April is a great month.
Well, unless you’re a sports-hating woman (or man) who’s dating, married to or sleeping with a sports-loving man (or woman). If that’s you, you may want to navigate that little pointer thing on your screen to the “X” in the top right corner. Have a great weekend, and by all means, enjoy whatever boring, non-sports things you like to do.
As for the rest of us, let’s get back to April. The Final Four is a hallowed 72-hours at the beginning of April. During those three astounding days have you ever truthfully said, “Wow, I really got a lot accomplished the last few days?” Yeah, me neither.
As if we needed more sports entertainment, Championship Monday is also opening day of the MLB season. What a perfect day to not shower and spend 13 shirtless hours on the couch watching baseball games that mean about as much as the Clippers, Thunder matchup last Wednesday.
After spending a few days trying to remember what you used to do for a living, the NHL slows the process by kicking off their playoff season. For those of us not living in Michigan or Minnesota, the NHL stands for the National Hockey League, and no, they haven’t gone bankrupt… yet. Speaking of sports I don’t watch, there is that whole Masters golf tournament thing, but I’d much rather watch re-runs of One Tree Hill than see a poorly dressed guy (or girl) blast a tiny white ball into orbit.
To close the fantastic month of April, ESPN covers all 917 NFL Draft Rounds. If you’ve ever played organized football, there’s a chance you were drafted and had no idea. I’m not sure that there aren’t more NFL Draft rounds than Division I College players. Maybe I should suspend this whole writing thing and go punt some footballs for a local community college. I’d say my chances of getting drafted are pretty good.
While all those sports events are great and certainly entertaining, the supreme episode during the month of April for me (and I’m guessing most of you) is the NBA Playoffs. As for the 2009 Playoffs, here’s how I see it. There is only one team in either conference that has any chance of beating the Los Angeles Lakers in a seven game series.
And that team is the Los Angeles Lakers.
Remember that SLAM Magazine cover that had Kobe facing off against himself? That’s exactly what the Lakers are up against. Will they find the same energy they started the season with? The consistency they displayed during their renowned 7-0 road trip? The toughness they only showed flashes of during a fairly lethargic second half of the season?
If they win, the answer to all those questions will be a resounding YES. If they lose, well, let’s just hope Charles Barkley doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
If all goes according to seeding, here’s how I envision it breaking down for the Lakers.
Lakers over Utah in Five.
The perception of Utah being dominant at home is likely more about what they’ve done in the past than what they accomplished down the stretch this season. I can’t imagine a great home team dropping a pair of home games to Minnesota and Golden State with playoff positioning on the line.
Aside from that, D-Will is good enough to have a 32-15-7 type game and carry the Jazz to one win. However, barring a major injury, I don’t see any way the Lakers are legitimately threatened in this series.
Lakers over Portland in Six.
First off, Portland has no chance of winning a game in Los Angeles. Secondly, does Portland really want to play Kobe with a chip on his shoulder? Thirdly, a young Portland team will not go 3-0 at home against a veteran Lakers team in a playoff series. Lastly, this only matters IF they can beat a pretty good Rockets team, which may not happen at all.
Lakers over Denver in Five.
The Denver Nuggets are considerably improved this season (mostly thanks to Billups), which is why I don’t think they’ll get swept this time around. Chances are, Denver will have to win a pair of six or seven game series’ leading into this one. I simply don’t think they’ll have enough in the tank to win more than a game (or at the most, two).
Lakers over Cavs in Six.
I could write an entire column on this series. And, if it works out to be a Kobe, Lebron Finals, I most certainly will. For the time being, I simply think the Lakers are a better team.
Much of Cleveland’s success is built around Z knocking down those mid-range jumpers, which forces shot blockers out of the paint, ultimately opening up the lane for Lebron to create. With Bynum and Gasol on the floor, you still have a presence down low to disrupt Lebrons’ penetration. When the Prince is shooting jumpers, Mo Williams and the rest of Cleveland’s shooters won’t be getting the wide open shots they’ve grown accustomed to.
And, if all else fails, Kobe will top Lebron in the closing minutes of the game. That could very well be the difference.
You know, as great a month as April is, I’m ready for June.
And so it begins…
Jason Riley is a columnist for the Lakers Nation. In addition to this column, he writes on an array of topics that you can check out by visiting J-Ri.com. You can email him by clicking here, or look him up on Facebook.