Yee-freaking-haw – it’s time for the Lakers’ Second Annual Quest To Catch The Beelzebubs of Basketball, er, Boston Celtics In NBA Championships, also known as the playoffs.Â Yep, it’s now okay to come to after another pointless NBA regular season, conveniently shortened by a couple months thanks to a lockout we’ve all forgotten.
And this go-round, as expected, we have some exciting new guests.Â Please welcome to the dance floor the professional sporting world’s former answer to The Twelve Stooges, “yourrrrrrr” Los Angeles Clippers!!!Â (Actually, the Clips have really always been about one Stooge, but since he owns the team, and his buffoonery has been so, uh, buffoonarific, even all-stars like Danny Manning and Dominique Wilkins have staggered under his buffoonishness.)
Going into the season, we told you SoCal’s two NBA entries were more or less evenly matched, and that’s more or less how things played out this season, with the Lakers (thankfully) taking the season series and, by the skin of Kobe Bryant’s shin, the Pacific Division.Â Okay, so what happens now?Â Here we go…
The Lakers. Issues?Â What issues?Â Outside of that elbow Metta World War threw at James Harden’s melon last week at Staples, and the six playoff games MWP will be sitting out as pennance, it’s all good.Â Well, except for the fact that Kobe may or may not be 100%.Â Ramon Sessions has been a definite improvement at the point…except when he disappears every third game or so.Â ‘Drew Bynum still hasn’t grown up – hence the 30 boards in San Antonio one night followed by the 7-board special at Staples against the Spurs six days later.Â Big Pau, on the other hand, may now be a little too old mature.Â Fortunately, Matt Barnes has been playing well at the three, so they won’t miss Metta Metta.Â Well, unless Matt Matt is too dinged up to play.Â As for the rest of the bench, the less said the better.
At least the Lakers can thank their lucky stars Dallas – surely you remember them from last year’s playoffs – tanked the last week of the season, sending them to the other side of the West playoffs.Â Surely, the good guys can survive Denver without a small forward.Â They might, however, want to make sure it takes six games to win the series.Â That presumed second-round matchup with OKC isn’t going to be fun.Â (Not that Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka will be looking to exchange pleasantries with Mr. Peace or anything.
We have a very bad feeling this postseason’s going to look a lot like last postseason in Lakerdom.
Sad George Karl gets ready for first round Denver flameout.
The Clippers. This postseason looks a little better for the Clippers than last year’s.Â Of course, since they spent the 2011 postseason sipping gin and juice in Cancun, how could it not?Â To make sure they’re ready to rock, and with the Pacific Division and #3 seed in the West on the line, the Clips did the most Clipperish thing they could think of and lost their last two games to fall to #5 and earn the road-court disadvantage against Memphis in the first round.
Funny thing is, the Clips match up ridiculously well against the Griz, and when’s the last time you heard about Sterling’s minions matching up well against anyone?Â The Grizzlies’ “stud” young point guard, Mike Conley, gets to line up against CP3, assuming he’s healthy enough to go, and you know he will be.Â Their inside scoring machine – former Clipper Zach Randolph?Â Good baller who’s fallen off a bit of late…and a dozen steps behind Blake Griffin.Â Â Their two best players, the “other” Gasol (Marc, now the better Gasol, by the by) and Rudy Gay might be marginally better than DeAndre Jordan and Caron Butler, but not by enough to matter.Â It’s a pity the Griz aren’t playing the Lakers, if only so we could see brother vs. brother and Agent Zero vs. Metta World Havoc.
Round two?Â The one where the Lakers got stomped by a team from Texas last year?Â Helloooo, San Antonio.Â Goodnight Clippers.Â ‘Nuff said.
The Real Contenders. We’ve seen exactly nothing this season that makes us think June won’t feature the summer weather of championship series: Heat & Thunder.Â Yep, the Heatles and OKC finished second in their conferences.Â That should stop them because…why?Â Assuming Udonis Haslem and Shane Battier have enough left in the tank to contribute something in the paint, the Heat can lean on the Big Three to slide by Chicago in basketball’s answer to Snow White and the Six Dwarves, also known as the NBA East.Â The East does, however, offer this year’s best riddle: who’ll fall apart faster in the playoffs: whatever’s left of the Orlando Magic or Joakim “Not April Again” Noah?Â When they meet in the Western Conference Finals, San Antonio’s Old Three can’t help but be worn down by all those young legs from that thriving basketball hotbed known as Oklahoma.
Not that it matters, though.Â When the second round is done, all of Southern California will tune out the NBA, so we can resume freaking out about the Angels slow start and Magic Johnson “owning” the Dodgers.
Expect ‘Bron, Bosh, Wade & Ringo to get their first gold record, er, basketball this year.