NBA Finals Preview: Lakers v. Celtics

IS THIS GONNA PREVIEW THE CONFERENCE FINALS, TOO? About that…

WHA’ HAPPENED? I was busy. I was gonna say Lakers in 6 and Magic in 7. So I nailed one!

YEAH, EASY TO SAY NOW. YOU WERE ALL OVER THAT PHOENIX BANDWAGON LAST TIME WE CHATTED! What? Me? Defend that claim!

WELL, YOU SAID YOU DIDN’T THINK THE LAKERS WOULD REPEAT: That’s not exactly being “all over that Phoenix bandwagon.” To be fair, I was considering picking the Suns to beat the Lakers, but then I talked to someone who watches a fair amount of the NBA (you know, more than a handful of minutes a week, like me), and she said something along the lines of, “Really? You do know Amar’e Stoudemire doesn’t play defense, right? We’ll kill them. I am not concerned with the Suns.” (This person was a Lakers’ fan, thus the first-person.)

I HAVE A QUESTION FOR YOU: YOU JUST CAME OUT AND SAID THAT THIS FEMALE FRIEND OF YOURS WATCHES FAR MORE OF THE NBA THAN YOU DO, BUT I BET YOU THAT YOU WATCH FAR MORE OF THE WNBA THAN SHE DOES. That’s not a question.

IS IT TRUE? No comment.

AND ABOUT THOSE CELTICS? Yeah, thanks for laying off me about that for 200 words.

AFTER RIPPING THEM APART TWICE, YOU EXPECT ME TO BELIEVE YOU PICKED THE MAGIC TO WIN IN SEVEN? I had bought in–begrudgingly, obvs–to Boston giving Orlando trouble. The C’s did after all force them to 7 last season. I thought it would be a series similar to that one. I was wrong, John Locke-at-the-end-of-Season-Two style.

CAN WE HAVE ONE POST ON THIS BLOG THAT DOESN’T ALLUDE TO LOST? Maybe in another life, brotha.

ARE YOU EXCITED FOR THIS SERIES AT LEAST? God, no.

REALLY? NOT AT ALL? We’re gonna get all this crap about the Celtics-Lakers rivalry, but I don’t buy this as any kind of renewal of that. I don’t know exactly why this is. Whenever the Yankees and Red Sox play in an ALCS, I get more pumped for it than otherwise because of the ongoing rivalry. This feels different to me.

ISN’T IT JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT FROM BOSTON OR LA? Seems possible. It could also be that this was arguably the NBA’s greatest rivalry, and then the teams went and had two decades without a meaningful game. It’s not as if I was particularly revved for the Mets and Cardinals in ’06, even after those teams had a great rivalry in the ‘80s and had met in the NLCS in 2000. It is very tough to rejuvenate a rivalry after a long period of dormancy.

BUT THIS IS THE SECOND TIME THEY’VE MET IN THE FINALS IN THREE SEASONS: Would a Lakers-Magic rematch have been considered a new rivalry? Pistons-Heat after back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals? Please, this is all about the ‘80s.

I THOUGHT THAT WAS A SUBPAR EFFORT BY STEPHEN MARCHE. Well that’s something we can agree on.

DON’T YOU FEEL KIND OF STUPID THESE DAYS TO NOT MENTION RAJON RONDO EXTENSIVELY IN YOUR “AMERICAN POINT GUARD RENAISSANCE” PIECE? Although I may not have mentioned him “extensively,” I did write, “Rondo is the closest thing this next generation will get to Kidd—a triple-double machine who doesn’t run the fast break as well as Kidd but who shoots better.” If your point is that Rondo is better than Paul or Williams, well that I just don’t buy.

HE’S BEEN THE BEST PLAYER THROUGHOUT THE PLAYOFFS FOR A FINALIST! AND HE’S NOT AS GOOD AS TWO GUYS WHO HAVE NEVER GOTTEN THERE? Hello, supporting cast? Rondo is playing with a Big Three that was good enough to win a title two years ago. If you’re telling me the Celtics would balk at the idea of trading Rondo for either of those guys (for a reason that isn’t Paul’s injury), you’re wrong. With either of those two running the show, the Celtics are a No. 1 seed in the East, they have home court in this series, and they’re favored to win.

ARE YOU IMPRESSED BY RAJON RONDO AT ALL? Of course. He’s been much better than I realized and clearly Boston’s best player during this playoff run. He is probably the fourth best point guard in basketball behind Paul, Williams, and Nash.

WHAT’S YOUR BIGGEST QUALM WITH THIS SERIES? The message it sends about the NBA regular season. Look, we all know that the regular season doesn’t much matter. But even teams that mail it in and plan to turn it on during the playoffs don’t do it as badly as these teams. Boston went 25-24 after its good start; LA finished the year 11-10.

EHH…LIKE YOU SAID, IT ISN’T LIKE THE REGULAR SEASON WAS A BIG DEAL TO BEGIN WITH: It bothers me that we’ve got a whole system in place to prevent tanking for draft picks in the regular season as if the end of the regular season had this kind of dignity to it to begin with.

OOH, THE BITTER NETS’ FAN IN YOU COMES OUT! I really wanted John Wall. And only 25 percent odds for a team that actually played its heart out night after night? Seems unfair to me.

SO, YOU WANT THEM TO GET RID OF THE DRAFT LOTTERY? I want them to give the regular season meaning. And, when one team is so clearly inferior to every other team in the league, get rid of the draft lottery.

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME A FOUR-SEED GOT TO THE FINALS? The Mavs in 2006 were a four, as were the Sonics way back in 1978. The last four-seed from the East? The 1969 Boston Celtics. And who did they beat in the Finals? The LA Lakers. They’re also the last four to win the championship and the second-lowest seed to ever win it, behind only the ’95 Rockets (6).

DESTINY! This is how we all hoped the 41-year anniversary of the Celtics’ 1969 title team would be celebrated…

YOU WANNA GET INTO THE 2010 FINALS? Oh, right. This isn’t just a chance for me to pontificate about history and what’s wrong with the NBA (did you see that second T on Kendrick Perkins by the way?). Let’s attempt some analysis.

I think this is going to be, for people who are into it and all, a good series. I have higher expectations for it than I did in 2008, when I of course assumed the Lakers would win. In fact, I think this is going to be the best Finals series since 2005’s Spurs-Pistons bout that went seven. As such, I could see homecourt and the Lakers’ 42-7 record at the Staples Center this season coming into play.

On the court, I wonder if Paul Pierce can repeat what he did to Kobe two years ago. I wonder if the Lakers will stick Ron Artest on Rondo at any point in the series (and if Fisher can take Ray Allen in those spurts). I wonder if, if Artest does take Rondo and proves to be the difference maker, he will make whoever is ESPN’s sideline reporter these days say, “Queensbridge!” I wonder if Perkins, Garnett, and Glen Davis can bully Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol on the block. I wonder if Pierce really thinks he can get off a right-elbow jumper in the final seconds of another close game. I wonder if Doc Rivers can actually beat Phil Jackson twice in the Finals.

NICE WAY TO DANCE AROUND ANY SUBSTANTIVE ANALYSIS: Thanks!

AND PREDICTION TIME: Like I said a bit earlier, I think home-court advantage is big in this series, and the Lakers don’t lose at home. When you add in the 2-3-2 format–really NBA? You take three days off between games in the Conference Finals but you can’t splurge for the extra day of cross-country travel for the Finals yet?–I doubt Boston can win the likely two games at the Staples Center it will need to (teams rarely sweep Games 3-5 at home; if I remember correctly, only Detroit in ’04 and Miami in ’06 swung that. Plus, the Celtics have lost at home in each of the last two series).

And what have the Lakers proven time and again this postseason? They win close games. They won a few tight ones with Oklahoma City and won the one close one they needed to against Utah and Phoenix. Game on the line, there’s no player–and thus no team–I trust more than Kobe and the Lakers to score. Lakers repeat in 6.

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One response to this post.

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