With the 2010 NBA Finals officially underway tonight, high hopes will suffocate the inside of the Staples Center as the Los Angeles Lakers get the opportunity for revenge on the Boston Celtics.
Since the 2008 NBA Finals, a lot has changed, and I'm not just saying that because everybody else and their mother are.
Rajon Rondo has taken full responsibility of emerging as the official ring leader of this ever-so-aging Celtics squad and Kobe Bryant has lifted his game to a whole new level that doubters never thought he could accomplish before.
The ultimate factor comes down to what team is better fit to win it all this season
Boston Celtics Positives
The Celtics are undoubtedly the better defensive team. They ranked second during the regular season in steals per game (8.5), second in opponents turnovers per game (15.6), and fifth in the league in opponents points per game (95.6).
Throughout the first 17 games of the playoffs, Boston has held their opponents to just 91.4 PPG on 43.8 percent shooting from the field, and 32.9 percent shooting from beyond the three-point line.
More astounding, they've managed to conquer this against two of the best offensive teams in the league in Cleveland and Orlando, who both ranked in the top eight in PPG, FG%, and 3P% during the regular season.
If Boston wants to win this series, it's a must to keep up the defensive intensity and pressure and prevent Kobe Bryant from going lights out.
Boston Celtics Negatives
To begin, mean-faced Kendrick Perkins has a total of six technical fouls thus far in the postseason, meaning if he receives one more, he will be suspended for the next game.
Since its more likely than not that Perkins will get at least one during the extremely emotional upcoming series, the Celtics will be without their defensive machine for a minimum of one game (a major disadvantage for Boston).
Aside from that, the Celtics will once again rely on their bench to step up and produce when the starters are resting.
While Robinson provided a big spark off the bench during the final game in the Eastern Conference, Boston will need Wallace, Davis, and Allen to fully bring it if they want a chance to win this series.
Boston Celtics X-Factor: Rasheed Wallace - Wallace has continued to step up his performance during each series, and with the Finals about to take lift-off, the Celtics expect to bank off their offseason signing.
Los Angeles Lakers Positives
Two words for ya, Kobe Bryant.
Bryant has raised his PPG, APG, and BPG through out every round of the playoffs thus far. During the conference finals, the Black Mamba posted an outrageous 33.7 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 7.2 APG, and 1.2 BPG on 52.1 percent shooting in six games.
Even more eye-popping, #24 is shooting 40.5 percent from the three-point line (highest in his 13th postseason career) and 48.3 percent from the field (second highest in his playoff career).
As long as Kobe is on the floor the Lakers have a definite offensive edge in this soon-to-be exciting series.
Aside from Bryant, the Lakers will look for forward Pau Gasol, who enjoyed facing up against the Celtics during the season, to step up. In the two games faced Gasol averaged an efficient 16.5 PPG, 9 RPG, and 1.5 BPG on 52.3 percent shooting.
Los Angeles Lakers Negatives
With two seven foot monsters in the paint the Lakers have all the advantage in the world to take down the hard-nosed Celtics, right?
Center Andrew Bynum has been hindered by a knee issue which has not improved throughout the playoffs.
In fact, during each of the first three rounds of the postseason Bynum's PPG, RPG, BPG, and MPG have declined.
In 2008 the Lakers fell short of capturing the championship trophy highly due to the absence of Andrew Bynum on the court.
If Bynum is limited offensively and defensively because of his knee problem during this series, Bryant and the Lakers might never get another chance to seek revenge against this Boston Celtics team.
Los Angeles Lakers X-Factor: Lamar Odom - When Odom plays well the Lakers win games, simply put. With Bynum's status up in the air, the Lakers will look to Odom to produce consistently, excite the crowd, and bring the intensity during each and every game.
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