I wrote this before the Finals started, but somehow managed never to post it.
Excuse me for a moment while I put away my tissues.
It's been a rough couple of days.
I've been reading the LA Times and listening to Bill Simmons, Reggie Miller and Charles Barkley almost non-stop for the last 48 hours. It seems that the Lakers are the team to beat in the 2008 NBA playoffs. This was a crushing blow, as I had certainly hoped my beloved Boston Celtics would at least put up a fight and make a series out of it.
Shows how much I know.
They don't have a prayer.
Assuming Andrew Bynum returns, and maybe even if he doesn't, here's what everyone had to say:
Prohibitive favorites, says Chaz Barkley.
Lakers in 5, says Reggie Miller.
Celtics don't have an Alpha-dog like Kobe, says Simmons.
Mitch has assembled the perfect team for the playoffs, says the LA Times.
The 2007-08 Celtics have really pulled a fast one on me, and on all of Celtic Nation for that matter. Somehow I had convinced myself that the Celtics stood a chance to win it all. Come to find out, my Haight-Ashbury days have finally caught up with me. I've been smoking the good stuff for more than 82 games. We used to call the Lakers the Fakers. Now I guess I'll hang that name on the Celtics.
But since this is my blog, and I don't really have much else to say today, I better muster up the intestinal fortitude to write something. Sadly, I can't think of anything else to write about at this moment, so I'll resign myself to writing an obit for the Green.
The Celtics were second in the league this year in points allowed per game, the Lakers were 19th. The Celtics were first in the league in field goal percentage allowed, the Lakers sixth. The Celtics had the stingiest defense against three-pointers, the Lakers 16th. The Celtics gave up the second fewest assists per game, the Lakers 14th. The Celtics were the 8th best defensive rebounding team in the NBA, the Lakers 15th. The Celtics also bested the Lakers in offensive rebounding.
None of this matters, of course, because the Lakers offense is the "best in the NBA," says Jay Bilus and Jon Barry. Yes, the Lakers scored more points than the Celtics and turned the ball over less often, but if you give John Hollinger's statistical algorithms any heed, you should also know that in terms of offensive field-goal efficiency, the Lakers were the fourth best team in the NBA, while the Celtics were fifth.
This tells me either that (1) the Celtics are going to commit 20-plus turnovers per game in the Finals or that (2) the difference between the fourth best offense and the fifth best offense is enough to overcome the vast disparity in the quality of defense played by the two teams. Sounds good to me.
Don't tell me this is garbage, Celtic Nation, because you'll only be deluding yourself like I have over the last eight months. It's much easier to join me in admitting the self-evident truth that the Purple's offense will be just too, too much and overcome any other deficiencies that may haunt Showtime. Kobe, Kobe, Kobe. Start saying it now, and by the time the Finals arrive, you, too, will be as convinced as I am today.
It's not just their offense, either. They have young legs. Forget the fact that other than Kobe Bryant and Derek Fischer, no Laker really has any meaningful playoff experience. Those young legs will just run the older and more experienced Celtics into the ground. Garnett, Allen, Pierce, Eddie House, and PJ Brown will need oxygen tanks by game two. You say the Celtics back-up point-guard, Sam Cassell, is better than the Lakers' starting point-guard, the aforementioned Fischer? You're drunk on kool-aid, I say. Sober up and get back to me.
We're not all that old, you counter. Look at the contributions of youngsters like Leon Powe and Glen Davis. True, I agree, they are young. But they are just too young. Neither has a clue what it's like to compete in the playoffs, and you really think they can keep up with Lamar Odom and Pao Gasol? I mean, they couldn't even keep up with Tim Duncan or Rasheed Wallace during the regular season earlier this year.
Oh, come on, you protest, the Celtics destroyed the Lakers twice during the regular season. That must count for something. In fact, you point out that the Celtics beat them so badly in Los Angeles that the Lakers quit trying with 7 minutes still to play in the fourth quarter.
Yes, I concede the Lakers quit trying at Staples, but the Lakers didn't have the services of Gasol in either game. Oh, wait. What is that? The Celtics didn't have Rajon Rondo at Staples? Come again. I didn't catch that. Who started and played the entire game at the point? Tony Allen? Oh. OK, you win that point. Rajon Rondo plus Sam Cassell plus PJ Brown probably make a bigger difference than adding Pao Gasol.
You're still not done?
Kobe Bryant went 9-21 in game 1 and shot even worse in game 2, 6-25. There is no other team in the NBA that can throw Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, James Posey, and Tony Allen at Kobe Bryant, you observe. Come to think of it, the Laker star has never faced a team with a stable of four defenders who can guard him as effectively as these four do. Tell me how adding Gasol will solve that problem?
Um, er, I stammer.
Well, Kobe will then pass the ball to a wide-open Gasol for an easy dunk.
Wide open? Where exactly will KG be in your scenario?
Oh yeah. Well, then he'll pass it to Bynum or Odum.
Ah, but lest you forget Bynum is scared of Kendrick Perkins and Odum can't even score over the smaller Pierce.
My obit isn't making sense any more, I mutter under my breath. I need a quick fix.
I've got it.
The Lakers have Phil Jackson!
Yes, yes. Kobe and Phil will combine to defeat the much deeper, more cohesive, better defending, and better rebounding Boston Celtics, 'cuz, you know, winning in the playoffs is all about offense, not defense or rebounding.
Keep whistling past the graveyard, Laker acolytes.
It comes at little cost, and it's easier than confronting the scary reality of the team Danny Ainge actually built in Beantown.
If you find yourself with a few minutes of spare time between your Finals forecasts, perhaps spend a minute or two reviewing this.