Thursday, June 05, 2008
This is the matchup everybody wanted. The NBA must have wet its pants when LA made it this far and the Celtics were able to overcome the Pistons. The best rivalry in NBA history has been renewed as the Celtics and Lakers meet in the NBA Finals for the 11th time. Not to mention two major TV markets and teams with national fanbases.
If you've been watching ESPN or FSN, or listening to sports radio; you know the storylines already. Jackson vs. Auerbach. Is Kobe better than Jordan? Will KG get that elusive ring? I won't bore you by rehashing those worn out talking points.
It's a classic battle between offense and defense. It's also a clash between a team that plays as a team, and a team centered around an individual. The Celtics beat the Lakers twice this year, once in Boston and once in LA. But the Lakers didn't have Paul Gasol for either of those contests, and both times they scored more than 90 points. In the post-season, the Celtics are 2-7 when allowing 90+ points.
The big question everyone seems to be asking is "Can the Celtics stop Kobe Bryant?" The quick answer is "No." Kobe is a freak of nature, and will lead both teams in scoring this series. But the Celtics can stop the rest of the Lakers. If they do this AND stay consistent on offense, they'll come away with the title.
Remember, LeBron James put up lots of points as the Cleveland series came to a close, including 45 in game 7, but it wasn't enough. Kobe might very well average 35 points a game this series, but that isn't the end of the world for the C's.
The margin for error in this series is slimmer than it was against Detroit, Cleveland, or Atlanta. Rajon Rondo will have to play like he knows what he's doing all the time. Ray Allen will have to remain hot. KG will have to shoot the ball in the 4th quarter. Paul Pierce will have to stay on his game on both sides of the court. The bench will have to contribute some offense.
But unlike the "experts" (9 of ESPN.com's 10 experts picked the Lakers), I think this is the Celtics' series to lose. They've got home court advantage. They've got depth. They've got the defense.
Celtics in 6.
AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File
AP Photo/Mike Kullen, File
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File