The 2010 NBA Finals will once again feature the two flagship franchise of the NBA, the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. The two teams have combined to win 33 of the 64 titles in NBA history.
Boston and Los Angeles have met 12 times including this post season in the NBA Finals. The Celtics have the advantage winning nine of the past 11 series.
Jumping into the way-back machine will show that Los Angeles has won two of the last three meetings but that was back in the 1980’s. These two teams met two years ago with the Celtics winning in six games to break the Lakers dominance.
No matter what line the players are toeing, this series will add to the history of this rivalry. All the greats for both franchises will make appearances and bring the ghost of series past with them.
In the immediate future these teams are playing for their place not only in Celtic-Lakers lore but in the history of NBA. This series could end up playing a major role of defining the stars for both teams.
For Boston, the big three of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce a second title in three years would help cement their place in NBA history. Besides Rajon Rondo, this could be the beginning of the end for the stars that brought the Celtics back to respectability.
As for Los Angeles, last season showed that Kobe Bryant could win a championship with him as the major star. Bryant is now chasing Michael Jordan’s title total. After losing to the Detroit Pistons in 2003 and the Celtics in 2008 Bryant cannot claim Jordan’s undefeated streak in the finals.
Now Bryant is left with trying to win more championships than Jordan did. A victory in these finals would give the future hall of famer five titles putting him one behind Jordan.
A finals loss could single the end of this Lakers dynasty and begin the exodus of Phil Jackson as coach. Bryant is starting to show wear and tear at the age of 31 from long post season runs and playing for the United States National team.
There is no question that Bryant is still a great player but after 14 NBA seasons he could be about to enter a decline in his career. The core of the Lakers will be together until the 2013-14 season.
The landscape of the NBA could drastically change with the free agent class that will be available on July 1st.
The top free agents are planning a summit that could derail Kobe’s championship hopes if a couple of these big free agents decide to go to one team together.
Predicting this series could come down to just one game. In the NBA Finals, teams winning Game One have won the championship nearly 75 percent of the time.
Furthermore, Phil Jackson has never lost a playoff series in which his team has won Game One. This creates Game-Seven-like pressure for Game One, unless a team can rise up and reverse the historical president.
This series could come down to three things: how well Ron Artest can guard Paul Pierce and avoid his historical meltdown; is Rondo healthy and if he is can the Lakers stop him from dominating like he has done for the whole playoffs; and defense.
Ron Artest defense and possible implosion
Artest is, without question, one of the best defenders in the NBA, and how he handles Pierce will go a long way to deciding this series. If Artest can keep Pierce under control it will mean that Rondo will have to play the way he did against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
One problem for the Los Angeles is that Artest has been on his best behavior for the most part this season; under the bright lights and immense scrutiny can a player with such a troubled past like Artest keep from derailing this team and changing this series?
Lakers fans will point to Rasheed Wallace as a player, like Artest, who could implode in this series. But unlike Artest, Wallace is more of a role player than a big piece of the puzzle. Artest is one of the main players involved in the “Malice at the Palace.”
Watch how Artest handles the pressure of his first NBA Finals and if he can keep from going over the line against Pierce. A meltdown by Artest could end up defining this series.
Rondo and role players the X Factor
Assuming that Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom play to a draw with the Celtics big three this series could be determined by the play of Rondo and the bench players. If Rondo is healthy, he will have to control this series with his play.
Rondo has been the catalyst of the Boston offense in these playoffs averaging double digit assists. Not only does Rondo score 16.7 points a game but he gets his teammates into the game as well.
The Celtics have to worry about Rondo’s health, but the Lakers will be worried about the health of Andrew Bynum’s knee. This series could come down to which potentially injured star is able to overcome their health issues.
Los Angeles’ bench and role players like Shannon Brown, Sasha Vujacic, Derek Fisher, and Jordan Farmar will have to outplay their Celtic counterparts of Glen Davis, Tony Allen, Michael Finley, and Kendrick Perkins.
The role players—along with Rondo—could go a long way in determining how many games this series goes. This could help the older Celtics in particular, who could gain rest for the big three with good play from bench and role players.
This series will be defined by defense. The Celtics are known for playing solid defense while the Lakers are known for their lack of defense.
One thing to watch would be if Boston and Doc Rivers take a page out of the Phoenix Suns play book and play some zone defense. Los Angeles never seemed to fully figure out the zone defense the Suns played.
The Celtics also play a more physical style of defense than most teams in the Western Conference play. Los Angeles has lost their only two finals appearances under Bryant to the Pistons and Celtics, who both played solid defense and made the Lakers' role and bench players struggle.
The Celtics have been much better on the road, while the Lakers have been great at home and vice versa. With all that will be on the line in Game One and the fact that Los Angeles has home court advantage something will have to give.
Either Boston will have to continue to win on the road or the Lakers have to keep up their home dominance. Whoever can reverse the trend will have a huge advantage in this series.
One other thing to watch is if the Lakers have the ball at the end of a close game. Los Angeles has won two games this post season on last second buzzer beaters.
Against Oklahoma City, Gasol ended the Thunder’s season on a last second tip in. In the Western Conference Finals, Artest beat the Suns on a put back of a Bryant miss.
Los Angeles could steal a win if their late-game heroics continue against the Celtics. Boston will have to make sure they box out late in games if they do not want to fall victim to a last second put back.
Defense wins championships. Bryant will play like the super star he is but will fall short of his fifth NBA title. Boston will beat the Lakers with stout defense and Rondo running the offense.
Boston wins in six games.