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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.

You?

By Michael Lee  |  June 3, 2010; 12:19 PM ET
 
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Comments

Celts in seven. Bet your mortgage money on it.

Posted by: harrybalz | June 3, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

From the starters on down to three deep on the bench, the Celtics seem to have the better team. The only clear advantage the Lakers have is Kobe. But Rondo will abuse Fisher, KG and Pau is a wash, and I still give Pierce the edge over Artest.

Odom's effect is negated by Glen Davis, and Tony Allen and Nate are better hustle guys and will be more effective than Brown and Farmar. That said, Kobe is playing the best basketball I have ever seen him play, but I don't think it will be enough.

Celtics in seven.

Posted by: walkdwalk | June 3, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure Kobe and the Lakers will be motivated to avenge their Finals loss, but some of the steam was probably taken out of that by winning their own title. I'm sure the Celts are equally motivated by their 'early' exit last year.

They will likely find ways for Kobe to have more success, Gasol is a better player than he was in their first Finals meeting and Artest gives them an element they didn't have last time for sure. At the same time, Boston's defense is clicking on all cylinders, they have more depth up front to match up than I think the Lakers have seen in the post-season, and I still don't think they have a good answer for Rondo, who's also better than he was in their last Finals showdown.

When teams are as even matched as these, usually the safe bet is to go with the team with the best player, which is Kobe. So I'll say Lakers in 7. Of course, Boston has just won three series where the other team had the 'best player'. What I do expect is an extremely competitive, physical series. These teams are definitely going to get into it with each other. Two stars with reps in doing whatever takes, to the point of throwing 'bows in Kobe and KG. Head cases on both sides in Perkins (with the techs), Wallace and Artest. Plenty of Finals experience on both sides. Recent, proven confidence from both teams that they have what it takes to win it all. Legacies at stake on both side. Oh and that little side bit about the greatest franchise rivalry in pro hoops.

Should be great to watch.

Posted by: ts35 | June 3, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I can't remember the last time I had less enthusiasm for the outcome of the NBA Finals.

Posted by: kalo_rama | June 3, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Almost hate to see the finals here.
Might go into withdrawal.
I'm picking the Celtics in....Surprise-Surprise SIX (6).
The 2-3-2 format makes it imperative that the Lakers win the first 2 and the Celts are a very good road team.

Posted by: VBFan | June 3, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I have been very impressed with Doc Rivers' coaching during the Celtics' playoff run. Jackson and his Lakers usually have a "coaching" advantage--but I don't think as much, if at all, this time. Having said that, as previously stated, the 2-3-2 format hugely favors LA. Big question: who's the wildcard factor off the bench that will make the difference? The Celtics' have the advantage, there. I'm an Eastern Conference guy so I'm going with the Celtics in six, because they will not win a game seven in LA.

Posted by: jweber1 | June 3, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

The key matchup in my mind is KG v. Pau. It'll be obvious by halftime if Pau wants it with the Big Ticket or not.

If Pau goes into super-soft-Euro mode then KG is gonna smell the blood and the C's should prevail in 6.

I'm interested to see Kobe check Rondo, Tony Allen check Kobe and Artest check Pierce.

Honestly this series should be BETTER than 2 years ago. C's in 7 - maybe 6 if the Lakers bigs fall apart.

Posted by: elfreako | June 3, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

The 2-3-2 format makes it imperative that the Lakers win the first 2 and the Celts are a very good road team.

Posted by: VBFan

The 2-3-2 also makes it imperative that the Celtics steal one of the first 2, because if they don't, they need to sweep all 3 in Boston. If the Lakers take the first 2 in L.A., and win 1 out of 3 in Boston, they go back to L.A. with Boston having to win both games.

Posted by: G-Man11 | June 3, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

If Pau goes into super-soft-Euro mode then KG is gonna smell the blood and the C's should prevail in 6
Posted by: elfreako

I think Pau has shed the super-soft Euro mode. He's been playing strong this season, and I don't think that will change. He's big enough, long enough and skilled enough to play KG. KG has been a warrior on D this offseason, but not on O. Part of his challenge will be to contribute more on offense.

Posted by: ts35 | June 3, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Mike, for the reasons he gave, though it could go the Celts way. Should be a great series, I don't think LA is going to get embarrassed this time like two years ago even if the Celts do pull it out.

Posted by: steveh46 | June 3, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

"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."

ONLY if Odum shows up, otherwise I am taking the C's in 6.

Kobe matches up with Pierce, and Gasol and KG match up. Beyond that if Allen gets hot and Odum fails to show the C's are going to win.

- Ray

Posted by: rmcazz | June 3, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Celts in 5. Funny how everyone's saying Kobe's fired up and out for revenge...but you don't think KG is just as stoked? This is probably his (NTM the Big 3 as a whole) last stand, at least as far as being this close to another title. They're gonna leave it all out there as well.

It's one thing for the Mamba to go up against token D's like OKC and PHX; Boston's D is another entity entirely.

Posted by: nittanybruin | June 3, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Celts win this. Doc is a better coach than Phil (yeah I said it) and Pau, Bynum, Odom are all softies.

Posted by: divi3 | June 3, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

"I think Pau has shed the super-soft Euro mode"

Did you catch the last 4 games of the Suns series? Pau was in classic europuss mode, laying on his back imploring the ref for a charge as Amare threw down

Posted by: divi3 | June 3, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Lakers in 7.

The Celtics have looked great in the post-season.

However, home-court advantage is likely to be decisive. Either way, it has the makings of a great series.

Posted by: JPRS | June 3, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

The difference is Bryant is not going to fold in the fourth quarter or get stage fright as LeBron James or Dwight Howard did at times in their series with Boston.

Neither James nor Howard has ever won anything in the NBA and that lack of experience lead to their failure to deliver leadership to their clubs in crunch time.

Posted by: leopard09 | June 3, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

However, home-court advantage is likely to be decisive. Either way, it has the makings of a great series.

Posted by: JPRS | June 3, 2010 4:21 PM

great point, the 2-3-2 format virtually dooms the lower seed.

Posted by: divi3 | June 3, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

"I think Pau has shed the super-soft Euro mode"

Did you catch the last 4 games of the Suns series? Pau was in classic europuss mode, laying on his back imploring the ref for a charge as Amare threw down

Posted by: divi3

Yes. Did you watch the rest of the season and post-season? He banged against OKC and Utah. So even if he wussed out against Pheonix, he's proven the rest of the year he's willing to play physical (I mean it's not like Utah plays soft)

Posted by: ts35 | June 3, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

I'm surprised Boston got this far.

Posted by: Samson151 | June 3, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Coach Zen has called Pau a puss several times this year (and clearly it works at times)....will be interesting to see if he motivates him into dealing with Perkins and KG on a physical level. Odom likes nothing more than to shrink and Bynum is often a lost cause....much riding on Gasul. He should be a 20/10 guy for this series

Posted by: divi3 | June 3, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

I do not see any bench player from LA that could penetrate the boston defense and be a factor.Odom has to shoot 50% from out side.We are going to see some 35% shooting from kobe in 2to 3 games.Kobe is not penetrating any more, he is relaying in jump shooting and assisting his teamate.Artest is not an offensive treat.Boston will finish it 4 to 2.

Posted by: gtefferra | June 3, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Dang super-soft euro-pusses. Shame he whussed out in game 1.

Posted by: ts35 | June 4, 2010 12:45 AM | Report abuse

Mike, why don't you start a poll on whether the Wiz fans think Leonsis should go after LeBron?

I know the fans here hate Lebron, but only b/c he tortured the team.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | June 5, 2010 8:56 AM | Report abuse

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