Thursday, June 3, 2010
The return of The Cycle comes just prior to the start of the return to the most famous NBA Finals matchup possible. That's right, it's Celtics-Lakers for the 12th time in history. Of course, this is the worst possible matchup for the majority of NBA fans, who will either tire of another Boston championship (like the Yankees winning last year was for baseball fans) or of another Lakers title (and dealing with the Laker bandwagon, again like the Yankees). Here's the keys to this series.
1. The Artest/Pierce matchup: For all the bad having Ron Artest has been for the Lakers, this is a series where he can be an asset. Trevor Ariza probably doesn't match well as Artest does with Paul Pierce. Also, he won't get punched in the mouth like the Celtics like to do and not keep coming, unlike Vince Carter. So it really comes down to if Artest has declined as a defensive player. I think he hasn't, but Pierce is still a skilled offensive player. I'd be surprised if the loser in this battle wins the series (unless Kobe is Jordan in '93 for this series).
2. Andrew Bynum: He can be the difference if healthy. I'd take the Celtics frontcourt of Garnett/Perkins/Davis/Wallace over the Lakers if it's mostly the Gasol/Odom combo. The main reason, Pau and Lamar aren't great defenders and I'm more confident that the Celtics will score upfront like they couldn't against Dwight Howard, plus I think they will contain both guys on the other end. Bynum is the difference, because he's the better defender in the middle for the Lakers and gives the Celtics another person to deal with offensively. If only he plays well.
3. Rajon Rondo: He's the best player on this Celtics team and will probably be guarded by Kobe. If Derek Fisher guards him, Rondo will explode and shred the Lakers defense. Kobe have to try to contain him and that where Rondo will have to work without the ball to set up shots for Ray Allen or Pierce. It comes down to this, if Rondo plays the guy from Games 4-6 of the Cavs series and Games 1-3 and 6 of the Magic series, the Celtics win. If not, they lose. It's that simple.
4. Kobe Bryant: That's why Kobe is the biggest key to the series and more for his defense and his ability to play at a high level on both ends for a whole series. We all know he needs to keep playing like he has in the playoffs, putting up 29-5-6 and 33-6-7 that he had in the Jazz and Suns series. But he know has to play tough defense for the first time since the Thunder series when he was switched to Russell Westbrook.
As for a prediction, there will be a six game series and I'll go with the team I predicted at the beginning of the year, then hoped no one remembered (which no one did). Yes, the Celtics win in 6.