The 2010 NBA Finals tip off in a little more than 24 hours from now and once again the league's two most storied franchises square off. The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics will take to the Staples Center floor and renew their rivalry and pursuits of another NBA championship.
The Lakers look to capture their second straight title. Meanwhile, the Celtics are after their second title in three years and second straight defeat of the Lakers in the NBA Finals.
The series has plenty of history and the recent matchup of 2008 provides plenty of intriguing similarities. There is plenty to look forward to and expectations are high. Here are 10 bold predictions heading into tomorrow night's series opener.
Why will Phil Jackson play media games? Because he can and because he likes to. He won't be explicit in any criticisms or knocks, but the Zen Master knows how to get his digs in between the lines just enough to prod and tweak his opposition. Phil Jackson can't help himself, and when it seems the stakes are higher, the games get more obvious.
The two legends were continuously brought up during the broadcast of the 2008 NBA Finals, so why won't they be now? The fact that the Lakers and Celtics will now play for the title for the second time in three years no doubt recalls the rivalry's resurgence in the 1980s.
Announcers will talk in great detail and high regard of the Magic and Bird days that they will over-saturate us to the point of nausea, overtaking the current state of the rivalry. Two hundred times seems fair for the amount ABC/ESPN likes to drill talking points into the heads of their viewers.
...until "Beat L.A." starts raining from the TD Garden rafters. This is at least a chant Boston fans can stand behind. The Celtics have a long history of beating the Lakers so the chant holds water, unlike that asinine "Yankees Suck" chant.
You know the look. The one where Garnett flares his entire face and starts pounding his chest. It's his defining look in the playoffs and it will be present within the first five times Garnett is put on camera. Hey, the guy's gotta get jacked up some how.
Whether it is Derek Fisher or Jordan Farmar, the Lakers are going to have their hands full with Rajon Rondo all series long. Rondo has used this season's playoffs to emerge as a superstar in the league with some of his biggest games coming when the Celtics need him most.
The much older Fisher and Farmar off the bench simply don't have the tools and the legs to stay with Rondo and his aggressive style of play. The Lakers ability to rein in Rondo may be the swing element to the entire series.
Kobe Bryant has made a habit of coming up huge in the closing moments of games. He is regarded as the best closer in the league today. Expect that trend to continue in what should be a very close series with many close games. At some point during the series, one close game will beckon Kobe to sink a game-winning shot. The Black Mamba will deliver.
The Lakers will need Ron Artest to be a thorn in the side of the Celtics. Most likely, Artest will be attached to the hip of Paul Pierce. It will be Artest's job to interfere with the Celtics best finisher and prevent him from finding a rhythm.
At some point in the series, Artest will deliver by forcing Pierce off his game. That will send the Celtics offense off-kilter and the Lakers will capitalize by taking the win.
The Celtics originally brought Wallace to Boston not only for his skill, but for his winning history as well. Now the question is which Rasheed will show up. Wallace has a history of knocking down big shots especially when it is unexpected. However, he is also infamous for flapping his gums and getting himself in trouble.
Either positively or negatively, Wallace will interject himself in this series. He will either hit a number of crucial shots or disrupt the Celtics rhythm by drawing technical fouls and getting himself tossed.
Officials are at their best when remain unknown and unheard. Unfortunately for the NBA, that has not been the case this postseason as well all saw during the Eastern Conference Finals.
Lopsided foul calls favoring home teams has transpired often this postseason with referees very quick on the whistle both for personal and technical fouls. Already, Celtics coach Doc Rivers is on record stating he expects further technical fouls to be called against his team.
NBA officiating has drawn a mountain of criticism in the time since the Tim Donaghy scandal, and justifiably so. The shoddy officiating will rear it's ugly head at some point. Let's hope it doesn't cost either side a victory.
The 2008 edition of this series last six games in a Celtics victory. This time, the two sides will ante it up and go seven games for the first time since their epic 1984 showdown.
Home court will not reign in this series as both sides will pull out victories on each other's courts, sending it to Game Seven in the Staples Center. Then and there, the Lakers will exact revenge on Boston and claim their second straight NBA title.