June 5, 2008

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LONGSHOTS: Twenty-one and six are the lucky numbers for the Cs
by Dave Long

Twenty-one and six are the lucky numbers for the Cs

I am jacked. In fact, Iím so jacked, Iím pumped and I now know what Pete Carroll has felt like all these years. I feel this way because I finally got what I wanted. Iím able to write the column Iíve been wanting to write for 21 long years. And I suspect, in varying degrees, itís pretty much what the rest of the NBA lovers around the country wanted as well ó an L.A. Lakers - Boston Celtics NBA final.

So hereís my take on what to look for in the series between the Lakers and Celtics.

The ďBack in the DayĒ Factor: Youíre going to hear a lot about it, but since it has been dormant for 21 years it will be absolutely no factor as Larry, Kevin and Robert and Magic, Kareem and James are not coming through that door, folks.

The Biggest Differences Between Then and Now: As a team the í84 Lakers shot an incredible 53.2% from the field while scoring 115.6 points a game. The current group shot 47.6% in scoring 106 while holding opponents to 44.6%. For the Garnett Celtics: they held the bad guys to 41.9% shooting and 90 a game while scoring 100. Birdís Celtics held the bad guys to 47% shooting and were an even 50% while scoring 112 and giving up 105. Translation: the defense is much better today.

The Regular Season: The Celtics smoked them twice, but it was before New Yearís Day and the Pau Gasol trade, so itís not real relevant. But while I donít expect it to be quite the same, still they had success harassing Kobie into 9 for 21 and 6 for 25 shooting. So theyíll make him work to get his.

The Lakers Edge: No one played better or more consistently in the playoffs. Kobie is great, they rolled through the vaunted West 12-3 and dethroned the defending champs. Plus Phil Jackson has been there many times, while Doc has not.

The Celtics Edge: They are the best defensive team and great defense almost always beats great offense. If you donít believe me, crane your head back toward the Super Bowl for a look. And while Gasol may turn out to be L.A.ís Orlando Cabrera, Iíll take the Pierce-Garnett- Perkins front court over Gasol, Lamar Odom and Vladamir Ramonvic in scoring, rebounding and defensively, even if Perk will have trouble if stuck on the perimeter with any of those guys. Nobody in that group can cover Pierce, who always pounded his hometown Lakers even when Shaq was in the middle.

The Lakers Question Marks: Who covers Pierce? Kobie is the only one who can do it. If he does, itíll force them to go small ó which takes away their size edge. So, I think the 33 Pierce put on the board the last time he was out there are a sign of things to come.

The Celtics Question Marks: Iím pretty sure the silliness of playing without urgency on the road is over. They knew home-court was the big edge vs. Atlanta and Cleveland and it showed with six lackluster road efforts. The best thing thatís happened in the playoffs was losing Game Two to Detroit because they were much more focused after that as they returned to the form that gave them the best road record in the NBA.

Beyond that, thereís the question of which Ray Allen shows up. How much will guarding Kobie take out of him? And just what the heck will they get out of the bench? Personally, I think the good Ray will show up to prevent Kobie from roaming on D. Though heíll probably play less as Doc has James Posey playing Kobie ó especially in crunch time as he did with Chauncey Billups in the Detroit final. As for the bench, the ďexpertsĒ say the Lakers bench is better. I say weíll see, as while Iím not sure where the help will come from, from game to game, I will wager it outplays L.A.ís when itís all said and done.

X-Factor: Rajon Rondo vs. Derek Fisher. One of Rondoís strengths is his ability to roam to make steals and rebounds. Fisherís is to spot up and bury the three, especially with the game on the line. If heís hitting, that will force Rondo to stay home and take him away from the passing lanes, which will hurt the D.

The Kobie Factor: If you didnít get the memo: heís good. Heís the MVP and playing at a high level these days. Like getting 39 to close out the Spurs. But the Cs have experience playing the guy who can beat them by himself in Lebron. And aside from his 45- pointer in Game Seven, he had trouble making shots against their defense. Of course, when that happens, he gets to the line 15 times to get his points.

The Fight: David Stern is not going to like this. And while it may not be like the one after the Kevin McHale take-down of Kurt Rambis in 1984 when Larry and Kareem went toe-to-toe, there will be one. I expect Odom to be in the middle for L.A. Heís the guy who planted Allen into the bench with a rolling block earlier in the year. If youíre willing to be dirty when itís just a game, why not when the intensityís high and the title is on the line?

Phil Jackson and Red Auerbach: Thereís more at stake than just the best team in 2007-08. There are some large historical elements as well. The Lakers coach loved to tweak the Celtics patriarch whenever the occasion arose. It came from his days as a player in New York in the late 1960s and í70s when the Cs and Knicks were the leagueís big rivalry. It continued as coach of the Bulls and Lakers when he caught Red for the most NBA titles won by a coach. A win here makes him numero uno, which may happen eventually, but the mantra should be ďnot against us.Ē

Historyís Winningest Team: Theyíve been in the finals an incredible 49 times. Next is Philly/Syracuse with nine. L.A. is 14 ó 14 in 28 appearances, while the Cs are 16-3. A win by Kobie and company cuts Bostonís lead to one, while a win for the good guys stretches it to three ó so this is the biggy.

The So-Called Experts: Nine of the 10 hoop gurus on ESPN.com picked the Lakers, as did 58% of those voting in its Sports Nation poll. Thatís good enough for me to help make the pick below.

Prediction: I had the Celtics in six over Detroit and road wins in Games Three and Six. The ultimate edge is their defense. Itís an instant replay ó Celtics in six.

Savor the series ó experience shows it may not come around again for a while.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billyís Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM Ė The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.


5/29/2008 Sometimes a bat is just a bat

5/22/2008 Some questions for folks right up there in the front row
5/15/2008 Numbers don't add up to supposed Fenway
5/8/2008 Cavalier attitude nearly derails first meeting with LeBron
5/1/2008 I'm so old,I remember ...
4/24/2008 Sox Line-ups, Celtics and ESPN investigations are in the mail bag
4/17/2008 Show me the way to that All-Star Game
4/10/2008 For C'ing a great time ahead as playoffs arrive this spring
4/3/2008 Bill James and the stats for 2008 ó Take Two
3/27/2008 Drowning in the NCAA office pool
3/20/2008 Whether forecast is right or not is the question
3/13/2008 Comment sparks wonder over just what I did
3/6/2008 New hires, new trades in pro sports
2/28/2008 Celtics issues far from black and white in the early days
2/21/2008 Congressional ineptitude muscles in on steroid hearings
2/14/2008 Basketball rounds into form under the cover of Pats football
2/7/2008 A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense
1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
1/17/2008 Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury ó that is the questione
11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
11/8/2007 OK ó it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation
10/18/2007 Time to go to the mailbag
10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
10/4/2007 IA weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments
9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
9/20/2007 Media and fan bias shades the severity of sports crime
9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 Mís for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did

02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Heroís death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The†Demonization of Johnny Damon

Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat