In the Lakers case I see very little resistance from the field in the Western Conference to mount any bit of doubt they’ll reach the NBA finals.
The biggest threat to the Lakers is quite possibly the Spurs. Let’s not forget that the Lakers manhandled the Spurs in their last game with any significance in March. The 16 point drubbing by the Lakers didn’t reflect just how one sided the game actually was.
Other contenders worth mentioning are the Thunder and the Mavs who each were only able to muster one win in 3 tries this season against the Lakers.
Lakers have shown enough this season to see that when motivated and focused they possess the ability to shut teams down defensively and overwhelm teams offensively with their execution.
You only need to look at the recent stretch where the Lakers won 17 of 18 games just prior to this 5 game losing streak. In those 17 wins the Lakers showed their dominance over their opponents with a 11.2 point differential. During that string of games, the Lakers had impressive wins on the road against Portland, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Dallas; the sole loss being a tight game against the Heat in Miami.
When games get close they still have the best closer in basketball with Kobe Bryant and an unflappable coaching staff led by Phil Jackson.
For Boston, the road to the Finals will again be tougher than that of the Lakers. The rapid rise of the Bulls and Heat in the East as legitimate championship contenders are the biggest difference from Boston’s run one year ago which could be prove to be their downfall, not their recent poor play down the stretch.
There has been a lot made by experts and fans of the Celtics trading away Perkins as if this was the 2nd coming of Bill Russell or Wilt Chamberlain. At best Kendrick Perkins is Kwame Brown with better hands, yet he has been singled out as the major reason for Boston’s supposed demise.
The reality is that this Boston Celtic team fared very well without Perkins to start off the season. Prior to Kendrick Perkins returning to the court from off season knee surgery the Boston Celtics were 33-10, 1st in the East and had a season high 14 game winning streak.
This Boston team is still all about the Big 3 and ½ with Pierce, Allen, Garnett and Rondo forming the ½. The Celtics won 3 years ago with suffocating defense and they still find themselves right at the top of the league in the important defensive categories: The Celtics currently rank 1st in opposing points per game and 2nd in opposing field goal percentage.
I don’t want to completely dismiss the fact that these teams have struggled at a time where both teams still had something substantial to play for. What I don’t want to do is give it more credence than it deserves. I most certainly don’t want to follow the pack and use that as an indicator of how they will perform once the playoffs start and dismiss their chances because of it.
In the case with both of these teams, the struggles should be treated as a footnote in an overall successful regular season, nothing more.
Both teams are made up of fairly the same parts as it was when they first met up in the 2008 NBA Finals. The main parts of these teams are made up of veterans that have an abundance of playoff experience.
In the previous 3 years both teams have been through the grind of an excruciating long regular season and if not for a Garnett injury in 2009, we could very well have seen both teams appear in the Finals all 3 years.
They have shown that they know when to exert effort and when to preserve it.
They both know exactly what is needed to complete a successful run in the playoffs.
I have experienced this moment before and seen the outcome; both the Lakers and Celtics will be left standing in the end again to everyone surprise but mine.[phpbay]Lakers Swingman, 3, “”, “”[/phpbay]