Hmm? What’s that? The Conference Finals are still on?
Ho ho ho.
Silly person.Â Let’s not waste our time, shall we? Look, I love the Suns. I think Steve Nash is a Hall of Famer and someone that many people underestimate in terms of valuing the play he’s given us. I’d rather have Amar’e Stoudemire than Chris Bosh, terrible defense and all. But let’s face it. They’re sunk. People will tear down their defense, and their desire, and mark them as flawed and inferior in every way. They’ll do all this despite the Suns landing the third seed in a pscho-competitive Western Conference, despite them getting past Portland, who though injured all to hell, were also in the wounded animal territory. They’ll do this despite them taking down the Spurs, the prohibitive favorite to face the Lakers in the WCF, and doing it in four games in which they looked the superior team throughout. But the Lakers? Too tall. Too strong. You have a team that relies on quick, smart passing and transition offense up against a team that puts Sequoias in the passing lanes and has what I think is the best transition defense in the league (when they actually give a crap). This isn’t a failure of the Suns, this is just what the Lakers do. Turn it on when they have to and coast on through when they have the advantage. Hell, Jordan Farmar is making big shots. Derek Fisher is playing well. When that happens, they have literally no positional weakness. What do you do against that?
And the Magic? Okay, sure, Boston sucks at home. Fair enough. And you did make yourself a nice little run at the end of both games. But you lost at home to a team you beat last year. They disrespected you in the press, then came into your house, and disrespected you there. I mean, all you had to do was rely on Vince Carter. I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS HAS NOT WORKED OUT. THIS IS TOTALLY NEW INFORMATION.
They may not be sweeps. After all, we’re talking about two of the laziest teams in the league with huge advantages. But these series are over when the Lakers and Celtics decide they are.
So here we are. Again. With the two teams with the most Finals appearances. Again. One of which will have been in 31 of the past 62 Finals. The other which has the most championships. You say sports elite, I say a failure of the NBA to solidify its popularity by excluding 90% of the league from contention. But hey, the ratings will be through the roof.Â It’s a smart business model to rely so heavily on these two, like an ice cream parlor serving up the best chocolate and vanilla soft-serve in town. There’s sprinkles (Rondo) and nuts (Artest), but there are still only two flavors. However, if those two flavors are the most popular and you have the best, why waste time with variety?
So Lakers-Celtics it is. And really, if we were to be casual fans, we would have seen this coming. Take someone who has only taken a passing glance at the league over the past three years. Ask them who the best teams are. They’re going to say “Oh, the Lakers. They’ve got Kobe, and that big Spanish dude and Odom and they got Artest, right?”Â They’ll also say “Oh, and the Celtics. I mean, I know they’re old, but Pierce and Allen and Garnett. That’s just too much, right?” They may have said Cleveland depending on their awareness of how good James is, and hey, maybe they were really astute and selected Orlando. But the fact is, the more you pay attention to the league, the more you’ll get caught up with insignificant details. That’s what’s incredible about these Finals. They are simultaneously completely surprising and the most predictable result possible. If you pay attention to the game, to the regular season, to matchups, to really anything prior to the second round, you wouldn’t have seen this coming most likely. It’s possible.Â After all, we knew the Lakers were capable of this, and we thought Boston was capable of this. But with how LA has taken so much time off in playoffs before, including one game in Oklahoma City, and how banged up the Celtics were, predicting it would be this easy was something that was only intuitive to fans of those franchises who are obsessed with one another (“We want Boston!”) and the casual fan.
As Krolik pointed out, we live in a cliche, conventional world. Defense does win championships, teams that have won before will win again, Vince Carter cannot get it done in the clutch, Kobe is the best player in the NBA, fly-over country doesn’t matter, a watched pot never boils and you have to play with the heart of a champion (or have the most ridiculous collection of talent since Showtime and have top free agents willing to take the MLE just to play for your team because of the weather, chicks, and celebrity) to be a champion.
So how does this shake out?
QUICK! SOMEONE MAN DEAD PUPPET FISHER’S STRINGS!: Rondo’s going to average 28-14-8 in this series, isn’t he? I mean, he has to. Derek Fisher can’t contain him by any stretch of the imagination because of his physical advantages (fast, long, better than Derek Fisher), and if he’s able to get floaters to fall against Dwight Howard, then the Lakers trifecta can’t be much harder. But then, Fisher’s handling Nash. Hold on, I’m going to vomit. Okay, there, I feel better. He’s not allowing Nash to destroy him, and Gasol has proven that even when he should fail because of his trademark characteristics (weak like a wheat field, sluggish like sloth), he usually succeeds (manhandling Howard in last year’s Finals, detonating play after play after play). So really, trying to bet on Rondo doesn’t make sense because it doesn’t fit into our cliches. “Veteran Point Guards always succeed over younger, faster guys.” So there’s one for LA.
TRAPPED ON 18 FOOTER ISLAND: Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom are younger and more versatile at this point than Kevin Garnett. It’s much like Vader struck down Obi-Wan, only in this instance, Obi-Wan would not have been kind and helpful to Luke but instead would have acted like a mental asylum escapee barking, spitting, and threatening to have sex with his children. Oh, and if you’re wrapped up in this metpahor, Glen Davis is Luke Skywalker in this scenario. If you have a hard time imagining Davis crying like Luke does at the end of Empire, just imagine someone stole his fudge bar.Â There. So Garnett surely won’t be able to succeed in this series, right? WRONG. Let’s check the Cliche chart! “Veteran superstars always step up when it matters and taste glory one last time.” So get ready for that pick and pop to Garnett to work. This actually works in basketball terms. Gasol has the defensive range to step out, but he’s going to be drifting to stop Rondo because Laker’s Fight Club Rule 1A is.. well, actually, it’s “Don’t ever go out in something that isn’t hand-made for you by a fashion designer that you paid too much for, which is appropriate since they’re the only ones that can afford tickets to Staples for games they’ll show up 45 minutes late for.” But the second rule is “No easy layups.” So Garnett will have that 18 footer, and that’s his wheelhouse right now. His go-to. His Chris Kataan annoying voice.Â And it will fall. Oh, it will fall.
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING POST GAME: I want an investigation. Kendrick Perkins in the last two months has shut down Jermaine O’Neal (a little odd to the degree, but fine, whatever) and Shaquille O’Neal (okay, still old, but hey, the man’s still a mountain) and contained Howard in relation to number of touches versus number of points. Yes, Howard got 30 last game, but much of that was against people other than Perkins and if he’d scored on half the actual touches he got, he would have had 60. The man may be the strongest dude in the post in the NBA right now. He’s not even jamming guys with hard elbows. Just slightly shoving them back, like they’re blocks in Super Mario World. So can he do this to Bynum? Absolutely. Will he? No chance! Why? Check the Cliche chart! “A young up and comer who has faced adversity will step up and make some big plays.” Gotta be Bynum, right? I mean, it’s not going to be Shannon Brown, unless that play is “Make a really spectacular jump that results in a missed dunk that everyone gets excited about even though he missed the damn dunk.”Â So Bynum should somehow get points here. That’s right. Andrew Bynum will succeed where Dwight Howard, Shaquille O’Neal, and Jermaine O’Neal have failed. For the Simmons readers in our audience, please insert your favorite violent act I will commit upon myself here.
SUPERMEGASTAR VERSUS MEGASUPERSTAR: So what then? What will it come down? What will decide this series of EPIC MASSIVE PROPORTIONS, LIVE ON ABC? Let’s check the Cliche chart! “Two superstars will rise to the occasion, and one will lead his team to victory just a bit more than the other.” Well that’s not helpful, Cliche Chart. I’m trading you in and getting one of those funny infographics pieces on the BP oil spill or something.Â Look, it’s going to be Pierce and Kobe. It’s always Pierce and Kobe. This would lead you to believe it’s going to be the Celtics, if you’ve been paying attention all year. After all, Kobe played badly this year. He just did, relative to his former production. He took too many, shots, bad ones, and all those game winners were often needed because he failed to fit into the offense and instead went all Max Payne. Pierce has always been the bedrock, coming out of a shooting slump in the Magic series and knocking down those elbow jumpers. But this is all if you’ve been paying attention. What does the conventional wisdom say? Kobe wins. And the Lakers get revenge in an epic, seven game series with Kobe hitting the game winner through a flying ring of fire while shooting down the terrorist in the audience (screen tested by David Arquette) and saving all mankind. And on the floor afterwards, Pierce and Kobe will hug, with Pierce saying how much he respects him, and Kobe saying, no, I respect you. And they will bro hug and the music will play and Jack will celebrate with Andy Garcia and ESPN will start on a documentary about the documentary about them.
Despite all the snark, this will be entertaining as get-out. Rondo will probably have a few huge games and Kobe should do something amazing and the teams are matched pretty well. Neither is considerably deep, both have players playing well above their actual talent level right now (Brown v. Tony Allen), and are frontloaded with personalities. You’ll laugh at Glen Davis flopping all over Pau Gasol. You’ll cry at Ray Allen trying to guard Artest. And at the end of it, one of the greatest franchises in sports will hang another banner.
We should have saw this coming.