December 31, 2019

In what proved to be an excellent gift for the fans of Philadelphia, the 76ers dominated the Milwaukee Bucks in the battle between the two East heavyweights on Christmas Day and walked away with a 121-109 win. Thanks to some suffocating defense and some hot shooting from long distance, the Sixers controlled the contest virtually from the opening tip and made things difficult for Milwaukee all afternoon.
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Giannis Antetokounmpo may be the reigning NBA MVP, but he wasn't the best player on the floor on Wednesday. That honor goes to Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid, who paced Philadelphia with 31 points, and 11 rebounds. Embiid got some serious help, too, as five other Sixers -- Tobias Harris, Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, Al Horford and Furkan Korkmaz -- all also scored in double figures. Embiid had a great game offensively, but his defense was equally impressive as he and the rest of the Sixers held Antetokounmpo to just 18 points on 8-of-27 shooting from the field. Khris Middleton led the Bucks with 31 points and eight rebounds.
With the win, the Sixers move to 18-14 all-time on Christmas Day, while the Bucks fall to 3-3. Though it was only a game in December, the matchup between the two teams certainly felt like it could be a potential preview of the Eastern Conference finals. With that said, here are some takeaways from the Sixers' impressive win over the Bucks. 

Sixers have a lot of options to throw at Giannis  

Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the most difficult players to guard in the entire NBA, and it's very difficult -- virtually impossible sometimes even -- for one single player to stop him. However, the Sixers have several players capable of potentially slowing him for a period of time, and that could work to their advantage should the two teams ultimately meet in the postseason. Joel Embiid, Al Horford, Ben Simmons and Mike Scott all spent some time guarding Antetokounmpo on Wednesday afternoon, and though he still put up decent counting stats (18 points and 14 rebounds), the Sixers were able to largely limit his production and efficiency; Giannis was just 8 of 27 from the floor, and he finished well below his season average of 31 points per performance. Embiid especially had a major impact on Antetokounmpo, as he can match Giannis physically and made things difficult for him every time he tried to drive to the rim. The Sixers have the length and versatility to frustrate Antetokounmpo, and it worked on Christmas Day.

Giannis' deep ball still needs some work

The one glaring weakness in Antetokounmpo's game has long been his ability to space the floor with his shot. His lack of range has made it easier for defenses to prepare for him by packing the paint and making it difficult for him to drive. Antetokounmpo obviously knows this, and he worked on that area of his game over the offseason. He's attempting more 3s per game this season than he ever has before, and he's tied a career high by shooting 34 percent from deep. All of this is encouraging for Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. However, after his performance against the Sixers on Wednesday, it's clear that his deep ball still needs quite a bit of work. Antetokounmpo was 0 for 7 from deep for the game, and it got to the point that the Sixers were just daring him to shoot:
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Until Antetokounmpo is able to consistently knock down 3s in big games, defenses will continue to give him space, and it will continue to be an issue for Milwaukee.

Embiid had a Christmas message for the league

Embiid has been on the receiving end of his fair share of criticism this season, but he was the best player on the floor on Wednesday, despite the presence of the reigning NBA MVP. Embiid set the tone for the Sixers from the jump, as his aggression on both ends of the floor allowed Philadelphia to jump out to an early lead and never look back. In a joint effort between the organization and player to keep him fresh for the postseason, Embiid's minutes are down compared to last season, and as a result his per game stats are as well. However, on any given day when he's healthy and focused, Embiid is capable of being the best player in any given game, and one of the most dominant forces in the entire league. 
"A lot of people have forgotten who I am," Embiid said after the win. With his performance on Christmas Day, it's safe to say he reminded everyone. 
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President Trump has mostly taken the day off of Twitter on Christmas, with the exception of posting holiday greetings from his family.
Wednesday morning, the president simply tweeted, "MERRY CHRISTMAS," then followed that up by retweeting a video message from first lady Melania Trump and him.
"The president and I want to wish each and every American a very merry Christmas," Melania Trump said at the beginning of the video, which was first posted by her account.
"At this sacred time of year, Christians celebrate the birth of our lord and savior, Jesus Christ, and rejoice in his love for every person," the president continued. "We give thanks for the millions of Americans who come together to care for others with compassion and bring the warmth and bliss of this holy season to our families, our friends, our neighbors, and to those in need."
The message concluded with a prayerful message of thanks to U.S. military and law enforcement.
"As we gather with loved ones this holiday, Americans across this land are grateful for all the men and women in uniform who keep us safe: our military, our police and everyone in law enforcement," Mrs. Trump said.
The president closed, stating, "We say a special prayer for those military service members stationed far from home, and we renew our hope for peace among nations and joy to the world. On behalf of the entire Trump family, we wish everyone a joyous and merry Christmas and a very happy, happy new year."
The president also retweeted a Christmas greeting from the White House's official Twitter account.
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The first family has been spending the holiday at the president's private club in Palm Beach, Fla. They attended a music-filled Christmas Eve service at a Southern Baptist Convention-affiliated church before celebrating with dinner in the ballroom of his private club. They were expected to remain out of sight Wednesday.
On Tuesday evening, the first lady answered calls from children across the country as part of North American Aerospace Defense Command's "Operation NORAD Tracks Santa" program. Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said Mrs. Trump spoke with several children and heard items on their Christmas lists.
Grisham said Mrs. Trump "reminded the kids to put milk and cookies out for Santa, and wished each child and their families a very merry Christmas."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Welcome to a jumbo edition of top picks! As opposed to the carefully curated picks this space typically provides, I've decided to give you all a gift on this joyous day. There are five NBA games on Christmas. You're getting picks for all of them. So, without further ado, let's dive into today's top picks. 

*All lines via William Hill
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Boston Celtics at Toronto Raptors: Celtics -3

The Celtics and Raptors have already played once this season. The Celtics won by six. Pascal SiakamMarc Gasol and Norman Powell all played in that game, but they won't be playing in this one. Call me crazy, but removing three of a team's best players likely isn't going to lead to a better outcome. Yes, that's an oversimplification, but expecting a team as deep as the Celtics to lose to a Raptors team missing so much talent, even with Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart sidelined, just seems unrealistic. 

Milwaukee Bucks at Philadelphia 76ers: 76ers +3

The unstoppable force meets the immovable object. The Bucks have the NBA's best net rating, as they are crushing teams by 13 points per 100 possessions, buoyed by the NBA's second-best offensive rating (114.4). The 76ers are undefeated at home, led by the NBA's second-best home defense at 101 points allowed per 100 possessions. Philadelphia's preferred starting lineup has barely played together this season due to injuries, but when it has, it has allowed only 94.6 points per 100 possessions, a figure that is utterly mind-boggling in the context of a 2019 starting lineup. The 76ers should have that entire group on Christmas. That is the difference. The Bucks are a better team overall, but the 76ers shouldn't be getting three points at home when they are relatively healthy. 

Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors: Rockets -11

The Warriors have already lost 12 games this season by 11 or more points. If there is a team in basketball to feel comfortable laying double digits against, it is them. Odds are, this turns into a fairly cathartic beatdown for a Rockets team that has been denied consecutive trips to the NBA Finals by Warriors teams that wore these uniforms, but did not employ these players. The NBA obviously expected a very different sort of game than this when they scheduled it for Christmas, but injuries happen, and the Rockets should have no trouble with Golden State in its present condition. 

Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers: Clippers -2

The expectation coming into this game for weeks was that if any team was going to be undermanned, it would be the Clippers. The Lakers have far more at stake from a narrative perspective after their opening day loss, and the Clippers have been so conservative in managing the minutes its players play that it would be reasonable to assume that the Lakers, going all out, would have beaten a Clippers team without much to play for here. 
Instead, the Lakers will be playing with a hobbled Anthony Davis and LeBron James. The Clippers should have their entire roster available on Christmas. Even if you assume that these two teams are even, which they likely aren't at the moment, the Lakers have no alternative to James and Davis. They don't have a third scorer or ball-handler. If they aren't up to their typical standard, the Lakers can't game-plan around it. The Clippers have a variety of ways in which they can, and do, beat opponents. With only a two-point line, the Clippers should be one of the day's easier picks. 

New Orleans Pelicans at Denver Nuggets: Nuggets -9.5

Here's a scary thought ... the Nuggets, who had struggled mightily offensively for most of the season, are up to seventh in the league on that end of the floor in December. That hasn't come with significant sacrifices on defense. They are sixth in the NBA in December defensively. The difference in net rating between these two teams in December alone is 16.1 points per 100 possessions. Suddenly, a 9.5-point spread doesn't look so scary. The Nuggets have found their winning formula. The Pelicans have not. Expect a relatively clean Nuggets win in this one.

HealthDay Reporter
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THURSDAY, Dec. 26, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Here comes the new year, and with it hordes of folks looking for ways to fulfill resolutions to eat healthy.
Intermittent fasting is a legitimate option they might want to consider, claims a new review in the Dec. 26 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
"The state of the science on intermittent fasting has evolved to the point that it now can be considered as one approach, with exercise and healthy food, to improving and maintaining health as a lifestyle approach," said senior author Mark Mattson, a neuroscientist with Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.
There are two main ways to adopt intermittent fasting into your life, Mattson said:
  • Daily time-restricted feeding gives you a narrow window during which you can eat, usually 6 to 8 hours each day.
  • 5:2 intermittent fasting requires that people only eat one moderate-sized meal on two days each week.
When people are fasting, they are slowly burning through the glucose stored in their liver, Mattson explained. The liver holds about 700 calories of glucose.

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"It takes 10 to 12 hours to use the liver's energy stores," Mattson said. "Then what happens is, fats are used for energy."
This process is called "metabolic switching," and the three-meals-a-day eating pattern favored by Americans doesn't allow their bodies to run through their liver's energy stores and make the switch to fat-burning, Mattson said.
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In the new paper, Mattson and colleagues summarized the current scientific evidence. Studies show that intermittent fasting can:

"If you're thinking of intermittent fasting as a fad diet, I think it's actually a pretty legitimate option," said Hannah Kittrell, a registered dietitian and manager of the Mount Sinai PhysioLab in New York City, a nutrition and exercise physiology clinic.
"The reason for that is it's not completely cutting out any food groups," said Kittrell, who wasn't part of the study. "It's not telling you don't eat carbs, don't eat fat. It's just modulating when you're eating food."
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The NBA has waited patiently for the debut of No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson, which is already well behind schedule. When the former Duke star initially suffered a torn meniscus during the preseason, the timeline presented was six-to-eight weeks of recovery. We have already zoomed well beyond that, and there is no end in sight to Williamson's absence. He has not yet competed in five-on-five or three-on-three drills, typical precursors to a return, according to Andrew Lopez of ESPN. Instead, his focus has been on individual drills and learning how to walk and run differently in order to better prevent injuries in the future. 
Still, there's some natural anxiousness involved in a return, and if it were up to him, Williamson already would have made his debut, according to Jorge Sedano of ESPN. That he hasn't speaks to the priorities of the New Orleans Pelicans as an organization. 
The Pelicans are 9-23 and have little hope of making it back into the playoff race this season. But with Williamson, Brandon Ingram and a variety of young assets in tow, they have little reason to in the first place. This is a rebuilding franchise with a bright future ahead of it, and as such, rushing Williamson back before he is ready makes little sense. Instead, the Pelicans want to make sure that Williamson is not only physically healthy before taking the court, but mentally prepared to avoid injuries in the future. 
That is where changing his walking and running technique comes in. His unique body type poses challenges that few other players need to deal with. Williamson is one of the NBA's heaviest players at only 6-6, and his explosiveness presents unique challenges to a training staff. Fortunately, the Pelicans have one of the best team doctors in all of basketball in Aaron Nelson, renowned for his work with the Phoenix Suns. Clearly, New Orleans is trying to institute a long-term physical plan for his health that requires patience. 
And Williamson is on board with that, as he told Sedano that he "trusts the organization" as he continues on his recovery. Their goals are aligned, after all. Williamson and the Pelicans both want him to have a long, productive and healthy career, and the steps they are taking now will help make that happen. 
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Get cheap 4K TVs, coffee machines, kitchen appliances and much more in the Currys Boxing Day sale

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Merry Christmas, bargain hunters, the Boxing Day sales are here! It was only recently that the Black Friday sales and the pre-Christmas sales ended but as is traditional with the Boxing Day sales, UK shoppers have some tasty discounts to enjoy from now, through Boxing Day and into New Year when the Boxing Day sales becomes the  January sales.
If you're looking to get some cheap home electrical items then the Currys Boxing Day sale is one you can't miss out on. The British retailer is offering massive discounts on hundreds and hundreds of products, which include OLED 4K TVs, laptops, washing machines, and more.
So if you're in the market for some new home appliances, a TV, a camera, some computing or smart home tech and fancy saving a bit of cash, then hit the links below to visit the Currys Boxing Day sale section of your choice.

December 30, 2019

Eastern Michigan quarterback Mike Glass was ejected with 10 seconds left in something that is called the Quick Lane Bowl for throwing punches/slaps, which was absolutely the right call by the refs because you just can’t go around punching in people in the head, which Glass clearly did.
A ref got caught up in Glass’ second punch attempt and the guy in the striped shirt went falling to the ground pretty dramatically.
Now, you can’t punch opponents but you definitely can’t punch referees. Ever. Just can’t happen.
Glass’ open right hand did catch a little of bit of the referee on this shot but it didn’t appear to warrant such a wild collapse to the ground.
First, here’s the whole sequence for which Glass was properly thrown out of the game:
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Now here’s the ref’s flop:
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I’m obviously glad he’s OK and again, you just can’t go around punching people, especially referees in a game that you’re playing in, but man, that fall was something.
Glass felt badly about it after the game:
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Anthony Martial scored twice as Manchester United hit back in emphatic fashion from a rocky start against a benevolent Newcastle United to open their Christmas programme with a 4-1 victory at Old Trafford on Thursday.
After a 2-0 loss at Watford last weekend, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had demanded a response from his players but a yellow card for Scott McTominay after 24 seconds and going behind to Matthew Longstaff's 17th-minute goal was not what he had in mind.

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It was all smiles later though as Newcastle folded and Martial, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford all struck before half-time before Martial scored again early in the second half as United moved back to seventh, four points off the top four.
United have now won 21 Premier League games on Boxing Day for a win percentage of 81% -- more than any other club.
With midfielder Paul Pogba also coming on after half-time, only his second appearance since September because of injury, United will hope to end an up-and-down year with a flourish with a trip to Burnley looming on the horizon on Saturday.
"Against Watford we were not good enough for our standard but the boys showed a great intensity today and we thoroughly deserved the three points," defender Harry Maguire said.
"We have now got a big game in two days and our story so far has been a good performance and then a not so good one."
Newcastle have made steady progress up the table under former United defender Steve Bruce and could have gone above United with a win on Thursday. So when 19-year-old Longstaff tucked his shot past David de Gea after linking well with Joelinton the away fans went wild.
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It was Longstaff who scored the winner in the reverse fixture at St James' Park this season, but any sense of dread for the Old Trafford faithful soon diminished as United sparked into life to play some flowing football.
Six minutes after Longstaff's goal, United were level with Martial's shot squeezing in at the near post when Newcastle keeper Martin Dubravka should really have kept it out.
Newcastle offered United another gift as they tried to play out from the back but merely gave the ball to 18-year-old Greenwood who thumped a left-footed cracker in off the crossbar.
It was Greenwood's ninth goal of the season in all competitions and his emergence as a genuine goal threat has lifted the weight of expectation off the shoulders of Rashford who made it 15 for the season when he rose to head home Aaron Wan-Bissaka's inviting cross before half-time.
Newcastle's slipshod defending reached its nadir in the 51st minute when Sean Longstaff's careless back pass was pounced upon by Martial who Dubravka with ease.
"We had a horrible 20 minutes before half-time," Newcastle boss Steve Bruce said. "For the last two or three months we have been hard to beat. I know it's Christmas but I don't think Man Utd can believe it, we've made too many mistakes."
Newcastle, who have now lost more Boxing Day games in the Premier League than any other side (14) remain in 10th spot.

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Dallas Mavericks star guard Luka Doncic was sidelined for nearly two weeks, as he hadn't played since suffering an ankle sprain against the Miami Heat on Dec. 14. Despite the time off, he didn't show signs of rust when he returned to action on Thursday night against the San Antonio Spurs. Instead, the reining Rookie of the Year looked like his old self as he tallied a near triple-double with 24 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists in 33 minutes of action in the Mavs 102-98 victory. 

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After the game, Doncic spoke to TNT's Jared Greenburg about his return to action. Predictably, he said that he was very happy to be back out on the floor with his teammates, but admitted that he was extremely fatigued. 
"It felt good," Doncic said of being back. "It felt like I was running a marathon or something. I was so tired. It's different when you miss four or five games, but it was great being back, and we won." 
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Though the Mavs were able to pick up some quality wins in Doncic's absence (they were 2-2 with victories over the Bucks in Milwaukee and the 76ers in Philadelphia), the team was better off having their floor general back in action on Thursday night. Prior to the injury, Doncic put up MVP-caliber numbers, averaging 29.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, 8.9 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. He appears to be well on the way to his first All-Star appearance. Though it was only one game, he certainly appears to be picking up right where he left off. 

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The mess that is the current state of Miami Hurricanes football has yet another data point.
Heading into Thursday night’s bowl game, Manny Diaz wasn’t sure who his starting quarterback would be.  A couple of hours before kickoff, a report surfaced that the Hurricanes would be parting ways with offensive coordinator Dan Enos after one season.
Amidst that tumult, The U proceeded to spit the postseason bed.  Epically.
In the 14-0 Independence Bowl loss to Louisiana Tech, Miami was shutout in a bowl game for the first time since 1994.  They managed just 227 yards of offense.  For the game.
At 6-7, they finished below .500 for the first time since 2014.  And the second time since 2007.  And the third time since 1997.
Following the latest on-field embarrassment, Blake James issued a statement on Twitter in which he addressed “a disappointing finish” for a 2019 season “that fell well below the high standards of the University of Miami football program.”  The athletic director indicated that Diaz will be back as head coach.  The AD also indicated “clearly changes are necessary and expected.”
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Now, as for those high standards mentioned by James.
Since 2003, The U has won 10 games in a season just once.  Since joining the ACC for the 2004 season, the Hurricanes have won one division championship (2017).  They have won zero conference titles.
Going on nearly two decades, The U has been nothing more than just another football program.  And maybe that’s nothing more than they’ll ever be again?
With Beck dead and out of mind for Joe now, he's moved on to a new love interest. Literally named Love, the YOU character is played by Victoria Pedretti. Netflix fans will recognize her from The Haunting of Hill House where she played Nell Crain, and she also recently played a Manson follower in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
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According to W magazine, Hill House is the first role Pedretti landed after graduating from drama school. But one of her first auditions was actually for the first season of YOU. "It was the first callback I ever had for a show," Pedretti said, although she didn't elaborate on which role she was trying out for. "[When it eventually came out], I couldn't stop watching it. It's really captivating," she added.
Now Pedretti will be part of the reason it remains as captivating in Season 2 through her commanding performance as Love, Joe's new love interest. Love comes from money but has a down-to-earth sense of self, which is helped by the fact that she does actually work — albeit as a chef at her parents bougie grocery store/cafĂ© Anavrin. She's also suffered real loss, which is what initially connects her to Joe — although she doesn't know that Joe's loss is one of his own doing, because he killed his former girlfriend. Showrunner Sera Gamble explained that Love sees Joe as a "kindred spirit," because of their shared relationship struggles.
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One thing Love doesn't share are personality traits with Joe's former love Beck. "She's way less of a follower than Beck was," Pedretti told magazine. "I think [Joe] didn’t like the fact that she— I mean, f*ck what he thinks, but he thought [Beck] was being bulldozed by these people who didn't really understand her." Love doesn't share that same issue, perhaps because she was raised in a life with a lot more privilege.
Pedretti told Cosmopolitan magazine that she got into Love's character by spending time in Los Angeles' trendy Silver Lake neighborhood. She read up on famous socialites and spent time in the world of astrology while also adding words like "yacht" into her vocabulary. "I tried to think about what it would be like to grow up with a lot of money, with all the resources that a lot of these people have," Pedretti said.
Those resources help Love be less of a damsel in distress than Beck was in Joe's eyes. She's less of Joe's target and more of his equal — at least, Love thinks she is. There's a lot she doesn't know about Joe, and he makes frequent assumptions about other people as well that misinform him throughout the series. As much as Love may view Joe as a "kindred spirit," there's a whole side of him hiding beneath his "nice guy" exterior. Viewers can only hope Love doesn't have to meet that side and share the same ending as Beck.

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