Shanoff's W.U.C.: NBA Game 7s, Papi, Phelps

Today's Calls: Lakers vs. Rockets, Celtics vs. Magic, Canes vs. Wings, David Ortiz vs. Epic Futility, Justin Verlander vs. Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Favre vs. Greg Paulus, John Wall vs. Luis Scola, Twitter vs. NCAA, Michael Phelps vs. Rachel Alexandra. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: Sprints are on the brain this weekend. ↵

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↵Rachel Alexandra takes on the boys at the Preakness ... ↵Michael Phelps takes on the 50 free, a new event for him ... ↵

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↵And the NBA playoffs feature two Game 7s, as close to a sprint as it gets in the multi-game playoff format. The stakes are not insubstantial: ↵

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↵The Lakers are the presumptive favorites to win the NBA title -- and certainly the West. Being beaten (at home, no less) by the short-handed Rockets would represent one of the most shocking series results in NBA playoff history. And throw the West into chaos. This would be like the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament not making it out of the first weekend. ↵

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↵Based on last night (not to mention Game 1), the Rockets have a puncher's chance, which is all they need. (That, and the Scola-Hayes-Landry platoon in the post. New heroes nightly -- last night it was Scola's 24 and 12 -- means the Lakers can't focus on stopping any one player.) ↵

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↵The Celtics are the defending champs. And even if they are overachieving without KG (and injured others, like Leon Powe) -- and even if the next round features near-certain doom (the only real debate is "Cavs in 5" or "Cavs in 4"), the playoffs would feel empty without the them there, daring the rest of the league to pry the title from their cold, dead hands. ↵

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↵Even feeding Dwight Howard (23 and 22 in the Game 6 win), going on the road into Boston will be too much for the lightweight Magic. And don't you really want to see the defending champs obliterated by LeBron and Co? ↵

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↵It's a sprint to Monday. ↵

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↵NHL Playoffs: After that dud of a Game 7 in D.C. on Wednesday night, it was refreshing to get a pair of series-enders worthy of the "Game 7" name and hype -- Canes over Bruins in OT and Wings over Ducks in a close one. ↵

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↵MLB Talking Points: ↵

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↵• Big Papi Update: Worst game yet (0-7, 12 LOB). ↵

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↵• Walk-Off Winner: Angels beat Red Sox in 12. ↵

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↵• Verlander still rules: Even with a ND (6 IP, 13 Ks). ↵

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↵• Yanks beat Jays: Look who's .500! ↵

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↵• Rays Bandwagon: Yeesh, nearly as bad as Cleveland. ↵

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↵• Injury Watch: BJ Ryan comes off the DL. ↵

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↵• Fantasy Stud: Wandy Rodriguez (7 IP, 11 K, 0 BB, W). ↵

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↵Favre Watch: A visit with THE Dr. James Andrews?!?! Favre MUST be coming back!!! (Make it stop.) ↵

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↵CFB: Paulus to Syracuse. How can I loathe Paulus the Duke hoops player but kind of love Paulus the Syracuse football player? I think Spencer Hall has it right, that Paulus' choice to go Orange was a bit cynical -- the team is so bad that it was his best chance to play quickly. For it's part, Syracuse gets the one thing it desperately needed: Buzz. ↵

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↵John Wall Update: Kentucky or Miami? At UK, he could be part of an instantly legendary team that -- with Wall -- would win a national title in John Calipari's first year in Lexington. At The U, he would be The Man and have the ball -- and the shots -- to himself. If he is guaranteed to be the No. 1 overall pick of the 2010 NBA Draft -- and I think he is -- then he has no need to be The Man and should go to UK and chase that national title. ↵

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↵Michael Phelps back in the pool: The 50 free is the new 400 IM. ↵

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↵Twitter Status Update: The NCAA clarifies its position on Twitter -- and it is typically confusing. The NCAA considers Twitter a blog, which is sort of right. And coaches have to watch what they say. Rather than being the Ultimate Recruiting Tool (as texting was), it is much more about marketing and connecting the coach to fans and the media. (By the way: How many recruits are using Twitter anyway?) ↵

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↵Media: Pac-10 starting its own TV network? They need it -- no power conference has less exposure on TV (for football or hoops) than the Pac-10. But unless the TV network can change the time-zone rules (or eradicate East Coast Bias), it's a non-starter. Hey, I have an idea that just might work: Play their football games at 9 a.m. Pacific time -- the conference could battle the Big Ten and Big East for pre-eminence in that "Noon ET" spot. It's cheaper than launching a TV network. ↵

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↵The Last Word: Picking the Preakness. It's all about the filly, Rachel Alexandra. (How can horse racing top a 50-to-1 shot winning the Kentucky Derby? With three words: Girl Horse Wins.) ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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