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NBA finals, Celtics Lakers: 2010 ain't 2008

May 30, 2010, 9:59 AM EDT

Thumbnail image for Rondo_Fisher.jpgThe players are mostly the same. The franchises, the mascots, the colors, the pageantry, the history, the bad blood. All that’s still there. But this finals matchup is uniquely different from 2008 for five reasons.

1. The Lakers are better: When last these two teams met in the finals, the Lakers were less than a half season since the Pau Gasol acquisition. They were still figuring one another out, still learning each other’s tendencies. This team was not whole, as it is now. Furthermore, Andrew Bynum was out after knee surgery. Granted, Bynum’s still struggling with a faulty knee. But even in limited minutes, Bynum can be a huge factor, helping LA to dominate the glass and get easy points down low, two things the Lakers will need in this series. Ron Artest gives LA a wing defender they can sick on anyone and expect him to deliver. And he does.

2. The Celtics are better: You thought that 2008 club was tough? Try this one, that knows it’s a championship caliber squad. The Celtics simply have that much more swagger to their step this year because they know they’ve already gotten that ring, reached that summit, climbed that hill. They are not lacking confidence in that regard. They’re also more familiar with one another, and have learned different ways to beat teams. This is also a deeper club, with Tony Allen, Nate Robinson, and Glen Davis all providing significant minutes off the bench. This team is fiercer than it was 2008, as incredible as that sounds.

3. Rajon Rondo has come of age, Derek Fisher has become aged: Rondo has been phenomenal throughout the playoffs, arguably the best player in the league. Rondos’ shown a driving ability that can help the Celtics to not only attack the basket of LA but can open up opportunities for his teammates down low. It doesn’t take much for the Celtics to go into attack mode. Rajon Rondo is the high pitched squeal that lest the Celtics off. Derek Fisher’s having himself another playoffs full of huge shots. He’ll be called upon even more in this series to try and equalize Rondo’s contribution a bit.

4. Boston is better on the road and worse at home: TD Northbank Garden was a house of horrors for the Lakers in 2008, as they wilted in Boston time and time again. The Celtics are no longer unbeatable in Boston, losing games to Cleveland and Boston in the playoffs and it has become somewhat of an issue. The bad news is that they’re significantly better on the road. The Celtics have developed a knack for winning one of the first two games, stealing home court, and putting the fear of God into their opponent from the get go. LA has to hold serve if they want to put the C’s on ice.

5. The legacies are different: The 2008 Celtics were on a mission  to destroy everything. It was their first real chance at a championship, and when they realized that, they pushed their play to another level. But now the Celtics expect to in. They can point to that ring as the ultimate in validation. The Lakers on the other hand have just realized how good they can be at full strength, and are still struggling to get everyone at the same level.

Both teams are storied, both teams are champions, both teams are the cream of the NBA crop. We’ll have to see how this series shapes their legacy in the years to come.

176 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. Jay - May 30, 2010 at 7:19 PM

    Celtic fans… you guys are smoking crack. The West is way tougher than the East. Your 4 top teams feed off the other teams in the East. That’s why your records are better. We play the East teams twice a year, we play most West Coast teams 4 times. That’s why we were so close (teams in the West) because we have a much tougher time getting separation. In the East it’s easy. Feeding on bottom dwellers like NJ, Washington, NY, etc. Come on. Be real.

  2. Chris - May 30, 2010 at 9:16 PM

    Wow Israel. 20 out of last 22. Thats pretty good. It must have taken alot of studying to pick the Bulls in all 6 of their championship wins. Even more amazing picking the Lakers from 2000-2002 when nobody could touch them. And how on earth did you pick the Spurs for their 4 championships in 99,03,05,07. Tell me what is your secret formula to picking the heavy favorites to win the 13 titles that I briefly mentioned. Besides the fact that they were all HIGHLY FAVORED to win that year and a blindfolded monkey high on cyrstal meth could have done the same thing. You should start your own gambling hotline. Really. LOL…What a retard

  3. Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 30, 2010 at 9:23 PM

    Geez, if I would deconstruct Dave’s arguments I would end up getting a brain lobotomy. Must be mean stuff you’re taking, dude. I suggest you get a shrink. And now you call Gasol soft? Kobe = Pierce???!!! You know, it’s pointless arguing with muchachos like you. I wouldn’t want to stoop down to your level. Celtics’ Achilles Heel is Rondo. Our bigs can handle the C’s pseudo-bigs. Who can handle Kobe? Lakers in 6. And yeah, if there is any Faker, that would be Pierce. He fakes injuries like he was in total pain for that glorious comeback. If there’s any Hollywood, that would be him. Kobe plays through the injuries and moves on.

  4. HD - May 30, 2010 at 9:58 PM

    Lakers could win this in 4, but will probably take 6.

  5. Erik - May 30, 2010 at 10:01 PM

    You are delusional.

  6. Lakers4Lyfe - May 30, 2010 at 11:27 PM

    Lakers in 6. Celts are too old … and it’s gonna show. And whoever said the Eastern Conference is tougher than the Western Conference is smokin’ crack. The East is for girls. You all should play for the WNBA.

  7. Matt - May 30, 2010 at 11:33 PM

    Ok I’m a Celtic’s fan and I am picking them, not just because I’m a fan, but I feel their team is better. Lets think this through, these teams are pretty evenly matched, split the season series and the wining team in each one won by 1. Kobe will be the best player on the floor, but the Celtics have shut him down before and will do so in at least one or 2 games (for him shut down is less than 17 point, considering his average) Rajon Rondo can not be stopped, the Lakers have no one to stop him, hes easily the fastest player on the court with a great knack for fining the right play. We’re healthy and playing close to a 100%. There is a wider gap between the defenses (advantage Boston) than the offense (advantage LA), but the games will be close since they’ll make up calls for Kobe like they did for LaBron. The Lakers’ game plan, have Kobe handle the ball and give it to the other guys occasionally while the Celtics usually never have 1 guy that will score every point (though they have been going to Pierce more). I think Jackson is a bit over ratted as a head coach (had the best player in the NBA every time he won a title, how hard is it to win when you have the best every time? Red was better) Also the Cletics have had experience with teams that have star players capable of scoring a lot while the Lakers have not played any teams that can play any where near half the level of defense the Celtics can. Also Celtic fans are better and can get into players heads more (game 6 in 08 as proof)

  8. Matt - May 30, 2010 at 11:35 PM

    They’ve been saying the Celtics are too old for this whole playoff, find a new thing to pick at, they’ve proven that they can play

  9. Matt - May 30, 2010 at 11:39 PM

    He doesn’t have to be stopped, he only has to be slowed down while everyone else is stopped. Which the Celtics can do and have done in the past.

  10. Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 30, 2010 at 11:54 PM

    @Matt and Ced: I appreciate and recognize your points. Real smooth and to the (valid) point. With you guys, let’s agree to disagree. To say it would be easy picking for any of the two teams should have their heads checked. I like the match ups and both teams deserve each other for that Finals slugfest. Celtics are physical but I wouldn’t call them dirty… unless you include KG’s verbal spews. LOL! That being said, let the better team win. And for the love of the sports gods, I don’t want the fans of the losing team whine about officiating and conspiracy theories. Lakers will win this IMO, though it would be a hard-fought series.

  11. Drew - May 30, 2010 at 11:57 PM

    I agree, there were some relatively easy championship series to predict to pad one’s record, but not all the finals were easy to predict. Most people thought Orlando would dethrone Houston in ’95 and got swept. Most people had the Lakers beating the Pistons in ’04 and got manhandled in five. Some people had the Pistons winning in ’05. Most people had the Mavs winning in ’06 and were comfortably up 2-0 and almost 3-0 until Miami stormed back.
    It’s easy in hindsight to pick the Bulls in all of their championship series. Phoenix had homecourt and the reigning MVP in ’93. I would say going into that final it was a pick ’em series. The series with Utah in ’98 was incredibly close and was a Jordan missed shot away from Game 7 on Utah’s homecourt just as they were a John Paxson miss away from a Game 7 on Phoenix’s homecourt in ’93.
    I would say 20/22 is a pretty good record.
    I’m not a rabid Celtics fan, but I think Rondo’s ability to break down LA’s weak PG play with their superior defense will win this series.

  12. Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 31, 2010 at 12:06 AM

    As for Phil, empirically speaking, yes, his teams are loaded with “Best Players” of the league. But it is quite unfair to say that it was like serving those o’brian trophies in a silver platter c/o his best players. Shaq and Kobe were there already with Del Harris and yet could not get into the Finals. Jordan has been a scoring machine for ages before getting his rings. What Phil does is to elevate the already mega-potentials of his players and translate them into greatness. If LeBron played for him, I’m pretty sure he would be a King and not a Jester. To say that he is overrated, for me is a very preposterous notion.

  13. Matt - May 31, 2010 at 12:08 AM

    So you’re discounting the Celtics’ run this post season? How easy did the Lakers have it?! Oklahoma City, Utah, and Phoenix, an average of 52.3333 wins compared to Miami, Cleveland, and Orlando, an average of 55.6666 wins. Close but the Celtics had it tougher (considering they were below the average while the Lakers were above their average). Did you compare the current Celtics to the 80’s Celtics without comparing the current Lakers to the 80’s Lakers, that would put the comparison into perspective a bit better, so try that before just comparing teams to each other with no relevance to anything. Who says they have to be the 80’s Celtics? The Lakers are not the 80’s Lakers, I can tell you that right now. And LaBron gave up after the 3rd in the second? So game 3, which Cleveland won had nothing to do with LaBron James? I also believe he scored more than 30 points in game 6, so if thats him giving up than he would average like 60+ points a game. You’re only remembering games 4 and 5, where the Celtics were just better. And Howard not being superman? He is only superman in the dunk contest, don’t blur the lines between pointless entertainment and an actual game. Plus the Lakers’ have been playing against no defense while the Celtics are playing against the best. Also you can’t give the Celtic’s D any credit? I’ll give Kobe credit, he is a great player that many people like, in LA, I doubt that girl in Denver is a big fan, hahahaha.

  14. Matt - May 31, 2010 at 12:15 AM

    Ok let me rephrase what I said to make it what I mean about Phil. He is a great coach, he is not overrated in that respect. But in the respect of people calling him the greatest ever. True he did what you said, but do you think that there was no other coach who could have done that?

  15. Matt - May 31, 2010 at 12:47 AM

    Where to start, well your facts are good, but then you strayed away from them. Feel free to address these points I bring up because I want to learn what you mean by some things. Too much pride and revenge, huh? That could easily lead to their failure, have you ever read the Odyssey? Hubris (excessive pride) lead to Odysseus’ downfall (lost his whole crew and took him like 20 years to make a 1 year voyage) And you say that like the Celtics have no pride at all. The whole Artest vs Pierce argument was good, nice facts, but he never had to face him in a best of seven series (or so I think, if they have and I forgot get me the stats for that series) also playoff stats usually don’t go into career stats, that usually just regular season, and they’re completely different, unless those stats do consider playoffs, then you seem right. However thats just one side of the match up, how’s the other side look for Artest? Another argument, I think you’re underestimating Rondo’s skills. He’ll give Fisher trouble at some points, trust me. Also you are saying that the Celtics have to shut down literally their starting 5 and Bynum, and I guess their whole team since you apparently didn’t finish. So everyone on that roster can man handle the Celtics defense where the two best teams in the NBA had trouble (P.S. they lost) So I think you’re thinking way too highly of most players on that roster. True the West was closer, but it doesn’t mean its as drastically better as you think it is. Look at out of division records to get a better idea (I’m not sure, you can check that out if you want to validate your point) Just to sum it up, you underestimate Rondo, and I mean by a lot, and overestimate a lot of players on the Lakers. Not saying they can’t win but it won’t be as easily as you seem to think, unless you clear up some of these points for me.

  16. Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 31, 2010 at 12:57 AM

    To answer your question, no. There’s no one. Those 10 rings speak volumes. Who do you have in mind? The thing is, PJ’s approach to coaching is so unorthodox, magnified by the use of the non-traditional triangle, that many people fail how difficult it is for Phil to make his players play with the right attitude and behaviour in mind — and get the championship at that! With all the egos and the conflicts he had to put up with, he still manages to get those rings. When other coaches have yet to get to the Promised Land, PJ makes it look like a hobby. For these Phil-coached championship teams hardly would you call them one-hit wonders. It’s not easy winning one much less back to back, and more so a three-peat! Red’s accomplishment of 9 in a row would be unprecedented and it’s no mean feat. But given today’s competitive teams I can’t see such streak from happening.

  17. Matt - May 31, 2010 at 12:59 AM

    I meant out of the conference records

  18. Matt - May 31, 2010 at 1:03 AM

    Well when you put it like that it seems I have given PJ not enough credit, however I do like 9 in a row, that shows continuous dominance that can never be matched. So here is another point where we agree to disagree. However it may seem to the contrary of what I’ve been saying, but I do respect PJ.

  19. Israel - May 31, 2010 at 1:05 AM

    Eric….Can you even read? Again I’m a Knicks fan. Just the fact that you’re not very observant puts you out of this conversation. You can’t even make a valid ball point. Keep up the expletives since its the only way you can argue.
    Oh and one other thing. You can knock my 20 out of 22 finals predictions all you want, but since you know zip about ball, I’d be surprised if you even know the teams in the league…

  20. Israel - May 31, 2010 at 1:12 AM

    What’s up with you Laker fans? I’m a KNICKS FAN. Sorry dude for predicting your team is going to lose, but I’m usually right about these things. The Lakers have NO ONE that can guard Rondo, the Celtics play better defense, and they have more offensive weapons. Any one that knows the game knows that none of the things I just pointed out are in dispute. The only reason the Lakers have a legitimate chance to make this a series is Kobe. Otherwise the Lakers are the LA Clippers with a Pau Gasol.

  21. Matt - May 31, 2010 at 1:26 AM

    I guess however I am meshing two different eras in basketball, which maybe make these coaches incomparable. Call me a homer, but I do like Red, what he did could quite possibly be the greatest decade of any single team ever.

  22. Israel - May 31, 2010 at 1:28 AM

    Hmmm…You very conveniently forget that out of those 20 I picked right, they included Detroit over the Lakers in 2004, San Antonio over Detroit in 2005, and since you probably were a kid in the 90’s, I’ll remind everyone here that the only time that most analysts thought the Bulls were a sure pick was vs the Lakers in 91. You probably also were too young, but the Bulls were no sure picks in their 1st three championships either. Particularly against Portland in 92 and Phoenix in 93. Each and every other championship they had were wars, and that’s what made Michael the best player on earth, and something Kobe is never going to touch. The only thing you were right about was the Lakers no brainer championships in 2000 to 2002, and San Antonio over the Knicks in 99 and over the Cavaliers in 2007.
    Since you’re probably too young to know any of this, and all you know is after the fact, then I forgive you for your ignorance. Meanwhile you might want to study some finals history through the NBA site to get some perspective on what people were saying BEFORE each of the series I mentioned.

  23. Bill-Sonora - May 31, 2010 at 1:42 AM

    Ive always felt throughout the year and the playoffs that the only team that could beat the Lakers were the Celtics. Even when everyone wrote them off. Experience is an advantage and the Celtics are the only ones that have it besides the Lakers. Which is why I was rooting for the C’s to lose. The Lakers cannot be inconsistant. Every player has to play to the capablilies. If they don’t, the C’s will kill them. They have too many weapons and have the confidence knowing they beat us before. For cryin out loud they have 3 players that were team leaders of 3 different teams! How can that not scare you? Play well Lakers! Beat the C’s!

  24. Drew - May 31, 2010 at 1:47 AM

    I’m with you on this one. As I mentioned above, how quickly we forget that most people thought Shaq and Orlando would steamroll Houston in ’95 only to get swept. I agree with you about the wars the Bulls went through in 5 of their 6 championships, but I would say they were prohibitive favorites against Seattle in ’96, a 72-win team owning home court advantage. I would also say I don’t think many were surprised at the Lakers 2001 run when they beat Philly. To me, that was the most dominant team of this decade.
    If the Lakers win, it’s going to be because of Kobe’s heroics. But, Boston is playing the best TEAM ball. Rondo wins the MVP after shredding the Lakers’ defense.

  25. Bill-Sonora - May 31, 2010 at 1:55 AM

    I have to add:
    An advantage the Lakers have is that the Celtics had it too easy in the playoffs due to a lack of competition in the East. Lakers had the toughest competition and I think that will help them. The East simply doesnt have the same talent as the West.

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