NBA Finals, Lakers Celtics: ProBasketballTalks' prediction post

17 Comments

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.

James Harden, Rockets again leave Jazz in the dust

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
1 Comment

After turning the ball over late in the fourth quarter, James Harden meandered near halfcourt as the Jazz pushed for a fastbreak layup. But that put him in perfect position to receive a long inbound pass after Utah scored. Harden caught the ball and whipped it ahead Kenneth Faried, who dunked to give Harden a triple-double-clinching assist.

You’ll have to forgive Harden for not hustling back on defense. He did most of his heavy lifting far earlier.

By late in the first quarter, Harden created 28 points (17 scored, 11 assisted) to the Jazz’s 13 total points. The Rockets never looked back.

Houston crushed Utah 118-98 in Game 2 Wednesday to take a 2-0 series lead. It seems the Jazz – who lost Game 1 by 32 points and a 4-1 second-round series in this matchup last year – have no answer for the Rockets, particularly Harden.

Harden finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. He was a game-high +24.

Here are the best-of-seven series with the most-lopsided first two games. The 2-0-leading teams that won the series are in red. The 2-0-leading teams that lost the series are in blue. This Houston-Utah series is in silver. This Bucks-Pistons series is in cream.

image

Teams that outscored their opponents by at least 50 in the first two games have never lost a best-of-season series. The Rockets, +52, might have built an insurmountable advantage.

Especially the way the Jazz guard Harden. They’re trying to overplay him but wind up just giving him lanes into the paint. The talented guard is picking them apart.

Until Utah solves that, secondary matchups won’t matter. Houston is content winning through its superstar.

Bucks wallop Pistons. Again.

Stacy Revere/Getty Images
1 Comment

The Pistons fought harder. Luke Kennard moved into the starting lineup and provided a spark. Detroit defended more actively.

But the result was largely the same: A Bucks blowout.

Milwaukee routed Detroit 120-99 in Game 2 Wednesday. Following a 35-point Game 1 victory, the Bucks have outscored the Pistons by 56 points in the series. Every team to outscore its opponent by at least 50 in the first two games of a best-of-seven series has won it.

Here are the best-of-seven series with the most-lopsided first two games. The 2-0-leading teams that won the series are in green. The 2-0-leading teams that lost the series are in red. This Milwaukee-Detroit series is in cream.

image

The Pistons can’t stop Giannis Antetokounmpo (26 points, 12 rebounds and four assists). With Kennard (Detroit-high 19 points) starting for defensive specialist Bruce Brown, the Pistons also couldn’t contain Eric Bledsoe (27 points). Khris Middleton (24 points) provided his usual steady production.

Meanwhile, without Blake Griffin, Detroit lacks a difference-making star. Andre Drummond (18 points and 16 rebounds) had nice individual moments but was -32 (another terrible plus-minus for him).

The Pistons are just overwhelmed by the superior Bucks, and it’s hard to see that changing.

Kyrie Irving torches Pacers for 37 points in Celtics win

3 Comments

In what had been a tight game, the Pacers built a four-point lead over the Celtics with four minutes left in the third quarter. From there:

Irving scored 37 points and dished seven assists, leading Boston to a 99-91 Game 2 win Wednesday. The Celtics now lead the first-round series 2-0. Teams that have won the first two games of a best-of-seven series at home have won the series 93% of the time.

The Pacers just can’t muster enough offense – not against this sound Boston defense. Indiana went nearly nine scoreless minutes in the fourth quarter. Even after ending that drought, the Pacers’ final five possessions: miss, miss, miss, turnover, turnover.

This is why the Celtics got Irving. His ability to create shots sets them apart in these slogging playoff games.

Jayson Tatum added 26 points. But Al Horford struggled while playing through illness. Marcus Morris shot 0-for-8. Jaylen Brown didn’t really get going.

This wasn’t the prettiest game for Boston, but because of Irving, it was a win.

LeBron James named one of TIME’s 100 most-influential people

AP Photo/Mark Duncan
4 Comments

LeBron James couldn’t even influence the Lakers into the playoffs.

But as a businessman and philanthropist, his reach is only growing.

LeBron remains the NBA’s biggest star. He’s still an elite player (when healthy), and his name resonates with casual fans and even non-fans. Add his off-court interests – more accessible to him in Los Angeles – and his importance can’t be denied.

That’s why LeBron made TIME’s 2019 list of 100 most-influential

Warren Buffett wrote about LeBron:

I’ve been impressed with his leadership skills, his sharp mind and his ability to stay grounded. People in LeBron’s position get tugged in different directions and have a lot of chances to make bad decisions. He’s kept his head, and that’s not easy.

There is so much on LeBron’s plate – production, acting, his school, even basketball. His ability to handle it all is incredible.

Having such varied interests might not lend itself to LeBron dominating on the court. But it makes him even more deserving of this list.