Lakers Vs. Celtics: Round 2. This should be a brutal series. But I expect the Lakers to pull out a tough win in 7 games. I'll be rooting for the Celtic each step of the way though. I give the edge to the Lakers because of homecourt advantage. And also because of Kobe and Phil. This will be the end of Boston's fairy tale postseason run. The Lakers have more offensive firepower and a younger and more versatile team.
Once again, Rondo is the key to winning the series for Boston. He has a big edge over Fisher at the PG spot. I would not be surprised to see Kobe take on the defensive assignment of Rondo, and have Fisher defend Ray Allen. He sets the tone for the offense, and his gambling defense leads to easy buckets in transition. He'll need to prove he can hit that jumper consistently to be effective. I think Kevin Garnett will struggle against a legit 4 in Pau Gasol. He won't be matched up against an undersized PF like Jamison or Lewis. And his age and health will limit his effectiveness in this series. He is the anchor of this tough Boston defense though. This squad has been playing outstanding defense all postseason long; but will they be able to slowdown the Lakers for 7 games? Perkins is one Technical Foul away from a suspension. And I would not be surprised if him missing 1 game could be a turning point in the series. They need his size to matchup with Gasol and Bynum. Pierce or Allen will be relied on heavily to score buckets. Can they shoot their team victory? The Celtics have the edge on their bench also. Nate Robinson, if given minutes, could be an X-Factor for this squad. He provides instant offense off of the bench, and would give the Lakers guards fits. Tony Allen can come in for either Ray or Pierce and provide some solid minutes off of the bench defending Kobe. The Lakers don't have that same luxury. Rasheed Wallace and Big Baby provide much needed depth to the Celtics frontcourt.
Kobe has been on a tear this postseason, and he has extra incentive to play well this season to redeem himself from a poor showing 2 years ago. He has been unstoppable the past few series. Gasol has been arguably the best big man in the posteason, and is an excellent second fiddle to Kobe. They provide an excellent inside-outside game for the Lakers. Artest will need to focus on slowing down Pierce. He's a big upgrade for the Lakers over Radmanovic. And will quietly be a deciding factor in this series. Any offense they get from Artest is a bonus. Bynum's health is a huge question mark, but the Lakers will need him to play some solid minutes against the Boston frontcourt. Fisher will be relied on to hit some big shots. I expect Ray/Rondo to drift away from him at times, so he should have opportunities to shine. Anything the Lakers get from their bench is a huge plus. No one has provided any consistent play besides Odom. And he is practically a starter given Bynum's limited minutes. He'll have some big games against this Boston team. This is a much better Lakers team than the one that Boston faced a couple years ago. That was a team that had to rely heavily on Radmanovic, Vujacic, and Walton. And 2 of those players are struggling to get minutes on this new Lakers team. Brown and Farmar will need to hit open shots and not be a liability on the defensive end. Phil Jackson gives them the coaching edge also. He'll make the necessary adjustments to win the series and another cookie.