June 1, 2008
The Lakers and the Celtics. It's on. I am so excited, I could puke in my own mouth!
At the beginning of these playoffs, I told anyone who would listen that if it wasn't a Lakers-Celtics final, I'd be borderline suicidal. As it stands, no need for hara-kiri.
Here's what I think. But beware: I'm just a girl. So what do I know?
Whoever wins in the rebound column controls the pace of the game, wins the series, and takes home the gold ball trophy.
The young, athletic Lakers would prefer to play a fast-paced game: running up and down the floor, exploiting the fast break.
The Celtics prefer a slower pace: clogging up the paint, relying on the help defense, blocking the passing lane.
The Lakers don't do "help defense." In fact, it seems like they don't believe in the double team at all. This may prove problematic, because it can potentially leave the paint open for the Celtics to camp out in, waiting for the rebounds to come to them. The Lakers will have to limit the Celtics' second-chance points.
So much of what's happened to Allen this postseason is psychological. He's having, as Jeff Van Gundy put it, a crisis of confidence. Those last two games against a bruised and beaten Detroit team helped get some of his mojo back. But he's shaky. If the Lakers can effectively shut him down in game one, whether they win or lose, they'll have a chance to silence him for the series.
Remember, these guys got through series running 7-7-6 games respectively—in the Eastern Conference, for the love of God!
Atlanta was an under-.500 team and took the Celtics to seven games! I don't know about you, but I love the NBA. I don't want my champions to have gone 7 games with an under-.500 team. Call me crazy.
My bet is that Odom is a name you hear a lot in the Celtics' gym these days. To me, he's the X factor in this series.
Odom is a fast 6-foot-10 guy who can run the ball across the court, play in the paint and on the perimeter, and take big guys off the dribble. He's lean, athletic and finally living up to his potential.
As long as the inconsistency that has plagued him throughout his career doesn't rear its ugly head, he's going to be tough for the Celtics to defend.
THE BIG SIX
At the end of the day, Kobe, Gasol, Odom, Pierce, Allen and KG are going to get their numbers. The BENCH of either team will have to show up and show up BIG to win it.
It would be tough to argue that the Lakers take the edge on this one. Their depth is insane. What strikes me about their bench is their unshakable confidence.
Take Sasha as an example. The guy can throw up brick after brick and will STILL shoot like he's wearing a jersey bearing the number 24. Got a love a guy with huevos.
Be honest. The Celtics don't look like a championship team right now. As much as I begrudged the Spurs for their boring (but effective) game play, they always looked like champs. Not the Celtics. Not at this stage of the game.
I know, I know, they had the best regular-season record. But, at the end of that season, no one would have believed it if they were told the Celtics would struggle through a pair of seven-game series and that Ray Allen would become a near shadow of his former self. My point is that things change.
I just don't see that there is any team in this league that could, at this point, beat the Lakers four out of seven. They've got a deeper bench. They've been able to neutralize point guards way more talent than Rondo (Iverson, Parker, Williams). They've got the best coach in the NBA, a guy who can manage the game, the clock, and the players in his sleep. And, of course, there's number 24.
My money's on the Lakers, though I disagree with all of these five-game predictions. It's gonna be a long one. I say Lakers in seven.
But if this series is over in five and we miss out on at least one more game before the NBA goes dark for the summer, I will be borderline suicidal. Again.
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