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Which team is more likely to come back: Celtics or Lakers?

May 5, 2011, 2:51 PM EDT

Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen

Right now, you don’t want to be the Celtics or the Lakers.

History tells us the teams that have won the last three NBA titles are in a lot of trouble. Watching the games and how they’ve been outplayed makes it feel worse. Heading into a playoffs filled with flawed teams — there was no juggernaut — it seemed logical to guess that the two most veteran, battle tested teams would be the ones that figured out the answers first.

Nope. Both have been thoroughly outplayed in the first two games of the second round and both are down 0-2. Both are facing long odds to even get to the conference finals because in both cases the team they are playing is peaking at the right time.

But which one is more likely to find a way out of their hole?

It’s hard to see how Boston could pull it off under any circumstances.

What Miami has done is rip apart Boston’s strength — it’s defense. Miami has been the more physical team (to go with their superior athleticism). Miami has used great ball movement to the weak side, players cutting and diving without the ball, dibble penetration and transition to rip apart the defense that made the Celtics the Celtics. It’s not a lack of effort for Celtics, it’s an inability to stop what the better athletes of the Heat are doing. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have been able to get theirs and the Heat have drained the three. Boston has no easy answers.

Going back to the Garden and having a long layoff for a veteran team may help, and maybe Rajon Rondo can finally start to dominate Mike Bibby and the rather sad Heat point guard rotation like he should. Maybe at home the Celtics bench will feel more comfortable and start to outplay the Heat bench.

But the fact is the two best players in this series are Wade and LeBron, and they are finally playing off each other in a way the league feared they would figure out someday. Even if the Celtics get Rondo going and get better bench play, if Wade and LeBron keep going like they are it’s hard to envision the Celtics taking four of five.

As for the Lakers, you can kind of see how they get it done. You just can’t see them doing it.

Dallas deserves credit — they have found what the Lakers are not doing well and pounded away on it. When midway through the fourth quarter of Game 2 they saw how poorly the Lakers were defending the high pick-and-roll, they ran J.J. Barea off it mercilessly. Dallas has fed Dirk Nowtizki because the Lakers have not been able to defend him. The Mavs bench has destroyed the Lakers bench.

But the dynamic here is different than the Heat/Celtics series — when Los Angeles makes a mistake Dallas makes them pay. Credit Dallas for doing that, but it still feels like the Lakers are their own worst enemy, that there is a potential they are not reaching because of themselves, not because Dallas is holding them back. The Lakers last season were able to frustrate Steve Nash and Rajon Rondo on the way to a title and now Barea is ripping them apart? That’s not Dallas, that’s Los Angeles.

So in a sense, you can see how the Lakers could flip a switch and still beat Dallas — Pau Gasol could find his legs and return to being the most skilled big man in the game, the Lakers threes can start to fall, they could decide to start feeding Andrew Bynum, they could try harder on defense. Kobe could go nova.

But what gives you any belief that these Lakers even know where that switch is, let alone know how to flip it.

All season long the Lakers have battled fits of boredom and fatigue, never really honing their execution. They got by on superior talent. Now that lack of execution is costing them because they are up against a talented team that is executing. All the credit in the world to Dallas, who is uniquely qualified to exploit it the Lakers mistakes.

Maybe one of these teams can come back from 0-2. The Lakers stand some chance. But really, it’s hard to see how either of them last past Game 6.

  1. jjared1101 - May 5, 2011 at 3:22 PM

    The Lakers last season were able to frustrate Steve Nash and Rajon Rondo on the way to a title and now Barea is ripping them apart? That’s not Dallas, that’s Los Angeles

    ———————————–

    Or, one might say that the Lakers struggle against fast penetrating guards like Westbrook, Paul, ect… JJ Barea isn’t anywhere near that level, but he for sure can get penetration and finish at the rim, which would not be LA. That would be Dallas.

  2. downtowndanny - May 5, 2011 at 3:24 PM

    both of these teams knows how to get to and win in the finals, something their opponents dont (not including Wade’s ring, as he and Haslem are the only leftovers) that being said I dont see Dallas folding like a cheap tent at this point, it’s possible but not probable. Boston still has the guys that can get it done, but thats a very daunting task. If Pierce doesn’t show up, they’re done.
    If Boston squeaks by Miami they still have to beat Chicago and LA would have to deal with KD and co
    as much as it pains me to type it, Dallas wins the west only to lose to Chicago or Miami

  3. oumoonunit - May 5, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    Turn off the switch and get off the Lakers beat Kurt. They are not the deepest team in basketball anymore. Gasol has never been the most skilled big man in basketball! Dirk has won an MVP and is, by far, a better offensive player; they are both mediocre to poor on defense. Gasol is just a big body with a skilled offensive game, but he is no where near “the most skilled big man in the game” nor has he ever been. The Lakers also have a major weakness at the point guard position, and that got exploited more than their mistakes. Having Kobe for so long has clouded your perception about how good they were, but he can still be one of the most electric players in basketball. He needs to carry his team again.

    • oumoonunit - May 5, 2011 at 7:02 PM

      I can see most Lakers fans are as delusional as Kurt. The team does have weaknesses. If you really think Gasol is “the most skilled big man in the game,” you are idiots. The Lakers are still one of the best constructed teams in Basketball; I’m not trying to deny that. Gasol and Bynum might be the most skilled PF/C combos in the league (I would say Memphis has it with the Lakers next, but that is subjective), but don’t kid yourself thinking either of them are the most skilled in their individual position.

  4. goawayeverybody - May 5, 2011 at 5:31 PM

    Of course the answer is the Celtics. The Lakers lost two at home. The Celtics lost two on the road. I expect the Celtics to easily win game three. The Lakers will likely lose game three.

  5. passerby23 - May 5, 2011 at 5:33 PM

    “The Lakers last season were able to frustrate Steve Nash and Rajon Rondo on the way to a title and now Barea is ripping them apart? That’s not Dallas, that’s Los Angeles”

    Come on, Kurt, you should know better than that. First of all, I don’t remember the Lakers frustrating Nash or Rondo. I remember the Lakers frontline exerting their will on Phoenix and Boston which allowed them to win two very competitive series. You make it sound like they completely nullified their PG play, which wasn’t the case at all. Second of all, Barea’s outburst was 8 minutes of one game, not an entire series. Third, the Lakers have notoriously struggled FOR YEARS against penetrating point guards. This is nothing new. They were just able to mask this deficiency with greater strengths elsewhere. Fourth, the primary reason Barea was so effective is because two Laker players were glued to Dirk on every pick-and-roll because HE was tearing them apart. Barea’s effectiveness at least in part was due to Dirk’s presence.

    So that’s not just the Lakers “figuring it out”, it’s a flaw they’ve had for years. You take Tyson Chandler off of Dallas’ roster, the Lakers are up 2-0. THAT’S the difference in the series.

  6. rapmusicmademedoit - May 5, 2011 at 6:09 PM

    as Kobe said on his way out the press conference ” be careful what you write”………………….

    Kobe = winning…………………….

    Dallas will choke like they did against Miami in the Finals, Dirk knows what I’m talking about!

    you think Kobe and his boyz is going out like chumps, they are the two time defending champs
    so don’t get fresh, okay.

    buh bye
    brooklyn Laker fan

    • thestudiokida - May 6, 2011 at 12:15 AM

      Dallas are renowned choke artists so it would not surprise me if they lose the series. Not only in the finals vs. Miami but the next year they won 67 games and got BLOWED UP by Golden State in a 1st round shocker.

      Weird thing is that with Dallas theoretically taking out L.A. we could see a Finals rematch with Miami/Dallas. Miami has not won a game (0-10) against Dallas since the Finals and could be an interesting matchup.

  7. budrow - May 6, 2011 at 6:02 AM

    thestudiokida

    Good stat, that would make Dallas vs Miami pretty interesting.

  8. allball23 - May 6, 2011 at 9:16 AM

    The lakers have a better chance of coming back. Dallas have chocked in thepast and kobe is still good enough to win games by himself. Both will likely lose. I like the miami vs dallas finals idea I would like to see okc get there maby next year for threm

  9. avermaver - May 7, 2011 at 12:55 AM

    regarding title: not anymore

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