Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, May 14, 2012 at 4:22 PM
Go ahead and weigh in on this one, hoops nation:
Is the NBA world ready for an all-Los Angeles Western Conference Finals this year?
Okay, so the odds are almost hopelessly against the Lakers and Clippers squaring off for the right to play in next month's NBA Finals but you can't simply dismiss the thought now that both of these teams won their just-completed weekend Game #7 opening-round tilts while showing major guts.
The Clips - who basically were left for dead following last Friday night's Game #6 home loss to Memphis - became one of those very rare road teams to win a Game #7 with Sunday's shocking triumph against the 7 ½-point favorite Grizzlies and that happened less than 24 hours after the Lakers roared past the 5 ½-point underdog Denver Nuggets 96-87 in a Game #7 at Staples Center that had plenty of the court-side celebs reaching for antacid tablets.
We know, we know.
Conventional wisdom says that we're eventually gonna witness a San Antonio Spurs versus Oklahoma City Thunder showdown in the NBA Western Conference Finals - the #1 and #2 seeds are out West are overpowering favs to win their respective best-of-seven series - but LA-LA land is red-hot on pro hoops these days (and hockey too!) and so let's just see which Los Angeles team can last longer in this here-and-now post-season or which LA team can slip through into the next round.
This version of the "amazing race" is on! Let's get right to it as we examine all four NBA Playoff Conference Semifinal Series:
Tonight at 7:05 p.m. ET. it's ...#8 PHILADELPHIA at #5 BOSTON - Celtics lead series 1-0
Nobody has to bother telling the Philly 76ers: The team's 92-91 loss the other night in Game #1 of this series already is being called "the one that got away" as Doug Collins' crew blew a 10-point lead with 11 minutes left and so no wonder folks believe there will be some sort of hangover or negative carryover from that series opener.
Hey, Boston didn't exactly earn that win by virtue of its three-point shooting as the Celtics drained a mere 2-of-18 from beyond the arc (that's an 11.1 accuracy rate) and despite the fact F Paul Pierce played 40 minutes in that affair (see 14 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists) there does remain a question or two regarding his overall health as his recently sprained left knee does appear to be hampering his on-court movements.
The 76ers need a bounce-back game from PG Jrue Holiday who banged home just 3-of-13 field goals in Game #1 but don't you think Philly needs to give him more help on Celtics PG Rajon Rondo (17 assists with 13 points and 12 rebs in Game #1) who more-and-more looks like one of the NBA's top four or five players?
Rondo did commit a Game #1-high 7 turnovers and something tells us that hounding him once he crosses half-court might be in Philadelphia's best interests here.
Here's how the Sixers-Celtics playoff series has gone so far (note all home teams are in CAPS):
|5-12||BOSTON||- 5.5||Philadelphia||BOSTON 92-91|
On Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m. ET, it's ... #3 INDIANA at #2 MIAMI - Heat leads series 1-0
Okay, so it was one of those good-news, bad-news game on Mother's Day for the heavy-duty favorite Miami Heat: The good news is that they defended wonderfully in the second half of that 95-86 win/cover as the Pacers missed 26-of-37 FG tries following the halftime break.
Unquestionably, the bad news is that F Chris Bosh could be out for Game #2 or have his minutes limited thanks to a lower abdomen injury suffered on Sunday. The truth of the matter is the Heat likely don't "need" Bosh to win this series - one in which Miami was installed as 9-to-1 betting favorites - but if either MVP LeBron James (32 points and 15 rebounds in a whopping 43 minutes in Game #1) or Dwyane Wade (29 points on 23 FG attempts in the series opener) can't produce their usual numbers than missing Bosh will be more pronounced.
Indiana has its own woes heading into Game #2:
Forget the fact the Pacers (like Philly) let a road playoff game slip from their grasp, there's the matter with F Danny Granger who nailed just one field goal in 10 tries in Game #1 and we've been saying all along he needs minimum 20-plus point games just for Frank Vogel's squad to have a puncher's chance in this series.
Here's how the Pacers-Heat playoff series has gone so far (note all home teams are in CAPS):
|5-13||MIAMI||- 8.5||Indiana||MIAMI 95-86|
Tonight it's ...#3 LOS ANGLES LAKERS at #2 OKLAHOMA CITY - Game #1 at 9:35 p.m. ET
Now, everyone knows the last time these clubs clashed back on April 22nd flaming wacko Ron Artest - a/k/a Metta World Peace - was busy planting a vicious elbow on the back of Okie City swingman James Harden's neck and thus the much-publicized seven-game suspension of M.W.P.
Harden doesn't appear all that interested in reliving that play - and who could blame 'em! - but you get the feeling that the NBA's Sixth Man Award winner could be a major offensive force here even though it was Kevin Durant (33- and 35-point games against the Lakers this past regular season) and Russell Westbrook (a 36-point scorer against the Lakers back on March 29th) who were the bombs-away major threats in the three regular-season games against Mike Brown's bunch.
If Harden happens to face World Peace one-on-one, it could get real testy but the Lakers might be better off sticking to pure hoops here and hoping/praying that Kobe Bryant - who averaged 29.1 ppg in the series against Denver - isn't running on fumes by the time we get a couple of games into this series.
And please don't ask us if Lakers C Kevin Bynum will "show up" every night because even LA doesn't have that answer though Bynum's work on the offensive glass in Game #7 versus the Nuggets (nine offensive boards in all while Pau Gasol collected 11 offensive caroms in that tilt) was simply monstrous.
Here are the three regular-season matchups between the Lakers and the Thunder this year (note all home teams are in CAPS):
|2-23||OKLAHOMA CITY||- 7.5||LA Lakers||OKLAHOMA CITY 100-85|
|3-29||LA LAKERS||- 1||Oklahoma City||Oklahoma City 102-93|
|4-22||Oklahoma City||- 1||LA LAKERS||LA LAKERS 114-106 (ot)|
Series Price (based on a $100 play): Thunder - 450; Lakers + 350
On Tuesday night, it's ...#5 LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS at #1 SAN ANTONIO - Game #1 is at 9:35 p.m. ET
Hey, remember the Spurs? The West's top seed has not played a game since May 7th when they wrapped up their clean sweep against the Utah Jazz with an 87-81 triumph and now eight days later here's Gregg Popovich's club having to hunker down in a hurry against a Clips club with mucho confidence following Sunday's 82-72 win at Memphis - if the Sixers and Pacers couldn't "steal" one in their respective conference semifinal openers this past weekend, dare we say Vinny Del Negro's club has a shot here in Game #1 simply because there's lots of rust buildup on the veteran Spurs side.
The Spurs claim they spent the down time working on conditioning while fine-tuning some things but here San Antonio puts its current 14-game winning streak on the line against a Clippers club that held the Grizzlies to less than 33 percent shooting from the floor and how about that LAC bench that chipped in 41 points in Sunday's road win with born-again Kenyon Martin a real key figure (see 11 points and 10 boards)?
Keep in mind that San Antonio's four-game sweep over the Jazz featured PG Tony Parker averaging 21 ppg while F Tim Duncan (14.2 ppg) didn't look to be slowing down there either - and have we informed you that the Spurs' bench might well be the best in all the NBA and keep a special eye on sharpshooter G Danny Green who nailed 12-of-28 triples in Round I.
Here are the three regular-season matchups between the Clippers and the Spurs this year (note all home teams are in CAPS):
|12-28||SAN ANTONIO||- 4.5||LA Clippers||SAN ANTONIO 115-90|
|2-18||LA CLIPPERS||- 2.5||San Antonio||San Antonio 103-100 (ot)|
|3-9||SAN ANTONIO||- 4||LA Clippers||LA Clippers 120-108|
Series Price (based on a $100 play): San Antonio -1200; Los Angeles Clippers + 600
NOTE: More NBA and MLB coverage in the next edition of Jim Sez ... so don't miss out!