Celtics-Lakers: Who Will Make the Finals Next Season?

John LewisSenior Writer IJune 18, 2008

Okay it's over. The Boston Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers for their 17th championship and Phil Jackson was denied another opportunity to pass Red Auerbach for most championships as a coach.

But which of these teams is more likely to get back to the finals next season?

For the Celtics, the ultimate question is whether they can play next season with the same intensity that drove them through the playoffs this year. 

They'll have the same core of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen back and they will make sure that the younger players work hard again.  It seemed as though as the post season went on, the big three got better.  

Next, the Celtics play in what is perceived to be the easier Eastern Conference, so winning it again could easily be done.  They also compete in a town that is rich in basketball tradition, so the fan support will be there.

Boston needs to be careful that they don't have championship hangover that could linger for the next 12 months.  Doc Rivers will have his work cut out for him because of the difficulty in repeating as champs and the fact that Garnett, Allen, and Pierce are all over the age of 30.

For the Lakers, this was a crushing defeat and Kobe Bryant has proved again that he lacks the leadership it takes to put his team over the top. 

L.A. fans better hope this team doesn't turn into the Dallas Mavericks the past two seasons...a team that lost the NBA finals a few years ago and has never recovered.

All that aside, the shear competitiveness of Bryant won't let that happen and the Lakers will be ready to prove they have the skills to win.  Add that to the return of Andrew Bynum, and L.A. should have the personnel to go deep.

The major obstacle is the fact that the Western Conference is stacked with teams ready to knock the Lakers from the top spot.  If a team like Utah or New Orleans adds another role player, than the Lakers may have a fight on their hands.

This offseason needs to be one where Bryant and Bynum learn to gel and become the one two punch L.A. needs on both offense and defense.

My prediction is the Celtics are primed for a repeat appearance and not the Lakers.  I just feel that the big three in Boston know that time is running out and they want to go out as winners.

What do you think?