NBA Finals Prediction: This Series Goes 6 Games
For one tiny, little second, some people questioned the audacity of proclaiming the Eastern and Western Conference Finals over after the first two games in each series. While those series wound up being more competitive than they started out, the teams I had winning did win. Thus, my way, way in advance prediction of an NBA Finals matchup between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angles Lakers still has some meaning a couple weeks later. And unfortunately for Celtics fans, I’m sticking to the original NBA Finals prediction I made during the conference finals.
The Boston Celtics have probably had one of the better runs in recent NBA History. As the four seed in the conference, the Celtics were anything but the favorites to come out of the East, nevermind when the NBA Finals. But despite their regular season slide, the Celtics beat Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Dwight Howard—the three biggest stars in the East, and perhaps three of the four biggest stars in the entire NBA—in consecutive order. And none of those three series saw a seventh game.
As a result, anyone who thinks the Celtics are heavy underdogs in this series are mistaken. Head coach Doc Rivers put it best when he said that his current starting five players have never lost a playoff series together. And he’s right. The combination of the Big Three, with the Big One in Rajon Rondo, and the big man in Kendrick Perkins, are undefeated in postseason play when they are all healthy and ready to go. This is why I believe this series will go a lot further than it probably should, despite the fact that the Los Angeles Lakers are the more talented team in this Finals matchup.
Before Boston Celtics fans go crazy, let’s just look at the talent we’re talking about. At the point guard position, yes the Celtics have a decided advantage, but Derek Fisher is a veteran, who will make all the right plays and really good decisions. Yes, Rondo should and will have a great series against Fisher, but he won’t be able to capitalize off Fisher’s mistakes, because Fisher doesn’t make any.
Once you get past the point guard position, the Celtics advantages are obsolete. At center, a healthy Andrew Bynum is much better than Kendrick Perkins. But even if he isn’t healthy, I’d rather have Lamar Odom on the block than Perkins. At the power forward position, you can see how far we’ve come since 2008, because is there any question that Pau Gasol is a better player than Kevin Garnett at this point in his career? At small forward, yes, the Celtics have Paul Pierce, but how good will he perform against the defensive prowess of Ron Artest? Artest is quicker and stronger than Pierce, and the last time Pierce had to go on the offensive against a guy that was both quicker and stronger than him, he had a horrible offensive series.
Then we get to the shooting guard matchup. This may actually be the best of the remaining four positional matchups for the Celtics, because while Boston has no match for Kobe Bryant, there’s no way in hell Kobe can guard Ray Allen for 38 or 40 minutes off all those screens. Thus, you will probably see some cross-matching in the backcourt, with Kobe likely to guard Rajon Rondo, and Derek Fisher taking responsibility for following Ray Allen off of all those screens. That would still leave Allen with a decided advantage over Fisher, but it would take a lot of what Rondo does away, because in all honesty, I think Kobe would, at the very least, hinder Rondo’s best traits as a point guard.
As for the bench play, I see very little difference between the two teams. Assuming Bynum is still somewhat hobbled, the Lakers bench isn’t the same with Lamar Odom getting starters’ minutes. Thus, the only real advantage on either side could be the play of Rasheed Wallace. If Wallace is the player we saw flashes of last series, the Celtics could get a real lift from their bench in the NBA Finals. But that’s wishing on a shooting star. Wallace will be up-and-down during the NBA Finals, just like he has been all season long. If the Celtics get more “ups” than “downs” from Wallace then they should be happy to get that.
With all of that said, this series still comes down to its two superstars: Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant. Unlike in 2008, the Celtics don’t have as many players to throw at Kobe Bryant on the defensive end. That means Paul Pierce will have to take a considerable amount of the Kobe-stopping responsibilities, and we saw his offensive game deteriorate when he had to defend LeBron James two rounds ago. And as I alluded to earlier, Pierce won’t be defended by Kobe, he’ll likely draw Ron Artest. That’s a huge advantage for Kobe, because outside of Ray Allen, whomever else he guards, Kobe’s man won’t be half the scoring threat Pierce is. That will allow Kobe to relax on the defensive end and be a monster on offense.
Pierce may be a better defender than he gets credit for, but he’s no match for Kobe “Bean” Bryant. Thus, I like the Lakers to prevail and to win the NBA Finals in six games. That’s my prediction, and I’m sticking to it!