We’re Halfway To The NBA’s Dream Finals
It seemed unlikely about a month ago. Boston struggled to win 50 games during the regular season and Los Angeles went through the motions to earn the No. 1 seed. The Celtics didn’t look strong and the Lakers seemed primed for an upset.
Dwyane Wade and the underwhelming Miami Heat appeared to be capable of beating Boston while the Lakers were pushed to the limit by the strikingly athletic Oklahoma City Thunder who had virtually no playoff experience.
These teams would be on the brink of the NBA finals? Not Cleveland, who crushed the NBA during the regular season? Or Orlando, who sported a mighty 8-0 record in the playoffs? What about Dallas, wasn’t this supposed to be its year?
During the second round the Lakers and Celtics beefed up their game. Los Angeles pounded undermanned Utah in four games while the Celtics pulled off the upset against Cleveland.
We’re about to be treated to a rematch of the 2008 NBA finals, which was a quick throwback to the Lakers-Celtics rivalry that has been going on for decades.
But wait, the rematch isn’t complete. Not yet.
After the Celtics took the first two games against the Magic in Orlando it would be difficult to imagine Boston not making it to the NBA finals. The Celtics need two more wins to advance and three of the next four games are in Boston.
Forward Paul Pierce has rediscovered his game. He’s averaging 25 points per contest. It helps that he doesn’t have to work as hard on the defensive end this series; trying to check LeBron James will wear anybody out. Pierce knows it’s important to maintain the homecourt advantage the Celtics took from the Magic. They can’t get complacent and he thinks the fans won’t let them either.
“Our fans aren’t going to let us relax,” Pierce said. “You all not going to let us relax. We’re going to try to close this out in two games. You all hear me? We’re coming home to close it out.”
Orlando is too good of a team to get swept. The Magic should split in Boston. Then again, they probably shouldn’t have lost the first two at home.
The Lakers, however, have toyed with the dwarfish Phoenix Suns. The Suns simply don’t have the size to stand up to the Lakers and it has showed in two games. Phoenix doesn’t play much defense, but giving up 128 and 124 points in the Western conference finals won’t win many playoff series.
In game one Kobe Bryant torched Phoenix for 40 points. So the Suns adjusted and tried to take the ball out of Bryant’s hands by double-teaming him. That didn’t work either as the Black Mamba dished 13 assists, equaling the most by a Laker in a playoff game since Magic Johnson in 1996.
Someone had to pick up the scoring in game two and that was power forward Pau Gasol who had 29. Gasol scored 14 points in the fourth quarter as the Lakers pulled away. Phoenix big man Amare Stoudemire is having a hard time scoring and rebounding against the Lakers’ bigs.
Stoudemire didn’t give credit to Lakers forward Lamar Odom who went for 19 points and 19 rebounds in game one. “I’m not giving him no hype right now; he had a lucky game in game one,” he said.
Odom lucked out again in game two with 17 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
Maybe the rest of the Lakers frontline will keep getting lucky. Phoenix needs to win two straight to avoid elimination.
It’s an uphill climb for Orlando and Phoenix. If these two played in the finals it would be a fine series, but lack the earth-shaking force of Lakers vs. Celtics. Good thing we only have to wait about a week until that series is finalized.