First of all, we need something to describe this season from the Celtics. Basically, they made us all think they were going to win 70 games by being totally, unbelievably awesome in the pre-season and the early part of the year. Then the injuries hit and they decided they just flat out didn’t care. There’s no other way to describe it; Doc Rivers even admitted/hoped as much openly in the media at the end of the season, claiming he didn’t care about getting the #3 seed vs. the #4 seed. Well, as you can see based on the past two series, it was stupid not to just win a couple more games and avoid Cleveland in favor of destroying the Magic with KG this year and then taking on the soon-to-be LeBronless Cavs later on. It all worked out but we still need that nickname. I suggest "The Great Ruse."
I mean, have you ever seen anyone dog it that bad and then turn it on like this? Ever? I can’t remember anything like it. It’s like the anti-Vince Carter. The former cover boy dominated for a couple of years in Toronto, won the Dunk Contest with the greatest aerial showing ever, and then decided he didn’t want to play in Canada anymore. So, he tanked, disrespected the game and an entire nation, and then promptly turned it back on when he was traded to New Jersey. Only he never truly regained his shine and now he’s fading fast in Orlando.
The Celtics, on the other hand, just might win the championship on what ought to be their last legs. But even that’s not so automatic anymore with the rapid ascension of The Next Great Celtic and the Bigger-than-average Three admitting as much and playing their role.
With that taken care of, let’s break down the likely (although not certain, Mr. Bynum) Finals match-up between the game’s two most storied franchises.
Here’s a quick rundown (I’ll be faxing it to my father next) of what you need to win an NBA title: star power, defense, offensive efficiency, and depth, in that order.
Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol certainly qualify. Rajon Rondo and the Holy Triumvirate do as well, sort of in the mode of those great Pistons teams with Chauncey and crew, although with much fewer commercials than KB24.com and fewer (ahem) *unsubstantiated* sex crimes to their names. Both teams have what it takes here.
Umm, yeah, not a problem for Boston. LA’s not too shabby either. Both have enough to get it done, although the C’s clearly outshine the Lakers here.
This could also be called the Iverson Corollary. Both teams convert at high rates, and just as importantly, both teams’ best players do as well (despite Rondo’s weak jump shot and shaky free-throw shooting up until the playoffs). The Lakers are the better team here and they have the best closer in the series in Kobe (assuming Pau isn’t open for a lay-up after a pick and roll, but Kobe probably wouldn’t pass it in that situation anyway - and if, in some miraculously unexpected moment he did, he would certainly make it really obvious that he had been unselfish by celebrating individually looking away from Gasol after the fact to draw attention to his own personal greatness as he did against the Suns [1:50 mark]).
Here’s where Boston really takes over. And that’s funny to say since the playoff bench is made up three guys who couldn’t start on more than a handful of other teams. Meanwhile, LA has Lamar Kardashian. He’s starter quality. But the Lakers have just about no one else, and Andrew Bynum has come up lame of late and ought to be entirely neutralized by Kendrick Perkins’ brutal defense. The point guard position is a huge issue for Los Angeles too, and Ron Artest is well past his prime and shouldn’t be too much of a problem for The Truth. So, when the Celtics need some help stopping Gasol, they can throw Rasheed Wallace’s six fouls and pestering personality at him. They can put Big Baby Davis on Odom to slow the guy down and box him out. They can use Tony Allen on Kobe to give Pierce and Ray Allen a break defensively. They can use Nate Robinson to play the role of guy who won’t play under any circumstance that doesn’t involve an already decided outcome who celebrates overzealously on the bench. Show me a Laker who can bring that to the table.
When it comes down to it, the Celtics are the more complete team. Unless Kobe can dominate while still giving Gasol enough touches in the post, a la Shaq and Kobe years ago, the Celtics should win the series. If Boston can win one of the first two games in LA as I expect them to, the series will be over in six. If not, expect a seven-gamer, and then the Lakers and Kobe have the last shot.
I’ll say it now. Boston in six. Green 18.