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June 2, 2010 3:30 PM

NBA Finals Preview

lakers.gif vs. boston celtics.gif

Series Facts
Season Series: Tied 1-1
NBA Finals History:
1959 - Celtics 4, Lakers 0
1962 - Celtics 4, Lakers 3
1963 - Celtics 4, Lakers 2
1965 - Celtics 4, Lakers 1
1966 - Celtics 4, Lakers 3
1968 - Celtics 4, Lakers 2
1969 - Celtics 4, Lakers 3
1984 - Celtics 4, Lakers 3
1985 - Lakers 4, Celtics 2
1987 - Lakers 4, Celtics 2
2008 - Celtics 4, Lakers 2

With 11 previous NBA Finals matchups and 32 of the league's 62 championships between them, this Celtics-Lakers series needs no introduction. It's as vicious and storied a rivalry as there is in sports. And unlike two years ago, this series starts with passionate animosity. In 2008, these two teams seemed to feel obligated to hate each other because the history books told them to. Then Paul Pierce embellished an injury, Boston's defense pushed the Lakers around, and the modern day incarnations of two of the greatest franchises in sports began to understand what all the fuss was about.

So, Thursday night, it won't be about nostalgia for the '80s or the '60s rivalries that gets them fired up. For the Celtics, it will be about franchise pride and proving to the league that despite being written off as too old and too dysfunctional, they're still championship material. For the Lakers it will be about settling scores from 2008 and proving that they're tough enough.

In terms of the matchups, Rajon Rondo has a huge advantage over his counterparts at the point guard position. However, the Lakers' imposing size should give him trouble as he tries to slice down the lane. And it's that size that will be key for the Lakers. On paper, it's a big advantage, even against a team with Kendrick Perkins, Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett. In 2008, the Celtics battered the Andrew Bynum-less Lakers inside, but this year, L.A. should have their full stable of big men for most, if not all, of the series (Bynum just had his knee drained and is dealing with a slight meniscus tear, but expects to play). Whether or not their size advantage will allow them to neutralize the Celtics' various strengths--from Rondo to defense--will go a long way toward deciding who wins this series.

In terms of our little competition here at RCS, Sam Chi is the only one who still has a horse in this race. He picked the Lakers to win it all before the playoffs while the rest of us fell for the Cavs or the Magic. Still, we have a chance to set things right with our Finals picks (full playoff picks records in parentheses):

PREDICTIONS

Kyle Adams (11-3)
Lakers 4, Celtics 3

A lot of signs point to the Celtics winning this series, from defense to Rajon Rondo to the memory of the 2008 series. And, as I wrote a few days ago, the Lakers still haven't proven that they're tough enough to contend with a team like Boston (heck, they were outplayed physically in two losses to a Cleveland team that wilted against the Celtics).

Still, something tells me they learned their lesson from two years ago. Plus, they have a (relatively) healthy Andrew Bynum this year. Combine that with the fact that Kobe Bryant is playing as well as he's ever played, and it's tough to pick against the Lakers. Rajon Rondo will be a problem for L.A., just as Russell Westbrook was this year and Aaron Brooks was last year in the playoffs. Still, with a healthy front court and a leader like Kobe Bryant who is as fiercely and pathologically competitive as they come, the Lakers won't be denied. Expect a legendary performance from Bryant and a seven-game series for the ages.

Jeff Briggs (10-4)
Lakers 4, Celtics 2

Yes, I continue to count out the Celtics. While they have been playing great this postseason, all good things must come to an end. Boston is not as healthy as it was when it took down Cleveland and the wear and tear will show against the Lakers. Rondo will have a great series, but the Celtics will need more than that. I doubt KG's ability to slow down Gasol, and I doubt anyone alive's ability to slow down Kobe Bryant.

The Celtics are good and their biggest asset is their experience, but in LA they finally meet a team that has just as much playoff and crunch time experience, and unlike the Cavs and Magic, I don't expect the Lakers to wilt under pressure.

Tanner Munroe (9-5)
Lakers 4, Celtics 2

Even though the Celtics managed to manhandle the team that I picked to win it all this year, I'm not about to jump on the Boston bandwagon and declare them champs. While they've proven this postseason that they're a much better team than I, or anyone else for that matter, gave them credit for, I just don't see them getting by the Lakers. The main reason, of course, is Kobe. Sure the core of guys the Celtics have now managed to take down Kobe and his Lakers just two years ago, but this year is different. The Lakers have been a great team all year, while it seemed the Celtics didn't get all that good until the playoffs started.

The Lakers core is much stronger than it was, with Gasol playing much better, and with defensive expert Artest on the squad. All of those factors, along with the fact that Kobe can and will dictate the pace of each game, will lead to a relatively easy road to another championship for the Lakers.

Robbie Gillies (9-5)
Lakers 4, Celtics 2

Here's an exerpt from my Finals prediction: My predictions haven't meant much this postseason but why stop now? Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are both looking for revenge after the 2008 loss. Gasol and Bryant will both put up big numbers and the rest of the Lakers will do just enough to win this series. Lakers in six.
To read more - check out my post.

Samuel Chi (10-4)
Lakers 4, Celtics 1

Lookie here, everybody's back on the Laker bandwagon, this sure ain't how it was a few weeks back. But I digress.

The Lakers will win this series and will do it in five because the only number that matters is 39, as in 131-92, in the '08 Final closeout game. It was a game that's seared in the memory of Kobe Bryant and a stain on his (basketball) soul, and now comes his moment for redemption.

The Lakers got their education two years ago, just as Magic Johnson's Showtime Lakers got theirs in 1984. The next time they met, Magic and Kareem finally vanquished the ghosts of Celtics past, and they performed their exorcism in the hated Boston Garden. Similarly, Kobe will get his vengeance at the scene of the crime.

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