Its the Lakers and Celtics in the NBA Finals, and no,
youre not watching ESPNs Instant
Classic – but the NBAs flagship franchises resume their storied rivalry
Thursday in a series that promises to be on Instant
Classic reruns for years to come.
Much like the previous 10 times theyve met in the Finals, Boston and Los Angeles got to this
point with loaded rosters and a knack for winning the games they couldnt
afford to lose.
One thing will ring true when all is said and done: one of
the teams will have to budge and the other will hoist the trophy.
Lets take a look at what has to go down for each team to
win the crown.
First off, understand that there is much more to Boston than just the Big
Three. Yes, the Cs lean on them quite a bit, but often its a role player who
makes the difference.
Rajon Rondo needs to set the pace with 10 dimes or a key
steal. Kendrick Perkins will have to grab a big rebound or block a shot late in
a game. And maybe on one night, James Posey will have to drive the dagger in
with a late game three. All of those guys are capable, and one of them needs to
step up because the Big Three wont win this alone.
Either way, Boston is a team with many weapons, and is
plenty capable of stealing a game in L.A. just like they did twice in Detroit
in the Eastern Conference Finals.
format of the Finals doesnt favor the Celtics as much as you may think. They
still get one more home game, but if the Lakers can steal one of the first two
theyll have the luxury of being able to close the series out at home. Even if
each team holds service through five games, Boston would still have a ton of
pressure to win the last two games against a team with Kobe Bryant.
As for the Lakers, Phil Jackson knows just how crucial
finding the right defensive match-ups against a hungry veteran squad will be.
Sasha Vujacic needs to bother the hell out of Ray Allen, who
finally appears to be catching his stride at just the right moment. How he
fights through the various screens Boston
will throw at him is critical to preventing the big swings of momentum Allen
brings when he gets hot.
will likely stick with Paul Pierce for long stretches, so he needs to be able
to shut him down while saving enough energy to take over the game offensively
in the waning moments.
Derek Fisher needs to stay out of the foul trouble that
plagued him for halves at a time in the Utah
series. His experience in high pressure situations could make a world of
difference against Rondo.
The Lakers have the luxury of throwing length at Kevin
Garnett. Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom will likely each get a crack at keeping him
from getting to the basket. How they close out on his 17-foot jumpers could set
the tone for the Lakers fast break in the other direction.
Just like the battles between these teams in the 80s, each
team is talented, but maybe more importantly, each team is tough. Each have
superstars and each have depth, but what will make this match up the most
intriguing is that each team has a fantastic chance.
Whether Garnett, Pierce and Allen get their first rings, or
Kobe proves he can win without Shaq, these NBA Finals promise to be
outstanding. Every championship series between these rivals is.