Video Of Day: The Natural



When I think of baseball around this time of year, I am reminded of the 1984 classic The Natural. A great baseball movie featuring Robert Redford playing folk hero Roy Hobbs. A once can’t miss hot shot whose career was derailed after striking out the Whammer on three pitches. Of course, it’s supposed to be Babe Ruth. Only Hobbs strikes him out with The Babe batting right-handed. It’s still an epic scene that wins the young lefty flamethrower new fans with him tossing a signed ball to a kid who asks what’s his name to which he shouts, “Roy Hobbs!” as the train pulls away.

Unfortunately, his professional tryout gets derailed when crazed Ruth follower Harriet Bird (Barbara Hershey) asks Hobbs to visit her hotel room and then shoots him after he proclaims “I’ll be the best there was.”

Fast forward some 16 years later and the New York Knights managed by Pop Fisher (Wilfred Brimley) are a struggling last place outfit getting booed out of their ballpark. Star player Bump Bailey (Michael Madsen) is on the take for evil owner The Judge’s (Robert Prosky) bookie all in an attempt to sabotage the ball club in a get rich scheme. Then comes 35-year old Hobbs from the minors. After being interviewed by Pop and telling him, he got sidetracked the skipper refuses to play him figuring he was closer to retirement. He doesn’t even let him take batting practice. Eventually, Hobbs walks out during a team therapy session and gets into a heated argument with Pop. The rest is history.

Hobbs replaces Bailey in right field after he crashes through a wall attempting a catch and dies. This after Pop threatens to bench Bailey, who plays more inspired only for his character to come to a crashing end. Hobbs had pinch hit for Bailey and “knocked the cover off the ball” in a rain shortened win in which is lightened which was fitting considering his bat Wonderboy was made during a thunderstorm when he was a kid. The imagery is poetic. Symbolism is a theme throughout with Pop’s niece Memo Harris perfectly played by Kim Basinger becoming Hobbs’ girlfriend to put him into a slump.

With the beautiful distraction off the field throwing his timing off, he doesn’t get back on track until a visit at famed Wrigley Field. After striking out in his first two at bats, he comes up with two on in the ninth. After falling behind 0-2, former childhood girlfriend Iris Gaines played by Glenn Close stands up because she doesn’t want to see Hobbs fail. After stepping out due to shouts and seeing her in that beautiful white hat, he delivers by crushing the next pitch off the scoreboard. They skip ahead to Hobbs coming off the field after the Knights win to cameras flashing as he tries to track her down.

It’s my favorite scene. That’s why I featured it. Sure. You could easily point to his heroic home run which goes off the lights setting off fireworks in a dramatic walk off against the Pirates to win the pennant. But to me, the classic scene of Hobbs hitting the scoreboard at Wrigley is the signature moment. It’s the turning point as he finally breaks out of his slump and leads the Knights into first place before the evil Memo slips something in his drink and he misses the next three games which allows the Pirates to tie them for the division setting up a one game scenario for the pennant.

There’s so much scenery in this movie. From Hobbs as a teenager throwing perfect strikes in a drawn circle by his Dad to the show he puts on in batting practice which leads Pop to have his bat measured, it’s just your classic baseball film which goes back to a different era. Maybe that’s why I like the most. It’s so different from today and even 31 years ago when it came out. Even if sportswriter Max Mercy (Robert Duvall) was a jerk who also was part of The Judge’s scheme. Your classic good guy versus your classic bad guys. When is AMC gonna finally put it on again instead of repeating Back To The Future over and over again? I love BTTF and it’s the 30-year anniversary but come on. At least stop re-airing US Marshals. 😉

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Bye Bye Birdie! Bird goes yard twice in Yankees sweep of Twins

Bye Bye Birdie! Yankees rookie first baseman Greg Bird goes deep for the second time for his first career two homer game highlighting the Yanks' 4-3 win of the Twins.  AP Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Bye Bye Birdie! Yankees rookie first baseman Greg Bird goes deep for the second time for his first career two homer game highlighting the Yanks’ 4-3 win of the Twins. AP Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

When the Yankees recalled Greg Bird from Triple-A Wilkes Barre/Scranton, it was with the intention of giving Mark Teixeira some days off to keep him fresh down the stretch. The 22-year old first base prospect arrived during today’s 4-3 win over the Twins at Yankee Stadium. His first career two home run game in the majors made a winner of Nathan Eovaldi and allowed the Bronx Bombers to sweep the Twins increasing their lead to a game and a half on the Blue Jays. Toronto goes for a sweep of the Phillies tonight.

”This whole week’s been crazy,” Bird said, ”but at the end of the day I’m just trying to do my job here, nothing more nothing less.”

Considered by the organization as their best hitting prospect, Bird lived up to that billing with a pair of two-run homers including the big go-ahead long ball into the Yankee bullpen off Minnesota loser Ervin Santana in the home sixth. It was his second straight at bat he went yard. He connected for his first career home run in the fourth driving a Santana pitch into the second deck in right. The radio voice of the Yankees John Sterling already has a nickname for Bird calling the second dinger “Bye Bye! Birdie!”

Eovaldi retired the first 16  before giving up three runs in the sixth including a Joe Mauer two-run hit and Trevor Plouffe’s RBI infield hit that put the Twinkies up 3-2. But as they had the night before, the Yanks rallied in the bottom half with Bird delivering the big blow with Carlos Beltran on base. Beltran is having a good second half. Since the All-Star break, he’s hitting over .300 with six dingers and 12 RBI’s. He’s been instrumental during a critical stretch that’s seen the Yanks win six of seven to stay atop the AL East.

Eovaldi went seven allowing just those two hits while walking two and fanning eight to improve to 13-2. He threw 120 pitches with 83 for strikes. Chasen Shreve escaped trouble in the eighth with two strikeouts. Dellin Betances retired the Twins in order for his eighth save lowering his ERA to 1.13. Andrew Miller got the day off after pitching last night.

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Welcome Back

Mark Teixeira

It’s been forever since I’ve blogged here. I’ve mostly done hockey with Battle Of New York/New York Puck. We are still going strong covering the Rangers, Devils and Islanders who relocate to Brooklyn this autumn. That will feel strange. I can be followed on Twitter.

If you don’t know me, I’m a huge Rangers fan whose family has had a season plan for two decades. An original from the Blue Seats in Section 411 prior to the renovation, it is sad that the Islanders will no longer be on Long Island at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale. One of the greatest dynasties ever winning four straight Stanley Cups from 1980-83. They said goodbye this past Spring after posting one more win to extend their first round series against the Caps. Unfortunately, they didn’t win Game 7 which prevented one more classic battle between bitter New York rivals.

Instead, we were left with the Blueshirts summoning up the strength to rally from a 3-1 deficit to stun the Caps with Derek Stepan playing the overtime hero. Ultimately, they fell short in a bid to appear in consecutive Stanley Cup Finals getting blanked by the Lightning in Game 7 at MSG. Thankfully, we didn’t go to that one. Game 5 was bad enough. That was a odd series that I never felt comfortable with. Fittingly, the Rangers didn’t score a goal in the last seven periods on home ice. The summer has felt longer even though it’s really not. Maybe it’s the 90 degree heat and humidity talking. Whatever it is, thank God for baseball.

The summer has treated New York City much better than the past couple of years. Along with the heatwave comes two first place teams that reside in the Bronx and Queens. The Yankees and Mets have given us plenty of excitement. When they are good, this town gets behind its baseball teams. No matter which side you’re on, it’s great to see. As a Yankee fan, I’m happy for Mets fans that they’ve finally got a first place team they can fully support. The Amazin’s are the better story with the best staff in the majors featuring young guns Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and  Noah Syndergaard. All throw in the high 90’s and possess great command on all their pitches making them very tough to hit.

DeGrom has pushed his way into the NL Cy Young race. He ranks second in earned run average with a 2.03 ERA trailing Dodgers front runner Zach Greinke (1.58). Greinke improved to 13-2 Sunday allowing one earned run in seven innings while walking one and fanning eight in a Dodgers 2-1 win over the Reds. Statistically, his numbers are outstanding with only 114 hits allowed in 165.1. while walking just 29 and striking out 150 for a 0.86 WHIP. Opponents are hitting .193 against him. DeGrom is nothing to sniff at. With a record of 11-6 and 28 walks and 152 K’s in 146.2, he averages more than a strikeout per inning and possesses a 0.89 WHIP. The 2014 NL Rookie Of The Year has permitted just 103 hits with 33 of the 37 runs earned. His next start is tomorrow at Baltimore where the Mets look to snap a three-game losing skid after getting swept by the Pirates over the weekend.

They can take solace knowing the Nats continue to fade. They lost all four games at San Francisco and have dropped six in a row and are four and a half out. For all the talk, Washington has fallen a game under .500 and are a fundamentally flawed roster that has relied too much on Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer. Both have cooled considerably. They’re also managed by Matt Williams, whose decision making remains sketchy in his second year. He was given a vote of confidence by management. But unless his team starts performing, there’s a good chance he’ll get canned.

The Yankees have also been a pleasant surprise. With question marks surrounding their pitching staff and veteran sluggers, they weren’t expected to compete for the AL East. Granted, it’s a weak division which was always my contention. Until the Blue Jays recently upgraded with Troy Tulowitzki, David Price and Ben Revere, the Yanks looked like the favorites to run away with it. They once led the Jays by eight games but ever since Toronto added Tulowitzki and Price, they’ve been on fire. At one point, they reeled off 11 straight including a dominant three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium in which the Bronx Bombers’ only run in 28 innings was a Mark Teixeira home run that needed instant replay to confirm. The Jays possess a scary lineup featuring AL MVP candidate Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Tulowitzki, Edwin Encarnacion and Russell Martin. The Yanks went into Toronto and took two of three to move back into first. They’re a half game up and are two better in the loss column. They’re currently leading the Twins at home 3-0 on a three-run blast from Brian McCann. The Jays are idle.

For most of the summer, the big bats of Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez have carried them. Teixeira leads the team with 31 homers and 79 RBI’s. He’s also played a terrific first showing off the leather that’s won him Gold Gloves in the past. He’s an MVP candidate but is clearly behind Donaldson and Mike Trout. No one knew what to expect from Rodriguez who returned after a year off due to a suspension for performance enhancers. Some even wondered if he’d make it to double digits in home runs. Instead, A-Rod proved he still has it slugging 24 dingers and driving in 63 with a .873 OPS (on-base plus slugging). However, he is 40 and age is finally catching up. He hasn’t homered since July 27 and his average has dropped from .282 to .265. The full-time designated hitter has been given some days off by manager Joe Girardi. He’s also given Teixeira a day off in the field by using recently called up first base prospect Greg Bird. Only 23, he recorded his first major league hit in a 4-1 win over the Jays on Saturday. He also narrowly missed his first career home run.

Girardi has done a good job. Despite the gripes of impatient fans who weren’t pleased that Brian Cashman didn’t go out and add anyone at the deadline, the organization did the right thing holding onto top prospects Bird, Aaron Judge and 21-year old starter Luis Severino. Unlike the Mets who already possess a lethal staff and went out and added big bat Yoenis Cespedes to boost their chances, the Yanks are thinking long-term. This year is a bonus. They were never going to part with their best prospects for Price or Cole Hamels, who the Phillies dealt to the Rangers for three good prospects. They also didn’t wind up trading shortstop Jorge Mateo, who was promoted to Tampa. The bullpen remains a team strength thanks to the 1-2 punch of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller. Girardi hasn’t gotten enough credit for carving out roles for Justin Wilson, Chasen Shreve and valuable righty Adam Warren. All have been factors to getting the ball to their bread and butter.

Don’t forget Michael Pineda is on the DL. In three starts, Severino has pitched well allowing six earned in 17 innings while striking out 18 including a career high nine in Sunday’s 3-1 defeat to the Jays. A Carlos Beltran misplay led to their three runs with Bautista delivering the deciding two-run bomb. Masahiro Tanaka pitched his best game of the season going all the way Saturday allowing only a run and fanning eight Jays. Ivan Nova has been solid since returning posting five wins and a 3.57 ERA in nine starts. C.C Sabathia has had consecutive good outings and Nathan Eovaldi continues to win due to run support. Until Pineda returns, they’ll try to get by with lefty Bryan Mitchell with Girardi preferring to keep Warren as his seventh inning man.

When Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner reach base, they’re a much better offense. They’re the table setters. Both have slumped even though an Ellsbury homer was their only run yesterday. McCann has hit much better this year with 21 dingers and 72 RBI’s counting tonight. Updating the score, a Miguel Sano two-run shot off Caleb Cotham has tied things up at three. Of more concern is Mitchell who left the game due to an injury. Maybe the Yanks make a move via waivers. We’ll have to wait and see.

For the time being, baseball has more than made up for the Rangers’ failure. And with both metropolitan area football teams nothing special, all eyes will be on the hockey team by November. Along with the Isles’ move to Brooklyn, the Rangers and Islanders should be front and center. It’s all about October baseball in this town. Hopefully, the Yanks and Mets give us plenty of anxiety attacks. The good kind.

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Reading in-between Baseball Odds

People tend to think that winning a bet is all about luck. However, this is not true but knowing clues about the game and the team you are betting on plays a vital role to the outcomes. Others think that baseball is not the best game to place a bet on since all games are played on weekdays unlike football that comes over the weekends. However, what they forget is that baseball comprises of 162 games in every season hence providing a variety to choose from. The following are the basics that may help maximize your Paddy Power baseball odds.

How do the Pitchers make your odds better?

Other teams have team matchups and mostly player matchups but baseball has pitchers and batters. In any case, a wager should consider the people pitching or batting before making any bet. Of the five pitchers, a player should have a clue who pitched in the last game and who is fit enough to pitch. This influences the team’s odds and at the same time, it gives you a clue that even the weaker teams can emerge victors by having their best pitcher on centre stage. It is also advisable for a bettor to have done a thorough analysis on who is starting to pitch. If the one who had bet with as the pitcher is changed, there is room for changing the bet too.

Lefty/Righty Matchups

If a player is not good with a left opponent, another player should switch him from his team who is good in that position. A batter who is left handed will perform poorly when playing against a left-handed pitcher. Before making a bet, make sure that the left-handed batter is on the bench.

Will the stadium make my odds better?

In baseball, the measurements of stadiums also have adverse effects when it comes to betting. The space between the wall and the plate may vary and this plays a major role with regards to the players’ performance. For instance, the Yankee stadium has a smaller distance between the two sections unlike the Fenway Park that has a much longer distance.

Player Statistics

Every win broadcasted by media on pitchers and RBIs for hitters do not actually symbolize individual player’s statistics. A bettor should go deeper and analyze the player who pitched more times or who had more RBIs for hitters.

Taking the statistics of each individual, as well as, using the above basics and be sure to have better baseball odds before placing your bet.

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There Will Always Be Questions For Pineda

Michael Pineda looked like the answer for the Yankees.

After dominating the Cubs last week, it made sense that the Yankees were excited to have both Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka at the top of the lineup.

But then the Pine Tar incident happened.

Pineda came out in the second inning of last night’s game against the Red Sox with pine tar clearly on his neck. When the Red Sox complained, he was examined and then tossed out of the game.

“It was cold and I didn’t want to hit anybody,’’ said Pineda, who gave up four hits and two runs in the first inning without the pine tar stuck to his neck. “I wanted to feel good and make good pitches. I didn’t feel the ball and I didn’t want to hit anybody.’’

Excuses. Excuses.

Does everyone use pine tar when it’s cold? No. Of course not. You probably can find some sports books, especially that would put odds on it.

Two weeks ago, he was caught on camera with it on his hand. The Sox said nothing. And then last night happened.

You have to wonder if this is standard operating procedure for Pineda, who spent his first two seasons as a Yankee on the disabled list after being acquired by the Mariners.

“We, as a group, are embarrassed this took place,’’ general manager Cashman said. “Obviously, we will deal with the ramifications. I would want my manager to do what John Farrell did. Obviously this is a terrible situation. We all have ownership.’’

Pineda will be suspended at least for one start, maybe two. But there may be future ramifications as well.

He will now be branded as a cheater, who forever be questioned if there’s a good outing, especially if it’s cold.

And if the Yankees make the post-season, will that cause problems when the weather is like it was last night?

“I believe he can pitch without it,’’ Girardi said.

Sure, it’s a long season, but you have to wonder.

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Yankees take three of four from Red Sox

The Yankees got a strong outing from Ivan Nova to take three of four from the Red Sox at The Stadium. He pitched into the eighth allowing a pair of runs to pick up the win in a 3-2 decision over Boston.

After Matt Thornton got David Ortiz to line out to the warning track thanks to a web gem from Ichiro Suzuki robbing him of a potential tying home run, David Phelps wiggled out of a bases loaded jam by fanning pinch hitter Mike Carp to erase the threat.

On to close for a second straight game, Shawn Kelley retired the Sox in order striking out two to pick up his third save. Outside of giving up two runs in Boston’s only win of the series Friday, he’s done a solid job filling in for David Robertson.

The hitting star was Carlos Beltran. He went 3 for 4 with two RBI’s including his third homer coming from the right side off losing Boston starter Felix Doubront. A two-run shot that put his team up 2-1 in the home third. The Yanks scored all three who pitched into the seventh. That included an overturn of an out call made by first base umpire Bob Davidson which allowed Brian McCann to score the winning run from third.

On a potential inning ending double play, Davidson originally ruled Francisco Cervelli out on a close play. However, after Joe Girardi came out from the dugout and asked for a challenge, they overturned it signaling Cervelli safe. Immediately, that drew the ire of Boston skipper John Farrell, who had a call go against him Saturday despite replays showing otherwise. Already the replay system has caused controversy.

Boston slugger Mike Napoli got one run back by going yard off Nova to deep left. But it wasn’t enough for the Red Sox, who fell to 5-8. The Yanks improved to 7-6 and are in a three-way tie for first with Tampa Bay and Toronto. Baltimore is 5-7. Two games separate the division.

One area of concern for the Yankees is their bench. Injuries continue to nag them. On the key play that led to the all important third run, Cervelli hurt himself while touching first. It appeared to be a right hamstring which is a bad sign for a team that doesn’t have another catcher on the roster to backup McCann. He took a ball off his index finger but stayed in the game and will have X-Rays tomorrow.

Cervelli played first for Mark Teixeira, who is still on the disabled list. Girardi moved Beltran to first. It was the first time in his 16-year career he played first. Beltran later indicated that it was good that no one hit any balls his way. It shows what type of player he is. An All-Star outfielder who’ll do anything to help his team win.

The Yankees had another scare with Yangervis Solarte coming up hobbled after running out a grounder. Fortunately, he was able to stay in the game. The utility man has been a blessing so far. He played second due to Brian Roberts getting a day off due to a sore back. Derek Jeter sat out a second consecutive day due to a tight right quadriceps. Dean Anna played short.

Assuming Cervelli heads to the DL, figure Austin Romine to get recalled.

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The Coldest Month

“The Coldest Month”

by Derek “D Flex” Felix


The calendar turned to January and I still haven’t recovered

I sit holed up in my bed shivering underneath my covers

Freezing cold from the fucked up weather searching for relief

Can’t seem to keep my eyes open long enough to catch a thief


They’ve stolen my identity and shattered it into a million pieces

I search for answers a broken man playing for keeps

Every day’s a blur like a howling wind right in my face

Catching ferocious snow flakes all out of place


I finally get to my car and pray to God to free my soul

Dying for the road less traveled over the one that’s taken a toll

I could run away and who would blink an eye

Would any close friends really have a cry


I look in the mirror and it’s becoming clearer

I’ve become someone I loathe and realize the end is nearer

The numb pain I feel has been buried deep inside

Even in public, it’s become increasingly difficult to hide


I can only take so much of a dull rudderless existence

Each hour a sour reminder of broken dreams in the distance

No one to point the finger at just a mirror reflection

It’s no wonder despite everything I feel total dejection


I’ve grown sick and tired of the unconscionable snakes

Out to bury desperate people into tireless escapes

Self serving and greed have become socially accepted

Yet those evil bastards remain protected


In the coldest month we fight and struggle

We try our best to put a brave face on and hustle

Avoiding the detractors like a cautious drive in frozen rain

The battle is real and we must persevere to prevent going insane


I’ll wear my fake smile tomorrow and laugh in pain

Finding some humor even though deep down I cry in vain

As a wakeup call to myself not to give in to this daily sin

Preaching better health mental and physical to finally win


It’ll continue to stare at me every dying minute

Facing a January crisis figuring out shit what’s in it

All a new challenge to become whole again

I still believe a new life exists that’ll begin

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Knicks with statement win over Heat

Carmelo Anthony lets one fly as LeBron James looks on during the Knicks' 102-92 win over the Heat at MSG. Getty Images/Frank Franklin II

Carmelo Anthony lets one fly as LeBron James looks on during the Knicks’ 102-92 win over the Heat at MSG.
Getty Images/Frank Franklin II

Occasionally, a bright line shines on Madison Square Garden. Those moments have been few and far between for both the basketball and hockey teams. Coincidentally, 24 hours after the Rangers went into Chicago and beat the defending Cup champion Blackhawks, the Knicks rose up to the challenge and defeated the defending champion Heat 102-92 at the World’s Most Famous Arena.

Everyone played well for the victorious Knicks, who suddenly have won three straight and four of five. Carmelo Anthony played an efficient game pacing the blue and orange with 29 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Melo didn’t force many shots shooting 50 percent from the field (12 of 24). He used teammates including an inspired Amare Stoudemire, who had arguably his best game of the season posting a double/double with 14 points and 11 boards in 26 minutes. In particular, STAT hurt the Heat in the paint finishing passes from Ray Felton (14 assists) and Anthony.

”We’re moving forward,” Anthony told TNT’s Rachel Nichols. ”We’re taking strides. We’re getting better. We’re learning from our mistakes we’ve made in the past and we’re going to continue to build on this and see what happens.”

Mike Woodson got a great effort from Andrea Bargnani. Despite some foolish fouls especially on LeBron James, who also turned the statuesque ex-Raptor into a dunk poster- Bargnani scored 19 on nine of 13 shooting. What I liked about the performance is he drove the ball and finished instead of settling. That included a nifty and one in which he beat Miami’s help D. Bargs isn’t the most athletic defensively and often got caught guarding LeBron one on one off switches. The results were predictable with the NBA’s best player toasting him on an array of drives that included a couple of exclamation points. James poured in a game high 32 with six assists and five rebounds but also turned it over six times. Miami was sloppy with 15 turnovers. There were some odd forces from a normally unflappable group that’s aiming for a three-peat.

”They played a great game,” credited James after playing in his 800th NBA game. ”They made some timely shots.”

Dwyane Wade played a sixth straight game and was very effective scoring 23 in 39 minutes. As usual, his dexterity was on display with a couple of circus shots that found the target. But Wade had a miserable night at the line misfiring on all six free throws. As a team, the Heat clanged 10 of 21 with even James missing three of seven. Chris Bosh was reduced to a spectator scoring just six on 3 of 10 shooting. He really looked out of sync. Miami only had three players in double digits with underappreciated third-year guard Norris Cole pumping in 12 including two treys. Despite always hurting the Knicks whenever they play, he didn’t see much time down the stretch. A questionable move by Erik Spoelstra. Instead, he stuck with Ray Allen, who had only six with one trifecta.

What can’t be questioned is Woodson Krazy gluing J.R. Smith to the bench following his latest idiocy. A failed attempt to untie Greg Monroe’s shoes in a Knicks’ win over the Pistons resulted in the NBA fining him $50,000 after repeated warnings. If you’re still left wondering who shot JR, your guess is as good as mine. Smith has no one to blame but himself. His shenanigans along with undisciplined play have resulted in a valuable member of last year’s Atlantic Division winner falling into Woodson’s doghouse. To think he won the NBA’s top Sixth Man. Look how far he’s fallen since getting suspended for engaging Jason Terry. It speaks volumes.

One player who has come on during this critical stretch is third-year man Iman Shumpert. It looks like he’s shaken off the trade rumors and decided to play the game. How many clutch daggers did he drain in the second half? Whenever the Heat got within striking distance, Shump was there dialing it up from long distance. He hit four three’s en route to 12 points while grabbing nine rebounds and playing aggressive D. It sure is nice to his confidence back.

Woodson got key contributions from rookies Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Toure Murry. Both came off the bench and added hustle plays with Hardaway Jr. having an emphatic slam on a Stoudemire miss. Murry had a pair of steals. Kenyon Martin started in place of Tyson Chandler and gave a solid effort with seven, four boards and a steal. That the Knicks prevailed without Chandler shows how up they were for the TNT spotlight. They backed up Woodson’s claim that they could play with the Heat, winning for the fourth time in the last five regular season meetings.

What really stood out aside from a balanced effort was their ability to do damage inside. Without Chandler, they scored 52 points in the paint against normally a very tough defensive team. The Heat weren’t as sharp and paid for it. However, credit the Knicks for executing Woodson’s game plan. We saw more pick and rolls featuring Stoudemire and Bargnani. Felton came on strong with a big second half. Not only did he distribute but scored key buckets with a nice finish and hit two long jumpers including one from downtown. It was the kind of gritty performance we got last year.

”It wasn’t going to last all season like that,” Felton said. ”We were just going through a slump, now I feel like we’re out of it.”

One of my favorite moments was when out of a timeout, Woodson drew up a play for Anthony with Felton dishing for an open Melo, who drained a three from the left key. That was needed because they started going away from him in the third quarter. Even though they made a conscientious effort to involve everyone, there are times you want your best player to have the ball. What I liked most was he meshed well with Stoudemire, who hurt Miami big time.

There are a lot of positives. Now, the Knicks must follow it up at Philadelphia. A place they rarely play well. It doesn’t matter. There’s still plenty of work to do. At 13-22, they’re third in the lowly Atlantic trailing first Toronto (17-17) by four and a half games. The rejuvenated Nets are second at 14-21 and host the same Heat Friday at Barclays Center.

”You can tell it’s different than one month ago,” Bargnani said. ”Our faces are different, our body language is different.”


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Bitter Belichick plays Scrooge following Pats’ loss to Panthers

Ginn 'Tacular: Panthers' wide receiver Ted Ginn is congratulated by Steve Smith following his game-winning TD reception with 59 seconds left. AP Photo/Gerry Broome

Ginn ‘Tacular: Panthers’ wide receiver Ted Ginn is congratulated by Steve Smith following his game-winning TD reception with 59 seconds left.
AP Photo/Gerry Broome

Great coaches hate losing. That much is understood. To watch Bill Belichick after a Pats loss. Priceless. The three-time Super Bowl winning New England coach redefines Grumpy Old Men. He should star in the NFL version. Scrooge was at his best following a 24-20 defeat at Carolina on Monday Night Football.

Anger personified and bitter even during a chilly postgame press conference, Belichick’s answers were the all too predictable 1-2 word sentences. So vanilla is he that you’d think it was the end of the world. Never mind that the Patriots are still 7-3 leading a weak AFC East by two games over Miami and the Jets.

Of course, the big topic was a flag that was picked up by NFL officials resulting in a Tom Brady interception on the game’s final play. Needing a touchdown, Brady threw for favorite target Rob Gronkowski. But the short throw was picked off by Panther safety Robert Lester. As the Panthers started to celebrate, there still was the issue of the controversial flag in the end zone. Did Luke Kuechly interfere with Gronkowski? He definitely face guarded him and easily could’ve been called. However, after discussing it they decided against it and the game was over.

Not without a furious protest from Brady, who had a few choice words for the chief referee as they walked off. Anyone who’s seen the former Super Bowl MVP knows how competitive he is. He’s fiery and wants every call. Doesn’t every quarterback in this fast becoming soft sport? Drew Brees got it during the Saints’ come from behind 23-20 home win over the 49ers. Anyone who watched knows it should’ve been a sack for Ahmad Brooks and San Francisco ball with 3:12 left. All star QBs do is complain and get their wish. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed tonight’s ending.

Did they get it right? Technically, no. Does it matter? Not anymore. Even Brady admitted as such which is more than Belichick will when he references not getting calls tonight and in Baltimore. How childish can you get? At least Brady pointed out that the Pats had plenty of chances earlier but didn’t take advantage. Instead, Carolina signal caller Cam Newton played the ultimate hero with a potential career defining game-winning drive. Trailing by three, he calmly led the Panthers down field, hooking up with Ted Ginn for a 25-yard TD reception with 59 seconds left.

Even with Carolina’s dangerous front four applying all kinds of pressure on Brady, he converted a fourth down and 10 to keep it alive. When he made two more completions all the way to the Carolina 18 with three seconds left, it got a little too close for comfort for the hosts. Then came one final Brady pass into the end zone that wound up short for an easy interception.

Then Flag Gate occurred leaving Belichick bitter. With Christmas around the corner, maybe Scrooge really does exist. He coaches a football team in Foxboro.

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Catch NY Puck Live on Hard Hits Network

On Hard Hits Network, New York Puck Live is a one-hour hockey show that can be heard on Blog Talk Radio. Hosted by Derek Felix, it includes coverage of the Rangers, Devils, Islanders, Sabres and NHL. The next show airs Monday night from 11 EST to 12 midnight. You can also catch the show archive which usually includes overtime.

Joined by cohosts Brian Sanborn, Chris Wassel, John Giagnorio, Dan Wheeler, Rob Davis, Justin Felix, Jenn Johnson and Chrissy Lee, the show can go off topic at times. On Saturday night into Sunday morning, I hosted a special two-hour edition as part of a JPG sendoff. He’ll be doing an Asian tour departing for the Philippines tomorrow. The 2-hour show featured Giagnorio, Sanborn, Justin and Wheeler. While the first half was mostly hockey, the second part featured daily NFL picks and other ramblings.

Catch all the fun and excitement. That includes Mr. Positivity “Buffalo Bill” Brian’s riveting prediction versus the Jets. You won’t want to miss it. See how many games our crack committee got wrong. And find out why Sam Hurd’s 15-year sentencing inspired uncontrollable laughter synonymous with Derek’s all-time favorite character, The Joker.

HARD HITS NETWORK: NY Puck Live 11-17-2013

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