Sunday, April 26, 2009

VSR: Game 5 Come Alive

Tonight, the Lakers should knock out Utah to advance to the 2nd round (just as I predicted a week and a half ago). After sleepwalking through Games 1-3, they finally woke up and thoroughly dominated the Jazz in Game 4. Kobe Bryant shook off a bad Game 3 (18 pts, 5-24 from the field), had a bit of inspiration from LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke's piece on Saturday and came out aggresive and efficient (38 pts, 16-24 from the field). Lamar Odom started and validated his new role (10 and 15).

This has been the problem with the Lakers. One minute they can look like a team that should blow everyone else out of the water, the next they can struggle and look downright lazy. There's been a lack of consistency that everyone has noticed and Charles Barkley said it best: They've been winning more on talent instead of being the more dominant team. The fact they only lost by 2 in Game 3 highlights this.

By far, Cleveland is hungrier. Denver is hungrier. And we know by now, that titles go to not just the best team, but the team that wants it the most.

But despite that, Shannon Brown and Trevor Ariza have proven their worth off the bench. Brown's size and toughness have made him a difficult matchup and throw in his shooting touch, he's shown why he may be around for a while (and Jordan Farmar may be effectively on his way out). Phil Jax loves big guards and while I love Farmar's game, he may be in the doghouse for good as his confidence is shot and his jumper is lukewarm.

Tonight, they'll knock out the Jazz and start getting ready for presumably Houston (although I assume Portland will win Game 5). Here's hoping they learned their lesson from Game 3 and will show the hunger needed to prove themselves worthy of that Larry O'Brien Award.

Other Playoff Notes
-Hands down, Boston-Chicago has been the best series so far. Two certified classic games (Games 2 and 4), D. Rose's coming out party, Rajon Rondo proving the haters wrong with two triple-doubles, Ben Gordon and Ray Allen shooting the lights out in the clutch and all the role players stepping up. I seriously can't wait to see how Dart Adams describes this series when it's over. You almost want this series to go 7 games.

-Denver has really impressed me as well. They've been playing much better defense than they typically do and they aren't just a weak No. 2 seed. Chris Paul had to play out of his mind in Game 3 for the Hornets to win and I think they'll be motivated to win Game 4.

- I've been sleeping on the Dallas/San Antonio series but Tony Parker (43 pts in Game 4) has been the only Spurs player consistently showing up (29.3 pts, 5.5 assists, 55.2% from the field). If Chris Paul and Deron Williams are the two best PG's in the game, Parker has to be No. 3. The Spurs may be aging fast, but Parker is still going to be deadly for quite a while. And he's only 26!

- 32.0 pts, 11.3 rebounds, 7.5 assists. Oscar Robertson did it, Larry Bird did it, LeBron James just did that against Detroit. That is all.

- The Portland/Houston series is 3-1 Comets for one reason. Experience over youth. Portland is the league's youngest team and they've been able to hang but they have to learn how to win. Houston is eager to prove why they've had one of the West's sneaky-good teams all year and despite losing Tracy McGrady and trading Rafer Alston, they've finally one game away from getting out of Round 1.

And don't you feel a bit sorry for T-Mac though. I mean, this guy has been close to getting out of the first round and the one year that he's hurt, the Rockets have the best chance to pull it off. From losing the chance to play with Grant Hill to suffering back problems and other injuries (and heck, even starting from having to share the spotlight with Vince Carter), he's gone from being in the same convo as Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson to probably being the most unlucky superstar of this era.

I know, I know. I need to start talking baseball more, especially when the Dodgers have the best offense in baseball (our pitching on the back end, eh.....). I'm gonna try to hit up the games this weekend against the Padres. It's funny, I get more inspired by these blogs sometimes that my actual assignments for the Sentinel. But hey, that's what happens when you have to write two-three days ahead of time (deadline Monday, come out Thursday).

Oh, I'm going to post up something about the All-Star Game I covered this week. The 11th Collision All-Star Game featured the best talent in Southern California and it was an incredible day of high school basketball. Look for that on Thursday at the latest.

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