2010 NBA Finals: Who has the Edge?
We have hit the end of the road, and it is the classic series.
Celtics vs. Lakers.
This brings to mind names such as Bill Russell and Jerry West. Elgin Baylor and John Havlicek. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. And the list goes on.
This is a rematch of the 2008 NBA Finals in which the Celtics won on their home court in six games.
Now, the Lakers return as the defending champs against a Celtics team mounting its first true title defense with a healthy Kevin Garnett.
So, who has the edge and where, and who will win?
Rajon Rondo has been the best Celtic in the playoffs.
That's not going to change.
He controlled the tempo and energy level of the games against Miami, Cleveland and Orlando.
Off the bench, Nate Robinson showed that, when given the chance, he can also control the pace, keeping the energy level high when Rondo is out of the game.
The Lakers' Derek Fisher is still a veteran, clutch player. Come Finals time, he is a player to be reckoned with. It didn't matter if it was the 2001 Finals or 2009.
Fisher hit clutch shots.
Despite Fisher's veteran leadership and clutch ability, the up-and-coming Rondo is too much of a force at point guard.
Ray Allen and Kobe Bryant have always had a rivalry, and they have also always played well against one another.
Expect that to happen again.
Kobe is always a factor in the playoffs, and he will continue to be. But Allen plays surprisingly tough defense on Kobe, making it difficult for him to take over the game.
In the end, that won't matter.
Kobe should still be riding the high from the conference finals against the Suns. Even with Allen's tight on-ball defense, Kobe will prevail.
And don't forget Shannon Brown's impact of the bench.
Boston's shooting guards off the bench consist of a guy who played for Wisconsin in the Arcade smash College Slam: An aging Michael Finley nearing the end of his career.
Paul Pierce won the 2008 Finals MVP by hitting clutch shots throughout the series.
And he can do it again this time around.
Can he bring it like he did against Orlando? Probably not. But he is still the best small forward in this series.
The Celtics bench has an unknown component in Marquis Daniels, while the Lakers have a strong suit of Lamar Odom and Ron Artest to fill the small forward minutes. The Lakers' success depends on Odom's contributions.
If Odom can outplay Pierce, the advantage could swing from Boston to L.A. quickly.
Advantage: Draw-It's up to Odom
Pau Gasol may be the most overlooked big man in the game.
That can happen when you play with Kobe Bryant.
The way the Lakers changed after Gasol came can't be overlooked, as he was a key factor in winning a championship in 2009.
This can also be said of the emotional engine named Kevin Garnett. Even as his physical skills decline, his desire, intensity and basketball I.Q. are as strong as ever.
I see the Gasol/Garnett matchup being more competitive than the 2008 series.
Glen Davis is a key piece to the Celtics' bench. His rebounding will determine the edge at the power forward position.
Advantage: Celtics (Slightly)
At first glance, the Celtics have the depth at the Center position. They have not only a bullish, hard-working Kendrick Perkins, but the long-range exploits of Rasheed Wallace.
Both are instrumental in giving tough, post-interior help and physicality.
The lone notable center for the Lakers is the injury-plagued Andrew Bynum. His play around the basket and ability to overcome injuries and swat shots will be key.
His big body will also cause Boston's power forwards to have issues boxing out, affecting their ability to rebound.
The key component for the Laker advantage is that Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom have the ability to play like centers, so it almost becomes a community position, taking the pressure off Bynum.
Phil Jackson wins, unanimously.
Doc Rivers has a ring, but Jackson has 10.
He may be able to pull off another win over the legendary Jackson, but it will be difficult.
Jackson was out-coached in the Finals by Larry Brown in 2004, and, to an extent, by Rivers in 2008. However, Jackson is 45-0 when taking a 1-0 series lead.
He'll have this in mind when the Celtics come to town for Game 1.
This will be a gritty, tightly contested series. The Celtics and Lakers are very different teams with one thing in common.
They won't give up.
Home court is what is going to make the difference in this series. Games 6 and 7 in L.A. are going to be a tough task for Boston, if they make it there.
Pau Gasol should emerge this series and make it his own. I am predicting him to win Finals MVP on a far-reach prediction.
I will, for the third series in a row, go against Boston. I was conflicted in the other two series, but feel confident this time.
I expect L.A. to win Game 1 and keep history on their side.
Winner: Lakers in 7