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NBA finals: How do the Celtics match up?

May 29, 2010, 12:24 AM EDT

piercegm6.jpgAnd lo, I saw green horse, and on them green riders, and their names were the Celtics. And hell followed with them.

The Boston Celtics are returning to the NBA finals with a defense of the fiercest machinations, led by veteran stars who are still quite capable of eviscerating a defense. After dispatching the Magic in Game 6, ending any discussion of a chokejob in Beantown (well, another one, eh Bruins?), the Celtics can turn their attention towards their final opponent, whoever that may be.

So how do the Celtics match up with the two Western contenders? Let’s begin with the less likely of the two options.

Phoenix Suns: I’d bother with telling you the Suns won both regular season matchups, but the Celtics have already shown that the regular season doesn’t mean anything to them and the results are meaningless. The Suns do represent the classic foil to the Celtics. Even with a tougher, more defensive approach, they’re still the unstoppable force to the Celtics’ immovable object.

The Phoenix offense isn’t exactly a cake walk for the Celtics. The same spread perimeter attack that enabled the Magic to crawl back into that series is there for the Suns. Steve Nash is one of the few point guards with the confidence and versatility to counter Rondo’s brilliance on the offensive end. The Suns rebound well and have considerable length. They have experience in Grant Hill and versatile wings in Jason Richardson and Goran Dragic. And they possess a bench unit with considerable advantages over Boston.

The run and gun style of the Suns would give the Celtics problems, as injuries and fatigue have become more and more  of a factor for the Celtics, though it’s a factor they’ve admirably overcome. Slowing down that transition attack by stopping the ball in Nash’s hands would fall to Rondo, whose length would likely give the Celtics a chance to do so. Coverage of the perimeter shooters in transition would be more difficult, but it’s also a shot the Celtics are willing to take.

All in all, you have to give the Celtics the advantage based on two factors. One, the Celtics’ toughness and physical nature would likely knock the Suns back on their heels. Amar’e Stoudemire would be pounded by tough, long defenders, and the Suns’ mob bench would be overwhelmed on the glass from Kendrick Perkins, Rasheed Wallace, and Glen Davis. Jason Richardson wouldn’t be able to counter Pierce, nor Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo would make Nash look like Derek Fisher on the defensive end. This has to be the result the Celtics are looking for if they want an easy route to the ring.

Los Angeles Lakers: Hello, darkness my old friend, I’ve come to welcome you again. The Lakers and Celtics know each other and an epic ratings-soaring finals matchup would satisfy both clubs’ requirement for destroying the other on their way to the championship. Any championship without beating the other would seem empty for these two.

There are plenty of reasons to suspect this matchup to follow the blueprint of two years ago.Paul Pierce is controlling the force of the game with his offense, as he did in 2008. Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins create a tough bullying counter to Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom is always likely to vanish for a game or three.

So what’s different? Ron Artest gives the Lakers a defensive attack dog to unleash on Paul Pierce, which they didn’t have in 08. Shannon Brown can at least deflect some of the damage from Nate Robinson, and Andrew Bynum’s appearance is significant in a possible series. It would open Pau Gasol in space. The Lakers can’t just depend on Kobe Bryant, but this time they have enough weapons to offset the Celtics’ defense.

The one huge red flag for the Lakers has to be the play of Rajon Rondo. Derek Fisher has done a phenomenal job in managing Steve Nash, but Rondo’s a whole other set of problems. With length, speed, and a sick amount of athleticism, Fisher would need considerable weakside help to slow down Rondo. At some point in that series, Kobe Bryant may be switched on to Rondo much like he was to Russell Westbrook in round one.

The Lakers overall talent probably puts them in a favorable position. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned this postseason, the Celtics don’t care how big of an underdog they are, how much more talented the other team is. They focus, execute, and deliver. If these two meet in the finals as it seems destined they will, it will be fire on the mountain.

  1. Mr Moore is one nervous guy - May 29, 2010 at 4:08 AM

    Hello Mr.Moore. You couldnt lost a chance to tell the world that Lakers are better than the Celtics. Smart-ass. Bynum’s knee problems and bad rotations are going to make Rondo an all-timer with the pick and roll play. Two worst things about Lakers defense? Defending the pick&roll and transition D. Actually, Lakers D besides individual strength of their players is pretty weak. Actually, Celtics are unstoppable when they’re playing early offense. And Odom-Gasol lineup in front is going to make Pau soft again.

  2. swedishmeatballs - May 29, 2010 at 5:18 AM

    Nice article. First the Simon & Garfunkel wink in the beginning, then top it off with a Grateful Dead song title.

  3. dumb folks - May 29, 2010 at 5:26 AM

    Nice try, but the Lakers on paper aren’t even close to as good as the Celtics… with a weak bench that usually goes 3 deep at best, an injured Bynum, and half the talent of Boston’s roster, the Lakers will be the true underdogs in this match-up. If Boston manages to lose that series, it will be because they’ve got a couple of no-fight pansies in Pierce and Garnett who were born to lose and needed a trio of future Hall of Famers and perennial MVP-contenders before they could even sniff a championship. One of them cries when he gets a splinter. The other one pretends he’s going to knock someone out until they actually look back in his direction. Boston has an all-star team and I hope they piss the bed.

  4. MIke - May 29, 2010 at 5:42 AM

    Lakers will have their sweet revenge here. And I mean, HUMILIATION. The “Great Boston Humiliation”. Bring it on.

  5. Eric of Melbourne - May 29, 2010 at 8:31 AM

    I’ve followed Lakers/Celtics since the early 60’s, and though a Laker’s fan, this year I’d be perfectly happy for the Celtics to win.
    Historically, the Celtics have been a team of dirty tricks/deeds – the list is long – but these Celtics are pure class! Ya gotta love Rondo!
    I predict Garnett will be their weak spot. They’ll need him to be great to beat the Lakers, and he’s playing lately like he’s over the hill.
    We’ll see!

  6. What? - May 29, 2010 at 8:43 AM

    what sort of Laker fan would be “perfectly happy for the Celtics to win?”… you, sir, are no Laker fan!

  7. Omnius - May 29, 2010 at 10:04 AM

    Either team in the Wild Wild West Shootout would be more than a match for the Ancient Celtics who merely won the Eastern Creampuff Conference. Celtics would have been an 8 seed in the West, the tougher conference. Lakers will be out for revenge for 2008. Kobe and Gasol have had two more years to perfect their Dynamic Duo act and Ron Artest will be too fierce for Paul Pierce. Lakers in 6 games in the NBA Finals and Kobe repeats as Finals MVP!
    Isn’t it funny how Boston fans were chanting Beat LA and Laker fans chanting Beat Boston. The sickest rivalry in sports as fans from both teams root for the other intense rival to get into the Finals. Clash of Titans coming next week.

  8. Michael - May 29, 2010 at 10:24 AM

    @ Eric- NO LAKER FAN would even dream of letting Boston win. The mere thought of it doesn’t make you a fan of L.A.
    The Lakers still have the best bench player in the series in Lamar Odom, although he vanishes once in a while, he is the most talented player on both benches and can provide an instant spark in the game. Having Bynum, injured or not, is a huge plus and Ron Artest can easily match up with the Celtic’s toughness and contain Paul Pierce.
    The only real concern for me is Derek Fisher who simply cannot guard Rondo even if his life depended on it. Look for Kobe & Gasol to score half of the teams points.

  9. ocgunslinger - May 29, 2010 at 10:43 AM

    Laker haters…..celtic haters…..I love it. That is what makes this potential series so great. And either team COULD win but the Lakers WILL win. Simply the best team.

  10. Yuri - May 29, 2010 at 11:21 AM

    I wonder who’s playing cuz im not sure on the basic

  11. Anonymous - May 29, 2010 at 11:24 AM

    Agreed!!!

  12. Downeast - May 29, 2010 at 12:06 PM

    LeBron? Is that you?

  13. AKMaXXX - May 29, 2010 at 1:03 PM

    OMG. A Lakers fan happy to see the Celtics win? Hmm…I think I found one of the faux Los Angelinos in the mix here, because I dont even live in L.A. but have been a fan thru n thru since I can remember and would kick my own @ss for ever uttering those words…pshaw…Lakers back to back.

  14. al - May 29, 2010 at 1:53 PM

    if the suns lakers go 7 the time off will greatly help the celtics.The key to the lakers will be bynum he needs to keep the c’s off the offensive boards.
    the c’s destroyed l.a. in the 08 finals on the boards so we’ll see this time around. both teams evenly matched.
    OH WAIT THE LAKERS AREN’T IN THE FINALS YET. THOSE PESKY SUNS ARE DANGEROUS
    m

  15. MammaO - May 29, 2010 at 2:02 PM

    don’t count the Suns out yet…and if they make it to the finals, my money’s on them…just sayin

  16. brian - May 29, 2010 at 2:06 PM

    Hey everyone… It’s not over yet. Don’t discount the Suns. They will win tonight in Phoenix then it is anybody’s game for #7!!
    The Suns have already proven they can beat LA twice in a row and almost did it 3 times in a row.
    Like OMNIUS said… either the Lakers or the Suns will have no problem with the Celtics. They would have been a 5th or 6th seed in the West

  17. empire wizard - May 29, 2010 at 2:07 PM

    Celtics vs Lakers, Celtics vs Lakers, how many times has this happened, and what is the record for just these two teams in the finals? Its all about momentum, and at this time as has happened in the past, it falls to the Celtics. All of the greats of the game from Cousey to West, Havlichek to Baylor, Russel to Chamberlin, even Bird to Magic and all the rest of the cast, the match ups have been close. It comes down to momentum and the Celtics have it hands down.

  18. empire wizard - May 29, 2010 at 2:13 PM

    Celtics vs Lakers, Celtics vs Lakers, how many times has this happened, and what is the record for just these two teams in the finals? Its all about momentum, and at this time as has happened in the past, it falls to the Celtics. All of the greats of the game from Cousey to West, Havlichek to Baylor, Russel to Chamberlin, even Bird to Magic and all the rest of the cast, the match ups have been close. It comes down to momentum and the Celtics have it hands down.

  19. pssh - May 29, 2010 at 2:14 PM

    I love how you LA fans talk like your team is gonna steamroll. It must be the smog in LA that is making you all forget what happened two years ago. The Celtics embarrassed you at home and then decimated you in game 6. You added Artest, Celts added Wallace. Nate Robinson showed he can carry the bench when Rondo is not around. LAs bench is not as deep. The team gets pushed around a little bit and all the fight comes out of them. No, Kobe is not as good as LeBron and none of their big men are as good as Howard and we all know what happened there. Cant wait to see what happens tho, you never know. Either way its gonna be fun to watch!

  20. Objective analysis - May 29, 2010 at 2:33 PM

    Individual matchups for the starters:
    Center – tie
    Power Forward – advantage to Gasol
    Small Forward – advantage to Pierce
    Shooting Guard – advantage to Bryant
    Point Guard – advantage to Rondo
    Bench – Robinson,Wallace,Davis,T. Allen,Daniels can beat the crap out of Odom,Brown,Farmar,Vujicic,Morrison any day of the week.
    So what’s the conclusion here?

  21. docdiaz1 - May 29, 2010 at 2:34 PM

    DA LAKERS BBBAAABBBEEEEYYYY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. Objective analysis - May 29, 2010 at 2:35 PM

    Individual matchups for the starters:
    Center – tie
    Power Forward – advantage to Gasol
    Small Forward – advantage to Pierce
    Shooting Guard – advantage to Bryant
    Point Guard – advantage to Rondo
    Bench – Robinson,Wallace,Davis,T. Allen,Daniels can beat the crap out of Odom,Brown,Farmar,Vujicic,Walton any day of the week.
    So what’s the conclusion here?

  23. Reality Check - May 29, 2010 at 2:41 PM

    Have some of you Lakers fans even been watching the Celtics? The author of this article got it right. That’s why he’s the author and the rest of us a are just a bunch of amateurs. I’ve got two words for you Lakers fans. Celtics toughness.!

  24. Lakerrepeat2010 - May 29, 2010 at 3:14 PM

    the only thing tough about the celtics is the clams in their chowder or is it CHOWDAH! Lakers in 6. The Lakers will finish the series with WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!!!!!

  25. John - May 29, 2010 at 3:15 PM

    the author forgot to mention that The Lakers have home court advantage

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