* The Celtics will complain for the rest of eternity that Kendrick Perkins didn’t play in game seven. Newsflash! Perkins wouldn’t prevent 23 offensive rebounds. He’s not Bill Russell or Wilt Chamberlain. Hell, he’s not even Dennis Rodman.
And remember, Rasheed Wallace gave the C’s much-needed offense. With Perkins it’s like playing four on five. Try getting the ball in the hoop like that. Boston gave the ball to Wallace in the post consistently. Wallace, the man with the most ejections in NBA history, scored the Celtics’ first bucket. All night he kicked the ball out of the post and ended up with 11 points.
Perkins can’t come close to doing that on offense. Wallace can at least come close to doing Perkins’ dirty work on defense.
* Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he thinks Wallace has played his last game. Before game seven Wallace told Rivers that he planned on retiring. Several sources have confirmed that statement.
If this is true, the career of the enigmatic and energetic Wallace will be a serious loss for the league. Supremely talented and short tempered, Wallace won a title with the Detroit Pistons in 2004. His erratic antics didn’t earn him favors from the referees, who had no trouble whistling him for technicals.
For years he was one of the league leaders in this category, getting nailed for more than 306 technical fouls during his career.
Wallace had the ability to be one of the most talented players in the league. His dangerous post-up game and shooting range stretched the floor, causing numerous match-up problems, even with big men.
Good luck, Rasheed. You were an interesting character.
* Viewers tuned in to the NBA finals. The largest sporting event is the Super Bowl, but that’s one day. ABC and the NBA got their money’s worth.
A seven-game series in the NBA finals is rare and with a throwback series between the Lakers and Celtics you knew there would be butts in front of TVs.
An estimated 28.2 million people watched game seven which pales in comparison to Super Bowl XLIV’s gargantuan audience: more than 106 million, the most watched event in U.S. television history, surpassing even the “M-A-S-H” series finale in 1983.
While the ratings combined don’t quite measure up to the Super Bowl, it was a ratings victory for the NBA. This year’s championship clincher was the highest watched game since Michael Jordan won his last championship in 1998.
Two weeks worth of viewers coupled with hefty advertising means big bucks. The ratings can never match the might of one Super Bowl, but seven games can at least sniff the ratings title of the king of sports.
* Had the Lakers not won a championship the blame would have been on Ron Artest.
The only major change to this year’s roster, Artest, in place of the lanky Trevor Ariza, looked like a bust until the playoffs started.
Artest’s shooting was erratic, clanging open shots all season long and through the first two rounds of the playoffs. But his defense was stout during all of this. And he found his shooting touch against Phoenix.
In game seven against the Celtics, Artest carried the Lakers through three quarters. At one point he was the game’s leading scorer. Late in the fourth quarter he hit a three-point shot that gave the Lakers a cushion to hold off Boston.
Artest played with exceptional high school players in his younger days. Now he has joined Lamar Odom as the only player to win an NBA title from those years. He had played with Elton Brand, Brendan Haywood, Erick Barkley and Speedy Claxton.
Now he’s a champion instead of the goat many people thought he was the entire season.
* What team did WNBA star Candace Parker root for in the NBA finals? The Los Angeles Sparks NBA counterpart, the Lakers, or the Celtics, the team her husband, Sheldon Williams, plays for? The team that plays in her home arena or the breadwinner in the family?
Wait, is he the breadwinner? Actually, he is. Despite being a scrub in the NBA, Williams’ paycheck is much fatter than the female superstar. Parker, one of the most popular players in the WNBA makes $44,000 while Williams, an NBA journeyman, earns more than $800,000.
Conventional wisdom says she was pulling for hubs. But the Lakers winning must help the Sparks, right? Maybe? Who knows? It can’t hurt.
With low pay such as that how does the WNBA keep operating? The financial backing of the big brother NBA, that’s how.
* Kobe Bryant was asked what does winning a fifth championship mean?
“I got one more than Shaq,” Bryant said. “You can take that to the bank.”
Obviously, Kobe hasn’t gotten over the Shaquille O’Neal feud. Bryant and his teammate, Derek Fisher, have the most championships among active players.
At this point in their careers it is unlikely Shaq can catch Kobe. The Black Mamba is still playing at a high level and Pau Gasol is there to help with the heavy lifting.
Kobe’s earned the right to talk trash.
After all, it was Shaq who started the juvenile hijinks in 2008 after the Lakers got housed by the Celtics.
Boston made Los Angeles look silly, especially Bryant who looked, well, human, against the Celtics’ stingy defense.
After the NBA finals that year, Shaq ripped into Bryant, grabbing a microphone at a party and taunting his former running mate. “Kobe, tell me how my ass tastes,” Shaq dissed over and over.
After Kobe’s most recent jab, Shaq took it like a champ, updating his Twitter with this response: “Congratulations Kobe, u deserve it. U played great. Enjoy it man enjoy it. I know what ur sayin ‘Shaq how my ass taste.’”
The former Shaqtus, Man of Steel and three-time NBA finals MVP is taking it in stride. Good for him.
* The end of the veteran, gritty Celtics could be near. Rivers has announced he will be back, but the Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce will only slow with age. Allen is a free agent and Pierce has opted out of his contract
General Manager Danny Ainge may gut the team that has been to the championship round two out of the last three years.
Boston’s run to the finals this year was improbable. As talented as Rajon Rondo is, another run seems almost impossible.
The Celtics craze will die down, but their resurrection literally came out of nowhere. Before KG and Jesus Shuttlesworth came on board they stunk. Certified losers.
Ainge pulled a rabbit out of his hat and with the right role players they went from being in the lottery to winning a championship.
Any GM would take that.
* Poor, poor Los Angeles Lakers. After having the highest payroll in the league the higher-ups are complaining that they are spending too much.
So instead of signing players, taking care of coach Phil Jackson and just basically ensuring that they are on track to win another title they are tightening belts.
Perhaps Odom will be moved. They might downgrade in the backcourt. A new coach could be on the sidelines (some of that has to do with health).
It doesn’t look good, Lakers fans.
After all, what an awful scenario for a franchise to have: they just won back-to-back titles and the dire money situation is that the Lakers only made $15 million to $20 million.
That’s right, during a recession this kind of cash was made. Every team in the NBA would love to win a championship while “only” netting $15 million to $20 million. Grow up, Lakers management.
Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street” said greed is good, but this is ridiculous.
When Boston comes back to Los Angeles to try to clinch the NBA finals there is a chance for victory. Sure, the Lakers have a tremendous record at home. They almost set an NBA playoff record for most consecutive wins at home.
But don’t attribute that to the fantastic crowd. Had they been playing in a neutral court similar results may have taken place.
This wasn’t always the case for the purple and gold. During the creaky Great Western Forum days (that dump was once state of the art) fans howled in unison at Showtime. Magic, Kareem and James Worthy kept the crowd involved all game long.
At one time Staples Center harnessed great Lakers energy. When it first opened, fans were treated to three straight championships. Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and whoever the other three players on the court were amazed the fans.
They were loud. Very loud, especially when the Lakers needed the noise the most: game seven of the 2000 Western conference finals against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Real Lakers fans will remember this game. Before the tip-off the crowd was up. They chanted defense on the opening possession. Loudly. And they needed it against Portland, one of the most loaded teams never to win a championship. That team was so stacked their second unit probably could have won 50 games.
Their roster consisted of ballers such as Scottie Pippen, Rasheed Wallace, Steve Smith, Damon Stoudemire, Brian Grant, Arvydas Sabonis, Greg Anthony, Bonzi Wells, Stacey Augmon and Detlef Schrempf. A young Jermaine O’Neal was also on that team and he wasn’t even in the rotation.
In that game seven, Portland had a 16-point lead in the third quarter. The Staples crowd kept the faith, the Lakers tightened up on D, Portland went almost eight minutes without a point in the fourth quarter and Los Angeles came back.
That game finished with one of the most iconic plays in NBA history as Kobe beat Pippen off the dribble and alley-ooped a pass to Shaq for one of those demoralizing dunks.
The crowd throughout all of this stayed strong. After Shaq’s dunk they went into a ridiculous frenzy. Can the Staples Center crowd do the same for game six and maybe, game seven against the Celtics?
It seems as if the Staples Center ticketholders are growing more timid with each year. How can this be? The Lakers have the most talent in the league led by Kobe and the Spanish Jesus, Pau Gasol. They’ve played in three straight NBA finals. They won four championships in the last decade.
The almighty dollar has silenced Lakers fans. Only the rich or the truly lucky or truly stupid can afford to go to Lakers games. Insane ticket prices keep the real fans out.
So who gets in? Celebrities who are more concerned with getting on camera. Whoever has the newest movie, E from Entourage and the Kardashians. Only Kim deserves courtside seats. Corporate types. Businessmen who wear suits to work every day. People who live off mommy and daddy’s money.
Are these the guys who should be cheering for the Lakers to defeat the hated Celtics? Is this who the Lakers want when they have their backs to the walls and must win two home games in a row?
These fakers are no better than the bandwagoners who update their sudden love for the Lakers on Facebook (which happen to begin around playoff time), go to bars and rock their brand-new Lakers gear.
They claim to be fans but can’t even remember the lean Randy Pfund years, the angst of losing to the Celtics for decades or even a rough East Coast trip this season.
This is the time Staples Center needs to support the Lakers the most. Look at the Boston crowd. They’re jacked well before the game starts. The Los Angeles crowd, they don’t seem to give a damn, and if that’s the case they will be rewarded with another Celtics championship on the Lakers home floor.
The Boston Celtics have gone back in time. Two years to be exact. Somehow, two players — power forward Glen “Big Baby” Davis and point guard Nate Robinson — have got a hold of plutonium and used it to power “Doc” Brown’s DeLorean.
Rather than going to the future and buying a sports almanac like Biff, these two have gone to the past and witnessed what it takes to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA finals.
What they saw was a perfect formula; somehow, they have recreated the circumstances of 2008 by getting back to the future without the use of lightning or the speed of a train. Former Celtics P.J. Brown and James Posey killed the Lakers off the bench.
The DeLorean doesn’t have enough room for four large NBA players (well, Robinson’s only 5-foot-8) so Big Baby and the three-time Slam Dunk Contest champion came back by themselves. And they have recreated Brown and Posey’s play.
In 2008 Brown banged bodies, grabbed rebounds and scored in the paint. Big Baby has done the same thing and stomped the Lakers in the Celtics’ 96-89 game four victory. He scored 18 points on seven for 10 shooting.
Posey nailed three pointers and provided a great spark off the bench. Robinson doesn’t play the same type of lockdown defense, but his spark is just as lively. His drives to the basket and accurate outside shooting helped the C’s pull away from a close game. He scored 12 points in game four.
Somehow, Boston received the good fortune of not having to contend with the Lakers’ Andrew Bynum. The seven-footer played only 12 minutes and none in the fourth quarter. Without his presence, the C’s attacked the basket and all of a sudden the Lakers were dangerously thin up front.
What will happen in game five? The winner will be in the driver’s seat to clinch the series with a three-games-to-two lead.
Unless the Celtics luck out with some more plutonium, it is unlikely they’ll get 30 points off the bench from only two players. At this point, only “Doc” Brown (and maybe Marty McFly) knows. He could go to the future, check out the game five results and let everybody know.
Does Andrew Bynum bounce back and play? Does Paul Pierce finally come through in the clutch? Do any other Lakers help out Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol? Does Celtics coach Doc Rivers have any more complaints about the officiating?
Then again, Biff knows too because of that sports almanac, but he’s probably too busy to divulge secrets. Good luck, Biff. Even with that almanac this series has been so competitive, it wouldn’t be a surprise if those pages were wrong.
For the Los Angeles Lakers, it was Kobe Bryant. He scored 29 points, but struggled from the field (10 out of 29). He also had seven rebounds and four assists. Bryant continually saved the Lakers, swishing buckets late in the shot clock.
But he needed help in the Lakers’ 91-84 win.
It came in the form of Derek Fisher. The Lakers’ 35-year-old starting point guard, often matched up against lightning quick, young guards, helped the Black Mamba just enough.
Well, more than enough as Bryant scored just four points in the fourth quarter leaving D-Fish to pick it up. Fisher came through with 16 points, 11 of them in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t a groundbreaking game at all, but someone else needed to shoulder the scoring load.
If Kobe was the superhero, Fisher helped some. He was Robin to Kobe’s Batman. See, Robin’s important too.
“I’m always excited for him when he does it,” Bryant said. “He’s been criticized quite a bit for his age. It’s a huge thrill for him and for all of us to see him come through in these moments. But truthfully, he’s done it over and over and over again. It’s almost his responsibility to our team to do these things.”
Points came at a premium as both teams went through dry spells. Fisher, however, was hot in the fourth. He shot five for seven and sealed the game with a three-point play by driving to the basket where three Celtics hammered him. The play stretched the Lakers’ lead to seven points with 48 seconds left to play.
“He won the game for them,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “Derek Fisher was the difference in the game. He’s just a gutty, gritty player and he gutted the game out for them. I thought Kobe was struggling a little bit, and Fisher — he basically took the game over. I don’t know what he had in the fourth quarter … but most of them were down the stretch.”
The Lakers’ victory in Boston was their first since Magic Johnson hit his famous baby hook in 1987.
The Celtics got the Kevin Garnett of old back. The Big Ticket notched 25 points and six rebounds. This was Garnett’s breakout game, but he didn’t have help.
Paul Pierce struggled once again, scoring 15 points on five for 12 shooting, but his play was sporadic because of foul trouble.
Ray Allen, who broke an NBA finals record with eight three pointers, had no baskets. Zip, a fat doughnut. Allen was zero for 13 from the field and finished with two points (free throws).
Allen had the second worst shooting night in NBA finals history, narrowly missing the record set by Baltimore’s Chip Reiser and Seattle’s Dennis Johnson. They shot 0-14 in 1948 (against Philadelphia) and 1978 (against Washington), respectively.
Game four of the NBA finals is Thursday.
The cigar smoking old timer, a Yoda type in NBA circles, said the travel in the NBA finals was too difficult since the East Coast-West Coast trips logged a bunch of miles, especially in games five, six and seven. This was a time to think logically, Darth Stern.
Instead, the NBA’s Sith Lord decided to accept this ludicrous suggestion. In 1985 the NBA finals changed the home-game format to the dreaded 2-3-2 we have today. What does that mean?
The NBA playoffs have a 2-2-1-1-1 format, which means the team with homecourt advantage hosts games one, two, five and seven. Seems fair, right?
Imagine a tough playoff series in which homecourt advantage holds and it’s tied at two games apiece going into game five. Well, that team with homecourt advantage has the luxury to go home, rest up and take that series edge in its own building. With a win, the home club has two chances to win the series: either game six on the road or a do-or-die game seven at home.
This fair format undergoes a wild change when the NBA finals begin. The team with homecourt advantage is punished by having to run the gauntlet in three straight games. No game five comfort at home. Thank you, random 2-3-2 format.
How much sense does this make? Why the sudden change? Do Jedi suddenly crave adventure and excitement?
If Darth Stern was so concerned with long airplane rides, just make sure there are two days between travel games instead of one. The NBA does make the schedule, duh.
Home teams in the middle gauntlet, however, can’t always take advantage of their newfound good fortune. Only two home teams have won the three middle games — the 2004 Detroit Pistons and the 2006 Miami Heat.
Detroit in 2004 took advantage of a Los Angeles Lakers team in complete disarray. The Lakers had these distractions: Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal’s feud, Karl Malone’s injury, Phil Jackson’s lame duck contract situation, Bryant’s questionable shot selection and not passing the ball to Shaq (the Diesel totally ate up Ben Wallace, he only shot about 60 percent from the field that year).
That was the beginning of Kobe’s transition from a promising Anakin Skywalker to the nefarious Darth Vader. But like Vader, Kobe has brought balance to the Force as he has recreated himself as the face of the championship Lakers and the face of the league. The donation of Pau Gasol helped in that championship run too.
The Heat probably wouldn’t have won the title in ’06. The Dallas Mavericks took the first two at home then dropped all three in Miami providing the Heat with enough momentum to snatch the championship in game six on the road.
The middle games bring tremendous pressure for both squads. In the case of the Lakers, they split the first two games and now face the reality that they could watch the Celtics celebrate another championship at home.
“We ain’t coming back to L.A.,” Celtics forward Paul Pierce said in the closing seconds of game two.
History says you probably will, Paul.
Does anyone honestly think the Lakers will drop four games in a row? They’re not the ’91 Lakers with injuries to James Worthy and Byron Scott or the ’01 76ers who were squashed by the juggernaut Lakers. The ’91 Lakers and ’01 76ers both won game one of the NBA finals and didn’t sniff victory after that.
Boston, if it doesn’t win all three games, must win another playoff game in Los Angeles to take the trophy.
Under the 2-2-1-1-1 format the Celtics could return home for a game six to win. Sorry, Boston.
Get rid of the asinine 2-3-2 format. Why fix what isn’t broken? The playoffs work fine in the first three rounds. There is no debate at all about 2-2-1-1-1.
What’s next, Jar Jar Binks receiving the title of Jedi Master and wielding two lightsabers against his foes? That makes about as much sense as playing three home games in a row in the NBA finals.
But Ray Allen’s three-point shot was pretty as was Rajon Rondo’s all-around game, which is why Boston took the homecourt advantage from the Lakers in game two of the NBA finals.
Allen hit an NBA finals record eight three pointers on his way to 32 points. Rondo had another triple double (19 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists) and made all the plays down the stretch to preserve the Celtics’ win.
Game two was tough for both teams and neither side could be pleased with officiating. Like game one, there were 58 foul calls. Boston’s entire frontline — the bench included — had foul trouble the whole game. The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom also played with foul trouble, severely limiting their minutes.
Bryant played just 34 minutes and Odom 15. Celtics forward Kevin Garnett logged 24 minutes and for the second consecutive game played subpar. He scored six points and grabbed four rebounds, but he dished six assists. Odom also struggled in his second straight game with three points and five rebounds.
The Lakers played tough again, going to the free throw line 41 times. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum had their way with the Celtics. The two combined for 46 points and 14 rebounds. Bynum blocked seven shots and Gasol had six. Los Angeles had an NBA finals record 14 blocked shots.
“Our big guys played great,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “We didn’t get the ball often enough to them, or in a good enough position many times, and a lot of our outside shooting was not that (good). … In a sequence like this, there’s no doubt it’s a blow to us to lose the homecourt, but we anticipated this might happen, and we’re just going to have to go pick it up.”
Bryant simply didn’t play enough minutes to find a rhythm and close the game out. He had a balanced game — 21 points, five rebounds, six assists and four steals. But in a tight contest such as this he would play more than 40 minutes. Two of his foul calls were extremely questionable, especially a phantom one in which Rondo stole the ball and lost his balance out of bounds.
The Celtics also had some tough whistles go against them. Their big men stuffed some Lakers drives to the basket, but more often than not a foul was called. Boston’s forwards and centers were in such foul trouble seldom-used backup Sheldon Williams played four minutes.
Los Angeles’ loss was the first of the playoffs at home. When the Lakers played the Celtics in 2008, Boston won a game in Los Angeles; that loss was also the Lakers’ first at home in the playoffs.
Rondo did damage in the fourth quarter with 10 points. He also blocked a shot by Derek Fisher to ignite a fastbreak. Rondo’s play combined with Allen’s deadly three-point shooting were enough to avoid a 2-0 NBA final deficit. Boston now has the next three games at home.
The Los Angeles Lakers grew up like Kevin and hammered the Boston Celtics in game one. No longer was Wayne able to headlock Kevin at will or tease him about girlfriends while on the phone. The scoreboard didn’t reflect the beatdown the Celtics received. But the points in the paint, rebounding and second-chance points did.
The Lakers scored 48 points in the paint while the Celtics had 30. Boston was also outrebounded by the Lakers, 42-31. Of those rebounds Los Angeles grabbed 12 offensive boards and the Celtics were held to eight.
Those are not staggering stats, but this next one is: the Lakers had 16 second-chance points. The Celtics had none. No accidental tip-ins. No offensive rebounds for dunks. No long rebounds that led to three pointers. Every Celtics possession that ended in a missed shot meant no points. At all. Usually someone gets a garbage bucket at least. No trash delivery in game one.
Boston, which prides itself on its toughness, was out-toughed. The game was actually played at the Celtics’ tempo. Slow, a lot of foul calls (54 whistles between both teams), no real rhythm to the contest. Boston actually shot more free throws than Los Angeles, 36 to the Lakers’ 31.
“Well, it wasn’t the prettiest basketball game I’ve ever watched in my life,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
All the muscle in game one was flexed by the Lakers’ starting frontline. Pau Gasol led the way with 23 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks. Gasol’s 14 rebounds equaled the rebounding effort of Boston’s bigs. Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis snatched 14 rebounds combined.
“On Kevin’s part, he’s also lost some explosiveness,” Gasol said. “He’s more of a jump shooter now you could say, comes off the lane. Before he had a really, really quick first step and was getting to the lane and he was more aggressive then. Time passes and we all suffer it one way or another, but he’s still a terrific player, a terrific competitor, and he’s going to bring everything he’s got. You can count on that.”
Center Andrew Bynum, who didn’t play in the 2008 NBA finals, chipped in with 10 points and six rebounds, not spectacular numbers by any means. But he doesn’t have to put up huge numbers. Bynum’s size clogs the lane for the Celtics and provides the Lakers with the luxury of bringing Lamar Odom off the bench.
Finally, there was Ron Artest, Thug No. 1, the guy you want on your team, but you don’t want to play against. How tough was he? Only 27 seconds into the game he got into a wrestling match that Stone Cold Steve Austin would have been proud of with Paul Pierce. Both players went to the ground and were called for double technical fouls.
Although the Lakers played Godzilla to the Celtics’ King Kong, Boston should have a better effort in game two. After suffering their own smackdown they are almost certain to come out more aggressive in the next game. Ray Allen didn’t play many minutes because of foul trouble and Rajon Rondo got stuffed every time he ventured near the basket.
Boston hit one three pointer. If some more of those go down, it will be a close game.
The Celtics may feel like Wayne Arnold, overshadowed at his sudden inability to punk little bro, but they must flex their own muscle if they want to make this a series. It’s no secret that the Lakers have star players at almost every position, but it was the Celtics rugged defense that got them back to the finals.
Wayne Arnold must stand up to the challenge of Kevin Arnold. Kevin may be bigger now. So what, Wayne must say. Wayne, er, Celtics, show that you’re tough too.
I came to a revelation. The Lakers were grossly over matched in 2008. I just didn’t see it then. Let’s start with Paul Pierce in the first game. If you recall he broke his knee. So much so that he had to be carted off with a look of despair and pain. He grimaced like he had been shot in the leg. But then as if a brilliant ploy, of which I am sure there was none, he comes out of the locker room skipping. Pierce basically came out like Daniel Laruso in Karate Kid. Although please recall Laruso was limping after. Pierce was not. So the Lakers lose the match up between athletic trainer Gary Vitti and whatever magical potions and/or small Japanese janitors they have behind their locker rooms in Boston.
We also lacked depth. Ronny Turiaff was in the game with the Lakers down six in the fourth quarter in game 1. That is my only argument.
I also realized that the finals are quite over before they even start. To prove this all one has to do is witness the glory and splendor that is NBA officiating. Its the only sport that it’s audience brazenly declares that you get “calls” at home. Where in any sport is this so prevalent. A foul is a foul and it is only less of a foul if you are a home team in the NBA. The Lakers have four games at home this series.
So who wins? With questions on one side about injuries and the other about age, this series will come down to who has to go deep into their bench early and often. If Brian Scalabrine gets more minutes in the series than Adam Morrison then the Lakers are looking good. Here is to hoping Morrison keeps on those warm-ups.
June 17, 2008, final score, Celtics 131, Lakers 92. Not even the Memorial Day Massacre in 1985 was this bad — at least the Lakers won that series against Big. No, that disgusting 2008 score solidified Boston’s completion of a defensive masterpiece, a return to glory and another black eye for their West Coast rivals.
In that series two years ago the Lakers were on the verge of tying the series. They had an 18-point halftime lead (at home) and led by as many as 24 points. The Celtics, however, clamped down on defense, holding the Lakers to only 33 points in the second half.
That was the series. Los Angeles won a meaningless game five, but it was only a matter of time until Boston closed it out.
Since that victory I have dreamed of this rematch. When the Lakers won the title last year I wasn’t satisfied. Who cares about beating Dwight Howard and a bunch of also-ran NBA players? The only way for a championship run to be complete would be to defeat the Celtics in the NBA finals.
It didn’t seem as if the Celtics had the hunger to make it back to the championship round. Some experts had them losing in the first round. But they hit the switch and D’d up in the playoffs.
I say good. Bring it, Boston. I knew with a healthy Andrew Bynum the Lakers could match the Celtics’ physicality. It was no coincidence the Lakers vs. Celtics game on Christmas 2008 was one of the most hotly contested regular season games in recent years. With a healthy lineup the Lakers won, snapping the Celtics’ franchise-record 19-game winning streak.
Now that these teams are finally matched up I am relieved. I don’t take the Celtics lightly. They are a veteran team that will muck up the scoreboard and keep games close with their defense. I am relieved because the Lakers have the chance to defeat these guys in the finals.
Beating Cleveland or Orlando just wouldn’t matter.
For the Lakers, this will be about redemption. Very few times do teams get a chance such as this. As a hardcore Lakers fan I cherish championships and mourn missed opportunities.
Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Gary Payton and Karl Malone won’t have a chance to play the Detroit Pistons, a team I think was the worst to ever win the championship.
The 1998 team with its four All-Stars of Shaq, Kobe, Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel can’t play the Utah Jazz with the John Stockton-to-Malone connection.
Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, sorry guys, you don’t get a do-over for game seven at home against the Celtics. That loss hurt badly; it was the only time the Lakers have lost a seven-game series when holding a 2-0 lead. The Lakers’ owner, Jack Kent Cooke, was so confident his team would win the 1969 finals he planned an elaborate postgame celebration with thousands of balloons in the rafters and even a marching band.
The Celtics won that game, the only time a road team has won game seven in the NBA finals. Had I been alive for that loss I might have been borderline suicidal.
For two years I have told anyone who would listen the only way to make a Lakers’ championship complete would be to defeat Boston in the finals. I never thought it would happen. Sure, the Lakers would take care of business, but the Celtics … this was very unlikely. Now that it’s here I’m giddy.
I hope this is a tough series. Although a four-game sweep would please me, I know it is unlikely. No, the best revenge would be one in which the Celtics think they have a shot then they get their hearts ripped out by a Kobe jumpshot or a series of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum dunks.
Boston, to quote Ric Flair, to be the man, you gotta beat the man. Right now the Lakers are that man, they have the championship belt that you guys covet so much. This year, I don’t see the Larry O’Brien Trophy shipping off to Boston.
Lakers regular season record: 57-25
Celtics regular season record: 50-32
Season series tied 1-1
Jan. 31 Lakers 90, Celtics 89
Feb. 18 Celtics 87, Lakers 86
Road to the Finals
Lakers defeat Oklahoma City Thunder, 4-2
Celtics defeat Miami Heat, 4-1
Lakers defeat Utah Jazz, 4-0
Celtics defeat Cleveland Cavaliers, 4-2
Lakers defeat Phoenix Suns, 4-2
Celtics defeat Orlando Magic, 4-2
The Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics renew their rivalry as the NBA finals tip off on Thursday. These teams have won the last two NBA titles with the Celtics hoisting the trophy in 2008 while the Lakers are the defending champions.
Although the Lakers are the team to beat they have a lot to prove after dropping the 2008 series. Their toughness was questioned, but they rallied to win the title. But it didn’t come through Boston, the Lakers’ nemesis who has denied them championship glory so many times.
This will be the 12th time the Lakers and Celtics play for the title; Boston has won nine times.
Why should it be any different this year?
Los Angeles has too much championship experience. This is its third straight appearance in the finals. Boston is on its last leg. The Celtics were a little long in the tooth when they won in 2008. Now, they are two years older and a slight step slower.
But the overwhelming difference will be Kobe Bryant. If he wasn’t considered an all-time great before this year, a fifth championship should solidify a spot.
Bryant torched the Suns in the Western conference finals. He should do the same to the Celtics, who don’t have the athletic James Posey to guard him.
Of course, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher will help. Ron Artest will harass Paul Pierce as best as he can.
The Celtics will try to win with defense, rebounding and nastiness in the paint. They banged the Lakers around in 2008 and have bullied their way past the other East contenders this year.
Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, Glen Davis and Rasheed Wallace will be the big men who will try to impose their will against the Lakers’ frontcourt.
Rajon Rondo will run the show for Boston. He’s no longer just another guy on the team. Rondo has matured into the type of player who can dominate games, filling up the stat sheet with rebounds and assists. His scoring has improved, but his outside shooting can still be suspect.
Ray Allen must knock down jumpers to give the Celtics a chance. Pierce must do the same. His effort in the 2008 finals earned him MVP of the series.
This time, however, the Lakers will counter with more muscle. Andrew Bynum sat out the entire playoffs when the Celtics won. Los Angeles probably could have used a 7 foot starting center against the physical Celtics.
And Artest is too strong a defensive player to let Pierce have his way. Pierce will still get his, but he’ll work hard to score.
The Lakers added toughness and the determination of Bryant will be the difference in this series. Expect dirty, low scoring games with Bryant finishing off games in the clutch.
Lakers in six games.