NBA Finals Wrapup - NFL Camp Hotes

THE NBA FINALS -GAME 7
THE LAKERS WEAR THE NBA CROWN (AGAIN!) WITH AN ULTRA-GRITTY 83-79 WIN OVER THE CELTICS AND WE WEIGH IN ON SOME OF THE UNDER-THE-RADAR KEYS ...

NFL TEAM-BY-TEAM CAMP REPORTS LOOKS AT THE COWBOYS, STEELERS, BUCS & TEXANS

By Jim Hurley:

Sweet 16 ... and many more?

Once the Los Angeles Lakers notched their 16th NBA championship with Thursday night's rough-and-tumble 83-79 non-cover home win against the 6 ½-point underdog Boston Celtics, the speculation started immediately about whether or not the back-to-back champs were gonna have all their key pieces in place for a "three-peat".

Here's our fearless prediction -not only will head coach Phil Jackson take a crack at grabbing his 12th ring as an NBA head coach (six in Chicago and five in LA, of course) but something tells us the Lakers will be landing a star player to boot this off-season.

Okay, so maybe that's a discussion for another day but everyone likes to look into the crystal ball, don't they?

As it turned out, the Lakers' 16th and -quite possibly -sweetest NBA championship ever really never did have that feel-good nature to it from the start as LA fell behind by as many as 13 points before dredging its way back while spending most of the fourth quarter on the free-throw line. And maybe that was the single-biggest irony to this game 'cause the Lakers were downright rotten from the foul line all night long (see 25-of-37 for less than 68 percent) and looked very much as if they were gonna lose Game 7 because of FT woes.

You bet -there's a whole lot to say about Celtics-Lakers Game 7 and we'll get to it (including some under-the-radar keys) but first this important message:

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NBA FINALS: GAME 7

LOS ANGELES LAKERS 83, BOSTON 79 -Lakers win series 4-3

Let's get a few things straight here while digesting all the happenings in Game 7:

Not only did the Lakers -as a team and not just NBA Finals MVP Kobe Bryant (6-of-24 field-goal shooting and 23 points) -show major mental toughness in the fourth quarter but TV replays pretty much illustrated that all of the fouls called on the Celtics in the final quarter were legit.

Quite frankly, the Lakers showed more aggressiveness en route to that 30-point final frame plus Boston was really running on fumes and some really tired legs finally caught up with Doc Rivers' club during the final frame.

Maybe it's crazy to say but Boston -even when leading by 13 points in the second half -should have been up even more considering the sorry state of the Lakers' stagnant offense. There was Bryant (who averaged 28.6 points per game this series) and sidekick F/C Pau Gasol combining to hit just 6-of-26 field-goal tries in the opening half and yet the Celtics led only 40-34 at the break. The Lakers just needed a flurry or two to get back into this game and the key fourth-quarter shots by Ron Artest (20 points) and Derek Fisher (an otherwise silent 10-point game) got LA back into the mayhem.

Next, consider that the oft-mentioned Lakers' "length" as LA bombarded to Celtics on the boards 53-to-40 but it was the whopping 23 offensive rebounds that really told the tale -- what happened to the "all hands on deck" mentality here as Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen combined for five caroms. Ugh!

As history tells us, home teams are now 14-3 in NBA Finals Game 7 tilts (an .823 winning rate) and note Boston became just the seventh team to blow a 3-2 Finals lead after winning Game 5 -and the proud Celts are gonna be spending a long time wallowing in this final hoops game of the 2009-10 season.

And now to those under-the-radar keys:

Lakers' boss-man Jackson made it a point to salute the Staples Center crowd but the ABC folks -and more about them shortly in our NBA Finals Bits & Pieces segment -barely spoke a word about the celebrity-filled audience that really was a key factor. You might have noted that when the Lakers got down 7, 8 or 9 points in the first three quarters they really became vocal and seemingly had a positive effect on an LA team that was closer than you think to melting down in a Game 7. Then, when the Lakers stormed back in the final quarter, they made it really tough on the Celtics to operate their half-court offense -it's not often we give kudos to a crowd (and especially a Los Angeles sports crowd!) but they were vitally important on this night.

Secondly, not enough was made about the Lakers' team defense in the final quarter:

Okay, so there was some chit-chat about the Lakers "stepping it up on defense" but here's a salute to ABC on-the-floor analyst Mark Jackson who said a stretch of defensive play in the fourth quarter was the best defense he'd seen the Lakers play in this year's playoffs. Just as the Lakers didn't move the ball for -give or take -the game's first three-plus quarters, here were the usually trusting Celtics looking to abandon a team concept and taking way too many reckless shots in one-one-one play.

Maybe you think we're being rough on him but Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo (14 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds) showed a real character flaw here as he allowed his older teammates to fling up bad shots instead of getting the offense back in sync -hey, it only helped to cost Boston a potential 19th NBA championship!

Our final under-the-radar key was the Boston bench:

Okay, so veteran Rasheed Wallace stepped into the starting lineup for an injured/out Kendrick Perkins and wound up playing well (11 points and 8 rebs) before fouling out late but the other bench guys never did give off that energetic surge that was needed and Rivers gave 'em ample opportunities when starting the fourth quarter. If someone off the Boston bench would have been able to light a spark -even for just 3 or 4 minutes -this one could have had a different outcome.
 
Here's a final game-by-game look at this year's NBA Finals (note all home teams are in CAPS):

DATE

FAV

SPREAD

DOG

RESULT

6-3

LAKERS

- 6

Celtics

LAKERS 102-89

6-6

LAKERS

- 5½

Celtics

Celtics 103-94

6-8

CELTICS

- 3

Lakers

Lakers 91-84

6-10

CELTICS

- 4

Lakers

CELTICS 96-89

6-13

CELTICS

- 2

Lakers

CELTICS 92-86

6-15

LAKERS

- 6½

Celtics

LAKERS 89-67

6-17

LAKERS

- 6½

Celtics

LAKERS 83-79

Final NBA Playoffs Pointspread Update:

Note that NBA Finals Betting Favorites wound up going 4-3 ATS (against the spread) and it's worth mentioning that Game 7 marked the only time this series that the Betting Favorite won the game SU (straightup) but didn't cash the bet.

Overall, NBA Playoff Betting Favorites this year finished 48-33-1 ATS for a solid .593 winning rate.

The Celtics finished the post-season at 16-8 versus the vig this post-season (a .667 winning rate) while the Lakers completed this latest title run while going just 12-11 spreadwise in this year's playoffs (a .522 winning percentage).               

NBA FINALS BITS & PIECES

We'll remind you that our NBA Draft coverage will begin with tomorrow's Jim Sez column but first let's wrap up a few loose ends here with the NBA Finals.

Maybe it's nice of the league to have icon Bill Russell hand out the NBA Finals MVP trophy that bears his name but did anything look more awkward than Russell -the greatest Celtic of all-time -standing up there on the podium with the Lakers and actually sharing some laughs with the repeat champs?

Betcha there's some folks in Boston that are gonna not be happy with the 11-time champ for that scene ...

The ABC/ESPN folks that just brought us this NBA Finals had their only little "conflict of interest" situation.

Why exactly is Magic Johnson part of their pre-game, halftime and post-game telecasts if he's gonna be down there on the floor whooping it up with the Lakers (and you heard Commish David Stern congratulating the Magic Man for playing a part with the organization) while all the purple-and-gold confetti is flying around?

Hey, it's unprofessional for Magic to be a part of the broadcast team -and unethical for the ABC/ESPN folks to include him on a nightly basis.

Jim Hurley ended the NBA Finals by sweeping the sides and totals in both Games 6 & 7, but the winning is just beginning! Currently hitting 59 percent in baseball, Hurley is set for an interleague weekend gala! Click here to learn more!

 

THE NFL REPORT: MORE TEAM-BY-TEAM CAMP UPDATES

Let's continue with our annual Jim Sez look at the NFL Team-By-Team camp reports.

Today it's a look at the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Houston Texans:

DALLAS -No question that the Cowboys have some really big plans for rookie WR Dez Bryant (Oklahoma State) but the former Big 12 star first is gonna have to show he can stay on the field.

Bryant -who hasn't played in a real game since Sept. 19th (see NCAA suspension) -was a major mess at the team's recent OTAs and among his maladies was an upset stomach (food poisoning), a tight hamstring and a twisted ankle. The 'Boys basically penciled in Bryant to be the team's #2 or (at worse) #3 wide receiver this year but he could be slipping down the depth chart even before we get to next month's training camp.

Right now WR Miles Austin (81 catches and 11 TDs) is the only clear-cut guy ahead of Bryant on the team's depth chart but Roy Williams and potential holdout Patrick Crayton could wind up ahead of the first-round draftee if he doesn't get physically fit.

PITTSBURGH -Memo to the rest of the NFL: The whole Ben Roethlisberger Saga won't be dominating next month's training camp -even if the media continues to pound away at the troubled/suspended Steelers slinger.

If head coach Mike Tomlin has his way, the Roethlisberger story will get old in a hurry and more emphasis will be getting placed on just how offensive coordinator Bruce Arians will be handling this offense that could have a heavy-duty emphasis on the ground game. Not only has Arians been "instructed" to run the football more (and more effectively) this 2010 season but word is Pittsburgh's going to make RB Rashard Mendenhall run it more after he averaged just 15.1 carries per game last year when he rushed for 1,108 yards and 7 TDs.

TAMPA BAY -Hey, maybe high-profile rookie injuries weren't limited to just the Dallas Cowboys as two of the Bucs' first three draft picks were banged up in the OTAs. Both top pick (and third overall pick in this 2010 draft) DT Gerald McCoy (Oklahoma) suffered a hip sprain and did not return to individual practice while TB's second pick in Round II -that's WR Arrelious Benn (Illinois) -injured his leg and missed practice time.

Benn is considered an important ingredient in the team's newfound West Coast offense that will ask second-year QB Josh Freeman to throw the ball downfield more than usually seen in such schemes. Wide-outs Sammie Stroughter and Terrence Nunn proved to be deep-ball targets for Freeman in some recent OTA play while TE John Gilmore also proved he could be a valuable member of this attack.

New offensive coordinator Greg Olson is trying to keep things simple right now for Freeman who last year completed nearly 60 percent of his passing attempts but finished with only 10 TDs and 18 INTs.

HOUSTON -If there was anything that really irked the Texans about their play in 2009 it likely was their inability to effectively run the football.

Hey, Houston finished a lame 30th in the NFL in rushing while averaging a less-than-mediocre 3.5 yards a carry but head coach Gary Kubiak claims he's noticed this offensive line is more physical than in the past and that ought to help the likes of RBs Steve Slaton, Arian Foster and second-round draft pick Ben Tate (Auburn).

The Texans didn't draft an O-lineman until they tabbed G Shelly Smith (Colorado State) with the first of their two sixth-round selections but the signing of free agent G/C Wade Smith (he inked a $6.25 million guaranteed contract while saying bye-by to Kansas City) was considered one of the real heady off-season moves in the league.

Until and unless the Texans can run it better, they'll stay out of the conversation when it comes to who's gonna win the SFC South in 2010.

NOTE: Get MLB and NFL Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez and remember we'll have our NBA Mock Draft coming on Wednesday, June 23rd!

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