Monday Morning Coffee

April 22, 2024

Well here we are in the 1st round of the NBA Playoffs, and the Lakers are playing the Nuggets. It only took one game, but this already feels like a bad sequel to the horror movie. The Lakers had the Nuggets on the ropes in the 1st game, up by 12, then Denver came storming back in the 3rd quarter and put the game away. There’s no way the Lakers are going to beat the Nuggets playing with that undisciplined nonsense they were in the 3rd quarter. The shot selection was so poor, and Anthony Davis didn’t even touch the ball on so many possessions. If the Lakers have any chance, D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, and Rui Hachimura are going to have to play way better than what they did on Saturday. There’s a huge psychological piece to this series though that is of utmost importance. The Nuggets have beaten the Lakers 9 straight times. If the Lakers win one game in this series it will feel like an accomplishment. If they win two games it’s a miracle, any more than that and they should have a parade. Even Austin Reaves said it’s tough to play against a team that is so disciplined, and knows exactly what they want to run every time down the floor. In other words what he’s really telling you is that it’s tough to win when you have a coach that is a total buffoon.

Meanwhile, the Clippers beat up the Mavs yesterday in Game 1 of their 1st round series. The good news for the Clips is that not only are they up 1-0, but Paul George, James Harden, and Ivica Zubac all played really well. Russell Westbrook also had some nice contributions off the bench. The bad news though is that Kawhi Leonard did not play, and the comments from the coaching staff about his injury and availability are very vague. As long as Paul George and James Harden don’t revert back to their annual playoff disasters, they might actually win this series. I expect the Mavs to fight back and for their role players to play much better. However, the Clippers showed yesterday that they do have enough talent on their roster to win this series, even with Kawhi probably moonlighting with another job during the playoffs.

To baseball, where the Dodgers finally showed up and played baseball yesterday, blowing out the Mets 10-0 to get back in the win column. It was much needed because the Boys in Blue have just 3 wins in their last 10 games. The starting pitching is just fine, but the middle relief still stinks, and their offense is already in playoff form. They’ve struck out 63 times with runners in scoring position, which is more than anybody else in baseball. They’ve also gone 2-17 with the bases loaded this season. We’ve seen this over and over again. This team just sits back and waits for the 3-run homer, rather than figures out ways to manufacture runs when they are struggling to score. I also don’t expect the likes of James Outman, Gavin Lux, and Chris Taylor to hit .300 and be all stars, but I do expect them to hit like capable major leaguers. None of them have. Hopefully Andy Pages can solve some of that, and he gave us a flash of that yesterday afternoon.

As for the Angels, tough weekend for them getting swept by the Reds, and falling to 4 games under .500. Anthony Rendon suffered a hamstring injury, and knowing him, that probably means he’ll be out until August. Mike Trout is suddenly down to hitting .244, and there’s not much other production happening consistently in the lineup. Luis Rengifo seems to be allergic to playing defense, and the pitching is as bad as it usually is, with the exception of Reid Detmers. I know many of you are going to say don’t go to Angel games so you don’t put money in Arte Moreno’s pocket. Unfortunately, that strategy didn’t work so well in Oakland, where the team is now going to be moving to Vegas.

The NFL Draft is on Thursday night and I have no idea what the Rams are going to do. I think most people feel like they desperately need an edge rusher, especially after the retirement of Aaron Donald. However, Les Snead has a tendency to make some very splashy moves. I wouldn’t be surprised if he either made a trade to move up and get somebody he really likes to help his defense, or trade the pick for an impact defensive player and use some more of their cap space. I’m anxiously awaiting to see what goes down!

The LA Kings will begin their playoff series with the Edmonton Oilers tonight for the 3rd year in a row. Similar to the Lakers vs Denver series in the NBA, the Oilers have a total psychological edge on the Kings, knowing that they’ve beaten them the last two postseason. The Kings haven’t shown me anything this season that makes me think they are good enough to meet the moment and beat the Oilers at those critical points of a series. If the Kings have any hopes of winning the series, Quinton Byfield has to look more like the player he did for the first 3/4ths of the season, and Pierre Luc-Dubois will have to start looking a lot more like the elite center man he was expected to be, rather than the 4th line scrub level he has produced at. The Kings wanted the Oilers so they can exercise their demons of the past, and they are going to get what they want. I just have my doubts the results will be any different, and that will spell doom for the front office.

The Kings' Viktor Arvidsson celebrates with Quinton Byfield after scoring the tying goal in the third period Thursday.

If you’re a USC Football fan, you probably have very mixed feelings about the spring game. Miller Moss doesn’t look all that great. He threw two interceptions, and didn’t look elite. He gave you some hope in the Holiday Bowl, but now he just looks like “a guy” holding down a scholarship that you hope can just manage games. However, the defense looks much better, which Lincoln Riley hasn’t exactly been known for. Keep in mind that there’s 12 teams that make the College Football Playoff starting next year, so perhaps the Trojans have a tad more margin for error, despite playing in the much tougher Big 10.

Finally, the UCLA Bruin Basketball team has done a very nice job of rebuilding their squad. The Bruins added Oregon State transfer Tyler Bilodeau, adding more offense to their front court. This comes after the team previously announced the signings of small forward Kobe Johnson (formerly of USC), combo guard Skyy Clark (Louisville) and power forward Eric Dailey Jr. (Oklahoma State). All four newcomers averaged double figures in scoring for their previous teams and are considered tough, physical players who should fit Mick Cronin’s preferred style of play. I have no idea what this means in terms of just how good UCLA could be next year. However, what I do know is that this team will be much older and more experienced, than the youth they had on the team last year. That’s a smart move because the experienced teams have done well in the NCAA Tournament of late. Hopefully that experience is combined with good chemistry though to get the Bruins back where they belong.

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