|Basketball great Bill Russell (left), star of the Boston Celtics, receives congratulations from famed coach Arnold “Red” Auerbach after scoring his 10,000th career point against the Baltimore Bullets in the Boston Garden on Dec. 12, 1964. Auerbach, arguably the greatest coach in NBA history and the architect of the Celtics’ greatest successes, passed away in October 2006 at the age of 89. (AP photo)|
Quite naturally, Platt said, the series revolves around two key matchups and questions:
Can Boston find some way to defend Bryant, arguably one of the best players in the history of the NBA?
And conversely, can the Lakers stitch together a defense against Garnett, one of most determined power forwards in recent memory?
Platt argues the benches of the respective teams will determine the series.
“I’m not impressed with the Lakers bench,” Platt said. “They know their roles, which is in itself valuable. But I’m not so sure that they are as consistent as some people like to assume.”
Platt gives the advantage to the Celtics bench, which features two players that have tasted championship victory. Backup point guard Sam Cassell won back-to-back titles in the mid-1990s with the Hakeem Olajuwon-led Houston Rockets, and versatile swingman James Posey was part of the Miami Heat’s ’05-’06 championship squad. And big man P.J. Brown brings a considerable veteran presence forged through 16 years in the league.
Either way, Platt says he would like to see a six- or seven-game series. It doesn’t matter, Platt said, as long as the Celtics win.
“It’s going to be a chess match for Doc Rivers,” Platt said. “I’m looking forward to it. We have the two teams with the best records. Both teams have star power and are relatively healthy. It should be great.”
On that point, Myers agrees.
He likes to focus on the point guard matchup between the Lakers’ Derek Fisher and Boston’s Rajon Rondo.
At 33, Fisher has 12 years of experience, including 10 trips to the playoffs and three championship rings from his first stint with Los Angeles, alongside the powerful tandem of Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.
Rondo is a second-year player and a first-year starter who has huge talent, but is prone to making wildly unpredictable decisions on the court.
“That could be a problem,” Myers said. “Rondo can be very streaky and Fisher is not going to crack because he is in the championship series. He has been there before.”
As have the Celtics and the Lakers.
The teams are meeting in the finals for the 11th time overall and the first since 1987, when the Lakers beat the Celtics in the third matchup between the teams in a span of four years.
The Celtics won the battle in 1984 for their eighth straight NBA Finals victory over Los Angeles dating back to a victory over the then-Minneapolis Lakers in 1959, but the Lakers broke through in 1985. Then came the Lakers’ triumph in 1987.
That was the year Magic Johnson hit his self-proclaimed “junior sky hook’’ over Kevin McHale and Robert Parish in the final seconds of Game 4 that gave the Lakers a 107-106 victory and a 3-1 lead at the Boston Garden in 1987. The Lakers went on to win the series in six games.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.