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NBA Finals Game 1 is Finally Here


Los Angeles Lakers (0-0, 12-3) at Boston Celtics (0-0, 12,8)
NBA Finals, Game 1
Thursday, June 5
9:00 PM ET
TD Banknorth Garden
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One of the greatest rivalries in sports will be renewed in the 2008 NBA Finals, as the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers battle it out once again for the NBA title.  This is the 11th time these two storied  franchises have met in the Finals but it has been 21 years since they last met. Boston has won eight of the 10 previous match ups in the finals. The Celtics beat the Lakers in 1959, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969 and 1984. However, the Lakers  won the last two meetings beating Boston in six games in  both 1985 and 1987. 
Both teams boast a big three with the Celtics Big 3 of  Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen squaring off against the Lakers Big 3 of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom.   This is a matchup of the one of the best offensive teams in the league against one of the best defensive teams in the league.   The saying goes that offense sells tickets, defense wins games and rebounding wins championships.   Defense will determine the winner of this series and if the Celtics play the defense that made them the top defensive team in the league, it will be very tough to beat them.  The question is, will that defensive juggernaut show up or will the team that played on the road in the first two series that forgot how to play defense show up?  If the Celtics stay focused and play defense, they can control this series. 
This series has the potential to be one of the epic matchups in NBA Finals history.  Pierce - Bryant will add their chapter to the stories of Russell vs Chamberlain and Bird vs Magic.  This is the matchup everyone wanted from day one and now these two franchises are  set to make history once again.  Hopefully the officiating will be even and they will let the teams determine the winner. 

Probable Starters
PG:    Rajon Rondo vs Derek Fisher
SG:     Ray Allen vs Kobe Bryant 
SF:     Paul Pierce vs Lamar Odom  
PF:     Kevin Garnett vs Vladimir Radmanovic 
C:       Kendrick Perkins vs  Pau Gasol  
Eddie House,  James Posey, Leon Powe,  Big Baby Davis, Brian Scalabrine,   PJ Brown, Sam Cassell   
 Injury List   
Scott Pollard, ankle, out
Tony Allen, Achilles, probable  
  Inactive List  
Gabe Pruitt  
If Tony Allen can play, expect Scal to return to the inactive list  
Sasha Vujacic, Jordan Farmar,  Luke Walton, Rony Turiaf, DJ Mbenga, Chris Mihm
    Injury List    
Andrew Bynum, knee, out
Trevor Ariza, foot, probable   
Derek Fisher, partial tear in right foot tendon, will play
Kobe Bryant, torn ligament in finger, will play 
     Inactive List  
Coby Karl,  Ira Newble 
Key Matchups
Ray Allen vs Kobe Bryant
There is a rivalry between these two dating back to Ray's comments about Kobe in 2004. There is bad blood between them and so Kobe may try more than usual to take over the game to make Ray look bad.  In their career head to head matchups, they have been pretty evenly matched with Kobe having 23.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.6 turnovers to 20.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.5 turnovers.  Ray will need help if he is guarding Kobe but I expect to see Pierce and Posey covering him at least part of the time. 

Rajon Rondo vs Derek Fisher
As with the other 3 series, point guard play will be a key matchup.  Rondo is quicker than Fisher, but Fisher has more experience.  Rondo has excelled so far in the matchups, and hopefully he will continue to do so in this series also. 

Honorable Mention
Kevin Garnett/Kendrick Perkins vs  Lamar Odom/Pau Gasol.  These matchups should be a battle inside and Perk must use his muscle to keep Gasol away from the basket and KG has to use his length to score over Odom.    The mismatch then would be Radmanovic on Pierce who should be able to exploit that matchup.  

Keys to the Game 
Focus  The Celtics must keep their focus and avoid any lapses because the Lakers will take advantage if they lose their focus even for a short time.  They have to play their game and do the things that got them here. When they do, they are hard to beat.  When they lost on the road in the first two series, they lost their focus and didn't play their game.  They can't afford to lose their focus against the Lakers, even for a short time as they will take advantage of it. 

Defense Defense is going to determine this series.  The team that plays the best defense will win.  The Celtics were the best defensive team in the regular season and the games they lost in the playoffs were ones where they lost their defensive intensity.  The Celtics must play the team defense that they are capable of.  
Aggressiveness and Intensity  The Celtics must be aggressive in going after rebounds and loose balls. They must be aggressive in taking the ball to the hoop and not settle for jumpers every time down.  They also must be the more aggressive team on defense.   They have to jump on the Lakers right from the start and take the game over.  They can't afford to get into a hole.    

Ball Movement  The Celtics' ball movement is key to their offense.  When they are moving the ball and making the extra pass, they are hard to stop.  When they fall back into over dribbling and trying to go one on one too much, the offense gets stagnant and they have trouble scoring. 

Bench Play
The Celtics need to get contributions from their bench.  The starters need to get rest and they have to know that the bench will hold down the fort while they are sitting.   The Celtics will need Posey's defense as well as his ability to stretch the floor.  They will need PJ Brown to contribute meaningful minutes at the center spot.   Doc should go with Leon who has proved to be able to contribute.  At the backup, if Sam struggles again, Doc needs to quickly go back to Eddie House. 

The matchup of Phil Jackson and Doc Rivers has been much discussed on the boards.  Many feel that Doc still hasn't proved himself completely and Phil Jackson has already won 9 championships, which incidentally ties Red Auerbach for the most. Doc would do well to use the fact that the Celtics should not be the team to give Jackson the ring to pass Red as motivation.  

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