With the NBA Finals starting tomorrow, everything that can be prepared for has already been done. But when the ball gets thrown up for the jump, it’s going to come down to five players trying to beat five players. With that in mind, we analyze and examine all the matchups for the NBA Finals and tell you who has the edge.
POINT GUARD: RAJON RONDO vs. DEREK FISHER
Rondo has been absolutely awesome during these playoffs. He has stepped up and carried the Celtics, most notably against the Cavs when they couldn’t contain him and he erupted for an average of 20.7 points, 11.8 assists and 6.3 rebounds per game. Rondo makes that team go, and provides lock-down defense at the point. Fisher is the savvy veteran leader for the Lakers who provides solid defense and clutch shooting down the stretch. While getting up in years, Fisher is still a rock-solid contributor for L.A. who executes his role to perfection.
SHOOTING GUARD: RAY ALLEN vs. KOBE BRYANT
Ray Allen is the best pure shooter in the NBA. With his incredibly quick release, Allen can get his shot off in a split second, just before the defense can get to him. He is aging and has struggled at times during the year, but he is a knockdown shooter who will run his defender ragged around screens. On the other side is Kobe. Kobe is the best player in the game today, and there is no disputing that. Kobe’s rise-up shot with Grant Hill in his face in Game 6 against the Suns just summed up the man’s greatness on the court. He makes the impossible look normal, and there is no reason he won’t be motivated to beat the Celtics after what happened in 2008.
SMALL FORWARD: PAUL PIERCE vs. RON ARTEST
Pierce is the face of Boston’s franchise. He has spent his entire career in the Green and White, and his number will be retired eventually – he would love nothing more than another title to cement his legacy among the Celtic greats. Pierce put on a clinic in his last game, leading the Celtics with 31 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. Despite his stellar play, he will be in for a rough time against Artest. Even though he has a bone-headed shot selection and penchant for frustrating his coach, Artest’s talent is something that can’t be downplayed. He is one of the strongest, and best perimeter defenders in the league, and has offensive abilities that shine through on occasion – like in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals.
POWER FORWARD: KEVIN GARNETT vs. PAU GASOL
Garnett is one of the most intense competitors in the last 15 years of the NBA. He is a defensive stud, and very skilled offensively, but he has become Boston’s fourth option on offense with the emergence of Rondo and his balky knee. Gasol is an incredibly skilled offensive big man. He has an array of moves that he can go to at any time in any game – and they usually work. He also is an excellent passer with great vision, and an underrated rebounder. Will Gasol shed his reputation as “soft” in this series?
CENTER: KENDRICK PERKINS vs. ANDREW BYNUM
Perkins is huge. His size down low can be a game-changer, but against Bynum who is equally as big, it shouldn’t be as much of a defensive advantage. Saying that, Perkins is a great interior defender and shot-blocker who is not afraid the hard foul, but he must temper his emotions in these Finals. Bynum is much more gifted offensively than Perkins, but his aching knee has kept him to a shell of his healthy self, and he has been inconsistent throughout the playoffs.
The Celtics’ bench has been very solid in the playoffs, providing a spark for the team throughout. With the revelation of Nate Robinson in Game 6, an already effective Celtics bench just got a little better. If Big Baby and Sheed are both healthy enough to bang with the Lakers’ bigs, it will be a huge lift for Boston. L.A.’s bench has been very inconsistent throughout the playoffs, and got overshadowed by Phoenix’s bench in the Conference Finals. The Lakers have the most talented reserve in the series in Lamar Odom, but he needs to get help from Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown and the rest of the crew.
COACHING: DOC RIVERS vs. PHIL JACKSON
Doc Rivers has done a great job with this Celtics team. The team looked unmotivated and lackadaisacal in the regular season, including a loss to the Nets, but Rivers has gotten his team to play inspired basketball since the playoffs began. Rivers also has defensive guru Tom Thibodeau at his side to scheme against Kobe. Phil Jackson is the one of the best coaches in NBA history. He has 10 NBA titles, and has done a great job managing his teams over the years.
SERIES PREDICTION: LAKERS IN 6
What do you think? What matchup should each team exploit? Who do you think is going to win?
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