Celtics or Lakers?
We know the Celtics will make the Finals now, and despite what happened Sunday night in Phoenix, you have to think the Lakers will get there, too.
So the question is, which one of these fierce, old rivals is the better team?
I know Lakers’ fans will disagree, but right now you’d have to say the Celtics.
With everyone healthy, and with Rajon Rando emerging as maybe the most improved player in recent NBA history, the Celts look like monsters again. Their defense has suffocated the man most consider the best center in the league, Dwight Howard, and with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen all still compelling players, they appear even better than they did two years ago when they won it all.
The Lakers looked good until last night, too, but those eight straight playoff wins of theirs were a bit deceiving. Neither Utah nor Phoenix has the height and muscle to contend with Pau Gasol and friends in the paint. The Celtics do, and that’s why the Finals will be so interesting.
Phil Jackson’s team has appeared vulnerable all season long, and even in the midst of their strong playoff run, you can see why.
Andrew Bynum’s knee is one problem. His heart is another. Even when he’s seemingly healthy, the spirit doesn’t always seem willing.
The Good and Bad Lamar Odom remain an ongoing enigma. The Good one showed up in the first two games against the Suns. The Bad one returned in Game 3. Rarely, if ever, do you get three consecutive games from the Good Lamar. You can get by with that vs. the Suns. But it could be a killer against the Celtics.
As great as Pau Gasol is, the Celts have the size and muscle to take him out of his game. My guess is they’ll concede Kobe Bryant his points and try their best to keep Gasol under control. That means either Bynum or Odom has to step up, and as mentioned above, do you really want the series to ride on that?
Derek Fisher has been a defensive liability for a couple of years. You can hide him somewhat against most of the teams in the West. But when he has to go against a young, athletic guard like Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, you saw what happened.
Well, as good as Westbrook is, Rondo is now better. That has to be a very scary thought for the Lakers.
The one saving grace for L.A. is the home court advantage. You saw what it can do in Phoenix Sunday night. At one point in that game, the Suns had 20 foul shot attempts to the Lakers’ three. That’s what happens on the road.
So the fact that four of the potential seven games of the Finals will be played at Staples Center will help. So will Bryant’s unrelenting competitiveness.
Did you watch Kobe in Game 3? On a night when it would have been easy to let up, he never did. He kept shooting and driving and fighting right to the end.
His steel will and the home court edge gives the Lakers a big chance. But it certainly won’t be easy.
Because at this moment, the Celtics definitely look like the better team.
— Steve Bisheff