at Boston Celtics (0-0, 12-5) at Los Angeles Lakers (0-0, 12-4) Thursday, June 3 9:00 PM ET TV: ABC Staples Center Referees: Joey Crawford, Joe DeRosa, Derrick Stafford
The Celtics came into the playoffs as the 4th seed and have had a tough road to the Finals through the top two teams in the league. Although they have been the underdog in each of those series and didn't have home court advantage, they prevailed. On the other hand, the Lakers have had a fairly easy road through the 8th seeded Thunder, the 5th seeded Jazz who were depleted by injuries, and the 3rd seeded and defensively challenged Suns.
The Lakers obviously have home court advantage, but unlike the 2008 Celtics team, this team has played better on the road than they have at home. Doc's explanation for that was that they are so old they can't hear the opposing crowd to bother them. I'm not sure if that's it, but the Celtics definitely have a road court advantage.
The Lakers haven't faced a defense like the Celtics' in their first 3 series. The closest thing to tough defense was Oklahoma City, who held the Lakers to 96 ppg. Utah allowed them to reach 109 ppg. And Phoenix allowed them to score a whopping 114 ppg. The Celtics on the other hand, held Miami to 88 ppg, Cleveland to 95 ppg, and Orlando to 91 ppg.
Lakers vs Celtics is one of the most storied rivalries in sports history. This is the 12th meeting between these two teams in the Finals. In the previous 11 meetings, the Celtics won 9 of those meetings (59,62,63,65,66, 68, 69, 84, and 08) and the Lakers have won 2 of the them (85 and 87). The Celtics have won 17 championships while the Lakers have won 15.
Probable Starting Matchups
Rajon Rondo 16.8 PPG 5.3 RPG 10.0 APG 2.1 SPG +21.94
Derek Fisher 11.1 PPG 2.3 RPG 3.1 APG 1.4 SPG +11.19
Ray Allen 16.8 PPG 3.6 RPG 3.0 APG +15.71
Kobe Bryant 29.4 PPG 5.1 RPG 6.2 APG +26.56
Paul Pierce 19.1 PPG 6.2 RPG 3.6 APG +18.76
Ron Artest 11.5 PPG 3.7 RPG 2.5 APG +11.75
Kevin Garnett 14.9 PPG 8.2 RPG .7 BPG +18.56
Pau Gasol 20.0 PPG 10.9 RPG 3.4 APG 1.9 BPG +27.81
Kendrick Perkins 5.6 PPG 6.4 RPG .9 APG 1.9 BPG +10.06
Andrew Bynum 9.1 PPG 7.7 RPG .8 APG 1.7 BPG +15.00
Rajon Rondo vs Derek Fisher
Rajon Rondo has been nothing short of incredible in the playoffs so far. On the other side, Derek Fisher has played very well in the playoffs also, hitting some very big shots for the Lakers. Fisher has trouble staying with quick point guards and Rondo should be able to dominate this matchup.
Kevin Garnett vs Pau Gasol
Gasol struggled in the conference finals against Amare Stoudamire and Lakers fans are a bit worried about this matchup. KG needs to shut down Gasoft just as he did in 2008.
Kendrick Perkins vs Andrew Bynum
Bynum missed the 2008 finals and ever since we have heard about how they would have won if they just had Bynum. Perk has battled J O'Neal, Shaq and Dwight Howard and has done a good job of slowing each of them. Now he has to shut down another strong center who plays tough inside. Perk's defense in the paint was big in the 2008 series and will be big once again in this series.
Keys to the Game Defense - The Celtics defense won their first 3 series. They are back to playing the lock down in your face defense that won the 2008 championship. The games they have lost in the first 3 series, were games that they let their defense slip. If the Celtics need to keep their defensive focus and swarm the Lakers just as they did the Heat, Cavs and Magic. They must defend the paint against the Lakers big front line as well as their perimeter shooters.
Rebound - Rebounding is second only to defense as a key to winning. The Celtics must hustle to get all the rebounds to keep the Lakers from getting second chance points on the offensive end or igniting the fast break on the other end. Rebounding is effort and desire and the Celtics must show that they have more of both than the Lakers by crashing the boards.
Run the Offense - The Celtics are very hard to stop when they move the ball and run their offense. They have so many weapons that if they share the ball and find the open man, they can get good shots, even against good defenses. When they slow down and do too much one on one play and try to do too much individually, they bog down and struggle to score. They must keep moving the ball and running their offense and play as a team.
The Celtics bench must come through for them in this series. Sheed, Big Baby, Tony and Nate especially must give the Celtics a lift when they come off the bench. Sheed and Big Baby will especially have to play their best to counter Lamar Odom off the Lakers bench. The starters will need to be able to rest and not have to worry about giving up leads or digging a hole. The Celtics bench should have an advantage over the Lakers' bench if they are healthy and play to their potential. Hopefully Tony's ankle and Sheed's back will have healed and they will be at 100%.
The Celtics must keep their focus. They have to come out strong and play for 48 minutes. They can't afford to let up against a team as good as they Lakers. They must keep their defensive focus as well as their focus on playing as a team.
Officiating and Rust vs Rest
As we have seen a few times already in these playoffs, the officiating can make a big difference. Hopefully in the finals, they will let them play and we won't see a lot of one sided calls for one team or the other.
Both teams have had a rest coming into this game. Whether they come out rested and ready to play or rusty from the break will be very important in the first quarter of this game.