Just in case you’ve spent the last 50 years of your life taking stool samples of rhesus monkeys in the forests of Thailand and have missed the Celtics-Lakers rivalry in its entirety, here’s a brief recap. The 1960s Celtics made the Lakers into their personal Washington Generals, beating them six times in the Finals in less than a decade. In the 80s, Magic and Kareem finally exacted revenge against Larry Legend and company as the two titans of the NBA traded titles while simultaneously raising the league to newfound heights of popularity. The Lakers continued to reign supreme in the NBA throughout the last few decades while Boston entered what can only be known as the Dark Ages of the franchise. The rivalry was thought to be dead.
That is, until two years ago, when a few shrewd trades from both front offices returned both teams to their rightful places in the NBA hierarchy: battling for supremacy on the respective sport’s biggest stage. This time it was the Celtics that prevailed, embarrassing the Lakers and their golden boy Kobe Bryant with a 39-point blowout victory in a clinching Game 6. Undeterred, the Lakers bounced back to snag their own title in 2009, while Kevin Garnett’s knee injury prevented Boston from defending their crown.
The teams took different roads to get back to the mountain top in 2010. L.A. rode home court advantage and a vintage Kobe hot streak, while Boston rediscovered their defensive dominance and late-game execution after a shoddy regular season. Ultimately none of it matters as it’s time for both the rubber match of the last three years and the 12th installment of this classic showdown. Lakers. Celtics. Kobe. KG. The Truth. The Zen Master. Fake boobies for Laker Fans. Big Baby’s boobies for the Irish. If you can’t get excited about this, you need to seriously consider a cocaine addiction. To get you ready for tonight’s Game 1 tip-off, the TSS NBA Crew breaks down the matchups and makes their predictions on who will be laughing last.
Derek Fisher Vs. Rajon Rondo — Old man Fisher has been abused by various (premiere) points since the playoffs kicked off. The Finals will be no different as Rondo is playing at a much higher level than he did during their last meeting in ’08. The best counter L.A.’s back court can offer is to play Rajon close, limit his ability to see the court, keep him out the lane and force him to shoot more J’s. Too bad Rondo’s about as slow as a bullet train. Kobe will probably have to switch on him on some possessions since Fish won’t be able to keep up.
Kobe Bryant Vs. Ray Allen — Ray hasn’t played defense since he was checking up Denzel in He Got Game and Kobe is still the top player in the NBA. Which means Rondo, Pierce & others will more than likely have to guard the Black Mamba. Not that it should matter much, but it could give Kobe an opportunity for some easy transition baskets/early shot clock buckets while they switch going back on defense. Turnabout is fair play and Kobe will also have to play defense, either on Rondo or chasing Allen around screens. With Fisher on his last leg, it will more than likely be split so there will be no rest for the weary. Kobe’s going to get his points regardless of who will be guarding him; the only question is how hard will he have to work for them.
Ron Artest Vs. Paul Pierce — As everyone remembers (and we like to remind people), Paul Pierce immortalized himself as a Celtic legend by winning the Finals MVP against the Lakers in 2008. The dirty little secret of The Truth’s win was he was facing off against a listless Vladamir Radmonavic. No contest. This time the Lakers have a much better matchup in the defensively gifted, but still f*cking crazy, Ron Artest. Artest’s physical defense may keep Pierce from hoisting an MVP trophy, but don’t expect him to completely shut down #34. Plus, any good on the defensive end will be mitigated by Ron-Ron’s poor shot selection.
Pau Gasol Vs. Kevin Garnett — If the Celtics had a healthy Kevin Garnett last year, who knows how deep they would’ve gone in the playoffs. With KG healthy this year, they’re back in the NBA Finals and that’s not a coincidence. One player who definitely knows this is Lakers’ Power Forward Pau Gasol. After getting manhandled by Boston in 2008, the Spaniard will be motivated more than ever especially with Andrew Bynum and Ron Artest helping him out in the paint. In ’08, Gasol had neither, so the additional help will benefit him on both sides of the court. The advantage has to go to KG, though. The veteran won’t put up numbers like he did two seasons ago, but what Garnett lacks in stats, he makes up for in intangibles. If Doc Rivers manages KG’s minutes properly between Glen Davis and Rasheed Wallace, the paint will be green all series.
Andrew Bynum Vs. Kendrick Perkins — Even if Bynum’s health was in tip-top shape, we’d still pick Perkins in this battle. Perkins, while shorter than his West Coast opponent, is a more consistent scorer and a much more formidable presence on the defensive end. Coming off a series where he was forced to deal with Dwight Howard, Bynum looks to be the much easier task for Perkins. The Lakers big man has shown flashes and stretches of greatness at times, but the overall physical nature of KP43′s game may prove to be too much of an advantage for the Celtics. Then again, the x-factor in this match up is Kendrick’s attitude. Thankfully, the NBA decided to rescind what was one of the worst technical foul calls in league history. However, he is still one tech away from facing a one-game suspension. And in this series, that’s all the Lakers may need to take the advantage.
Los Angeles Lakers Bench Vs. Boston Celtics Bench — The difference between these two benches is that the Lakers’ looks to steal minutes, while the Celtics’ can take over a game at a moments notice. Sure Shannon Brown and Lamar Odom can provide quality minutes, but in reality Lamar Odom is a starter who is the sixth man. The pressure will be on him to provide production with Bynum not at 100%, which will defeat the purpose of him coming off the bench. Meanwhile, with Rasheed Wallace, Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Nate Robinson, Tony Allen and others, they have extra bodies to throw at both Kobe and Gasol. To add an extra incentive, throughout the playoffs, someone off the bench has come up with a timely offensive performance for the Celtics to secure a win.
Words By MZ, J. Tinsely, Jason H., Pat M. & S. Cadet. Preface by Pat. M.