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Celtics Vs Lakers Game 1: Where We've Been Here Before...But Not Really

NBA FINALS GAME ONE
Boston Celtics (0-0) @ LA Lakers (0-0)

Time: Thursday, June 3rd, 9:00 PM EST
Venue: STAPLES Center
TV: ABC Radio: WEEI Legal Streaming: ESPN 3
Officials: Joey Crawford, Joe Derosa, Derrick Stafford (Full Report Link)
The Line: The Celtics split a very even regular season series with the Lakers 1-1
this year. Both teams managed to finish their last series in 6 games. The two teams
have combined to win 32 of the last 62 championships, this is their 12th time, and
the Celtics own the lead in head-to-heads at 9-2.

But I love to succeed and see foes fall flat...
... splat, like Deja Vu - Deja Vu, Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz

Today is like Christmas morning when you're 10. Its the day you never thought would get here, and now that it is here, you just kinda pace around saying things that don't matter waiting for something to happen. The best part of it all is for all your speculation about whether you got the Ballzooka or Crossbow, you really have no idea what is going to happen (unless you peeked at your presents..which in this metaphor would be like going back in time with a book of sports data and handing it to your younger self so you can make bets and steal Marty's mom).

Now, for those of you who want to look at 2008 as some kind of indicator of how this series will play out, stop. You're wrong. Until the Celtics assert the same kind of defensive hoo-doo they brought down upon the house of the Lakers, you're wrong. Until the Celtics show they can defend home court against the Lakers in the EXTREMELY crucial games 3 game home stretch in the middle of the series, or how Paul Pierce adjusts to Ron 'Randall Pink Floyd' Artest (he just picks random nicknames and shaves them into his head. Dazed and Confused was on last night, so here we are) you're wrong. Until we see how this game goes tonight, you're wrong.

Now, for those of you who want to point to the two games in the regular season in which the Celtics and Lakers traded home losses, well you're wrong too. Until you see how 'Kobe and Kompany' reacts to the Celtics' new-found tenacity and fierceness, you're wrong. Until you see how Rajon Rondo manages against an improved but still vulnerable (can you say 'Derek Fisher'?) Lakers D, you're wrong. Until you see how these Lakers, a team playing at an elite level plays against these Celtics, a team playing at an elite level, you're wrong.

Nobody knows what is going to happen here. Heck, even ESPN's panel of (over-paid-under-educated-pandering-to-the-masses) 'experts' picked the series almost evenly.

So what can we count on tonight? Well we know there is history between the two, and familiarity breeds contempt. We know these two teams are more than just the result of a basic tournament style bracket of best of seven series versus regional opponents. When the Celtics face off against the Lakers in the playoffs, at least to fans of either team, its like destiny. Angry, violent destiny.

We also know both these teams are playing really really well right now. Both teams are playing above their regular season levels and, to use a cliche, they're both 'peaking at the right time'. Both teams have players (Pau Gasol and Rajon Rondo, respecively) who are playing far and above their regular season performances. Both teams have battle tested vets to lead their clubs on the floor, and both teams are populated with former NBA Champions who aren't going to blink in the face of this pressure.

Pretty much all we really know is that this is going to be one heck of a ball game tonight.

Actual game analysis (if you want to call it that) after the jump

Probable Starting Line-ups

Boston Celtics

.

POS NAME MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO A/TO PF TECH

.

PG Rajon Rondo 41.4 16.7 5.3 10 2.06 0.06 3.1 3.21 2.6 0.2

.

SG Ray Allen 38.2 16.8 3.6 3 1 0.18 1.4 2.13 3 0

.

SF Paul Pierce 38.3 19.1 6.2 3.6 1.12 0.47 2.7 1.33 3.2 0.1

.

PF Kevin Garnett 34 14.9 8.2 2.3 1 0.69 1.3 1.85 2.9 0.3

.

C Kendrick Perkins 25.5 5.6 6.4 0.9 0.47 1.88 2.1 0.46 3.7 0.4

.

6 Glen Davis 19.9 7.5 4.1 0.4 0.76 0.35 0.9 0.47 2.2 0.1

.

7 Rasheed Wallace 15.6 6.5 2.3 0.2 0.41 0.53 0.4 0.5 3.3 0.2

.

8 Tony Allen 16.9 5.9 2 0.8 1.06 0.53 1.1 0.78 2.5 0.1

.

9 Nate Robinson 5.7 3.7 0.6 0.5 0.5 0.1 0.3 1.67 1 0

.

10 Michael Finley 6.4 0.9 0.7 0.3 0.25 0 0 0 0.3 0

Injuries and stuff: Marquis Daniels (QUESTIONABLE), Rasheed Wallace (PROBABLE), Rajon Rondo (PROBABLE)

LA Lakers

.

POS NAME MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO A/TO PF TECH

.

PG Derek Fisher 33.8 11.1 2.3 3.1 1.38 0.06 1.7 1.85 3.6 0.1

.

SG Kobe Bryant 39.6 29.4 5.1 6.2 1 0.69 3.3 1.9 3 0.2

.

SF Ron Artest 36.8 11.5 3.7 2.5 1.56 0.5 0.9 2.86 2.7 0

.

PF Pau Gasol 38.8 20 10.9 3.4 0.25 1.88 1.9 1.77 2.6 0.1

.

C Andrew Bynum 24.2 9.1 7.7 0.8 0.31 1.69 0.9 0.8 2.8 0

.

6 Lamar Odom 29.7 10.6 9.5 2.3 0.69 1.06 1.1 2.06 3.8 0.1

.

7 Shannon Brown 15 5.8 1.4 1.1 0.63 0.38 0.8 1.31 2 0

.

8 Jordan Farmar 13.3 5.3 1.2 1.6 0.56 0 0.8 2.17 1.6 0

.

9 Luke Walton 5.4 1.3 0.5 0.9 0.08 0 0.2 5.5 0.8 0.1

.

10 Sasha Vujacic 8 3.3 0.3 0 0 0 0.7 0 1 0.3

Injuries and Stuff: Andrew Bynum (PROBABLE)

Matchup Of The Night: Pau Gasol V Kevin Garnett/Rasheed Wallace

I said earlier in the week that the Lakers arguably had the top 2 players in the series. The second player is Pau Gasol, depending on your views of Rajon Rondo.

Pau Gasol is the most skilled big man in the series. He has a plethora of offensive moves, he's looks like a 7ft tall beach bum, and he's been on CSI Miami.

The take home there is only one of those things has anything to do with basketball. Gasol is skilled, there is no denying that. But Garnett is (probably) stronger, more mentally tough, and a more tenacious player. The last time the two teams met together, Garnett proves he was the better player, because he played defense better than Pau played offense. If that holds true I don't see how this will be a good series for the Lakers. If Gasol learned how to play tougher and is consistently better than Garnett, this will be a loss for the Celtics.

When Garnett is not guarding Gasol, Rasheed Wallace will probably take most of the duties. That is a scenario I am oddly comfortable with. After last series against Orlando, I am confident that Wallace can check Gasol for 10 minutes a game through intimidation and antagonistic play alone.

Matchup that is Being Over-Hyped: Andrew Bynum V Kendrick Perkins

This match-up to me is not frightening at all. In the last 2 rounds the Celtics have faced the likes of Dwight Howard and Shaq. Andrew Bynum's skill level lies somewhere in between the two of them, probably tending more towards Shaq (2010 Shaq mind you). Kendrick Perkins should have no problem taking care of business against Bynum, especially if reports about his knee are correct (which I am not putting it past Phil Jackson & crew to completely lie about that) Perkins should actually have the upper hand.

Three Keys To The Game For The Good Guys:

1) Sucker Punch? I Call It 'Strategery'- Stan Van Gundy had a pretty insightful comment after the Magic series last week. He said

"Everybody talks about it being a fourth-quarter league, but just look at the statistics. It is very much a first-quarter league." (link)

The Celtics are 7-1 in these playoffs when leading after the first quarter. They're 4-4 in other circumstances. The Celtics need to sucker punch these Lakers in the first quarter tonight. They need to be more energized, more thirsty, more aggressive, right from the tip off. The 'ESPN Experts' think it will be a long series. So do most of Celticsblog's 'Experts'. At times both the Lakers and Celtics have talked about how 'hard fought' this series is going to be. Everyone is just waiting around for game seven to send someone home. I say screw that, lets bring that game seven intensity tonight, first quarter, nine pm eastern standard time (that's like what, 7:32AM, May 2nd in that fake time they use out west?).

2) Order The Fish(er) Fry- Earlier in the playoffs, Ron Artest made Kevin Durant look flat out silly. Kobe Bryant is capable of guarding Ray Allen without any problem. Derek Fisher is what Doughboy would refer to as a 'mark'.

There have been varying reports of who Kobe is going to guard. Rajon Rondo is capable of completely dictating the game's outcome based almost on his play alone. Bottom line is, the Lakers can't let him play if game. So Kobe guards Rajon, Right?

Maybe. Ray Allen is 6-6, he's faster, and he's just a better player than Derek Fisher. Ray Allen cannot take over a game from start to finish anymore, but he can completely change the direction of a game in three possessions if you let him get his shots. So really, you can't leave Ray Allen alone either.

Whoever Derek Fisher guards is in a favorable matchup. That needs to be exploited early and often. If Kobe switches off Ray for Rajon, go through Ray. If Kobe starts on Ray, go through Rajon.

3) There Is No "I" in "Defense"- Team defense is the only way to beat the Lakers. Lucky for us, the Celtics play awesome team defense. Kobe Bryant is flat out the most dangerous player on the floor for either team at all times. I don't care how hot Rajon gets, I don't care how scruffy and unkempt Pau Gasol's beard is, Kobe will be the difference one way or another this series.

The Celtics do no have anyone who can consistently defend Kobe Bryant 1 on 1. I doubt there are 3 players in the league (although I heard Ruben Patterson is looking for work) that can play Kobe straight up and not get demolished. The secret will be fast, crisp, smart rotations and contesting shots. The game, and the series will not be won on any gimmicky flea flicker offense or Annexation of Puerto Rico defensive scheme. It'll be won through sweat, hustle, and good solid communication of the defensive end.

What Tonight Means In Terms Of The Series

The NBA Finals takes a different home/away schedule than the rest of the playoffs. I think it is because of lunar position, or what side of the bed David Stern wakes up on or something. In any case the schedule for the Celtics goes as follows: 2 games in LA, then 3 games in Boston, then 2 more games in LA>

This particular segmenting of the games is important because it creates certain presumed scenarios. It makes stealing a game on the road less likely, because not counting game 1, venues only change twice, as opposed to 4 times in previous series. It means teams are more likely to win consecutive games, and it gives the team without home court advantage more of a puncher's chance early on, but less of a chance in games 6 and 7.

What this particular segmenting also does is create a favorable scenario for the team without home court advantage. If the Celtics can manage to steal one of the first two games on the road, they'll walk into a 3 game home stretch with a best case scenario of closing out the series on game 5, or at least heading back to Los Angeles with a chance for a game 6 close out.

I think as I said earlier in the preview, that Game 1 is a good opportunity to steal one. Game one is a contest teams usually enter into tentatively. It can be almost a feeling out period, with both teams preparing for the battle ahead.

The Magic found out how the wrong end of a smack down feels when they walked out on their home floor cocky and confident against these Celtics. If the Celtics can manage to get a lead after the first, the Lakers will feel it too.

Alright, that's it for the Game 1 preview. If you made it this far, take a minute and pat yourself on the back. You deserve it. Now pull yourself together! There is a game in five hours! Go to the store now! Buy your supplies (you know...beer, chips, pizza, catheter bag), and get ready to hunker down for 3 hours or so of the best basketball your lil eyes have ever seen! I will, as always be in the War Room. Tonight is Señors night, so make sure you bring your own sombrero to root for "Los Celtics" to PO-vulerize "Da Lakers".