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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, January 29, 2012 at 9:25 AM

Let's face it:

This here-and-now 2011-12 NBA Season has been a major mess on many fronts with a slew of injuries to key players taking a real-live bite out of the action and let's not forget that few teams really looked prepared to play when things tipped off Christmas Day - but now we're approximately 20-or-so games through the season for all the NBA teams and, while that may appear to be early still, there's a few teams have truly nose-dived one-third way through the current campaign.

Here's the NBA "biggest flops" thus far with team records while heading into this weekend's action:

NEW YORK (7-11) - Hey, didn't you hear those sound bites with blabbermouth TV voice Charles Barkley the other night? Seems that Sir Charles believes the Knicks are all out of whack and that Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire ain't exactly a good fit ... wait a minute, this is all just dawning on Barkley now?

The fact of the matter is the Knicks don't have any direction at point guard - maybe rookie Iman Shumpert will be good some day but that day's not yet here - and it's the same old story with Anthony who needs the ball and needs to isolate his defender to make hay but than that means lots of standing around for everyone else. Is head coach Mike D'Antoni at least partly to blame? Yes he is. But this is your quintessential fantasy league team at work here and thus New York gets our Jim Sez vote as the NBA's biggest flops of this abbreviated season so far.

SACRAMENTO (6-13) - The Kings at press time were 2-9 on the road and 3-9 against fellow Western Conference clubs and that's awful stuff for a team sporting at least three high-quality young players in PG Tyreke Evans, SG Marcus Thornton and C DeMarcus Cousins but if you listen to some of the folks on the rumor mill than you get the that one or more of the above-mentioned names is trying to talk his way out of town with a trade. Maybe the fact the early portion of this sked has been really rough accounts for many of the woes (remember they already fired head coach Paul Westphal and so far interim coach Keith Smart isn't reminding anyone of Phil Jackson!).

LOS ANGELES LAKERS (11-8) - As the NBA headed into this final weekend in January, here were the Lakers tied for the sixth seed (or the eighth seed, if you're a glass half-empty type guy/gal) and really trying hard to adjust to new head coach Mike Brown. Maybe some of that late-game physical/chippy play against the now-rival LA Clippers the other night will help spark a Lakers crew that's searching for the proper chemistry but if you ask us than Kobe Bryant (averaging 30.2 points per game) should be taking over matters right from the get-go instead of the Lakers trying so darn hard to get big men Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol involved as offensive hubs early. The Lakers are 1-6 on the road thus far and that's not likely to continue but the growing pains with boss-man Brown have been evident.

MEMPHIS (10-8) - Okay, so the Grizzlies are not some kind of bust or anything while busy playing .556 ball so far but didn't all NBA fans expect lots more from a team that nearly ousted Oklahoma City from last year's NBA Western Conference Playoffs? The Grizz have perked things up lately while going 7-3 SU (straight-up) in their last 10 games but so far nagging injuries (see recent ankle woes for scorer Rudy Gay) have haunted Lionel Hollins' squad and keep in mind Zach Randolph has played just four games so far but we've also seen some erratic play and the team's 31 percent accuracy rate from three-point land has been an issue. Hey, we'll have lots more NBA goodies along the way both next week and throughout this truncated 2011-12 regular season

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will get you the Super Bowl XLVI Sides & Totals Winners on game-day plus there's loads of College Basketball and NBA Winners each and every day when you check in with us either right here online or else at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453.


We'll keep counting down the days till we get to the Super Bowl XLVI showdown between the New England Patriots versus the New York Giants but let's fill the time with some "conversation pieces" like why third-down plays will be so ultra-critical in this upcoming game in Indianapolis:

Folks, the Giants have been absolutely masterful on third-down plays in this post-season while hammering out playoff wins against the Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers and let the numbers speak for themselves:

The NFC champs have converted 23-of-52 third-down plays for a 44.2 success rate and note the next-best playoff team in terms of third-down conversions made are the Baltimore Ravens with 13 successful tries - true, Baltimore only played two post-season games but consider for a moment that the Giants have been this close to converting half of their third-down plays against fellow playoff teams and nobody needs to remind the Packers who allowed the G-men to convert 8-of-16 third-down plays in that NFC Divisional Playoff game a couple of weeks ago.

The Patriots?

Well, they will enter Super Sunday next week having converted 8-of-17 third-down plays (that's 47.1 percent) so far this post-season but it's been the Giants that really faced lots of third-down pressure plays this month. Okay, so last week the Giants converted just 7-of-21 third-down plays in San Francisco but the flip side said NYG allowed the 49ers to make good on 1-of-13 third-down plays and that was really a throwaway on the final play of regulation.

Meanwhile, the Pats allowed Baltimore to convert 9-of-17 third-down plays last week in that thrilling AFC Championship Game in Foxboro while QB Tom Brady and the Pats converted 5-of-11 third-down plays in that title tilt.

Gut feeling here is that if the Giants are able to string together a few third-down conversions than it might take some starch out of the Patriots' 31st-ranked defense ... conversely, if Bill Belichick's stop unit can stagger QB Eli Manning and mates on some early third-down plays it could energize the AFC champs.

Here's the playoff game-by-game look at how third down has worked out both for and against these two teams:


Third-Down Conversions -- Atlanta 4-of-14; NY Giants 8-of-15

Third-Down Conversions -- NY Giants 8-of-16; Green Bay 6-of-12

GIANTS 20, 49ERS 17 (ot)
Third-Down Conversions - NY Giants 7-of-21; San Francisco 1-of-13

Third-Down Conversions - New England 3-of-6; Denver 7-of-18

Third-Down Conversions - New England 5-of-11; Baltimore 9-of-17

NOTE: Lots more Super Bowl goodies all week long and don't forget our SB XLVI Preview later in the week.

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