Los Angeles Lakers — Boston Celtics 2010 NBA Finals Match-ups
The NBA Finals begin on June 3, and fans worldwide should anticipate an all-out bloodbath between two of the league’s greatest rivals.
Lakers. Celtics. Dreams do come true. Am I the only Lakers fan foaming at the mouth?
Los Angeles took down the Suns Saturday thanks to a Herculean effort by Kobe Bryant, who wore Grant Hill like a Granny—knitted sweater and still dominated.
With the win in Phoenix, the Purple and Gold head to their 31st championship series, which is almost half of all the Finals ever played.
Yes, you read that right. The Lakers have played in nearly the same number of NBA Finals as all the other teams in the Western Conference combined.
Hey ABC, can you bring back Dynasty? But don’t cast John Forsythe as Kobe.
Boston, on the other hand, fought off the Magic with a WWE—esque smack—down in the Garden Friday. The Boston Three Party advances into the heavyweight bout for the franchise’s 21st appearance hoping to improve on the franchise's 85% winning percentage in the Finals.
Consistency, thy name is Celtics.
Winning the Finals in the past for the Mean Green has been almost as much of a lock as Tyra Banks using the words “I” or “me.”
So who wins? Regardless of my heritage and obvious bias, I had the Lakers in seven from the get—go, bringing a second parade in as many years down to Sunset Boulevard.
However, these five match-ups are the biggest keys to the series, and whoever gets the best of them will win, guaranteed.
Spoiler alert: Unlike at ESPN, the word “X-factor” will not be used every three sentences.
#5 - Who's More Effective: Lamar Odom or Glen Davis?
A wise man once told me, “Role players don’t travel,” and after watching these two gentlemen play, I wholeheartedly agree.
That same man also told me that VH1 has done less for African Americans than Jim Crowe.
But I digress.
Lamar Odom and Glen Davis are prototypical sixth men in every aspect of the phrase. Both are the first men off the bench, and both are the kind of players who can go from shocking you with their skills to stunning you with their brainlessness.
Actually, Odom can shock you with his candy addiction and Davis can stun you with a punch to the face. Just ask the kid in the front row after his game-winner last year in Orlando.
Whichever one of these players flexes his muscles in the other’s arena will give his team a huge boost. Odom and Davis each cause big match-up problems for the opponent’s second unit, and when two teams prone to big leads are playing, bench production is critical to victory.
Edge: Mr. Kardashian. His speed will present an issue for the slower-footed Davis, and even for the aging Kevin Garnett. However, he will need to maintain it over a whole series if he wants to help his team defend its title.
He will receive his Laffy Taffy lifetime supply as a championship bonus.
#4 - Who Gets to the Spot First: Ron Artest or Paul Pierce?
There may not be another one-on-one scenario in this series where both teams are happy with who’s playing their man.
The Celtics see the Ron Artest that looked out of sorts against the Suns on multiple occasions, while the Lakers see the Ron Artest they got specifically to matchup with Pierce.
Ron Artest sees a chance at a title. So he better not show up late for practice this week. Or go into the stands. Or release another rap album.
But the real focus between these players is who establishes position first when the Celtics are on offense. Pierce loves getting the ball in the post and going to work.
And when you have one of the worst on-ball defenders in Vince Carter guarding you, who wouldn’t? Air Canada played matador defense during the Eastern Conference Finals, letting Pierce charge by him. But that won’t be the case with Artest.
Artest often gets flack for being too slow to cover players like Durantula, but that’s because he is a strength defender, not a speed one. Pierce isn’t winning any track meets, so Artest can muscle him up and get him off his sweet spots.
Edge: Pierce. Sorry Ron-Ron, but your lack of a consistent shot will allow Pierce to save his energy during Lakers’ possessions. Pierce’s jumper is as good as ever, and if he needs a boost, he can fake an injury.
#3 - Who Crashes The Glass Better: Pau Gasol or Kevin Garnett?
Big men need love too, and these are two of the best in the business.
The Big Spaniard versus the Criminally Insane. Sounds like the Kentucky Derby.
At some point or another in their careers, Pau Gasol and Kevin Garnett have been called the number one post player in the NBA. They both have complete offensive games and the excellent passing skills to get their teammates involved.
Both were also part of highway robbery trades that reshaped the entire face of the league. It’s not their fault collusion in the NBA is more common than Phil Jackson criticizing the referees.
Or David Stern. Or the opposing players. Or even his best player.
The real question here is who will crash the boards harder, allowing for extra possessions for his team. While the Lakers as a team average four more rebounds per game during the playoffs, whichever individual player dedicates himself to ending the opponents’ possessions will elevate his team in the series.
Note: Ending possessions does not equal letting the other team score immediately, despite the fact that if the opponent scores, its possession is over.
The Clippers have used that logic for years. Ask Bill Simmons and their four other season ticket holders how that’s going.
Edge: Gasol, by a narrow margin. He, along with Andrew Bynum and Odom, gives the Lakers lot of length on the glass, something the Celtics bigs can’t match. Garnett has also been in foul trouble quite a bit in these playoffs, and if he is off the court, the Celts could be in trouble.
However, if Garnett growls at Gasol, I’ll flip my decision. KG is on my list of people I don’t want to meet in a dark alley at night.
#2 - Who Wreaks Havoc: Ray Allen (offense) or Derek Fisher (defense)?
Lots of people give Derek Fisher crap for being too slow to guard today’s new crop of point guards.
And they are right. He can’t.
But that’s why this match-up is interesting.
Sharpshooter and SAG card carrier Ray Allen will be his primary target, and Ray Ray is the king of moving around constantly. The Celtics run many plays with double and triple screens to get him free to show off the loveliest jumper in the game.
When Allen is open, even by an inch, he will go all “Pacman” Jones and make it rain in Los Angeles. Which would be nice, because I’m pretty sure it’s a drought year.
But when you run screens against Fisher, you play into his biggest strength. D-Fish deserves an acting license for the way he comes off screens and looks like he ran into a wall. He can consistently draw the offensive foul, and if you need proof, ask Amar’e Stoudemire.
Actually, don’t ask him. He will call Fisher lucky, and then realize a little luck helps you get into the NBA Finals more than a big mouth.
So while Allen may be able to get some space, it won't matter if Fisher draws a moving or illegal screen on the Celtics. These types of fouls can be extremely frustrating for a player, and if Kendrick Perkins goes into tantrum mode, the "brilliant" NBA officials might throw some techs his way.
Edge: Allen. Fisher’s advantage in this matchup won't inherently affect one of the best shooters alive. And if you can’t find a way to alter Allen’s shot, he’s going to be wetter than Atlantis.
No.1 - Which Star Player Shines Brighter: Kobe Bryant or Rajon Rondo
How could a list about the 2009-2010 Lakers not have the Black Mamba on top?
Unless it’s about ridiculous hair. Because then D.J. Mbenga and Artest’s matching gold 'dos reign supreme.
But Mr. Japanese Beef will have to share this spot with Rajon Rondo. These two guards have separated themselves as the top two players in this year’s postseason.
If I said this in 2008, Celtics fans would have beat me for mocking Rondo. And then beat me again because my blood’s purple and gold.
But Rondo is no longer the offensive liability he was in 2008. Yes, he still hits jump shots with the frequency of Haley’s Comet, but his speed and vision are improved to the point where giving him the kind of space Bryant used to give him will lead to easy Boston buckets.
Excuse me, the end of the last sentence just made me throw up in my mouth.
Kobe will be put to the test, and all Lakers fans are hoping the 10-time All-Defensive Team member can lock "Little O" down. Anyone who watched the Eastern Conference Finals saw Rondo abuse Jameer Nelson like a redheaded stepchild, and if Kobe starts playing his preferred position of centerfield, watch out.
Edge: Bryant. I neglected to mention one thing: Bryant is the NBA’s best overall player.
Sorry LeBron, but if the Celtics double Kobe, he actually has teammates who can produce. And while Rondo got to deal with smaller guards in the previous two rounds, KB24 has the height and length advantage in the Finals to close up the passing lanes.
And if Bryant averages around a triple double like he did in the Western Conference Finals, no one will stop him from getting his fifth ring.