NBA Weekend Wrap - NFL Draft: DTs

THE NBA PLAYOFF REPORT - SPURS, LAKERS GET WHACKED WITH A REAL ONE-TWO PUNCH AS WEST'S TOP TWO SEEDS CRASH-AND-BURN IN GAME #1 ...

PLUS OUR LATEST NFL DRAFT NEWS/NOTES AS WE CHECK IN ON THE BEST INCOMING DEFENSIVE TACKLES

By Jim Hurley:

Just when you thought it was safe to forecast the NBA Playoff picture ...

Go ahead and tell us how many of you Jim Sez readers thought that both the Western Conference's #1 seed (see the San Antonio Spurs) and #2 seed (the two-time defending league champion Los Angeles Lakers) would nosedive in Game #1 of their respective opening-round playoff series on Sunday afternoon - and yet that's exactly what happened and thus marked the first time since the NBA instituted its current post-season format back in 1983-84 that the top two seeds in a conference bit the dust in playoff openers.

If you'd like to "blame"anyone out there than you can start with Memphis' swingman Shane Battier and New Orleans' point guard Chris Paul - it was Battier's gutty wing triple with only 23.9 seconds left that helped to propel the Grizzlies (a 4-to-1 underdog in this series, by the way) to their emotionally-charged 101-98 win at 6 ½-point  favorite San Antonio and you do have to wonder if the Spurs had do-it-all guard Manu Ginobili (elbow) for that tilt would things have played out differently (and instead in the end when Richard Jefferson clanked a potential game-tying trifecta from the top of the key at the buzzer)?

No doubt that Memphis' one-two punch of Zach Randolph (25 points and 14 rebounds in Game #1 and still one of the NBA's most unsung superstars) and Marc Gasol (24 points on 9-of-10 FGs to go along with 9 boards) sparkled here but - than again - the Grizzlies told anyone who would listen last week that they "wanted"San Antonio in Round I and so maybe Lionel Hollins' club knew what it was talking about, right?

Talk about playing with a "no fear"attitude!

As far as the lumbering Lakers went, the Hollywood gang played with next-to-no zest in its 109-100 loss against the 11-point underdog Hornets who spread the court on every opportunity and allowed the aforementioned Paul to dissect 'em no matter who tried to cover him. Paul finished Game #1 with the resounding stat line of 33 points, 14 assists and 7 rebounds and heaven knows by how many points N'Orleans would have won by had Monty Williams' crew just hit a few free throws (note the Hornets drained 23-of-33 foul shots and even tossed in an air ball from the charity stripe).

The Lakers better get power forward Pau Gasol into the mix in time for Game #2 on Wednesday night ... or else!

You might have noticed that the Lakers' big man canned just two field goals overall (and one came in the final minute when it meant absolutely nothing!) en route to an 8-point game and the only real positive here was energetic G Shannon Brown (8 points in 13 minutes) who gave LA some spark off the pine but otherwise this was an utter disaster for the sluggish Lakers.

Yes, everyone knows that Lakers head coach Phil Jackson is 48-and-oh in his coaching career when his teams (that's both the Chicago Bulls way back when and than these Lakers) win game #1 of a playoff series but they sure ain't perfect when losing Game #1!

P.S., Game #1's weren't particularly kind to NBA Playoff Betting Favorites who finished off the first weekend of post-season play at 1-7 against the spread which means if you wagered $100 per play on all the chalk-eaters on the Saturday/Sunday games than you're out 670 buckaroos ... ouch!

 Here's the game-by-Game #1 lowdowns (note home teams in CAPS below):

DATE FAV SPREAD OPP RESULT
4-16 CHICAGO - 12 Indiana CHICAGO 104-99
4-16 MIAMI - 10.5 Philadelphia MIAMI 97-89
4-16 ORLANDO - 9 Atlanta Atlanta 103-93
4-16 DALLAS - 5.5 Portland DALLAS 89-81
         
4-17 SAN ANTONIO - 6.5 Memphis Memphis 101-98
4-17 LA LAKERS - 11 New Orleans New Orleans 109-100
4-17 BOSTON - 6 New York BOSTON 87-85
4-17 OKLAHOMA CITY - 6 Denver Oklahoma City 107-103

           
And now hear this:  Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the NBA and Major-League Baseball Winners each and every day when you either call the toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or go online right here: Check-in times are after 11 a.m. ET for weekday afternoon Baseball; after 1 p.m. ET for all weeknight NBA & MLB games; and after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays.
Extra, extra: The NBA Playoffs have swung into action - please make sure you're all signed up for the whole hoops post-season with our NBA PLAYOFF PACKAGE. Just talk to Jim or one of his service representatives today!

THE NFL DRAFT: THE TOP DEFENSIVE TACKLES

Editor's Note: We will continue with our complete and daily Position-by-Position coverage of the NFL Draft (April 28-29-30) right here and all into next week too and it's all capped off by our annual Jim Sez NFL Mock Draft which will be posted on this website on Wednesday, April 27th: Now, here's a look at the draft's top Defensive Tackles:

MARCELL DAREUS, DT, Alabama - No question that this 6-foot-3, 319-pound defensive stud was known first-and-foremost for his jarring hit of then-Texas QB Colt McCoy in the BCS Championship Game two years ago but Dareus these days is a polished D-lineman who can stuff the rush with the best of 'em and shows major lower-body strength that enables him to take on big blockers. One NFL Draft-related web site claimed Dareus showed "jaw-dropping"skills at the recent NFL Combine and that's no doubt catapulted the Crimson Tide star into the top three-to-five picks in next week's draft. Both Denver at #2 and Cincinnati at #4 are alleged to love Dareus.
 
NICK FAIRLEY, DT, Auburn - Ironic that this 6-foot-5, 315-pounder straight off the BCS Championship squad has dropped in recent weeks behind archrival Dareus in terms of top defensive tackles as some recent no-show team workouts have soured a handful of NFL teams (Fairley has a reported separated shoulder and so he chose not to lift weights in front of pro teams this spring). Still, Fairley is a major force along the D-line where he registered 24 tackles for losses in his final season with the Tigers and note he revved up his game to a higher level when facing "name"opponents. Most folks anticipate he'll go with the #8 pick to the Tennessee Titans.

COREY LIUGET, DT, Illinois - This Miami native will be part of the NFL Draft "green room: scene at Radio City Music Hall on April 28th and most projections claim this 6-foot-2, 298-pounder will be gobbled up somewhere within the top 20 picks. Liuget could be a solid fit for an NFL team that plays a three-man front plus his explosive nature means he can be moved out to end at times and not miss a beat. Note that Liuget - pronounced "Legit"- really came on last year with a big-time showing against Baylor in the 2010 Texas Bowl and scouts claim his leadership skills will be a long way in the pros. He could go at #20 to Tampa Bay.

MUHAMMAD WILKERSON, DT, Temple - This Linden (NJ) product finished last year with a team-best 13 tackles for losses and the former Owls star was the hands-down winner of the team's Defensive MVP award. Among his skills that have been made evident for NFL scouts is the fact he can either bull-rush an offensive line or use "swim moves"to evade blockers and his length at 6-foot-5, 300 pounds is critical in chasing down QBs/RBs. Gut feeling is that Wilkerson will land somewhere in the mid-20s in this upcoming draft with Seattle at #25 and/or Baltimore at #26 both said to be interested.
  
PHIL TAYLOR, DT, Baylor - Menacing D-lineman who stands in at 6-foot-4, 355 pounds is a Penn State transfer who recorded 62 tackles in 2010 and that marked the highest total in Bears history for a defensive lineman the past eight years. Taylor has been plagued by some "immaturity"tags and there are some NFL teams leery of making him a first-round pick because of his past but he really shined last year and steered clear of off-the-field problems. Look for him to go late in Round I with the New York Jets at #30 possibly in the mix.

NOTE: More NBA Playoff News & Notes plus we'll get back to our NFL Draft Position-by-Position reports in the next edition of Jim Sez.

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