Just before the playoffs started, dedicated Boston sports junkie and ESPN writer Bill Simmons wrote an article about some of the things he knew were going to happen in this year's NBA Playoffs.
One of those things was this: "I know the Celtics are going to lose in Round 1."
Among other reasons, Simmons noted the Celtics' "glazed, "As soon as we get eliminated, we get to start summer vacation, right?" look on their face."
Well it appears as if the Celtics aren't eager to start that summer vacation any time soon, as they just eliminated the devastated Cleveland Cavaliers from the playoffs to move on to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Despite the fact that the Phoenix Suns will probably put up a good fight against the Lakers, you have to think that the Lakers will eventually make it to the Finals for the third straight year. The Lakers have already played both the Orlando Magic and the Celtics in the NBA Finals, so the question becomes:
Who would Laker fans rather face in the Finals -- the Boston Celtics or the Orlando Magic? Let's take a look at some of the advantages of playing each team:
- Revenge - There is nothing sweeter than beating your life-long rival in the championship. Add in the fact that the Celtics beat the Lakers just two years ago makes for some enticing motivation to want to see the Celts.
- Age - Most of the Celtics will be getting the senior discount at movie theaters next year, so the Lakers are clearly superior to them in terms of youth. After hard-fought series with the Cavs and Magic, will the Celtics really have enough left in the tank to beat the Lakers?
- Faux-familiarity - Did the Lakers lose to the Celtics in the finals two years ago? Yes. Is this the same Laker team? Absolutely not. Besides the obvious changes (Ron Artest, a (semi) healthy Andrew Bynum), you can't forget about Pau Gasol. Pau was bullied against the Celtics two years ago, but since then he has developed a new-found toughness and confidence. Remember, when the Celtics beat the Lakers, Pau had only been with the team a few months, so the chemistry is greatly improved as well.
- Confidence - When you beat a team in the Finals one year, it definitely adds to your confidence when you play them the next year. Sure, the Magic have a new look (healthy Jameer Nelson, Vince Carter, Matt Barnes), but they are essentially the same team that play with the same style. Of course that whole "revenge" thing could work the opposite way.
- Intimidation - It's tough to walk into the Boston Garden (or whatever it's called these days) and win a hostile road game. For some reason, I don't think walking into Amway Arena has the same effect. Orlando is a much easier place to play than Boston any way you slice it.
- Kobe - Any of us that saw the 2008 Finals know that Boston defended Kobe as well as any team ever has. Any of us that saw the 2009 Finals know that Orlando didn't. After seeing Kobe struggle in the first round (6 games, tough series with OKC) and dominate the second round (sweep of Utah), it might be in the Lakers' best interest to play a more Kobe-friendly defense.
There are certainly pros and cons for both teams, but I don't think I'm alone in hoping the Lakers get their rematch with the Celtics. It would establish the Lakers as the elite team that they are and probably exorcise some of Kobe's demons.
I don't know if I ever thought I'd say this, but...Go Celts!