Speed Read: Lakers Are Back In Control Out West

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.

lamar odom lakers

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.

chris anderson

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.

John Calipari

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.

Derrick Rose

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.

red wings

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.

blackhawks fan poster

DeCamillis Cowboys

(Video courtesy of LARRY BROWN SPORTS)

  • 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.

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