Some people grow old gracefully, aging pleasantly and rocking gently into the sunset. The Los Angeles Lakers dynasty was not one of those people. The Lakers went from dominant to ‘dominated’ in the blink of an eye, and handled it with petulance usually not reserved for champions.
Perhaps nothing better summed up the Lakers’ series better than the flying elbow/attempted murder perpetrated by Andrew Bynum on an airborne and defenseless J.J. Barrea. All at once childish, foolish, and downright sinister; such were the final gasps of the Phil Jackson/Kobe Bryant Championship Era.
Where do the Lakers turn from here? Well, with the name cache and glamour of Tinseltown, it is unlikely the Lakers will be down for long (Dwight Howard anyone??), but we have likely seen the last of this current installment of the purple and gold…
Today’s Free NBA Picks:
Miami Heat -1.5 @ Boston Celtics (Total: 181)
It’s been remarked many times that an NBA Playoff series doesn’t start until the home team loses. If that’s the case than we have witnessed three of the more entertaining games of ‘nothing’ in recent memory. For as dominant as the Heat looked in Games One and Two, the Celtics looked every bit as comfortable as the aggressor in Game Three, winning with ease, even as point guard sparkplug Rajon Rondo played with his right elbow dislocated and his arm at time dangling limply by his side.
In order to get the series back to square, the Celtics are going to need a repeat performance. I wouldn’t bet against it.
The Celtics have been known for their tenacious defense, though some questioned it’s veracity since the departure of Kendrick Perkins. However, in the second half of the last game, their defensive toughness came to the fore, holding Miami to just 35 points.
The other key will be from behind the arc. Boston took advantage of the friendly home rims, shooting 9 of 18 from distance. The Heat on the other hand were ice cold, shooting just 5 of 23 from behind the arc. I expect more of the same in Game Four, and love the Celtics to square things up Monday night, making for one fantastic Best of Three stretch run.
Oklahoma City Thunder @ Memphis Grizzlies -2.5 (Total: 198)
Oklahoma City seemed to have things well in hand in Game Three, up sixteen late in the third quarter, about to recapture home-court advantage and take control of the series. Then, the Grizzlies and their frenzied home crowd ratcheted up the intensity, holding the Thunder to just 17 points over the last 17 minutes, eventually forcing overtime and earning a 101-93 win.
The loss seemed to be devastating for the Thunder, as the normally jovial and gregarious Kevin Durant mumbled his way through a difficult post-game press conference that was painful to watch. Perhaps it is because Durant knew his Thunder quite possibly let their possible trip to the NBA Finals slip away just a bit, and that the Grizzlies got a win on a day where they weren’t as sharp as normal.
Game Four now becomes an absolute must-win for OKC, despite the fact that Memphis has yet to lose a home game in this year’s Playoffs (4-0). The key for OKC has been Russell Westbrook and his willingness to share the basketball. The point guard received a lot of media criticism for his 30-shot barrage in Game One’s losing effort. However, his aggressiveness on the offensive end is vital for the Thunder’s chances. He just needs to make sure the offense is still primarily running through the youngest two-time scoring champion in NBA history, Kevin Durant.
I think OKC finds the perfect balance tonight, and finishes what they nearly achieved in Game Three; being the first team to deal Memphis a Playoff loss on their home floor. Give me the Thunder and the two and a half, in just like Boston above, a series evening huge win.