Lakers, Dodgers hope to recreate 1988 championships

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SPORTS DIGEST

By Don Wanlass

Contributing Writer

The Lakers have won 11 NBA titles since they moved here from Minneapolis.

The Dodgers have won five World Series since they moved here from Brooklyn.

Only once have they won titles the same year, 1988, when the Lakers beat the Detroit Pistons in seven games and the Dodgers defeated the Oakland A’s in five games four months later.

This year would be unique, because never have Los Angeles’ two favorite sports teams ever won titles in the same month, but because of the coronavirus that could happen in the next few weeks.

The Lakers opened the NBA Finals Sept. 30 against the Miami Heat. An hour later, the Dodgers began their post-season march against the Milwaukee Brewers in a three-game series that should end Oct. 1.

Both the Dodgers and Lakers are favored to win championships but don’t expect any victory parades, not in these days of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Lakers advanced to the NBA Finals by doing what the Clippers couldn’t do: eliminate the Denver Nuggets. The Lakers didn’t give the Nuggets a chance to bounce back from their third 3-1 deficit in as many playoff series.

The Lakers dynamic duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis was better than the Nuggets’ duo of Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic.

The Miami Heat will be tougher to beat than Denver.

They have a star in Jimmy Butler and a bevy of young players on the brink of stardom like Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson.

They also have seasoned veterans like Andre Iguodala and Goran Dragic.

Running the front office is Pat Riley, the man who coached the Showtime Lakers of the 1980 to four championships. Eric Spolestra is a fine coach who knows what it takes to win a title.

After all, he coached James to back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013 when James played in Miami.

There are story lines galore: can the Lakers win it all in their first trip to the playoffs in eight years, can James lead his third different team to an NBA title, can Riley defeat the team that gave him his start in the league, can Spoelestra win a title without James and can the Lakers catch the Boston Celtics with their 17th franchise title.

One thing you can count on: LeBron James will show up. His steady leadership guided the Lakers past the Nuggets. He wouldn’t allow the Nuggets to even think about coming back from a third 3-1 deficit. He made sure the Lakers closed out that series Sept. 26.

The key performer will be Anthony Davis. He needs to play Robin to James’ Batman and score 25 to 40 points a game, rebound and put the clamps on Adebayo. When he plays well in the playoffs, the Lakers usually win.

Two veterans who have been to the NBA Finals before also will play key roles for the Lakers and neither may start. Rajon Rondo runs the Lakers offense whenever James leaves the floor.

He is a steady veteran who can make a timely pass or steal and knock down a three-pointer when called upon. He was the rookie point guard on the 2008 Boston Celtics team that beat the Lakers and he will be a key performer in this series.

So will Dwight Howard. Eight years ago I never thought I would type those words, but Howard was a key player against the Nuggets, replacing JaVale McGee in the starting lineup and getting Jokic in foul trouble in games four and five, robbing the Nuggets big man of minutes and effectiveness.

If Howard can do the same thing with Abedayo, the Lakers will be the NBA champions.

The Dodgers are so confident going into their series with the Brewers that they started Walker Buehler in the first game of the best-of-three series. Clayton Kershaw will pitch game two Oct. 1.

The Brewers will be without their best starting pitcher, Corbin Burnes, who suffered an injury last week.  Left hander Brent Suter started in his place.

The Brewers still have Christian Yellich and Ryan Braun in their lineup, but neither has played well in this shortened season.

The rest of the lineup doesn’t match up well with the Dodgers who led the majors leagues in home runs and runs scored while winning 43 out of 60 games.

If the Brewers have an edge, it might be the back end of the bullpen. Josh Hader is one of the best closers in the game for the Brewers. Kenley Jansen used to be one of the best closers in baseball.  Nowadays he scares most Dodgers fans when he enters a close game.

The Dodgers should hit enough that they don’t have many close games, at least in the first round against the Brewers.

Because of the shortened season, Major League Baseball expanded the playoffs this year so eight teams from each league qualify.

The last time baseball expanded the playoffs because of a short season was in 1981, when a strike in the middle of the season, shut the sport down for almost two months.

The Dodgers won the World Series that year, too, defeating the Yankees four games to two.

Two teams, two championships. It’s a distinct possibility for the Dodgers and the Lakers. But don’t expect any parades through downtown Los Angeles. If they won’t let fans watch the games, they aren’t going to let you celebrate, either.

ODDS AND ENDS: Doc Rivers did not deserve to get fired by the Clippers this week (see story below). Yes, the Clippers added Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to a team that was already good enough to contend for a title. Yes, the Clippers blew a 3-1 series lead in the conference semifinals for the second time in his tenure.

But this was a crazy year. By the time Leonard and George adjusted to each other and their new teammates, the league shut down for four and a half months. Once play resumed, key substitutes Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams didn’t adjust well to playing in the bubble while also going through family issues.

Owner Steve Ballmer apparently means business. He had better find the right coach fast because Leonard and George can both exercise options and leave after next season. …

The Pac 12 has decided to play football after all this year, not next January and February. The 12 athletic directors and college presidents last week announced the conference would play a seven-game schedule beginning Nov. 6, with a conference championship game Dec. 18.

“We are excited and appreciative for the decision that came from our presidents and chancellors to start the 2020 football season,” USC football coach Clay Helton said in a statement. “The patience that our university leaders showed has allowed us the time to produce the safest environment possible for our student athletes. We thank the Pac-12 Conference and their medical advisory team for not only supplying the daily testing needed but also the scientific knowledge and advice that led to [this] decision.”

The schedule hasn’t been released yet.

Frankly, I have missed the Pac 12. It’s hard to get excited about other college games on Saturday knowing USC isn’t playing later in the day. Last week I had to be content with seeing former USC coaches Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron lose in Southeastern Conference matchups. …

The Chargers might have found themselves a franchise quarterback after all. Top draft choice Justin Herbert has filled in admirably for Tyrod Taylor, throwing for 300 yards in both of his starts. Unfortunately, the Chargers have lost both of those starts and the injuries are starting to pile up. Coach Anthony Lynn needs to right the course quickly before the Chargers find themselves in another lost season.