NBA Finals Preview
Two of the most storied franchises in all of basketball meet yet again to compete in the NBA Finals. The Lakers were the favorites all season long, but the Celtics have proved that they still belong among the NBA elite. It’s the series that everyone has been waiting for. Let’s see how the match ups break down and who has the advantage.
Point Guard: Rajon Rondo vs Derek Fisher
In the first round we saw Derek Fisher have a difficult time guarding the quicker Russell Westbrook. Rajon Rondo is not only quicker but he is better. The Celtics will exploit this mismatch which will then force Kobe to guard Rondo, allowing either Pierce or Allen to have an easier time scoring.
Advantage: Rajon Rondo
Shooting Guard: Ray Allen vs Kobe Bryant
Kobe has been Kobe. He’s hungry for another ring and if he doesn’t get it you could see some changes in LA (Rumors of Phil Jackson leaving have been swirling). Ray Allen has been hot these playoffs and has put up some good performances. The key to this match up isn’t so much how many points Allen drops, its more about how tired he can make Kobe. If Kobe is on Allen, look for Allen to be running off screens all the time (a la Rip Hamilton or Reggie Miller). Fatigue plays a factor, not only as the game progresses but also as the series progresses. Nonetheless, Kobe is still arguably the best player in the league.
Advantage: Kobe Bryant
Small Forward: Paul Pierce vs Ron Artest
This will be an interesting match up. Paul Pierce is still the Celtics’ best player. Artest hasn’t been hitting shots and the Lakers don’t really look for him on offense. For Paul Pierce that’s a good news/bad news scenario. Good news: He won’t have to spend too much energy on the defensive end and it allows him to become a help defender. Bad news: Ron Artest will have plenty of energy guarding Pierce. Artest won’t shut Pierce down, but all he has to do is contain him.
Advantage: Paul Pierce
Power Forward: Kevin Garnett vs Pau Gasol
Gasol has been terrific this entire season. Some are even calling him the most skilled big man in the league. Gasol will face a tough defender in Kevin Garnett. Although KG is slowly on the decline, he still is going to bring a tremendous amount of energy on both ends of the court. All KG needs is one block or one dunk to get him going. That being said, Gasol has been great. He’s stayed out of foul trouble, he’s defended, he’s scored, he’s rebounded. No reason to think that will change.
Advantage: Pau Gasol
Center: Kendrick Perkins vs Andre Bynum
Bynum has been struggling with a right knee injury. He’s had it drained and is said to be playing with pain. Perkins proved his defensive prowlness by being able to guard Dwight Howard 1-on-1 in the previous series against the Magic. Perkins will have to control the glass to allow his team to get into the transition offense that they thrive at. Perkins is also one technical foul away from being suspended for a game. He better have his head in the game because the Celtics can’t afford to lose him.
Advantage: Kendrick Perkins
Key Reserves: Tony Allen, Glen Davis, Rasheed Wallace vs Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar
On just about any other team Lamar Odom-Kardashian is starter. When he plays well the Lakers almost always win. If Bynum’s production takes a hit because of his injury, then LO will see major minutes at the 4 with Gasol sliding to the 5. Shannon Brown and Farmar have been solid. They’ll need to contribute defensively to be factors. The Celtics reserves have been bitten by the injury bug. Allen (ankle), Davis (concussion), Wallace (back). None of them are serious injuries but you can’t afford to be slowed down by anything at this time of the year. If healthy, Allen will be key. He’ll have the duty of stopping Kobe Bryant. It’s a role that he’s become familiar with as he had to guard Wade and LeBron in the first two series. Davis always brings a lot of energy to the court, which is important when replacing KG. If Wallace can knock down the 3, he’ll stretch the floor and allow for Rondo and Pierce to penetrate. Unfortunately for the Celtics there are too many “ifs.”
Coaches: Doc Rivers vs Phil Jackson
Phil Jackson is arguably the greatest coach of all time. This season, Doc Rivers has out coached him. Rivers rested his veteran group all season long. His goal was to make it to one of the top 4 seeds in the East. This post-season the reward for that risk has paid off. His team is in the Finals. The Celtics have had their way in the Playoffs against good teams. The Lakers have had a difficult adjusting to match ups as we saw in the Thunder and Suns series. Rivers also has one of the most renown assistant coaches in Tom Thibodeau. The X’s and O’s will play a major factor in such an evenly matched series.
Advantage: Doc Rivers
Prediction: Celtics in 6. I believe the Celtics are strong enough to steal one on the road and handle their business at home.
Finals MVP: Rajon Rondo. He is the catalyst for their success. If the Celtics are winning, you can bet that Rondo is playing great.