NBA: Final four showcase on Sunday?

NBA: Final four showcase on Sunday?

NBA give and go: Final four showcase on Sunday?
By LARRY JOSEPHSON

Are the four teams playing in this Sunday’s ABC doubleheader the four that we’ll be seeing four months from now in the Western and Eastern Conference finals?

With the Lakers finishing up a successful Eastern road swing in Cleveland today and the Spurs in Boston in the middle of their own long forced march, Sunday’s games might be an appetizer for what lies ahead when the snow and ice finally melt away.

A look at each conference and each teams’ chances of getting to and winning the Finals (the lines are from betEd.com):

Lakers (+220 to win the title) – Give these guys credit. Heading into Sunday’s game at Cleveland they’ve won five straight and nine out of 10, and more importantly have five straight road covers. They also have hit the over six times in a row and eight out of the last 10. Winning in Boston was good for their psyche, but don’t you get the feeling that when the rubber hits the road in June that Pau Gasol and Sasha Vujacic will cry for their mothers the way they did in the Finals last year?

Celtics (+250) – Boston fans are howling about the two phantom fouls against Kevin Garnett in the Lakers game, but the big problem on Causeway Street is the lack of a quality big man off the bench. Leon Powe and Glen Davis work hard, but their games are limited. Boston’s defense is good, but without James Posey’s perimeter coverage and P.J. Brown’s inside presence, Boston can’t go into absolute lock-down mode the way it did a year ago.

San Antonio (+1100)  -
Tim Duncan has enough tread on the tires to pass state inspection, but at 32 (in April) does The Big Fundamental have the juice left to carry the team through 34 more regular season games and win four series, with the Lakers and either the Celtics or Cavs on the back end? The Spurs catch the Celtics Sunday at the absolute worst time (after the Lakers loss and needing to beat a good team), so this might not be a good test.

Cleveland (+300) – Lots at play Sunday against the Lakers. Long (23 games) winning streak, national spotlight, Kobe/LeBron. Both teams will be rested and loaded for bear. If the Lakers can get the job done in Ohio, figure heavy futures money to come down on L.A. unless the books tighten the number even more than it is already. Cleveland would give up the Rock and Roll Museum in a trade for home-court edge in the playoffs against the Celtics.

Wither Lamar Odom?

Lamar Odom has trade value with his contract expiring after this season. He can play a bit, and any team taking him would have a (somewhat) motivated player in a three-month salary drive. Laker GM Mitch Kupchak tossed cold water on a deal that would send Odom to Sacramento for Brad Miller.

Odom, by the way, had a colorful “career” at the University of Rhode Island. Recruited by Jim Harrick, Odom’s entrance exam consisted of writing three sentences. That was good enough for the school’s president, Robert Carothers, who made a phone call to the admissions department. Odom played one year at URI before turning pro and Harrick slithered off to Georgia.

Are Raptors burned out?

The Raptors (19-32 SU, 19-30 ATS) have sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic, and appear to be headed nowhere fast. Blame is being shot around at everyone and one of the culprits is the Olympics. Two key players – Jose Calderon and Chris Bosh – logged serious minutes last summer in China, and Calderon in particular has played just about every non-NBA minute with Spain. Now Bosh’s numbers are contracting and Calderon has missed 13 games with a leg injury.

Williams embarrasses Kidd


It may not be over for Jason Kidd, but did you see the game that Deron Williams threw at him this past Thursday? While attention was focused on the Lakers and Celtics, Williams had 34 points on 11-20 from the field (5-8 on 3-pointers), 5 rebounds and 12 assists? And he did it playing with Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, (emerging star) Paul Millsap and Mehmet Okur. Utah had an easy cover as the Mavs threw in the towel in the third period.

In the desert, maybe a surprise

Shaq and Steve Nash are both as old as dirt. Phoenix needs to re-build, but don’t assume that Amare Stoudemire will be the centerpiece. Rumors have Stoudemire heading to New Jersey, and if that move is made the Suns would be forced to start completely from scratch.

Easy money on Nuggets

The easiest bets on the board this past week had to be the Nuggets -8 against the Wizards Friday night and the over (205) in the same game. Caron Butler was declared out by late afternoon and about the same time the Nuggets found out they’d have Kenyon Martin and Carmelo Anthony back. Denver rolled, with the starters playing only three periods. Ravaged by injuries, Washington is the worst team in the league.

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