Time To Face
2008 was embarrassing for the Lakeshow.
The 4-2 series final did not reflect the sheer dominance the Celtics showed during the series.
However, people who mistakenly believe these teams are the same as they were in 2008 have come out claiming that Boston will once again have its way with Los Angeles.
This could not be farther from the truth.
I'm a Lakers fan, so don't come crying to me about bias; I don't want to hear it.
There are several myths out there concerning this series, so I'm here to dispel the notion that Boston is superior to LA.
Rajon Rondo Will Not Have His Way with the Lakers
Rajon Rondo is a skilled player. Once he gets into the paint, good luck stopping him, because he will make a play, either with a ridiculously difficult lay-up or a picture-perfect pass to a wide-open teammate.
The problem with Rondo is that his jump-shot is abysmal. According to celticshub.com, Rondo this season has shot 34 percent from beyond 15 feet, and just 23 percent from the three-point line.
For a starting point guard, that is absolutely unacceptable.
Kobe Bryant will check Rajon Rondo, and I can promise you one thing: Kobe will not respect Rondo from the perimeter. Unless Rondo suddenly unveils a new jump shot, his effectiveness will be diminished, because even if he manages to drive by Kobe, he will be running into two seven-footers.
Kobe Bryant vs...who??
Kobe Bryant is playing like he's from another universe. He came just short of averaging a triple-double in the Western Conference Finals.
Think about that for a minute.
Grant Hill is a better single-defender than anyone the Celtics have to throw at Kobe. And the Black Mamba humiliated Hill, shooting over 50 percent and averaging over 30 points throughout the series.
The Celtics will not play a zone. It doesn't fit with their philosophy of tough, in-your-face basketball. If they double Kobe, they will realize that this Kobe Bryant is smarter than the one they faced in 2008 and somebody will be wide-open. Kobe—2010 version—will get them the ball. And it will lead to open shots and penetration.
Paul Pierce vs Ron Artest
13 points. That's the number of points that Paul Pierce averaged against the Los Angeles Lakers this season.
Ron Artest was a big reason why.
In the 2004 NBA playoffs, Artest's Indiana Pacers swept the Boston Celtics. Pierce averaged 20 points on sub-35 percent shooting. Artest had him on lock-down, and Pierce's frustration was visible.
In 2010, both players have slowed down. Artest is still a physical, if not slightly less agile, defender, while Pierce has lost some explosiveness as well.
Last time they faced in the finals, the Laker's starter at small forward was Vladimir Radmanovic, who was backed up by Luke Walton.
No wonder why Pierce killed them.
This year, Pierce will be defended by an elite defender who has a history of success against him. 16 points throughout the series will not be enough if the Celtics hope to win a title.
Pau Gasol Will Not Be Pushed Around This Time
Gasol is a finesse player, we all know that. We also know that in 2008, the much more physical duo of Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett abused him.
Not this year.
Kendrick Perkins will be occupied with Andrew Bynum, who even injured can score if not defended tightly. Gasol will be matched up with Garnett, who is built much like Gasol.
You can also bet Gasol remembers the thumping he received at the hands of Garnett.
Gasol has been the best post player in these playoffs, averaging over 20 points and 8.2 rebounds a game.
He has toughened up considerably since 2008, playing a huge role in shutting down the physically-imposing Dwight Howard in 2009.
You can bet Gasol will be playing with an edge this series.
What Bynum's Return Really Means
Andrew Bynum playing in this series does not mean the Lakers will get 20 points and 10 rebounds a game out of him.
Nobody expects that.
What the Lakers need from Bynum is 15 minutes of enforcing the paint, and about six rebounds a game.
Anything else is gravy.
No, stats aren't where Bynum's impact will be felt. His return allows Lamar Odom to come off the bench.
The Celtics' bench is superior to the Lakers', yet Odom is better than any individual player coming off Boston's bench. He causes mismatches whenever he plays, due to his ability to shoot from the perimeter, penetrate, and post up. He is a rebounding machine who will buy LA many second-chance opportunities, and he plays consistent defense.
Bynum's return also draws Kendrick Perkins away from Pau Gasol, who struggled against him last year.
Derek Fisher is Peaking
It seems like just a few months ago that people were calling for the 35-year-old point guard to retire.
I was never one of those people. Fisher always steps it up in the playoffs, including a 22 point performance in Game Five against Phoenix.
Granted, Rajon Rondo's defense and Steve Nash's are like night and day. Fisher will not be left open as often as he was against Phoenix.
Yet in the playoffs, Fisher takes his game to another level than the regular season.
Ask Jameer Nelson about the ice in his veins. Fisher does not shy away from the big shot, and produces more often than not.
Ahhh, the man of tinseltown, Jack Nicholson!
But anyway, home-court advantage is huge for a team like the Lakers, who have not lost at home in these playoffs. If the game comes down to a game seven, a friendly arena is always a huge asset.