First let me apologize for not posting a column last week. After a great, but grueling weekend in Boston – I lost track of the week and by the time I had time to write the post, it was too late. I had a column on the history of lacrosse. I will table it for another time, especially in light of the rebirth of one of the greatest rivalries – The Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. For those that can remember 1987, it was the last time these two teams met in the NBA Finals. In 1987, it was time when the shorts were short and Kurt Rambis’ glasses were cool. But I digress..
So without further ado, let’s break this series down – match up by match up. And then it will be time for Smitty’s somewhat biased opinion – Did I give it away? Well in the spirit of MC Hammer – let’s break it down:
Point Guard: Rajon Rondo vs. Derrick Fisher – Youth versus Experience at its finest. Rondo is the engine that does make the Celtics’ offense run. When he is pushing the ball and hitting his jumpers, he makes them difficult to defend. But when he shows his youth and inexperience with turnovers and bad decisions – it can make the C’s offense come to a grinding halt. Derrick Fisher – what can you say bad about Derrick Fisher, other than he is getting up there in age? Might not have the speed or defensive skills of Rondo, but he makes up for it with experience and savvy. May be the unofficial MVP of the Lakers, as he makes Kobe even more dangerous with his ability to stretch the defense with his outside shooting. Rondo likes to roam on defense, but won’t be able to with Fisher’s ability to shoot the 3.
Advantage : Lakers, but a slight edge
Shooting Guard: Ray Allen vs. Kobe Bryant – Hmmm.. best player in the game right now. Bryant is playing at his best right now in the playoffs and apparently has been able to “instill” his DNA on the rest of the Lakers. Throughout the playoffs he has been playing at the top of his game. So for the C’s it is a matter of if you can’t stop him, can you contain him? This is certainly his opportunity to put him amongst the elite in the history of the NBA. Will the real Ray Allen, please stand up, please stand up? Having struggled throughout most of the playoffs, he has seemed to find his shooting touch in Games 5 and 6 against the Pistons. If he can continue to hit from the outside, it will be the Big Three and not the Big Two featuring Ray Allen.
Advantage: Ahhhh. … Lakers? Seriously, the Lakers.
Small Forward: Paul Pierce vs. Vladimir Radmanovic – Ummm, has Radmanovic done anything in these playoffs? Is he playing? Okay seriously he has had his moments in the playoffs, but has also had a habit of disappearing in these playoffs. Pierce, aka “The Truth” aptly received his nickname from a former Laker. He has been just that throughout the playoffs, seeming to rise to the occasion in the biggest moments in the playoffs. His 4th quarter in Game 6 against the Pistons and his Game 7 performance against the Cavaliers are helping to define his legacy in Beantown. Will be guarding Kobe for much of this series. How much of his chasing Kobe around will affect his play on the offensive end remains to be seen. But then again, he guarded LeBron and Joe Johnson in previous series. So will guarding Kobe be that much different?
Power Forward: Kevin Garnett vs. Lamar Odom – KG has been consistent throughout the playoffs and even dominant at times. But at times, he seems to give up the shot at the biggest moments during the game. Unselfish or just afraid to take the big shot? Known for his tenacity on defense, his intensity rubs off on his teammates. Odom is dangerous in that he is a slasher and a jump shooter. Will be a handful for Garnett to defend, but which Odom will show up? The Lamar Odom of Game 5 against the Spurs or the Lamar Odom of Game 3? When Odom is playing on all cylinders, the Lakers’ offense is the best in the NBA.
Center: Kendrick Perkins vs. Pau Gasol – The Laker’s steal of Gasol has been well documented. Gasol is a finesse big man that can play away from the basket, but can also rebound with the best. Gasol’s talents have fit in perfectly since the injury to Andrew Bynum. Perkins has been a huge boost for the Celtics and has been unexpectedly dominant at times. His first half in the Game 5 against the Pistons was huge for the Cs. But at times, he shows he is young and inexperienced with silly fouls and unnecessary technical fouls. Perkins loves to bang underneath the basket and may be too physical for Gasol. Gasol has been key for the Lakers in rebounding, but how will he fare in his battle with Perkins? Should be a good match up.
Bench: I am not going to list them all for both team, but both benches have been key at times for both teams throughout the playoffs. But with so many days in between games, and long timeouts – will their playing time be cut? Will the long timeouts give players time to rest. Will Kobe even come out of Game 1 with 3 days rest between Games 1 and 2?
Coaching: Do I even want to do this? Phil Jackson, is Phil Jackson. Doc Rivers, is well Doc Rivers. In Doc Rivers’ defense, he has shown me a lot in these playoffs and seems to be growing as a coach in these playoffs. But this is Phil Jackson, man.. The key may be Boston assistant, Tom Thibodeau who has been the mastermind behind the C’s defense. Can he make the necessary adjustments.
Smitty’s Prediction: Celtics in seven. There is no place like home, there is no place like home. And rides in the Duck Boats are so much fun.
Don’t agree? Let’s hear what you have to say.