The 2010 NBA Finals: The Take
At this point in time, there’s no use bringing up the stat sheets on their regular season meetings to determine who’s got the edge. And just the same, there’s no point matching up their playoff performances to see who’s the better team. Not even their last face-off two years ago can be a basis for telling who’s taking home the NBA Championship Trophy this year. In the end, our predictions on who will win between the Celtics and the Lakers can be just as good as any palm reader’s guess.
But, if it will do any good, let’s go back to science and see what each team will be bringing into the Finals.
The Lakers are bringing with them their crown as the reigning champs of the league–something that was denied from them two years ago by the same team they’re up against this time. Boston’s presence in the Finals is a taunt in itself against LA, as if saying “you still have yet to take one away from us.” For the 64th time, the champions of the previous two seasons are meeting up to settle the score, and it had to be Boston and LA.
In their two regular season face-offs, they each won by a single point–both times away from home. When LA won in Boston in January this year, it was Kobe Bryant who struck the dagger into Boston’s heart, and LA won 90-89. Boston went to LA and played a Kobe-less Lakers just 18 days after. Boston won not because someone from their roster had thrown the winning shot, but because Derek Fisher missed. But a win is a win, and Boston split the season with LA, 87-86.
Lakers’ Ace Cards
LA has the homecourt advantage this time. They’ve never lost at home during the playoffs, and they will make sure they’ll keep it that way while attempting to steal one on the road. And while they are expecting no less than amazing from Kobe Bryant, LA rooters are watching and waiting on Ron Artest if he will deliver well in the Finals. With Bynum and Gasol under the net, they have better chances at getting the ball. And because it’s Boston they’re up against, the games are expected to go the distance. The Lakers will be looking to Kobe Bryant to bail them out in pressure situations like he always does. And if the men in green will gang up on the Black Mamba, he can still take the shot, win the game, or dish to either Fish or Artest for the last shot. The Lakers can also take advantage of their better free throw percentage by making the contact against the Celtics, whose zone defense, if poorly executed, can make them prone to foul trouble.
Intangibles for the Celtics
Boston doesn’t care for homecourt advantages. The very reason why they are on the Finals this time is that they took away the homecourt advantage from the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals. In fact, they’ve won five games on the road in the playoffs. They’re the number two road-winning team, tied with Cleveland (which they vanquished), and next only to Dallas (which has been upset at the first round). Rajon Rondo has been superb in the post-season, and if there was a Playoff MVP Award, Rondo would have won it. Boston has earned the dividends out of the sterling performances of their point guard, and has been rotating the ball better than any in the league. Outside shooting is crucial, especially if you’ve got the two big men of LA guarding the area under the net. This is where Ray Allen and his hot hands come in. Boston’s rotation in players is better than LA’s, with ‘Sheed, Glen Davis, and Tony Allen playing solidly coming off the bench. And don’t forget Nate Robinson, who just proved in their sealing win against Orlando that he belongs and deserves some time to sweat it out in the open court.
Somebody other than Derek Fisher ought to tackle Rajon Rondo, or else LA has some big problems. Kobe might just step up to defend against Rajon, but that frees Ray Allen in the wing side to barrage the ring with three pointers. The moment the Celtics gang up on Kobe, the other Lakers on the floor will have to be ready at any time the ball is kicked out to them for a better look at the ring. As for Boston, Rasheed Wallace will have to get his offense a notch better. He will be banging bodies against either Bynum or Gasol, which will drain him some shooting juice when the run towards their court, so the sooner he gets hot, the better. There were times that Boston won with either KG or Ray Allen not playing well that night, but never when Paul Pierce woke on the wrong side of the bed. He must stabilize his offensive arsenal if he wants to keep the momentum for Boston. Perkins is one technical foul away from a game suspension, leaving Rasheed not much of a choice when guarding the post. LA is very protective of the paint, and Rajon should choose his options wisely before attacking the board.
Instead of choosing who will win, let’s instead try to predict how each team will want to win their final games. While Boston has been better defensively in the Playoffs than LA, the Lakers can handle pressure situations and hit clutch shots. Boston must win by a bigger margin in order to secure the trophy in seven games.
LA’s better offense, and their stifling defense in the paint against Boston, can give the Lakers the championship trophy in six games.