This year’s NBA Finals are one of the most anticipated in recent NBA history. Boston-L.A. has it all: a storied tradition, big-time star power and the league’s most bitter rivalry.
We’re going out on a limb and calling the Lakers in five. And here are five reasons why:
» A better Big Three: There is no more talented threesome in the league than the Celtics’ Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. They have combined to play in 24 All-Star Games and each already has reserved a place in the annals of NBA history.
But basketball is a team game and that’s why the edge goes to Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. That’s not to say any of the Celtics’ trio is selfish or that they don’t share the ball well enough.
No, this is simply about the Lakers’ Big Three having better chemistry, more cohesion and a better understanding of how to play off of each other. When the Lakers need a bucket, they know where they’re going … to Bryant.
But the pecking order in Boston is less-defined. Garnett is Boston’s best player, yet they are more likely to hand it over to Pierce when it matters. As for Allen, he heads into his first NBA Finals looking a little bit lost.
» Experience: Garnett, Pierce and Allen all have playoff experience under their belts, but the Finals are a different animal. And each of those players is making their championship series debut.
Fisher, of course, is a role player, but he’s always found a way to come up big in important situations.
» Paying the price for Rondo: Rajon Rondo has done everything the Celtics have asked of him this season. Rondo is not a true point guard, but he has done an admirable job of running the team.
But at some point in this series, coach Phil Jackson and the Lakers are going to exploit the second-year guard who has been given too much responsibility.
» Inside factor: The Celtics have yet to see a team in the playoffs with as formidable a frontcourt as the Lakers. Gasol and Odom are long and skilled and figure to keep Garnett busy on both ends of the floor.
The Celtics have yet to play against a low-post player as good as Gasol in the playoffs. In fact, when it comes to offensive presences in the low post, the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons (Boston’s playoff opponents) don’t really have one.
» Mismatch on the sideline: You can certainly make the case that Jackson has been the most fortunate of NBA coaches, lucky enough to have guided teams that boasted Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Bryant.
But nine NBA titles count for something and so does hiscalm, in-control sideline demeanor. Doc Rivers is in uncharted waters. When the Celtics barely snuck by the
37-win Hawks in Round 1, it was the first time a Rivers-coached team had advanced to the second round.