After seeing the film of Kevin Garnett using a Mr. Miyagi chop twice on Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol is more terrified than Father Geoghan when he realized he would be in the same cellblock as one of the victims he molested. Give Gasol his credit he’s emerged as one of the most skilled low-post players in the league and LA would not be here now if it was not for his contributions.
It’s still hard to fathom that he can outplay Garnett when considering Gasol shit himself in the 2008 series, and Garnett has established a newfound hunger far removed from the tendencies of an RMV employee he had in the regular season. And now he’s not to far off from the KG we’ve always known.
Kobe is Kobe, one of the ten greatest players of all-time and quite possibly could be one of the 5 greatest when his career is complete. Everyone remembers his struggles in the series the first time these two met in the finals. The question is whether it’s an aberration or Boston has his number?
Recall back to the playoff road Kobe and the Lakers had to go through to get there in ‘08. He himself was exceptional. Then in the Finals he had 4 games shooting under 40%, 3 of them under 35%. And the shots he was missing looked like the same shots he was hitting in the three series prior where he only shot under 40% twice.
When Phil Jackson was asked to compare Kobe and Michael he said simply, Michael was better at creating shots and Kobe is better at hitting more difficult shots. Perfect analysis. And it’s exactly the reason why Kobe had struggles in ’08 against the Celtics, and why he will in this series. Paul Pierce is the main factor for those struggles.
Pierce has the defensive capability to stay with Kobe, but the trump card he has that no one else in this league does, save Lebron, is the physicality to change Kobe’s shot. Refer to the Western Conference Finals against Phoenix, Jared Dudley, and Louis Admundson were with Kobe a lot of the time. But he shot over them every time while they were left staring at the made shots hopelessly.
The interior presence of Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett make penetration against the Celtics nearly impossible, and Lebron, the best penetrator in the league knows that better than anyone. Kobe not nearly the slasher Lebron is will not have any more success.
Proponents of a Lakers championship are strictly relying on Kobe being who he is. But they’re disregarding the advantage the Celtics defense has over him. They think the matchup at shooting guard is the most decisive one in this series, but the mismatch Rajon Rondo creates with Derek Fisher is what will be the key to the series.
And that disadvantage will be most recognizable on the defensive end. Why? Rondo thrives as a help defender, cheating off of his guy and playing the passing lanes. The reason he struggled against Orlando on defense is because Jameer Nelson is a legitimate offensive threat that could shoot and get to the lane off of the pick and roll, and Rondo struggles with on the ball defense. Derek Fisher is not that type of point guard, not even close. In order to neutralize the Celtics defense he needs to hit his threes or Rondo will cause loads of problems for LA on the offensive end (the defensive end is a given).
LA’s chance of winning this series depends how well they do with their perimeter shooting. Kobe will not see any open looks, but Artest, Fisher, and Odom will and if they don’t hit the three then they cannot exploit the Celtics vulnerabilities on defense and open the game up for Kobe and Gasol. Which leaves them absolutely zero chance of winning this series.
Celtics in 6.