I am one of the few people in the New England area who watched basketball while the Celtics were down. I like to consider myself a pretty big fan, and I also feel like I know what's going on throughout the league. I don't call myself an expert or an "insider". After watching the NBA Playoffs so far, one thing sticks out to me. The Western Conference Playoffs, which was supposed to be the greatest playoff ever, kind of fell flat. TNT, who made sure in their last round of negotiatiations to secure the Western Conference Finals, may have been better off with Boston/Detroit. For all of the supposed parity in the West and the articles and columns I read stating that, before the playoffs, any 1 of the 8 Western Conference teams could go to the Finals and that whoever they played from the East would be a sacrificial lamb, I do not find that to be the case. In fact Let's look at the...
Western Conference Playoff Round One
Lakers beat Denver 4-0
New Orleans beat Dallas 4-1
Utah beat Houston in 4-2
San Antonio beat Phoenix 4-1
In analyzing these 4 series, San Antonio had a 3-0 lead in the series, Dallas got beaten, and Rockets and Jazz went back and forth losing games on their home floor. Not real dramatic for one, but also, if "any of these 8 teams could get to the Finals", why wasn't there at least ONE 7 GAME SERIES?
The Eastern Conference First Round
Boston beats Atlanta 4-3
Orlando beats Toronto 4-1
Cleveland beats Washington 4-2
Detroit beats Philadelphia 4-2
One could correctly argue here that the Celtics should not have taken 7 games to beat the Hawks, but you have two 6 game series here as well. I do believe that this a was a Celtics team that obviously hadn't been to the playoffs together before and was finding their way a bit, from the head coach on down.
Lakers beat Utah 4-2
San Antonio beat New Orleans 4-3
Lakers were never in any real danger against the Jazz, and they managed to draw a Spurs team who they matched up better with.
Boston beat Cleveland 4-3
Detroit beat Orlando 4-1
Boston, for all of their difficulties winning on the road the first two rounds, managed to really shut down Lebron James for most of the series (except Game 7 obviously). Lebron and Kobe are supposed to be the two best players in the league, is it completely out of the realm of possibility that the Celtics, who have the best defensive coach in the league in Tom Thibodeau, won't be able to figure out a way to make Kobe's job difficult?
Lakers beat Spurs 4-1
The Lakers won a poorly officiated game 4 and also managed to come from over 20 down in game one. They matched up with the Spurs extremely well, and it showed.
EastCeltics beat Pistons 4-2
The Celtics win 2 out of 3 in Detroit and seem to find their playoff legs. Ray Allen emerges from a horriffic shooting slump, and Doc Rivers figures out how to use his bench.
So after analyzing all of that, let's look at ESPN's Experts picks on the NBA Finals
Henry Abbott and Marc Stein- Lakers in 5
Marc Stein knows one team well, and that's the Mavericks, who are not involved in this series. I was surprised to see Abbott make the pick, though.
JA Adande, Chris Sheridan, David Thorpe, Chad Ford, John Hollinger- Lakers in 6
Adande used to work for the LA Times, so that's out. Sheridan wrote a fascinating article the other day about how the Celtics couldn't be champions after blowing a big lead at home in game 5 (they still won and did not fall behind the Pistons). However, he remained eerily silent after the Celtics shook off a horrific offensive foul call on Paul Pierce and a 10 point Pistons lead to win Game 6 on the road. I am sure champions don't do that either. Hollinger's prediction scares me a little, because he was the only person I saw who picked the Lakers to beat the Spurs in 5 games. Thorpe is a trainer, so how he is an expert I don't know, and Ford is your typical NBA Insider who will jump on the bandwagon for fear of being wrong and losing credibility.
Chris Broussard and Jalen "Bowtie" Rose- Lakers in 7
How in the name of god will the Lakers win a game 7 in Boston? Anyone? The only way this happens is if Kobe goes for 81 and 50 points come from the free throw line.
One man dared to go against them
Tim Legler- Celtics in 7
I have no idea what Legler's scenario is, but I appreciate him going out on a limb here.
Matt Boutwell, CMSPLOG Editor, Co-Host of the "Sports Vortex"
Celtics win games 1 ,2 at home, game 4 on the road. Lakers win games 3 and 5 in LA. Game 6 will be a classic but Boston will prevail.
Celtics in 6.
Why am I saying this? No, not because I am a Celtic Fan. No, not because I hate the Lakers, ESPN or what-not. It all goes back to a wonderful little saying you may have heard before.
"Defense Wins Championships".
In the regular season the Celtics were 2nd in the league in Points allowed, behind Detroit. The Lakers by contrast were 19th in the league in Points allowed.
When I look, position by position, the Celtics have an advantage in 4 out of the 5 positions, the lone Laker advantage being Kobe v Allen. Rondo is going to break out in this series playing against an aging Fisher and a defense lacking Farmar. The Celtics frontcourt matches up very favorable with the Lakers, as Perkins is going to be a pain in Gasol's backside (hopefully Gasol doesn't play like a "weenie", thanks for the quote Phil), Garnett and Pierce against Radmanovic and Odom? Really? Again, outside of Kobe v Allen, I do not see a single matchup that favors the Lakers in this series. Yet here we are, wondering how the poor overmatched Celtics are going to compete with the dominating Lakers, even after the Celtics beat the team most figured would give them the most difficult time in 6 games. We have been here before in sports, Super Bowl XXLII, the USC-Texas Rose Bowl, Memphis-Kansas, and each time, the "experts" were proven wrong. So before you go to Vegas, your local bookie, or your offshore gaming account (those are illegal by the way), think long and hard before annointing the Lakers champions, because it is not going to happen.
Remember, you heard it here first, the Boston Celtics are going to win the Finals in 6 games, and all will be right with the univers again. This one's for you Red, Reggie, and DJ, this one's for you!