Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Dream Finals Preview

That laughing and jumping for joy you heard Friday night (and continue to hear) is David Stern and the brass over at ABC celebrating the Celtics victory and the realization that a Lakers vs. Celtics final is actually here. And I’m not judging them, because I’ve wanted this so bad it hurts. You know that banner across the scorers’ table at each team’s arena that marks off a number, counting down from 16 to trophy? I have one on the side of my house counting from 24 to Lakers vs. Celtics finals. The neighbors have given up reasoning with me.

I love the Lakers and have since I can remember. My childhood dog was named Magic, my room was covered in Laker posters, I wore Laker t-shirts to school everyday for two years, and I invited Magic Johnson to my wedding (no show). You wouldn’t believe how happy I was when my son was born on August 14th and as a result can share a birthday with Magic (the wife shot down Earvin, Magic, or Buck for first or middle names). While I am obviously biased in this analysis I can honestly say that my fandom made me break this thing down more in an attempt to see all points of view, so here ya go…..

There’s no love loss here. Obviously this isn’t the 80s. But, this new version of the Lakers vs. Celtics rivalry is pretty chippy as well:

That being said, this thing will come down to matchups like every other seven game series. Here is the tale of the tape for each team (Lakers here and Celtics here), followed by some analysis.

There are so many good matchups in this series:

PG – Derek Fisher vs. Rajon Rondo: I have been very impressed by the maturity of Rondo. He’s grown up a ton this year and even more in these playoffs. He’s got Fish in athleticism for sure, but I don’t think they can make up for 3 rings and Fish’s uncanny knack for knocking down the big shot. Yes, Rondo is quick, but is he quicker than Tony Parker, who Fish managed last series? Yes, Rondo is athletic, but is he more athletic than Deron Williams, who Fish battled and beat in West semifinals? No way. Rondo got by Chauncey “Mr. Big Shot” Billups last round, but the Laker offense doesn’t require Fish to create off the dribble, thus negating some of what makes Rondo a good defender: speed. I’ll take Fish here but closer than more outsiders would think. Advantage: Lakers.

SG – Kobe Bryant vs. Ray Allen: I don’t know how much these guys will actually guard each other, and the defensive assignments will change throughout the series as adjustments are made (see the Coaches section below). But I’m just going position by position here so we’ll put them head to head. Kobe is the best player on the planet and has been there before. Not only does he have the 3 rings, but he was the closer on those teams, even with Shaq around. I can’t say anything about him that hasn’t been said. I think that Ray Allen is the biggest X-factor for the Celtics in the series. His inconsistency has been shocking to me, after such a stellar career. I think everyone thought he would lose a step after playing over 100 games this year, but shooting brick after brick on open shots was totally unexpected. However, his play in the last 2 games vs Detroit reminds us that he can still be explosive and his range is still there. He is so important because of his effect on the crowd. At home, those threes get the Boston faithful on their feet and going nuts. On the road, nothing stops a run and shuts up fans more than a cold-blooded 3. If he’s “good Ray” for 7 games, chalk up title #17 for the Celtics. But I don’t think he’ll keep it going for all 7. Advantage: Lakers.

SF – Vladimir Radmanovich vs. Paul Pierce: Easily Boston’s best matchup. Vlad doesn’t play big minutes for L.A., and when he’s in, he’s totally one-dimensional. His three point shooting can help open up the court but he’s a VERY streaky shooter. His defense and rebounding are usually non-existent. Good thing for the Lakers that they don’t have to rely on him too much. Paul Pierce is the Celtics' most clutch player. I love KG, but we’ve all seen him shrivel under the pressure too many times. Pierce doesn’t flinch and will win them at least one game in the series, if not more. As a Laker fan, he scares the shit out of me. Advantage: Celtics.

PF – Lamar Odom vs. Kevin Garnett: So much talent, so many head issues. Lamar is a freak to have his skills at his height. But, as any NBA fan knows, he’s been a HUGE disappointment the majority of his career. Even now he goes into funks that drive Phil, Kobe, and Laker fans crazy. But when his head is on straight, he can take over a game. KG is your Defensive Player of the Year. He is the heart and soul of this team and its fans. He TOTALLY changed the culture and spirit of the Celtics. He’s putting up his usual All Star numbers and always has a big effect on the game. But he still shrinks in crunch time, passing up shots or taking fade aways instead of taking it to the rack. If these two match up, I think it helps the Lakers. Lamar prefers to play outside, facing the basket. This will draw KG out of the lane, making space for Kobe, Pau, and other Laker cutters. On the other end, Lamar can do his best on KG, especially with help from Pau Gasol and a collapsing Fish (since Rondo can’t shoot). But like the SG analysis, going strictly position by position, you gotta give the nod to KG. Advantage: Celtics.

C – Pau Gasol vs. Kendrick Perkins: Gasol is another member of the “so much talent, so many head issues” club. His inconsistency is maddening! He can take over games with his back to basket game, his fifteen footers, and his excellent passing skills. But at times, he becomes too passive and is almost invisible out there. Still, he has a HUGE advantage over Perkins offensively. He is also the better pure defender, both in the post and outside. What Perkins gives you is hustle and work ethic. He gets the nod on the boards even though he’s giving up the height advantage, and will no doubt draw a few charges a game as the Lakers are prone to dropping the shoulder in the lane. But, if Gasol plays the game he is capable of, he will give the Lakers much more than Perkins can give the Celtics. Advantage: Lakers.

Bench – This is a very interesting matchup and it could decide the championship. Both benches bring a ton of energy and quickly change the flow of a game. Both have been tested on the road in these playoffs, which is where bench guys normally struggle to produce. The Lakers get more offense off the bench and it can come from a number of different players. Sasha Vujacic can knock down the threes, Luke Walton can facilitate the offense and get others shots, Ronny Turiaf can get second chance points for himself or others. But the L.A. bench isn’t usually too keen on playing defense. They could easily get manhandled by a physical team like the Celtics. The Celtics' bench is comprised of James Posey, two senior citizens, and a Big Baby. Eddie House could be a factor if Doc plays him (5.4 mpg in playoffs) and Boston fans are all excited about Tony Allen guarding Kobe. He better not try any of this:

Advantage: Celtics (since they have home court)

Coach – Phil Jackson vs Doc Rivers: 9 rings vs. well, a nice guy in his first Finals? Advantage: Lakers.

Out of seven categories, that's a 4-3 edge for the Lakers. Hmmm...a presage, perhaps? A sign of things to come?

These were the two #1 seeds and they both deserve to be here. It will be a close series that will go seven games; here's how I think it will go down:

Game 1 – Both teams come out rusty and a little tight. Kobe will probably try to do too much and get the Lakers out of rhythm. Celtics home court is just too much and they pull away late. Celtics, 1-0

Game 2 – Phil makes the better adjustments, gets guys in the right places, and Kobe has a big game (possible triple double). Lakers win. Series tied, 1-1

Game 3 – The single most impressive thing the Celtics have done this post season is winning game 3 in Detroit. Everyone thought they were dead and they came out strong. Expect the same game here. Lakers overconfidence leads to a big hole early. Frantic rally gets them close, but not over the top. Celtics, 2-1

Game 4 – Laker blowout. Celts got the road win they wanted and Phil, Kobe & company won’t lose two in a row. Series tied, 2-2

Game 5 – This one makes Laker fans sweat. Game 7 vs Portland in 2000 sweat. Game 4 vs Sacramento in 2002 sweat. Games 1 and 5 vs San Antonio this year sweat. But just like those games, L.A. pulls it out late and takes their first series lead. Lakers, 3-2

Game 6 – Lakers come out hot vs a tight Celtic squad whose backs are against the wall. But this one looks a lot like game 7 vs the Cavs this year. Celts win an ugly one late. Series tied, 3-3

Game 7 – By this point, I’ve had five heart attacks and can’t sleep, eat, or function in society. I probably will have lost my job and I hope my family is still with me. Game 7 is for closers, and Kobe is the best we’ve seen since MJ. He gets it done and it looks a lot like game 6 vs Utah this year. Celtic fans have a moment of silence then rush out to check the latest on Big Papi’s wrist. Lakers win the series, 4-3

A new Laker dynasty has begun.


Alice Duckworth said...

Too bad the wife wouldn't let you use a Laker name....I've already decided that if I have another boy, his middle name shall be Rambis.

Hobson said...

I like the sound of Ron Rambis Burgundy. Very presidential!

Hobson said...

Or maybe I'm totally wrong and Leon Powe is God