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NBA finals, Celtics Lakers: Five keys for both teams to win it all

May 30, 2010, 12:24 PM EDT

Odom_Allen.jpgDavid Stern is smiling. As always, the Midas touch commissioner got what he wanted. Two years ago the Lakers/Celtics NBA Finals was a ratings bonanza. The two most storied franchises in the NBA. Two large and passionate fan bases (based in large markets). A genuine rivalry renewed on the league’s biggest stage.

Plus don’t forget — two very good teams. Two very different teams, but two good and competitive ones. Two teams that have earned their way to this point. Each with dreams of hanging another banner in the rafters.

Celtics five keys to victory:

Defend like it is 2008
The Lakers are not used to real defensive intensity. Despite all the talk of the zone Phoenix ran, the Lakers still pretty much scored at will all series against a shorter Suns team. Before that LA saw a small Utah team. Boston is long and brings a focused defensive intensity that the Lakers have not seen. As happened in Game 1 against Orlando, that intensity could cause the Lakers to step back and cost them a game. Their inability to overcome Boston’s defense cost them a series in 2008 and is the ultimate weapon for the Celtics again.

Rajon Rondo
He is the offensive leader of the Celtics. And he plays the position and a style that the Lakers have had trouble stopping all season. Derek Fisher cannot contain Rondo. If he can slash and drive into the heart of the Lakers defense, the Lakers rotations will be strained and Boston will get their points.

Ray Allen’s defense
You cannot let Kobe Bryant take over, particularly at the end of games. Ask Alvin Gentry about it. Ray Allen will have the assignment, but it is really a team assignment with double teams and rotations. If you let Kobe beat you, he will. If you force the other Lakers to beat you, your chances go way up. If Allen can wear Kobe out on the other end of the floor, and score some points in the process, that would help.

Be physical
The Lakers can still be pushed around. Ron Artest and Andrew Bynum change the dynamic some from 2008, but Pau Gasol and Lakers bench players can often shy away from physical play, they become less effective. Take Gasol out and the Lakers offense becomes stagnant. Push them around as much as the referees will allow.

The Bench
In 2008, James Posey came up huge for the Celtics off the bench, he was maybe the Celtics second most valuable player behind Paul Pierce. Posey is sitting at home right now — somebody else has to step up. It doesn’t have to be the same guy every night — it can be Sheed one night, Nate Robinson another. But the Celtics need production out of their bench to score enough to knock off the Lakers.

Lakers five keys to victory:

Stop Rajon Rondo
For a couple years now, quick slashing point guards have been the bane of the Lakers existence. Derek Fisher can’t slow them and once into the teeth of the Lakers defense things can break down. Fisher has to do better (as he has done in the playoffs) and the Lakers rotations have to be sharp. Los Angeles has already controlled Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams and Steve Nash enough to win the first three series, now they must do it one more time.

Ron Artest’s defense
Two years ago Paul Pierce did whatever he wanted against the Lakers defense — Ron Artest was brought in specifically to stop that. (Well, Pierce or that LeBron guy, whoever they had to deal with.) The Lakers will lose if Pierce gets loose again and the rest of the Lakers defense focused on stopping Rondo. Artest will have to take Pierce out himself.

Pau Gasol
Last year in the finals, Pau Gasol spent much of the time matched up on Dwight Howard and he held his own. Nobody talked of toughness then. But it still comes up when fans get frustrated, and in this series the long Celtics front line will be physical him again. Garnett will try to intimidate. If Gasol fades away, so will the Lakers offense and their chances to win. However, Garnett’s lateral quickness is not what it was and Gasol may be able to face up and attack KG this time.

Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant is on maybe the best playoff run of his career — 29.4 points per game overall on 48 percent shooting and 41 percent from three. He is hitting the big shots again, but more importantly since his knee was drained last he has been quicker and elevating higher. He has gotten to his spots on the floor. The Celtics usually defend Kobe by sending hard double teams at him, trying to get the ball out of his hands. Kobe has to make the smart passes (and his teammates need to step up) then take the shots when he gets them. If he forces it, he plays into the Celtics hands.

Homecourt
The Lakers have been a better team at home these playoffs. In both the Oklahoma City series and the Phoenix series, the Lakers fell apart on the road only to get right at home in Game 5 and win the series one game later. With the 2-3-2 format in the Finals, the four games at Staples Center could be the biggest difference for the Lakers from four years ago.

  1. luffy - May 31, 2010 at 1:04 AM

    There, you said it already on the Stop Rondo paragraph…
    “Los Angeles has already controlled Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams and Steve Nash enough to win the first three series, now they must do it one more time.”
    We are talking here of the best pointguards in NBA right now besides Derek Rose. And the Lakers has overcome all of those pointguard issues already.

  2. Jay - May 31, 2010 at 1:19 AM

    Celtics only needed 3 home games to beat the Lakers in ’08. They’re a better road team than home team now. All they need is a split of the first two games. Rondo’s an excellent scorer but he’s even more proficient at passing. So even if you stop him, he’ll make the right play. Our big men are tougher than the opponents the Lakers have faced so far. And do you really think Kobe or Fisher can chase Ray around for 40 or so minutes? Pierce will be stopped but the Celtics bench will eat up the Lakers’ second unit.
    DEFENSE wins CHAMPIONSHIPS.
    CELTICS in 5 or 6.
    Here’s to Banner No. 18!

  3. The Dude Abides - May 31, 2010 at 3:15 AM

    Kurt, Kobe has guarded Rondo every time he’s played against the Celtics after Game 2 of the 2008 Finals. The Lakers are 5-2 in those games, including a 2-2 split in Games 3 through 6 of those Finals. Do you think Phil will make the same tactical mistake he made at the start of the Finals by putting Fish on Rondo again?

  4. luffy - May 31, 2010 at 3:20 AM

    I hate flashbacks but let me remind you since you started it…
    2008 – Bynum and Ariza were injured and didn’t play in the finals
    – Celtics have Posey, House and Powe
    Boston Wins in 6 games, it took them 6 friggin’ games? Duh?
    2009 – Regular Season, Lakers swept the Celtics w/both teams having complete and healthy line-ups.
    – Sorry ass Celts lost to the Magic, KG didn’t play, whatever.
    Present
    2010 – Rondo is better, they have Rasheed but no Posey, Powe nor Eddie House to bail them out.
    – Lakers are now complete + they acquired Artest…

  5. Ross Estes - May 31, 2010 at 3:26 AM

    Rondo is vastly improved from the last finals between these two teams.Artest can and will make Pierce’s game more difficult.Kobe will be Kobe so Ray Allen offense will strugle at times because of the defensive pressure he will have to exert. K.G Perkins and wallace are better defensively,Gasol Odom are better on offense , in a 7 game series slight edge to the defense. Boston,s bench is better.Rondo will be the differance. Celtics in 6

  6. Omnius - May 31, 2010 at 9:41 AM

    The Lakers need to play an umtempo game against Ancient Gang Green, the old geezers in Green can’t take all that running and gunning. If the Lakers can score over 100 points a game they’ll win easily as the Celts just aren’t good enough offensively to keep up a scoring spree. Watch Fisher keep Rondo contained mostly and Artest will be Too Fierce for Pierce! The Lakers need to pound the ball inside and force the foul prone Celtic Bigs to get themselves into foul trouble. Time for the Lakers to run the babyfat off Perkins and Davis! Lakers in 6 but 5 will be sweeter, I want to see the Lakers celebrate on the TD Garden floor.

  7. Rich Macaluso - May 31, 2010 at 11:19 AM

    Who is gonna chase Ray Allen around? Give me a break. Which celtic is gonna guard Kobe? That is the question! Rondo is playing great. Prior paragraphs addressed Lakers beating Nash and Williams and Westbrook. Gasol’s softness is overrated. He is tough enough and talented enough to be a factor. He is better and more in tune. Bynum, Artest and Odom are all there and better. Glen Big Baby Davis is the c’s answer? Sheed can be great for one game or one stretch and then hurt you with his head and attitude the next. Home Court advantage.
    Lakers 2010 World Champions!

  8. mike - May 31, 2010 at 11:27 AM

    Yeah, LA has overcome the point guards, however, they did it by switching Kobe to Westbrook and doubling Williams. Nash is fast, but not strong.
    With Boston you can’t put Kobe on Rondo (foul trouble and Fish would have to guard Allen) you can’t put Artest on Rondo (Foul trouble and Fish would have to take PP). Where are you going to hide Fisher?

  9. yasser acmed - May 31, 2010 at 11:49 AM

    I think basing on 2008(I know its bad to flashback what was, but, I really think the Big3 are feeling better than ever and hungrier) Ray Allen guarded Kobe well, not necessarily stopped him but keeping his ground especially with Kobe’s pump fakes, I also remembered Pierce guarding Kobe and he also managed to hold his ground he even block a shot, Celtics is a defense prided team, so they’ll get touchy if you say they can’t guard, look what happened to each games after they get blown out, they get touchy and holds vengeance on the next game and look at them now. I really think the Lakers will have a hard time with the Celtics defense, If you’ve watched there playoff games you’ll know how suffocating they can be. Defense wins championship, CELTICS WORLD CHAMPIONS.

  10. jeanne luna - May 31, 2010 at 3:47 PM

    Celtics are old…the only reason they beat Cleveland is because Lebron was injured and couldn’t shoot…the reason they beat Orlando is because the Magic didn’t come out to play the first 3 games, they thought the 4th seed Boston would be an easy win.
    Now, they face the Champion Lakers and will have to play their best…if they can keep Ray Allen from having ‘cold shooting nights’, keep Perkins from his ‘anger management’ issues that will cause a 7th tech, keep Garnett from his ‘old legs’, keep Rasheed from missing his ‘threys’ and need I go on….Lakers are at the ‘top of their game’…LOL

  11. Anonymous - May 31, 2010 at 5:08 PM

    “The Celtics are old”- no mention of Kobe, the Lakers best player being older and more mileage than the Big Three. Kobe has lost a step. The rest of his team? Wouldn’t even start on the Celtics, at best they are bench players.
    4th seeded Celtics beat the #1 team from the regular season. If you want to give the Cav’s an excuse, that’s your choice, but his elbow looked ok to the rest of us.
    4th seeded Celtics beat the #2 team from the regular season. Whether the Magic “didn’t come to play in the first three games” is irrelavent. The CELTICS DID come to play.
    Next up? The #3 team from the regular season. Easy winnings babeee!
    The ONLY reason the Lakers are still here is cause they play in the sister league- the Western Conference.
    If they played in the East- they probably would’ve finished 6th or 7th seed behind the Cavs’, Magic, Celtics, Hawks, Heat and probably ahead of the Bucks.
    Oh, and if they played in the East? They’d already be playing golf.

  12. joeyvegas - May 31, 2010 at 6:09 PM

    Gasol much more physical now. A very Soft Radmonavich, a starter in 08 is gone. Artest replaced him and will guard Pierce. Kobe will slow Rondo, Bynum and Gasol will handle KG and Perkins. The wild card for Boston is Nate. Sasha, Farmar and Brown will need to handle him, will be key off the bench. Lakers in 6.

  13. Allan - Brazil - May 31, 2010 at 6:21 PM

    Those are two awfully good teams, so anyone can win it.
    That said, a believe it’s clear that this time the Lakers have 2 huge advantages over 2008:
    – Ron Artest – In 2008 Paul Pierce was guarded by Vladmir Radmanovic!?!?!? (no wonder that he was the Finals MVP).
    – Home Court Advantage
    Anyway, I’m pretty confident the Lakers will repeat because Kurt is not having another baby this year.
    Are You, Kurt?

  14. joeyvegas - May 31, 2010 at 6:32 PM

    They don’t call it the NBA (L)East for nothing. You have to win 50 games to qualify for the playoffs in the West. Celts had the same record as Oklahoma,and they were the #8 seed. The Suns blew out Boston both games they played them. They are playoff tested. Celts have a chance against the Lakers, but the Suns would’ve crushed them. They don’t match up as well. It should be fun!

  15. BF the Shark - May 31, 2010 at 6:57 PM

    The teams have moved in opposite directions over the last 2 years. As long as the trends hold, the Lakers win in 5. Give the Celt’s 20 more FT’s in any game and 5 goes to 6 or 7. Based on that trend, Lakers in 6.

  16. bleedingpurplengold - May 31, 2010 at 7:59 PM

    Kobe won’t admit it because historically, he has down played his heroics and passions. But he wants the Celtics bad. These Celtics are not the same Celtics of 2008 although they still have the core players and they don’t have Posey which did a decent job on Kobe last time they met in the Finals. Additionally, the Lakers have added Artest which will be assigned to Paul Pierce which was the finals MVP. In essence, Orlando did a splendid job with banging up the old Celtics leaving a less then healthy team for the Lakers to run on. So here is my two cents: With the Celtics age, various injuries, inevitability of Perkins picking up his final technical before he is suspended for one game of the Finals, and the passion for revenge on a storied rivalry the matured Lakers have been hoping for. The Lakers are going win it all in 5.

  17. joeyvegas - May 31, 2010 at 9:19 PM

    Based on the 2-3-2 format in the Finals, the Lakers must win the first 2 at home.If they do, there’s a huge amount of pressure on the Celtics. The Lakers then only have to win 1 of the 3 in Boston to go back to LA with a 3-1 lead. It’s over if the Lakers win the first 2.

  18. d - Jun 1, 2010 at 12:54 AM

    To much thinking Guys.It all boils down to who shows up.You can say what ever. Look who wants it more.Some things are forever on a sunny day or a rain filled day.The lakers aint hungry. The comp was not good enough thats why they made it. Come on Pheonix only had nash and amrie plying.

  19. luffy - Jun 1, 2010 at 1:11 AM

    You have got to be kidding me. Nash and Amare only? They have Hill and Richardson plus the Phoenix bench is probably the best in the NBA right now.
    You say the Lakers ain’t hungry? If it’s Orlando or Cavs I agree 100% that they’re not hungry but with the Celts, the Lakers are hungrier than ever because of the 2008 loss.
    Talking about defense, the Celts ain’t good in defense, duh? the Orlando team just suck in shooting the ball, just count how many attempts they had in the series. Carter choked, Lewis choked, Nelson choked, Didn’t use Pietrus that much and the biggest factor, NO HEDO TURKOGLU in the series…
    Celtics only have one chance, if Rondo isn’t contained, that’s it. Lakers in 5 or 6…

  20. Foul Dwimmerlaik - Jun 1, 2010 at 9:46 AM

    Hey little boy, do you know what bandwagon means? Go back to school whippersnapper. What the Celtics did was to control the tempo of the game. I’m pretty sure that if the Lakers dictated the tempo into a fast-paced one, a significant number of the Celtics will be running on fumes. I mean, c’mon, can you even imagine Davis and Perkins running suicides for so long and still manage to defend the paint?

  21. agnostica - Jun 1, 2010 at 10:36 AM

    Very funny. Yes, I’m aware of the term and while I’m young, little boy I am not (25, alright?). I must say, after reading most of the comments and thoughts here, I have to say that most of your points are fair well-thought out.
    Look, all I’m trying to say is that for this entire playoff series the Celtics have been underrated and written off as “too old.” Yes, they are starting to show their age, but it’s not as if they played underhanded and piss poor teams to get to the Finals again. I won’t write off Kobe and the Lakers – they deserve to be in the Finals where they are, as do the Celtics. But as most people have argued here for the last few days, I think it’s the Celtics’ defense that will help them close this out, but regardless who wins, I think this will be the series match-up we’ve all been waiting for, not the proverbial “The King vs. The God” of LeBron vs. Kobe. I think this could very well go 7 games, and quite honestly I hope it does. However, unfortunately, I thoroughly believe that if it does go to 7 the Lakers will win it.
    And after seeing many people’s game predictions, they all seem to underestimate Boston’s road wins. The Lakers will not win the first two at home. They won’t. They’ll win game 1 but not game two, and I highly predict the Celtics will win 2 out of 3 games at home, which would put the series at 3-2 Celtics advantage before coming back to LA, and I also believe the Lakers will win that game, which ties the series 3-3 and it all comes down to game 7, where I already stated if it does come to that, the Lakers will most likely win. But either way, an awesome series. I just hate seeing my Celtics constantly being called old. They are, but they sure as hell aren’t showing it. You can say that LeBron gave up, and you can say that Superman never showed up to play, but it doesn’t matter. Nothing in the regular season matters. In the end, it all comes down to post-season play and Boston has shown they are in this to win it, and I think they can, but it will most certainly be a close one.
    Oh, and as a side note to your argument on the Lakers dictating the tempo – yes if they do, then the Celtics will slow down, but look at 2008 and see the tempo of the game (without throwing in the staple Artest/Bynum argument that every Lakers fan has) and those games were grinded out. That’s the Celtics style of play/defense, and we will most certainly see that again in this Finals series. Slow and heated, not fast-paced.

  22. Foul Dwimmerlaik - Jun 1, 2010 at 12:09 PM

    Look dude, I have profound respect for this Celtics team and it would be foolish to question their hearts and their abilities (though I have a hard time reconciling Pierce’s penchant for theatrics ala Hollywood with that lame wheel chair thingy). The thing is, they are old… BUT their basketball smarts and IQ would make up for that. Why would they bother go on running when it’s better for them to defend, slow the pace, and go for deliberate half-court offense? Celtics are physical, but not dirty. When the Magic were man-handling them, they had poise and continued playing (can’t say the same for Perkins tho). As far as I’m concerned, I rooted for the Celtics in the East because I know they would be the best opponents for the Lakers. You can’t validate your team being the best if you can’t beat the best opposition.

  23. agnostica - Jun 1, 2010 at 12:25 PM

    Well said. Same reason why I want to really only see the Celtics play the Lakers in the Finals. And yeah, Perkins really did get manhandled there and didn’t take it as well as he should have. It’ll be interesting to see how a team with championship-caliber defense does against a team with championship-caliber offense.
    And let’s not even discuss Pierce’s theatrics. I shake my head in embarrassment every time he does something stupid like that. He’s better than that, or rather he should be better than that.
    And ok, you’re right – they are old, I guess I just want to deny that because I love their heart and determination. The Big 3 have maybe a couple years in them, at most, and I’m curious to see where Ray Allen and Pierce end up after the season.

  24. Craig W. - Jun 1, 2010 at 1:40 PM

    It’s funny…all the Celtic fans say the Celtic defense will win them the championship. All the Lakers have is their offense.
    The truth is that the Celtics have a somewhat simple, but very disciplined offense the gets contributions from a number of people on the bench. The Laker bench? Less so. The Lakers have a very good defense that can lose focus at times during the game, but they have a couple of lock-down one-on-one people.
    I personally feel the Lakers have a better balance between offense and defense and favor them in the series, but the Celtics certainly have match-ups that favor them. I look forward to a really good series.

  25. Snacker - Jun 1, 2010 at 2:48 PM

    What a series this will be! I can’t wait to watch this Finals.
    I am an unabashedly Lakers fan.
    However, I do believe Boston looks very very good, almost better than the Lakers on paper.
    Boston Strengths:
    1. Great defense.
    2. Rondo is playing at a stellar level.
    3. They have size in their bigs (which can match the Lakers strength). Also Perkins has improved.
    4. Seemingly deep and strong bench (though Wallace’s injury could be factor).
    5. They eliminated Cavs and Magic without home court advantage — not easy tasks.
    Weaknesses:
    1. OLD!! Esp Garnett. The big three are probably not what they once were in 2008.
    2. No home court advantage.
    3. Lakers I believe are better than both Cavs and Magic.
    LA strengths:
    1. Pau in 08 had just arrived to LA. He played nervous then. Expect much better game from him this series.
    2. Lakers have Bynum back, even though injured. He will make a difference in how they play defense with the double teaming. Also defensively. I think his presence is key – hopefully won’t get hurt.
    3. Artest can neutralize Pierce – Boston’s best one on one scorer.
    4. Never, ever count out Kobe Bryant. Esp when he has something to prove. He is very dangerous. In 08 they could smother him with double and triple teams, but this yr, will depend on his supporting cast stepping up to make the open shot.
    Weaknesses:
    1. Bench looks weaker than in 08. Walton is hurt, Vujacic, Farmer don’t seem to be playing as well in general (except in the last playoff series started to look better).
    2. Bynum is injured.
    3. Artest offensively is a wild card and unpredictable.
    4. Odom is the same way – could be great, could disappear.
    This game will depend on Boston’s defense vs whether Laker’s supporting cast will step it up and support Bryant or not. Also whether the Lakers bring it in terms of energy and defense which they are known to forget about sometimes. Boston is more consistent here.

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