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Michael Taylor 30th May 2010 - 12:07

Kobe’s Lakers could be dream match-up for Boston

Very rarely in life would anybody dream of facing off against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers for the NBA Championship yet the Boston Celtics aren't just anybody.

Nearly three years ago basketball's most successful franchise turned from also-rans to a Championship contender thanks to the acquisitions of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen as compliments to Paul Pierce.

They ended up finishing the year as champions having romped home in six against the Lakers and the similarities between then and now are abundant.

Three years ago they were on a road to nowhere before the signings, this year the Celtics were looking all but dead before the playoffs began and the big stars showed there's no substitute for experience.

First up Dwyane Wade's Miami Heat were brushed aside in five before the Eastern Conference's powerhouse Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic fared little better in one-sided six game sets.

At the start of the 2009/10 season nobody would have blinked at the Celtics strong run, especially as they kicked off winning 23 of the first 28, however, their 27-27 record through the final 54 games suggested Boston's star was dwindling fast.

Paul Pierce, the epitome of Doc Rivers' defensive masterpiece, was the big worry with a drop in numbers that had everyone at the Garden worried - as the Magic soon found out though Massachusetts needn't sweat.

The small forward really turned it on both offensively and defensively during the Eastern Conference finals and it was ability to come to the fore at the right time that pretty much ended the dream for Dwight Howard and co for this year.

His game six performance that saw him shoot 9 of 15 from the field as well as contributing 31 points and 13 rebounds could not have been timed better and will have sent shivers down the entire spine of the Lakers organisation.

Boston was meant to be old and battered and Pierce was meant to be the leading light of that roster, instead it seems they're not quite as past it as everyone thought - and defensively they remain without rival anywhere in the NBA.

It's far from ideal for Phil Jackson's game plan, the one that has seen his offensive minded team score more than 100 points for ten straight playoff games against the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz.

Even less ideal is that that defensively they allowed more than 100 points in eight of those ten games - this is a team with a mentality of 'we'll score more than you' but against Boston this might not apply.

Boston will press them, contend every rebound and squeeze Kobe like nobody else can.

Of course Bryant will break out in one or two games, the problem is he needs to be at his most influential in every single game and I simply can't see this happening against the likes of Garnett and Kendrick Perkins.

You also have to remember that while Rivers' Celtics aren't heading back to the finals as defending Eastern Conference champs they do head back with a front five that hasn't lost a playoff series since being put together.

They're a smart bunch of players who know exactly what plays LA will be trying to run and will probably have enough to force mistakes or cold shooting in at least four of the seven game set.

Finally, the deciding factor for me comes if you look at the benches.

The Lakers will be calling on Lamar Odom and Sasha Vujacic to come in and eat a lot of minutes, which they can do, but if they're expecting big production they could come unstuck.

It means Ron Artest and Pau Gasol have to come big, preferably at the same time, or there's a huge risk of Kobe just getting choked into submission at times.

The Celtics bench on the other hand is loaded with talent, albeit not the most reliable of talent.

However, throughout the playoffs it seems they've always had one man who'll step up and put in a big performance - the perfect example being Nate Robinson's brilliant 13 points in the second quarter o game six against Orlando.

Rondo went down, Robinson filled in and the Celtics held off a mini-rally and in many ways that's the story of their run after Rasheed Wallace and Tony Allen fulfilled similar roles in earlier rounds.

Of course the defending champs cannot be ruled out and there's a reason they're strong 4/9 favourites to land another title to a growing dynasty.

They have disputably the greatest player on the planet and the most wily coach in the game, I just fancy the Celtics can pull out one more big series before creaking bones really start taking their toll - and the best news is they're available at a massive 13/8.



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