The NBA finals are just around the corner, and although it looks to be an entertaining series, we all know it’s just something to keep us busy until the long awaited 2010 Free Agency. Where is LeBron going to play next year? Who will run the floor with D-Wade? Where are Bosh and his YouTube antics going to land? All great questions, but none of which can be answered until the NBA finals are done and over with. In all honesty, the NBA finals are going to be great. It is a matchup with so much fire, ability, and best of all, predisposed hatred. The Celtics and Lakers have met 11 times in the NBA finals (the Celtics have taken 9 of those matchups), and the 12th time looks to be a great series. Let’s take a look, piece by piece, at the series that looms in the balance.
To tell you the truth, I don’t think I need to say much here. The point guard matchup pins 95-year-old Derek Fisher against the one of the league’s best up and coming stars in Rajon Rondo. Rondo has the clear advantage with his ability to do almost everything (except shoot from this outside), in this matchup, but do not underestimate the leadership ability of Derek Fisher. Fisher has been to this stage many times, and provides a poised leadership presence on the floor for this Laker team.
Winner: Rajon Rondo
The shooting guards for these two teams play extremely different roles in the scheme of their respective gameplans. Kobe IS the Lakers. His killer mentality and unparalleled skill has taken him to heights unimaginable. He is easily one of the best players to ever step onto the hardwood, and some argue he could go down as the best ever. Ray Ray on the other hand is more of a role player in the Celtics scheme. His stroke from the outside is absolutely gorgeous and his consistency on that shot is a huge plus for the Celtics. As much as Ray Ray does for the Celtics, it’s pretty much a no-brainer here…
Winner: Kobe Bryant aka the Black Mamba
The matchup at small forward is a very intriguing one. It pins a defensive minded bruiser in Ron Artest against the fluid and extremely effective, yet slow moving animal that is Paul Pierce. Artest has been very up and down these playoffs, even getting into a small war of words with the Zen Master himself. His shot has struggled, but with a player like Artest, he can always fall back on his defense and defer on the offensive end. Pierce has also been a little up and down, but for the most part he has, as always, picked his spots on the court and has been an effective player whenever on the hardwood. He has continually stepped up in trying situations, and for that reason, the C’s have an advantage at the 3-spot. Although I am giving the advantage to the C’s, do not underestimate Artest’s ability to diffuse the fire that is Paul Pierce’s offensive game. This battle will be a great one to watch.
Winner: Paul “I need a wheelchair” Pierce
Of all the matchups, this is by far the best on the court. It does not get much better than a matchup of Kevin Garnett vs. Pau Gasol. KG has been great these playoffs. He has played with the passion that got him his first championship in 2008, and has done whatever is necessary to win. He has brought back the nasty fighting mentality to the Celtics that was missing in last year’s playoff run. KG has a spectacular skill set. He has the ability to handle the ball within fifteen feet of the rim, and has one of the best midrange jump shots for a 7-footer. His tenacity on the defensive end and the boards is a great asset for the Celtics. Pau is also an unbelievable specimen. At times in this postseason, he has carried the Lakers. He has the ability to put up 30 and 15 on any given night. His back-to-the-basket game has improved greatly over the past few years, and he now has one of the most effective post games in the league. He has also been great on the offensive boards this postseason. With rumors that Kobe’s body is tired enough to the point where he is no longer going through full practices, Pau is easily the most important person on the team after Kobe. The Spaniard is going to have to play a major role in this Finals series, and I think he is up to the task.
Winner: Pau Gasol
The center matchup is a matchup of two big-men in the middle. Both have the job of altering shots on the defensive end, boarding on the offensive and defensive end, and setting picks in the high screen and role. I’m going to have to give the advantage here to the Celtic’s, mainly because Bynum is battling knee issues. In the past week, Bynum had his knee drained of fluid, and it is rumored that his knee has already filled back up. The real question is…Will Bynum even play in the Finals, and if he does, will he even be effective?
Winner: Kendrick Perkins
The Lakers feature a bench of Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, Lamar Odom, Luke Walton, Shannon Brown, and Josh Powell. The Celtics feature a bench comprised of Big Baby Davis, Rasheed Wallace, Tony Allen, Nate Robinson, Marquis Daniels, and Michael Finley. Both teams get great production from their benches, but there is one thing that sticks out when I watch the Celtics play. Not one person on that team is scared to take a big shot. At any given time, any player on the court is ready to play and ready to sacrifice their bodies for the good of the game.
Phil “The Zen Master” Jackson is obviously one of the greatest coaches of all time. He loves playing head games with his opposition, as fans have seen this postseason. He has already begun talking about his next opponent in the Celtics. The triangle offense has proven to be extremely successful. On the other sideline, we have Doc Rivers. Doc, in his own right, is also an extremely successful coach. His ability to get his players to dedicate themselves to play great defense has allowed his teams to continually be successful. He has the uncanny ability to get his players to buy into his system and to trust one another. The Celtics are truly a team.
Winner: Phil Jackson, but with Doc as a very close second
Verdict: We’ve now taken a look at the upcoming Finals matchup and it’s time to come to a final verdict. I personally believe that the Celtics dedication to defense is going to slow down the game a bit, and ultimately play into the Celtics favor. All post-season, there has been talk about how the Lakers front line is so long, but with Bynum ailing, this is going to push Pau to the 5 and Odom will fill in at the 4. Although this is still a big front line, I believe that Celtics have the size to counter. With a starting front line of Garnett and Perkins and a rotating bench of Big Baby and Rasheed, the Celtics have plenty of size to win the Battle down low. All in all, I seem to feel that the Celtics are going to take this series, but not without a great fight from the Lakers. The Celtics struggled in the second half of the season, but now with everybody healthy, they are, as in 2008, looking like a team of destiny. This is their last chance at a championship with this team, and it looks like they are going to bring one back to Boston, with Rondo holding the Finals MVP trophy.