2010 NBA Finals: Lakers and Celtics, Strategy a Huge Factor for Victory

Bill HareCorrespondent IJune 2, 2010

PHOENIX - MAY 29:  Kobe Bryant #24 and head coach Phil Jackson of the Los Angeles Lakers talk in the first quarter of Game Six of the Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Suns during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at US Airways Center on May 29, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. 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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The teams are as uniquely disparate as the cities they represent.

The defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers are built around the star power of Kobe Bryant, one of the most remarkable athletes to play pro basketball or any other sport.

Bryant plays his home games at Staples Center not far from Hollywood. Regular courtside patrons include Academy Award winning actors Jack Nicholson and Dustin Hoffman.

If the Lakers are the team of glitz residing in the land of Hollywood, the Boston Celtics are the model of rock-ribbed municipal solidity. Boston is the city where the American Revolution was launched.

Later it became a city of strong ethnic identification with its Italian restaurants of the North End, and an Irish South Boston represented in Congress for years by either John F. Kennedy or Tip O’Neill.

Phil Jackson, the Lakers' coach who seeks his 11th NBA title, anchors his team around the sharp shooting of Bryant.

L.A. was bolstered by its acquisition of Pau Gasol from Memphis, a big man at home in the paint who combines finesse with muscle and has been known to come out to the perimeter to make impressive shots. Veteran gunner Derrick Fisher is at home from the 3-point line.

If the Lakers are a team seeking to shoot the lights out and decide a game’s outcome, the Celtics of Doc Rivers are a pesky team led by three future Hall of Famers in Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen that unnerves opponents by an ability to hang around.

The idea is to play steady basketball, do not beat yourself, and take charge down the stretch.

Early in the season when an injury-plagued Celtics team was being written off by many from any post-season life, Rivers said he liked the team’s togetherness and believed that if it could move past its woes that a bright dawn could beckon.

The team might have looked ragged at times during the instability periods of injury problems, but it won often enough to reach the playoffs. 

The Celtics rested their players when needed and not pressing circumstances, they were ready to roll in the next phase, the all-important playoffs.

The Celtics know how good Bryant is and recognize that he will not be shut down.

Instead what can be expected is what Kevin Garnett stated following the Boston upset playoff triumph over favored Cleveland, the team with the NBA’s glossiest regular season record.

After saluting Cavalier superstar LeBron James as a great talent, Garnett explained that the Boston strategy was to minimize productivity of Cleveland’s supporting players.

What Boston will seemingly do, therefore, in seeking to achieve the same strategy results, is to attempt to minimize Lakers' productivity in the paint.

This is a strategy that the Celtics have used against other teams.

The idea is to deploy a three-man enforcement committee.

Since playing rough in the paint results in fouls, the occupational hazard is minimized by having three Boston big men share committee responsibilities in Kendrick Perkins, Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis.

Another point should be stressed in this connection. The Celtic committee need not use muscle to minimize Lakers' point productivity, if a strategy of effective boxing out can be utilized through crafty positioning in and around the hoop.

In order for the Lakers to make it two in a row, they need to do some limiting of their own.

The player the Lakers need to perform productivity limitation on is point guard Rajon Rondo, the glue that has held Celtic nation together during a season that has been trying as well as interesting.

Ex-NBA player and current analyst Mark Jackson has been so impressed by Rondo’s efforts as a productive playmaker that he has compared him to Boston’s other great quarterback, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots.

Jackson states further that Brady should feel honored to be mentioned in the same context as Rondo.

At the beginning of this playoff cycle, Doc Rivers urged Rondo to use his speed to drive into the paint and score on lay-ups. Look for Phil Jackson to seek to close off the avenues to the hoop with Rondo, as well as to limit his playmaking capability by zealous pressuring.

On the other side of the ledger, the Lakers will resist the strategy of Boston to use its big men to limit the effectiveness of Pau Gasol and his mates in the paint.

The key to a Lakers victory could therein reside in the ability of not only Gasol but muscular performers like Lamar Odom, who has shone thus far in the playoffs, along with Ron Artest to thwart or neutralize the Celtic strategic effort.

How will the series play out in the long run?

The L.A. victory likelihood stems from frustrating the defensive minded and patient Celtics through employing dazzling shooting, and seeking to close out the series prior to a seventh and deciding game.

Granted, the Lakers’ superior seasonal record secures the right to host a seventh game at Staples Center.

Remember, however, that the Celtics have a better road rather than home record this season. Their playoff upset wins over Cleveland and Orlando resulted from key road victories.

The longer that the defense-minded team from the east hangs around the greater the likelihood that it can ultimately pull off a win.

It would accordingly behoove Phil Jackson’s charges to finish off the Celtics as early as possible to avoid the playoff fates of Miami, Cleveland and Orlando.