Why I picked the Lakers
LOS ANGELES -- After several days of deliberation, I finally decided to go with the Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA championship in seven games over the Boston Celtics. This decision wasn't like two years ago, when I actually was emotionally torn about making an NBA Finals pick (I went with Boston in seven, despite my childhood love of the Lakers and hatred of the Celtics).
The rematch was really tough to call, simply because there hasn't been a Finals with two more evenly matched teams since 2005, when the defending champion Detroit Pistons faced the champion once-removed San Antonio Spurs. That year, I went with San Antonio in seven games, which turned out to be right.
I went with the Lakers over the Celtics this time mostly because I picked the Lakers to repeat in October (of course, I also saw the Wizards making the playoffs. Whoops!). Two years ago, I figured that the Celtics defense was going to suffocate Kobe Bryant and it did, turning Bryant into a frustrated, off-target shooter and a poor comedian.
Boston's defense remains stout, which has been proven through some incredible performances to eliminate Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Dwight Howard. I have picked against the Celtics twice already this postseason, and I'm nervous about doing it again. But I can't simply hop on the bandwagon after doubting them to this point.
I just think that revenge is a serious overriding theme for both Bryant and Phil Jackson, who should devise a better scheme to make Bryant more effective this time. You have to remember that Jackson can finally get payback against a coach who defeated him in the NBA Finals (Doc Rivers). His little comment to Paul Pierce about getting the Celtics back in the Finals lets you know how much he's been thinking about defeating Boston and getting a ring at the expense of Red Auerbach's franchise.
I also believe that having Ron Artest on the floor to defend 2008 Finals MVP Pierce is an incredible upgrade over the "space cadet" Vladimir Radmanovic. The presence of Andrew Bynum, no matter what his knee situation is, provides another big body for the Celtics to contend with and keeps them from beating up Pau Gasol alone.
Home court advantage also cannot be overlooked in the NBA Finals. I know the Celtics have won their last two series over Cleveland and Orlando despite not having the advantage, but they also closed out each series at home, in Game 6. This time, Games 6 and 7 are in Los Angeles.
Since the league switched to the 2-3-3 format in 1985, the team without home court advantage has only won the championship six times, with the Miami Heat the last to do it in 2006 (The others were the 1985 Lakers, the 1993 Chicago Bulls, the 1995 Houston Rockets the 1998 Bulls and the 2004 Pistons). The Finals have gone seven games on three occasions, with the home team claiming Game 7 each time (the 1998 Lakers, the 1994 Rockets and the 2003 San Antonio Spurs.
I'm not completely confident with this choice, and I wouldn't be stunned if the Celtics claim championship banner No. 18, but I'm going with the Lakers. With the experience of winning the franchise's 15th championship last season, and after getting tested this postseason, I think the Lakers are ready to topple Boston.
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