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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. TORN - May 29, 2010 at 3:27 PM

    I Was born and raised in Boston. Moved to California 30 years ago. Loved the Lakers until Shaq, Horry, Fisher and others left the Lakers. Glad to see Fisher back. Even though Kobe can really play, this time I am rooting for my home team BOSTON CELTICS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. bubba99 - May 29, 2010 at 3:40 PM

    Rationalize all you want. If the Celtics had been in the West, neither the Lakers nor the Suns would be in the finals. Nuf Sed!

  3. Mass expat - May 29, 2010 at 3:44 PM

    I want to see the Suns and Celtics.
    Specifically I want to see all the Mass liberals who want to boycott Arizona become confused.

  4. Keith - May 29, 2010 at 3:57 PM

    1st a shout to LeBron & Dwight for helpin the Celtics prep for the finals!
    The Best line for fans of both Boston & LA ‘Any given Sunday’
    Pay attention to what you see /saw. All we heard was we’ll be lucky to get out of the 1st round. Doc Rivers said it best ‘just get us to the 2nd season. Boston came in and if they weren’t ready they got ready and came out on top twice. If Stan VG is right all we (Celtics) need to do is win the 1st quarter to put the hurt on LA. Home court didn’t help our previous opponents so why would anyone think it will work wonders for LA.
    Lastly…ya betta get the delfibrillator out for Jack baby if LA makes it past Phoenix and ya heard it here FIRST

  5. Ron - May 29, 2010 at 4:02 PM

    I absolutely agree with you…no true Laker fan wants the Celtics ever to win…except I was indeed pulling for them against Cleveland, guess I just don’t like pretenders.
    Having said that, if the Suns somehow get past the Lakers, I will be pulling for the Suns, a team I can’t seem to dislike no matter how hard I try. They really do have a bunch of nice guys, and I always liked Alvin Gentry…thought he got a raw deal with the Clippers. Plus would love to see Nash get a ring.

  6. Keith - May 29, 2010 at 4:03 PM

    I got a friend who recently moved west and he may also want to see Celtics & Suns but you know where his heart lies…when it thinks the Suns can beat the Celtics…that’s a lie!!!
    + we don’t treat our people (residents) like they do out there (that’s why we’re liberal)!

  7. Ron - May 29, 2010 at 4:07 PM

    That is the most ridiculous thing I have read on these boards…you must listen to Mark Levine, a truly confused person in his own right.

  8. Ron - May 29, 2010 at 4:10 PM

    I know the feeling, TORN. Even while the Lakers were winning those three titles earlier this decade, I was having a real hard time liking the individual players…particularly Shaq and Kobe with their on-again, off-again bu**sh*t.
    This Lakers team is much more likeable, and I am enjoying watching basketball again. The Celtics are going to be a real challenge for the Lakers (if they get there), should be a lot of fun watching it.

  9. Frank - May 29, 2010 at 4:27 PM

    you laker fans are all clowns…and how exactly does beating the best two teams in the nba on the way to the finals qualify as an easier route? anybody who expects a different result than two years ago needs to have their freaking head examined…this is a celtic DYNASTY that only lost last year because of injuries so deep we were starting Scalabrine…i placed my celtics championship bet a month ago, because fans and bookies are both shortsighted and ignorant, i cant wait till it pays off huge…f all doubters

  10. Frank - May 29, 2010 at 4:28 PM

    you laker fans are all clowns…and how exactly does beating the best two teams in the nba on the way to the finals qualify as an easier route? anybody who expects a different result than two years ago needs to have their freaking head examined…this is a celtic DYNASTY that only lost last year because of injuries so deep we were starting Scalabrine…i placed my celtics championship bet a month ago, because fans and bookies are both shortsighted and ignorant, i cant wait till it pays off huge…f all doubters

  11. Frank - May 29, 2010 at 4:30 PM

    you laker fans are all clowns…and how exactly does beating the best two teams in the nba on the way to the finals qualify as an easier route? anybody who expects a different result than two years ago needs to have their freaking head examined…this is a celtic DYNASTY that only lost last year because of injuries so deep we were starting Scalabrine…i placed my celtics championship bet a month ago, because fans and bookies are both shortsighted and ignorant, i cant wait till it pays off huge…f all doubters

  12. OLD GUNSLINGER FAN - May 29, 2010 at 4:32 PM

    Kobe is not as good as Lebron? Are you nuts? Not only is he as good he is much better. A players greatness must be judged by how he plays in BIG moments. Kobe always delivers and James never does. Kind of like Crosby vs Ovechkin in hockey. No excuses for Lebron. He had the supporting cast this year and still did diddly squat. You state that none of their big men are as good as Howard. This is accurate, however, none of Bostons’ big men are as good either so I miss your point. Enjoy the games and watch out for heroics from the MAMBA.

  13. The fan - May 29, 2010 at 4:40 PM

    Matt,
    you have the greatest intro man!! “Hello followed with them” Boston will win.We don’t care who we draw, we just want #18.Road warriors don’t always need home court.

  14. Ron - May 29, 2010 at 4:43 PM

    Name calling is the last refuge of the frustrated fan…and the rest of your post exposes your lack of intelligence.

  15. SLP - May 29, 2010 at 5:16 PM

    All of you are forgetting. The Suns are not beaten. They are victorious. And if the Celtics don’t care about the odds, well, neither do they.
    Suns will go to the championship against Boston, and they have already won. I have foreseen it. If anyone deserves to be brushed aside as an afterthought in this series….wait. there’s a team name missing in this post…….
    (Insert Evil Palpatine laugh here.)

  16. John - May 29, 2010 at 6:04 PM

    Hey Mr. Matt Moore – you forgot to mention Garnett is healthy again and that ( Garnett Out last year ) is the only reason it was Orlando playing the lakers last year instead of it being the Celtics / Lakers three years straight. Gasol will get his butt kick all over the floor by garnett,kendrick,davis and wallace. If the refs let them play and swalow their whisles instead of blowing them ( old school ) Bostons wins this in six tops.

  17. Dan - May 29, 2010 at 6:06 PM

    Any day the Lakers lose is a good day…whether they are playing the Suns, the Celtics, or the Clippers! I hate L.A.!

  18. cord - May 29, 2010 at 6:09 PM

    I find it really funny how much the Celtics pride themselves on being “tough,” but when someone else pushes back and ups the level of physical play (see “Dwight Howard”), there’s suddenly a lot of WHINING from the C’s and their fans.
    And I hate the Lakers, by the way.

  19. Are you serious? - May 29, 2010 at 6:29 PM

    Why does everyone keep mentioning what seed Boston “would’ve” been if they were in the West? Who cares? Do you understand that Boston has shown that the regular season and where you’re seeded doesn’t mean jack?
    Why are you even using the West as a benchmarker anyways? The better higher records were in the East. Ooo, Boston would’ve been an 8th seed in the West. Yeah, that 8th seeded team just stomped the #1 and 2 seeds. LA would’ve been a 3rd seed in the East. And the Suns barely make it as the 4th seed.
    Ridiculous argument some people bring up.

  20. ELVIS - May 29, 2010 at 6:35 PM

    LAKERS ARE GOING DOWN, THEY ARE WAY LUCKY IN ANY GAME!!

  21. Jackie - May 29, 2010 at 6:49 PM

    Los Suns hope the Lakers lose then the Celtics will lose. Yes with the Arizona illegal immigrant Law, the first sting players of the Boston Celtics will be arrested under the immigration law. The Law says if you look like an immigrant even with ID. Before people start saying this will not happen it already has. Many people of different races have been arrested even with ID because the police said they look like immigrants and the skin color. Now by using he second sting Celtics players it’s a win. The Lakers were smart enough to quickly flew in and out of Arizona to make sure none of the players of color or immigrants got arrested before the game. With the push by the Republicans/Tea Party/ KKK members it’s one way for the Los Suns to win the campionship. Yes mistakes happens and sometimes there not really mistakes.

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  23. havaron - May 31, 2010 at 2:31 PM

    I was a Laker season ticket holder in 61 this guy is no Laker fan a true Laker fan Hates the celtics, believe me sir I have seen many Laker fans and you are no Laker fan

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