Former New York Giant DeAndre Baker activated by Chiefs for week 15

New York Giants, DeAndre Baker

The New York Giants may have moved on from DeAndre Baker earlier in this season, but the cornerback has already found a home on a better roster. And after spending time on the practice squad, the player is set to be on the active roster when the Chiefs take on the New Orleans Saints.

This comes after the Giants moved on from Baker following only a single season with him on the team. His play on the field was lacking after the Giants traded up to take him in the first round, but the main reason for this is off the field. Baker was involved in a legal case centering around an armed robbery accusation this offseason, but was cleared of all charges. However, the case dragged into the start of the season and the Giants cut the player to avoid spending a roster spot on a player unable to take to the field.

The Kansas City Chiefs, a much better team, quickly moved to pick up Baker after the Giants cut him. With Baker now activated from the practice squad, this game with the Chiefs might be of some interest to Giants fans. After all, the Giants coaching staff wasn’t able to get as much as expected out of Baker during his rookie season. How good or bad the Giants are at evaluating talent is a debated subject, but if Baker has improved performances with the Chiefs, it will definitely raise eyebrows about cutting him.

After all, the Giants did spend a first round pick to get the cornerback after trading up. While it’s true that his legal situation this offseason put the team in a tough situation, it won’t look great for the management if another team reaps the benefits of that pick for free.

Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson outclasses Geoff Neal at UFC Vegas 17

In the main event of UFC Vegas 17 there was a big time matchup in the welterweight division. Former title challenger, Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson (15-4-1), took on Geoff “Handz of steel” Neal (13-2).

It’s been a tough 2020 for Geoff Neal, but he was getting a massive opportunity tonight. Getting his first fight of 2020 and his first headlining fight in the UFC. Neal entered the octagon on a seven-fight winning streak.

However, it’s been the finishes that have put Neal on the map. He’s finished six of those seven fights including four of his five fights in the UFC. Neal has looked like a destroyer since stepping into the octagon.

However, he would have his hands full with the UFC‘s Wonderboy. Wonderboy Thompson was also making the walk for the first time in 2020. Thompson picked up a big win over Vicente Luque.

That victory snapped a two-fight losing streak for Wonderboy. Wonderboy is one of the most decorated strikers to have competed in the UFC‘s welterweight division, and he was looking to prove he’s still one of the best in the world tonight.

UFC Vegas 17 Recap

Round 1

The UFC Vegas 17 main event got underway with a touch of the gloves. Thompson opened the striking with a high kick that just missed. Neal was bouncing on the outside and got clipped with a left hand and a good leg kick.

Neal was trying to close the distance, but Wonderboy was doing a good job of using his kicks to keep him Neal at distance. Wonderboy then blitzed forward with a couple shots of his own.

Two minutes into the UFC Vegas 17 main event and Neal was trying to cutoff the cage. However, he was really struggling to land anything in the first. Wonderboy landed a really nice spinning back kick to the body with two minutes left in the round.

Neal finally landed a couple of clean shots with 90 seconds left in the round. However, Thompson took the shots well and went right back to work with his kicks. Just before the round ended a clash of heads caused a small cut for both. Good first round for Wonderboy.

Round 2

The UFC Vegas 17 main event’s second round opened with pressure from Geoff Neal. Wonderboy started working the jab the keep Neal at range. Neal was appearing a little frustrated early on in the second round.

One minute into the round and Neal pushed Wonderboy against the fence. Wonderboy was able to push Neal away and get the fight back to range. Every time Neal was coming in during the second round he was getting clipped by Wonderboy.

A solid 1-2 from Wonderboy landed as Neal tried to push forward again. Geoff Neal just couldn’t get anything going against Wonderboy in the first couple of rounds. Every time he’d cut off the cage, Wonderboy would pop him and move.

Two minutes left in the round and Wonderboy continued scoring with straight shots. Neal was really starting to get bothered by the cut over his eye. In the final minute, Wonderboy continued to pick Neal apart. 2-0 after two at UFC Vegas 17 for Wonderboy.

Round 3

The UFC Vegas 17 main event’s third round opened with side kicks from Wonderboy. Again, every time Neal started moving forward, he was met with a couple of clean shots from Wonderboy Thompson.

Neal was able to work Wonderboy against the fence 90 seconds into the round and he landed a couple of clean shots. However, nothing seemed to do serious damage to Wonderboy. Wonderboy broke Neal’s clinch about halfway through the round.

Once the two were at distance, Wonderboy went right back to work with his jab. Neal started pushing forward more aggressively and he was doing a better job at landing here in the third round.

Two minutes left in the round and Wonderboy started popping Neal with straight shots again. Neal then started working his jab which was finding a home in the third. A minute left in the round and Neal worked the clinch again against the fence.

Wonderboy was able to break away with 40 seconds left. Once they did, Wonderboy got extremely active with his combinations. A big headkick followed by a couple of clean combinations with his hands. Better third round for Neal but this one is 3-0 for Wonderboy at UFC Vegas 17.

Round 4

Heading into the fourth round in the UFC Vegas 17 main event and I had Neal losing big, but he still seemed fresh. The fourth opened with another clean combination from Wonderboy Thompson.

A solid straight right for Wonderboy lands as Neal tried to close the distance. 90 seconds into the round and Neal engages the clinch after getting clipped a few times by Wonderboy.

Wonderboy broke the clinch pretty quickly and popped Neal with a couple of straight shots. Wonderboy was doing a fantastic job of splitting the guard and hitting Neal clean with shots up the middle as the round continued.

Two minutes left in the round and Neal was looking incredibly frustrated. Neal continued to push forward, but nothing was landing and he was continuing to get caught coming in. Neal landed a bit in the final minute but another clear round for Wonderboy at UFC Vegas 17.

Round 5

Heading into the final round of the UFC Vegas 17 main event and Neal needed a finish in this one. Both men embraced as the final round began. Wonderboy appeared to have an injured leg as the round started.

Neal closed the gap and started throwing bombs, however, Wonderboy countered with bombs of his own. One minute into the round and Wonderboy’s leg was starting to really bother him.

Neal was closing in, but couldn’t land on Wonderboy. Wonderboy started pressing forward throwing big shots of his own. Both of these men were trading big shots in the final round.

Halfway through the round and Wonderboy was racking up the points. Neal through a big overhand land that just missed Wonderboy’s chin. Wonderboy then countered with a big combination of his own.

The two men clinched against the fence with two minutes left. A minute left in the round and the two men separated. Neal was pushing forward looking for something big, but he kept getting clipped by Wonderboy.

Neal landed a couple of clean shots and Wonderboy countered with big shots of his own. Wonderboy then threw big combinations and both men exchanged massive shots as the bell sounded. Should be a shutout and a big UFC win for Wonderboy.

Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson def. Geoff Neal by Unanimous Decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45)

Jose Aldo defeats Chito Vera at UFC Vegas 17

In the co-main event of the evening at UFC Vegas 17, we saw a big time matchup in the bantamweight division. Former featherweight champion, Jose Aldo (28-7), took on Marlon “Chito” Vera (16-6-1).

Aldo entered the octagon on a three-fight losing streak. The former UFC champion was looking to turn his career around after hearing everyone tell him that he’s looked washed up. However, it’s worth noting that Aldo’s last fight was for the title.

If you look at all of his UFC losses over the past few years, it’s been against world champions. Fighting Jose Aldo was a massive opportunity for Chito Vera. Vera was coming off of a massive win against Sean O’Malley at UFC 250.

O’Malley was one of the most hyped fighters in the UFC. However, Chito Vera was able to derail the hype train when he finished him in the first round. A win over Aldo would vault Vera into title contention.

UFC Vegas 17 Recap

Round 1

The UFC Vegas 17 co-main event opened with a touch of the gloves. Chito opened the striking with a couple of front kicks. Chito also started working the low kicks as Aldo appeared to be just gauging his opponent.

Aldo opened his striking with a good overhand right that got Chito’s attention. 90 seconds in and Chito tried to get a takedown. However, Aldo did a fantastic job of defending the takedown.

Chito held Aldo against the fence and started working knees to thighs of the former UFC champion. Aldo was able to separate with two minutes left in the round. Once back at range, Aldo landed a nasty hook to the body.

He followed up with another that really looked like it hurt Chito. Chito tried to hide it, but Aldo was hurting his body. One minute left in the round and Aldo opened up with the leg kicks. A dominant end to the first round for the former champion.

Round 2

The second round opened with Chito trying to press forward. Aldo countered with a vicious combination to the body and the head. The UFC champion then went back to work with vicious leg kicks.

Chito kept trying to attack Aldo, but he was appearing a step behind Aldo. 90 seconds in and Aldo was backing Chito against the fence. Aldo then staggered Chito for a second with a couple of left hands.

After that landed, Chito pushed back forward trying to get some respect back. However, the former UFC champion continued to get the better of the exchanges. Aldo ripped a big combination to the body that caused Chito to clinch Aldo.

Chito tried to get a takedown, but again, Aldo’s takedown defense was fantastic. Chito landed a really good left hook and then again tried to take Aldo to the ground. Better second round for Chito, but again, this round goes to the former UFC champion.

Round 3

Chito went right back to the pressure to open the final round. Chito tried to engage the clinch, but Aldo did a good job of swinging to the back. Aldo was able to jump on the back of Vera and get him briefly to the ground.

However, Chito was doing a really good job of defending. Chito tried to shake Aldo off, but ended up getting taken down. Aldo then went to work with a body triangle from the back.

The former UFC champion started working for a rear naked choke, but Chito was defending well. Halfway through the round and the third was all Jose Aldo. 90 seconds left in the round and Chito got up to his feet.

However, Aldo was still locked onto the back of Chito. Chito tried to slam Aldo down, but Aldo kept that body triangle locked in. In the final minute Chito couldn’t get anything done. Dominant victory for the former UFC champion on my scorecard.

Jose Aldo def. Chito Vera by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Rob Font knocks Marlon Moraes out at UFC Vegas 17

One of the more anticipated matchups on the UFC Vegas 17 main card was the bantamweight matchup between “Magic” Marlon Moraes (23-7-1) and Rob Font (17-4). Font was making his first walk of 2020.

He was entering this fight on a two-fight win streak. A win over Moraes would really put Font on the map in the UFC‘s bantamweight division. However, getting passed Moraes is not an easy task.

Just a couple of years ago, Moraes was looked at as potentially the best bantamweight in the world. Now, he’s coming into UFC Vegas 17 having lost two out of his last three. He was looking to use this fight against Rob Font to get back on track.

UFC Vegas 17 Recap

Round 1

The UFC Vegas 17 bantamweight contest got underway with a body kick from Moraes. After landing a second body kick, Moraes shot in for a takedown and took down Rob Font. Moraes tried to transition into a guillotine, but he lost the top position as a result.

Font was able to get back to his feet, but Moraes was able to take him right back down. Moraes did a really good job of controlling Font once the fight got back to the ground. Font was finally able to get back up with two minutes left in the round.

Once back on the feet, Moraes was rocked by Rob Font with a couple of shots. Moraes landed a headkick to counter, but Font started putting it on him. Font dropped him with a couple of uppercuts and finished the fight with massive follow up shots.

Huge statement from Rob Font. The UFC’s bantamweight division has a new contender.

Rob Font def. Marlon Moraes by TKO – Round 1

BREAKING: Buffalo Bills clinch AFC East division title

The Buffalo Bills’ Saturday win over the Denver Broncos allowed them to clinch their first division title since 1995.

After a 25-year sabbatical, AFC East supremacy is returning to Western New York.

Josh Allen tallied 392 total yards of offense, with 259 of his passing tallies going to Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley. Jerry Hughes took back a fumble for a score, while Devin Singletary capped things off with a long touchdown of his own, giving the Buffalo Bills a 48-19 victory over the Denver Broncos on Saturday night in the Rockies. The victory allowed Buffalo (11-3) to capture their first AFC East division crown since 1995 and Orchard Park will likely host its first playoff game since the 1996 wild-card round. In closing yet another dubious streak, Buffalo has also won 11 games for the first time since 1999.

It’s the latest big accomplishment of the Brandon Beane/Sean McDermott era, one that began back in 2017. The pair inherited one of the longest active playoff droughts in American sports, but have now made the playoffs in three of the past four seasons.

Appropriately, it was the on-field cornerstones of the Beane-McDermott regime that rose to the occasion during their historic evening, launching themselves up the ledgers of Orchard Park’s record books. Josh Allen put in 392 yards and four total touchdowns, the latter tie tying him with Jack Kemp for the most ground scores by a quarterback in team history (25) and moved into the top ten amongst all rushing scorers (passing Willis McGahee and tying LeSean McCoy). The Minnesota transfer Diggs began his Week 15 exploits by breaking his with Eric Moulds for Buffalo’s single-season receptions, creating an 11-reception margin with two more games to go. Diggs wound up with 147 receiving yards, joined in the brotherhood of triple-digits by Beasley (117), who is breaking the career-highs he set in Dallas.

McDermott’s former Carolina pupil Mario Addison was a constant backfield invader on defense, while undrafted gem Levi Wallace helped hold Denver’s potent rookie receiving pair in check, with Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler combining for 23 yards on a reception each. A first-round choice, Houston’s Ed Oliver, likewise earned a sack and got an early pass breakup in. Only adding to the fairy-tale setting was Hughes’ march of glory, as one of the two leftovers from the lean years took back a Drew Lock fumble for six points. While the other, tight end Lee Smith, was denied a touchdown due to a penalty, Hughes’ six-pointer more or less kept the game in Buffalo’s control. Another Beane choice, running back Devin Singletary, put one last exclamation point, a 51-yard touchdown dash that served as the unofficial kickoff to Buffalo’s divisional title party.

The effort led to one of the biggest dominoes toppled in the Bills’ return to respectability. Buffalo has officially ended the stranglehold the New England Patriots held on the quartet, as they become the first non-New England to finish atop the four since Miami in 2008.

However, in their celebration, the partygoers made it clear: the AFC East, while spurring a celebration a quarter-century in the making, is nowhere their ultimate goal. Words weren’t even necessary to convert such a message. The Bills’ celebratory t-shirts commemorating the division title bore what’s sure to become an oft-repeated insignia: “Won Not Done”.

“(The shirt) says ‘won not done’. Everything is still in front of us,” Allen said of the slogan per Daniel Fetes of WHAM. “This just gives us an opportunity to give it a shot and that’s all we can ask for.”

“This team here, we’re on a mission,” cornerback Tre’Davious White added in a report from Jenna Callari of WKBW. “I can feel it.”

But in more jovial matters, Saturday’s victory was a strong culmination of brotherhood and perseverance. No one can deny that this is a team whose camaraderie is riding at an all-time high as the most important games of their NFL careers approach. It was a development seen in the preparation for Denver, as the Bills turned Winter Storm Gail into a battleground, partaking in a snowball fight after practice earlier this week.

Expectations will widely vary with this Buffalo squad. Some see them as the biggest threat to a budding dynasty in Kansas City. Others feel like this they should be satisfied with topping the eastern quartet, confident that they’ll be a staple on the AFC bracket for years to come.

Either way, the Bills have made it clear…whatever they do in the near future, they’ll be doing it as a family…a family that has ended some of the most dubious streaks in professional football.

“Buffalo has been waiting for this for 25 years. It’s just special. It’s just an unexplainable feeling,” offensive lineman Dion Dawkins said in Callari’s report. “It’s a family, a family that stays together will win, cherish, and conquer it all. This was just step one.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Buffalo Bills: Three stars from Saturday’s win at Denver

The Buffalo Bills departed Denver on a Rocky Mountain high, clinching an elusive division title through a dominant showing.

The Buffalo Bills are coming home for Christmas…and the playoffs as well.

Through a 48-19 victory over the Denver Broncos during the NFL’s Saturday showcase, the Bills (11-3) clinched not only their third playoff berth over the last four seasons but also their first AFC East division title since 1995. Restrictions pending, Orchard Park’s Bills Stadium is likely set to host its first postseason contest since a 1996 loss to Jacksonville in the wild-card round. Buffalo has also reached the 11-win plateau for the first time since 1999.

ESM gives out game balls for the victorious Bills…

3rd Star: DE Jerry Hughes

1 fumble recovery, 1 TD

Hughes’ fearsome size may lead to incredulousness on this end, but he got his football start as a running back at Stephen F. Austin High School in Sugar Land, Texas, earning 19 touchdowns during his senior season. His ensuing time spent in Fort Worth (with TCU) and Orchard Park have rarely given him a chance to showcase his rushing talents, but Saturday’s tilt provided a welcome exception.

With Buffalo holding a 28-13 lead, they closed the book on any idea of a Denver comeback with Tre’Davious White’s sack and forced fumble of Drew Lock. Hughes picked up the loose change and athletically avoided several pursuing Broncos to put in a touchdown that took far more than the 21 yards dictated in the final box score. The 32-year-old earned the second touchdown of his career and his first since November 2014.

 

2nd Star: WR Stefon Diggs

11 receptions, 147 yards

On a historic day for Buffalo football, Diggs was sure to get his personal achievement out of the way early on. His first reception of the late afternoon allowed him to break a tie with Eric Moulds from 2002 for the most receptions in a single Bills season. With 11 grabs on the night, Diggs is likely ensuring that it will be a long time before his contemporaries even sniff his records. Diggs and Cole Beasley each broke the century mark on Saturday, uniting to earn 259 yards from Allen’s arm. Buffalo, however, may have to hold its breath when it comes to Diggs’ status moving forward. Fox Sports’ Lindsay Czarniak revealed toward the end of the game that Diggs was carted to the locker room with a foot issue, though he later returned to the sidelines before the clock let out.

1st Star: QB Josh Allen

28-for-40, 359 yards, 2 TD, 3 carries, 33 yards, 2 TD 

Allen’s success in Colorado probably shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise. After all, he was perfect in terms of the scoreboard during Wyoming’s visits to Colorado State and Air Force. But, for Allen, Saturday’s business was personal. Denver previously passed on him during the early stages of the 2018 NFL Draft, choosing Bradley Chubb two picks before Allen got his call from Western New York.

In his first visit to Mile High, Allen showed a Broncos team at a crossroads when it comes to their franchise quarterback exactly what they were missing. He was responsible for four touchdowns on his own, two each of the aerial and ground variety, and racked up 392 total yards. Technically speaking, Allen was more or less the culprit behind six scores, but the latter couple was wiped out due to penalties. His rushing scores carried historic importance on the Buffalo landscape: he not only tied Jack Kemp for the most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (25) but also passed Willis McGahee to move into the top ten in the rushing score category tying Kemp and LeSean McCoy.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Anthony Pettis gets a win on the final fight of his current deal at UFC Vegas 17

In the featured prelim at UFC Vegas 17, former lightweight champion, Anthony Pettis (24-10), took on Alex Morono (18-7, 1 NC). Pettis was entering the fight on the final fight of his current contract with the UFC.

Showtime entered the fight just 1-2 in his last three fights. There was a lot of pressure on the former champion and Alex Morono was looking to be the spoiler. When the fight got underway, it looked like Morono would do just that.

In the opening seconds at UFC Vegas 17, Pettis fell down while throwing a kick. Morono was able to pounce and get on top of Pettis. For the entire first round, Morono was able to control Pettis.

In the second round, Pettis started to open up with his striking. The former UFC champion looked really comfortable on the feet and he outstruck Morono to secure the second round.

In the third round, Pettis was again getting the better of the standup. In the final seconds of the third round, Pettis almost secured a showtime finish when he rocked Morono with a spinning back kick.

Last UFC fight?

All three judges scored the fight for Pettis 29-28. It was a massive win for Pettis and a great way for him to close out his current UFC deal. At this moment, it appears that Pettis will be testing the free agent market.

I don’t think the UFC is going to be the most aggressive in the pursuit due to the announcement of upcoming cuts. If I had to pick a favorite, I think Bellator is the clubhouse favorite to land Anthony Pettis.

Pettis’ younger brother Sergio already fights for Bellator. Sergio Pettis fought in the UFC prior to making the jump over to Bellator. I think that Anthony might just do the exact same thing.

Time will tell, but there’s a very real chance that we’ve seen Pettis for the final time inside the octagon. He can hold his head high knowing he’s had plenty of showtime moments including capturing the lightweight title.

New York Giants’ offensive line needs to bounce back against Myles Garrett & the Browns

The New York Giants‘ offensive line put together a pitiful performance last week. The Giants’ linemen allowed eight total sacks last Sunday, costing New York’s offense 64 total yards. This week, the Giants have another tall task as they prepare to defend against Myles Garrett and the Cleveland Browns’ strong defensive line.

The Cleveland Browns’ defensive line has racked up 34 sacks this season. 10.5 of those sacks have come from elite pass-rusher Myles Garrett alone. Andrew Thomas and the Giants’ offensive line will have their hands full as they try to bounce back from a horrible Week 14 performance.

Myles Garrett and the Browns defensive line

In Week 15, the Giants will defend against a Browns’ defensive line that has been consistently getting after the quarterback this season. Myles Garrett, in particular, has been an absolute game-wrecking in 2020.

Myles Garrett was the first overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Since then, he has been one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL on a year-by-year basis. He had a career-year in 2018, totaling a career-high 13.5 sacks that season. In 2019, though, Garrett was primed to surpass that sack total before being given a lengthy suspension that ended his season. In 10 games last year Garrett racked up 10 sacks.

2020 has seen Garrett put together another elite season. He has 10.5 sacks on the year through 13 games and a career-high 4 forced fumbles. Myles has been a nightmare for opposing offense this season. He leads the NFL in forced turnovers pressures (7 total) and has the second-highest pass-rushing grade in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus.

Myles’s 10.5 sacks are tied for the third-most in the NFL this season. He has been applying a tremendous amount of pressure to quarterbacks, totaling 41 pressures this season (eighth-most) with a 12.4% pressure rate (ninth-best).

Myles Garrett has been a dominant force on the Browns’ defense this season. But he is not the only talented pass-rusher on Cleveland’s underrated defense. Former Giants’ pass-rusher Olivier Vernon is having an excellent season as a member of the Browns this year and is coming off of a 2-sack performance in Week 14. Vernon has 7 sacks on the season and will help Garrett apply pressure to Colt McCoy this Sunday night.

The Giants’ offensive line will have their hands full against Myles Garrett, Olivier Vernon, and Sheldon Richardson (who has earned 4.5 sacks as well). A better performance than what the Giants’ offensive line put together last week is a necessity for New York’s offense to achieve success against the Cleveland Browns.

New York Islanders: Expectations for Semyon Varlamov

New York Islanders

The New York Islanders signed goalie Semyon Varlamov to a 4-year deal in free agency last year. Varlamov proved to everyone that his 2013-14 Vezina Trophy finalist season wasn’t a fluke. Varlamov recorded 19 wins, a .914 save percentage, and a 2.62 GAA in 39 games started.

In the playoffs, Varlamov would continue to shine with the Islanders as he single-handily won them a couple of games. Former Islanders’ goalie Thomas Greiss obviously held down a couple of wins too. Greiss relieved a lot of pressure off of Varlamov all season long. But, Thomas Greiss is in Detroit now, and rookie Ilya Sorokin takes the backup slot. There are some big expectations for the Islanders’ star goalie going into the 2020-2021 season.

Top 10 Goalie

The Islanders are not a team that can put up four goals every night and wins just off of firepower alone. They win off of their defensive schemes and good goalie play. If the Islanders want to make another deep playoff run, Semyon Varlamov must take another leap.

Varlamov might be 32 years old, but maybe you can still teach an old dog new tricks. I believe the stats Varlamov needs for him to be considered a top 10 goalie reads as follows. He needs under a 2.55 GAA, with a .917 save percentage. I assume he will play over half the 56 games during this season as well. If he plays 31/56 games with those aforementioned stats, he will be a top 10 goalie.

Mentoring Ilya Sorokin Correctly

How would one even measure if Varlamov’s teachings affect Sorokin’s’ playing abilities? “That’s another dumb point, all you make is dumb points.” Marc-Andre Fleury mentored Matt Murray, and the Penguins won 2 Stanley Cups in 3 years because of that.

Ben Bishop mentored Andrei Vasilevski, and Vasilevski has been a top 3 goalie for the past 5 years. Braden Holtby mentored Ilya Samsonov, and now Samsonov is one of the top young goalies in the league. If Semyon Varlamov can mentor Ilya Sorokin in the same ways that these guys did for their backups, the Islanders will win a Stanley Cup soon. There is no doubt in my mind about this at all. I expect Varlamov to do this successfully.

Brooklyn Nets: Breaking down the Nets Final Preseason Win against the Celtics

Brooklyn Nets, Kyrie Irving

If you’re a follower of Brooklyn Nets news, then you have probably seen the video of Kyrie Irving burning sage prior to the Nets’ final preseason game against the Celtics last night. Irving explained after the game, his “smudging” was meant to cleanse the energy in the arena but to0 many Nets fans, it may have had a slightly different meaning; a fresh start. Not since the early 2000s have Nets, fans had a team with this much hype and excitement around them. With a healthy Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, returning key contributors in Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, and Jarrett Allen, and adding Landry Shamet and Jeff Green in the offseason to round out this roster, stakes could not be higher for the Brooklyn Nets as we approach the regular season.

Breaking Down the Nets Final Preseason Game

Kevin Durant Shows Out

While the first preseason game belonged to Kyrie, Durant stole the show against the Celtics last night, scoring 25 points on 9-16 from the field in 27 minutes of action. Whether it was the pull-up three, blowing by his defender for the dunk at the rim, or the un-guardable mid-range shot, Durant showed to everyone last night that he hasn’t lost a step. But elite offense wasn’t the only feature Durant showcased last night; he also led the Nets with 3 blocks, several of them coming at the rim. If this is the Kevin Durant Nets fans will get this season, barring any health setbacks, then there aren’t many teams in the East who can claim their #1 is better than Brooklyn’s.

Kyrie Continues to Lead

There have been several instances throughout the first two pre-season games where Kyrie Irving has shown his leadership among teammates. Yesterday, there were two specific scenarios. One came shortly after a Spencer Dinwiddie drive to the basket, of which there was contact with his defender but no call. This became a reoccurring theme for Dinwiddie throughout the night, as there were not many fouls called on his behalf. After a particularly physical drive, Dinwiddie was visually frustrated on the ground after not receiving the call, and an encouraging Kyrie Irving came over to him to pick him up. Seems subtle and small, but those are the types of actions that good teammates and leaders exhibit on a nightly basis.

The second moment came from Irving leading by example. After the Celtics went on a mini-run midway through the game, Tatum had just finished a sequence in which he had scored 5 straight points and rejected Spencer Dinwiddie on his drive to the rim. With the Nets only leading by 9, the smallest lead since the beginning of the game, Irving demanded the ball with Tatum covering him, immediately took him to the lane, and scored on a beautiful floater. You could feel the Celtics’ momentum vanish as the Nets would go on a scoring run of their own after that moment. These are the types of momentum swings that leaders like Kyrie and KD have to execute in order for the Nets to be dominant. Kyrie finished with 17 pts, 5 assists, and 7 rebs in 28 minutes.

Role Players who Impressed

There were several Nets outside of KD and Kyrie who performed exceptionally last night. Joe Harris had a huge “remember me guys?” moment early on in the game and finished with 14 points. Dinwiddie looked efficient with the starters, despite a 1-7 shooting night, picking his spots on when he should attack and when he should defer to the two stars on the team. And Jarrett Allen continued his excellent play in backing up Deandre Jordan (will return to shortly) with a stat line of 9 pts and 11 rebs. As for the two newcomers in Jeff Green and Landry Shamet, they have given Steve Nash some excellent minutes thus far. Shamet has looked sharp with the 2nd unit and moves well without the ball. Green, playing at the 5, has given the Nets a small-ball lineup with all 5 players on the court capable of hitting a three. TLC gave the Nets 11 solid minutes off the bench and has fought hard this preseason to crack this Nets rotation.

Preseason Summary & Remaining Roster questions

Obviously, the biggest story out of the Nets’ two preseason games has been how great Kyrie and KD have both looked. There needs to be something said about the fact that these guys complement each other’s games very nicely. KD can play with anybody, and Kyrie now feels he has an equal scoring counterpart on his team (sorry, Lebron). The supporting cast has looked exceptional, and Nash has done a great job of mixing and matching rotations in hopes of generating an optimal five players throughout the game. The Nets have dominated their opponents in both preseason games, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t questions about this team headed into the regular season.

For example, who will start at the center position, Deandre Jordan or Jarrett Allen? In two preseason games, Coach Nash has yet to insert Jarrett Allen into the starting lineup. Now, this is where many Nets fans have disagreed with Nash; anyone with eyes can see Allen has the ability to contribute much more than Jordan, both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Unfortunately, the narrative is that because Jordan has a close-knit friendship with KD and Kyrie, he will continue to start over Allen. This is something that may change if the Nets go on a losing skid early on in the season.

Another question Nash will have to answer is who will start alongside Kyrie, Spencer Dinwiddie, or Caris LeVert? Yesterday, we saw Dinwiddie get the start, who seemed to mesh well with Kyrie and KD despite the off shooting night.  LeVert led the 2nd unit and eventually would get some time with KD and Kyrie in the 3rd. While it seemed as though Nash’s strategy worked as LeVert managed to score 18 points in 21 minutes, the Nets are still unsure on who will start and who will come off the bench between the two.

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