You’ll have to pardon Southern Californians if we’re a little more, uh … distracted than usual. It’s been a veritable sportsgasm in the L.A. basin for the past month.
The epicenter of it all has been the Staples Center. For the first time since it opened in 1999, all three of the building’s main tenants are in the playoffs – no mean feat considering the perennially woeful Clippers have called the place home since the beginning. But that’s part of what has Los Angeles buzzing like no other time in recent memory.
The Clips have a 3-1 series lead over the Memphis Grizzlies after winning in overtime last night.
Let me repeat that. The Clippers are just one win away from a berth in the second round of the playoffs. This is a franchise that is making just its eighth postseason appearance in 42 seasons. And since leaving Buffalo at the end of the 1977-78 campaign, they’ve been past the first round just once.
Chances are, they’ll run into a formidable San Antonio Spurs squad that beat them in two of three matchups during the regular season, but who cares? It’ll be the second round – promising for a young squad. And even more promising in their attempts to woo Chris Paul into keeping a Southern California address.
Speaking of promising young squads, there are the Kings. Heaped with expectations at the start of the year, an inconsistent offense betrayed them for long stretches of the season. But they managed to hang on to the eighth spot in the Western Conference and are proving once again that a ticket to the party is all you need if you’re bringing along a hot goaltender.
Enter Jonathan Quick. The young netminder is paying dividends for L.A. He finished the regular season with the second-lowest goals against average in the league (and outplayed St. Louis goalie Brian Elliott, who led the NHL in that category). Up next is a series against the Phoenix Coyotes, with whom the Kings split the season series.
Of course, there’s no forgetting the Lakers. Despite the Clippers’ new-found popularity, there’s little doubt that Forum Purple and Gold still dominates Los Angeles. And with attention focused squarely on Oklahoma City in the West and Miami in the east, the Lakers have almost flown under the radar. Almost.
It’s looked a little different this season – no Phil Jackson on the bench, Lamar Odom dealt to Dallas, Derek Fisher sent packing and the late-season return of Ron Artest (albeit in a Metta World Peace jersey) – but the results have been the same. The Lake Show earned another division title and appear poised for a second-round series against the troublesome Thunder. The Lakers aren’t the trendiest pick to win the title, but as long as Kobe Bryant’s still breathing, they can’t be completely counted out.
But there’s excitement away from the Funhouse on Figueroa as well. The Dodgers got off to a blazing start with Matt Kemp reminding everyone why he should have won the MVP award in 2011. And Sunday, the Angels (and more specifically Albert Pujols) joined the party with the big man hitting his first big fly and the Halos showing some life with a sweep of the Twins and a four-game split against the heavy-hitting Blue Jays.
It’s almost enough to make a guy forget about the beach. Almost.