Saturday, May 31, 2008

NBA Finals Preview

With the seemingly inevitable matchup of Lakers- Celtics now all wrapped up with the Celtics victory Friday night, I will now take a look at the match up of these two teams.

Point Guard: These two teams match up fairly well in this area. On the Celtics side you have the athleticism and youth of Rondo combined with the big game experience of wily veteran Sam Cassell. On the Lakers side you have the veteran Derek Fisher who has 3 championship rings to his credit, and you have the young Jordan Farmar who provides instant offense off the bench. In this area I give the Lakers the advantage because with Fisher (the starter) you know what you are getting with him. You are getting someone who runs the offense like it is supposed to be run, and is a very good spot up shooter. With him, what you see is what you get. Farmar provides scoring and playmaking off the bench. When he's going well it is a major plus for the Lakers.

On Boston's side of the coin you have Rajon Rondo. While Rondo is a good defensive player with good physical attributes ranging from top notch quickness and long arms, he is often maddeningly inconsistent and often makes bad decisions. He often plays undisciplined, has a very limited jump shot and altogether offensively provides no threat on the court. Cassell has had a shaky playoff run, but can warm up at any given time. He also has a wealth of playoff experience, and that helps.


Shooting guard: Kobe is the best player in the NBA. There isn't a single person in the NBA, that Boston could have on their team that would give them the advantage at the 2 spot. That being said, Ray Allen is no slouch. Although Allen has struggled in the post season, he still is arguably one of the best shooters in the history of the NBA and can score with the best of them. While Allen certainly will not be guarding Kobe, Kobe will probably be guarding him. It is important for Allen to make Bryant work defensively, and for Rivers to get Allen involved in the game by calling plays for him. Bryant will get his but it is imperative that Boston makes life as difficult as possible for him.


Small Forward: Paul Pierce has been waiting ten years for this moment, an NBA Finals as a Boston Celtic. Finally, his moment has arrived. He is the heart and soul of this Boston team, the straw that makes the Celtic drink stir. He is the best player on this team, and played an instrumental role in getting them here.

On the other side you have the combination of Luke Walton and Vladimir Radmanovic. Luke Walton has a variety of different skills. He can shoot the ball, he is a good passer and his defensive skills are underrated. He is also a very heady player, as he always seems to do the right thing on the court. Vladimir Radmanovic brings outside shooting whenever he is on the court. He doesn't bring much else, but he doesn't have to as his role on the team is that of a sharpshooter. Walton/Vlad is a productive combo that can hold their own on the court, but Pierce is near the top of the class in the NBA.


Power Forward: This is the most intriguing matchup of the entire series as you have the Defensive Player Of The Year, Kevin Garnett, going up against one of the most talented players in the NBA, LaMar Odom. LaMar's play could be a determining factor in the series. He is known to be wildly inconsistent as sometimes he can look like an upper echelon player, then at others look like he has never played basketball in his life.

Kevin Garnett is a top power forward in this league as he is excellent on both ends of the floor. He can post you up, even though I'd like to see a lot more of that in this series from him, he can take it outside and of course his length and athleticism all make him great offensively as well as defensively. LaMar Odom is a great rebounder, a decent scorer, has excellent handle and poses match up problems for most people. While Garnett has the advantage in this area, it would not surprise me to see Odom raise his game a notch and make this even.


Center: While on paper this matchup is completely lopsided as you have an All Pro caliber talent in Pau Gasol going up against a fringe starter in Kendrick Perkins, it isn't as lopsided as you would think. Gasol is a very skilled big man offensively. He can pass, he can shoot, he can attack the basket. There isn't much that Gasol can't do offensively. For the most part defensively, Gasol struggles. I think Perkins will give him problems on the low post both offensively and defensively. Gasol isn't the toughest hombre around, so Perkins physical play on the low post will give him some problems. Perkins defense on Gasol is another key in this series


Coaching: Phil Jackson has 9 titles. He is arguably the best coach in the NBA. Doc Rivers is a poor strategist but a great motivator. He is basketball's Herman Edwards.


Keys to the series:

-Kobe Bryant's defense on either Ray Allen or Paul Pierce- If Kobe can neutralize one of those guys, it forces points to come from another source. Who would that be?

-Perkins low post defense on Gasol- Perkins can rattle Gasol with his physicality, but Gasol has incredible skill for a man his size.

- Ray Allen actually getting plays called for him, getting him into the flow- You would think this is self explanatory but then you remember that Doc Rivers is the Celtics coach.

- Rondo playing under control- Even though you wonder if this is possible, if Rondo plays controlled basketball the Celtics will be VERY tough to beat.

PREDICTION: Although I truly feel that from top to bottom the Celtics are the better team, the fact that the coaching match up is completely lopsided in favor of the Lakers, and the fact that the Lakers have the best player in the NBA on their side makes me go with the Lakers.

Lakers in 6

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