Walcoff: Lakers, Giants and A's – oh, my

The Los Angeles Lakers shed their “Euro”-soft label in winning Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

Center Pau Gasol finally matched Kevin Garnett’s intensity around the basket and guard Sasha Vujacic saved L.A.’s title hopes with a bevy of picture-perfect jump shots, but Boston is still sitting pretty in pursuit of its 17th championship.

Doc Rivers has gone 10 deep in the Celtics’ rotation by making great use of his energetic Bench Big Three: Leon Powe, P.J. Brown and James Posey. Boston has forced Phil Jackson to keep his most physical inside player, the exasperatingly inept Lamar Odom, on the floor longer than he’d like. Tuesday, not only did Odom have more turnovers (five) than points (four), he consistently blew defensive assignments and was an offensive foul waiting to happen with his reckless, head-down drives to the rim.

Unless they find another inside scoring threat (has anyone seen starting forward Vlady Radmanovic?) the Lakers’ perfect home-court playoff record will become a very different L.A. story.

CROSS THAT BRIDGE: Ready or not, here come those ridiculous Giants-A’s split-team caps.

These must be the same people with Barack Obama and John McCain bumper stickers on their cars. Some local fans may embrace indecision, but here, we take sides on this weekend’s Bay Bridge Series at AT&T Park.

Starting pitching

With the strong return of Rich Harden and Justin Duchscherer to the rotation, the A’s get a slight nod over S.F., which is getting great work from Tim Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez, but loses out on Matt Cain’s rough spring and Barry Zito’s 20-loss season in the making. Edge: A’s

Bullpen

Both clubs have a host of reliable relievers and premier closers in Huston Street and Brian Wilson. Edge: Pick ’em

Catcher

“Big Money” in a landslide. Bengie Molina is among the best and Kurt Suzuki, 24, is still learning the game in his first full season in the majors. Edge: Giants

First base

Do we have to? Ol’ warhorse Rich Aurilia has stepped it up of late, but he is past his prime, while highly touted Daric Barton, 22, has yet to hit his. Edge: Pick ’em

Second base

The ever-reliable Mark Ellis is a good clutch hitter, despite his sub-.250 batting average, and has some of the surest hands in the game. Ray Durham may be hitting .300, but he remains Dr. Strangeglove in the field and with his chronic leg injuries is the poster boy for universal health care. Edge: A’s

Shortstop

Omar Vizquel remains a magician with the glove, but Bobby Crosby’s resurgence at the plate gives him the nod. Edge: A’s

Third base

Jose Castillo has been a pleasant surprise, but Eric Chavez owns the hot corner. Edge: A’s

Outfield

Some day, youngsters Carlos Gonzalez, Ryan Sweeney and Travis Buck will all be stars. Right now, they take a backseat to Aaron Rowand, Randy Winn and Fred Lewis. Edge: Giants

Designated hitter

Not really a fair competition. The Giants who rarely need one don’t have a good one. The A’shave two solid DH’s in Frank Thomas and Mike Sweeney. Although both are currently out with injuries, the Big Hurt is expected back soon. Edge: A’s

Managers

Make a dugout switch and put Bruce Bochy in Oakland and Bob Geren in S.F. and few could tell the difference. Edge: Pick ’em

Bottom line

The A’s, despite a near rock-bottom payroll, are a team to be reckoned with almost every night. The Giants, although more fun to watch now than at the start of the season, remain a .500 team at best.

For those keeping score at home, the A’s beat the Giants five of six meetings last season and now own a 34-28 record against their S.F. counterparts. Now go put that split-team cap back in the trunk and make up your mind on who you want in the White House.

Rich Walcoff is the sports director at KGO Radio (810 AM) and can be heard weekdays between 5-9 a.m. on the “KGO Morning News.” He can also be reached at richwalcoff@abc-sf.com.

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