Two guys from USA Today (who I've never heard of) have posted 5 reasons why the Celtics will beat the Lakers and vice versa. Let's have some fun and see what they have to offer, starting with the C's:
1. Battle tested: The Lakers have certainly look like the more dominate team. The Celtics struggled through their first two series. But while the Lakers think they can win with their backs to the wall the Celtics know it. They have played two Game 7s and won them both. They are playing better on the road and they have to believe that the hardest thing to do was win with expectations. If the games or the series is close, Boston players know they can win in a stretch duel. This will be the first series they are not the favorite. Having home court advantage will certainly help.
2. Kevin Garnett: He is a rarity, a superstar who doesn't need to prove he's the baddest man on the planet in every game. That means he will give up the ball when necessary. While it is a great to have a go to guy who loves the spotlight, Garnett's ability to defer, when he thinks it is wise, is a valuable asset. And he's not about to cave into outside pressure and alter his game to satisfy fans, pundits or even management. Garnett knows what he can do and when he can do it. Every championship team could use a guy like Garnett.
3. Celtics defense: This is a team that knows how to play defense together. And if you don't think that is important ask any Pistons fan or watch any of the games that the Celtics won against Detroit in the past few days. Boston closed out a good Pistons team because they never allowed them to play the style they wanted. The Lakers are a great offensive machine led by the game's best player. No one has stopped them but the Celtics may the team that can slow them down.
4. Big Three: A great player can carry a team. Kobe is that great of a player. But is comforting to know that you don't have to be the guy every night. When Ray Allen struggled and everyone thought that would be the end of the Celtics run, Paul Pierce, who has been the MVP of the playoffs, stepped up and carried the team scoring wise. When Allen returned to form it made it that much easier for Pierce and Garnett. The Lakers have to game plan to stop a trio and that takes some extra planning.
5. Rajon Rondo: He knows his role and it isn't to be the star of this team. Every champion needs a guy to be the guy who finds the guy. If Rondo tries to win games on his own the Celtics won't be around long. But he doesn't try to do that. He gets the ball to his the Big Three, makes some key shots, plays defense and runs the offense. You can do worse at point guard than this guy.
And now for the Lakers:
1. Phil Jackson: He belongs in the conversation of greatest coach in NBA history. The claim that anyone could win with the talent he has had is simply nonsense. All championship teams have talent. But it isn't that Jackson wins with great talent, it is that he never loses with it. Jackson, who has no small ego himself, is the best at working with the biggest egos. In fact, he seems to be amused by them. He won as a player, he won in the CBA and he is running out of fingers for NBA title rings. Vastly under appreciated as a bench coach, Jackson can quick think with the best of them.
2. Derek Fisher: Players follow Kobe Bryant because of his greatness on the floor and because they fear him. You follow Fisher because he is everything a leader should be and you like him. He exudes calm, there is no situation he hasn't encountered and he's able to put perspective on what is happening. A team is never lost with Fisher because he knows the way out of any situation and Jackson can bank on that.
3. Pau Gasol: He is the Kevin Garnett of the Lakers. A super talent who doesn't need the ball or accolades to fuel him. He knows his role, he knows Kobe is and wants to be the man and makes sure he helps that to occur. A player with exteme talent who turned the Lakers from a team that was dangerous in the playoffs to the best team in the NBA.
4. Kobe's acolytes: As a teammate Bryant is easy to admire but not always that easy to like. He has no reservations about calling you out or leting everyone know you don't meet his standards, even if he's later proved wrong. Not everyone has the personality to withstand his scrutiny. However, players like Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic, Jordan Farmer and Ronny Turiaf thrive under Kobe's wing and are able to incorporate the message without worrying about how its delivered. Without question Bryant is the most important player on the floor for either team but you don't win championships without help from these other guys.
5. Offense: Bryant makes the Lakers the most dangerous offense in the entire NBA. And with Lamar Odom and Gasol, the Lakers have a trio that matches up with Boston's. No one has effectively stopped these guys and Bryant has so many options that is is hard to believe there is a defense out there that will stop them or even slow them down.
Okay…I was buying into all these arguments until I reached this one: Pau Gasol: He is the Kevin Garnett of the Lakers. Needless to say, I'm still laughing.