When broken down to its simplest form, the NBA is a pretty easy league to predict. Generally, you can count on the team with the best player and best coach to advance the furthest into the playoffs and more often than not win the NBA title.
Tim Duncan and Greg Popovich rode that formula to four championships in the past nine years. Before them, Shaquille O’Neal and Phil Jackson (with a little help from Kobe) imposed their will on the league for three straight seasons.
And back before them, Phil and MJ teamed up for a couple of three-peats. It’s a pretty easy pattern to decipher if you think about it.
Now with that being said, let me tell you why Los Angeles—the team with the best player and best coach—will buck the trend and not win the NBA title this season.
Reason No. 1: Ray Allen
Throughout the playoffs, no one has been battered by outside criticism more than Ray Allen—and rightfully so. He’s been unreliable as a scorer, impotent as a defender, and uncharacteristically unclutch during crunch time when Boston has needed a big hoop.
Despite all of that, he still is Ray Allen and not “the artist formally known as Ray Allen” just yet. And after sleepwalking through the first two and a half series, Allen seemed to come alive in the last two games against Detroit.
His jumper started splashing instead of clanging and he drilled a super clutch 22-footer at the end of Game 5 to help secure a much needed Celtics home win. He seems to have found his rhythm and it couldn’t have come a better time.
Why, because it’s the finals and if you don’t play for real now you don’t play for real ever?
Well, yes and no.
See Kobe Bryant and Allen hate each other. For some reason that no one can exactly put a finger on, the two men are mortal enemies who have despised one another for years. This subplot is something people should pay a lot of attention to because it just might tilt the series in favor of Boston.
Look at it this way: Both guys are highly competitive people who are fueled by their detractors. They’ll each be killing themselves trying to show the other up on the biggest stage of the season.
For Kobe, that means he’s going to make it his mission to put up at least 35-40 every night, with about 12-16 coming from eff-you jumpers in Allen’s face.
In Ray’s case, you can expect him to shoot early and often and step up his defense. If he’s hot like he has been in his last two games, that’ll translate into 25 a night from the former Jesus Shuttlesworth.
So 35-40 a night from Kobe vs. 25 a night from Ray would mean the Lakers have the advantage, right?
Wrong. See, the Lakers offense is built around Kobe’s scoring. In order for the Lakers to win, he’s got to get 30-40 points. That’s not the case with the Celtics.
Boston has proven throughout the playoffs that they can win without Allen’s offense. In Game 1 against the Cavaliers, Allen had zero points. That’s right zero. O-fer, the big goose egg, nada, zip, zilch, nil, nothing. Boston won by four.
In Game 7 against the Cavaliers, Allen had four points. The C’s won by four.
When he’s not hitting, they don’t panic. They rely on their defense and the scoring of Pierce and Garnett to carry them. But when Allen is raining them in from three-point land, it adds another scoring option the Celtics can turn too.
They are all of a sudden “the Boston three-party” again instead of the Big Two featuring Ray Allen. And when Pierce, Garnett, and Allen are on their games, the Celtics are virtually unbeatable.
Reason No. 2: Karma
If you’re a worried Celtics fan wondering how your C’s are going to stop Kobe and are still unconvinced that title will end up in Bean Yown after my previous argument, then read on and tell me how you feel after I flesh this one out.
The Lakers will fall to the Celtics because they are fighting battles on two fronts. Not only are the Lakers taking on a talented and disciplined Boston squad with home court advantage, they’re also challenging the almighty Karma.
When Mitch Kupchak snagged Pau Gasol in February for a ham sandwich and a 32 oz. Lakers souvenir drink cup, he openly spit in Karma’s face.
There’s an age-old saying that goes, “If something is too good to be true, it usually is.” Well, Pau Gasol for Kwame Brown and a couple of lousy draft picks is too good to be true.
I’ve been waiting patiently all playoffs-long for something bad to happen to the Lakers, some sort of fluky circumstance to befall them and derail their quest for a title.
For instance Kobe blowing and ankle, or Lamar Odom’s spleen suddenly exploding Chris Simms style, or Gasol being forcibly deported back to Spain to train for the Olympics.
So far it hasn’t happened. But that doesn’t mean it won’t. Karma is lurking in the shadows and I’m confident that it will rear its fair and balanced head in the finals.
If I was a Lakers fan, I’d be on pins and needles. It’s like if you find a wallet with 500 dollars in it lying on the sidewalk and instead of tracking down the owner, you pocket the money and go about your business.
Wouldn’t you be terrified that something awful was about to happen to you? Wouldn’t you be looking over your shoulder constantly just waiting for that bus to run over you or that piano to fall on your head?
Of course you would. That’s Karma. Everyone knows about it, but some people choose to disregard it. One of those people was Mitch Kupchak.
So if the Lakers steal one of the two opening games in Boston, or have a 3-2 lead after five games, don’t worry Boston fans. The Lakers have it coming to them. It’s just a matter of time.
In the end, Kobe and Phil are both the best in the league at what they do. But this year, it won’t be good enough for a title. So relax Bostonians, and look forward to raising No. 17 to the rafters.