2010 NBA FINALS
Season Series: Split 1-1
Combined Score: 176-176
The Los Angeles Lakers are the most skilled team in the NBA and through-out the 2010 playoffs have shown the world just why they are the best in the West, the defending champs, and back in the Finals for the third straight year ready to repeat.
The Lakers dominated the entire season placing themselves first in their conference, securing home-court through the playoffs and were ahead by enough games late in the season to give star players much needed rest as the playoffs approached.
In the first round, the Lakers were paired up against the Oklahoma City Thunder and in all honestly (if they stay together), the Thunder will be the up and coming power-house as the Lakers with in a battle with the eighth seed. Heck, if it weren't for a Pau Gasol put back off a Kobe Bryant miss during the dying seconds of game six, that series could have gone the distance and who knows what would have happened. I'm sure the Lakers would have grind it out on their home court but regardless, Oklahoma City is for real.
Fortunately for Los Angeles, the Thunder may be real but in the Western Conference, the Lakers are the only team who've got all the pieces to win (the Celtics have a very similar situation in Boston with four star players with a bench).
After narrowly getting past the Thunder, the Lakers made quick work of the Utah Jazz by taking advantage of the extreme size differential and well as their depth. The Jazz feel victim in four straight while in the other series, the Suns swept the Spurs looking to move Nash and company closer to their first ring.
The idea of Phoenix winning the Championship came to an abrupt halt when they traveled to the Staples Centre for games one and two of the Western Conference Finals. Game won was all Kobe as he put up forty points but when I say all Kobe, don't forget Lamar Odom put up 19 points and 19 rebounds. Insane.
The Lakers carried the momentum from their 21 point victory into game two and dominated in an 124-112 beat down of the Suns. Game three was much different as the series traveled back to Phoenix and the suns lead the entire way with Amare scoring 42 points with game four not being much different (but Stoudemire wasn't as dominant).
When the Lakers returned home for game five, after starting slow, they gained a huge lead before the Suns pulled back and tied it up with just over three seconds to go.
Ron Artest put back the game winner of a Bryant air-ball (imagine the thought 12 months ago of Kobe hugging Artest... just saying') and in game six, the Lakers closed out the series to become the Western Conference Champs for the third straight year.
The Celtics are one heck of a team and have the talent to take this series the distance with Los Angeles but I've got a feeling that Kobe will be winning his fifth championship, classifying himself as one of the greatest ever (not that he already isn't).
Although Lebron just won the MVP, and Durant may be the best up-and-comer in the league, Kobe Bryant is still without question the most valuable player on any team and also the best player in the NBA.
While some think Kobe may be past his prime and that his career may winding down, Bryant has only improved with age and matured as a player while being surrounded with some of the best talent the NBA has to offer. Pau Gasol will tear you apart; the man is extremely skilled, bigger than he looks and can guarantee the Lakers a double-double performance, all while playing smart basketball.
A huge reason things open up so much for Gasol is because of the dynamic duo of Bynum and Odom. Having a seven-foot (extremely talented) centre is one thing, but to be able to sub in another big man (who can shoot threes) is a scary thought for Los Angeles' opponents and no one seems to be able to stop them.
I've said it before and here I go again, the only player last year to give Kobe trouble in the playoffs was Artest, so the Lakers made the smartest move an organization could in picking up Artest when Trevor Ariza parted ways after last year.
Not only has Artest given the Lakers a great veteran presence, he has also took on defending the opposing teams most talented players allowing Kobe to focus more on his offensive game and leading his team.
Derek Fisher has been there many times, Shannon Brown has shown night-in-night-out he can come off the bench to his important trifectas, while Farmar is no slouch. Heck, I know Adam Morrison sucks as an NBA player but everyone knows he's got more skill as a 9th-man than any 9th-man on any other roster.
For all the Kobe haters... hate on, it's not about show-time in Los Angeles anymore.
Nor is it the Kobe-show.
Yeah, he's still the rock of the Lakers franchise and the cornerstone of a dynasty, but the only way to be on top is to have a solid foundation below you and Kobe's support cast is deep.
When the Boston Celtics beat Cleveland (easily) and moved onto Orlando, I really thought Orlando would give them more of a battle for Eastern supremacy but I'll be the first to admit that I was completely wrong.
The Celtics proved that if they are healthy, they are the team to beat in the East and possibly the entire NBA.
Many thought before the playoffs got under way that the Celtics would struggle (when they dropped eight of their final thirteen games in the regular season) and don't kid yourself, the road for Boston hasn't been an easy one, although they've made it look that way by dominating their opposition.
Boston quickly silenced any notion they'd struggle as they took care of Dwyane Wade's Heat in five games, outscoring them in the series by 41 points. Decisive!
Dropping games one and three against Cleveland didn't stall the Celtics as they won game two before knocking off three straight in four, five and six. In their four victories, they won by a combined 69 points. Even more decisive and as easy as they made it look, keep in mind Cleveland held the best record of any team this season.
After the Orlando Magic swept the Hawks in questionable the most boring series in NBA history, I (as well as many others) thought this could be Orlando's year. They had won eight straight games, sweeping both opponents in the process and the addition of Vinsanity was proving to be pivotal.
The problem was that Orlando didn't have enough depth to match the vast amount of skill and talent that Boston yields. Rajon Rondo has taken over leadership for this team and 'the big three' (in my books) can now be considered 'the final four' because thats exactly where they are, primarily because of Rondo.
While the other three players have been phenomenal, everyone, everywhere knows that Rondo is leading the Celtics to greatness. In games one and two in Orlando, the Celtics stormed out to huge leads only to have the Magic come back in the 4th quarter but neither time could they do enough as Boston rode a 2-0 series lead back home.
Starting the game hot didn't end when the Celtics came back home either. Game three was a blow-out from start to finish with a 94-71 slap to the face of Magic fans. In game four, Orlando found their way and refused to be swept which gave them the confidence to go out and dominant game five at home.
In game six, with Rondo yet again playing stellar, the Celtics finally closed out the series to win the Eastern Conference Final for the second time in three years and move on to face Los Angeles.
One thing is certain, the sigh you heard was Boston fans after one of their teams avoided another epic collapse.
As stated above, Rajon Rondo is a dominant force and I truly consider the Boston Celtics 'his team' but it hasn't always been that way and if it weren't for the players who surround him, it wouldn't be.
Two years ago when Boston won the Championship, Rondo adapted to what the team was doing and he'd find the open man. Now, the team adapts to Rondo's style and no different from before, he find the open man. He's just doing it better than he was two years ago.
For opponents, it's a nightmare to have the daunting task of having to cover four super-stars who can take over a game any given night. Having a vast amount of star talent, backed up with a bench that can come in and continue to keep Boston ahead could very well earn Boston the title and the Celtics won't settle for anything less than 2010 Championship rings on their fingers.
The thought could become reality and it is quite possible if the Celtics continue to spread the ball around and find whoever is hot on that night and make him the top scorer.
In the opening round against the Heat, Pierce, Allen and Rondo all combined to be the leading scorers of different games through out the series, while Garnett, Perkins and Rondo switched up leading the way in rebounds.
Round two, Rondo, Allen, Garnett lead the way scoring while Garnett, Perkins and Rondo yet again continued to dominate the boards.
Against Orlando, Allen was game one's high scorer, Pierce was game two, while big-baby Glen Davis put up 17 and lead the way in game three and so on... (Pierce brought in the most boards with nine in that game to lead his team for the first time in the playoffs).
Boston did not have a player be their leading scorer in back to back game in all three rounds, which is incredible.
Every quarter, of every game, in every series, the Boston Celtics play a full 48-minutes and leave their opponents black and blue in the process.
Now the challenge begins.
Facing a team that consists mainly of Dwyane Wade was easy, followed by the 'Lebron Cavaliers' wasn't much different. A duo of superstars in Howard and Carter couldn't match the size and skill of Garnett, Pierce, Allen, Rondo and company.
The Lakers are a different story. Kobe, Gasol, Bynum, Odom, Artest and Fisher pose a much different threat... which will make for a much different story.
It's going to be one hell of a final, but a different result than two years ago, a repeat for Kobe (filling his hand with rings) putting him only one behind the greatest player of all time; Michael Jordan.
TheCoach's Pick: LOS ANGELES LAKERS in SEVEN