This is going to be a great NBA Finals. Let’s get straight into the position-by-position breakdown, except with so much switching from offense to defense instead of the usual point guard through center breakdowns, we’ll be using ball handlers, swing men, and big men.
Big Men: This is going to be a fun match up with both teams throwing out some very talented big men on the floor. Starting for the Lakers will be Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol and they will use their quickness and speed to cause problems for the Celtics Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins whose forte is strength and power. When the Lakers are on offense, Lamar Odom will be dealing with Kevin Garnett. Odom has to force KG to stay on him at all times, not allowing him to cheat and help on Gasol, Kobe or any other Laker that tries to drive or cut. The best thing he can do is go right at KG every once and a while to keep him honest and then otherwise stay on the perimeter to keep him out of the paint. With KG being occupied with Odom, Pau Gasol must abuse Kendrick Perkins to give the Lakers an advantage. Perkins is much stronger with Gasol, but if Gasol gets any chance to face him up or start off from the high post, he should win that battle every time. Gasol (and Odom if the Celtics switch KG onto Gasol) must get the ball and force the Celtics to double him and open up whenever Perkins is on him to open the ball up for everyone else. When the Celtics have the ball, KG is going to be guarded by Gasol. Gasol will try to use his length to bother KG, but if KG goes right at him, Gasol will quickly find himself on the bench with foul trouble. Luckily, for the Lakers, KG is much more likely to settle for jumpers. Perkins being guarded by Odom is interesting, because there is no way that Odom should be able to guard him in the low post. Perkins isn’t a great offensive talent, though, and won’t get the ball too much. He should still be able to score by getting a lot of offensive rebounds and put backs. Ronny Turiaf (Lakers) and PJ Brown (Celtics) are the primary backups, and both are really only going to play to give the starters a rest and for their rebounding. Speaking of rebounds, the Celtics should get plenty of them as they are stronger than the Lakers and can get better position.
Swing Men: The Celtics will start Ray Allen and Paul Pierce against the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant and Vladimir Radmanovic. Allen should start off on Kobe and make him work on defense by going through numerous screens. Meanwhile, Radmanovic will be trying to use his length to bother Paul Pierce, who’ll go right at him, so Radmanovic should only play 15-20 minutes a game this series. Luke Walton will also be mostly ineffective against Pierce, which is why Trevor Ariza might see decent minutes this series. Ariza has the length, speed, and strength to battle Pierce and make him work for his points. The Celtics main back up here is James Posey who won’t contribute much on this end other than the odd three pointer every once and a while. In crunch time, the Lakers will play Sasha Vujacic along side Kobe, so Kobe should also take a turn guarding Pierce during the end game. When the Lakers have the ball, the Celtics have some interesting choices to make. Neither Pierce nor Allen can stay with Kobe, with Allen being much worse than Pierce in that regard now that his legs are shot. The best match up they have here is to have Posey on Kobe because Posey is a good defender who has been to the finals before and thus knows what it takes to win. Another choice they can have is to have Allen on Kobe. Allen is a terrible defender, which is something Kobe knows all about. So why put Allen on the best player in the NBA? Since Kobe understands he can drop 60 on Allen if he tries hard enough, he may be inclined to take a lot of shots and ignore the offense. This throws the Lakers offense off by having the other players mostly just stand around and do nothing. This in turn lowers their defensive intensity, as players tend to slack off their defense and rebounding when not involved in the offense. Therefore, Kobe must keep his ego in check and allow the offense to flow for most of the game before taking over only when truly needed. The rest of the Lakers swingmen must keep their spacing up and be ready to knock down open jumpers or hit the cutters with passes.
Advantage: Lakers, although it’s slight
Ball Handlers: This is a match up between the Celtic’s young Rajon Rondo and the Lakers’ experienced Derek Fisher. In time, Rondo should be an all star. He is quick and supremely talented and should be able to stay with Fisher as long as he stays focused. Luckily, for the Lakers, he won’t stay focused and he can’t consistently knock down his midrange and out jumpers. Fisher, being a savvy veteran, will take full advantage of that. He can back down the smaller Rondo and make him pay for trying to double anyone else by knocking down the three (he’s shooting around 56 percent for the postseason!). Jordan Farmar will come in to give Fisher a rest, and his athleticism should match up well against Rondo. The problem for the Celtics is that they don’t really have a back up for their young point guard. Sam Cassell and Eddie House will give it a shot, but whenever they are on the floor, the Lakers will attack their dribble and force turnovers. Rondo will have to play big minutes and play well to neutralize the Lakers advantage here.
Coaches: Phil Jackson understands how to use his lineups and make his adjustments. Doc Rivers can’t really do either that well. Both are good at getting their teams to play hard, but there really isn’t much to say here. Phil Jackson is a much better coach than Doc Rivers and has the experience to run rings around him.
That’s pretty much it. This is a match up between the Lakers’ league best offense against the Celtics’ league best defense. It is going to be a lot of fun to watch but in the end, the Lakers have Kobe and Phil Jackson. That should be enough to win the series.
Prediction: Lakers in 6