There are a plethora of great matchups in the NBA Finals. Kobe vs. Ray Allen. Paul Pierce vs. Ron Artest. The speed, athleticism, and youth of Rajon Rondo against the toughness, savvy, and outside shooting of Derek Fisher. Andrew Bynum vs. Kendrick Perkins and Bynum’s own injuries. All of them are exciting matchups to ponder, and will all likely have a huge impact on the series.
But according to Fanhouse’s Sam Amick, Phil Jackson doesn’t think any of the above matchups are the most important one in the series. According to Jackson, the key to the series will be the matchup between two of the best power forwards in the league — Pau Gasol vs. Kevin Garnett.
Gasol and Garnett have are both masters of their favorite ends of the floor. Gasol is one of the most complete low-post players in the league, with excellent patience in the post, good range on his turnaround, amazing touch, and a variety of effective moves with both hands. He’s also versatile; he can pass from the high-post, step out and knock down the mid-range jumper, and run the court like a deer.
Garnett is just as dynamic defensively as Gasol is offensively. He’s surprisingly strong for his frame, and never gives up an inch without a fight on the low block. He contests every shot he can, but never allows himself to get out of rebounding position when he goes for a block. No player in the NBA is better at showing hard on the perimeter on screen-rolls and recovering back to shut down the paint. Offensively, KG isn’t the mid-post force he used to be, but he can hurt teams that fall asleep on him by knocking down deep twos and moving without the ball for dunks.
If Gasol can establish himself inside and make KG a relative non-factor offensively, Kobe will have a much easier time getting himself into a rhythm, and this series could get ugly for the Celtics in a hurry. If KG can stretch the floor from Rondo and make the Lakers rely on contested Kobe jumpers for offense (although Kobe is more than capable of going off for 40 without getting a single good look), the Celtics will have a real chance at knocking off the Lakers. Only a couple of hours until we get to find out what happens.