Lakers-Celtics 2010 Finals Preview: Tale of the Tape

June 1, 2010

The real caretakers of the NBA - the basketball gods - have once again spared us from a dull Finals filled with puppet ads, LeBron's absurd self-congratulatory antics, and a potential ho-hum Orlando-Phoenix series, so that we may be treated to the only postseason matchup in the league that really matters: the Los Angeles Lakers versus the Boston Celtics.

Sorry ESPN, but the Red Sox and Yanks have got nothing on this one.

Since the Celtics and Lakers last met in 2008, much has changed. In many ways, both teams have gotten better.

Two years ago the Lakers relied on overmatched Luke Walton and Vladimir Radmanovic to guard Paul Pierce. Now they have defensive standout Ron Artest starting at the 3.

Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom also have become battle-tested, and presumably, more capable of taking the constant pounding administered by the Boston frontline.

In addition, there is added depth in the form of Shannon Brown and a gimpy Andrew Bynum, both of whom were not there in 2008. Throw in home court advantage and the psychological revenge factor shared by Kobe and company, and this is a team primed and ready to defend their title.

As for Boston, young players Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo have developed into major contributors no longer just simply living off the Big Three. Meanwhile, the Big Three themselves have proven that they have plenty left in the tank, despite being two years older and perhaps slipping a little defensively.

Although the Boston bench no longer has the services of versatile James Posey, there is plenty of depth and firepower in Big Baby Davis, Rasheed Wallace, and Tony Allen, to name a few.

All of which adds up to two experienced, evenly-matched veteran teams ready to scrap for rings. And because this is an LA-Boston series, there is even more on the line, as bragging rights to the claim of "NBA's Greatest Franchise" are also at stake.

So for the twelfth time, it will be Showtime glitz versus Beantown arrogance. Fastbreaks versus in-the-trenches warfare. Cooper's defense versus Bird's offense. West, Wilt, and Baylor versus Russell, Cousy, Hondo, and that filthy Auerbach cigar. McHale's clothesline and Henderson's steal. Magic's junior skyhook. The Memorial Day Massacre. Pat Riley's "plant your feet and kick some ass" speech. The Leprechaun. The balloons. Don Nelson's shot. Purple-and-gold underdogs against the Boston mystique. Pierce's wheelchair. Worthy's diving save.

Boston versus LA.

Here is our tale of the tape preview of the 2010 NBA Finals:


Kendrick Perkins, Boston: Perkins is a premiere man-to-man post defender in the mold of a Charles Oakley - undersized, but physically strong enough to root his man off of the block. Expect Perkins to not only rough up Gasol throughout the series, but also to collapse on any penetration with his long arms and weakside shotblocking. Any offense the C's receive from Perkins this series will be a bonus.

Andrew Bynum, LA: Bynum is a taller, more talented player than Perkins, who when healthy, can be a disruptive "help" shotblocker and a reliable offensive post threat. Unfortunately for the Lakers, Bynum is playing on torn knee cartilage. As a result, his minutes have been significantly reduced.

Thus far, Bynum's playoff M.O. has been to have 2 non-factor games for every one of his quality performances. Should that pattern continue, the Lakers could find themselves again being outmuscled in the paint. On Monday, Bynum had 2 and 1/2 ounces of fluid drained from his swollen knee in the hope of improving his range of motion in the joint.

Advantage: Celtics. Unless Bynum's latest medical procedure improves his condition, Perkins will be the more reliable, consistent guy in this series. However, if Perkins draws another technical and gets suspended for a game, then this matchup may just be a wash.


Kevin Garnett, Boston: With Doc Rivers curtailing his minutes at the end of the regular season, KG is as healthy as he has been in two years. Although age and knee issues have reduced Garnett's ability to cover ground and roam defensively, he nevertheless remains a solid overall defender and shotblocker. More importantly, he has lost none of his intensity, intimidation, and leadership, all of which make KG a nightmare for Pau Gasol.

Offensively, Garnett has been a reliable threat throughout the playoffs, scoring key buckets over Antawn Jamison and Rashard Lewis with his patented turnaround in the low post. KG also has the ability to step out and stretch defenses with his face-up J.

Pau Gasol, LA: Until the Phoenix series, one could argue that Gasol was having a better postseason than Kobe Bryant. Gasol has been an efficient force for the Lakers this year with his versatile low post moves, passing ability, improved defense, and consistent production on the glass. In fact, he may very well be the second best player on the floor next to Bryant.

After erasing his "soft" label last year with solid D on Dwight Howard, a bulkier Gasol is in a better position this year to respond to Boston's physicality. Having Bynum around this time certainly helps.

Advantage: Lakers. Two years ago, Garnett gave the Celtics a huge edge at the 4. Injuries, age, and an improving Gasol have changed things.


Paul Pierce, Boston: In 2008 Finals, Pierce was the best player on the floor in every game, save for Game 3. And while Pierce is an excellent perimeter scorer who can drain threes, pull up for midrange J's, finish at the rack, and make clutch shots, what is often overlooked is his outstanding defense. In particular, Pierce has always played Kobe Bryant quite well.

Ron Artest, LA: Should things get physical again in this rivalry, the Lakers can respond this time by letting loose the NBA's ultimate crazy man - Ron Artest.

Although Artest's outside shooting woes have gotten a lot of ink, his defense - the precise reason why he was signed - has been outstanding. Artest has made a difference defensively in every postseason series thus far, handling the tough assignments, and allowing Kobe to focus his energy on the offensive end. Artest figures to match up very well with Pierce, a not so fleet-of-foot player who Artest will bang and harass into contested shots.

Offensively, Artest has been unselfish to a fault, passing up paint looks to give others the rock. Part of the reason he has shot so many threes is that he has not received his normal amount of low post touches due to the Lakers' abundance of other options on the block. Still, Artest's confidence in his stroke has been growing recently, as seen by his 25-point night in Game 6 against Phoenix.

Advantage: Celtics. But expect Pierce's numbers to go down due to the Lakers' defensive upgrade with Artest. This matchup is perhaps the greatest difference between this year's series and that of 2008.


Ray Allen, Boston: Allen again has elevated his game during the postseason, hitting many a clutch perimeter shot for the Celtics. To this day, Allen remains one of the best jump shooters in the NBA. Moreover, Allen will compete on defense during those times he is matched with Kobe, as he will make a consistent effort to contest shots.

On offense, expect Allen to be guarded primarily by Derek Fisher rather than Bryant. Also expect Allen to have several big nights in this series.

Kobe Bryant, LA: After playing his first four playoff games against Oklahoma City on virtually one leg, Bryant had about 1 and 1/2 ounces of fluid drained from his knee and has been on a roll ever since.

During that stretch, Bryant has essentially made a mockery of the league's MVP award by convincingly demonstrating that he is the most skilled, most mentally tough, and most clutch player in the league, regardless of whatever athletic advantage LeBron James may have over him.

Bryant nailed difficult dagger after difficult dagger against good defensive contests from Phoenix in Game 6, and should he duplicate that performance, this will be a short series. But the real key may be his defense on Rajon Rondo.

In 2008, Rondo was a lesser offensive threat, so Bryant could simply roam around providing help to others. Things have now changed. For the Lakers to win, Bryant must curtail Rondo's penetration similar to his effort against Russell Westbrook in the first round.

Advantage: Lakers. Allen is great, but Kobe is the best player in the NBA. Sorry LeBron.


Rajon Rondo, Boston: The weak link in 2008, Rondo today is the engine behind the Celtics offense. While Rondo is a so-so jump shooter who can be turnover prone with his questionable decision-making, his penetration and ability to break down defenses is devastating. Playing off of him and daring him to shoot does not work either, as it only gives Rondo a running start for his drives.

Rondo is more than just a creator however, as his overall floor game can produce monster triple-double performances. On defense, Rondo can disrupt sets with his ability to rack up steals.

Derek Fisher, LA: A year older and slower, Fisher will get taken to the hole at times when matched up with Rondo. On the other hand, he will make up for those lapses somewhat with his ability to draw offensive fouls and play sound team defense.

Although Fisher is not a creative playmaker on offense, he is a knockdown jump shooter from deep. As a result, there is no other Laker, other than Kobe Bryant, that Coach Jackson would want shooting the ball in crunch time. In fact, Fisher already has nailed several clutch jump shots during the Lakers' current postseason run.

Advantage: Boston. But expect Fisher to have his moments.


Boston: Coach Rivers can call on multiple bench players to come in and deliver quality performances. Rasheed Wallace, although currently nursing a sore back, has been huge this postseason, knocking down three-point shots and providing stellar interior D. Big Baby Davis has been reliable as well, hitting midrange spot up J's and scoring off of screen-roll action.

Tony Allen had a huge series against the Cavs, defending LeBron and providing timely buckets. Nate Robinson and Michael Finley are proven perimeter scorers. Banger Sheldon Williams and guard Marquis Daniels both provide insurance in a pinch.

LA: Thus far, Phil Jackson has primarily used an 8-man rotation with Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown, and Lamar Odom coming off the bench. Sasha Vujacic is starting to earn greater playing time, and Luke Walton will occasionally see some spot minutes. The fact that the Lakers do not need to rely as much on mediocre subs Walton and Vujacic means that their talent has indeed improved.

Guards Brown and Farmar are quick, athletic, and capable of hitting treys. Expect them to perform like classic role players - strong at home, inconsistent on the road.

The versatile Odom is an All-Star level talent forever battling his consistency. His ability to face-up and drive to the hole will be a matchup problem for the Celtic bigs. On defense, however, he must elevate his game by playing solid inside and controlling the defensive glass. Expect Odom to be on the floor come crunch time.

Advantage: Celtics. Boston has reliable vets, depth, and always seems to find that one guy who can provide a spark. Odom, however, is a true sixth man, and the single-most talented force off the bench in this series.


Doc Rivers, Boston: Rivers already has one-upped Jackson by winning their initial clash in '08. Rivers has proven to be a master motivator who can infuse his team with the confidence to execute and play with max effort. His plan to reduce the Big Three's minutes late in the year proved to be sheer genius. Also, assistant Tom Thibodeaux is excellent at devising defensive gameplans which nullify an opponents' options.

Phil Jackson, LA: The Zen Master has 10 rings, and is outstanding at making adjustments in a series. His decision to shorten his rotation this postseason has paid dividends.

Advantage: Even


Boston: 1 through 12, the Celtics play with toughness and heart, and give max effort over 48 minutes. That translates into the ability to win in anyone's building on the road. In addition, they are hungry to reclaim their crown, and are going in confident having beaten Cleveland and Orlando. Their starting five has yet to lose a series.

LA: The defending champs now know how to win, the talent is upgraded, the players are mentally tougher, and they have home court. Furthermore, the Lakers want vengeance for their defeat in '08.

Advantage: Lakers


Los Angeles Lakers in 7. The Celtics have too much heart and fight to lose in 6 or less. This time however, Artest, Bynum, an improved Gasol, a maniacally-driven Kobe Bryant, and a Game 7 in Staples Center, make the difference.

By Mike Elliott
Staff Editor for


  1. The Green in 5! Shobe & the Fakers are going down!

  2. You gave the Celtics the advantage on more categories than you did the Lakers, but you give the series to the Lakers. Weird.

  3. Anonymous,

    True. But some advantages are worth more than others. For example, the Lakers' edge at the 2 weighs more heavily than the Celtics edge at the 5.

  4. Let's be clear, Bynum at only 50% makes a huge difference. His shot blocks give LA much stronger defense down low than in '08

  5. i think phil jackson has the edge vs doc...the numbers will tell.but doc and thibz will make phil jackson and the company life really hard.end of the day,celtics in game 6


  6. Got to give credit where credit is due. Your preview was spot on accurate.


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