Thursday, June 3, 2010

NBA Finals Open Thread.

In these days of free agency, collective bargaining agreements, and players who routinely vacation together in the offseason, the whole concept of a "rivalry" sorta seems like an anachronism. Seriously, these guys don't hate each other, they're too busy tweeting nonsense and partying together after the games end. When Lebron James (in an act of cowardice, might I add) walked off court without shaking the hands of an Orlando Magic team once they knocked him out of the playoffs last year, it was only notable because it was a throwback to the old days when players made their disdain for the opposing team evident.

What said, Lakers vs Celtics is definitely not the rivalry it used to be, but it has the potential to be the most evenly matched NBA Finals in recent history. And while I haven't really paid much attention to this year's playoffs (my team ain't make it, who cares?) I'll be tuned in tonight as Game One tips off at Staple's Center.

Here's what to pay attention to:

Artest vs Pierce - The Lakers imported Ron Artest last offseason, and many commentators considered this a risky move that could either propel them to another title or cause fatal chemistry problems. Despite having the conscience of Dick Chaney when it comes to shot selection, Artest has generally been on his best behavior this season, and has played his usual stellar defense. He will probably guard Celtics swingman Paul Pierce, who's had a great playoff run thus far, and Ron Ron's ability to take one of Boston's biggest offensive weapons out of the game could be the deciding factor.

HomeCourt Disadvantage - All the Celtics need to do is steal one game in LA, and they're robbed the Lakers of their hard fought advantage. Considering how they dispatched of Orlando and Cleveland by doing just that, I wouldn't put it past them.

X-Factors - We all know Kobe and Rondo are damn near unstoppable, and neither team has a guy who can check either. Kevin Garnett and Pau Gasol probably cancel each other out. To me, the X-Factor in this series will be Andrew Bynum, who is about as injury-prone as Joe Biden is gaffe-prone. Likewise, the Celtics will need at least one big game from their roster of reserve swingmen like Tony Allen, Nate Robinson, and Michael Finley. The Lakers can't depend on similar bench production from their wings.

Final Verdict - I got the Lakers winning this thing in an epic Game 7, as Kobe puts on a performance for the ages.

Question: Who you got, and in how many games?

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