As the Celtics and Lakers prepare to tip-off in the NBA Finals for the 12th time against each other, my thoughts are as follows: “Either team could win and I wouldn’t be surprised.”
But that’s no fun!
The Celtics have looked great in the last three weeks, disposing of 3 MVP candidates in consecutive series: Wade, LeBron, and Howard. Now they get another.
The Lakers struggled a little against the Thunder, but crushed the Jazz and handled the Suns pretty easily. Their big men look unbeatable.
So who’s going to win? Let’s break it down.
Rondo has emerged into an elite player on both sides. Fisher is a crafty vet but won’t be able to stop Rondo from penetrating. EDGE to Celtics
Obviously Kobe is a star and a legend, but Ray Allen may be the second most clutch shooter in the NBA. A good matchup. But of course, EDGE to the Lakers.
Pierce will have his hands full against Ron Artest, who was born to defend herky-jerky shooters like Pierce. But on the other end of the ball, Artest takes stupid shots and looks lost offensively. SLIGHT EDGE to Boston.
I’m coupling the 4 and 5 positions together, and it’s closer than you’d think. I’m not a fan of Andrew Bynum with all the injuries and inconsistencies. But Gasol is great. And Odom is one of the most versatile 6’10” players in the league.
A lot hinges on Garnett’s old knees and Big Baby’s concussion. Garnett is in the twilight of his career and not athletic enough to hang with Gasol up and down. He’s gonna need help, and he can’t count on Rasheed to put it kindly. Kendrick Perkins could be the key. He can guard Gasol. But if he gets one more technical, he’s suspended for a game.
The Lakers have the talent, the Celts have more depth.
Slight EDGE: Lakers
Phil is a legend, but he was significantly outcoached in both rounds 1 and 3. Doc is legendarily hapless, but he coached the pants off Mike Brown and Stan VanGundy. I have no idea what to expect here. TIE
Too many to count.
There’s the chance for Kobe to leapfrog into definite top 10, possible top 5 players of all time with another title. The chance for Phil to stand alone as the winningest coach ever. The chance for Artest to redeem all his stupid actions. The chance for Kobe to raise serious eyebrows to the “LeBron is the best” argument. The possibility of Khardashian sisters celebrating 2 straight championships (Kim dates Reggie Bush, Courtney is married to Odom, don’t ask me why I know this).
Garnett becomes a sure fire Hall of Famer (not that he isn’t already) and possibly leapfrogs Duncan and Malone as best power forward ever. Pierce and Ray Allen add another championship to their possible HOF résumés. Rondo suddenly becomes arguably the best point guard alive. And freaking Rasheed wins another undeserved title.
Both teams have a classic competitor (Kobe and Garnett) and a classic moron (Artest, Rasheed). Both teams have injuries, but Boston's are more serious. Plus LA has home-court advantage.
EDGE to LA.
In Boston's past three series, they've been successful against players that I ranked #10, #7, and #2 in my annual top 50. This is largely because the Celtics have four players in the top #30, and in each series they've had the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th best player. Plus they've had somewhere around 7 or 8 of the best 10 players in the series. Now they get the #1 player - Kobe - in the league, and this won't be anything like the Cleveland series, because Kobe actually has a supporting cast.
The way I perceive the rosters in these Finals is like this:
1. Kobe, LA
2. Rondo, BOS
3. Gasol, LA
4. Pierce, BOS
5. Allen, BOS
6. Odom, LA
7. Artest, LA
8. Garnett, BOS
9. Bynum, LA
10. Perkins, BOS
11. Fisher, LA
12. Davis, BOS
It's a very close series, as you can see. To me, the difference maker is Garnett. He could be the 3rd best player in the series if he plays to his potential, or the 8th or 9th if he plays to his age. My take on the series is that Boston hasn't played a team yet in this postseason with a roster anywhere close to the Lakers, and that, along with home-court advantage, will be the difference.
LA wins games 1 and 2
Bos wins 2 of 3 at home
LA wins game 6
Lakers in 6.