Game 1: Thursday, June 3 Boston at LA, 9 p.m., ABC
Game 2: Sunday, June 6 Boston at LA, 8 p.m., ABC
Game 3: Tuesday, June 8 LA at Boston, 9 p.m., ABC
Game 4: Thursday, June 10 LA at Boston, 9 p.m., ABC
Game 5: Sunday, June 13 LA at Boston, 8 p.m., ABC (if
Game 6: Tuesday, June 15 Boston at LA, 9 p.m., ABC (if
Game 7: Thursday, June 17 Boston at LA , 9 p.m., ABC (if
Chuck: While Rondo should have his way with Fisher on offense, he also needs to dominate this match-up with defense. Wear down Fisher by pressuring him full-court and stick to him on the perimeter. If you minimize Fisher's clutch jump-shooting, you take a big weapon away from LA. EDGE: Rondo
John: The one thing Fisher can do is nail the open jumper. Rondo can destroy Fisher at the point of attack on both ends of the floor… which will be the first domino to fall in this matchup. Fisher will have some serious problems initiating the offense against Rondo. If Rajon can come up with a couple of straight-up steals per game, then the C's are going to be in a very good place. EDGE: Rondo
SG: Ray Allen vs Kobe Bryant
Chuck: Kobe scared the hell out of me with his closing performance in Game 6 vs the Suns. But the more shots Kobe takes, the greater the chance his teammates begin to stand around and watch. If Kobe spends time guarding Rondo, Ray needs to make them pay. EDGE: Kobe
John: Ray just needs to stay in front of Kobe and force him to be a jump shooter. It's the best he can hope for… then maybe what Chuck said will take effect. EDGE: Kobe
Wild Card: Kobe vs. Rondo, Fisher vs. Allen
Chuck: Ain't it funny how Kobe guarded Rondo in 2008 so he could stray and help out against other players and now he's the only Laker with a shot at stopping him? While Kobe is not as quick as Rondo, his length will help make up for the lost step. On the flip side, if Rondo gets caught guarding Bryant, expect Kobe to methodically back him down and shoot his patented fade-away jumper. EDGE: Kobe
Like I referenced above, Ray has a decided advantage versus Fisher. Even if Fish can stick with Ray through all the baseline sprints and screens, Ray will be able to shoot right over the top of him. EDGE: Allen
John: Kobe will automatically get the edge on anyone he's up against, but the edge gets a lot smaller when he's facing Rondo. Rondo is clearly a lot quicker than anyone on the floor, so he can, if he bears down, actually prevent Kobe from getting to the hoop. Meanwhile, Kobe can't play off Rondo like he did a couple of years ago. That would lead to Rondo having a repeat of the Cavs series. And if you want to take Rondo out of the half-court offense and let the Big 3 go up against Fisher, Artest and Gasol… I say go for it. Kobe gets the edge here because he's Kobe, but it's not as big a spread. EDGE: Kobe
Meanwhile, Ray will decimate Fisher in this matchup. He'll be able to shoot straight over Fisher every time he touches the ball. Fisher would get picked left and right and would get run down pretty quickly. Ray is still the best catch-and-shoot guy around… and there's no way Fish can keep up. I'm salivating over this matchup. So much so… I'm begging Phil to put Kobe on Rondo. EDGE: Allen
Chuck: Remember how hard Pierce had to work to get shots vs LeBron? He's going to have to work even harder against Artest. Expect Ron-Ron to play super-physical and try to rattle and frustrate Pierce. Pierce can counter this by not forcing the action. He also must continue his superb rebounding. EDGE: Even
John: Pierce's offense will definitely take a bit of a hit against Ron Ron. Mr. Queensbridge is looking forward to this matchup and he'll do what he can to shut Pierce down. A couple of years ago, Paul will still get some of his shots off, but he won't be able to upfake and draw fouls on Ron the way he did against Matt Barnes. Ron might hit a couple of shots as Pierce helps on D… enough to even this out. EDGE: Even
Chuck: Gasol has played great this post-season, but he's faced under-sized and finesse opponents… until now. Gasol's passing skills are also neutralized because the Celtics won't need to double-team. If Pau cheats to help on penetration, it would be nice to see Garnett find his jumper. EDGE: Even
John: Gasol is mentally weak, and he will disappear against KG's defense. He might show flashes, but so will KG… since we all know Gasol isn't exactly a defensive menace out there. KG has stepped up his D throughout the post-season… so all this talk about how great Gasol is will not continue. KG ain't who he use to be… but he can still cut Pau down to size. EDGE: Even
C: Kendrick Perkins vs Andrew Bynum
Chuck: How long can Perk go without collecting a technical foul and the one game suspension that comes with it? How effective can Bynum be with a bad knee? I expect these giants to battle to a standstill. EDGE: Even
John: Bynum is a more polished offensive game than Dwight Howard, but he wont' be able to flash it with his knee being the problem that it is. Cue Lakers fans bitching again because this injury, combined with Perk's D, will limit Bynum to a point where he's completely ineffective. Perk isn't really part of the Celtics offense, but he'll make sure Bynum isn't part of LA's offense either. EDGE: Even
Bench: Wallace, Davis, Allen & Robinson vs Odom, Farmar, Vujacic and Brown
Chuck: While Odom is the best of all the bench players (when he shows up), the Celtics have more depth. Sheed can also hold his own defensively with either of the Lakers starting big men. EDGE: Celtics
John: Look at all of the players who've made significant contributions in the playoffs for each team. Odom is the only guy for LA who has done anything of note. And while he's a starter-quality player… you can't rely much on the other guys. Meanwhile, the Celtics have gotten significant contributions out of Sheed, Baby, Tony Allen and, now, Nate Robinson. The Celtics have more guys who can do more things. EDGE: Celtics
Coach: Doc Rivers vs Phil Jackson
Chuck: I drew the ire of many Lakers fans when I predicted Doc would match wits with the Zen master in 2008 (For those with foggy memories who refuse to believe Phil screwed up, click here). While Doc is on a roll with his moves, I just can't give him the edge over a guy with 10 rings. Edge: Even
John: I get it. Phil's the "Zen Master." And the fact is that he's one of the best coaches in the history of the game. I'll give him the respect that is deserving of a coach with his resume. But Doc Rivers has masterfully guided this team through a season where even some of the most faithful (one of which may or may not be co-authoring this post) wrote them off. Doc has complete control of this team. The guys look to him… they listen…. they respond. Call me a homer if you want, but the job Doc Rivers did this year is amazing, and he's got his guys ready to finish this job: Edge: Rivers
Who'll go off
Chuck: Rajon Rondo. Remember his performance in the Game 6 clincher in 2008 (21 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists, 6 steals)? Expect similar numbers for the entire series.
John: Ray Allen. Rondo will have a great series, I'm sure… but I fully expect Kobe Bryant to check him… and sort of keep him in check. That means Ray will draw Fisher, and go off when he gets clean look after clean look at the basket.
Who needs to be stopped
Chuck: Pau Gasol. Unlike John, I respect Gasol's game. Since there's really no way to stop Kobe, the Celtics need to choke out the Lakers second best offensive option, and that's Gasol.
John: Gasol is a good choice, but I'll go a little outside the box and say Lamar Odom. When Odom is playing great, the Lakers are too. When he's not, the Lakers aren't either. And if the Celtics can shut him down, then their bench will give them virtually nothing. Our starters can match theirs… so if our bench can outplay theirs, the C's will win.
C's will lose if
Chuck: The rebounding. I must have typed those words under that caption 99 times this season. The Celtics turned a -1.5 rebounds per game differential in the regular season into a +1 differential in the playoffs. They must maintain this level of play on the boards.
John: 100% agree. The Celtics defense will force some tough shots. The Celtics absolutely CANNOT screw themselves by giving up offensive boards after forcing a miss on a possession. The Lakers are big. Gasol isn't a monster rebounder but he's tall and he'll get to a few if you let him. Same with Bynum. And really, the biggest threat on the offensive boards might be Artest… who'll do what he did to the Suns… sneak in when you turn your back and stare at the shot and burn you with a put back.
Remember when Doc said watch Pierce's rebounding numbers to see if he had a good game? This is where it will be more true than ever.
Chuck: Celtics in 7. Series MVP – Rondo
John: Celtics in 6. Series MVP: Ray Allen