I'll admit it, this was the matchup I was dying for.
I grew up watching Lakers vs. Celtics, rooting for Magic and the Showtime squads. I played "Lakers vs. Celtics" on my Sega Genesis for years. This rivalry is what made basketball great in the 70's and 80's, and its return is the best thing that could have happened to the league this year.
Now we are faced with perhaps the most exciting NBA Finals in 15 years. Here is how I think the whole thing shakes out.
- Point Guards: These teams match up well at many places, but no more so than in the point guards. Rajon Rondo and Sam Cassell make the perfect mixture of young speed and skill, and veteran experience and intelligence. No matter who is on the floor, the Celtics can work around them. Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar are no slouches, but both fit the Lakers better as facilitators and defenders. I give the slight edge to the Celtics, but it depends on how well Cassell's legs hold up.
- Shooting Guards: Kobe Bryant is the greatest player on the planet, easy. Ray Allen can't defend him, and Kobe may turn around and lock him down easily on the defensive side. I see the Celtics trying to match Paul Pierce on him defensively to slow Kobe down, but I don't see that working either. Lakers take this point easily.
- Small Forwards: Paul Pierce is the class at this position, but let's not discount the defensive prowess and basketball IQ of Luke Walton, who I see starting opposite Pierce. I bet you that Pierce still has good games, but he won't be doing it easy, and it may take some out of him defensively, making life easier for Kobe. Celtics take the point, but Walton can affect it in many ways you don't see in the box score.
- Power Forwards: Kevin Garnett's excellence is not in question, but the big X-factor in the series is Lamar Odom. Frustratingly inconsistent throughout his career, Odom sometimes looks like the best athlete and player not named Kobe Bryant, but sometimes seems disinterested and lackadaisical. If he shows up to play, KG may find his road harder to travel. If not, there may be problems. Celtics take the point.
- Center: Phil Jackson has the perfect center for Kobe Bryant to work with in Pau Gasol. He can pass, shoot, block shots, defend, you name it. More importantly, he doesn't mind that Kobe takes the game over in the late goings. Kendrick Perkins has been huge for the Celtics this post-season, but he's no match for Gasol in skill and experience. Lakers take this one.
- Coaches: 9 championships. 'Nuff said. Phil Jackson is a way better strategist and motivator than Doc Rivers. Lakers get the point.
Prediction: I see this being a back and forth series, each team holding serve on their home court for the first 4 games, but eventually I think Kobe, who in killer instinct alone is more valuable and effective than the Big 3 of Boston, takes over and wills his team to victory. I see a game 7 win, in overtime, going down to the last shot. Lakers, by a nose, in 7.
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