Strawberry Festival 2.0

I did this last year. Here I go again. I’m currently on my way to the Strawberry Festival. I’ll be blogging everything I eat and anything exciting we do. Enjoy!

We’re here!
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First up, Fiske Fries!
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These were good. Put some Landry’s Seasoned Salt on them and downed them in just a matter of a few moments.

Next up, the Amish Doughnut.
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This was absolutely fantastic. Better than Krispy Kreme! Wow. Just wow.

We followed up our Amish doughnut with a Krispy Kreme burger. This had to be the worst thing I ate today. But, with all we ate, who knows. image

After this, we had some pineapple and strawberry swirl ice cream. So good. It rivals Disney’s Dole Whip. It’s not as good. But, it’s close. Sorry, no picture. It was too gone too fast.

What’s a Strawberry Festival without this iconic food? The epic Strawberry Shortcake!!! This was so good. We made our own and split it. If you’ve never had one of these, from Florida, your life is not complete.
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Next up: Chocolate Dipt Bacon
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I didn’t spell that name incorrectly. This is Plant City. We spell things like you say them. It’s not ‘dipped’ it’s ‘dipt.’ Get it right. This load of bacon and chocolate dipping sauce was savory and sweet. Great stuff, as always.

Then came Cara’s favorite, Deep Fried Cookie Dough!

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These are so good. They were fresh and unlike other times that we had gotten them, they weren’t sickening sweet. Definitely worth a try if you haven’t had them.

Next up, an Italian Sausage.

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What is a fair/carnival/festival without an Italian Sausage? Lathered this up with some mustard and it was Gone In 60 Seconds. Wonderful.

Strawberry Pizza Time!!!
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Brandon Farms gets the shout out here. These guys make the best Strawberry Pizza in the world. Go find them. They’re on the North side of SR 60 in Brandon, near Dover RD. A slice of this will change your life.

Loaded Curly Fries.
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We just hadn’t had enough calories. So this happened. We finished it. Of course. No crumbs left. Get on our level.
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We then washed all of that down with a strawberry milkshake from Brandon Farms. Not too thick and not too sweet. These go great with a slice of the afore mentioned Strawberry Pizza.

We took a break from food to go see The Band Perry.
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The concert was a ton of fun. They are a fun group with some great songs. Glad we got to go. Sitting 10 rows off the stage wasn’t bad either.

After hitting up concert, we had a couple more food stops left in us.

Another stop at the Amish Doughnut stand. This time, Jamie modeled for us.
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Hawt.

Finally, Cara just wouldn’t let me leave without her getting some Kettle Korn.

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So, walking out, we downed this bag of bliss and waddled back to the car.

Great day. Great food. Great fun.

Can’t wait for next year to do it all again.

Take care,
-TJ

My Journey To The National Championship

As I sit here on this 2 hour flight from Kansas City to Houston, I think I am finally ready to put into words my experience throughout this past weekend. I’ll try to be as concise (and thorough) as I can. I’m not sure who will end up reading this, but even if it’s just me that this is for, I’m more than happy to write it out. So, here we go.

I was sitting at a friend’s house very early on Sunday morning in Orlando, Florida. I had to be in Orlando all day on Saturday for meetings and I was flying out of the Orlando airport the next morning, so Kyle said it’d be cool to chill at his place so I didn’t have to drive home and then back to Orlando. As we sat there on his couch, talking about the game that would take place on Monday night, I got an email from the airline. “Your flight has been cancelled.” No details. No explanation; just that message. I immediately told Kyle that I wanted to go to the airport to see what I could find. We got ready and left at 3 AM. Upon arriving at the Orlando airport, I learned that my flight from Orlando to Houston was still good, but that my flight from Houston to LA was no longer going. Anger, shock, disappointment, and fear struck my body. I had made all plans, spent all the time, invested all the money and this is how it would end.

I got to Houston as normally scheduled, and by the Grace of God, I got on a flight only 4 hours after I was originally supposed to leave Houston. The story of me getting on that sold out flight was pretty cool, also. I just kept complimenting the lady behind the counter and talking about the Lord and she said, “You know what? You’re so kind. Most people today are so mean and rude because of all of the cancellations. I’m going to give you a first class ticket on the next flight to LA, one just became available.” (This is free: Be nice to people, it helps in the long run.)

I landed in LA on Sunday (1/5) at around 4 PM. I went to Budget and picked up my rental car and headed out to a little town called Pico Rivera. I got to my hotel, which was a suite that had been upgraded without my knowledge as well.

At this point, I had been up since 7 AM on Saturday morning. The smart thing to do would have been to go lay down and get some rest for the big day that would happen on the morrow. However, this is not how I live. I bought a ticket and went to the Lakers. (When in So-Cal, do as the Southern Californians do.) I figured I’m only going to live once, so “Go Big or Go Home.” After my day of travel, going home was not an option.

I got a shower quickly and headed off to Downtown Los Angeles. I got to the game about 5 minutes before the tip. There were a ton of FSU and Auburn fans at the Lakers game, which meant a definite sellout. The environment at Staples Center is like no other NBA stadium. There’s an aura of being on hallowed grounds. The Lakers played well in quarters 1-3. It was a close game going into the 4th. However, Denver capitalized on many mistakes by the Lakers and ended up pulling ahead quite significantly in the final quarter.

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During the Lakers game, both the FSU War Chant and the “F-L-O-R-I-D-A-S-T-A-T-E” chant broke out. What a neat experience that was. FSU fans were taking over Staples Center, and I was right in the middle of it.

I left the game and headed back out to my hotel in Pico Rivera. Before I could go to sleep, I had to make one more stop. A trip to Los Angeles is not complete without at least one trip to In-N-Out Burger.  It was fantastic, and if you ever go to LA and go not go there to eat, you are missing something great.

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Back to the hotel around midnight, and finally to bed, after 42 hours without sleep. Sunday’s events were cool. But, I had no idea what was in store for me in the next 24 hours.

I woke up around 10 AM on Monday; Game Day baby! I had met up with a couple of FSU fans at my hotel that were headed up to the Stadium about the same time that I was. I asked if I could ride with them and chip in for parking. They were more than happy to allow me to ride, which meant I had to pay $10 in gas instead of $50, if I had to go by myself.

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We got to the Rose Bowl parking lot around 1:00 PM. Game time was a little over 4 hours from now. I walked up to the stadium and immediately was looking for the Crystal Ball that sat atop The Coaches’ Trophy. They were giving free pictures with it until 2 PM. I got there at 1:30 and they had already closed the line. I offered the security guard $50 to let me in, which he declined. But, as fate would have it, they let about 20 more people in line so that a few more people could take a picture with it. I was the first of those 20.

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After taking my picture with that trophy, I went to the Heisman House and took my picture with Jameis Winston’s Heisman trophy. Both were very neat experiences. After both of these events, it was time to head back to the car, change into my “game clothes,” and go back to the stadium for the game. I took off the “Title Bound” shirt that Cara’s mom got me for Christmas and put on the same clothes I’ve worn for the last several FSU games. White long sleeved undershirt, #5 FSU jersey, garnet FSU hat, and black sweat pants. It was time to head up to the stadium. I found a plug in and charged my phone up to about 80%, to take pictures and videos.

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Walking into the stadium and having my ticket scanned was a wonderful feeling. I was in, and I wasn’t leaving for many hours. By the time I got to my seat, the National Anthem was about to start. We won the toss, deferred, and kicked off. The game had begun.

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The game started slowly and we did not look good. I was sitting in the middle of Auburn’s section. (Earlier I had paid a scalper $50 to upgrade my ticket from the top row of the stadium to about 20 rows up.) The Auburn fans were very hospitable. They could have given me a ton of crap since I was the only one in garnet amongst all of the burnt orange and dark blue. But, they didn’t ever talk smack or treat me with any disrespect. I think that they knew that their lead was not safe, which would be proven true later.

Down 21-3, things were not looking great for the Noles. The fake punt got FSU’s crowd back into the game. Jimbo made the call of the game with his decision to go for it. We ended up getting a TD to cut the Auburn lead to 21-10 at the half.

In the 3rd quarter, we only managed a FG, but our defense set us up with a chance to win the game by not allowing a single point to Auburn in that quarter. I truly think that the defense that we played in the 3rd quarter is a very underrated and underappreciated aspect of why we won the game. The offense hadn’t quite gotten going yet, and the star studded defense kept Auburn from scoring anything.

The 4th quarter was a wild one. We scored to cut the lead to 21-20. Then, our defense had a huge stop inside the 10-yard line to hold Auburn to a FG. The score was 24-20 Auburn with just under 5 minutes to go. Would this be Jameis Winston’s Heisman moment? Not quite. Kermit Whitfield took the next kickoff back 100 yards for a TD and FSU had it’s first lead since the 1st quarter. The Auburn faithful were stunned and completely silent. Auburn got the ball back down 27-24. Nick Marshall made a nice play to break a tackled on a 3rd and long that kept their drive alive. Then, later, Trey Mason ran a 37-yard TD to the right side gave Auburn the lead 31-27 with 1:19 left on the clock.

Remember that team that hadn’t been tested all year? Remember that QB who didn’t have a Heisman moment? Remember that team that couldn’t come back if they were down late because they hadn’t done it before? Remember those players who just couldn’t compete with the Seriously Entitled Conference? Just checking to make sure.

That team got their test, That QB got his Heisman moment. That team came back even though they never had before. Those players showed the SEC Champs that they could compete with anyone, anytime, anywhere.

Winston drove the team down for the winning score by completing short passes and taking what the Auburn defense gave him. One of those short passes turned into a 49 yard pass after Rashad Greene split two converging defenders. All of a sudden, the best team in the Nation had 21 yards separating them and the Crystal Ball. After a couple of short passes and an obvious Pass Interference call on Auburn, FSU was set up with 1st and Goal from the 2 yard line. 17 ticks remained on the clock. Auburn fans knew what was coming. FSU fans knew what was coming. The Nation knew what was coming. A pass from Winston to 6’5” Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds left clinched the National Championship for FSU. 34-31 with 13 seconds left.

After an incompletion by Marshall, there were 3 seconds left in the season. A hook and ladder play that ended with Marshall throwing the ball back to Mason (who had blockers and a wall) was the final play of the game. Mason was tackled and the confetti rained down onto the field and into the crowd. It was over. All the work, all the travel, all the anticipation had paid off and we stood as kings of the college football world.

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After the game, I collected up a few souvenirs that people had left behind. I also asked a security guard to grab some of the grass from the turf for me and I also picked up some confetti. After the stadium had cleared, and everyone left, I headed back to the car. We went out that to downtown Pasadena and went to a post-game party with some boosters and alumni.

I went to bed that night at 3 AM. I got up the next morning and sat in LAX until 7:35 PM. I got on a flight from LAX to Kansas City. Went to the Sleep Inn and stayed the night. Got up this morning and am currently flying to Houston, and there I’ll get a flight to Tampa.

This trip has been unbelievable. I received so much support and love from so many friends, family, and strangers. I couldn’t have made this trip if not for a few people. If not for my Aunt Danielle, I could not have afforded flights to and from LA. She let me have a Buddy Pass, which allowed me to fly for nothing. I also have to thank my fiancée, Cara Brookshire. I am marrying her in 52 days and she was more than willing to give me up for a few days to be able to fulfill one of my dreams. Kyle let me stay at his place the night/morning before. He also drove me to the airport and helped me find a flight. My family was very supportive and constantly checked up on me since I was traveling alone.

I really don’t have words to adequately describe my emotions of this trip. It was the time of my life, so far. I wouldn’t trade a single part of it. I wouldn’t change the cancelled flight, waiting on standby, or the tired sickness I feel right now. It all worked together and I saw my favorite team in all of sports be crowned the Champions. It was something I’ll never forget.

Lastly, my favorite quote of the season was Jameis saying, “At Florida State, if we goin’ do it then, we do it big then.” Well folks, “We did it big then.”

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The Most Exciting Series of the Season

There certainly is a late September feeling to this July matchup. The Rays come in on a 5 game winning streak. They’ve taken 17 of their last 19 and 20 of their last 24. The Red Sox, on the other hand, have owned the Rays this season.

Boston boasts a 9-3 record against Tampa Bay this year. They started out with a 3 game sweep at Fenway Park in mid-April. Then took the final 2 in a 3 game set at Tropicana Field in May. In June the two teams matched up to play 6 games in 10 days. Tampa Bay managed to squeak out a game in each series there.

There have been a few classic moments in this season series; more for Boston than Tampa, obviously. In the first game of the season series, Shane Victorino knocked in Jacoby Ellsbury to give Boston a 2-1 walk off win. Two days later on Patriots’ Day, the Rays rallied in the top of the 9th to tie the game at 2, only to have Mike Napoli hit a double that score Pedrioa for Boston’s 2nd walk off win in 3 days.

Tampa’s 1st win in the season series moved Matt Moore to 7-0 on the year. Two days later the Rays led 3-1 going into the 9th inning when Fernando Rodney gave up a 3 RBI Double to Will Middlebrooks. The Rays ended up losing that game with the final score of 4-3.

In the first game of the season series in June the Rays, after trailing by 6, fought back to tie the game in the 8th. Boston scored 2 runs in the 10th which brought about another rally from Tampa to tie the game at 8-8. Evan Longoria was up with the bases loaded and 1 out. He could have been the hero, but instead grounded into a double play. The Rad Sox ended up winning the marathon 10-8 in 14 innings.

On June 18th, the Rays didn’t score until the 9th inning on a Kelly Johnson home run that tied the score at 1. However, Jonny Gomes hit a 2 run home run in the bottom of the 9th to give Boston their 3rd walk off win against the Rays.

It hasn’t been a pretty matchup for the Rays so far this season. If you’ve been under a rock for the last month, you may think that Tampa fans are crazy for wanting a matchup with Boston. Well, it’s finally here and in a little over an hour #1 will go up against #2 at Fenway Park.

The Rays have been on a torrid pace. After taking the final 2 games from Detroit at home, they went to Houston to win 3 out of 4. Then, they came home to sweep the White Sox in 3 games and the Twins in 4. Then they took 3 out of 4 from Houston again. After the All Star break, they went on the road to sweep Toronto.

The Red Sox are 6-4 in their last 10. However, they played an extremely long, difficult game against New York last night. Boston did end up taking the series from the NYY but it may have cost their bullpen. After going 11 innings and having to use 6 relievers last night, Boston will be looking for a strong performance from their starters in this series.

Boston is also hobbled by injuries right now. Andrew Miller and Andrew Bailey are gone from the pen and Buchholz is still not back from his injuries. However, there is plenty of offense in their bats. They are number 1 in the MLB right now in runs scored and 2nd in batting average.

The Rays come into this series trailing Boston by 1.5 games. A split would keep that number the same, but if Tampa could find a way to win 3 out of the 4, they would find themselves in 1st place in the mighty AL East. The Rays have done what they needed to do against the bottom dwellers in the league. Now, it’s time for them to step up and take down a quality opponent. The Red Sox have eaten Tampa Bay’s lunch all year. Will the Rays step up and assert themselves as the best team in the best division in baseball? I’d like to think so.

Matt Moore is on the mound against Brandon Workman. The game starts at 7:10. The winner sets themselves up nicely for the rest of the series. Hopefully, that will be Tampa Bay.

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Go Rays!

-tp

Powerful words I heard in a song.

Taken from Greater Vision’s “Soon We Will See”

Soon I may face a dark storm of trouble and have to sail through a tempest so rough.  Or I may have to climb a mountain of sorrow; it’s coming if I live long enough. But there’s something ahead that keeps me from dreading the sadness I’ll face here below. You see the stage is prepared and soon the curtain will open, to a city where I long to go.

Soon I will see the portals of Glory. Soon I will see the Great I Am. Soon I will heart the angels cry, “Holy!” Soon I will see the Lamb.
                                           
So what could I face that could steal the excitement of this which will soon come to pass? These burdens down here, sometimes they’re so heavy but it’s written that they will not last. Oh, for soon they will be overpowered by a trumpet, announcing that it’s time to move on; to a place that’s prepared for those who’ve made ready for a meeting with Almighty God.

Live Blog of the 84th MLB All Star Game

11:30 – Mo wins the ASG MVP. Well deserved.

11:26 – AL wins 3-0.

11:25 – Rays have home field in the World Series!!!

11:21 – 2 out double.

11:20 – Strike out swinging. 2 outs.

11:18 – Called strike 3. 1 out.

11:16 – The Rays are 3 outs away from having home field advantage in the World Series.

11:11 – 2 groundouts and Price is still on 3rd with 2 outs.

11:08 – If the AL scores here, there will be NO SAVE. I think that’d be fitting since Mo can’t get the save.

11:07 – Prince Fielder with a 3B. That doesn’t happen. EVER.

11:01 – 1, 2, 3 inning for Rivera. Hopefully he’ll pitch the 9th as well.

10:51 – ENTER. SANDMAN.

10:50 – Rivera coming in. This is not a good move.

10:48 - Nathan had plenty of time to warm up here. Leyland is just a moron.

10:46 – Hearing “Sweet Caroline” makes me think about how Boston CHOKED in 2011. WONDERFUL MEMORIES.

10:44 - 3 runs… sit Mariano down and let him pitch the 9th.

10:42 – A 6-3 Double Play has a runner at 3rd for Kipnis.

10:42 - YOU DON’T MANAGE A GAME THINKING, “IF WE BLOW THE LEAD IN THE 8TH…”

10:40 – 2 on, no outs. Good guys are batting.

10:34 – Mr. FSU strikes out to end the 7th inning.

10:31 – How many pitchers are we going to see this inning?

10:25 – Evan makes that play, as well.

10:21 - I like when a non-American sings “God Bless America.” #Sarcasm

10:20 – Those TEETH.

10:18 – This guys is an idiot. Anytime you “used to be married to J-Lo,” you’re a moron.

10:17 – Jones strikes out.

10:16 – Chapman walks Cruz and then Encarnacion grounds into a double play. The Blue Jays freaking suck.

10:09 – Shaky inning for Balfour but he gets through it without giving up a run.

10:04 – A BB and a pop-up to SS. 1 on, 1 out.

10:00 – My boy, Grant Balfour is in to pitch the bottom of the 6th.

9:57 – Davis goes down swinging and that was a GREAT inning by Fernandez.

9:52 – They let Marlins play in this thing? Fernandez is in now.

9:49 – Just like that, Moore throws 9 pitches and is in line for the W.

9:48 – Moore gets Tulowitzki to pop out to the Midget from Boston on the first pitch of the AB. 3 outs.

9:48 – Moore gets Molina (Yadi) to ground on, 6-3, after 6 pitches.

9:46 – 2 pitches in and Moore gets Gonzales to ground out. 4-3.

9:45 – Matty Mo is on the mound.

9:44 – WE WANT MOORE, WE WANT MOORE.

9:41 – Phillips is Phenomenal. Nice 6-4-3 to end the threat.

9:40 – Jones scores after Hardy grounds into a FC. Trout up now. 2-0 good guys.

9:37 – Mauer singles off Tulo’s glove. (This is the same exact scenario from last inning for the AL; 2B then a base hit off an IF’s glove.)

9:35 – Adam Jones gives the AL their 3rd double of the night. (Cliff Lee pitching)

9:30 – Just a side note, Joe Buck has said, “This is gonna be a tough play” two separate times on ground balls to 3rd base. I’m not sure what game he’s watching, but they were both routine. Idiot.

9:30 – Ground out to 3rd. Inning over. 1-0 AL after 4 innings.

9:28 – Wright up with a man on 3rd and 2 outs after a groundout moved the runner to 3rd.

9:25 – Queen Felix gives up the first hit to the NL. McCutchen steals 2nd.

9:24 – King Felix in to pitch the Bottom of the 4th.

9:20 – Fat Papi: GIDP.

9:18 – Joey Bats gives us a 1-0 lead.

9:18 – Our lineup is better than the NL’s.

9:17 – Davis lines a base hit off of Votto’s glove. 1st and 3rd with no outs.

9:14 – Miggy doubles to the opposite field.

9:13 – Corbin on for the T4. This game has been a SNOOZEFEST besides the first 3 pitches.

9:10 – 3 innings gone, no score. No base runners for the NL.

9:06 – Best moment of the ASG so far: That moment with Brandon Phillips and that US Soldier.

9:01 – The midget flies out to RF to end the T3.

8:58 – Kershaw on, gets the first 2 outs rather quickly.

8:52 – Sale works a quick inning. 2 gone. No score.

8:49 – Sale gets Wright to ground out to 3B. Evan would have played that better.

8:45 – Harvey gets Mauer to line out to left.

8:44 – Jones works a great AB, only to K. Orioles suck.

8:41 Shut up, Seaver. We want Erin!

8:40 – Big Papi flies out to CF.

8:37 – Quick three outs for Scherzer. (Phillips – 7, Beltran – 3-6, Votto – K-swinging.)

8:30 – After a leadoff double and a HBP, Matt Harvey strikes out the side. Joey Bats was his 3rd straight victim.

8:27 – Davis strikes out.

8:25 – Cano leaves the game. Pedroia will run for him. Yankees fans have NO HOPE if that guy goes down.

8:25 – Miggy strikes out.

8:21 – Cano takes a HUGE OUCH on the knee after a HBP. 2 on, no outs.

8:20 – Trout starts us of right with a double on the first pitch of the game.

8:16 – Driving home. These radio guys suck.

8:14 – Let’s see if Jim Leyland can screw this up.

8:12 – Let’s go AL.

Rodney vs Cabrera

This made for an interesting story.

After going 4-4 with 2 HRs, Miguel Cabrera was seen shooting the Bow and Arrow on Friday night, which is Rodney’s trademark.

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Rodney then brushed Miggy back on a high fastball that tails up near Miggy’s dome in the 10th inning on Saturday. Then, Fernando strikes Cabrera out swinging in the same AB.

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Detroit’s manager, Jim Leyland, promised there would be retribution for Rodney’s actions on Saturday.

During the first inning of Sunday’s game, Ben Zobrist walks to the plate with 2 outs and nobody on base. Rick Porcello hits Ben square in the shoulder, high and tight.

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Not only is this a bush-league move, it is totally absurd that someone would hit someone high when a ball only brushed your batter back the night before.

Also, Miguel Cabrera is undoubtably the best hitter in the game. However, he is a spoiled, prissy, punk who obviously showed us his true colors by his whining in the dugout after being struck out. The Tigers are stupid for feeling like they have to defend the Triple Crown Queen by hitting a classy player because Miggy saw a pitch inside.

Thoughts? Feel free to disagree, but this one seems pretty black and white.

Home Never Felt So Good

39 points, 16 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks, 1 steal and 0 turnovers. What would be a career night for most sub-superstar NBA Players, turned out to be exactly the homecoming that Dwight Howard wanted. What more could he ask for? He was dominant, from a place he usually isn’t; the Free Throw line. Well, dominant by Dwight’s standards. He went 25-39 (64.1%) from the charity stripe and went 7-12 from the field. He was great on defense, only picking up 3 fouls the entire game. His 3 blocks and 1 steal were only matched by his offensive ability to take care of the basketball. Dwight must have loved the fact that Orlando chose to make Dwight beat them (from the FT line) and he did just that.

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I was at the game tonight, in Orlando. My girlfriend and I went. It was an awesome experience. The Amway Center is an unbelievable venue for watching a game or a concert (saw Bon Jovi there a couple years ago.) We enjoyed the win, as it was our first sporting event together as an engaged couple.
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On to the playoff talk. The Lakers currently hold the 8th seed in the Western Conference. They can extend that tomorrow night, with a bit of help. It is also possible that they could claim 7th place with a little more help. Here’s the scoop:

The Lakers play the Atlanta Hawks tomorrow night at 7:30. If the Lakers win, they will retain the 8th seed, no matter what Utah does. If Utah loses (at OKC, 8PM) they will move to 1.5 GB of LA. The teams could potentially flip-flop positions if LA was to lose and Utah was to win.

The Lakers are also only .5 GB of the 7th seeded Houston Rockets. Both teams play tomorrow. If both teams win or lose, they will retain the same distance between them. If LA loses but Houston wins (vs Phoenix, 8PM) they will have a 1.5 game lead on us. If we win and they are upset by the Suns, we will own the 7th seed by half a game.

Golden State also plays late. We are 2 GB of them. They play at 10:30 against the Pistons.

We really can’t control much, except the way we play. The playoffs are in plain sight. It’s just about maintaining as of right now. Tomorrow night’s game is big for us. We need a solid effort like we had tonight, and we’ll be fine!

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Go Lakers!!

#WinForDrBuss

-TJ

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