- Joined Jan 29, 2005
The Sports Guy's picks
Cavs over Bulls in 4
Magic over Bobcats in 7
Hawks over Bucks in 5
Heat over Celtics in 7
Lakers over OKC in 6
Mavs over Spurs in 6
Suns over Blazers in 5
Jazz over Nuggets in 7
Cavs over Heat in 5
Magic over Hawks in 6
Jazz over Lakers in 6
Mavs over Suns in 7
Cavs over Magic in 5
Mavs over Jazz in 6
Cavs over Mavs in 6
Excerpt from ESPN Insider John Hollinger's Playoff Predictions
West Second Round
(1) L.A. Lakers vs. (5) Utah
Season series: 3-1 Los Angeles.
Odds say: Jazz 57.8%; Lakers 42.2%
Uh, somebody want to do me a favor and let me know who's suiting up for this one? Without knowing the participation plans of Andrew Bynum and Carlos Boozer, this is a difficult series to forecast, but we'll forge ahead anyway.
I mentioned above that the Jazz were going gangbusters before Andrei Kirilenko went down, and he should be back in top form by the time this series tips off -- that's a major advantage for Utah. The Jazz were scorching hot before he went out; despite a rocky finish, they landed with a better point differential than the Lakers for the season.
Meanwhile, L.A. isn't exactly roaring into the playoffs, at just 16-12 after the All-Star break. More depressing is the state of Kobe Bryant's game. He's injured pretty much everywhere right now, and as a Blazers source told me after Portland's win Sunday in L.A., "He's just off." Observation seems to support that point of view. Forget missing the clutch free throws; what about Nic Batum blocking his shot flat-footed?
Since the All-Star break, Bryant has lost nearly four points off his per-40-minute scoring average, even with the Lakers' other injuries seemingly increasing the need for his offense. His turnover rate is significantly higher, too, with nearly four miscues a game after the All-Star break.
Here's the most damning evidence that something is wrong with him physically. Bryant shot 85.4 percent from the line through the end of December. But after hurting his finger in early January, he's at 77.6 percent, which would shatter his career low for a full season.
That said, the matchups here are really problematic for Utah. L.A. won three of four in the regular season, partly because the Jazz don't have players who can reliably check Pau Gasol or Lamar Odom, and partly because the normally highly efficient Jazz offense had unusual difficulty scoring on L.A. The Jazz could have had a dream matchup if they'd won against Phoenix on Wednesday night; they're a combined 10-1 against the three other teams on that side of the draw. Instead, they have a hard slog against Denver and L.A., teams they beat only twice in eight tries.
All told, both teams have pretty convincing reasons to pick against them. I'll go with the Jazz here, but I can't say I feel real strongly about it.
Pick: Jazz in six
I've heard a few other people on the radio say LA could fall to Utah. Why? I can't see it, but it's becoming an interesting trend...