Your quick & dirty NBA Finals preview


The “Big 3” are two years older. (So is Kobe, but he doesn’t look it.)
Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are 34, and Paul Pierce is 32. They’re not over the hill, but they aren’t spring chickens, either. The way that the schedule is set up, Game 2 is on Sunday and then both teams will have to fly to Boston on Monday for Game 3 on Tuesday. There is also just one day of rest between Game 5 and Game 6. These are going to be tough turnarounds for the 30+ crowd. In terms of play, KG is playing as good as he has in the last two seasons, but he’s still not in ’08 form. After a substandard regular season, Ray Allen has played well in the playoffs. Only Paul Pierce is playing at nearly the same level as in 2008.

The Lakers have home court advantage.
Last time around, the first two games were in Boston. This time, the series starts in L.A., where the Lakers were 34-7 on the season and 8-0 in the playoffs.

They’re starting Ron Artest at SF instead of Vladimir Radmanovic and Luke Walton.
Artest may be a little crazy, but he definitely makes this Laker lineup tougher. Radmanovic, Walton and Sasha Vujacic got major minutes in ’08, but are now either gone or relegated to spot duty. We can debate Ron Artest vs. Trevor Ariza all we want, but there’s no doubt that Artest is an upgrade over the Radmanovic/Walton combo that faced the Celtics two years ago. He’ll also make Paul Pierce work for his points, which will allow Kobe to worry about Ray Allen.

They want revenge.
The Lakers were embarrassed after losing Game 6 by 39 points. Their win over the Magic last year was nice, but if they had any heart, they wanted to face the Celtics again. A win over Boston would squash any talk about how the C’s would have had a dynasty had Kevin Garnett stayed healthy.


They owned the Lakers last time around.
The C’s definitely have the psychological advantage. When the chips are down, keep an eye on the expressions on the Laker faces. Do they show resolve? Or does it look like they’re wondering if they’re tough enough? Boston will play physical, and if the refs don’t take over the series, then the Lakers are going to have to be a lot tougher than they were two years ago. Thus far, the Lakers haven’t seen a defense like Boston’s.

Rajon Rondo is emerging as a top 5 point guard.
While the “Big 3” are two years older, Rondo is two years wiser and two years better. He thrives in an uptempo game, and the Lakers will look to push the ball (even though the C’s would like to slow it down). Point guard is the one position where the Celtics have a decisive advantage. If he can abuse Derek Fisher offensively (and limit Fisher’s open looks defensively), then Boston will be in a good position to win.

They have better chemistry.
The Lakers still look like a group of guys that have to play with each other while the Celtics look like they actually enjoy each other. Kobe has behaved better of late, but he still barks at his teammates and his body language is often negative. Will this decide the series? It’s not likely, but it can play a factor.


I’ll be (grudgingly) rooting for the Celtics, but I think the Lakers win this series in seven. I’d pick them in six if I thought they were as mentally tough as the C’s, but I think Boston’s sheer will pushes this series to the limit. We’ll know after the first two games whether or not the Celtics have what it takes to win again — if they go 0-2 in L.A., they’ll be in a tough spot. They need to go home tied at 1-1 (or up 2-0) if they hope to win the series.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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