Handicapping The NBA Finals: Where Do the Celtics and Lakers Have an Edge?

James Brown@@chasingballgameSenior Analyst IMay 30, 2010

BOSTON - FEBRUARY 05:  Kobe Bryant #24 of Los Angeles Lakers drives around Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics on February 5, 2009 at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Lakers defeated the Celtics 110-109 in overtime. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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2010 NBA Finals Lakers vs Celtics

The NBA Finals are here, and will renew an old rivalry as the Boston Celtics take on the Los Angeles Lakers. It's a rematch of the 2008 finals, where the Celtics defeated the Lakers on their way to winning the crown. This year, the teams are different. Both squads are ready to make this one of the best finals ever.

Most offshore sportsbooks have the Lakers opening as a -140 to -190 favorite to win the championship. If interested in betting on the Celtics to win the series, the best price I found is at Diamond Sportsbook (Celtics +170) . And, if interested on betting on the Lakers, the smallest line I have found is at Brobury Sports (Lakers -180).

Breakdown preview and pick: 2010 NBA Finals

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Battle of the Bigs: Phil Jackson knows exactly what kind of series it will be with the Celtics. “It will be a match-up of bigs. They’re physical,” Jackson said.

“I guess they’ve got that part of their game back.” That is an understatement. 

In 2008, the Celtics made Pau Gasol look soft, something he is still dealing with. 

“It was painful,” said Gasol. This year, there could be more of the same.

The Celtics had plenty of bodies to frustrate Dwight Howard with hard and physical play, and will do the same to the Lakers. Andrew Bynum has played hurt through most of the playoffs. The Lakers will need him to help out down low.

Artest could be the difference: Many could argue that Ron Artest made the difference in the series against Phoenix. He hit the game winning shot in Game 5 and put in plenty of points in Game 6. Now he has the task of guarding Paul Pierce. Paul Pierce is arguably the Celtics best scorer and was the difference when two teams met in 2008. If Artest can contain him for most of the series, the Lakers can win.

Revenge for LA? Both teams have motivation to win at this point. But LA still remembers the series in 2008 and how they were crushed in Game Six, losing 131-92.

“Last time we played them, it was a great learning experience for us,” Kobe Bryant said.

“You know, it taught us what it takes to be a champion. With the defensive intensity they play with, the tenacity they play with, we learned a great deal in that series.”

And the Winner is? This is going to be a great series. Kobe’s scoring against Paul Pierce, Ray Allen’s sweet jumper or Derrick Fisher’s game breaking plays could make the difference. 

Maybe it’s Rajon Rondo driving to the rim or the ability of Pau Gasol to take over down low. With a ton of subplots and history behind this series, it will be a great one to watch. Kobe Bryant will get his points against the Celtics. But the Celtics still play much better defense and are deeper on the bench.

Celtics +170 in six games

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