For the 12th time in history the two greatest basketball dynasties will battle for the NBA Championship. 32 of the 63 NBA Championships belong to either the Boston Celtics (17) or the Los Angeles Lakers (15). For the third year in a row Kobe Bryant has led his Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA Finals. The defending champions look to avenge their 2008 NBA Finals loss to the Boston Celtics.
There are some new faces on both teams that have not won a championship yet. There are injuries of concern for both teams. There are veterans fading, and others thriving. Some basketball analysts will compare these teams based on their regular seasons and the entire 2010 Playoffs. I believe it is more poignant to compare the present. What have you done for me lately approach. So much has changed since both clubs broke into these playoffs a month ago. Most people didn’t even expect the Celtics to make it past the second round. And many experts wondered if the Lakers could survive with injuries to Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant. Therefore to get the best prediction and preview of this showdown we will compare the stats from just the Eastern and Western Conference Finals.
Western Conference – Eastern Conference Totals
The Celtics tallied 1,465 minutes of action in 6 games to defeat the Orlando Magic. The Lakers amassed 1,440 minutes in their 6 games to defeat the Phoenix Suns. The Lakers scored 681 points and gave up 651 Suns points. The Celtics scored 561 points and gave up 544 Magic points. The Celtics game totals were between 92-96 points in each game. They will need more production to match the high-octane offense of the Lakers The Lakers averaged 113 points per game in the Western Conference Finals. LA was 260 of 518 FG (50%) compared to just 196 of 444 FG (44%) for Boston. The 64 more shot attempts the Lakers took in their series is indicative to the fast pace of the Phoenix Suns style of play who shot 230 of 480 FG (47%). If you are wondering, the Orlando Magic shot 184 of 428 FG (43%).
It is interesting to compare the four final teams 3-point shooting, Boston led the way with 40% with 39 makes on just 96 attempts in 6 games. The other three teams had more than 50 attempts each than the Celtics. Lakers came in 2nd with 36.9% on 52 of 141 three-point shooting. The Magic inched into 3rd place in this category with 33% on 49 of 145 long distance shooting. The Phoenix Suns who rely on scoring behind the arc to win shot just 32.9% with 49 of 149 attempts. I think the Phoenix Suns and the Orlando Magic should play a consolation game for a 3rd place trophy. That would be fun to watch. We will determine if the Celtics or Lakers have the 3-point edge when we compare individual players stats.
Both Conference Finals series were physical. No team shot more free throws than the Phoenix Suns 147 of 190 (77.4%). The Magic shot 127 of 177 (71%) and the Boston Celtics made 130 of 169 FT (76%). The LA Lakers attempted the fewest amount, 140 (50 fewer than the Suns) and made 109 for the best percentage behind the charity stripe 77.9%. Free throws will be a significant factor in the NBA Finals. The individual stats show the Lakers have the advantage.
(Rebounds Lakers: 248, Magic: 238, Celtics: 237, Suns: 230)
Both the Celtics and the Lakers generate a significant amount of assists. In the Conference Finals the Lakers had 149 assists, the Celtics 121. The Lakers utilize the triangle offense, while the Celtics run teammates off screens.
If these stats are an indicator of what we can expect in this NBA Finals, it will be quite a contrast from 2008. Then, Boston averaged 102 points per game (44.4%) compared to just 98ppg (44.1%) for LA. Boston’s 3-point shooting bested LA 43% to 37%. The then soft Lakers were out-rebounded on average 42.2 to 37.2 (rebounds per game). But that was then and this is now, as they say. Let’s take a look at the current stats of both teams
Player by Player Comparison:
Kobe Bryant vs. Paul Pierce
The Black Mamba verse The Truth. The two franchise players meet up again two years after Pierce led his Celtics to a championship celebration on the Lakers’ home court. Bryant hasn’t forgotten.
Kobe was supposedly getting old, and limited by a knee and finger injury. Instead he has had the greatest Playoffs of his career. His numbers in the Western Conference series only improved in every category. He averaged 33.7ppg, 52% FG, 73 of 140 FG for 202 total points. From 3-point land he shot 19 of 44 (43%) and 88% FT on 37 of 42 from the stripe. He added 7.2 rebounds, 8.3 assists, 1.1 block, 1 steal, with 2.5 turnovers per game.
Paul Pierce averaged 24.3ppg (51%) 43 of 84 FG, for a total of 146 points. From 3-point land he shot 13 of 29 for 44% and 83% FT on 47 of 56 from the stripe. He added 8.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.5 steals, .5 block, and 3 turnovers per game.
Pierce had 30 fewer makes, 56 fewer attempts, and 56 fewer points than Bryant and averaged 5 fewer assists than Kobe in their respective Conference Finals games. Pierce missed wide open, straight away three-pointers to win game 4 in Boston. Bryant made difficult shot after difficult shot, in the face of pressure to win multiple games for his team. Head to head, this should be a classic duo to watch in the NBA Finals.
Ron Artest vs Ray Allen
A quiet assassin in green faces an un-bashful street-baller in purple and gold. Both play with confidence, have hit the big shot, and been the magnet of criticism at times. And both represent the glue to their team’s success.
Ron Artest is improving and shining at the right time. His Game 5 winning shot was the most important in this Lakers championship run. He has improved his 3 point shooting to 33% 11 of 33 and overall is shooting 46% from the field for 14.3ppg with 86 points total on 34 of 74 shooting. He also added 28 rebounds, 13 assists, and 10 steals in 228 minutes of action.
Ray Allen has proved the critics wrong with his sharp shooting. 43% on 31 of 71 FG, 13 of 31 three-point makes for 41%. He also gave 28 rebounds, 20 assists, 6 steals in 241 minutes of action.
Ray Allen is a better free-throw (82%-70%) than Ron Artest. He is a better 3-point shooter, though Artest has a higher overall FG percentage. Ron Artest is a better defender. This is a toss up. Both players are needed for their teams to succeed. Allen has something Ron Ron wants, a ring.
Pau Gasol vs. Kevin Garnett
Pau Gasol is considered one of the most skilled big men in the game. His 20 points on 56% shooting, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocks per game average is something the Celtics wish Kevin Garnett could deliver. Garnett has traded his power game for shooting outside. He averaged just 10 points on 38% shooting, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal in the Conference Finals. Garnett played just 196 minutes compared to 244 for Pau Gasol in their respective Conference Finals. Advantage: Lakers
Derek Fisher vs. Rajon Rondo
Perhaps the biggest question mark will be who wins this match up. Derek Fisher has held his own against every point guard he has faced in these playoffs including Steve Nash. Rajon Rondo was anointed the greatest player in the league by commentators until he disappeared in the last two Celtics games due to the speculation of injury. Stats verse experience is the sub-title here. Rondo trumps Fisher 14.2 ppg (40%) to 11.8 (48%). Even though Fisher shot just 6 of 20 from 3-point range in the last series, we know he is capable of being lethal from down town, while Rondo is a noted poor three-point shooter and not a threat from long range. Also hurting Rondo is his poor free-throw shooting 57% 19 of 33. Fisher was 17 of 20 at 85%. Rondo’s game is exciting, while Fisher’s is legendary. Both point guards are captains on their teams. Derek Fisher’s 4 championship rings, veteran experience, ability to draw offensive fouls and hit clutch shots outweighs Rondo’s youthful quickness and popularity.
Lamar Odom vs. Rasheed Wallace
Both power forwards would be starters on most NBA teams. Rasheed Wallace, though past his prime, still is a threat to shoot the 3-pointer, and can frustrate opponents on the defensive end. Lamar Odom is the Lakers x-factor. He can play any position and will see most of the minutes over Andrew Bynum. Both players are known for hitting the big shot and also disappearing for entire games. Lamar Odom played twice as many minutes (206) in the Conference Finals as did Rasheed Wallace (98). Wallace averaged 9 points per game and 2.5 rebounds on 42% FG (18 of 42) and 42% (9 of 21) from beyond the arc. He was limited in action after hurting his back at the end of Game 5. Lamar Odom averaged 14 points on 48% (36 of 75) shooting but just 2 of 10 (20%) from downtown. Wallace was 90% 9 of 10 at the free-throw line in the last series. Lamar Odom was just 10 of 17 (58%) from the charity stripe. Odom’s 3-point and FT shooting percentages should improve. Wallace’s injury, Odom’s versatility and championship experience give Odom the edge here. Advantage: Lakers
Andrew Bynum vs. Glen Davis & Kendrick Perkins
Lakers 7 footer Andrew Bynum has been limited due to his knee injury. Playing through the pain he gave the Lakers 43 points on 58% shooting (7.2ppg), 34 rebounds, 7 blocks, and six turnovers in 108 minutes of action. The longer he plays, the worse his injury gets. The Lakers shouldn’t expect much more than 8 points, 5 rebounds per game from Bynum in these Finals.
Glen Big Baby Davis also started for the Celtics at center before suffering a concussion in Game 5 from Dwight Howard’s elbow. In 133 minutes of action he scored 47 points (7.8ppg) on 18 of 33 FG 54%, and 11 of 14 FT 78% while collecting 29 rebounds (4.8rpg). Big Baby’s tag-team partner at center is Kendrick Perkins who averaged 4.5 points per game (27 total) on 10 of 25 FG (40%), and 7 of 10 FT 70% to go with 28 rebounds (4.7 rpg), 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block, and 2 turnovers.
A healthy Andrew Bynum would outweigh the Celtics center duo. However, Bynum is a day to day question mark.
Bench Players, Jordan Farmar vs. Nate Robinson
Tiny Nate Robinson only played in 4 games in the Eastern Conference Finals, tallying just 29 minutes. But his Game 6 scoring and defensive intensity helped spark the Celtics past the surging Orlando Magic. 19 points (4.8ppg average) on 6 of 17 (35%) shooting coupled with 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block won’t impress many people. But it shows he can contribute if called upon.
Jordan Farmar played 88 minutes, primarily as back up for Derek Fisher. His 35 points (5.8ppg ave.) on 13 of 25 FG (52%) will be needed against Boston. In Game 6 Farmar hit two crucial shots in the 4th quarter to help the Lakers advance. Farmar shot 56% from down town on 9 of 16 shooting.
Lakers extended bench against Celtics extended bench
The Los Angeles Lakers Sasha Vujacic, Luke Walton, Josh Powell, Didler Llunga-Mbenga combined for just 42 minutes, 16 points on 7 of 15 FG, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 turnovers in the Western Conference Finals.
The Boston Celtics extended bench of Marquis Daniels, Sheldon Williams and former all-star Michael Finley played a total of 50 minutes gaining 8 points on 1 of 6 FG, 6 of 6 FT, with 7 rebounds and 3 turnovers. Michael Finley has the potential to give valuable minutes if called upon for Boston.
Assuming the Lakers didn’t leave Vujacic behind in a dessert out in Phoenix somewhere, after he nearly cost them the Game 6 win, he could contribute something positive if he grows up. Right now the Machine isn’t needed. Luke Walton has the DNA of greatness from his father. When called upon Luke can give the Lakers a defensive spark. Though he is no Kurt Rambis. Lakers bench players are the defending champions.
Coaches: Phil Jackson vs. Doc Rivers
Both men have talked about retiring after this post-season. Neither will. The competitive drive to win and be part of two of the greatest franchises in all of sports will compel them both to return to the sidelines again next season. Doc Rivers can enjoy these Finals a bit more since the pressure to win isn’t as great. The 2008 Celtics Championship broke a dry spell of 20+ years. If he never wins another title, he has done enough to earn the respect of Boston fans for forever. He also has his team in the Finals when few experts thought they would survive against Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Phil Jackson has his 10 rings, but none in the Finals against the Boston Celtics. As it stands now, he could be considered the greatest Lakers coach who didn’t beat the Boston Celtics for a Championship. His Michael Jordan led Chicago Bulls battled through Eastern Conference wars with the Celtics and Pistons. With the Lakers he has the opportunity to avenge the 2008 lost championship and snatch another milestone cigar from Red Aurbach who I’m sure is watching from Celtics heaven. Ring count: Doc -1, Zen Master – 10.
NBA Finals Prediction:
The Boston Celtics franchise is appearing in their 21st NBA Finals, while the Los Angeles Lakers are making their 31st appearance. The ghosts of the old Boston Garden, and Lakers Forum will certainly be present at the Staples Center Thursday night in what will be an epic battle worthy of those in the past.
Lakers win 7 of 9 match-ups of stats.
Series Prediction: Lakers in 7.