Sports Beat, 6-1-08

--The NBA got exactly what it wanted, as the Lakers face off against the Celtics in the NBA Finals. Mark Heisler comments on the rivalry in today's LA Times. Lakers-Celtics is the NBA's flagship rivalry, and it challenges Dodgers-Yankees as the best championship rivalry in any sport. No idea when we'll get the latter again.

The Lakers are favored on Vegas lines to win the series, yet those same lines have the home team favored in every game. The Celtics have home-court advantage, so something's got to give. As I mentioned earlier this week, the Lakers have played the best basketball of any team in the postseason. However, it seems like the Celtics finally got their act together in the Eastern Conference Finals.

I think the Celtics do pose several matchup problems for LA. First off, Lamar Odom will be put up against Kevin Garnett, and Garnett does every Odom does, only better. Conversely, Kobe Bryant figures to be matched up against Ray Allen, and Kobe does everything Allen does, only a lot better. What I'm not sure about is how the Lakers will contain Paul Pierce. They may consider moving Kobe on Pierce during some shifts, and then bringing in Vujacic to handle Allen on defense. Or they can hope to get a good defensive effort out of Vladimir Radmanovic. Luke Walton also figures into the mix. Meanwhile, the Celtics may have their hands full with Pau Gasol, as he'll be the toughest big man that Kendrick Perkins has faced in the playoffs thus far.

This week off figures to benefit the Celtics more than the Lakers. Boston has to be exhausted after playing 20 games, one less than the maximum, and could use the rest. Still, it doesn't hurt for the Lakers to rest up and heal some nagging injuries. It's possible that the extra time could help Trevor Ariza heal and allow him to become a defensive factor in the series.

So who will win? I'm predicting the Lakers in 6. I expect LA to split the first two games in Boston. Then I see the Lakers winning 2 of 3 at home. And that will be followed by a Game 6 victory at the TD Banknorth Garden, or whatever it's being called these days. Ultimately, i think the Lakers big 3 and the triangle will cause problems for Boston, and I see Gasol being the difference-maker. I expect Bryant to put up almost 30 points a game, become an effective facilitator, and be named the MVP.

--In the past we've reported on ways that the Chargers, Jaguars, Bills, Vikings, Saints, and Raiders could move to Los Angeles. Now we can add the Rams to the list of potential Los Angeles suitors. Now that Georgia Frontiere has passed away, new Rams owner Chip Rosenbloom may sell the team, possibly to a group interested in moving the Rams back to Los Angeles. The team's stadium lease expires in 2012, the city has been put on notice to improve facilities, and Ed Roski has a stadium plan here in LA.

Still, Rosenbloom denies that he's looking to sell the Rams, even though he admits that he's heard offers (Ed DeBartolo has made some loud whispers) and the inheritance tax could be an issue for him. I'd call this a longshot at best, and I think the Chargers or Jaguars are more likely LA suitors. Still, there's now a reasonable path that could bring the Rams back to SoCal, and there are so many great memories of the team here with players like Crazy Legs Hirsch, Norm Van Brocklin, Bob Waterfield, Deacon Jones, Merin Olsen, and Jackie Slater.

In the meantime, I'm told that Roski's group will present their football stadium plans to the NFL later this month.

--The Galaxy fell 2-0 to Toronto yesterday, playing without David Beckham and Landon Donovan. There aren't many teams that can win without their two best players, but with national team commitments scheduled for both players throughout the summer, the Galaxy are going to have to learn to win in these situations. It's time for Galaxy President and GM Alexei Lalas to make some moves to improve the depth of his 4-4-2 squad.

--If you want to be a college golfer, then Southern California is a great place to be. Last week, the USC Women of Troy edged out UCLA to win the NCAA Championship in women's golf. The Bruin men exacted their revenge this week though, as UCLA captured the NCAA Championship in men's golf, holding off challenges from Stanford and USC.

June 1, 2008 8:03 PM • Native Intelligence • Email the editor

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