The two most storied franchises in NBA history meet in the NBA Finals for the 12th time come Thursday. Will Boston hang banner number 18, or will Los Angeles make it a repeat?
Rajon Rondo vs. Derek Fisher – Two years ago, I would have said Derek Fisher. He is the wily veteran that plays bigger in the postseason than the regular season. Today, he is two years older and has trouble defending the younger, faster point guards. Rajon Rondo fits that description and then some. When these two teams met in the Finals two years ago, Rondo was seen as a liability. Now, he is the best player for the Celtics. EDGE: RONDO
Ray Allen vs. Kobe Bryant – Kobe is not quite ready to be past his prime. In the fourth quarter in game six against the Suns, he made shot after shot. He has that killer instinct not seen since Michael Jordan. Ray Allen is one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. He can match Kobe shot for shot if need be, but Kobe is the better player in this matchup. EDGE: BRYANT
Will Paul Pierce go Willis Reed style again?
Paul Pierce vs. Ron Artest – The Master Flopper vs. The Master Defender – The physically unstable vs. The mentally unstable – I could go on and on, but it will be interesting to see how Pierce handles Artest’s defense. Artest will be a neutralizer on Pierce in the half-court. The Lakers don’t shoot as many threes as the Magic, so there won’t be many opportunities for Boston to get out on fastbreaks. Pierce is better offensively than Artest, and it is vise versa on defense. Defense wins championships. EDGE: ARTEST
Kevin Garnett vs. Pau Gasol – The Celtics broke the bank to pick up KG – giving up All Jefferson, Sebastian Telfair, and Gerald Green. They also threw in Ryan Gomes and Theo Ratliff for good measure. The Lakers got Gasol for essentially nothing minus the two first-round draft picks – Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton and Aaron McKie. In 2008, KG exposed Gasol as a soft big man. Gasol has gotten tougher between now and then, but no one plays old-school, physical defense like the Celtics. Will Gasol punch back, or will he go back into his shell? I believe he will revert back to that big man with no gusto. EDGE: GARNETT
Kendrick Perkins vs. Andrew Bynum – Kendrick Perkin’s only job is to rough people up in the paint and look as unhappy as possible while doing it. He’s not known for his offensive prowess but he’s averaged double figures in points for the first time in his career. His physical style will give Andrew Bynum fits. Bynum is more polished offensively but can be a bit too much of a finesse player at times. He’s been injury prone at times and comes off as soft. He tends to disappear at times. In the Western Conference Finals against the Suns, his points by game were 4 ,13 ,2 ,12 ,2 , 10, and he never reached double figures in rebounds. EDGE: PERKINS
The only player of significance coming off the bench for the Lakers is Lamar Odom. Everyone else is the average role player. Similarly, the only big name coming off the bench for Boston is Rasheed Wallace. Excluding those two players, I’d rather take Tony Allen, Glen Davis and Nate Robinson over Sasha Vujacic, Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar. EDGE: CELTICS
Doc Rivers vs. Phil Jackson – 10 rings to 1. Enough said. EDGE: JACKSON
When it is all said and done, the Celtics take the series four games to two. Rajon Rondo will win the Finals MVP award.