NBA Final Day Update - NFL Draft: Linebackers

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THE NBA UPDATE

HEY, IT'S THE END OF THE 2012-13 REGULAR SEASON BUT THERE'S STILL BIG HOOPS GAMES ON THIS WEDNESDAY NIGHT MENU ...

THE NFL DRAFT - TODAY WE CHECK IN ON THE TOP INSIDE & OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

By Jim Hurley:

The curtain is about to come down on this 2012-13 NBA regular season but there's still meaningful games remaining on this Wednesday night docket. Here's what is being served up:

UTAH (43-38) at MEMPHIS (55-26) - 8:05 p.m. ET, ESPN
Can the visiting Utah Jazz pull off the "daily double" here - that means win in Memphis and have the Houston Rockets snag a win at the Los Angeles Lakers later in the evening?

So, that's the one-and-only way the Jazz makes it to the NBA Playoffs - keep in mind that Utah owns the tie-breaker against the Lakers while having beaten the Hollywood gang in two-of-three games this year - and it's not as if Utah's been cracking under the pressure lately as Tyrone Corbin's club has won nine of its last 11 games since a well-documented four-game losing skid last month almost finished Jazz playoff dreams then-and-there.

If Utah is gonna bang out this road win - yes, we know the Jazz has won only 13-of-40 road games this season - than C Al Jefferson (22 points and 8 rebounds in Monday's 96-80 victory at 4 ½-point dog Minnesota - must be a stat-sheet stuffer here and PG Mo Williams (15 points and 7 assists against the T-Wolves the other night) must not be scared to get rocked when driving against the defensively-stout Grizzlies.

Keep in mind that Utah's roster sports nine players with expiring contracts and so this - truly - could be the "last hurrah" for this group that's playing its best ball of the season here in mid-April.

GOLDEN STATE (46-35) at PORTLAND (33-47) - 10:35 p.m. ET
Sure seems the G-State Warriors want to finish with the Western Conference's #6 seed and thus avoid a first-round playoff series with the mighty San Antonio Spurs - now Mark Jackson's gang heads into this tilt with a one-game lead over Houston but knowing that the Rockets own the head-to-head tiebreaker after winning the season series three games-to-one.

In Monday's rollicking 116-106 home win by Golden State over a Spurs bunch that didn't play any of their stars, it was another offensive showcase from Warriors guard Stephen Curry who poured in seven trifectas to get within one made triple of Ray Allen for the most treys in a single season (see 269 triples made by Allen in Seattle in the 2006-06 season).

Curry's magnificent 35-point game there was something special but he may have to come up with an encore performance here at the Rose Garden - or else a Houston win at the Lakers and a Warriors loss would give the Rockets the #6 seed.

HOUSTON (45-36) at LOS ANGELES LAKERS (44-37) - 10:35 p.m. ET, ESPN
We don't mean to confuse here but follow this: The Lakers - the NBA's biggest soap opera team all year long - needs to win here without fallen leader Kobe Bryant (Achilles) and they're into the playoffs but the Rockets could finish the night at either #6, #7 or #8 in the Western Conference seeding arrangement depending on this game's result and what happens in the above-mentioned tilt between Golden State at Portland:

Remember a Houston win and Golden State loss and the Rockets are the #6 seed;
A Houston win and a Golden State win and the Warriors hang onto that #6 seed;
A Lakers win and a Golden State win, meanwhile, and the Rockets tumble down into the #8 seed and thus a first-round playoff matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder (60-21).

Obviously, the Lakers need C Dwight Howard to roll up his sleeves and make things happen - we're thinking 25-to-30 points and 15 rebounds is needed (minimum) here to help the Lakers get to the winner's circle while you wonder what's going through the Rockets' minds after getting torched 119-112 at 8-point underdog Phoenix this past Monday night.

Star guard James Harden shot a miserable 5-of-18 from the floor in that tilt for Houston en route to a modest 16-point scoring game and PG Jeremy Lin wasn't much better while shooting 8-of-19 from the floor with just 4 assists.

The drama has played out all year long with the Lakers - and now Houston's chucking its own mini-drama into the mix.

It's Show Time on the final night of the NBA regular season!

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will rock the 2013 NBA Playoffs right through the month of June and so remember to sign up today -- check for all the Major-League Baseball winners either here online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453. For now, make sure you're all aboard for the daily/nightly regular-season winners these final few days of play before the post-season gets here beginning on Saturday, April 20th!

THE NFL DRAFT: THE TOP INSIDE AND OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

Note: The NFL Draft begins on Thursday, April 25th and our Jim Sez NFL Draft coverage continues here as we take a position-by-position look each/every day: Today it's the top Inside and Outside Linebackers:

DION JORDAN, OLB, OREGON - The NFL teams are drooling over his pass-rush skills and his size (Jordan's 6-foot-6, 250 pounds) and in the recent NFL Combine this Arizona native wowed folks with his speed and his skill set. However, not everything is 100 percent rosy with Jordan who recently underwent surgery for a torn labrum and thus he declined to work out at Oregon's Pro Day last month. Fact of matter is Oregon even had Jordan cover some slot receivers in one Pac-12 game last year and so he sports tremendous versatility and generally is ranked among the top 10 prospects in this year's draft. Heck, there's plenty of sentiment to having Jordan go #2 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars but - right now - we see him a better fit at #5 to the defensively-challenged Detroit Lions.

BARKEVIOUS MINGO, OLB, LSU - Here's another outside 'backer that is generally ranked in the top 10 of overall draft talent this year. The former Bayou Bengals star - who stands in at 6-foot-4, 242 pounds - figures to pack on a few pounds before he's good-to-go in Year One of the NFL but right now Mingo's biggest positives are his long arms and standout closing speed. The stats last year didn't tell the whole tale for Mingo who finished with 38 total tackles and 4 ½ sacks - some folks believe he would have been better served returning to school for his senior season in 2013 - but Mingo should get picked soon after Jordan with the New York Jets at #9 and Tennessee Titans at #10 reportedly having major interest.

JARVIS JONES, OLB, GEORGIA - This former SEC star is ranked among the country's top 20 prospects coming into next week's NFL Draft but there are differing opinions on his overall worth as some folks believe his explosive hitting ability makes him a sure-shot NFL star while others believe the fact he has been diagnosed with a mild case of spinal stenosis will knock him back a few picks in Round One. No matter what NFL'ers think of Jones, it's tough to dispute the fact that last season he led the country in three key statistical categories including sacks (14 ½), tackles for losses (24 ½) and forced fumbles (7) all the while missing a pair of games on the Georgia sked. Expect Jordan to go in the #14-thru-#20 pick range with New Orleans at #15 a good landing spot for either Mingo (if he's still on the board, of course) or Jones.

KEVIN MINTER, ILB, LSU - Borderline first-round pick here who really had a bust-out season last year as a junior. Minter (6-0, 246 pounds) registered a whopping 111 total tackles including 13 ½ tackles for losses and he performed well in LSU's recent pro day and may well have perked up his draft stock a half-dozen picks or so with a starry performance. If there is a criticism of Minter it's that he doesn't deliver enough crunching blows to enemy ball carriers and may lack the ferocity to be a lights-out hitter on this next level. Still, could be a nice fit with the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens at that #32 draft spot (we've seen a few mock drafts believe that will be the case) or else he'll get scooped up relatively early in Round II.
 
MANTI TE'O, ILB, NOTRE DAME - Has any player received more scrutiny in the days/weeks leading up this year's NFL Draft? No need to discuss the silly "fake girlfriend" junk here but rather let's keep the focus on the field where Te'o - save for a disastrous BCS Championship Game dud against Alabama - truly shined in the 2012 season with 7 INTs among his spiffy stats to go along with Maxwell, Bednarik and Walter Camp Award trophy winners. Te'o stands in at 6-foot-1, 241 pounds and he has top 40 talent in terms of this particular draft field even though some folks suggest his straight-line speed isn't great for a pro inside 'backer. Gotta believe he'll be a late first-round pick when all the dust settles and may be the guy at #32 with the Ravens should the aforementioned Minter not get tabbed there.

ALEC OGLETREE, OLB, GEORGIA - At 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, this Newnan (GA) native is cat-quick and hits hard but a four-game suspension last year for a substance abuse situation has hurt Ogletree's stock and a player who generally is considered top 40 material likely will fall to the middle or later part of Round II. Note that Ogletree finished off Georgia's 45-31 Capital One Bowl win against Nebraska with a sack of Big Red QB Taylor Martinez - not a bad way to finish a solid college career.

NOTE: We continue to gear up for the NFL Draft with more position-by-position analyses plus there's NBA and MLB notes too in the coming editions of Jim Sez!

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