Free NBA Picks: Celtics at Lakers, NBA Finals Game 1 Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 6/3/2010
After what seemed like an eternity between games, the NBA Finals finally tip off Thursday night matching the two most storied franchises in the league, the Lakers and Celtics. Combined they have 32 championships (Boston leads 17-15) and this will be their 12th meeting in the Finals. Kobe and the Lakers are looking for revenge from their 2008 six-game loss to the Celtics, and this time L.A. has home-court advantage.
Celtics at Lakers, 9 p.m. (ABC)
The line: Lakers -5.5 (191.5)
Props: Odds to win Finals MVP – Kobe Bryant 4/7; Paul Pierce 5/1. ‘Over/under’ games – 5.5. Lakers -180 to win series/Celtics +160.
How they enter: Other than the Thunder getting the Lakers to 2-2 in the first round, L.A. really has never been in any jeopardy of losing in these playoffs. Boston, meanwhile, has already beaten two teams – Cleveland and Orlando – that had better records than the Lakers during the season. The Celtics are 5-3 on the road in these playoffs.
Scouting report: Let’s talk quickly about Finals MVP first. Kobe’s price is obviously ridiculous, but who else really will win it if the Lakers take the title (no player on a losing Finals team has ever been named MVP)? So really you need to decide if you think Boston can win this because the value is much better on someone like Pierce, who was the Finals MVP in the 2008 matchup with L.A. Pierce was not great offensively against Cleveland because he had to chase LeBron James around, and he no doubt will have to guard Kobe some. But Pierce was very good against the Magic. As for this series, the regular season matchups couldn’t have been closer. Both teams won by a single point on the opposition’s floor. Kobe Bryant hit the late game-winner in Boston but then didn’t play in the game in Los Angeles. Keep in mind the Celtics center Kendrick Perkins is one technical foul from being bounced from the following game, so that could be huge in determining series length. He will be needed against the likes of Andrew Bynum (who had his knee drained this week but says it’s no better), Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. Gasol was the guy who got a lot of blame for the 2008 Finals loss, earning the label soft. He averaged 14.7 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 3.3 assists in six games, facing primarily Kevin Garnett, then the defensive player of the year. Thus that could be the matchup to watch again. KG has looked good in spurts in these playoffs but really only had one great game against the Magic. He did shut down Rashard Lewis, however. I would argue Rajon Rondo is the key to this series. Rondo has averaged 16.7 points, 10 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 2.1 steals in the playoffs. However, he is a little beat up and did struggle some against Orlando’s Jameer Nelson. It’s hard to imagine aged Derek Fisher doing the same thing.
The picks: The Lakers are 28-3 in their past 31 playoff games so I definitely don’t see them losing Game 1 – and Phil Jackson teams are 47-0 when winning Game 1 of a series (they didn’t in 2008 against Celtics). But I do believe the time off helped Boston more and that the Celtics will cover (they are getting about a 55 percent lean). Not that it’s very relevant, but Boston is 9-2-1 ATS in the past 12 meetings. The Lakers haven’t seen a defensive team like Boston yet in the playoffs, so take the ‘under’. It’s hard to imagine this series not going at least six games, so take the ‘over,’ although that’s a huge favorite. As for series MVP, again, if you think the Celtics can win this series, then there is value to be had. Kobe’s price just isn’t worth it.
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