Finally ! The waiting is over. Tonight, the Lakers and the Celtics will tangle mix it up again on the parquet floor at TD BankNorth Arena. ( Oops, I nearly said Boston Garden). Basketball fans can hardly wait for the opening tap. Me neither.
This past week the sports pages have been packed with endless stories about sports most fabled rivalry.The trades that ‘made’ the Lakers and the Celtics into powerhouses once again ; the Kobe- Ray Allen spat of four years ago; Boston’s Big Three and their consuming desire to win NOW in what may be their last hurrah; and, of course, endless analyses and prognostications.
As a rabid Laker fan , I ‘m happy but still nervous. A little to my surprise, almost every sports analyst not writing for a Boston paper picks the Lakers to win, usually in 6 games. After all, Boston has been nearly invincible at home and to project the Lakers to clinch in Boston seems a little bit of a reach.
If one considers the head -to- head matchups, the sides are almost equally matched. The Celtics have a big edge at small forward ( Paul Pierce over Radmanovich) and power forward ( Kevin Garnett over Lamar Odom) . The Lakers have a big edge at shooting guard ( Kobe Bryant over Ray Allen) and coach ( Phil Jackson over Doc Rivers). The point guard position ( Rajan Rondo- Derek Fisher) is a wash and the Pau Gasol – Kendrick Perkins matchup is difficult to call, Perkins having improved markedly in the past few games. The Lakers bench was acclaimed by commentator Kenny Smith as being the best in the NBA but Boston has more experience in James Posey, P.J. Brown and Sam Cassell.
I think the series will be decided by which team is able to impose it’s will and dictate the pace of the game.The Celtics play a physical grind- it- out, halfcourt game, the Lakers like to run. If the game turns into a shootout, the Lakers should win as the Celtics would not seem to have the firepower to keep up with the Lakers. I give the Lakers the edge for two reasons . First- In defeating Utah, they’ve shown they can play the physical , half court game if need be. Second- Kobe Bryant and his indomitable win to win. Simply the best closer in the game and the nearest thing to Michael Jordan today. I expect him to take over late in games and I expect him to shut down Ray Allen. He’s been on a mission to win this year and I don’t think he can be denied.
When it comes to predicting outcomes of events decided over a series ( rather than a single game), the experts are usually on the ball. In addition to the sports analysts , the Las Vegas oddsmakers are also picking the Lakers to cap a fairy tale season. I am not going to go against them. Lakers in 6. ( I hope).