Can The Thunder Win Game 4?

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The Oklahoma City Thunder will host Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals tonight at 7:30 against the San Antonio Spurs. 

After a 102-82 Thunder win in Game 3, it’s starting to look like the home team may win every game in the series.

The Thunder will have a chance to even up the series tonight, provided that throw another monkey wrench into the Spurs’ patented pick-and-roll game.

OKC’s defense kept every San Antone player from scoring more than 16 points in the third matchup. If that defense can hold up again tonight and Durant, Westbrook, and Harden all have 15-20 points it should be a lock-down game at the Chesapeake Arena.

Prediction: Thunder -3

Fantasy Baseball Buzz Killer

Is Jeter's buzz about to flat-line?

Is Jeter’s buzz about to flat-line?

We’ve all been there. Good times, good friends, but for whatever reason it all has to come to an end. Maybe the booze ran out. Maybe the cops show up. Maybe an ex shows up. However it happens, it signifies the end of what was perceived by all to be a good thing.

That is what I’m about to do – kill the buzz on fantasy baseballplayers who are performing at such a high level that they can’t maintain and should fall back to Earth sometime within the next few weeks.

If you feel like riding the hot streak, fine. If you feel like trading the player away, fine. I don’t care what you do with them, but here are some players with a buzz that is soon to flat-line.

Derek Jeter SS NYY – “The Captain” is hitting .385 on the season with 4 HRs and 13 RBIs. It’s a bit troubling that his BB% is down and he only has one stolen base. It’s also problematic that he carries a .414 BABIP. He had a .336 in 2011 and .307 in 2010.

Josh Willingham OF MIN – His ground ball rate is up 7.3% while his fly ball rate is down 7.8% from his career norms. Plus, he’s seeing more cut fastballs and curve balls than he’s used to. He may still hit for average, but don’t expect him to hit 29 dingers like he did last year.

Lance Lynn SP STL – Ok. I actually like Lance Lynn this year but we need to temper our expectations. He currently has a 1.60 ERA and 0.77 WHIP but his GB%, HR/FB, and HR/9 are all in line with his usual performance. So what explains the torrid pace he has set? Well he his a lower BABIP against than normal. His strand rate is 91.7%. Yes, you read that correctly – 91.7% of base-runners he allows currently are not scoring. That is impossible to sustain as league average can range from 70%-72% depending on the season. Not to worry too much though as his FIP and xFIP suggest that he could be a sub-3.00 ERA guy in 2012.

Bryan LaHair 1B/OF CHC – This one is my favorite. Dude has a .545 BABIP so far in 2012. League average is usually around .300. As if that wasn’t enough to change your mind about him, his K% is up to 33.8%.

Jed Lowrie 3B/SS HOU – Yes he’s locked in at the plate right now. The key phrase being “right now.” But come and listen to my story ’bout a man named Jed, he has had more than 300 PAs twice since 2007. In 2007, 2009, and 2010 he had right around 200 or less. I’ll bet he doesn’t stay healthy enough to crack 400 in 2012.

There are more guys out there to be wary of, but I figure five should be a good place to start for the average fantasy baseballer.

Neftali Blanks Mariners

Neftali Feliz goes 7 with no runs in MLB starting debut.

In his MLB debut as a starting pitcher Neftali Feliz went 7 IP allowing only 4 Hs, 2 BB with zero ERs and 4 Ks in the first 1-0 win in Rangers Ballpark.

Successful, yes? So why is everyone surprised?

Short memories I guess. Everyone remembers his Rookie of the Year campaign and his 72 Saves between 2010 and 2011. But what no one seems to remember is his 54 starts since 2006. In 2008 Feliz started 17 times (A ball) with a 2.52 ERA and in 2009 he had 10 starts with a 2.98 ERA (AA).

He has a fastball, curve, change, and has recently added a slider which was working well on Tuesday night and although he can hit 98+ MPH he was keeping it a steady 94-95 only reaching back when he needed to and recording a couple Ks with his off-speed stuff.

As much as a question mark as Yu Darvish is at this point, it will be nice to see how consistent Feliz can be and for how long. Remember, Alexi Ogando had a great first half in 2011 as a starter for the Rangers but faded after the All-Star Break. I think Feliz will be different though as he has more starting experience than Ogando (3 starts in AA).

A 3.30 ERA, 12 Ws, and a 1.25 WHIP are not out of the question for Neftali. Get him now if you can. If not, wait until he gives up 3-4 ERs in an upcoming game and pounce then.

Follow Steve Hamby on Twitter @SteveOnSportsOK

Thunder Back on a Roll

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The Oklahoma City Thunder are back on track after a road win at Milwaukee 109-89 over the Bucks.

Thabo Sefolosha set a career high with seven steals. Russell Westbrook led the scoring with 26 points, Kevin Durant added 18 assists, and Serge Ibaka added five blocked shots.

The Thunder also won 91-75 over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday and look to get a streak going with a two game home stand this week as the host the L.A. Clippers on Wednesday and the Sacramento Kings on Friday. The Thunder will follow this week up with a 5-game road trip.