The 2008 NBA Finals begin tomorrow night between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics. The Lakers have lost just three games this postseason. They are not going to lose four of the next seven. Here are 14 reasons – one for each Lakers championship – why I’m picking the Lakers to win the series.
1. Killer instinct
No one has put teams away like the Lakers in this postseason. In closeout games, the Lakers are 3-0, which includes series clinchers on the road against Denver and Utah. Their ability to finish teams is even more impressive considering their relative lack of playoff experience.
2. Offensive fluidity
The triangle offense is clicking right now. The Lakers are the best passing team in the league. With Gasol and Odom in the 4 and 5 spots, they have five capable passers in their starting lineup, making them extremely difficult to defend.
3. Balanced attack
Kobe won his MVP because he was able to do this thing this season more easily than any year since Shaquille O’Neal was traded. The talent around Kobe is what makes this Lakers team so dangerous. Number 24 is the known entity. Watching different players step up each night around him is what catches other team’s off guard.
Phil Jackson may have some unorthodox methods, but no one teaches a profound lesson quite like Phil Jackson. His basketball schooling is unmatched by any other coach in the league, and his wisdom has helped many of these young Lakers mature quickly.
5. Boston’s road woes
If the Lakers are able to steal one of the first two games on the road, the Celtics are in serious trouble of losing the series in five games. Since the Lakers have only lost two games in a row once this entire postseason and have yet to trail in a series, they’re in good shape to return to Los Angeles with a chance to close out Boston with three straight home games at Staples Center where the Lakers are undefeated this postseason.
6. Experience at point guard
He’s received some credit, but Derek Fisher is still the unsung hero of this Lakers team. He’s the glue guy on and off the court that makes this team stick together. He has three rings and will match up against second-year point guard Rajon Rondo of the Celtics. Rondo has shown flashes of brilliance in the playoffs, but he’s also shown flashes of inexperience. Those flashes will be magnified in the Finals by Fisher, who has already faced Allen Iverson, Deron Williams and Tony Parker in this playoff run.
7. A gift from Memphis
Pau Gasol’s impact on the Lakers cannot be overstated. This team went from a good playoff team with an emerging young center in Andrew Bynum to an elite title contender with 27-year-old veteran all-star center. It doesn’t hurt that Gasol’s skill set as a versatile big man who can post, face up, shoot the mid range shot with consistency, dribble and pass makes him a perfect fit in the triangle offense.
8. No glaring weaknesses
The Atlanta Hawks were a 37-win team with no playoff experience on their front line. The Cleveland Cavaliers were LeBron James and scraps that made running an offense look like nuclear physics. And the Detroit Pistons were banged up (Billups, Hamilton) and belligerent (Wallace). The Lakers have not shown any blatant weakness for the Celtics to exploit.
Cheaters never win. Consider this the new curse, Boston. Enjoy that ’07 World Series trophy because Belichick and the Patriots set the stage for a new wave of Boston heartache. First, a perfect season ends in the Super Bowl – to a team from New York! (In hockey, the Bruins even pushed the hated Montreal Canadians to seven games in round one before being pummeled 5-0 in the series finale.) And now the beloved Celtics have a resurrection season, the best record in the NBA, and an NBA Finals date with the hated Lakers. Sounds like a recipe for disaster.
This will be one of the most interesting stats to watch in this series, especially in the matchup between Lamar Odom and Kendrick Perkins. Both players are strong rebounders, although Odom does it with length and timing and Perkins with brute strength. Perkins cannot keep up with Odom’s quickness, but the 230-pound Odom wants no part of banging on the block against the 280-pound Perkins’ muscular frame.
11. Youthful energy off the bench
No one epitomizes what the Lakers’ bench gives this team quite like Ronny Turiaf. He dances. He screams. He laughs. He evens blocks a few shots, grabs a few rebounds, slams a few dunks and hits a foul line jumper now and again. The Celtics bench is veteran-laden with James Posey, P.J. Brown, Eddie House and Sam Cassell. Leon Powe and Glen “Big Baby” Davis can try to match Turiaf’s play, but they have no chance matching his passion, which rubs off on the rest of the bench brigade, especially Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar.
12. Allen, Ray, version 2008
This is not the spry young scorer fresh out of UConn. His jump shot may still look silky smooth, but his game is shaky. He’s a defensive liability, especially if asked to guard Kobe Bryant, and this playoff run has proven that his confidence is fragile. Without an all-star Allen, Boston’s hopes are seriously diminished.
13. No Boston Garden
Sorry TD Banknorth, no one wants to plant flowers in your garden. The fans may be just as passionate and just as loud, but the Lakers won’t feel the same level of discomfort that Magic and Kareem and company felt in the 80s at the old Boston Garden. Modern day conveniences will make their stay in Boston much more pleasant and their time on the court much less hectic. Boston has home court advantage in the series; it’s just not the same kind of advantage it once was.
Match up the players down the line and the Lakers simply win more individual matchups than Boston. And, yes, it is a team game. But there’s no question that both squads are playing great team basketball. The Lakers are just doing so with better individual talent. Their starting five is better and their next five off the bench are better. Lakers in five.
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