Weekend Edition: NBA NFL & MLB News and Notes

THE JIM SEZ WEEKEND EDITION - IT'S A "THREE-RING CIRCUS" WITH THE NBA PLAYOFFS IN HIGH GEAR, MLB ACTION GALORE AND MORE NFL DRAFT NEWS ALL ON THE DOCKET

By Jim Hurley:

So, you tell us who the biggest star in the sports "universe" is on this last-weekend-in-April:

Is it the NBA's new glamour guy Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder?

Or perhaps it's Baseball's new-kid-on-the-block OF Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves.

Maybe you would like to cast a vote for the most talked-about first-round draft pick in the National Football League ... no, not Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford (St. Louis Rams) who went #1 but rather Florida's Tim Tebow (Denver Broncos) - wow, now that post-draft coverage of the one-time Heisman Trophy winner went just a little overboard, wouldn't you say?

At this time of the calendar year there are lots of big names making themselves even bigger names and now the $64,000 question this weekend is who will step up their game and become the leading man on all the late-night highlight shows? Stay tuned!

We'll get to NBA Playoffs, Major-League Baseball and more about the NFL Draft (Round 2 and 3 reports) but first this important message:

Remember, there's still a lot of action this week/weekend in the NBA and in MLB: Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the NBA Playoffs and Major-League Baseball Winners each and every day when you either call the toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or when you go online right here: The check-in times are after 11 a.m. ET for all the weekday afternoon Baseball; after 1 p.m. ET for all weeknight NBA Playoffs and MLB games; and after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays. Keep piling up your profits this spring!

THE NBA PLAYOFFS

 Let's check in on the NBA Playoffs with a look at a couple of this weekend's tilts:

On Saturday, it's...

LOS ANGELES LAKERS at OKLAHOMA CITY - Lakers lead series 2-1

Well, well, well.

There is a series here now between the defending champion Lakers and the upstart Okie State Thunder following Thursday's electric 101-96 win/cover by the four-point favorites from the Sooner State and now we'll see if Phil Jackson's club really has something to worry.

No doubt the Thunder - buoyed in Game 3 by the aforementioned megastar forward Durant (29 points and 19 rebounds) - showed some true grit as the third-year star regained his shooting touch and showed everyone he could play some "D" too as he harassed Lakers legend Kobe Bryant (see 10-of-29 shooting for only 24 points) as Oklahoma City outscored the Lakers 58-46 after intermission and no doubt sent some doubts filtering into LA's collective psyche.

If you ask us, the Lakers didn't show that sense of urgency that teams often do lack when leading a best-of-seven series two games to none plus LA simply didn't go hard to the hoop much - how else to explain the fact that Bryant did not attempt a single free throw in Game 3 (betcha Jackson has something or two to say about that prior to Game 4!) and the visitors all told took only 12 FTs (while making 10 of 'em).

In this tilt, look for Lakers' defensive whiz to get up-close and personal with Durant in the game's opening moments and try to rattle the NBA's regular-season scoring leader with a few well-placed elbows to various body parts while the Thunder will try to get both lefty James Harden (18 points in 32 minutes in Game 3) and point guard Russell Westbrook (a sizzling 27-point showing in Game 3 with lots of key fourth-quarter hoops) out of the gate quickly just in case Durant is harangued.

The Lakers may have a "what, me worry" look to 'em right now but that could change 'round midnight on Saturday evening.

On Sunday, it's ...

CLEVELAND at CHICAGO - Cavaliers lead series 2-1

It's not all that often that both Kobe and LeBron lose on the very same evening but that was the case this past Thursday night - and something's telling us that the Cavaliers' superstar is bugged a lot more than LA's big wig.

After all, James committed a bevy of turnovers down the stretch in that 108-106 loss at 4-point underdog Chicago in Game 3 and so his game-high 39 points lost some luster in the scheme of things plus it's not as if LeBron handled the task of guarding Bulls PG Derrick Rose that well. Last year's NBA Rookie of the Year poured in 31 points and dished out 7 assists while hearing the chant of M-V-P go up in the vast United Centre (let's get real, Bulls fans!) and no doubt the Cavs are still kicking themselves over allowing the Bulls to sprout a 21-point third-quarter lead before Cleveland reeled in the game some before falling short at the very end - again, why is James not taking the last shot even if it is a half-court heave (see Anthony Parker miss at the buzzer)?

Now, the Cavaliers - in the very same position the Lakers face for a Game 4 - want to shut off the opponent's momentum right here and right now and to do so you can expect Mike Brown's club to get more physical with the Bulls and prove that Cleveland's deeper bench will be a factor sometime in this series.

Plus, Cleveland needs big man Shaquille O'Neal (6 points and 4 rebounds in Game 3) to come out of the gate with a vengeance as he did in Game 1 back at the Quicken Loans Arena - if the new-look and trimmed-down Shaq can score in the paint and draw some cheapie fouls on Chicago's Joakim Noah and Brad Miller, than Cleveland could find its way back in the proverbial driver's seat.
 
In other NBA Playoff News & Notes ...

If the Dallas Mavericks don't win this best-of-seven series against the archrival San Antonio Spurs (Dallas enters Sunday's Game 4 bash in San Ant down two games to one) than you might want to put a finger at Mavs point guard Jason Kidd. The Hall-of-Fame-to-be playmaker registered just one made field goal - for the second consecutive game - and did little to contain Spurs' guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili when it mattered most in Friday's feisty 94-90 win/cover by 3 ½-point home favorite San Antonio.

Parker (23 points) and the bloodied Ginobili (15 points and 7 assists) took turns puncturing the Dallas defense in the final quarter with the lefty Ginobili getting 11 of his points in the final frame while Parker delivered a couple of crunch-time jumpers that really sucked the heart from a Dallas team that played hard with Dirk Nowitzki going for 35 points.

The Mavs eliminated the Spurs in five painful games last year - might this be a case of turnabout is fair play stuff here?
          

BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES

There was mucho ado regarding that "confrontation" between New York Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez and Oakland A's hurler Dallas Braden in Thursday's 4-2 A's home win - A-Rod cut across the pitcher's mound going back from third base to first and that's a baseball no-no - but lost in the post-game hubbub was the fact that lefty Braden has become one of the best starting pitchers in the American League. The feisty one exited that outing at 3-0 with a tidy 2.77 ERA - he surrendered two runs, six hits and one walk in six full innings against the scorching Yanks - and could be July trade bait for the always rebuilding A's ...

If you listen to all the talk shows and check out all the Baseball stuff on the tube than you know a hot topic has been when do - and not necessarily if - the Houston Astros plan on trading veteran RHP Roy Oswalt?

On Friday night, Oswalt moved into second place on the Astros' all-time strikeout list (behind some chap named Nolan Ryan) en route to a 4-3 home win against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Oswalt (2-2, 2.42 ERA this season) allowed only four hits to the Buccos and didn't allow a run until the seventh inning and no question he becomes a bigger piece to somebody's championship hopes with each and every start.

Management may love Oswalt in Houston - but he has too much trade value on a bad team (6-10 following Friday's game) to just sit there and toil for the 'Stros all year long.

Likely destinations include the Detroit Tigers and/or the Los Angeles Dodgers - and the clock is ticking.
  

THE NFL DRAFT: OUR QUICK-HITTER COMMENTS ON ROUNDS 2 AND 3

No question that the biggest Day Two stories of this year's NFL Draft revolved around the major fall from grace for both Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen and Texas QB Colt McCoy:

Clausen - who figured on being a first-round selection - wound up lasting all the way to the 48th pick as the Carolina Panthers snapped 'em up while McCoy plummeted even further and wound up being a third-round selection of thee Cleveland Brown (pick #85 in all).

Let the TV know-it-alls analyze and examine all the reasons why these two high-profile slingers fell so badly but here's our take: Clausen's well-documented cocky attitude caused some general managers to turn their backs on him but what also hurt was the fact he played to the level of Notre Dame's competition all too often in his four-year stay in South Bend. Why did every Notre Dame game seemingly come down to the final play last year whether the Irish were 5-point underdogs or 18-point favorites?

McCoy, meanwhile, really comes off looking like a baby here as after his exclusion from the draft's opening round, he wasn't allowing the ESPN cameras that "total access" allowed on Thursday. McCoy's major problem - the way we see it - is that he failed to show toughness in that BCS National Championship Game against Alabama. The former Texas Longhorns quarterback suffered an early-game injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder and never did return to action and - call us crazy, if you wish - but we believe McCoy's father called the shot there and said "no go" as to returning to that ultra-important tilt.

Maybe if McCoy had shown some grit there against 'Bama, NFL folks might have respected him more and he could have been somewhere in the top 35 picks.

P.S., best pick on Day Two was probably Baltimore's selection of mountainous Alabama NT Terrence Cody (6-foot-4, 350 pounds) - don't be shocked when he blocks a couple of FGs and/or PATs this year to save a game for the Ravens. It was a real specialty in college and the kid might be worth his weight in gold just for these oft-overlooked plays.

NOTE: Catch our weekend wrap-up in the next edition of Jim Sez.

 

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