Shanoff's W.U.C.: Kobe, Artest, Rondo, Johan

Today's Calls: Kobe Bryant vs. Ron Artest, Rajon Rondo vs. the Magic, Dodgers vs. History, Johan Santana vs. Carl Pavano, Coaches' Poll vs. Reality, Tiger vs. No. 17 and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: The Lakers needed to punch back. They did. ↵

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↵After the shocking Game 1 loss in L.A., the Lakers were one loss from something resembling playoff oblivion. And so they played not with the confidence of a presumptive champion, but with the desperation of a scrappy underdog. ↵

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↵It's a good fit for them. ↵

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↵It helped Kobe and Co. that the Rockets seemed shell-shocked by the Lakers' strategic thuggishness. It also helped that Kobe was infinitely more efficient (16/27 FG for 40 pts) than he was in Game 1. ↵

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↵It also helped that Ron Artest was crazy. I don't know whether his presence in the final 7 minutes would have made enough of a difference to make up the 10-point differential at the time of his ejection, but it certainly would have closed the gap. Top subplot for Game 3: How will Ron-Ron react? ↵

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↵This series has just been amped -- and the Lakers are certainly better for it. ↵
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↵Meanwhile: The Celtics shook off Game 1 and took it right at the Magic -- and took back any remaining momentum Orlando may have had. I don't know when we officially moved from a "Big Three" to a "Big Four" for the C's, but Rajon Rondo (15 pts, 18 ast, 11 reb) is the clear MVP of the team. ↵

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↵MLB Talking Points: ↵

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↵• Game of the Night: Johan! ↵

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↵• Milestones: Dodgers' 13-0 at home new MLB record. ↵

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↵• AL's Best: Jays win 20th behind Doc. ↵

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↵• Pavano Watch: Carl beats the ... Red Sox? Wow. ↵

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↵• Here come the Rays: About to pass the Yankees. ↵

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↵• Pujols HR Watch: That's 11. ↵

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↵• Fantasy Stud: Ryan Braun (GS, 6 RBI, 2 R). ↵

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↵NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Caps in Game 3 at Pittsburgh, proving the Pens aren't simply ready to roll over -- and signaling that this series will go deep. That's good for hockey. On the other end of the spectrum ... ↵

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↵Coyotes Watch: The NHL really wants to keep hockey out of a market (Ontario) where it would thrive, but keep it in a market that was so robust that the league had to seize the team? ↵

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↵NBA 2010: Players like LeBron and Wade insist they want to stay in their home markets. The Heat would like to test that theory by pressuring Wade to sign a big deal a year ahead of the summer of 2010. I suspect Pat Riley will be disappointed, making next season extremely awkward. ↵

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↵CBB Recruiting: You know you are in murky recruiting waters when you get a commitment from a top player, then immediately have to hire a lawyer -- you know, just in case. ↵

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↵Meanwhile: John Calipari's incoming freshman class gets even stronger, with PG Eric Bledsoe. (Is Coach Cal going with the Fisher-style, "Fab Five" hey-come-here-and-you'll-all-start-as-freshmen appeal? He might as well, given how mediocre Kentucky has been the last few years.) ↵

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↵CBB Scandal: Toledo hoops point-shaving scandal produces 8 indictments. Having gone to Northwestern in the same class as several of the point-shavers in our own gambling scandal, let me say: Welcome to the club of shame, Toledo fans. ↵

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↵CFB: Longtime readers know about my problems with the coaches' Top 25 -- mainly, that the coaches are so hopelessly conflicted that it is ludicrous to suggest that they fill out their ballots "independently" (that is, when they fill them out at all -- many use their SIDs to fill out the ballots). ↵

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↵If nothing else, revealing the final BCS-determining ballot brought a little accountability and transparency. Even a rudimentary analysis exposed the conflicts, but at least we could see them. Stunningly, the AFCA -- which administers the poll -- thinks LESS transparency is a great idea. Chutzpah. ↵

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↵More CFB Lunacy: Big 12 coaches did NOT want to change their controversial tie-breaker rule. Really? The rest of them must hate Texas SO much. ↵

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↵Golf: The Players is here, and that means an obsession with the 17th hole, the best hole in all of golf. It also means another week of "If Tiger isn't near the top of the leaderboard, will anyone care?" ↵

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↵The Last Word: "As far as I know, he is retired." -- Bus Cook, Brett Favre's agent. ↵

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↵As far as I know? Favre is SO coming back. ↵

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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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