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NBA Finals, Lakers Celtics: Boston big men will play the bully, will L.A. stand its ground?

Jun 1, 2010, 1:28 PM EDT

Perkins_Bynum.jpgLet the Phil Jackson mind games begin.

At least he’s gotten smart about how to avoid the fines from David Stern when trying to plant subconscious messages in the mind of the referees. Jackson was talking Monday about Kevin Garnett’s play in the last series and the L.A. Times Mark Medina recorded it.

“He was smacking Howard’s arm and finally he was called for an offensive foul,” Jackson said of Garnett. “That’s not our team. We don’t go out there and smack people around.”

Jackson is trying already to get the refs to call this series tight. Because if the refs allow an MMA fight in the paint, advantage Boston. As Jackson later put it the Lakers big men do not have “a smackdown mentality.” Boston does. Big time.

Two years ago the Celtics front line of Kedrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett and Glen “Big Baby” Davis did smackdown the Lakers. They’ve since added another big man who has tormented the Lakers in the playoffs, Rasheed Wallace.

Can the finesse group of Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum stand up to that this time around?

The Lakers do have some advantages over last time in the toughness department. To start with, Ron Artest is a brick to Vladimir Radmanovic’s tissue paper. No doubt Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher are nails.

The Lakers also have Andrew Bynum this time. Two years ago Perkins — a very good defensive center — could body up and push around Pau Gasol. This time, Perkins will have to cover the bigger body of Bynum — and he’s going to be able to largely shut down the Lakers center.

But that makes the Garnett/Gasol matchup a key one in this series. Garnett is physical and thrives on intimidation. Gasol has a reputation for backing down. But this is a different Gasol than two years ago — after that Celtics loss was the first time he hit the gym and weights hard to get stronger.

With that came a new mentality. Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register recalls one of the regular matchups between the two teams earlier this season, when the Celtics went right at Gasol hard — and Gasol leaned back in and pushed back hard. It led to a little skirmish where the Gasol and Perkins earned double technicals.

The Lakers also are hoping to see more of the hardened grew-up-in-Queens Odom than the one that disappears for games at a time. Which one shows up, who knows?

The Celtics are sort of in the same boat with Wallace — in the playoffs (with the extra rest between games) he has returned to being a good three-point shooter and a huge boost off the bench. But that’s not who was there in the regular season, when Celtics fans were ready to trade him for a rack of shootaround balls. If the regular season Sheed returns it is trouble. Sheed — because he can hit the three — could play a key role. The Celtics would love to pull the Lakers big men away from protecting the rim on defense, and Sheed’s shooting can do that (as can KG’s midrange game).

We know what the Celtics are going to do. They are going to try to be the bully on the block. The Lakers say they are different this time around. Maybe. But they are going to have to prove it. They are going to be tested on the biggest stage with the hardest hits. If they fold, so do the Lakers chances.

  1. Joe Arellano - Jun 1, 2010 at 3:01 PM

    I am a Lakers fan and have been for quite a while (since the days of Magic Johnson).
    Although the Lakers have a few players (like Bryant,Fisher,Artest)who wont back down to the physicality of the Celtics, I am pretty certain that other key players (such as Gasol, Odom, and even Bynum) will be too scared to fight back once they are pushed by the bigger and stronger “Beantown Bullies.” The referees will likely allow the dirty, physical play to continue.
    Unfortunately for myself and other Lakers fans, the “soft,girly-like” play of Odom, Gasol, and Bynum will result in a Lakers loss in 5.

  2. Omnius - Jun 1, 2010 at 3:35 PM

    This year the Lakers are a far tougher team than they were 2 years ago. This year the Lakers will have revenge for 2008 on their minds, I hope we see the Lakers clinch the title at TD Gardens. Yeah the Lakers were short 2 players in 2008, Bynum and Ariza were both injured. This year Bynum is limping a bit with the sore knee but he’ll make a big difference in the paint. If the Ancient Celts have 4 big men then I’m hoping that DJ Mbenga gets some playing time since he’s a strong 7 footer who can bang in the paint.

  3. j_d_hastings - Jun 1, 2010 at 3:50 PM

    Leon Powe smacked the Lakers around a lot more than Glen Davis did back then.

  4. al michaels - Jun 1, 2010 at 5:20 PM

    Watch Artest and tell me he isn’t playing dirty. Superstars get away with murder. Watch Kobe dive into a defender and then put up a prayer shot. Result, blocking fould and usually the shot counts. All the pros play to keep, and the stars get away with mugging and hacks. The rest get a whistle. Let em play and the best of seven result will be the winner. Nuff said.

  5. brent_cal - Jun 1, 2010 at 7:11 PM

    Really you call yourself a Laker fan?

  6. chiliD - Jun 1, 2010 at 7:47 PM

    “Watch Artest”????
    Apparently, you’ve never watched Garnett or Perkins play defense…”dirty” ain’t strong enough…”filthy” barely comes close. “Assault & Battery”?? That’s more like it. Oh…you used the right word…”Murder”.
    Won’t matter…Perkins’ll get his “disqualifying” technical in Game 1 and will be watching from the sidelines in Game 2 anyway.
    “Watch Kobe dive into a defender…”
    Oh, and Pierce & Ray Allen don’t (nor any other NBA “shooter”)? Have you really WATCHED an NBA game?
    “Let ‘em play”
    Sure, let’s just toss the rule book out the window. Why not put up a cage around the floor and let ‘em go at it WWE style.
    Lakers in 7.

  7. downey1997 - Jun 1, 2010 at 8:26 PM

    If Lakers match Celtics aggressiveness they win in 6, if they play soft like ’08 they lose in 5

  8. NimRod - Jun 1, 2010 at 11:03 PM

    you are right about Gasol and Odom…but ain’t no bitch in me!!

  9. luffy - Jun 1, 2010 at 11:43 PM

    Please watch the regular season games, tied 1-1, First game, the Lakers won by a point, a winning shot by Kobe in TD garden. 2nd game the Lakers lost by 1 in Staples, just by a friggin’point and Kobe didn’t even play…
    Bynum and Gasol dominated the paint, shot over Perk, Sheed and KG, dunked over Perk and KG, blocked shots and they got a lot of rebounds. Please stop w/the soft comment on the Lakers big men, just watch the regular season games and see for yourselves…
    Lakers in 5 or 6…

  10. olbuzz - Jun 2, 2010 at 12:20 AM

    Laker’s are sandbaggin…. If Bynum holds up and thats a big if. They drop Boston in five. Boston’s only chance is if the ref’s allow a mosh pit. They can’t let that happen this time. L.A let Phoenix hang around so they wouldn’t sit for so long. The addition of Artest (who wants this bad) and Bynum along with a much improved Gasol spells dead end for Celtix.
    The Christmas day game was setup by Jackson. Buss wants him to hang around till he gets the championship lead away from the thugs in green. That may take three more years. Boston will need the luck of the Irish and the refs to keep it close. Anything more we’ll need a congressional investigation

  11. Manuel Bañez - Jun 2, 2010 at 7:29 AM

    You are not a Lakers fan Joe Arellano!!!
    The Lakers will win the series 4 – 2 meaning
    Games 1 & 2 are sure ball wins for the Lakers, they would lose game 3, but come back strong and win game 4 to regain homecourt advantage, but will lose again game 5 in the last stand of the Celtics, before moving back to Staples Center to be crowned NBA Champions in winning game 6.
    This is what’s going to happen as Kobe will run rings around any defender Doc Rivers assignes to him. Pau will outplay KG, and Artest will handcuff Pierce, and Rajon Rondo maybe able to sping some surprises but his heroics will only for games 3 and 5 as Shannon Brown will fly higher than him! And lastly, Kobe to prove that he is the greatest ever will check Ray Allen’s offense and he will be good only for a measly series average of 12 points.

  12. Hackpiper - Jun 2, 2010 at 10:44 AM

    Oh brother, here we go again with the West Coast drama schtick: “revenge” “beantown bullies”…and of course the so-called “Zen Master ” trying to psych up the refs. Etc. Etc…blah, blah, blah.
    As a Celts fan, I must admit that the Lakers have the edge this time around. Simple physics of talent, athleticism, and size against basic grit and skill. Lakers SHOULD win by most accounts…and it will be triply embarrassing if the Celts mop the floor with them yet again. Celtics have already far exceeded any expectations we’ve had for them this year…so its going to be fun watching what they can do as underdogs.
    But all the girly-man talk and psychobabble sort of make me want to puke. The Hollywood courtside entourage doesn’t help matters either. Predictions are almost always lame, but in this case they’re just refinforcing the “West Coast Weenie” stereotype.
    Suck it up Lakers (and fans). Why not just shut up, and bring it to the games?
    Just saying…

  13. Gumbi - Jun 2, 2010 at 12:40 PM

    Bynum and Odom are the “inside” key for the Lakers. The problem is Bynum’s knee is more than sore, he’s got a torn meniscus and lateral movement becomes a problem on defense. It won’t get any better ( I’ve had one and it is really painful ). Anyway, Odom seems to show flashes of his ability but too often plays within himself. I think if he keeps his head in the game Lakers win in 7.

  14. Carlo - Jun 3, 2010 at 12:04 PM

    I am a Celtics fan but I’m really concerned that Garnett’s knees will give out in this series, Perkins will be suspended for 2 games due to his rough play, Rasheed Wallace bricking his 3’s and Pierce sustains a real knee injury from faking one. So I think Lakers will take this in 4.

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