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LAst Night's Action: Lakers Thunder On to the Second Round

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LA Lakers defeat Oklahoma City Thunder 95-94. With five minutes left in the game the Lakers held a 91-84 lead. In a matter of two minutes they pissed away the lead and then some. With 2:11 remaining Kobe Bryant hit a jumper to bring the Lakers to within 94-93. And for the next two minutes both teams traded jumpers and bad shots seemingly not wanting to win the game. After Russell Westbrook missed a jumper with 19 seconds left in the game, Kobe Bryant got the rebound and dribbled down the court as everyone in the Dodger Stadium press box dining room yelled for Phil Jackson to take a time out. Instead Kobe took a 13-foot jumper with one second left in the game and missed. The Lakers’ mystique however was working overtime with Pau Gasol standing right under the basket ready to grab the rebound and put-back to give the Lakers the 95-94 lead with 0.5 seconds remaining. Off of the inbounds, Westbrook missed his jumper as time expired making everyone in the dining room violators of the press box rule number one: no cheering. Kobe led all scorers with 32 points while grabbing seven rebounds. Derek Fisher and Shannon Brown were the only other Lakers to score double-digits with 11 points each. Andrew Bynum hyper-extended his knee in the first half and was limited to six points. The Lakers will now face the Utah Jazz in the second round.

LA Dodgers defeat Pittsburgh Pirates 6-2. See my recap.

Detroit Tigers defeat LA Angels 10-6 . This could be the case that Joel Pineiro’s sinkerball didn’t sink. The Tigers feasted on it from the get go when after an Austin Jackson single, Johnny Damon tripled him home and Magglio Ordonez sent him home on a sac fly giving the Tigers the 2-1 lead after one. Torii Hunter hit an Earl Weaver to give the Angels a 4-2 lead in the third inning, but the fourth inning spelled disaster. Gerald Laird hit a two-run homer and Scott Sizemore followed him with a solo shot. Adam Everett flied out to right field, but a single, double, error and a single would plate one more run while setting the table for Santa Monica native Brennan Boesch who made his Major League debut last week with outfielder Carlos Guillen on the disabled list. Boesch fouled off the first pitch curveball, but Pineiro left a fast ball down the middle of the plate for Boesch who made his first career home run a grand slam. Add to this mixture three errors on the Angels, and it comes out to a bad night all around.

Notable Notes

  • On the heels of the new television deal for March Madness where CBS and Turner Broadcasting (spread over TBS, TNT and TruTV) will be airing every Tournament game beginning next season, the NCAA approved expansion of the field from 65 to 68 teams.
    On a public relations front the NCAA was very smart about how news of this expansion rolled out. As Doug Gottlieb of ESPN Radio said on his radio show on Thursday, they took a page from baseball’s uber-agent Scott Boras: set the number of teams so high that once the final number is announced everyone will be pleased.

    For months we heard that expansion was going to happen and we would be getting a 96-team Tournament. There were some who loved this idea, namely coaches whose teams were mediocre and perennially on the bubble (I’m looking at you Scott Greenberg at Virginia Tech) and whose careers are dependent on getting into the Tournament. But most of us who appreciated the drama especially from this past year’s Tournament thought expansion to 96 was just stupid and merely a money grab.

    Now we get a neat 68 teams creating four play-in games as a prelude for the first weekend. The logistics still haven’t been fished out, but given the alternative we were presented this is great news. So bravo NCAA for doing a masterful job of controlling the media.

  • What in the world is going on in the Stanley Cup Playoffs? It seems like the San Jose Sharks have handed off the title of best-regular-season-team-but-chokers-in-the-playoffs to the Washington Capitals and are skating as far away from it as possible. They started their second round series against the Detroit Red Wings Thursday night and got goals from Joe Pavelski, Dany Heatley and Devon Setoguchi in a minute and 19 ticks to get out to a quick 3-0 lead and held on for the 4-3 victory. Not only did their goalie Evgeni Nabokov save 20 shots, but they blocked 21 shots. Can this be the year they make it to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2004?
  • And while we’re on the subject of choking, let’s talk about the Dallas Mavericks shall we? After they made the trade to get Caron Butler and Brandon Haywood before the trading deadline in mid-February, they were anointed to be the team to unseat the Lakers in the playoffs. Care for a take two? After getting embarrassed in the first quarter by the San Antonio Spurs trailing 22-8 in San Antonio, the Mavericks clawed their way to actually take a lead in the third quarter. But the Spurs laid down the hammer and sent Dallas packing with a 97-87 win. So not only are they the first team to lose as a one-seed since the first round expanded to seven games in 2003, they become the first two-seed to lose in the first round in a seven-game series. The Spurs made the two Jasons, Terry and Kidd, ineffective throughout the series mitigating Dirk Nowitzki’s great play during the six games. So the question remains: will anyone unseat the Lakers in the West?
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Tonight’s Action

Pittsburgh Pirates (10-13) at LA Dodgers (9-14). Zach Duke (2-2, 6.11) vs. Carlos Monasterios (1-0, 1.69 ERA). 7:10 pm FS Prime Ticket, AM 790 KABC.

LA Angels (12-12) at Detroit Tigers (14-10). Scott Kazmir (2-1, 7.20 ERA) vs. Jeremy Bonderman (1-1, 6.97 ERA). 10:05 am FSWest, AM 830 KLAA/AM 710 KSPN.

Chivas USA at Chicago Fire. 5:30 pm KDOC, KWHY (en español), W Radio AM 690 (en español).

Philadelphia Union at LA Galaxy. 7:30 pm FSWest, AM 570 KLAC, AM 1330 KWKW (en español).