With the Cavaliers waiting until Wednesday for their next game, it is time to enjoy the great aspect of these long and repetitive NBA Playoffs. Denver and Cleveland have advanced quickly over to the Conference Finals, but the two NBA Finalists from 2008 are struggling in the early going. The Lakers and Celtics will have Game 7′s later today and here are my thoughts on the two match-ups.
Lakers v Rockets, 3:30 PM
Everyone now knows how this series has taken so many twists and turns. Between the suspensions to Fisher and Artest, to the loss of Yao Ming for the rest of the season, to the emergence of point guard Aaron Brooks, nobody really expected this series to go to the distance. Portland was expected to be the tougher match-up for the Lakers, as the two teams have split their home games over the past three years plus. The Rockets though have presented problems for the Lakers thus far because of their tenacious offense led by Brooks and spurts from forward Luis Scola.
Scola, who is now playing center for the Rockets against 7-footer Pau Gasol, had a monster first half in Game 6 to help the Rockets fight off elimination. In his last four games, the 6-9 Argentinian has averaged 14.25 points and 12.75 rebounds, providing a huge boost for a Rockets team decimated by the loss of their 7-foot-6 man in the middle. Meanwhile his counterparts Gasol and Odom have not taken advantage of the mismatch averaging only 26.9 combined points this series after averaging 36.2 against the Blazers and 32.2 during the regular season.
Looking ahead to today’s game, I think it is about time that Kobe Bryant stepped up to be the superstar that he is. LeBron James has completely taken over every single game during the playoffs thus far, but Bryant has sort of stayed away from the spotlight in this series. During this series he has averaged 29.7 points, and 4.7 rebounds despite taking a massive amount of shots at 24.8 per game. He has been shooting way too much per his scoring, and is only getting to the free throw line six times a game.
I would love for the Rockets to pull this out, but in Los Angeles it does not seem likely for them to continue their miraculous run. Yao is gone, and thus without him they cannot handle the intimidation of the Lakers in the paint at home. Aaron Brooks can only do so much, and without another premier scoring option in the paint, the Lakers are simply a mismatch nightmare. Phil Jackson should probably counter tonight with strategic moves to give more playing time to Jordan Farmar, and I am expecting Andrew Bynum to step up and give the Lakers the win: Western Conference Finals = Lakers vs. Nuggets
Celtics v Magic, 8:00 PM
This series has been near impossible to figure out, as the Magic have blown two games yet still have a chance here to end off the Celtics for good. Coming into the match-up, I expected Orlando to take care of business and dominate the tired and injured defending champions, but that has not happened at all as the teams have continued to go back-and-forth throughout their six games thus far.
Glen Davis might be looking human now, after averaging 18.7 points during the first round series with Chicago, and putting up 21 and 22 points in games 4 and 5. While the Magic will continue to implement their in-and-out style of offense with Howard in the middle and shooters on the perimeter, Davis has stepped up in a big-time role for Boston. Ray Allen has disappeared yet again during this series, averaging just 13.1 points on 32.6% shooting, and Davis has been the premier jump-shooting scoring option for Coach Doc Rivers.
Home court advantage does seem to be a big deal in this match-up, and the Celtics have won 17 of their 20 games 7′s at home according to ESPN. Despite this fact, these are two streaky teams during the playoffs that could light it up at any point. As a Cavalier fan I know I will be cheering for Boston so we can avoid the mismatch against Orlando, but I am not really sure if Boston will be able to handle the Magic for one more game. In game 6, Dwight Howard was an absolute monster, Rashard Lewis was pretty good, but Hedo Turkoglu and JJ Redick shot a combined 3-20 from the field. That will not happen again, and I think Orlando might be even better than that ugly 8-point win.
I am going to go out on an edge, and predict that Orlando will win game 7 in Boston to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Everyone expects Boston to simply romp through and then lose to the Cavs, but right now, Orlando is playing the better team basketball and Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have not stepped up to help out their team. This series could have been over long ago because of Orlando’s crucial late game mistakes, but I just don’t see this happening tonight: Eastern Conference Finals = Magic vs. Cavaliers