Would someone care to tell the Western Conference Finals to get its plot straight already? With yet another tight game going down the stretch in the fourth quarter, the Lakers used tight defense and some key assists from Kobe Bryant — yes, assists — to push past the Nuggets to a 3-2 series lead heading back to Denver.
No, the series isn’t over yet, but Bryant may have helped his team take the biggest step toward an earlier conclusion with a beautiful assist that took advantage of his personal reputation, up-faking on a shot with just more than a minute to go and connecting with Lamar Odom, who dropped in a layup and was fouled, giving the Lakers a dominant 10-point lead.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Bryant took credit for the shift in his style that catapulted L.A. to a series lead, despite the superstar’s lowest scoring game of the playoffs.
“It was a big gamble for me coming in, but I wanted to change my approach this game and be more of a decoy,” Bryant said of his eight assists, many off fourth-quarter double-teams. “The past couple games they really were loading to my side and I figured I could be a decoy and try to give chances to my teammates.”
It’s an interesting shift for L.A.’s signature star, though you wonder if he’ll be content to try it again in Game 6. Interestingly, this is the ultra-rare scenario where the Nuggets might be happy to let him try it, too. Hey, it’s better to have someone else trying to torch you in the fourth quarter than know Kobe’s the guy to do it.
Meanwhile, in the college game, we’re starting to see a pattern from uber-coach John Calipari. It seems like whenever his program is nearing punishment, the ol’ ball coach flies the coop.
All this comes in the aftermath of allegations that a Memphis player cheated on the SATs during Calipari’s watch, citing “knowing fraudulence or misconduct” on an SAT test by a player on the 2007-08 team. Making the matter more grating is the fact that the player is almost certainly NBA Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose.
Making matters harder for Calipari and his new employer, Kentucky, is the fact that he was told of the allegations on January 16th, in the middle of the season. Sure, a Kentucky spokesman told ESPN.COM that Calipari was open about the allegations when he interviewed for the job, but can we really trust that that’s the truth? It’s a leap of faith, to say the least.
Of course, allegations of cheating to land top recruits is nothing new with Calipari. His UMass team that lost to Kentucky in the national semifinals has since vacated the school’s Final Four apperance because of improprieties in the recruiting of former superstar center Marcus Camby and other Minutemen. If Calipari’s Memphis squad has to abdicate its runners-up finish, Calipari would become the first coach to have two of his teams’ Final Four credits taken back by the NCAA. That seems like a pretty big condemnation of character, doesn’t it? At least the folks back in Memphis are taking it pretty well.
Well, the Stanley Cup Finals are set, but we’ve got more than a week to go before they start. Is that what the league needed? Well, no. No it isn’t. That being said, if a league was going to serve up a finals rematch, it could have done a lot worse than Red Wings-Penguins.
We’ll get Sidney Crosby + kids vs. the Detroit hockey factory, which is newly reinforced with Marian Hossa, who took flight from the flightless birds last offseason because of this gem of a quote:
“It wasn’t an easy decision to make. I want to have a best chance to win the Stanley Cup. I feel like Detroit is the team.”
Something tells us that’ll be bulletin board material in Pittsburgh, no? As for the photo below, well, we’ll have to see if Pittsburgh fans take a cue from the classy folks in Chicago. Clearly they’re on a higher mental plane.
- Unbelievable: About a month after undergoing surgery to repair a broken neck, Cowboys special teams coach Joe DeCamillis was back on the sideline shouting through a megaphone. Talk about balls.
- Randy Moss is the best receiver of all-time - according to himself, not to the guys who make up the Madden player ratings.
- Bill Belichick: Great coach, not the best dad at keeping an eye on his kids.
- Now THIS is how you throw a tantrum. Just follow Carlos Zambrano’s lead, and then follow his lead off into a 10-game suspension. In the path of Big Z’s destruction: Umpire, glove, Gatorade machine. Any questions? We didn’t think so.
(Video courtesy of LARRY BROWN SPORTS)
- As much money as Charlie Weis is making coaching Notre Dame, Tyrone Willingham is making even more money not coaching Notre Dame. Seriously.
- The 15 minutes of fame from the YouTube impersonator of Red Wings star Henrik Zetterberg that was found over on Yahoo!’s PUCK DADDY blog are bound to continue, both because the guy looks amazingly like Zetterberg and because, well, he’s got some pretty stinking funny video concepts.
- As if Shaquille O’Neal wasn’t already funny enough, now he’s rolling out with YouTube video apperances next to Ron Jeremy and Ben Stein? When did he completely jump the shark? Oh yeah, when he entered the NBA. Nevermind.
- About that drinking ban in Rome for the Champions League final? Yeah, it definitely never happened. Maybe that makes the Italians feel better about the fact that they stabbed a British Manchester United fan, pretty much for being British. Way to go Rome! Glad to see you’re up to PC code.
- Maybe Man U would have been more successful if their mascot had punched a few Barca players in the face, following the lead of this Norweigian Bee. Wait, is that a bee? We really can’t tell.
- Wait a minute, was Barca’s Sameul Eto’o simulating taking a hit of heroin after scoring the first goal of the Champions League Final? It really looked like it, didn’t it?
- Meanwhile, Alex Gerrard, the wife of Liverpool superstar Steven Gerrard, is reeling from having to do her own nails and visit the hair salon as rarely as twice a week. Well, whatever she needs to do, so long as she can keep buying bikinis …