Okay, raise your hand if – in April – you thought the Staples Center inhabitant with the best chance to win a title this spring would be the one playing on ice.
I thought so.
The chances of the Lakers and Clippers watching their ice skating housemates play for a championship increased significantly Saturday as the guys in shorts coughed up sizable leads – at home, no less – to each move one loss from summer vacation.
It’s hard to figure out which meltdown was more impressive. Sure, the Clippers set a league playoff record by watching their 22-point lead at the end of the first quarter – a lead that would grow to 24 – go up in smoke. Their 8½-minute disappearance during San Antonio’s 24-0 run may be basketball’s version of the 18½-minute gap in the Watergate tapes. What’s even more alarming is the Clippers were on the other end of one of these comebacks against Memphis so they should’ve known it could happen. Maybe Tim Duncan and friends lulled them into a false sense of security.
However, the Lakers (lack of) performance in the fourth quarter against Oklahoma City was just as epic. Kobe Bryant shoots 2-for-9 in the nightmarish final 8:02. Russell Westbrook proves again that the Lakers can’t guard him. Pau Gasol throws a pass to Kevin Durant with less than a minute left and the score tied and then Durant provides the final pie in the face, hitting the game-winning three to turn what was a 13-point deficit into a three-point win.
For Laker fans it’s hard to figure out which was worse: the quick, painful death in the final minutes of game two when L.A. blew a seven-point lead or the slower torture of Saturday night. Either way it adds up to a 1-3 hole heading back to OKC.
Meantime, the Kings were sitting at home figuring out where to put the Clarence Campbell Trophy when they finish dismantling Phoenix.
Maybe this is some sort of non-relocation good karma playing itself out. After all, the Kings are the only major L.A. pro team that has always called SoCal home. Even the two former NFL franchises were transplants. This could be a cosmic “thank you.”
Then again, this has happened before.
The Lakers, Clippers and Kings have made the playoffs in the same season twice before this year. In 1992 they were all bounced in the first round. The next season, while the Sedale Threatt-led Lakers (when’s the last time you heard that?) and Danny Manning’s Clippers each disappeared in five games, the Kings skated to the Stanley Cup Finals thanks to a guy named Gretzky.
Nobody is going to confuse Anze Kopitar for “The Great One” but with one more win over Phoenix, Kopitar and Gretzky will have something in common: leading playoff scorer for a Kings’ team that reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
Maybe Kobe, Pau, CP3 and Blake will be in the stands cheering on their housemates. At the rate they’re going, they’ll have the time.
Craig Morancie is the internet voice of the New Jersey Renegades in the MJHL as well as a former producer with CNN/Sports Illustrated