The NBA finals: I’m picking the Celtics, but what do I know?

This picture was taken a while back. Note the man on the right. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

This picture was taken a while ago. Note the man on the right. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Don’t listen to me –  I’m the guy who picked the Hawks over the Magic. And now I’m picking a team that couldn’t beat the Hawks once in four tries to win the NBA title.

I say again: Don’t listen to me.

My reasons — this assumes somebody is still listening, which nobody should be — is that the Boston Celtics simply outnumber the Los Angeles Lakers. The Celtics have four excellent players: Allen, Garnett, Pierce, Rondo. The Lakers have two: Bryant, Gasol. (I do not include Lamar Odom, or Ron Artest, or Andrew Bynum — they’re good players.)

The Celtics aren’t nearly as good as they were two seasons ago when they won the championship, but the Lakers aren’t as good as they were in their title run of last spring/summer. The Rasheed Wallace Experiment didn’t really work in Boston, but Artest — except for one putback of an air ball in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals, a game in which he made a total of two hoops — has dragged down the Lakers more.

Artest is no longer a reliable scorer, and he’s not quite the defender he was. He is, in sum, just another guy. The Lakers were better with Trevor Ariza, who left for Houston, on the wing. He gave them quickness and finishing power. Without him there’s no Showtime to L.A.: There’s just an aging starting five that waits on Kobe to do something wondrous.

The Celtics are old, too, but they’re young at point guard. And there’s your difference. Rajon Rondo cannot be guarded by any Laker. (If you assign Artest to him, who takes Ray Allen?) Rondo was the reason the Celtics upset Cleveland and Orlando. Rondo has been the MVP of these players, and who would have imagined that?

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It’s weird. These Celtics won only 50 games, which is seven fewer than the Lakers and three fewer than the Hawks. This Boston team would be, on the record, the worst NBA champion since the 1995 Houston Rockets, who were 47-35. (The 1999 Spurs won 37, but the season was shortened to 50 games by the player lockout.)

And yet: These Celtics have reached the finals having lost only five games as a No. 4 seed; two years ago, the overall No. 1 seed, which was 66-16 in the regular season, lost eight games en route to the title round, having been forced to Game 7’s by both the Hawks and the Cavaliers.

Did I see this coming? Absolutely not. I thought Boston might well lose to Miami in Round 1. I thought the Celtics were too old, too cantankerous. (They were 23-5 on Christmas Day, 27-27 thereafter.) I thought they were the worst of the East’s Big Four by some distance, but they’re still playing. And they’ve just beaten two teams better than the Lakers.

Ergo, Celtics in six. But pay no attention to anything I say.

90 comments Add your comment

EW

June 1st, 2010
5:12 pm

I think LA wins bc they look unbeatable at home…

Stockdog

June 1st, 2010
5:21 pm

My heart likes LA but my head says Boston. I’m going with my head and Boston in 6. Rondo has taken his game to another level. If he could hit a jump shot consistently, he would be one of the top 3 point guards in the league. As it is, he is still one of the top 10 PG and much better than Derek Fisher.

Sonny Clusters

June 1st, 2010
5:25 pm

We was always impressed by leprechauns and how they can appear and disappear and how they know where to find the pot of gold. Still, we don’t really care all that much about the NBA and the Celtics with the Phillies in town and only a half game out. We was always polite in school and we know we should blog basketball just to be polite but who cares about the Celtics? We was thinking there is probably not a Buck Commander on the entire Celtics team and probably nobody that can skin anything and then eat it. Being able to do that can make a big difference in the season,

Mark Bradley

June 1st, 2010
5:26 pm

The home court doesn’t usually decide the finals, EW. The team that wins almost always takes at least one on the opponent’s floor.

Mark Bradley

June 1st, 2010
5:27 pm

Strange but true: The Boston Celtics eat Lucky Charms for breakfast.

Sonny Clusters

June 1st, 2010
5:28 pm

We was certain of that.

Sonny Clusters

June 1st, 2010
5:29 pm

There are many uses for deerskin. How many can you name?

stevie zero

June 1st, 2010
5:29 pm

not to mention doc rivers ability to match wits with phil jackson. (one of a very short list who could)

Mark Bradley

June 1st, 2010
5:30 pm

About one: For usage as a canteen. I’m not exactly an outdoorsman.

Mark Bradley

June 1st, 2010
5:31 pm

The league’s three best coaches: The Zen Master, Doc and Pop(ovich).

Sonny Clusters

June 1st, 2010
5:31 pm

We are going to get you invited to the Double Dime for some orientation.

indianman

June 1st, 2010
5:32 pm

the Lakers in six

F-105 Thunderchief

June 1st, 2010
5:32 pm

F-105 Thunderchief

June 1st, 2010
5:33 pm

You know the best thing about being 13th? It still beats that bitter, killjoy “An Adult.”

Mark Bradley

June 1st, 2010
5:34 pm

The Double Dime? Down the street from DQ?

Mark Bradley

June 1st, 2010
5:35 pm

Me, I enjoy the “first” competition. And I never even win.

Sonny Clusters

June 1st, 2010
5:36 pm

Wallets, gloves, slippers (moccasins), pouches, handbags, and of course infielder’s gloves. We was never partial to deer jerky or deer marmalade but some have a taste for both. A few days at the Double Dime and a little banjo music and an outdoorsman you will be.

stevie zero

June 1st, 2010
5:36 pm

sloan would make my list as well. though hes closing in on 200 yrs old

Sonny Clusters

June 1st, 2010
5:40 pm

Al Gore had a deerskin hat but Tipper is sure to end up with it.

Mark Bradley

June 1st, 2010
5:40 pm

Sloan would be fourth, stevie zero.

Mark Bradley

June 1st, 2010
5:41 pm

Who would have believed the Clintons are still married but the Gores are separating?

allan in texas

June 1st, 2010
5:41 pm

Any word on who will be the next coach of the Hawks? Oh, The Lakers in six!

Mark Bradley

June 1st, 2010
5:42 pm

It looks as if it will be Avery Johnson or Dwane Casey, allan in texas.

Sonny Clusters

June 1st, 2010
5:49 pm

We was reading where there have been some fox attacks recently and we was thinking we’ve got Buck Commanders right here in town that might be able to help with that. Is that something you would be comfortable asking Chipper about?

Mark Bradley

June 1st, 2010
5:52 pm

I could ask Chipper about Buck Commanders, Sonny C. But I’m not sure I’d know what I was asking.

Mark Bradley

June 1st, 2010
5:53 pm

I just did a search on “Double Dime.” Dumb old me. It’s Chipper’s ranch.

Najeh Davenpoop

June 1st, 2010
6:12 pm

Rasheed Wallace, not Rashad.

If the Lakers had Ariza instead of Artest, they may not have gotten past the Durantula and his Oklahoma City Thunder. Artest may have peaked a few years ago, but he is not just another guy.

Lakers win this series. No way in hell Kobe lets his team lose after what happened the last time these two teams met in the finals.

Sonny Clusters

June 1st, 2010
6:32 pm

Mark, if you will go to buckcommander.com and click on buckmen you will see that there is a spot for one more. We was thinking that might be a way for you to relax and have some fun. We was not aware that you was not following Chipper’s deer hunting escapades. When we was playing ball we never went hunting because it is well known that hunting deer takes 60 points off a batting average.

Mark Bradley

June 1st, 2010
6:53 pm

Thanks, Najeh. Rashad Wallace — don’t know what I was thinking.

Jody

June 1st, 2010
7:07 pm

Mark,

I know it’s quiet right now, but if the coaching search is down to Avery and Casey, who do you think the Hawks go with? I’m fine with Avery. Casey concerns me in that I don’t know that he won’t just go along with whatever the GM does and not really serve as a legitimate voice in personnel decisions. I think one basketball mind having total control in personnel decisions is not a good thing (unless you’re West or Poppovich).

Mark Bradley

June 1st, 2010
7:10 pm

I think it’s very close, Jody.

Jody

June 1st, 2010
7:21 pm

Mark,

Interesting. Objectively speaking, I’d go with Avery. In the current state the Hawks are in, I think a guy with a resume that commands respect from both the players and GM is in order. I’m not knocking Mr. Casey, but I don’t know if he’ll accomplish that from the start, which is important in my humble opinion.

Rocky Balboa's Jock Strap

June 1st, 2010
7:35 pm

Mark,
What worries me about Avery Johnson is that he is short with a high pitched voice. In Dallas he wasn’t able to get the players attention and respect very long because of that. The players in Dallas ended up tuning him out every time he talked with that high pitched squeeky voice. He is a nice guy and all, but the players in the time out huddle and in the locker room at half time will give Casey much more respect.

BravesFan79

June 1st, 2010
7:42 pm

I told everyone during last years NBA Finals that Boston is still the Real champs!! They would of smashed LA last year if they were healthy, and will this year. While everyone was kissing overrated Queen James butt i said Boston was still the best team. Always been a big Ray Allen fan from the Seattle days. He carries himself with class, and will ALWAYS be way more CLUTCH than Queen James.
Ps Kobe fans…. Ray Allen d’d up Kobe last time, the same will happen again. I wouldnt bet against the Celtics…. just like told everyone last year when they were counted out.

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Trey

June 1st, 2010
8:08 pm

Who cares. Who do you like in the world cup?

Mike Woodson

June 1st, 2010
8:50 pm

Hey this guy got me fired!!!!!!! Dont listen to him. The lakers will destroy the Celts…… They couldn’t even beat me and Joe dribble and shoot Johnson. I think that kobe fellow is way better than Joe i dont play defense Johnson. Just my opinion but what do i know.

Mark Bradley

June 1st, 2010
9:35 pm

Spain. I like Spain, Trey.

Shane

June 2nd, 2010
12:42 am

God I hope the Celtics don’t win. Will remind me of how the Hawks owned them this year.

Anybody think the Hawks would’ve have beaten the Celtics if they would have got them in the playoffs?

Shane

June 2nd, 2010
12:52 am

Spain. I like Spain, Trey.

Ill inform Madrid immediately and let them know the bad news. Geez Bradley go out on a limb and pick the #1 team in the world. LOL. Personally I like Italy. They are the best floppers in the world and that wins sometimes.

blackprix

June 2nd, 2010
1:09 am

It’s not about the regular season record … its about ‘HOW ARE YOU PLAYING IN THE PLAYOFFS’.

The Celtics JUST BEAT the teams with the 2 best records in the NBA … and were the underdogs … why, because they are healthy and they’ve got a better Rondo, Perkins and a deeper bench.

Celtics raise their 18th Championship Banner … take the series in 6 games! Defense is the key and no one is better!

Matt Winkeljohn

June 2nd, 2010
1:55 am

Neither the Cavs nor the Magic are/were better than the Lakers. In the regular season, yes, but the postseason is another animal where intestinal fortitude and the difference between players like Vince Carter/Mo Williams/LeBron and Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher is like the difference between apples and apple pie. They’re all good, but when you’re in the mood for pie, apples won’t work.

You’re right; Fisher cannot guard Rondo. Nobody really can, at least not one on one. I said two years ago I’d rather have him than any PG with the possible exception of (a healthy) Paul or maybe Deron Williams (in another year, I might update my list to include Collison). But the Lakers are not likely to try to stop Rondo one-on-one.

The Celtics no longer have four currently excellent players, despite their having risen from ashes in the postseason. Pierce sucked against the Cavs, and don’t tell me it was because he was exhausting himself defensively against LeBron. He’s old. Garnett’s older. Allen’s old, too. They’ve defied their ages of late, but to suggest the Lakers are aging when Fisher is the only one who is . . . silly even if Artest is not the Ron-Ron of yore.

Boston bowed up in the playoffs, wizened and finally began to follow Rondo’s lead. There is your first key. They’re collectively as savvy as any Finalist in a while.

But they’re not exceptional. The regular season was not a complete joke, after all.

Mr. Thibodeaux cooked up some schemes for Cleveland and Orlando against the geniuses known as Mike Brown and Stan Van Gandy, and Doc rallied the troops. There’s your second key.

The Suns quite likely would’ve beaten the Cavs in a playoff series, the Gentrys over the Browns.

We’re at a point where coaching and chemistry matter. Willpower helps a tad, too. The Lakers are still hacked about two years ago. They have something to prove. They’re going to need more from their bench than they’ve been getting, particularly from either/or Farmar/Brown, but I think it’s there.

If Bynum was healthy, which he rarely is in meaningful situations, this would be less debateable.

Oh, and by the way, this Kobe guy that was being written off after games 3 and 4 against the Thunder . . . he’s still pretty good, and playing like it.

mw

Dr. Warren

June 2nd, 2010
4:10 am

Rudy T said in ‘95 about his 47-win champs, “never underestimate the heart of a champion,” but I say it should be reversed this year: never underestimate the league’s fiercest competitor/best player and all-time best coach against a 50-win team.

Michael

June 2nd, 2010
6:05 am

Just as long as whichever teams loses fires its coach. A loss would clearly show the coach has lost the respect of his team and can’t get it done despite regular season success.

Clay

June 2nd, 2010
7:26 am

Thanks, Mark. Now I’m ready to place my bet for the Lakers. (you know, if gambling was legal)

Peadawg

June 2nd, 2010
8:51 am

Go Celtics!!!
1. Keep it in the East
2. Kobe is a cry baby
3. Phi Jackson is annoying as hell.

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SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

June 2nd, 2010
9:25 am

phil jackson is annoying , wonder how many titles he would have won if he coached the clippers instead of Jordan,Shaq, and Kobe. But I am afraid Kobe gets him another ring this year.

JC

June 2nd, 2010
9:28 am

Is there a way they can both lose? I’d support that.

HawkKingBibby

June 2nd, 2010
9:29 am

I disagree with you saying the C’s have beaten two teams better than the Lakers. The Cavs are not even close to being as good as LA. Kobe is the real deal unlike King choke Lebron. I hate to sound like that Kobe worshiper Sekou Smith but the guy is not only great he makes every single player on that team better. On paper the C’s should be favs but never ever count out Kobe.