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Lakers slight pick to edge Celtics in 6

The 2010 NBA Finals are set and this year’s matchup is one with much history surrounding it, both recent and ancient.

In a rematch of the NBA Finals from just two seasons ago the Los Angeles Lakers will attempt to defend the Championship they won last season by trying to defeat the Boston Celtics, the team that defeated the Lakers to win the 2008 Title.

The Lakers are in a record thirty-first NBA Finals looking to win their sixteenth title. Boston is in the Finals for the twenty first time and looking to add another title to their 17 previous Finals wins.

This will be the twelfth time that the Celtics and Lakers will meet for the NBA’s ultimate prize. Boston has won 9 of the 11 previous meetings against the combined Minneapolis and Los Angeles Lakers franchise.

These storied franchises have combined to win 32 NBA Titles (Boston 17 and the Lakers 15). And the winner of this series will have either won two straight titles (the Lakers) or a second title in three seasons (Boston).

Clearly this is a classy matchup and one that has the makings of also being classic.

The Lakers have the initial home court advantage, hosting the first two games of the Finals on Thursday and Sunday. The home court advantage is initial because of the Finals’ unique 2-3-2 format in which Boston would host games 3, 4 and, if necessary, 5. Possible games 6 and 7 would be back in Los Angeles.

When these teams met two seasons ago the Celtics had the home court edge and defeated the Lakers in six games, winning the first two games at home before dropping two of three in Los Angeles and winning the Title back home in game six.

Interestingly, Boston covered the pointspread in all 6 games of that series.

Four of the six games were decided by 6 or fewer points and three of the games went OVER the Total with the other three staying UNDER.

The teams met twice during this past regular season with the road team winning each time by the same one point margin. On the final day of January the Lakers won in Boston 90-89 and two and a half weeks later the Celtics won 87-86 in Los Angeles. Both teams stayed well under the Totals by an identical fifteen and a half points.

This series should play out as attractively on the court as it appears on paper with both teams having plenty of talent and very good depth. It would be a major surprise if this series goes fewer than six games with a realistic chance at going the full seven. These teams appear very evenly matched. Although the Lakers have been the team to beat in the Western Conference all season the Celtics’ main goal over the second half of the season was to be as healthy as possible for the start of the Playoffs. Mission accomplished.

The Lakers have the best player in the Finals, Kobe Bryant. But it could be argued that Boston has the next best quartet of players with Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. The Lakers faithful would argue that Bryant’s supporting cast of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Ron Artest are their equals. Add in the Lakers’ Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher and Boston’s Glenn Davis and Rasheed Wallace and you have as talented a pair of Finals roster as there has been in the past two decades.

Understandably, the Lakers opened as solid favorites to win the series. Los Angeles is between minus 180 and minus 200 to win the title with the takeback on Boston ranging between plus 160 and plus 175.

In matchups such as this the pressure is initially on the home team to defend its home court in the first two games of the series, knowing that one loss could allow the opponent to wrap up the series by winning the middle three games at home.

Boston’s goal should be to try and split the first two games in Los Angeles and towards that end taking the points in game one is an attractive option. The Lakers opened as five and a half point favorites for game one with the Total at 193. Should the Lakers win game one the Celtics would again be the play as an underdog in game two with part of the play being a money line play. This play is even more attractive if the Lakers win but fail to cover the opener.

The UNDER would also be attractive for play in game one. The two regular season meetings produced total points of just 179 and 173 and Playoff games generally feature more defensive intensity.

Should Boston pull the upset in game one the Lakers will be even more of a favorite in game two. A play on the Lakers would appear attractive but given how the Lakers showed an inability to hold huge leads in their series against Phoenix, the better play in game two might be to play the Lakers in the first half rather than for the full game.

The series heads to Boston for game three next Tuesday and the Celtics would be playable as favorites of 3 or less in almost any situation other than if they were to lose a key player to injury.

Back in October it was forecast that the Lakers and Celtics would meet to decide the NBA Championship this season. In that initial column, the call was for the Lakers to avenge their loss to the Celtics two seasons ago with the acquisition of Ron Artest and his defensive prowess to be the key to the Lakers’ success.

The series price of two to one favoring the Lakers is fair. Boston presents some serious threats. The key to the series will likely be the three games in Boston as if the series goes beyond five the team returning to Los Angeles with a three games to two lead likely will be the NBA Champion this season.

If you are a “value” player your play will be on Boston to win the series. If you prefer to go with the intangibles which would include the home court factor and the revenge plus back-to-back title motivations your play will be on the Lakers.

The call here remains for the Lakers to win the NBA Title in six games with either the Lakers winning both home games and then taking one of three in Boston or, if the Lakers split at home, they then take two of three in Beantown.


About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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