Expect Celtics vs. Lakers in Finals
Editor’s note: I wrote almost all of this yesterday and was ready to publish it, but after the Bruins’ collapse and my overconfidence in them I decided to wait and not jinx the Celtics.
It appears that without KG’s freak/old-age injury to his knee last year, we could have been looking at three straight years of Celtics/Lakers NBA Finals. Despite age and injuries wearing the two squads down, they both look poised to meet once again in June (or will it be July, David Stern? Nice scheduling job).
So, if the can get by their current match-ups, who’s going to win?
I’m not trying to hedge my bets, but I’m not sure. This will be an extremely even series, going at least to Game 6. The Celtics have the better player at two of the five starting positions, and the Lakers have the better player at three positions. The problem is I think the Celtics have a disproportionate advantage at their two positions, and center is a bit of a toss up.
Kendrick Perkins won’t do much scoring, but because of his dominating physical defense, neither should Andrew Bynum, he of the deteriorating knees. Rajon Rondo should dominate LA’s point guard crew for about 45 minutes a night, so unless Derek Fisher can post #9 up with some success, Boston dominates there. Kobe Bryant is better than Ray and Tony Allen, but not by as much as you might think. Paul Pierce is better than Ron Artest, but both are a bit inconsistent, so it’s tough to get a read on what their actual play will be like, although Pierce’s efforts sans LeBron have been much better. Lastly, Pau Gasol is better than Kevin Garnett, but it’s also not as clear cut as it may seem, because KG won’t have to chase Gasol to the three-point line, enabling him to conserve energy and contest Kobe’s drives. No one on the Lakers is all that adept at breaking down the defense other than Kobe, so it’s really on him. If he drops an efficient 40 then LA wins. If he doesn’t, Boston’s superior depth will take the cake.
The Boston fan in me says we’ll own the rapacious ball hog. The basketball fan says it’s a bit absurd to pretend to know what Kobe will do, because he’s one of the most unpredictably predictable superstars there is. His legacy is on the line, can Boston bait him in to bad shots or will he put up a virtuoso performance?
That very likely will decide the series. Who falls for his tragic flaw first? The aging, alpha dog-less Celtic squad, or the petulant poster boy? With four games in LA and three in Boston, the pendulum swings to LA. But if the C’s can win one of the first two on the west coast, they just might win that pesky 18th championship after all. And don’t look now, but LA has 16. Ties go to the runner, or in this case, the team with the better recent history. The battle for the title of basketball’s top franchise looks to be back.