 RBI. Gotta figure he’s close- very close. Yankees play a Monday afternoon doubleheader in Cleveland before facing Seattle and Toronto for a six-game homestead before leaving for Baltimore and Tampa, and then a home-and-home Subway Series. Gotta imagine Granderson returns sometime then, possibly during this upcoming homs

NY Knicks’ Supporting Cast Picking Up Struggling Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith

Much has been made by media and fan alike of the New York Knicks’ two biggest stars struggles in the NBA playoffs. After playing some fantastic basketball to lead the Knicks to a 3-0 series advantage over the Celtics in the first round, scoring champion Carmelo Anthony and Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith have struggled mightily in the last five games this postseason. 

After shooting a solid .462 FG% and averaging 32 points in the Knicks first three playoff games, Anthony has really struggled with his shot, shooting just .318 from the field on an average of 27.5 shots per game from Game 4 in Boston until Game 1 against the Indiana Pacers. In Game 2 he rebounded, hitting 13 of 26 shots for 32 points in the Knicks’ 105-79.

Funny, because that was also the first time the Knicks broke 100+ points in a playoff game since the Patrick Ewing-less Knicks defeated the Reggie Miller-led Pacers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference playoffs in 1999, the year of the 8th seeded Knicks famous run to the Finals.

J.R. Smith is probably more to blame for the Knicks’ offensive struggles in the last few games than Anthony is. His elbow on Jason Terry in Game 3 in Boston got him suspended for the next match, which gave the Celtics some life. Since then, he’s played awful, shooting a putrid .261 from the field and averaging just 13 points in his last four postseason games. 

In order the Knicks to promised land, Melo and J.R. will need to shoot better. What many people are ignoring is the fact that Anthony has been dealing with a shoulder injury which he sustained about three weeks ago against these current Indiana Pacers. 

What has been keeping the Knicks afloat and not on the wrong side of history or a 2-0 deficit against Indiana is the Knicks’ supporting cast, particularly Iman Shumpert, Raymond Felton, Kenyon Martin, and Pablo Prigioni. They have all stepped up their game this postseason.

Felton has arguably been the Knicks’ MVP so far in the playoffs, averaging 16.9 PPG and 4.8 APG while shooting a strong .496 FG% and .360 from downtown. His biggest reason for his success has been driving to the basket more and settling for less jumpers, while still being able to knock down the 3. This has allowed him to split the opposing defense inside apart and open the lane for others. 

Shumpert has been coming into his own in these playoffs. After returning from an ACL injury in last year’s playoffs in January, he struggled to reassert his athleticism. In these playoffs, he seems to have gotten back to form, averaging 10.0 PPG and 6.4 APG while shooting .469 from the field. He’s also knocked down 12 of 26 three-pointers after shooting .402 from downtown in the regular. His defense has been absolutely stellar, as he completely shut down Paul Pierce in the first round (.368 FG%). From Game 4 on, he’s been even better: 13.4 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.6 STLPG, .510 FG%, .444 3P%

Martin has proved to be a very invaluable back up big man since coming to New York around the trade deadline. He’s played plenty of minutes in place of Tyson Chandler, providing great defense, shot-blocking, rebounding, as well as putting in some points, with three 10+ point games. If the Knicks are going to have a chance against Indiana, Chicago or Miami, Martin is going to continue to be a key member of their rotation and his toughness can help give the Knicks some cojones. 

Lastly, Prigioni has been an X-factor for the Knickerbockers. Given a much larger role from Game 3 of the Boston series on, he’s been superb, averaging 6.5 PPG, 2.8 APG while being more aggressive in shooting: .476 from downtown. He was a key player in the Knicks’ big Game 2 vs. the Pacers, 10 points on four of four shooting, four rebounds and four assists. From the end of the end of the regular season, coach Mike Woodson has unleashed him, and he’s become another consistent, key player for New York. 

The Knicks are not going to win the championship or even this series vs. Indiana if Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith continue to struggle, even with Amar’e Stoudemire set to return for Game 3 on Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. However, if they manage to return to form (and Anthony did in Game 2), the Knicks can beat just about anyone left in the playoffs, even Miami, because they have a very strong supporting cast on the bench ready to go with Stoudemire ready to join them soon. 

Consistency is key for the Knicks’ streaky shooters, but they have too much depth to be taken lightly or be beaten easily, as we saw on Tuesday and will see no matter how far they go this postseason. 

Yankees’ Minor League Round-Up (4/29-5/5)

Triple-A Scranton/Wikes-Barre:

2B/1B Corban Joseph: 5-17, 3 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 3 BB, 5 K

OF Melky Mesa: 8-25, 2 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 5 RBI, 13 K

OF Zoilo Almonte: 11-31, 3 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 5 K

3B/2B David Adams: 9-25, 5 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K

3B Ronnier Mustelier: 3-13, 4 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K

RHP Dellin Betances: 8.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 7 BB, 9 K

RHP Chris Bootcheck: 12 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 9 K

RHP Chien-Ming Wang: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K

RHP Graham Stoneburner: 7 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 2 K, 2 HR

RHP Mark Montgomery: 3.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HR

RHP Brett Marshall: 7 IP, 5 H, 0 BB, 3 BB, 2 K

 

Double-A Trenton:

OF Ramon Flores: 4-28, 3 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 6 K

2B Jose Pirela: 4-20, 6 R, 1 3B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 4 BB, 2 K

OF Tyler Austin: 7-24, 4 R, 1 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 6 BB, 5 K

C J.R. Murphy: 5-16, 2 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB

1B Kyle Roller: 2-19, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 7 K

OF Slade Heathcott: 9-28, 5 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 3 BB, 7 K

DH Neil Medchill: 3-18, 1 RBI, 8 K

RHP Jose Ramirez: 5 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K

LHP Nik Turley: 6 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 8 K

RHP Zach Nuding: 6 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K

 

High Single-A Tampa:

OF Mason Williams: 5-25, 3 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K

2B Robert Refsynder: 7-21, 4 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 6 BB, 4 K

OF Ben Gamel: 3-20, 4 RBI, 3 BB, 6 K

C Gary Sanchez: 5-25, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 3 BB, 7 K

SS Dan Fiorito: 10-20, 4 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 4 BB, 3 K

RHP Bryan Mitchell: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 3 K

RHP Corey Black: 5 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 11 K

RHP Mikey O’Brien: 9 IP, 12 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 12 K

 

Single-A Charleston:

OF Jake Cave: 4-21, 2 R,1 2B, 2 BB, 4 K

SS Cito Culver: 3-20, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 8 K

DH Gregory Bird: 6-16, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 5 BB, 2 K

3B Dante Bichette, Jr.: 3-20, 1 BB, 5 K

C Peter O’Brien: 7-17, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 K

2B Claudio Custodio: 4-16, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 5 K

LHP Evan Rutckj: 3.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 6 BB, 2 K

RHP Jose Campos: 3 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 7 K

RHP Rafael DePaula: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 7 K

RHP Gabe Ecinas: 3.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 5 BB, 5 K

2013 NBA Playoffs: Second Round Predictions

East:

1. Miami Heat over 5. Chicago Bulls 4-1

Why: Despite pulling it off against the Nets, the Bulls are too hurt to do much against the Heat. They will try to bully them and make it as hard as possible, but the Heat are too good.

2. New York Knicks over 3. Indiana Pacers 4-2

Why: Indiana struggles big time on the road. Mike Woodson needs to put Carmelo at the 3 to keep him away from David West, who injured his shoulder a few weeks ago. Knicks need to defend home-court advantage and they’ll win.

West:

5. Memphis Grizzlies over 1. Oklahoma City Thunder 4-2

Why: The Thunder struggled to put the Rockets away without Russell Westbrook. The Grizzlies came back strong to knock off the Clippers and have a monster size advantage with Zach Randolph and Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol over Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. Durant will get his buckets but will not have much help.

2. San Antonio Spurs over 6. Golden State Warriors 4-1

Why: The old Spurs had a full week off after sweeping the Lakers. I like the Warriors and Stephen Curry is a superstar. I just think Parker, Duncan, and Manu will be too much for the young Dubs.