Walcoff: Boston-LA rivalry has plenty to offer 

Forget Blackhawks-Flyers. If you want rough-and-tumble action, tune into tonight’s opening round of the NBA finals. A Lakers-Celtics showdown is like an Ali-Frazier fight: a rollicking rowdy championship duel that is as entertaining as it is fierce and often ugly.

While nobody wants to see basketball’s most storied rivalry get out of hand, can’t you just feel it coming? Just look at the matchups and tell me this series isn’t ripe for angry exchanges: Ron Artest vs. Rasheed Wallace; Andrew Bynum vs. Kendrick Perkins; Derek Fisher vs. Rajon Rondo; Pau Gasol vs. Kevin Garnett; Kobe Bryant vs. Paul Pierce.

Fanning the flames of an already incendiary showdown is the lingering memory of Boston fans throwing rocks at the Lakers bus after the Celtics’ record-setting 39-point victory in the clincher in 2008. Finals MVP Pierce then crowed, “I don’t think Kobe is the best player in the game. I’m the best player.”

It’s entirely understandable why the usually reserved Celtics captain who was twice cut from his Inglewood High basketball team would be so brash. He had just shut down the game’s most explosive player en route to winning his first title. Of course, Bryant has not forgotten.

Now playing the best basketball of his career with a better supporting cast, the Lakers are poised to avenge that humiliating defeat. Meanwhile, the older, but battle-tested Celtics know this is probably their last hurrah. Neither team is going down without a fight. Hopefully, they won’t mean that literally.

Freak in a funk

Hey, Giants fans, this just in: You can’t win the division without beating your division rivals. Heading into Wednesday, the Giants were (7-14) against the NL West, but only (4-12) versus the Padres, Dodgers and Rockies.

While Buster Posey has provided a much needed boost to the offense, the only way San Francisco stays in playoff contention is if the Freak gets out of his funk.

Sure it’s encouraging to hear Tim Lincecum insist he’s learning from recent struggles and not dwelling on the negatives, but it’s hard not to be concerned about the two-time Cy Young winner. His command is off, his walks are up and his velocity is down.

Tim also appears so hyperfocused on making the perfect pitch that base runners are stealing almost at will with rarely a look from the mound.

Bruce Wayne?

Is it just me or does Bruce Bochy sound like he’s channeling John Wayne? With that deep baritone and down-home country drawl, all Bochy needs is cowboy boots and a 10-gallon hat and you’d swear the Duke was managing the Giants. Now, get out of my way, pilgrim.

Super sleepers

Scouting is overrated. The two most sensational performers in professional sports this spring are undrafted 26-year-olds — Rockies right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, who leads the majors with 10-1 record and a 0.78 ERA, and goaltender Antti Niemi, who in his first-ever NHL postseason is on the verge of leading the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup.

KGO (810 AM) Sports Director Rich Walcoff can be heard weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on the KGO morning news. He can be reached at RichWalcoff@gmail.com.

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Rich Walcoff

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