Here we are again. The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers will meet again to determine the NBA Championship. They have met 11 times in the Finals and all but two of those series have gone at least six games. This should be an exciting and grueling series. In an era where true rivalries are hard to find, the Lakers and Celtics still shines bright.
Here is a position by position preview of the 2010 NBA Finals. Who has the edge?
Point Guard | Rajon Rondo vs. Derek Fisher
Derek Fisher is a Finals veteran and has been a part of every Lakers championship team since 2000. He is second only to Ray Allen in NBA Finals three point shooting at 46.1%. He has hit clutch shots in the playoffs time and time again (we all remember the 0.4 second shot vs. San Antonio). This battle, however, goes to Rondo. He sure has become a great point guard. He can run the fast break. He can run the half-court set. He is a much improved jump shooter, shooting 7 for 18 from downtown this playoffs. He is great dishing the ball from the drive and he will be all Fisher can handle in this series. Defensively, Rondo is one of the league’s top players, tenacious out on the perimeter. He led the league in steals and made the All-NBA Defensive First Team. Rondo is an all around great guard.
Shooting Guard | Ray Allen vs. Kobe Bryant
Bryant. Best player in the NBA hands down. He closes like no other since His Airness and can drop 30 a game if necessary as well as play lockd own defense. Ray Allen, however, is lethal from long range and the Lakers cannot give him time or he will light them up with his quick release. You ever notice how whenever the Celtics are on a big run and need that one shot to blow the game open and demoralize their opponents, it’s Ray Allen who sends the Garden into a frenzy. Me too.
Small Forward | Paul Pierce vs. Ron Artest
This is a great match-up. Both players have great size and athleticism. Artest is one of the league’s top defenders and his ability to neutralize Pierce will be pivotal this series. Pierce brings intensity every night and is a very consistent scorer. Artest can drop 25 if he is feeling it one night but he is not the scorer he was back in Indiana. In the end I go Pierce because he is more likely to have a 40 point night to carry his team than Artest (ironic because Artest hit the game-winning shot in Game 5 for L.A.). This series however, his points will not come easy by any means. He will see a whole lot of Kobe and Ron and that means tough, physical play against players who can match his size.
Slight Advantage: Celtics
Power Forward | Kevin Garnett vs. Pau Gasol
Another stellar match-up. Garnett, the defensive animal against Gasol, who will give you near 20 and 10 a night. I tend to lean towards Garnett in this match-up because he loves tough pyhysical play whereas Gasol is a finesse player but there are questions about Garnett’s health and it’s effect on his ability to score. He only managed 10 points in the Game 6 win over Orlando and that won’t cut it vs. a superior Los Angeles squad. If Garnett’s knees are alright after this extra rest period, I’ll take him in this bout but if not, I’ll take Gasol. Garnett will be sure, regardless, to bring the intensity each and every night.
Center | Kendrick Perkins vs. Andrew Bynum
Bynum is better offensively. Perkins is Boston’s best interior defender and his defense against Gasol and Odom is critical for Boston. I’ll go Bynum because of his size. If he man’s up he’ll have the bigger impact but that’s IF he man’s up. That remains to be seen.
Bench | Celtics vs. Lakers
Rasheed Wallace and Lamar Odom highlight their respective benches. Defense, though, wins championships and that’s why I take the Celtics bench here.
Coaching | Phil Jackson vs. Doc Rivers
Home Court Advantage | Celtics vs. Lakers
Staples Center is star-studded but it lacks the heart of the Garden. Plus, nothing tops the Beat L.A. chant.
Final Prediction: It will be a long, grueling series and Kobe will want to erase memories of 2008 but Boston’s defense, I believe, will prevail here. I’ll take the Celtics in six, finishing it in L.A., albeit not with a near 40 point blowout this time around. Kobe, however, could very well have the last say and I wouldn’t be surprised if he single-handedly won the series for the Lakers. I expect 30 a night from him regardless. In all honesty, it’s a toss up but for the sake of sounding confident, Boston in six very close games.
Most likely: Celtics in six
Less likely: Lakers in seven
Sources: NBA.com, ESPN, basketball-reference.com