Contributed by guest writer Frank Palmasani
The lean, green, Laker-rival machine; Ray Allen is gone. Two of their three best players are old. Their all-star point guard is the Celtics final saving grace. So why are they the number 2 team to beat for the Lakers in the East?
If one truth will ever hold relevant, it is that the Celtics play their best against the Lakers. Though it’s a franchise rivalry, it isn’t the sports drama of Bird v. Magic or West v. Russell. However, an old age rivalry is a heated rivalry none-the-less, and while it seems to be more of a Kobe versus the entire team instead of Kobe versus Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett it is still the same heated rivalry. The Celtics have put it all on the line in recent matchups with the purple and gold. The Finals, the ABC channel Sunday broadcasts, the fights and the complaining; all of it a product of this legendary rivalry.
But is a built in fire enough to ward of the new Lakers?
They have a point guard who has proven time and time again that he can orchestrate a team on court. He has not proven himself as a true leader, but easily a man who knows the right spot to put the ball and can score when he needs too. They have their old reliable, Paul Pierce. He is a proven leader, plays good defense, and has even proven to be clutch. And what of Kevin Garnett, you ask? Well he is still Kevin Garnett. Age will touch anyone physically, but his intensity still remains at its peak. Even on those days where his bones are aching and muscles are sore, he still has the same “I WANT IT” defensive mind set. In the past years that mindset has been huge difference maker.
But the Lakers have Dwight. And Kobe. And Nash. The confrontations will be hard fought, and of course will not be as one sided as the roster would imply.
Steve Nash going head to head with Rondo would be a mismatch for each at different aspects of the position. Steve Nash is easily the more seasoned and skilled passer, better handler, and twice as clutch. However, Rondo quicker and there is not much that Nash could do to impede his penetration. That will more than likely be the highlight of the game.
Kobe versus Paul Pierce, on the other hand, will not be nearly as interesting as watching Ray Allen and Kobe going at it verbally and physically. However, it is a match up none the less. Kobe plays a defense almost similar to free safety in football when playing the Celtics large in part to the fact Rajon Rondo has the three point game of Andrew Bynum. That may not change as Steve Nash is much better defensively as the aging Derek Fisher was. So he may find himself switching on Pierce often as pieces are moved around the court and Meta World Peace is switched off. Kobe has great hustle, quick hands, and is a proven first-team defender. The combination of having to handle a pit-bull like Meta World Peace and Kobe Bryant on a consistent basis would be too much to handle.
As far Dwight Howard versus Kevin Garnett, that is a no contest. In his prime KG would have easily controlled the post; Garnett was a defender who’s defensive smarts and timing were unmatched. However, in his later years, while the intensity still remains his athleticism has taken its toll. He will not be able to hold up an entire game with Dwight Howard. Feel about Dwight as you want but he is just to strong.
All these match ups aside, the game will remain hard fought and close.
It is just something about this rivalry that never lets it be simple.