Tip off for the 2010 NBA Finals is less than 50 hours away. With both teams set for a physical, best of seven series, here’s a few things to note before Game One on Thursday:
If Rajon Rondo can break free of Derrick Fisher, this series could be over, sooner than imagined.
Let Rondo play his game. If he’s not healthy, you’ll know it immediately. Too many times this season, you’ve seen the Celtics point guard run the floor, direct the offense, without help from head coach Doc Rivers. Rondo plays direct to the hoop, and can even pass out of the post. Assuming Kobe get’s assigned to him, Pierce and Allen will be free to shoot. Being the number one distraction is a serious advantage for the Celtics.
Who will win the battle at power forward?
Pau Gasol has become a sensational basketball player. In his three years with the Lakers, Gasol has outgrown his days as an average player on the Memphis Grizzlies. This year, the Spanish Sportsman is averaging 20 (ppg) and 10 (rebounds) for the Lakers, a far cry from 2008, when he was manhandled by a healthy Kevin Garnett, and ex-Celtic Leon Powe. Stronger, and more determined, stopping 7-foot Gasol is a high priority for Rivers’ defense.
If Andrew Bynum is healthy, Kendrick Perkins will miss a game.
Perk, of course, has reached his playoff limit of six technical fouls, after the league rescinded his seventh following Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals. There’s a lot of pressure on Perk to play a clean game, but you’d have to imagine sometime during this series, Bynum’s bickering will get personal, and he’ll be teed up for his seventh technical and one game suspension. With the way it works, Perkins will get suspended for one game at every ninth, 11th, 13th technical, but let’s hope it doesn’t come down to that.
Tough, and physical, this series will be won in the paint.
The Celtics will need to get high percentage shots, and catch the big men in the lane for layups. Dribble in, and pass out of the post. Make smart shots. Get Ray Allen involved early and often, but don’t live and die by the three. It didn’t work for the Suns, and it’s not a part of the Celtics strategy.
Set up the pick and roll for Garnett.
Matching up with Pau Gasol this series, KG will have his hands full on defense. The C’s have been so successful when they play Garnett off the screen, giving him open looks behind the basket. If you give the big man an easy look, whether its Perkins, Garnett, or Big Baby, the C’s are already in good shape.
Make the Lakers go to their bench.
Doc has limited his rotation to seven or eight guys this postseason, a far stretch from the 10-11 man rotation he was playing late in the regular season. If Tony Allen is healthy, the Celtics are deep. Look for Nate Robinson to get more minutes, given Rondo’s injury, and his inflated 41 minutes that he’s been averaging per game. Glen Davis provides great energy off the bench, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Shelden Williams caught a few minutes if the team is in foul trouble. Phil Jackson is comfortable with his starting five plus Odom, but after that, it’s up in the air. Trevor Ariza is not walking through that door.
Hey, Rasheed? Please keep your mouth shut.
Nothing fires up an officiating crew more than Rasheed Wallace and his maniacal mumbling. If Wallace can feme la bouche for the time being, he’ll be able to step in and make productive fouls, the same way he did against Dwight Howard in the Magic series. All bets are off on that last comment. I guess it’s just Rasheed being Rasheed. (Manny moved to LA, so it’s okay to make at least one mention of the stock phrase).
Are they healthy?
Tony Allen’s ankle injury could hurt the Celtics, if Paul Pierce is stumped on offense. All-Defensive starter Ron Artest has a lot to prove in this series, and a lot of it comes down to Pierce. If Artest goes on the offensive, Pierce isn’t doing his job, and something’s not right. But Artest isn’t much of an offensive player, which means, Pierce can leave his man and not worry as much as others. A lot is resting on the Captains shoulders, but you can’t say he hasn’t done it before.
Size… doesn’t matter.
The Lakers starting five have size. They average 6’ 7” on the floor, but what the Celtics lack in size, they match with intensity. Many people thought Perkins would succumb to the athleticism of Howard, but through the first four games of the Eastern Conference Finals, Perkins proved the to be more physical. Howard returned the favor in Games Five and Six. Odom comes off the bench at 6’ 10” and can turn the corner better than most.
Kobe, Kobe, Kobe.
And then, there was Kobe Bryant. One of the best finishers the NBA has ever seen. Odom recently said that “Kobe is so good, he makes the incredible normal for us.” But who is Kobe Bryant without his supporting cast? Jerry West has a long pedigree of high-quality core players that can compete on a yearly basis. Kobe Bryant is one of those certified superstars. If there’s any reason to not believe in Boston? I’ll place the blame on the 100 percent Philadelphia prefecture to put a “steak” in the Celtics playoff run.
The Celtics boast the best road record in the NBA this year, and come to LA with a strong defensive mindset. The Lakers are kidding themselves if they think they can score 100 plus on this team. Let the games begin.
Follow Courtney on Twitter @fallon87