End of the Bench: Observations on the World of Sports

Tonight begins the NBA Finals between the Lakers and the Celtics. If you know anything about basketball, then you know I don’t need to build it up—it’s a big deal and that’s that. Needless to say, it’s going to be a great series that truthfully no one knows who is going to win. Both teams have talented starting fives, and certain matchups and players are going to play key roles. By this, I mean that we know that Kobe is going to bring it (well, at least Laker fans hope so—he played horribly during the ’08 series. However, the way he has been playing, I don’t see that happening). There are several players on both teams that I think will decide the series. They are:

  • Paul Pierce and Ron Artest—I put these two together because this matchup is huge. If Paul Pierce is able to score and knock down shots, the Lakers are in trouble. But if Ron Artest locks down Paul Pierce like gold in Fort Knox, the Celtics chances go down significantly. No matter how Rondo is playing, Pierce is still the Celtics’ go-to player, especially down the stretch. If Artest is hounding him and making it difficult for Pierce to score, look out Celtics fans
  • Pau Gasol—It’s hard to decide which player had a worse finals in 2008, Kobe or Pau. While Kobe did shoot poorly, he can at least be defended by the fact that Boston’s defense was primarily focused on him throughout the series. On the other hand, Pau just played soft. The Celtics’ big men kept hitting and banging him and Gasol disappeared faster than Mike Tyson’s money (how do you lose over $300 million so fast?—I just don’t get it). Much of the Lakers’ championship dreams rest on whether Gasol decides to play physical or get pushed around. It’s as simple as that. Now, I am sure Laker fans will complain about how much he is getting fouled and how little the refs call, but for the most part, that’s always how the Finals have gone (exception being Dwyane Wade and Miami in 2006). The refs let more go and let the players decide the game. Laker fans better hope Pau shows up.
  • Rajon Rondo—Rondo may be the Celtics main key to victory. Like many others have stated, it seems that Kobe will most likely start out on Rondo. Kobe will just get too tired chasing Ray Allen up, down, around, and through screens, thereby limiting his offensive production. As a result, Rondo needs to do his best to make Kobe work. If he can hit a few jumpers early and make Kobe guard him a little tighter, work a little harder, then the Celtics are in a good position. At the very least, Rondo has to attack the basket. It doesn’t matter if he’s looking to score or kicking it out to his teammates. He just has to make Kobe work. However, if Rondo plays timid and cautious and gives Kobe an easy time, then Kobe will be poised to dominate on the other end of the court, which has to be a Celtics fan’s worst dream (other than Sasha Vujacic hitting a game winner).
While these four players are stars, they are also the X-factors of the series. The Lakers need Artest to play great D (and take good shots) and Gasol to be a presence inside. The Celtics need Pierce to play his usual game and for Rondo to continue his great play. Whichever team’s X-factors play best will win the series. You can count on it.


celtics fan

so after the fact. what do you think?

larry bird

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