Five Reasons the Celtics Will Win the NBA Finals
Now the old legs of the Boston Celtics head west.
The “Big Three” will take tired bodies across the country to meet the Los Angeles Lakers in a two game showdown.
Yes, the Celtics threesome of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett will be worse for the wear come Tuesday night at the Staples Center.
Yes, the “Black Mamba” will return to his lair, fighting to hold claim to what's his.
But none of that will matter. I went on the record stating that the Celtics would win the NBA Championship in seven games. I remained steadfast, even after the Lakers gained a 2-1 advantage.
Now I believe the Celtics will prove me correct. This of course after I incorrectly predicted the Orlando Magic to beat the Celtics in six games.
First I watched the King (LeBron James) and his court crumble under the Celtics pressure, followed by the total dismantling of my Magic.
History will show, the Celtics may have potentially destroyed a franchise, or created the desire for another NBA dynasty. Only time will tell.
If the Celtics do go on to beat the Lakers in the final push to four wins, they have to be considered one the great TEAMS in NBA history. No, that's not an overstatement.
We're starting to see the same patterns in the Finals that we saw in the Celtics series with both the Cavs and the Magic.
Suddenly, Lamar Odom disappeared like Orlando's Rashard Lewis and Cleveland's Antwan Jameson.
Lakers fans remain confident they can win two straight. I'm throwing my vote behind the Celtics defense.
The Boston defense has proven more consistent—and effective, than any player or offense in the playoffs.
So I'm listing all my answers to some of the early hope coming out of Lakers Nation.
Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom Are Soft
Coming in we heard that Lakers power forward Gasol had toughened up since last meeting the Celtics in the Finals.
For the first three games, that appeared to be true. Gasol played well, shot the jumper and kept the offense moving by finding open teammates on the pass.
Gasol's performance in the last two games brought back old memories. In Game Five, Gasol went missing.
We found out Bynum means more to Gasol's offense than we first gave credit for. Bynum's lack of ability to produce due to injury, has put more pressure up front on Gasol.
The All-Star forward shot a respectable 42% from the field. He just took too few shots. He took a total of four shots in the first half. The deadly jumper, the one that would give Garnett match up problems—or so they said, let the big man down.
Gasol only took 4 jump shots. He made only one—that one in the fourth quarter.
Everyone knew Lamar Odom would be the key. When Odom plays well, the Lakers usually win. He too had to live with the soft label. Even in Lakers victories, Odom showed little of his shooting, driving or finishing ability.
Odom only took six shots, none in the first quarter, and a total of only three in the first three quarters. Even then, he only made one of those shots.
Again, the Celtics have been consistent in their defensive ability to shut down support players. Look at the list of periphery players falling short of prior performances. In Cleveland and Orlando, many highly paid teammates of superstars have suffered public rebuke for poor play.
The pattern continues. If the Celtics win it all, they may save some jobs that they initially put in jeopardy.
“He Can't Do It by Himself...”
We heard this about LeBron. We heard this about Dwight Howard.
After Game Five of the NBA Finals, we heard it about Kobe Bryant.
Once you start hearing this, things have started to go down hill. How hard will Gasol or Odom press in Game six? Now they will have to step up, without hurting their own game, or the offense.
Offensively, the Lakers must find a way to simply get shots. That's the problem.
Players like Odom, Fisher and Gasol can use ability and physical advantages to create shots against other teams.
But like their predecessors in the 2010 NBA Playoffs, the Lakers have struggled to get enough shots from everyone but their super star.
Bynum's absence due to a knee injury makes a difference, not only for the Celtics defensively, but it hurts the Lakers offensively. It makes Boston center Kendrick Perkins less of a disadvantage.
Meanwhile, the Celtics continue to play great team ball. Every night, a new name steps up. In Game 4 it was Glen Davis. In Game 5, Tony Allen and Nate Robinson played more vital roles off the bench.
Whether it's a block on Gasol, or a tip-in over Kobe and Artest, everyone in the green and white comes ready to make a play.
As a team, the Celtics make more plays, than any one player, tandem, or team they play.
In the end, the deficit never looks too large. Game 5 ended with the Celtics winning only by six points. If only Gasol made one more jumper, or Odom two more drives. More than one team can tell this story.
Kobe and the Lakers came within eight points after turnovers by the Celtics. Doc Rivers called timeout.
The Celtics forced two consecutive turnovers out of the timeout, and put the lead back to double digits.
Shots from Lakers players other than Kobe came too far and few in between. Even if the Lakers got stops, just getting shots on the other end proved difficult for LA.
Phil Jackson will put the Triangle on overdrive during the flight back to LA.
But other than getting Bynum healthy, finding more opportunities means nothing if someone other than Kobe doesn't start making plays.
The Lakers Can't Make Big Stops
Defensively, the Lakers have faded—as much as the Celtics have improved.
Game Five, Artest let Rondo run open into the front court for an easy layup. The Celtics had only four seconds to get the ball across half-court.
Garnett made a bad pass that Paul Pierce found a way to catch and pass with accuracy to a streaking Rondo.
How do the Lakers let him catch that pass? How does Artest let Rondo run past him down court?
A determined Kobe Bryant unleashed one of his patented scoring barrages in the third quarter.
Though Kobe scored 19 points in the third quarter, the Lakers played most of the third quarter down between eight and ten points. The two teams played even in the third quarter, meaning the Lakers failed to decrease the half-time lead.
Even when Kobe covers Pierce or Rondo, somebody in a Lakers uniform makes a crucial mistake. Trading baskets will not win the game when you play from behind.
Bynum's Knee Is What It Is
Lakers faithful need to put down the kool aid in terms of optimism and Andrew Bynum's injury.
Bynum will need to come with a Willis Reed out of the tunnel type game. Right now, Bynum looks to be only about 50% at best.
He has publicly stated that the knee hurts most at the beginning of games. We know that Andrew—you sit on the bench after the first quarter and never return. Seems like Bynum's knee may be getting stiff after sitting.
Bynum gave the Lakers more bigs than the Celtics could handle. It created big time match up problems for Kendrick Perkins. Now Perkins can use the size advantage to push Gasol around in the paint.
It also allows Davis, Rasheed Wallace, and Allen to be more effective coming off the bench. Davis especially, as it opens up points in the paint for the undersized big man.
Pierce and Garnett force the Lakers to stay honest on the perimeter. Artest and Gasol get drawn out of the paint, giving Rondo driving and passing lanes. Rondo ended with eight assists in Game five.
Rebounding suffers with Bynum on the bench. Boston won the battle of the boards in Game five by one. With Bynum, who had only one rebound, the Lakers would have surely found a few more easy shots on put backs.
Boston grabbed 28 defensive rebounds, to LA's 16 offensive rebounds. When talking about how few shots LA took in Game five, look no further than the aforementioned rebound statistic.
The Celtics shot 56%, much of that attributed to fast break points.
Bynum being gone hurts Gasol as well. Now he receives all the attention down low. Boston fiercely contests Gasol, now that he lacks the big outlet to pass off to.
Expect Nate Robinson to make a difference in one of the two remaining games in this series.
Robinson creates match up problems for Fisher. Fisher struggles with Rondo's quickness, but has handled the Celtics' point guard fairly well.
Robinson may be a step or two quicker. That causes problems for who ever covers Robinson.
Fisher must rely on his physicality to slow down quicker guards. Robinson's quickness never allows Fisher to be physical.
Robinson also does something better than Rondo—shoot the long range jumper.
Robinson's range makes him extremely dangerous. He crushed the Magic in Game six of the Eastern Conference Finals. When Robinson gets hot, he scores in bunches, often hitting two or three baskets in a row.
Robinson also gives Rivers the perfect counter to Kobe covering either Pierce or Allen.
Because Robinson can hit from long range, and finish at the rim, he forces teams to make tough decisions in deciding how to double-team.
Rivers continued to give Robinson extended minutes in relief of Rondo. The rest gives Doc a more dangerous Rondo in the stretch. The solid play by Robinson, gives Rives another way to challenge the Lakers.
Robinson gives the Celtics second team three jump shooters and a banger in the paint.
Expect to see Robinson hammer a dagger in the Lakers in Game six. At some point, Rivers will give Robinson the go ahead to shoot the open threes he passed up in Game five.