NBA Finals, Lakers Celtics: ProBasketballTalks' prediction post


Laker_Celtics_logos.pngApparently nobody in Boston will be buying the team on this blog a beer next time we visit. They’ll be all too happy to serve us crow, however.

We’ve decided to put our predictions out there, to make them official and public and all that. And for possibly the first time ever (well, outside of wondering if Marco Jaric scored over his head with his wife) we all agree on something.

Kurt Helin: Lakers in 7. I believe in the Celtics. Now. I didn’t for the last two rounds. I thought it a fluke, and I was wrong. They are for real. They are back and playing defense like beasts again. And they are still going to lose this. Barely, but lose. I’ll take the Lakers because of home court (their role players just are more comfortable in Staples Center), having Andrew Bynum (even in his limited condition) which will open things up for Pau Gasol, and in the end Kobe Bryant remains the best player on the court, and he happens to be playing his best ball.

Matt Moore: Lakers in 6. They’ve beaten Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams, and Steve Nash. Can they beat Rajon Rondo? They’ve beaten Jeff Green, Carlos Boozer, and Amar’e Stoudemire. Can they beat Kevin Garnett? They’ve beaten Kevin Durant, Andrei Kirilenko, and Grant Hill. Can they beat Paul Pierce? They’ve beaten Scott Brooks, Jerry Sloan, and Alvin Gentry. Can they beat Doc Rivers? They can because of three little letters. TMT. Too Much Talent.

Rob Mahoney: Lakers in 7. I’ve spent the last few days trying to convince myself that the Celtics will take this thing, but they won’t. They can, but they won’t. Kobe Bryant is simply operating on a different plane of existence, in which defenders seem to be challenging his shots, but fail to contest the ethereal. Behind him are a number of talented players that can’t all be negated; maybe the Celtics can take away Bynum’s impact, but not Gasol’s, maybe they can take away Odom’s impact, but not Artest’s. Boston may have upset Orlando by proving how delicate the Magic’s offense really was, but L.A.’s attack is far too balanced to crumble under the Celtics’ defensive pressure. It’s been fun, Boston, but it’s time to go home.

John Krolik: Lakers in 6. The Celtics should be a much tougher test for the Lakers than either the Jazz or the Suns were, simply because of the way Boston plays defense. Remember how the Lakers looked vulnerable against the Thunder, even though the Thunder struggled to score for most of the series? Well, the Celtics are a whole lot better defensively than the Thunder are. They don’t have a Sefolosha or a Durant to slow down Kobe on the perimeter, but they’re capable of guarding that massive Laker frontline. That has the potential to change everything — expect this Laker team to have some very rough stretches over the course of this series. Ultimately, though, fatigue and that 2-3-2 format are going to be too much for Boston to overcome. Boston hasn’t been consistent enough at home for me to think they can win three in a row in Boston, and I don’t see any team winning two out of seven games at Staples. The Lakers will get tested, but I think they’ll pass with flying colors.

League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
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Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.

However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.

Over at the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner got a number of sources to wince about Kobe for a story — except nobody wanted their name attached to attacking a legend of the game.

“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”

“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”

One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”

Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.

But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry

The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.

By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.

How’s that going?

(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.