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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.

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. devin - Jun 1, 2010 at 8:33 PM

    Rondo is a beast period.Sometimes he has bad days,but for the and excited celtics,rondo is going to be at his best laker fans you know that. Paul Pierce is one the most toughest player in nba, once he is on, he’s on. Speaking on the celtics road games,they are the best. who lets a team smash on them wen you get an mvp? obviously lebron, there was nothing wrong with him. Celtics, As the best road team in the nba, will make sure they get a win in staples center. if Nate makes points like he did in game six against magics, and if tony allen steps up like previous series, you will have trouble, this shows that this is not a 1 man team. celtics got Dwayne wade,lebron james, Dwight howard. we have to see how much kobe and his team matured. Playing like a team wins games. GO CELTICS!!!

  2. luffy - Jun 2, 2010 at 5:13 AM

    Hey dumbass, yes the Celtics got Wade, Howard and James. did you notice that all those players are in a team that depends on them? Celts won in the weak east because the teams there doesn’t know how to play as a team. The teams in the west are playing team basketball, and I mean every team in the West except for Denver, that’s because Karl wasn’t there to coach them.
    Oklahoma – Team play w/good coach, Scott Brooks
    Utah – Team play w/good coach Jerry Sloan
    Phoenix – Team play w/ good coach, Alvin Gentry
    San Antonio – Team play w/the 2nd best coach Greg Popovich
    Portland – Team play w/good coach Nate Mcmillan
    LAKERS – Team Play w/the best coach Phil Jackson
    Now let’s go to the team that Boston got…
    Heat – Dwayne Wade + Young Coach who I don’t know?
    Cavs – Lebron James + The great Mike Brown? Wow!
    Orlando – Dwight Howard + Van Gundy?
    Now tell me the difference between the East and West teams and the teams that the Lakers and Boston beat…
    Lakers in 5 or 6…

  3. luffy - Jun 2, 2010 at 5:24 AM

    On the defense thing, I’ll say this again…
    The Celtics Defense is overrated, their defense looks great because the teams in the East just suck in shooting the ball. Count how many attempts the Cavs and Orlando had, and I mean uncontested shots. If you call using all the big men’s fouls Defense then by all means yes, they have good defense after all.
    Enough of the flashbacks, 2008 champions? champion my A$$! Bynum and Ariza didn’t play in that series and it still took the Celtics 6 friggin’ games to beat them? Duh?!

  4. luffy - Jun 2, 2010 at 5:35 AM

    ” Rondo is a beast period”. Nice opening sentence… LMFAO!
    Speaking of Rondo, ok agreed, maybe Fisher can’t guard Rondo but Kobe or Shannon Brown could. Now let’s re-iterate the question, Who’s gonna guard Kobe? Ray Allen? Pierce? Rondo? KG? Perkins? Tony Allen? Big Baby? Rasheed? Doc Rivers? Your thoughts please?

  5. SEVEN - Jun 2, 2010 at 1:24 PM


  6. TheIndependentThinker - Jun 2, 2010 at 2:12 PM

    1) Kobe and the Lakers BARELY beat the suns to make it to the finals. They obviously aren’t that strong, even with mongoloid Artest. Chances of Mongo making another rookie mistake = 100%. Chances of him making another game winning shot = 0%.
    2) Rondo has developed IMMENSELY in the past two years. I would LOVE to see Kobe try to step to him. I see a triple double in his future against a slowed down Fisher or even Kobe.
    3) The Celtics are basically the same core unit and got Wallace to cover for Powe. Also, they have a healthy KG (unlike last year). Lakers still have the same problems – their biggest asset is the teams own worse enemy (Kobe). Can’t wait to see him and Gasol fighting on the court after each loss.
    4) Celtics in 6.

  7. CP - Jun 2, 2010 at 3:37 PM

    Which storyline is better:
    – Lakers cruise to easy third consecutive Western Conference championship and second consecutive World Champion title, defeating the same green team they lost to 2 years ago
    – Celtics overcome mediocre season by defeating the best regular-season team, defending Eastern Conference champs, and defending World Champs to go 8-0 in series with their starting five
    Knowing nothing else about basketball, one of these metacontextual storylines is better than the other… and thus, there’s your champion.
    Celtics in less-than-8.

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