Two of the most feared franchises in all of NBA History.
Together they've combined to win 34 total titles, and the last three in a row. However, they've also combined to open up their current respective Conference Semifinal series' with four straight losses.
So, each down 0-2, and each 2 losses from elimination, the question is: Who's in bigger trouble? The Lake Show? Or the Boys of Beantown?
Well, to truly reach a verdict, let's turn the Basketball Court, into a Court of Law. (With all due respect to Corbin Bernsen and William Shatner, this is the real L.A. Law and Boston Legal).
Change of Venue
After twice sinking on South Beach, the Celtics return home to Boston, where their 17 banners hang from the rafters. On the other hand, the Lakers dropped games one and two on their floor, meaning they must now 2-step to Texas in hopes of dancing back into the series.
On the surface, you'd assume this favors the C's. And with a fabulous regular season home record of 33-8 - tied for 3rd best in all the NBA - clearly Boston can protect their house. However, LA proved quite comfortable outside the confines of the Staples Center this year, with a 27-14 road record, better than all but two other teams (Miami and Dallas each went 28-13 away from their respective American Airlines home courts.) Crunch the numbers, and add up the frequent flier miles, this one's a push. RULING: HUNG JURY
The Lakers have one, while the Celtics must beat one. Whether you consider Kobe Bryant or LeBron James to be the game's best (to me, it's Kobe,) the fact is both of these series will rest on the testimony of the league's top two talents, neither of whom will ever let the defense rest.
Sure, in his illustrious career, King James hasn't always proved to be the most-accomplished post-season performer, especially when squaring up with the C's. But at any point, in any game, he'll be the best player on the floor, the man with the highest ceiling. With all due respect to Paul Pierce and Dwyane Wade, Kevin Garnett and Chris Bosh, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen or anyone else you'd like to list, LeBron is just better than them all. And already with an Ohio-sized chip on his shoulder, and a 2-0 series lead, James will be hell-bent on returning to the Conference Finals. The Celtics do not have anyone with his combination of intensity and aptitude, his killer instinct and cutting edge skill-set. In fact, there's really only one other team in the league that does.
And that team is the Lakers, because they have Kobe. With a fist-full of rings, he'll plead the 5th if asked if he's chasing Michael Jordan and number six. But since MJ, there hasn't been anyone as mentally tough as Bryant. Most likely, being down 0-2 just makes him mad, and now backed into a corner, the last thing you want to do is antagonize the Black Mamba. He eats adversity, smacks challenges on the chin, and is at his best, when things appear at their worst. Certainly he's found a very worthy adversary in Dirk Nowitski, who's anxiously shedding his "soft European" reputation. But even at his best, Dirk isn't quite Kobe. He's very, very good. But Kobe's still got him by a finger-roll, which is what this series may come down two. RULING: LAKERS
Order in the Court
Andrew Bynum says the Lakers have "trust" issues, and Ron Artest thinks he's in the WWE (note: Artest has been suspended for Game 3 thanks to his Game 2 Flagrant Foul on J.J. Barea.) At least the Lakers haven't been boring in losing games one and two.
As far as Bynum, well, I "trust" that Kobe told him precisely where he might shove his issues as soon as they boarded the team bus. And as for the Tru Warrior, says Adam Best of FanSided.com "The Ron Artest Tour: Convince new city/team/shrink he's misunderstood, not crazy. Wear out welcome. Lather. Rinse. Repeat." Yep. That about sums it up.
The Celtics don't seem to have these problems. Certainly KG can be a ticking time bomb in his own right, and Paul Pierce uncharacteristically lost his cool in the opener. But Boston is a veteran-laden squad, that has been through these wars. They may not beat the Heat, but they also won't beat themselves. As tough as Kobe is, and no matter how much Zen Phil Jackson spews, the Lakers appear to be coming undone. RULING: CELTICS
Unfit to Stand Trial
So far in their series, the Celtics have looked old and frustrated. Like Grandpa and a GPS, they just can't seem to find their way. The Lakers, by contrast, really just haven't been sharp. But while you can sure up technique, devise game-plans, and tweak your offensive strategy with practice and film study, there's not a DVR in the world that can turn back the clock on a balky back, or gimpy knees.
LA's core group is younger, with plenty of game and gas still in the tank. Bryant, Paul Gasol, and Lamar Odom average out at 31 years old. Pierce, Allen, and Garnett on the other hand, come in at 34. Three years may not seem like a lot, but NBA years are like dog years. Time passes quickly, whether you're chasing squirrels off the porch, or point guards off screens. Either way, Boston's tongues are hanging low. RULING: LAKERS
Truth be told, both these squads are in a world of hurt. And it's very realistic to suggest that in less than a week's time, each will see their post-season's become their off-seasons. But of these two battle-tested teams, which is more likely to dig themselves out of their hole, and climb back up into championship contention?
Let's take a short recess. The jury's still out...