Celtics @ Lakers
Well, this is the time Lakers fans. This is the time. Every NBA game the Los Angeles Lakers have played this season, is nothing compared to the game that will take place on December 25th. The fact is, Lakers fans are still suffocating in the embarrassment of the NBA 2008 Finals. Every time the Lakers have played poorly this season, what have Lakers fans said after? We’re going to get killed against Boston if we play like that on December 25th, further proof that this game outmatches any other the Lakers have played so far this season in terms of importance. With all of this in mind, and the whole world watching, can the Lakers handle the pressure?
At the end of the day, this game WILL NOT come down to Kobe Bryant. The game will come down to these two things:
1. Mental Strength.
2. Physical Strength.
Mental strength, means to stay strong and tough in the mind. This doesn’t mean to play dirty, it means to show resilience, determination, focus among other things. Simple as, a team with a lot of mental strength, doesn’t give away big leads, turnovers, cheap fouls and offensive boards. Mental strength to me, is one of the fundamentals of any sport. I’ve seen PLENTY of teams that have had amazing talent, great physical and athletic ability, but they fail because they do not have enough mentally tough individuals. The players on the Lakers I consider mentally tough are Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol and possibly Trevor Ariza which really, isn’t enough against a team like the Celtics. So what is this going to require? It is going to require individuals like Bynum, Odom, Radman/Walton and WHOEVER to stay strong. Unfortunately, you either have mental strength, or you don’t.
Physical strength, is the obvious, to be able to muscle out the opposing players. Physically strong teams don’t give away a lot of inside points, rebounds, 3 pointers (because the inside is shut down, which allows perimeter defenders to focus on perimeter offensive players, thus shutting them down). Further more, physically tough teams intimidate and affect the flow of a team that is less physically tough. The players on the Lakers I consider to be physically tough are Kobe Bryant (for his size), Ariza (for his size) and Andrew Bynum.
Do you see what the problem is here? Exactly, the Celtics are very strong in both physical and mental areas, when you realize that every one of their players is good in one of those areas (exluded O’Bryant and the Red head). Now before I continue, I would like to add that I am by no means are calling the Lakers soft physically or mentally, however, I am saying that the Celtics outmatch them in these two deparments. You see, a team that is both physically and mentally strong (particularly the latter), work very well as a team, and therefore does all the fundamentals correctly, meaning that they can just allow their scorers to do their things.
Now, I usually focus on simple talent and basketball knowledge of the opposing team in my pre-game write ups, but the simple fact is this. The Lakers outmatch the Celtics on sheer down skill, period. But the Celtics seriously outmatch the Lakers on the less obvious things. It’s all well doing a position by position matchup of both teams, which I normally would have done, but this game is going to be VERY different. It’s going to be about who can outlast each other.
Still, in my opinion, the Lakers DO have the position to position match up advantage. Apart from PG and SF, I think the Lakers have the advantage in every other position, and the Lakers system means that weaknesses in these positions (PG and SF) don’t really glare out that much.
I’d also think that having Gasol on Garnett for the game (opposed to Bynum on Garnett) is a FAR better idea. Lets just get something straight here, before people go bashing Gasol’s defense, understand that he has historically done a great job of neutralizing Garnett. The Celtics offense runs through Garnett, it’s important to remember that. Now the question here, is whether Gasol can neutralize Garnett’s offensive game, but still himself contribute for the Lakers offensively, something I’m not so sure he is going to be able to do. Gasol really needs to assert himself as a second option in this game, or else the big man scoring is going to have to come from Bynum, something I wouldn’t really advise. If Gasol can have a good game offensively, as well as defensively, then that opens up a lot for other players, if not, then *gulp* problems might start to occur.
Of course, Bynum’s productivity will be essential. But the problem is, Bynum seems to be in a defensive slump right now. His post play is very soft, he’s letting little guards blow past him, and offensively… There’s nothing to say, because his points offensively only come when Kobe or Gasol have attracted ALL the attention. Hopefully the big occasion will get Bynum raring to go, or else things could get messy down low in the paint.
Kobe of course, will be Kobe, best player in the league. With no Posey to stop him, then Kobe will be his usual self.
What was considered a strong point for the Lakers for a long time was the bench, and I personally think that the bench is not playing as it was at the beginning of the season (when the bench would probably be a starting lineup on some teams). Maybe this has something to do with Farmar’s injury, but Vujacic and Odom leading the bench really doesn’t sound like a pleasing thing right now. The Celtics bench, guys like Powe or House, could actually be the ones who deliver a killer blow.
Now of course, we have to consider the threats that Ray Allen and Paul Pierce cause. Both players are 19PPG players, and my personal opinion is that Trevor Ariza should play the majority of the game, because he will be effective on one of these players, whilst Kobe takes the other player. Simple as, having Walton/Radman or even Odom guarding one of them would not be as effective as Ariza. Ariza's speed, tenacious D and playmaking defensive ability will be vital.
So to break it down simply, here are the Lakers 4 keys to the game:
- MENTAL STRENGTH - Outlast the Celtics, stay focused, and keep striking back.
- PHYSICAL STRENGTH - Don't get pushed around by KG, Powe and Perkins. They give you some, hand it back to them.
- GASOL'S DEFENSE ON KG - Needs to shut down KG, but still stay productive offensively.
- WHO MATCHES UP WITH PAUL PIERCE AND RAY ALLEN - Ariza on one of these, PLEASE!
So, I've listed what the Lakers need to do to win, do you HONESTLY think will do these things correctly and win? Because right now, I’m not so confident. The Celtics ARE the best team in the league right now, a team that could get a record so good it could shock the league, and on top of this, the Celtics are actually a team built more for the playoffs. Can the Lakers really beat a team as hot right now as the Celtics? Well, I guess time will tell.
Edited by Darth Bynumite, December 24, 2008 - 01:54 PM.