One-on-One Debate: Who Will Win The Finals?
In the first edition of One-on-One, a Suns.com Newsroom debate, analysts Daniel Banks and Stefan Swiat go head-to-head on who they think will win The Finals. Will it be the Celtics or the Lakers? Read their takes and then send your thoughts on the topic so you can have them read on Suns.com.|
L.A.'s leading man has quite the supporting cast now.
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images
By Stefan Swiat, Suns.com
Posted June 3, 2008
Despite all the Irish luck the Celtics can muster, the 2008 NBA Finals is going to have a Hollywood ending with a parade… but it won’t be in Boston.
Now, that isn’t a slur against the Celtics (I am actually rooting for them), I just don’t see how they will be able to overcome the Lakers being handed the title immediately after the All-Star break.
Besides the arrival of Pau Gasol, the Lakers didn’t have to give up anything for Derek Fisher. So if I do my calculations correctly, that means that L.A. received two seasoned starters for jack squat.
But not only does fortune appear to be siding with the Lakers, but so do all of the strategic advantages necessary to win the series.
First off, the Lakers are just the hotter team. From the last 10 games of the regular season to now, no team has a better record than the Lakers. They finished the season strong (going 9-1) and have been carrying that momentum ever since.
Then, after you do a position-by-position breakdown, you can see the disparity between the two teams. Pau Gasol vs. Kendrick Perkins? Advantage Lakers. Derek Fisher vs. Rajon Rondo? Advantage Lakers. Kobe vs. Ray Allen? Advantage Lakers. Lakers bench vs. Celtics bench? Advantage Lakers. The Celtics forwards of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are better than the Lakers’ duo of Lamar Odom and Vladimir Radmanovich, but I don’t think that will be enough.
Then consider that Hall of Famer Phil Jackson is manning one bench, while Doc Rivers is posted up on the other. No disrespect to Doc, but the Zen Master has nine rings worth of experience, while Rivers has never been to The Finals as a head coach. The same holds true for the key players in the series. Both Bryant and Fisher have multiple rings, while none of the Celtics starters have sniffed The Finals.
When you break down the numbers, Los Angeles has the edge as well. According to NBA.com’s statistics (which account for more than points for and against), the Lakers have the fourth most potent offense in the league, while the Celtics have the 11th best offense. L.A. also has the fourth best defense, while Boston has the 12th best. Now although the Celtics may be second in the league in surrendering points, their rankings slip when you account for steals, blocks and rebounding.
Last but not least, the Lakers have the best player in the series. Now although I am not a fan, Kobe Bryant is the best player in the league with the ball in crunch time. He is able to create a shot for himself or a teammate at will. If he doesn’t get a clean look, he is going to draw a foul, and you can be certain that he will receive every call down the stretch from the officials.
So when it is said and done, championships are won by teams that make the most plays and by players that can execute in key moments. The best player in this series lives for those moments, the best coach in the series lives to create those moments and now the supporting cast is finally equipped to assist in those moments.
That's why you can count on the Lakers being the team that seizes the moment... and the championship.
Any one of the Boston Three Party can get hot at any time.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images
By Daniel Banks, Suns.com
Posted June 3, 2008
Groovy. Radical. Sweet. NBA fans are being treated to a matchup of two legendary franchises in this year’s Finals. The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers met in the Finals six times during the '60s then 20 years later they squared off three different times in the '80s.
After another 20-year wait, we’ll see them face off again, and when the dust settles, the Celtics will once again assert their dominance over the team from LA-LA Land.
The Celtics and Lakers both topped their respective conferences but Boston’s dominance in the East earned them a valuable prize – home-court advantage. They went 35-6 in the Garden during the regular season, but the real story has been their playoff performance.
The Celtics didn’t even need to win a road game in the first two rounds of the playoffs, capitalizing on their home-court advantage to secure the final win in their back-to-back, seven-game series. Now this is a team that likes to play at home. The Celtics remained perfect at home until the Conference Finals when the Pistons finagled a lone win in the TD Banknorth Garden. Boston would respond by going into the intimidating Palace of Auburn Hills and recording its first road victory… a 14-point win.
The Celtics defend their home well and can use that advantage for yet another game seven victory.
3 > 2
The Celtics trio of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce has experienced training camp together, a season together, and already two Game 7s together. They rolled through the East and – more impressively – they went 25-5 against the stronger West. The triplets were born in the offseason, but they grew up during the regular season.
A key factor in their success has been adaptability. If their opponent has a weakness down low, the Celtics can ride KG. In the 20 games of their playoff run, Garnett has been the leading (or co-leading) scorer in 11 of the games. When they want to attack from the perimeter, they can turn to Paul Pierce or Ray Allen. Pierce has led the team in scoring eight times in the postseason, while Allen has averaged 14.5 points per game in a supporting role.
The Lakers, meanwhile, have their own trio of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom. Odom and Gasol are rebounding threats, but the Lakers don’t hide the fact that the key to their offense is Kobe. The Lakers have played 15 games in these playoffs, and Kobe has led the team in scoring in every game but one. The Lakers rely on his point production for victories and Odom and Gasol – while capable of the occasional big night – have not proven they can carry the load in crunch time.
Stop Kobe, stop the Lakers. The task may be easier said than done, but the second-best defense in the NBA should be up to the challenge.
It’s the East’s Turn
Since 2003, the conferences have traded off championships. In between the three San Antonio Spurs titles, the East has owned the even-numbered years. The Pistons took down the star-studded Lakers in 2004 and Miami defeated the Dallas Mavericks in 2006. Now it’s 2008 and once again the Spurs were bounced out trying to defend their title. The pattern points to the East and to the 2008 NBA Champion Celtics.