From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: Orlando thought they were ready — they were a confident team coming off two playoff sweeps, their offense was clicking. Then reality hit hard — Boston’s defense was overwhelming at the start of Game 1 for Orlando. Long arms and quick feet were everywhere. The Magic were coming off a long layoff, and there just is no way in practice to simulate what Boston does. The Celtics were up 7-1 in the blink of an eye. They led by 10 in the first quarter, as Orlando struggled to adjust. The lead got up to 15 and stayed in double digits for much of the second quarter. The Magic adjusted — or Boston got sloppy, or some combination thereof, chose your own narrative — and almost came back to win. But that was an uphill climb
From Rey Moralde, SLAM Online: And here we go again. It’s the Los Angeles Lakers versus the Boston Celtics for the 12th time in NBA Finals history. People are saying this match-up is played out. That we don’t need to see this. Maybe it’s because I’m from Southern California that I relish this series but, truth be told, a lot of us grew up on the Lakers versus Celtics duels in the ’80s. First off, if you’re truly a fan of the game, you have to love this. The history is there. The star power. The rivalry. And, most of all, appreciate on how these two teams are the best of the best. They didn’t get here by accident. I personally waited two years for this rematch. Sure, we saw the Los Angeles Lakers go up and down throughout the season. [Note: Rey is a fantastic writer and has done great work at TheNoLookPass.com. The above is his first post at SLAM Online. He’s a huge Lakers fan and a good basketball mind, make sure you check him out at his new online home.]
From Kenny Masenda, Ed The Sports Fan: There are plenty of things that can be said about this recent version of the Boston Celtics. They have their young floor general, and, after Game Six, they have a reliable back-up point guard. Of course, they have Paul Pierce, the staple of the Celtics for the past 12 years, and also have the greatest shooter in my lifetime, in Ray Allen. However, there are two players on this team that have been near the top of my favorite players list for the past 15 years. They came in the league together, and with four more wins, will be able to win a championship together. Those two players are none other than Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett.
From Sebastian Pruit, NBA Playbook: Throughout the Western Conference playoffs, the Lakers have played against three of the better point guards in the NBA. They faced Russell Westbrook in the first round, Deron Williams in the second round, and Steve Nash in the Western Conference Finals. People are going to point to Rajon Rondo and compare him to Russell Westbrook due to the similarities in the two players. This is going to lead a lot of people to say that Kobe Bryant needs to cover Rajon Rondo, however I don’t think this is the answer for the following reasons:
From Saurav A. Das, Silver Screen and Roll: “Looking at the other team, these two teams might as well be staring into a mirror.” – That’s what C.A. said in his piece commencing coverage on the Lakers-Celtics series, and that’s the most apt description of this series I’ve heard. Both teams struggled during the Regular Season. Both teams had their doubters, with the so-called ‘experts’ favouring the flashier teams or the teams that better filled a stat-sheet, without as much as an acknowledgement of the concepts of ‘experience’, ‘clutch’ or ‘will’. But look who’s left standing. For the 12th time in history, these two clubs with legendary levels of history are facing off for all the marbles on the hardwood, in what has historically been a one-sided contest. Both teams are the most successful in NBA history, both teams have a legacy that is unparalleled in this sport by any team other than each other. Both teams are used to winning.
From Matt Moore, NBA Fanhouse: Kobe Bryant is a natural disaster. By that I mean he’s not something you can prevent. You can’t deter him, swing him off course, anticipate or limit. He’s going to happen to you. And when he does, it’s going to be unfortunate for you and your loved ones. You can only really hope to survive him. Sometimes that means making him into the sole offensive option and trying to sucker him into a high usage night where his shot’s not falling. Sometimes it means frustrating him by pressuring his teammates into bad decisions. But as far as stopping No. 24, there’s little to nothing you can do.
From Tommy Heinsohn, Hoopshype: Stats analyst John Hollinger has picked the Los Angeles Lakers to beat the Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals, which in itself is no big deal except that it has set off nervous tweets among L.A. fans everywhere. It’s an omen, they say. That very silly mindset sums up the bizarre relationship between the NBA’s two most successful teams. The Lakers have whipped up on a lot of opponents over the decades, but when it comes to the men in green, it’s an entirely different story.
From Kevin Ding, Orange County Register: The Boston Celtics have knocked off the only two teams with more victories this season than the Lakers: first Cleveland and then Orlando. The Lakers are very appreciative of Boston’s effort, not just because they want revenge for their 2008 NBA Finals loss to the Celtics now, but the Lakers got home-court advantage in the 2010 NBA Finals that they wouldn’t have had against the Cavaliers or Magic. After rising up against Cleveland and Orlando, will an older team such as Boston have enough left to throw at the Lakers now? A common rule in sports is that it’s very difficult to “get up” three consecutive times for anything or anyone and be your best, but that’s what the Celtics must do against the Lakers. The unity and productivity Boston has displayed since its ho-hum regular season has given abundant reason to believe it can.
From Mike Bresnahan, Los Angeles Times: LeBron James was the king. The injured, hobbled Kobe Bryant was merely a member of his court. A little more than a month ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers had zipped through the regular season and topped off the Chicago Bulls in the first round while Bryant and the Lakers limped around against the young, feisty Oklahoma City Thunder. James received his second consecutive most-valuable-player trophy a week after Bryant scored 12 points in a playoff loss against the Thunder, his lowest postseason output in six years. He looked exactly like a guy who had logged more than 44,000 minutes in over 1,200 games.
From Broderick Turner, Los Angeles Times: This is why Ron Artest joined the Lakers last summer — to play for an NBA championship. It’s why the Lakers signed Artest to a five-year, $33.9-million contract — to put his physical defensive prowess up against small forwards such as Boston’s Paul Pierce. It’s all in place now, for Artest and the Lakers, as L.A. prepares to play host to Boston in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night at Staples Center. Or not.
From Gerry Callahan, The Boston Herald: When it comes to worshiping at the size-13 feet of one Larry Joe Bird, you can just go ahead and get in line behind this reporter. I’m not afraid to admit it: There were times when I looked at Bird the way Eric Massa looks at Scott Brown, or Barack Obama looks in a mirror. If you were around here and you were of a certain age, you know what it was like: Bird did more than draw crowds and win titles during his time in Boston. He changed the attitude. Each spring, as the NBA playoffs rolled around, he gave everyone in New England a sense that they were going into a street fight with the baddest mother in the school yard, as David Ortiz might say.
From Dave McMenamin, ESPN Los Angeles: Andrew Bynum spoke to reporters after practice Tuesday while wearing his complete Lakers home uniform for promo spots for the Finals. But his outlook a day after having 2½ fluid ounces drained from his right knee Monday, or “a couple syringes worth” as the Los Angeles starting center put it, wasn’t quite as bright as his crisp yellow jersey. “It feels about the same, to be honest,” Bynum said about his right knee that has a slight tear of the meniscus that will require surgery to repair it in the offseason. “The procedure was good. I think I just need to fight through it until we get the surgery done. This is the last hurrah; this is the last show, so I’m ready to give everything.”
From Arash Markazi, ESPN.com: When Kobe Bryant was asked about playing the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals shortly after eliminating the Phoenix Suns, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “I didn’t give a damn who we played; didn’t matter to me.” It’s an answer he routinely gives when asked about opponents or situations he doesn’t want to admit he’s thought about. He’ll usually add an astronomical twist to drive home the point. When he opted out of his contract in 2004, he said, “I’ll play anywhere. I’ll play on Mars.” When he asked to be traded three years later, he said, “At this point, I’ll go play on Pluto.” And last month, when he was asked who he’d like to see in the Finals, he said, “I can play against E.T. I don’t care.”
From Mark J. Spears, Yahoo! Sports: The Los Angeles Lakers had eliminated the Phoenix Suns to secure their third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals, and Pau Gasol was on his way to the team bus. He knew where he was headed, but also where he had come from. Gasol is increasingly recognized as the game’s greatest power forward, but he hasn’t forgotten that more than a few people questioned two years ago whether he had the mettle to help Kobe Bryant win a championship.