Well guys, I hate to say I called it.
Wait...no...I didn't. (That's for you, Quenten)
When the 2008 NBA Playoffs began (it seems now like years ago), I predicted a Lakers-Celtics Finals match-up that had the C's coming out on top in six games. And now, at the beginning of June, that's what we're looking at.
The Celtics have definitely scared me (as well as really pissed me off) during the Playoffs, while the Lakers have pretty much played like I thought they would (very well), but nonetheless, here we are.
I'll break down the five starting positions and the teams' benches and coaches, before making another prediction about how this series will finish up.
Rajon Rondo has been inconsistent during the playoffs for Boston, but who hasn't? One thing's for sure. When he's aggressive, the C's play better. On the other side of the court, Derek Fisher has been consistent for Los Angeles. Although Tony Parker kicked his ass in the Spurs series, Fisher played well in the earlier two.
If Rondo can use his size and speed to pressure Fisher all night long, he'll be able to score consistently and put the ball in Kobe's hands more often, possibly causing him to fatigue. Fisher is always a threat to get off a big shot, so Rondo will have to be aware of him at all times.
Rondo is young, but will his youth betray him? Fisher has been in big games before, so he knows what to expect. This is too close to call. ADVANTAGE: PUSH.
Ray Allen has obviously driven many Celtic fans up the wall, as my former roommate and my friends will be able to attest to. Why did he pick now to start sucking? I don't know. But recently, and against the Pistons no less, he's been able to pick up his game.
I have no reason why Allen hasn't played well, and to be honest, I don't care. Obviously Kobe is going to torch him on defense, but if Allen can make Kobe chase him and hit open jumpers, the Celtics have a much better chance.
Kobe Bryant won the MVP award this season, and he deserved it. He's playing the best ball of his career and he's also doing it unselfishly. Period. He's probably the best player in basketball right now.
If he shuts down Allen completely and stays aggressive, I don't see the Celtics standing much of a chance. I don't necessarily think this will happen, but if it does, watch out Beantown. ADV: LAKERS.
Paul Pierce has truly lived up to his end of the bargain in regards to the Big Three. He, along with KG, has definitely played up to their star potential. He's fought so hard to get to the Finals, I wonder how he'll play now that he's there.
Lamar Odom was big for LA in the Spurs series, but he'll be less crucial against the Celtics. The big question is how he'll guard Pierce.
Odom might be the most important part of the Lakers' offense. If he plays well, he's their hidden weapon. If he sucks, he's their weak link.
Pierce is really hungry to win a title, and Odom is known to disappear at big times. Odom could surprise me and play really, really well, but I think Pierce will play better. ADV: CELTICS.
Kevin Garnett is a beast. I know you already knew, but there's not much else to say. No, he hasn't hit big shots every time the C's have needed one. Yes, he's been their best player night in and night out.
Vladimir Radmanovic starts for the Lakers, but Ronny Turiaf will also see a lot of time guarding The Big Ticket. Radmanovic can definitely hit the outside shot, but KG is fast enough to chase him out to the perimeter.
This match-up bodes well for the Celtics, because KG is agile enough to guard Radmanovic all over the floor, whereas nobody on the Lakers has the combination of size and speed to properly guard KG, like 'Sheed, Ben Wallace, or Al Horford have. Garnett could have a monster series. ADV: CELTICS.
When he's playing well, Kendrick Perkins is actually a really good player, as the whole world saw in Game Five of the Detroit series. But, he often gets into foul trouble, and isn't consistent for 48 minutes.
Pau Gasol has been huge for the Lakers, and although he has experienced some of the stage fright that he went through with the Grizzlies (he's only scored 20 or more in a third of the Lakers playoff games), that hasn't hurt LA at all.
I honestly don't know how this match-up will go, but I'm really intrigued. Yes, Gasol is clearly much better than Perkins, but Perkins is a physical, bruiser type which bothered Gasol in the past. ADV: LAKERS.
The Celtics' bench was huge in the regular season, and although Doc Rivers hasn't used it the same in the playoffs, PJ Brown, Sam Cassell, James Posey, and Eddie House have still been important to the team. The Boston bench has size, and can defend, rebound and shoot.
The Lakers also have a talented group that starts the game on the sideline. Sasha Vujacic, Luke Walton, Jordan Farmar, Ronny Turiaf, and now Trevor Ariza, are still helping LA race towards another title.
A lot of the bench play has to do with the match-ups that coaches set up, so LA definitely has a big advantage there. However, I think the players on Boston's bench are more talented and more valuable. ADV: CELTICS.
Doc Rivers has done a good job this season of saving his stars for the playoffs and giving his reserves some valuable experience. I'm not his biggest fan, and his decisions sometimes frustrate me, but he's gotten his team this far for a reason.
Phil Jackson is arguably the best coach ever, and will be looking to win his record-setting tenth title. He has Kobe playing like a team player, and is getting the most out of his role players.
This could be a huge area for LA. This is the one position where they truly shine over their Boston rivals. If Jackson outcoaches Rivers, there's no effort from any one player that could override that. Rivers has held his own this far, so I'll try to withhold any major concern for now. ADV: LAKERS.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Wow. This series is shaping up to be amazing. I have the categories at three to three, with the PG spot up for grabs.
But what do I know, I had the Celts sweeping Atlanta. Anything can happen, and I truly mean that.
However, I have to make a prediction, and I'm standing by my call of Boston. However, after seeing how they've played away from home, I have to make a slight change and say BOSTON IN SEVEN.
I think the two keys to the Celtics' chances come in the guard slots, with Rondo and Allen. If Rondo can take advantage of his match-up with the smaller and slower Fisher, that will help the Celtics immensely.
In addition, if Allen can make Kobe work on defense, the Lakers offense will be slowed down as well. Allen is without a doubt the most crucial, yet confusing, player going into this series.
The NBA Playoffs have been the best ones I've ever seen this season. Regardless of who wins, it's truly been a blast to watch. I can't wait to see the final chapter.