Game 3 Preview

NBA FINALS -- Game #3 (Tuesday, 9:05 p.m. ET, ABC):
LOS ANGELES LAKERS at BOSTON CELTICS - Series tied 1-1

So, everyone knows who the Game 2 studs were back in LA-LA land but the fact of the matter is there were so many different layers of storylines on Sunday night and you just have to wonder how many of these storylines will get repeated in Game 3:
No question that the plethora of foul calls in Game 2 was much as we witnessed in Game 1 - not sure either team has been punished more than the other by all the whistles but let's face it ...

The Lakers' Kobe Bryant was slapped with his fifth foul in the early moments of the fourth quarter and then he spent a good chunk of time on the pine in the final frame and you might have heard LA head coach Phil Jackson claim afterwards that he believed more than a few of the fouls called on Bryant were dubious.
Hey, it's really nothing different than what the Celtics faced in Game 1 when foul woes on Allen really kayoed his rhythm/minutes and forced the Celtics to become a team that relied too much on in-the-paint scoring.

Folks, we wholeheartedly agree with ESPN analyst Michael Wilbon who simply begged the officials after Game 2 to "stop blowing your whistles"!
The problem is - and we have no doubt about this - the NBA is afraid that this series will get over-the-top physical and with folks such as LA's Ron Artest and Boston's Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett as this thing could erode into all-out wrestling matches if the zebras don't keep a tight lid on it.

Unfortunately, basketball fans are missing out on great hoops action - hey, Game 2 was terrific but could have been better - because of all these incessant trips to the free-throw line: On Sunday night the Lakers connected on 31-of-41 foul shots and lost!

Meanwhile, the Celtics shot 20-of-26 from the charity stripe and firmly exited Hollywood believing that many calls on in-close shots by Glen "Big Baby" Davis were not made or else this could have been an even bigger foul-fest.

No question that the Celtics cannot count on shooting nearly 69 percent from beyond the three-point arc in Game 3 - Boston was 11-of-16 from trey-land in Game 2 and many of the looks were wide open when Lakers guards became entangled in low-box screens (both LA reserve guards Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar did horrible jobs of getting out on Allen in the opening half) - but who's to say the Lakers are gonna get such stat-sheet stuffing nights from big men Pau Gasol (25 points, 8 rebounds and 6 blocked shots) and/or center Andrew Bynum (21 points, 6 rebs and 7 blocks)?

The Lakers' dynamic duo down low really shined on a night when Bryant managed to make good on only eight FGs en route to the quietest 21-point game in NBA Finals memory. If Bryant winds up playing only 34 minutes in Game 3, then the Lakers' ship may again be sunk but gut feeling is the refs won't be quite so fast to hand out fouls to the former league MVP.

Still, you have to say that Boston's done a solid job defending Bryant so far in this series - foul woes or not.
The Celtics' strategy of harping on Bryant outside the three-point line is making him really work hard for his points - the Phoenix Suns should sit up and take notice - and Boston boss-man Doc Rivers (and defensive whiz assistant and soon-to-be Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau) know there's not a lot of time between Game 2 and Game 3 to make major adjustments and so Allen must be an in-your-grill defender again versus Bryant and Boston must double-team Kobe once he appears a threat to score.

Finally, there are a slew of players who have virtually disappeared on offense so far in this series:

Boston's Garnett (6 points in 24 minutes in Game 2) is looking "shot" no matter how much the Celtics players/coaches defend him in post-game pressers and his important hoop late (with 2:42 remaining) in Sunday's game really could help his mind-set in time for Game 3;

The Celtics' Pierce (2-of-11 SG shooting for 10 points in Game 2) has a built-in excuse because he's expending major energy on defense but not likely that Boston wins this best-of-seven series with the 2008 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player shooting 18 percent from the floor;

And than there's the Lakers' Lamar Odom (3 points and 5 fouls in 15 minutes in Game 2) who has been milk carton-like in this series so far. Odom picked up three fouls faster than you can say Jerry West but he appears lost against the Celtics and there's little doubt he needs a big stat game sooner or later - maybe he'll get motivated by Boston reserves Rasheed Wallace (7 points and 7 rebounds in a splendid Game 2) and the aforementioned Davis (8 points, 7 rebs and major floor burns on a number of hustle plays).

Hey, we told you in that last Jim Sez that Boston's been magical when coming off a loss in this year's playoffs - the Celtics now are 5-1 SU (straightup) and 5-1 ATS (against the spread) off a loss this post-season ... what have the Lakers done off a loss these playoffs?
Here's the lowdown (note all home teams in CAPS below):

DATE

FAV

SPREAD

DOG

RESULT

4-24

OKLA CITY

 - 1

Lakers

OKLA CITY 110-89

4-27

LAKERS

 - 6

Okla City   

LAKERS 111-87

5-25

Lakers

 - 1½

PHOENIX

PHOENIX 115-106

5-27

LAKERS

 - 8

Phoenix

LAKERS 103-101

Interesting ... The Lakers entered these NBA Finals having lost a grand total of four games in the first three rounds of play (two losses versus Oklahoma City and two losses against Phoenix with a sweep in between against Utah) and yet LA's failed to cover the Las Vegas price tag in three of the four prior off-the-loss games.
Maybe LA does indeed have something truly to worry about while heading into Tuesday's Game 3 at "The Garden".

Jim Hurley's Network cashed in Game 2 with Boston's outright upset. Not only are we ready for tonight, but we're ready for an ENTIRE WEEK OF WINNING! Click here to learn more!

 

BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES:
THE STRASBURG DEBUT IS GETTING ALL THE INK (BUT LET'S NOT FORGET THE WEEKEND OUTINGS BY YOUNG MR. JIMENEZ AND "OLD MAN" MOYER)

Hey, we know that just about everything outside that Armando Galarraga/Jim Joyce non no-hit episode in Detroit last week pretty much got lost in the MLB shuffle but surely you've heard the trumpets blare for Washington Nationals RHP Stephen Strasburg - he's slated to get his first-ever big-league start Tuesday night at home against the rather punch-less Pittsburgh Pirates (hey, wait, they did just score 15 runs in that three-game series against San Francisco) and then his second start figures to come Sunday at Cleveland.

Call it a "soft landing" in the bigs for Strasburg who's had a batch of his minor-league starts televised this year and now will step to the mound in front of a rare Nats sellout crowd - to say nothing of the expected 200-plus media members that aren't usually spending a mid-week night watching the 2010 Pirates!

Strasburg may or may not have Hall-of-Fame to-be catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez behind the plate for this debut - Rodriguez is slated to come off the Disabled List earlier on Tuesday after suffering with a strained lower back and you can be sure the annual Gold Glove winner will convince Washington manager Jim Riggleman that he should be the one catching Strasburg on Day One.

Maybe Strasburg will be the "real deal" right out of the chute but here's one piece of advice for Nats fans:

Don't get too optimistic when the Pirates' batters check their swing - Washington fans know all too well how those appeals have worked lately as Washington actually lost two games this week after a checked-swing wasn't called for a strike on Houston's Lance Berkman and then (on Sunday) against Cincinnati 3B Scott Rolen.

If the Nats are being realistic, than Strasburg - no doubt hyped more than any starting pitcher in the big leagues today - figures to get 20 or 21 starts at best this year. We'll see if that - and possibly a deal to import another hurler (Roy Oswalt?) -- might be enough to get the Nationals into the thick of things in an NL East that's getting better all the time.

In other Baseball News & Notes ...

If Strasburg is all the rage this week and Galarraga was the guy creating the buzz last week, then let's not forget two of the past weekend's star hurlers who may be worlds apart but also have plenty in common:

On Saturday night, there was Philadelphia Phillies' 47-year-old LHP Jamie Moyer mowing down the NL West-leading San Diego Padres en route to a 6-2 win at Citizens Bank Park. Moyer threw a complete-game seven-hitter - his second complete game of this 2010 season - and also became only the third pitcher in MLB history to win 100 games after his 40th birthday (see Phil Niekro and a chap named Jack Quinn).

Believe it or not, Moyer's now 6-5 with a 3.98 ERA - not bad for a guy who everyone wanted to send to the retirement home a few weeks ago.
Than there's the case of Colorado Rockies RHP Ubaldo Jimenez who is 21 years younger than Moyer but just as savvy on the mound.

Okay, so we've sung Jimenez's praises plenty already this season in these Jim Sez columns but following his 3-2 win in Arizona on Sunday, the wiry righty was sitting pretty with an 11-1 record and a mind-boggling 0.93 ERA - yes, the ERA actually went up after surrendering two runs in seven hits against the Diamondbacks.
When Mr. Strasburg can produce such numbers, we'll sit up and applaud him.

Until then, it's "prove-it" - just like any other kid in the big leagues.

NOTE: More NBA Finals News/Notes from Lakers-Celtics in the next edition of Jim Sez along with the first of our NFL Team-by-Team Camp Updates - don't miss out as we get you the here-and-now from all 32 NFL teams right through this month of June.

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