2010 NBA Finals Preview- Lakers vs Celtics

GOD SAVE THE NBA PLAYOFFS!!  This postseason has flat-out sucked, it’s been horrendous.  This is the first time that I’ve actually watched more playoff hockey than basketball.  The best playoff series thus far was the 1st round series between the Lakers and Thunder.  That says a lot right there.  The first round should not yield the best match-up, especially between a 1 vs 8 seed.  Besides that, we’ve gotten nothing but sweeps, blowouts and LeBron free-agent talk. 

Anyway, somewhere David Stern is wiping his brow because we get Celtics/Lakers for the 2nd time in 3 years and the 12th time overall.  (They’re catching up to James Bond for the longest running sequel in the world’s history)  But even this matchup doesn’t have the same feel and anticipation as two seasons ago. Let’s break down the matchups.

POINT GUARDS

 Derek Fisher-  For the 4th straight series, Derek Fisher once again has to defend one of the elite point guards in the league.  He continues to be undervalued and underrated.  He truly flourishes as the stage becomes larger.

Rajon Rondo– Two years ago in the Finals, Rondo was unpredictable and dazzling at the same time, a la Jason Williams when he was with the Kings.  Now Rondo has become the BEST POINT GUARD IN THE NBA.  Yes, I said it.  He’s better than Paul, Williams, Nash and everyone else.  He has carried the Celts this postseason with his extraordinary play-making ability.  

Advantage- Celtics

Shooting Guards

Kobe Bryant- The regular season was all a mirage as some NBA writers claimed that Bryant was declining.  C’mon, you knew he was just cruising along like he was on a yacht for 82 games.  Although the last two series have come against mediocre defenses, Bryants numbers are still astounding. (33 ppg, 6rpg, 7apg and  52% FG)  We’ll see how he does against one of the better defenses, maybe the best, in this series.  BTW, that shot in the closing minutes against the Suns in Game 6 exemplified Kobe’s shotmaking prowess in a nutshell.

Ray Allen– I can’t think of any guard more underrated this decade than Allen, He Got Game.  At 34, this guy is still coming off screens and splitting the strings on 3’s like he’s still 24.  He’s also a solid defender, and he and Kobe can’t stand one another.

Advantage– Lakers   

Small Forwards

Ron Artest- For the Lakers, this is exactly why they swapped Artest for Ariza.  Artest is one of the better individual defenders in the NBA, and he’ll have the task of handling Paul Pierce.  Artest’s shot taking has been atrocious.  Teams have left Artest open to bait him to take the open jumper, and Ron has continued to oblige.  

Paul Pierce– He’s one of the premier scorers in basketball.  He loves to pump-fake and use his patented step back move.  This is one of the key individual match-ups in this series.  Historically, Artest has held Pierce below his career scoring average.

Advantage- Celtics  

Power Forward

Pau Gasol- In the 2008 Final, Garnett schooled Gasol like a little itty bitty boy.  Gasol is slightly a different specimen than he was even two years ago.  He’s more aggressive, and he’s finally acquired a little mean streak.  He’s not afraid to fight it out in the post anymore.  His fundamental are undeniable as he has great foot skills.

Kevin Garnett- This guy hobbled, limped and winced in pain throughout the regular season.  He appeared washed up.  He then proceeded by having a fantastic series against Cleveland, but then tanked in the Orlando series.  Now he gets Gasol, a guy he’s handled in the past, but it’s tough to gauge what to expect from Garnett this series.

Advantage- Toss-Up

Center

Andrew Bynum- Bynum was unavailable due to injury in the 2008 Finals.  He just got fluid drained out of his knee, and it’s unclear what production the Lakers will get from Bynum. 

Kendrick Perkins– Perkins has been overlooked a bit by the Big Four of the Celtics.  His on the ball defense has been great thus far in the playoffs.

Advantage- Toss-Up   

Bench

Lakers- Lamar Odom brings more size off the bench to an already towering frontcourt.  Odom will be a key component in the series, especially if Bynum is ineffective.  Odom has really matured over the years and has learned his role on the team.  If Gasol plays outside on the perimeter, Odom can go down low and grab some offensive rebounds.  Jordan Farmar is a solid backup to Fisher, and Shannon Brown is an athletic freak who’ll give Ray Allen some fits off the ball screens.

Celtics- Glen Davis and Rasheed Wallace will be the key members off the bench for Boston.  LA’s frontcourt is so long, and Big Baby has his problems against guys taller than him.  Odom will probably eat him alive.  Who knows what Boston will get from Wallace.  Nate Robinson will bring a spark off the bench with his energy and capability to score in bunches.

Advantage- Lakers

Coach

Phil Jackson- 10 rings

Doc Rivers- He’s a superb motivator, and splendid during his timeouts.  Doc knows the game very well, and knows when to make adjustments throughout the game.

Advantage- Lakers

PREDICTION

This is one is so close to call.  I haven’t had this much trouble making a prediction in the NBA Finals since the 2005 Final between Detroit and San Antonio. 

The Lakers have used their home-court advantage to perfection, as they’ve yet to suffer a defeat at home this postseason. Boston just keeps overcoming the odds, they’re so good on the road.

To conclude, Bryant is such a fierce competitor and he’s by far the best player on the floor.  I think Kobe remembers what happened two years ago.  Look for Lamar Odom to have a huge series.  If this goes 7, the Lakers will have the home court, and I think this puts them over the top.

LAKERS IN 7

 

 

 

     

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