We've made it my friends. The last four to seven games of the NBA season. The Lakers hope to repeat as Champions, the Celtics try to win their 2nd in 3 years. It's a rematch, a grudge match, whatever you want to call it, it's going to be good.
Here's what we won't be seeing:
- LeBron vs Kobe to ultimately decide NOT who is the better player (LeBron is), but who can make the shots in crunch time in the NBA's most important stage. What everyone predicted last summer, what almost everyone wanted to see. The two best players in the NBA as close to their primes to make the clash that more epic. Maybe some other time.
- Finals rematch of 2009 between the Lakers and Magic. Still don't know why they let Hedo go. Still don't know why they used that money to overpay Gortat, but whatever.
- The Mavericks star power of Kidd, Nowitzki, Terry, Shawn Marion and Caron Butler (woulda been a bit more special 4 years ago maybe) in the finals. Cuban will beat anyone's advertised price this summer to get a championship!
- The Denver Nuggets in the finals. They were so sure they could beat the Lakers, and who knows if they could have? The Utah Jazz took them out in the first round. I think they really missed George Karl on the sideline. Hopefully he fully recovers from his cancer.
- Everyone else pretty much wasn't thought to make it to the Finals, so what we have is what we have. Another Boston Los Angeles series. I'm excited.
- Kobe will guard Rondo as he has for the past three years, unlike the past three years however, he won't be able to sag off of him giving him an open jumpshot. Rondo has learned that if they give you space, attack that open space in front of you and get fouled or continue on to the layup. Should have been considered for Most Improved Player.
- Artest will guard Paul Pierce.
- Pau Gasol will guard Kevin Garnett. Is it me or is KG taking a lot more jumpshots this year than the last couple years instead of attacking the basket?
- Andrew Bynum will guard Kendrick Perkins. Although, since he's only going to play 20 minutes a game, and Lamar plays starter minutes, I'm predicting most of the defense assignment for KG will go to Lamar, and Pau will guard Perkins.
- This leaves Derek Fisher to guard Ray Allen. Derek did a decent job on Nash, but still got burned plenty of times. He fought through Amare screens to try and disrupt the pick and roll. He'll have to fight through a lot of off ball screens where Ray Allen likes to move without the ball and curl to the basket for open jumpshots. Will Fisher be able to keep up with him?
- Key (only) bench players besides Lamar: Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown, and what I'm predicting, DJ Mbenga. Boston has a bench Sheed and Glen Davis to go along with Kendrick Perkins. None of the Lakers' opponents so far have had this many bigs (Oklahoma with only Ibaka and Collison, Utah with Boozer and Millsap, Phoenix with Amare and Robin Lopez). Maybe Josh Powell will be called upon for more than 1-2 minutes as well.
- Kendrick Perkins will guard Andrew Bynum. As I said before, Bynum only plays 20 minutes a game with that torn meniscus, giving Lamar Odom the starter minutes. I'm predicting when Bynum goes out and Pau is the center, they put Perkins on Pau and KG on Lamar. Until that happens though,
- KG will guard Pau.
- Ray Allen will guard Kobe. Pierce will also have his opportunities against Kobe, but for the most part in recent history Allen takes on the challenge of guarding Kobe.
- Paul Pierce will guard Artest. What I'm predicting is that the Celtics will do what the Thunder, Jazz and Suns did and leave Artest wide open at the 3 point line to double Kobe or Pau. Unlike those three teams, it is second nature to rotate defensively when either player passes out of that double team. So if Artest gets hot like he did in game 6 of the Phoenix series, Boston will adjust.
- Rondo will guard Derek Fisher. Derek Fisher's been hitting shots and playing a lot better than he has in the regular season. But so is Rondo. And he's first team all defense. I'm expecting to see Fisher relegate ball handling duties to Lamar and Kobe for most of the possessions.
- Boston (compared to 2008 against Los Angeles): Take away Eddie House's 3 point shooting and James Posey's 3 point shooting and defense, Leon Powe's spark off the bench. PJ Brown's interior defense. Add Rasheed Wallace's 3 point shooting and interior presence, Nate Robinson's quickness, Rondo's growth into a franchise player. (Photo from nba.com)
- Los Angeles (compared to last year against Orlando): Take away Trevor Ariza's defense and 3 point shooting, Bynum's health. Add Ron Artest's defense.
What Boston needs to do to win is continue to play how they've been playing. They play great defense and get great bench production from Tony Allen and Glen Davis, and most recently Rasheed Wallace. Rondo needs to continue to play hyper basketball, simply outworking opponents coupled with talent and amazing court vision, he'll run away with the Finals MVP should the Celtics win.
What Los Angeles needs to do to win is focus on their defensive rotations and Ron Artest needs to hit his open 3 pointers. Kobe and Pau will be double teamed. I guaransheed it. Ron Artest will be left wide open at the 3 point line, it's up to him to make the shot or at least drive it in. Kobe needs to continue to play his game. He's spreading the ball, constantly looking for Pau, and when it's needed (such as in game 6), taking over offensively. Kobe will win the Finals MVP should the Lakers win, but if Pau plays great, he could take it as well.
(Photo from InsideSocal)
Whoever wins, this is going to be a great series and you all need to watch all the games, tivo them, and watch them again and again all summer until next season comes. LeBron's tagline is "We are all witnesses." Yes we are all witnesses but right now, we are witnessing one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports. We are witnessing one of the greatest ever, Kobe Bryant put on amazing performances with incredible shot after incredible shot. We are witnessing Rajon Rondo on the cusp of being one of the top players in the league. The Finals is where legends are made and Rondo is close, if not already there. June 3rd: 9PM eastern, 6PM pacific on ABC. I CAN'T WAIT.