What a difference a week can make. Last week, the Los Angeles Clippers were teetering on the edge of disaster, down 0-2 after losing all their home games against the Dallas Mavericks.
Their cross-town rivals the defending champions, the Lakers were 1-1 against the Phoenix Suns and looked poised to run over the Suns with Chris Paul appearing to re-injure his shoulder.
That was last week. This week, the Clippers are facing off against the Utah Jazz in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs while Lebron and the Lakers are now in vacation mode.
KAWHI. Almost single-handedly, Kawhi Leonard has willed his team back into contention as they bucked all the odds to make an improbable comeback and win the series in seven games.
He averaged 32.1 points behind a whopping .675 field goal percentage in that series, the second highest mark for a player who averaged at least 30 points in 55 years.
Not only that. He responded to the challenge of guarding Mavs sensation Luca Doncic.
His co-star Paul George didn’t do too bad either, averaging 24 points, 9 rebounds and six assists, albeit not shooting well from three-point range.
But what resonated more in that win was the heart and valor showed by the Clippers after all the doubt and diffidence heaped their way.
And because they were widely acknowledged to have purposely tanked to so they could face the Mavericks, imagine the ridicule they would have had to suffer through had they in fact last that series.
As things stand now, they are apparently the favorites to come out of the West.
LAKERS. What happened to the Lakers can be narrowed down to injury woes. Without their big guy Anthony Davis, they didn’t have enough manpower to handle the scorching Suns led by Devin Booker.
At age 36, Lebron just doesn’t have the explosiveness and the stamina to do everything and take over a ball game the way he used to.
It didn’t help matters that their key players also underperformed, with Dennis Schroeder offering up a big fat zero in game 5 as the Lakers were blown out by 30 points.
I have said this before and I’ll say it again. I never understood the roster changes the Lakers did in the pre-season.
Gone were Dwight Howard, Javale McGee, Rajon Rondo and Danny Green. Howard and McGee would have been of tremendous value on the rebounding and the defensive end with AD out. Rajon Rondo would have provided quality scoring the same way he did in last year’s playoffs. Green would have offered veteran championship poise as well as gritty defense, not to mention being always a threat from the 3-point area. Incidentally all these four former Laker players are still playing in the playoffs in their respective teams.
As the adage goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
However, the Lakers proceeded to tinker with their championship roster and hedged all their bets on their big two.
Clearly, a 36-year-old James will need all the help he can get and it will be interesting how the Lakers move forward from this.
LAST ROUND. It’s on a lovely couple, Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera and loving wifey, Audrey, who recently tied the knot at the St. Peter and Paul Church in Bantayan to celebrate 26 years of wedded bliss. Cheers!