From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: Two years ago, the Lakers tried to guard Paul Pierce in the Finals with Vladimir Radmanovic. Los Angeles might as well have tried to wrap Pierce up in wet toilet paper, it’s about the same deterrent. Pierce did whatever he wanted against the Lakers then starter, got in a rhythm and became almost unstoppable.This time around, the matchup at the three is far more interesting — Ron Artest vs. Pierce. Two hard-nosed players. Two guys with some street in them, who will fight back. Two guys prone to sell calls. Artest the defender against Pierce the scorer.
From Matt Moore, Pro Basketball Talk: The players are mostly the same. The franchises, the mascots, the colors, the pageantry, the history, the bad blood. All that’s still there. But this finals matchup is uniquely different from 2008 for five reasons. 1. The Lakers are better: When last these two teams met in the finals, the Lakers were less than a half season since the Pau Gasol acquisition. They were still figuring one another out, still learning each other’s tendencies. This team was not whole, as it is now. Furthermore, Andrew Bynum was out after knee surgery. Granted, Bynum’s still struggling with a faulty knee. But even in limited minutes, Bynum can be a huge factor, helping LA to dominate the glass and get easy points down low, two things the Lakers will need in this series. Ron Artest gives LA a wing defender they can sick on anyone and expect him to deliver. And he does.
From Josh Tucker, Silver Screen and Roll: Just like that, with a six-game display of sheer dominance, Kobe Bryant gains some satisfaction. Now, when people mention Kobe and the Phoenix Suns in the same sentence, they’ll be referring to this, not… that. I began writing this piece a few days ago. It’s not about this series, or about this game. It’s about that series, and especially that game. You know the one I’m talking about. The only true professionalthat. (For that, click through, after the jump — I promise it will be worth it.) But first, I can’t help a quick(ish) rabbit trail — a moment to let this soak in. blemish on Kobe’s career. We’ll get to
From Robert Baptista, Silver Screen and Roll: Once again, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers have reached the NBA Finals. This accomplishment somewhat slams the door on any argument that Kobe “needed” Shaq. This is now the third straight trip to the Finals, and a chance to repeat, with just what may be the polar opposite of Shaq in a big man – Pau Gasol. Three titles in a row with Shaq, and nearly the same with Pau? This achievement needs to be realized and appreciated. The perception of those 3-peat years will change dramatically if Kobe and the Lakers win the Finals.
From Eddie Maisonet, Ed The Sports Fan: I think there are a couple of defining moments in this 2010 NBA playoffs that none of us will truly forget in a long time. There was the Rondo switcheroo on LeBron James, there was the formation of Kobe’s new go to move (the multiple head fakes, not to actually fake you, but to get his balance and get his shot off move) against the Suns, the LeBron YUUUUULE on James Johnson, the Russell Westbrook YUUUUULE on Lamar Odom, the the Kevin Garnett forearm chops on Dwight Howard, the multiple fake deaths of Wince Carter and Fall Pierce, and the Slovenian Cage Match with Goran Dragic and Sasha Vujacic. However, there hasn’t been anything as sentimental, egregious, outstanding, and hilarious as Game 5 and 6 for Ron Artest as he proved that he is the single biggest enigma in the NBA. The things that he is capable of doing and not doing. Ron Artest is the most important player in the 2010 NBA playoffs, and its not even close.
From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: The significant news out of El Segundo Monday afternoon centered around Andrew Bynum, who celebrated his Memorial Day morning by getting his injured right knee drained of excess fluid. Maybe you went to pick up some steaks from the local butcher for an afternoon barbecue. This is what he did. (I was told by a fellow media member Bynum was later seen getting something to eat. Could have been a late breakfast, possibly an early lunch. Let’s call it brunch to be safe.)
From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: I didn’t think it would happen at the start of the season, nor when the playoffs began, but here we are. Lakers vs. Celtics. It was fun in 2008 when the simple rekindling of a classic rivalry was enough to get basketball fans all geeked. This time around, there’s recent history to color things. The plot lines are richer, the themes more interesting. And it’s not just grainy film, shorter shorts and a seemingly endless array of Hall of Fame alumni lining the sidelines making it interesting. The potential for seven games of intensely satisfying basketball is substantial.
From Zach Lowe, Celtics Hub: There is a lot not to like in this data, isn’t there? Boston was the 2nd-best shooting team in the league this season on at-the-rim shots, but they couldn’t come close to their season-long mark against the Magic. That’s obviously the Dwight Howard effect, but the Lakers ranked 10th in the NBA at protecting the rim during the regular season, according to Hoopdata’s defensive numbers. The Magic also discouraged Boston from even attempting shots at the rim, as Boston’s attempts from in-close dropped by 5 per game. Yes, these are small sample sizes, but these things matter in games and in series. With Andrew Bynum providing a strong defensive presence, the Celtics ability to get into the paint and score will be key.
From Sebastian Pruiti, NBA Playbook: At points of last night’s Orlando-Boston game the score was closer than the Suns-Lakers game the night before, but it just didn’t have that feel. Thursday night, you always had the feeling that despite the lead being as much as 18 at some points, that the Suns were just one spurt away from getting back in the game. In Boston last night, I never had that feeling, and Ray Allen was a large reason why. Up 13 early in the third quarter, Ray Allen knocked down back-to-back threes extending the lead to 19, and essentially ending the game for good. Even Stan Van Gundy talked about the importance of these threes.
From Sam Amick, NBA Fanhouse: Ron Artest swears he was there to support Lamar Odom. His blood brother from Queensbridge, N.Y., and the LakersNBA Finals against Boston in 2008, and the then-Sacramento Kings Kobe Bryant that he wanted to throw a few punches the next time the Celtics were knocking him out of the championship bout. Two years later, the most unlikely of storybook endings is on its way to being complete. were in the small forward had crossed the country to see the Game 6 loss in Beantown that ended it all. But whether by design or serendipity, it was indeed the day he inserted himself into the Lakers’ script. He awkwardly wandered into the shower area of the visitor’s locker room at TD Banknorth Garden, then boldly told
From Colin Zvosec, Cavaliers Central: Boston vs. Los Angeles. Taken at face value, this finals matchup isn’t surprising at all. Quite the opposite in fact, many expected to see these two teams back in the finals together at the beginning of the season. Then Boston went through their mediocre second half, the Lakers stumbled to the finish, and everyone wanted you to believe these NBA playoffs were going to be wide open. Cavs vs. Mavs? That could happen. Jazz vs. Magic? Sure, why not?
From Kevin Ding, OC Register: The gift has arrived. In a purple and gold box with a pretty green and white bow, the 2010 NBA Finals are on the doorstep. From coast to coast, folks are breathless with anticipation about tearing into the rivalry renewed whether they’re named Jerry West and Bill Russell or Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. The current Lakers, though, see a message on this precious package that no one else does: HANDLE WITH CARE. Sasha Vujacic, even though he was the Laker who took his anti-Boston campaign as far as refusing to wear green in 2008-09, has already sworn off swearing about the Celts.
From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Pau Gasol had already become an NBA Kobe Bryant setup, giving the Lakers a 24-12 lead late in the first quarter on Jan. 31 in Boston. But because this was Boston … because losing the 2008 NBA Finals to the Celtics prompted Gasol finally to get in the weight room … because this was the very same TD Garden court on which Gasol and the Lakers had been pushed around and insulted with the worst sort of four-letter word in male athletic competition: S-O-F-T … champion the previous year. Just days earlier, he’d been named an All-Star for the second consecutive season. Mere seconds before, Gasol had showcased his skills with a running hook shot off a
From Mark Medina, Los Angeles Times: After meeting with doctors, Lakers forward Pau Gasol said on his official website Tuesday that he will not help Spain defend its title at the FIBA World Championships this summer because of injuries and fatigue.”We concluded that after another long NBA season, coupled with my participation to the highest level in all club competitions and national team during these past years, makes it very difficult physically to face an important challenge as the World Cup of Basketball,” Gasol said in a statement posted on his official website. “This year I have suffered two major muscle injuries, the first in my career, and I firmly believe it is time to rest. I think the best is to choose an appropriate time to rest first than your body decides for you at the most inopportune time.”
From Broderick Turner, Los Angeles Times: Lakers center Andrew Bynum, who was inhibited during the Western Conference playoffs because of swelling in his right knee, finally decided to have the knee drained Monday at the team’s training facility in El Segundo. Bynum had 2 1/2 ounces of fluid removed, a substantial amount. He had been slowed by torn cartilage in the knee for a little over a month, an injury that limited his minutes and the quality of his play.
From Broderick Turner, Los Angeles Times: Throughout his career, Kobe Bryant has never been one to forget a slight, a doubter or an opponent who has defeated him and his Lakers. Now that Bryant and the Lakers are about to face the Celtics in the NBA Finals, the same Boston team that defeated Los Angeles in Game 6 of the 2008 Finals by an embarrassing 39 points to win the championship, he didn’t make this out to be revenge. The Lakers had just defeated the Phoenix Suns, 111-103, Saturday night to win the Western Conference finals in six games and Bryant was saying after the game that he “didn’t give a damn” who the Lakers played in the Finals.
From Lisa Dillman, Los Angeles Times : Reporting From Boston — Do the math. Or, in this case, don’t do the math. Doc Rivers was asked about coaching against the Lakers’ Phil Jackson in the NBA Finals, as the Celtics fielded questions Monday afternoon at their training facility in woody, suburban Waltham, Mass. Rivers chuckled. “Oh, like I’ve always said, I don’t even look at that matchup,” Rivers said, a few hours before the team departed for Los Angeles.
From Mike Wise, The Washington Post: If we’re going to have the conversation, we might as well go to one of the primary sources, no? Greatest of all time, you or Michael? “That’s hard for me,” Kobe Bryant said, walking to another team bus after another virtuoso performance in late May. “I’m still young. Our careers are so different.” But what if you win a championship this season and one or two more rings before you retire? That would equal or surpass Michael Jordan’s haul of titles. Don’t we have to start talking about it? “You can, but I don’t know if it’s fair to anyone,” Kobe said. “I mean, I came off the bench early in my career. We had such different beginnings, you know? And then I played with a much different team about halfway through my career. You almost have to judge my career in two phases.”
From Gary Washburn, The Boston Globe: The legacy of Paul Pierce as a Celtics great has grown with every All-Star appearance, team record, and playoff win. And Pierce’s role in Boston’s unlikely march to a second NBA Finals in three years also cements his status as a Los Angeles-area legend. Pierce played at Inglewood High School, just minutes from the Forum, and his career for the Sentinels was stellar, earning him a scholarship to the University of Kansas. While his numbers were impressive and the Sentinels won a division title during his tenure, Pierce left Inglewood as one of the handful of standout players from the area.
From Randy Hollis, The Desert News: All of you who are sick and tired of seeing the Celtics and/or the Lakers in the NBA Finals seemingly every stinking year, raise your hand. Yeah, me too.Boston, which beat the Lakers for the title two years ago, has taken home the NBA’s top prize 17 times. Yes, that’s right, the boys from Beantown have won a whopping 17 championships — the most by any team in league history. In the league’s marquee matchup, the Celtics and Lakers have met in the Finals 11 times in all. And, thanks primarily to those powerhouse Bill Russell-led teams of the 1960s, the Celtics own a commanding 9-2 championship showdown advantage over the Lakers.
From Chris Forsberg, ESPN.com: The Boston Celtics would probably prefer you not refer to the 2010 NBA Finals as a rubber match. After all, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Magic in last year’s title round; Orlando simply topped Boston along the way.Sure, the Celtics beat the Lakers in 2008 and Los Angeles rebounded to win a crown of its own in 2009. But as the teams prepare to meet in this year’s championship series, it would seem the only team eager to settle the score is the Lakers. After Saturday’s Game 6 triumph over the Suns to secure the Western Conference crown, Los Angeles players immediately tried to squash the revenge talk, but it’s hard to buy what they’re selling.
From Dave McMenamin, ESPN Los Angeles: he Lakers have won three of every four playoff games during their run to the NBA Finals by polishing their skills, executing X’s and O’s and sticking to a game plan. They sprinted back to stop the Thunder’s transition offense and sharpened their shot selection in Round 1. They plugged up the pick-and-roll and took control of the 3-point line against the Jazz in Round 2. And they did a bit of all of those things against the Suns (and figured out how to attack a zone defense in the process) in the Western Conference finals, wrapping up the series with a 111-103 win in Game 6 on Saturday. The Lakers have won with Phil Jackson at the helm, orchestrating a group of players led by Kobe Bryant.
From John Shuhmann, NBA.com: Here we are at last. We’ve played 1,305 games over the course of seven months. We’ve sent 28 teams and 400 players on vacation. And wouldn’t you know it? The two teams still standing are the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, who will face off in the Finals for the 12th time. The Celtics’ 21st trip to the Finals is a bit of a surprise, while the Lakers 31st was expected all along. But both teams have proven along the way that, when it comes to veteran teams with championship experience, regular season struggles should be ignored.
From Johnny Ludden, Yahoo! Sports: Kobe Bryant walked out of the hallway and into the swell, and all around, they flocked to him. Kids wanted autographs. Their parents wanted pictures. Steve Nash, cradling his daughter, came over to offer congratulations. Bryant signed and posed, and, finally, he was free. With the Los Angeles Lakers’ bus idling nearby, waiting to ferry him to his next grudge match, Bryant gave a farewell salute. One score settled, one more to come. Bryant dismissed the Phoenix Suns from the Western Conference finals, erasing the stain of two embarrassing, lost seasons, and now comes his toughest test yet. He must do what is expected of all great Lakers. He must beat the Boston Celtics.