Saturday, June 14, 2014

Italy v. England: Buffon's Injury Increases the Pace

Yet another incredible World Cup match-up was turned on its head this morning when Italy announced that one of the world's best keepers, "Gigi" Buffon, will be forced to miss the game with an ankle injury. 

This could have been a slow paced, patient sort of game, but now in all likelihood, England will pick up the pace to test the backup keeper, PSG's Salvatore Sirigu. Expect plenty of quick counters from the Brits, although in contrast to the Dutch deep pressure against Spain, the English may be content to launch rockets from farther out, hoping for some easy put backs against an untested keeper. Look for their shot total to rise above their average.

On the other side, play should accelerate as well, knowing that they don't have Buffon to bail them out when the defense breaks down. Andrea Pirlo will be the key to the attack. It's likely that Daniele De Rossi will play the base of the midfield for the Azzurri, allowing Pirlo to push forward more often. If he can find the ever-dynamic Mario Balotelli anywhere near the box, it will spell trouble for the English. Watch for the Pirlo-Balotelli connection everywhere on the pitch. If that tandem finds a rhythm, the Italians just may be able to overcome this unfortunate injury.

SnapCall coverage starts at 5:55pm EST. Don't miss it!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

If You Can't Take the Heat...

Game 3 is history. It's a brand new day. Don't count on San Antonio hitting 19 of their first 21 shots again. Kawhi Leonard probably won't have another career-high in points. Sure, the Spurs' offense is a well oiled machine, but expect tonight to be another back-and-forth battle rather than the domination we saw on Tuesday.

So, how can Miami flip the switch? Two words: defensive intensity. We don't need any stats or metrics to figure this one out. Ideally, the Spurs want to swing the ball around the court quickly. If San Antonio limits their dribbles, the defense will eventually miss a rotation, and a man will be open. However, if Miami pressures the ball on a regular basis, it will be much more difficult for San Antonio to make those quick, crisp passes. The Heat need to force the Spurs' guards to put the ball on the deck and go 1-on-1.

On the other side, what can Coach Popovich do to thwart defensive ball-pressure? Unleash Tim Duncan. When Miami decides to stretch their defense out to the perimeter, Duncan will have plenty of room to operate in the post. He's had some efficient games so far in these Finals, but if Miami adjusts, the future Hall-of-Fame big man should become a volume shooter. There's not one player on the Heat roster that can stop Duncan on the low block. It's time for Duncan to prove it. 

Tune into SnapCall tonight for game 4 at 8:55 PM EST. We've got you covered on real-time predictions. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

LeBron to Attack Rim in Game 2

Game 1 of the NBA Finals had a variable that no player or coach could plan for: malfunctioning air conditioning. However, with the subsequent media backlash against LeBron James over the past several days, Game 2’s intensity level has been ratcheted up another notch. After succumbing to cramps in the closing moments of the opening game, expect LeBron to come out in attack mode Sunday night. But pay attention early in the game to see how the refs are calling the physicality in the paint, as that will be key to the outcome.

Assuming LeBron attacks the lane at will tonight, you’d expect him to get to the line at least 10 times. Not so fast, though. The Spurs allowed just 11 free throw attempts to the Heat in Game 1, which was the fewest number of FT attempts by a team in an NBA Finals opener in 50 years. Moreover, Miami went to the line 118 times in their series last year, which was also a record for the fewest ever in a 7-game series.

Make no mistake, the Spurs aim to play effective defense without fouling and are often successful at thwarting opponents. Only once in the past 10 seasons have the Spurs finished below 5th in fewest fouls committed and 6th in free throws allowed. LeBron is next to unstoppable when driving to the basket, but if any team is equipped to handle him, it’s the Spurs. Does these thoughts effect your pick for the series? 

Watch these two titans of the court go at it again tonight in Game 2. Call the action on SnapCall starting at 8pm ET!