Celtics. Lakers. It’s a rivalry that we’ve seen time and time again in the NBA Finals – 12 times to be exact. These two clubs combine for more than half the league’s titles, with Celtics winning 17 times and Lakers clinching the trophy 16 times. While this year’s rivalry is no Bird vs. Magic, it’s still a classic matchup. As we head into the series, it’s time to break down both teams by position and predict the winner.
PG: Rajon Rondo vs. Derek Fisher
When Fisher goes to shake Rondo’s hands before tip-off he’ll surely recognize that alien-esque face from two finals ago. But when the lights dim and the action is in full swing, he will swear that a completely different animal now inhabits Rondo’s body. As I pointed out earlier, Rondo has become the most valuable asset on a team that includes three future Hall-of-Fame candidates. Scary.
SG: Ray Allen vs. Kobe Bryant
Like Kobe Bryant, Allen can light it up from anywhere on the court. And like Bryant, he can be a pesky defender when he commits to it. Unfortunately for Celtics fans, anything Ray Ray can do, Kobe can do better. Jesus Shuttlesworth is a great competitor, but Bryant is monumentally and epically better on both ends of the court.
SF: Paul Pierce vs. Ron Artest
Paul Pierce may have seemed elusive when Boston faced Cleveland in the conference semis, but that’s largely because he spent his energy chasing LeBron around the court. Ron Ron is not nearly the offensive threat that Bron is, so Pierce will have enough energy to set the court ablaze. He has that rare ability to take over a game in clutch situations. Artest will need every trick in the book to keep The Truth in check. If all else fails, Ron can always always reenact this trick.
PF: Kevin Garnett vs. Pau Gasol
Two years ago I would’ve given KG the edge in this rivalry. Unfortunately, he’s been ravaged by injuries and is now playing on the knees of a 67-year old woman. Gasol, on the other hand, has elevated his game since that Finals blowout. KG’s leadership on defense is still a key part of the C’s success recipe. Plus, he’s an intimidating figure on the court. I know Phil told his players to step up and draw charges, but don’t be surprised if Gasol runs the other way when he sees Garnett charging at him full force.
C: Kendrick Perkins vs. Andrew Bynum
This matchup really comes down to low-post defense, since neither of these guys is an offensive powerhouse. That said, Andrew Bynum is averaging 10 Pts/8 Rebs on one knee while playing a measly 24 minutes. Perkins is a basketball beast who plays like an NFL lineman and I would love to have a guy like that on my team. There’s something scary and intimidating about Perkins. He always gets too angry and has this look like he’s going to eat one of the refs if a call doesn’t go his way. This means he’ll definitely pick up that 7th technical and one-game suspension at some point in this series.
This is going to be an evenly matched up series. Celtics may look older but they haven’t played like it. In fact, you could argue that this team is defensively superior to the 2008 Celtics. With Rondo’s emergence and a deeper bench, it’ll take max level performance from L.A. to win this one.
And Phil Jackson knows what he’s going up against. Maybe that’s why he’s calling on his thin-chested bigs to take charge. Literally. Phil’s elected to pay each player $50 per charge taken. This might work out in Boston’s favor, since it’s the only way to guarantee Luke Walton (L.A.’s best charge taker) some playing time.
Seriously, count me among those who believe that Kobe Bryant is still the best player in the Association. Two or three years from now that title will undoubtedly go to LeBron, but Kobe is still the all-around better player right now. He’s as focused and as hungry as ever going into the finals. When it’s all said and done, Kobe could easily be staring at 6 or 7 rings. Then some ESPN talking head will ask whether this means that Kobe Bryant is better than Michael Jordan. I will then throw a shoe at my TV and yell, “Winning more bling than Jordan doesn’t automatically make you better than Jordan! MJ was Finals MVP all 6 times when he won those rings! All 6 times!!”
Prediction: Lakers in 7
Who will win the NBA Finals?
- Lakers (64%, 48 Votes)
- Celtics (36%, 28 Votes)
Total Voters: 75