Playoff Push (Kobe Time)

                The Lakers have finally started to click and chemistry has developed. These are not the same roll over and kick me dead, diva, drama filled Lakers that started the season. The new and improved Lakers are all about just playing basketball and winning games. No more distractions and finger pointing. After the Memphis loss on January 23rd the team called a players only meeting, and since that point there has been a 180 degree turnaround. These were the same Lakers who were 7 games under .500 at 17-24 and looked like a beaten down dead horse. Well something sparked after that meeting, and everybody turned the focus and intensity up.

Since January 23rd the Lakers have gone 17-8 and currently hold the 8th and final playoff spot over the Utah Jazz by ½ a game. At the moment the Lakers are standing at 34-32 and they have reached above .500 for the first time since November 20th when they were 6-4. The Lakers now control their own destiny simply by winning games. It also has been a tremendous help to the Lakers that the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, and Utah Jazz have all been struggling mightily and have been dropping games as well. If the Lakers keep winning and the Jazz, Warriors, and Rockets keep free falling then the Lakers could possibly earn a 6th spot in the Western Conference seeding.

            What is the reason that this ship we know as the Lakeshow has changed its course? Well I will spell it out for you with four letters, K-O-B-E. Kobe Bryant has singlehandedly sparked and led the Lakers to successive wins since the All-star game. Since the All-star break, Kobe has been scoring 30.8ppg, 7.3 apg, and 6.6 rpg while shooting near 50%. Kobe will do literally anything it takes to win. Whether that be the role of facilitating and dishing assists to teammates or taking the ball to the rack himself, Kobe taken it upon himself to will this Lakers squad to victory and has determined that this Lakers team will make the playoffs by any means necessary (insert Malcolm X quote here). The resiliency of Kobe has been imprinted onto his teammates and this Lakers team will not give up. The Lakers have had 2 back to back comeback wins in March vs. the New Orleans Hornets and Toronto Raptors. In both of those games the Lakers were down by 20 points or more and rallied back to win the game in the fourth quarter. Kobe scored 42 points 12 assists and 7 rebounds against the Hornets to overcome a 25 point deficit and win the game. The very next night Kobe put up almost identical numbers with 41, 12, and 6. In the Toronto game Kobe hit a game-tying fade-away three to send the game into overtime. From there Kobe displayed his dominance as the Lakers won 118-116 in overtime. Not only is scoring at such a high rate and efficiency but he is also guarding the elite opposing guards in the game, did I mention that Kobe is doing all this at age 34 in his 17th year. Hence the name Kobe has adopted is Vino because his game is like a fine wine that gets only better with age.

            The next reason the Lakers have been playing better basketball is that everyone has accepted their roles. Steve Nash has become a spot up and perimeter shooter, Dwight Howard has become a defensive anchor and rebounder, and Antwan Jamison and Jodie Meeks have been playing much better coming off the bench. Dwight Howard has been playing much better as of late and it looks like he is getting healthier as he is more active in the paint and on the glass. Since the allstar game Dwight Howard has flipped a switch. Not only does he look healthier and stronger but his play has undoubtedly improved. Post All-star break Dwight is averaging 17ppg, 15rpg, and 2.5 bpg. In his return to Orlando, Howard had a monster game with 39 points, and shot 25-39 from the free throw line, he also had 16 rebounds and 3 blocks. The only other player to put 39 points, 16 rebounds, and 3 blocks against the Magic is the Diesel Shaquille O’neal. The biggest improvement for Howard is that he is now contesting and altering shots as well as grabbing offensive and defensive rebounds more aggressively. Howard has stopped complaining like a whiny baby and he is now just focused on playing ball and winning. He says that his mindset shifted during the All-star break. Dwight realized that he was fortunate to play with one of the all-time greats in Kobe Bryant and this is his chance to compete for a championship. Howard also said that he has changed his diet and cut out all unnecessary sugars such as skittles and candy bars as well as getting better conditioning in the weight room to help with his improving back.

            With the team much improving and chemistry starting to flow it looks like the Lakers are making a nice run for a playoff push in the Western Conference. Injuries have really slowed this Lakers team down with all their stars missing time from Nash’s lengthy period of time out, to a recovering Dwight Howard playing with a surgically repaired back and torn labrum, and Pau Gasol who is expected to return after missing 6-8 weeks with Plantar Fascia. When everything seems to be going right, some sort of adversity happens again. Kobe last night in a close loss to the Atlanta Hawks, was undercut and suffered a sprained ankle by Dantay Jones which was a clear foul and a chance for the Lakers to tie the game at 94 and to send it into overtime. The X-rays were negative and Kobe is listed out as indefinitely with a severe ankle sprain. The Lakers are estimating that he will most likely not play at least the next 2 games. However we are taking about the Black Mamba who is the ultimate warrior and plays through every sort of pain and injury imaginable, so you never know. One thing that is for certain is that the Lakers must continue to control their own destiny from here on out by winning as many games as possible. These Lakers cannot afford to play under .500 ball. Every game matters from here. All Lakers fans everywhere are praying for a speedy and healthy recovery for Kobe Bryant so that the Lakers will make the playoffs and have at least a chance to compete for a title.

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TEBOWTIME UP?

#TEBOWTIME UP?


Tebowtime, Tebowmania, Tebowing, Tebowlicious, “The Mile-High Messiah” (Tim Tebow does not endorse this nickname) the Nation is in a Frenzy over this once 2x NCAA National Champion and Heisman winner. Tim Tebow rose to heights of celebrity status as he surpassed the likes of the Jersey Shore, Tom Brady, the Kardashians, and even President Barack Obama, in popularity. Tim Tebow even got his own word in the dictionary: Tebowing. Tebowing- To drop to one knee in prayer during a sporting competition. Tebow who started the 2011 season as the 3rd string Quarterback got his chance at glory when 1-4 starter Kyle Orton was benched against Detroit Lions in a blowout 45-10 loss where Orton passed for only 34 yards with an interception on 6-13 completions. Apparently Head Coach John Fox had seen enough and decided to pull the plug on Orton. Kyle Orton then was released from the team and picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs. Cue Tebow. Tim Tebow an unproven second year Quarterback (basically still a Rookie) finally got his opportunity to shine and he never looked back. He led his team to a 6 game winning streak and reclaimed first place in the AFC North division. During the six game winning streak Tim Tebow orchestrated 5 Fourth Quarter Comebacks hence receiving the name TEBOWTIME. NFL fans were glued to their TV sets every week to watch the magic of Tim Tebow at work in delivering yet another fourth quarter comeback victory. But was it really magic or was it something more? Did God intervene on behalf of Tim Tebow and the Broncos? Tim Tebow gives all the credit to his Savior Jesus Christ. After every interview Tim Tebow says, “I like to give thanks to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” It seemed like almost every week Tim Tebow stepped on the field that the first 3 quarters were “throw-aways” but yet in the fourth quarter against all odds something clicked, the heavens opened and miracles flowed forth for Tim Tebow and Bronco Nation. Tebow played his best football in that 6 game win span as he passed for a QB rating of  96.2 with 7 touchdowns and 1 interception.

Why was Tebow, a running quarterback so successful? Well for one reason defenses have not seen a running option quarterback since that of Michael Vick with the Falcons. Tebow a bruising runner and an unconventional quarterback was able to hurt NFL defenses with his legs rather than his arm. When the pocket collapsed or Tim felt any sort of pressure he was able to extend the play and gain those extra 10+ yards on the ground. The Broncos even had designed running plays for Tebow and utilized an option first run attack. Tebow kept the defenses honest and on their toes because instead of always blitzing him they had to watch out for the run, and this created gapping holes in the running game for RB Willis McGahee who had one of the best seasons of his career with 1,199 yards rushing on 4.8 yards a carry. With the two-headed monster of Tebow and McGahee, 3 headed if you include RB Lance Ball, the Denver Broncos running game could not be stopped. This is the same team that started the year off 1-4 and were “throwing in the towel by starting their 3rd string quarterback and releasing there starter Kyle Orton. Almost every analyst determined that the Broncos had NO CHANCE of making it into the playoffs. The one thing that everyone forgot about was the will of Tim Tebow and how far his God would take him. Take November 17th 2011 for example, the Broncos were down 13-10 to the Jets at Mile High Stadium with less than 6 minutes remaining and the ball on the Broncos 5 yard line. Tim Tebow’s first pass of the drive was in his own endzone to Eddie Royal which should have been a safety but one missed tackle later he turns it to an 8 yard gain. From there Tebow uses a collection of option runs as well as passes to move his team into scoring position. With about 1:10 seconds remaining and the Broncos on the 20 yard line the Jets decide to blitz Tim Tebow and TEBOWTIME takes full effect as he does what Tim Tebow does best RUN. Tebow breaks out of the pocket and rushes the ball for a 20 yard touchdown as Bronco Nation erupts and the Broncos seal the win. The 95 yard game winning drive by Tim Tebow proved something to the nation, that with determination, resiliency, heart, and belief anything is possible. Tebowtime made skeptics into believers. Many have doubted the ability of Tim Tebow (including myself) but Tim Tebow proved them wrong by simply winning. The kid might not be the most polished, accurate, or skilled quarterback in the game but he gets the job done and knows how to win. Ultimately it all comes down to getting the W in the win lose column, and Tim does that just as well as anybody in the league.

The real question now is Tebowtime up? Is Tebowmania over? After having an incredible 6 game win streak and 5 fourth quarter comebacks Tim Tebow and the Broncos faltered to finish the season 0-3. The Broncos needed a miracle to make the playoffs and that miracle came in the form of an Oakland Raiders loss to the San Diego Chargers to help the Broncos clinch the division. Divine Intervention again? Well anyways in those last 3 games of the season Tim Tebow looked abysmal. He was a quarterback that looked rattled and shaken like a baby’s play toy. Tebowtime seemed like it was over with bad losses to New England, Buffalo, and Kansas City. Was this the same Tebow that led the Broncos to a 6 game win streak? In those 3 losses Tebow had a QB rating of 46.3 and he 1 TD and 4 interceptions. Most critics and analysts believed that the Tim Tebow winning streak fluke was over and the Tebow’s real colors were now showing.

Tebow not a very accurate passer finished the last 3 games of the season with a 40.7 completion percent. In case you were wondering that is really bad! Let’s put this into perspective Drew Brees the number 1 rated Quarterback finished the season with a 71.2 completion percentage and Seattle Seahawks Quarterback Tavaris Jackson at number 18 finished with a 60.2% completion percentage. A decent quarterback will finish the year with a 60% completion percent; where as a great QB will finish with a 65% and over completion percent. I’m definitely not saying that Tim Tebow should be compared to Drew Brees who had a record setting season and broke Dan Marino’s single season passing yards record with 5,476 (Dan Marino had 5,084). Both Drew Brees and Tom Brady beat Marino’s passing record this season. But back to Tebow. Blaine Gabbert, quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars finished the season with a completion percentage of 50.8 and had the 33rd worst completed passing percentage in the NFL. Who was the worst completed passer in the NFL you ask? No one other than the great Tim Tebow. Tebow finished the season dead last as the 34th worst quarterback in completion percentage with his 46.5. That is 4% lower than Gabbert who by no means had a good season with 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and a QB rating of 65. What is most concerning about the decline of Tebowtime were his passing yards. Tim Tebow finished the season with only 1,729 passing yards that is 32nd among active quarterbacks in the NFL.

So the question you got to ask yourself is how did Tim Tebow play so well in the first eight games and then play so terribly the last three. For one thing we can dismiss it was the accuracy of Tim Tebow because he has shown that his inaccuracy as a passer doesn’t effect his ability to win games down the stretch. In his six game win streak Tebow had a completion percentage of only 47.8 percent and in his win vs. the Jets he was only 9-20. Why did Tebow play abysmally the last 3 games then? Two of the last three games were against non-winning teams in the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills. Tebow had his worst game of the season against one of the worse teams in football as he threw 3 interceptions on 13-29 passing. The fact is the NFL defenses were catching up to the schemes of Tim Tebow and John Fox. They figured out that if you take away Tebow’s legs then you have to make him beat you with his arm, and that’s exactly what happened. The Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots dropped everyone in coverage and made Tebow become a pocket passer which is totally out of his element. By bringing pressure from the front four and occasionally blitzing from the left side forced Tebow to roll to his unnatural right which caused turnovers, incompletions, sacks, and a lot of ill advised throws.

When it looked like things couldn’t get worse for Tim Tebow he had a first round Wildcard Playoff game vs. the Steel Curtain. The Steelers although plagued with injury were still a stout defense and opposing force. The only thing that could help Tebow and the Broncos to not get absolutely embarrassed was home field advantage and divine assistance from Tebow’s homie JC. Ben Roethlisberger one of the top QB’s in all of the National Football League and his Steelers thought that they would steamroll the struggling Broncos. Something so unexpected, so unpredictable, so miraculous happened Tim Tebow played the best game of his career. He competed at a high level against the Steelers top defense and made BIGTIME throws. This was not the same Tebow we had seen the pass couple of weeks prior to the playoffs, instead this Tebow decided he was going to “pull the trigger” and he sure did. Tim Tebow threw for a career high 316 yards in his first career playoff game with 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Although he was his regular inaccurate self 10-21 completions completed, Tebow averaged 31.6 yards per throw. Nobody expected the Broncos to even have a close game with the Steelers let alone go into Overtime. Yet that is what happened. The Denver Broncos won the coin toss in Overtime and elected to receive the ball. Where is Matt Hasselbeck when you need him? “We will take the ball and we will score.” Could Timmy pull out another TEBOWTIME? Would he receive another miraculous drive? That’s exactly what happened. In a record setting overtime pace Tebow delivered a strike to Demaryius Thomas who stiff armed his way to an 80 yard sprint into the endzone in a matter of 7 seconds. The miracle, TEBOWTIME was completed and the whole nation was in shock as Tebow had beat Goliath in the form of the Steelers in a dramatic overtime finish. Tim Tebow proved to me and proved to the world that he has the capability of making the big play with his arm. Everyone already knew Tebow could beat a team with his legs but nobody knew or expected that Tim Tebow could beat a team let alone the Steelers with his arm.

Tebow and the Broncos went on to face the even more star studded New England Patriots in Round 2 of the playoffs, and once again the Broncos were considered a heavy underdog. I had a feeling that Tom Brady would tear the Broncos to shreds and that’s exactly what he did as he threw for a postseason tying record of 6 touchdowns with 363 passing yards on 26-34 passing completions and a QB rating of 137.6. The Patriots proved to be too much for TEBOWTIME as they routed the Broncos 45-10 in an embarrassing loss for Bronco Nation. Most people would say that once again Tebow’s postseason win vs the Steelers was a fluke and that the loss to New England put Tim Tebow back in his lowly place. However through everything that I have witnessed, all the fourth quarter comebacks (6), miracle drives, huge kicks by Matt Prater, and Tim Tebow’s ability to extend the play with his legs but more impressively make big time deep passes to his receivers proves to me that Tim Tebow will be a lasting quarterback in this league. You have got to remember that this essentially is Tim Tebow’s first season as a starting quarterback in the NFL and he essentially is still a rookie. For how much Tim Tebow has been criticized and scrutinized he is still a first year starting QB. I think the more that Tim Tebow gains experience and learns to stay calm and composed in the pocket as well as letting his reads develop down field, he will become a very good maybe even a top QB in the NFL. John Elway the Vice President of Operations for the Denver Broncos and former 2 time Superbowl winner said that he will help train and develop Tim Tebow to become a more accurate passer. Tutelage from a Hall of Famer like Elway will only increase Tebow’s awareness, improve accuracy and make Tim Tebow into a very good starting NFL quarterback. Is TEBOWTIME up? I certainly think not. The future is bright for Tim Tebow as he learns and grows into the position of a starting NFL quarterback. Do I think that Tim Tebow will be an elite quarterback like Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Joe Montana, and Dan Marino? Only time will tell. But one thing I do know is that all Tim Tebow does is win, and he will be a winner in the NFL for a long time. TEBOWTIME like is Christianity is here to stay. So for all the haters get used to TEBOWTIME and Tebow mania.