Thursday, June 5, 2008

Lakers/Celtics Preview

Well, it's the day we've all been waiting for - Lakers, Celtics in a best of 7 for it all. There are so many storylines that have been overdone so I'm just going to preview this series by looking at many of the possible matchups and pick a winner.

First let's remember how both teams got to this point. Both teams went through their fair share of difficulties in these playoffs, but if it's been possible, the Lakers have gotten through this deep West playoff field as strongly as any team could have shown. Everyone thought that Denver had a shot at beating LA because the Lakers didn't have Bynum back yet. Well, Bynum's not going to return now and LA's in the finals. Moreover, they completely dominated a talented Nuggets team that looked like they didn't belong in the same league. The next round, people thought Utah might be the best team in the league (for whatever reason) and didn't think the Deron Williams/Carlos Boozer would be too much to handle. It was also said that the combination of Ronnie Brewer/Matt Harpring/Kyle Korver (KYLE KORVER?!?!?) could "contain" Kobe. Then obviously came the defending Champs, and at this point, even I thought the Lakers were susceptible to a disappointing end to their long, surprising season. There was no answer for Tim Duncan, the Lakers didn't have enough experience, but in the end Kobe was the one who was unstoppable. He took 11 free throws in the entire series, but still scored 30+ points/game. I would not have thought that to be possible especially against the stingy Spurs defense featuring Bruce Bowen as a perimeter defender, but Kobe welcomed the challenge. Now they face a similarly built team in the Boston Celtics, who went through their own struggles.

The Celtics were widely picked to beat the Hawks in a sweep, or at the very worst, in a 5 game series. This was not the case. Instead Boston had its deep playoff run in jeopardy as a young Hawks team extended the 66 win Celtics to a 1st round game 7. I personally was shocked, but Boston won game 7 easily at home and moved on. Then came the defending Eastern Conference Champions, the Lebrons. I actually thought this would be the breakthrough series for Boston, but the Cavs somehow extended the series to 7 games as well, which turned out to be a great game, a legendary battle between two of the great closers in the game, Paul Pierce
and Lebron James, a battle, a game... that I missed. That's not the point though. The point is that Boston found another way to prevail and proved that Home Court advantage does mean something. Anyways, then came the Eastern Conference Finals in which the 2 teams that were on a crash course all season, finally met. The Pistons and the Celtics. People at this point were already doubting the C's. They can't win a road game, they have no rotation, they can't score... The pessimism got to a climax once Detroit won game 2 in Boston. Then everyone thought there was no way Boston could come back. I said before the series began that both teams are way too good to win all home games. I thought the series would go 7 games with each team winning 1 road game, which means Boston would advance. Boston did even better however. They showed that perhaps the long series in rounds 1 and 2 might have done something for their collective experience and ended up taking 2 games in Detroit to take the series in 6.

Now that the past is out of the way, the matchups are an interesting factor. KG proves as that Duncan-like presence for Boston, but unless he asserts himself the way Timmy does, the Lakers will be fine. KG has shown again and again that he's got the talent and ability to take over games, he just doesn't have the mindset or selfishness to actually do it. With the rest of the matchups, the only one that sticks out is how the Celtics will try and guard Kobe. Boston was the best defensive team in the league in the regular season and even though it seems like they have the personnel to guard premier swingmen like Kobe with the likes of James Posey, Paul Pierce, Tony Allen, etc... they haven't had to go up against Kobe in a long series before. The Spurs in the previous series have had long series with Kobe before and as seen, still couldn't do anything about him. Overall, I think both teams have great chemistry and have very balanced, talented rosters, but one team has Kobe. The other team should have a closer gap because KG should close that a bit, but the fact is he doesn't. He doesn't let the game come to him like Kobe does at the end of games and as alluded to before, he doesn't take over. In fact, he seems to push it away. On my Championship team, I don't want my main man with that kind of personality. Paul Pierce will take over games, but he's not Kobe Bryant.

Prediction: Lakers in 6

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