The Lakers vs. Celtics Rivalry Continues
The NBA Conference Finals have come and gone and we are left with one of the best rivalries in sports, the Celtics vs. Lakers, to play in the NBA Finals. Together these two teams have won thirty-two championship rings, which are more than the rest of the NBA combined, and this will be the twelfth time that these two franchises will have met in the Finals and the first time since the Celtics won the title back in ’08. Unlike ’08, this time the Lakers will have home-court advantage but that doesn’t hurt the Celtics chances. During the regular season, the Celtics had a better record playing on the road and when these two teams met twice during the regular season, both times the road team won. One drawback for the Celtics is that the ‘Big 3’ is two years older than they were in ’08, but they can get over that if Rajon Rondo continues his postseason dominance and if their bench players show up.
Rondo has had an unbelievable postseason thus far and has emerged as a premier point guard in the NBA. If the Celtics want to win another title he has to continue to play his game of driving to the basket breaking down defenses and finding the open man. Rondo is licking his chops at the thought of Derek Fisher guarding him. Fisher wasn’t able to guard Russell Westbrook when they played the Thunder in the first round, so don’t be surprised if Phil Jackson switches that up and Kobe ends up guarding him. If Boston has a clear advantage vs. the Lakers, it would be on their bench led by Rasheed Wallace, Glen Davis, Kendrick Perkins, Tony Allen and Nate Robinson. They are a bunch of scrappy defenders that can score which will allow for Rondo and Co. some time on the bench to get some much needed rest. I don’t have any predictions on the series as I hope that it goes to seven games, but one player I forgot to mention, Ron Artest, may have a significant impact on the series guarding Paul Pierce.
Doc Rivers joined WEEI in Boston with Bob Ryan and Butch to talk about Nate Robinson’s play as of late and whether people are going to see more of Nate Robinson, whether his job gets easier or harder as a coaching staff now that they are in the Finals, and what the Lakers vs. Celtics rivalry means to him.
On Nate Robinson’s play as of late and whether people are going to see more of Nate Robinson:
“I think you’ll see more of him. It’s funny what you learn in losses. Nate Robinson didn’t play because we needed him in game six. Nate Robinson played because he played so well in game five, the game that Orlando beat us. It wasn’t the offensive end, it was the defensive end. He was doing all the things that we needed him to do, that we worked with him on. You could see that he had bought in. I remember turning to the guys on our bench early on and saying, “Hey, Nate’s going to help us.” I didn’t know he was going to do that, obviously, offensively or anything like that. So if he can continue to do that, then yeah, he has a chance to help us.”
Whether his job gets easier or harder as a coaching staff now that they are in the Finals:
“I’ll let you know in a week. You don’t know. You never know how guys handle this. Whether they’ve been through it or not, you just don’t until it starts. You prepare them. I will say this about this group of late, at least. Their focus has been terrific. Two days off, guys are coming in and getting shots, they’re getting treatment. This is not a celebratory thing for us to make it to the Finals. We were happy about it, but I don’t think this is what the guys want. They want more, and you can sense that and that’s good for me.”
On the players being recoiled at the idea that they are underdogs:
“Nah, we don’t think that way. We don’t care what others think. But we believed going into the playoff rounds that we could get here and win it. We thought we needed to be healthy, Bob, as you knew that, and we did get healthy. I don’t know how healthy we are now, but we’re getting closer again. That was key for us. We just believe that the 23-5 team was the real team, at the beginning of the season. The 27-27 the rest of the way was due to different circumstances that had nothing to do with basketball and we believe that as a group.”
On Glen Davis’ value to the team at both ends of the floor:
“It’s huge. Offensively, he’s really coming into his own. He’s starting to figure out what he can do. He occasionally tries to do too much, still, and that is just more him being young still. Defensively, he can guard fives because he has a lower center of gravity. He can guard fours because he has quick feet. He makes the extra effort. He’s our best charger-taker on the team, clogging up the lane. He does a lot of little things. He has what Red Auerbach would say, “He’s an agitator.” You want agitators on your basketball team. I remember one of the last things Red told me: “If you can get 12 of them, get them. Get as many of them as you can get.” Because they’ll swing games or you, and Glen does that.”
On Lamar Odom posing as a mismatch against his team:
“Yeah, he’s tough. He can play the three full-time if he wants to. That is the speed that he has. You know where he concerns us the most is on the rebound breakout. He’s one of the few bigs in the league that rebounds the ball, brings it out and then leads to their break. That’s a very difficult challenge for us. It creates mismatches. It ends up where a guard has to take the ball. Now we have bad matchups around the floor. He’s been very effective against us doing that. So that is our big concern with him.”
What the Lakers vs. Celtics rivalry means to him:
“It means a lot. I know the history. You know I love the history of the game. To be part of it is huge for me, personally. But you feel a responsibility. You don’t want them to beat you. And that’s just the bottom line. Let’s say you were playing Phoenix. You still would want to win the world championship, obviously. But you’re playing the Lakers, and it’s like you’re thinking more about we want to beat them and less about wanting to win the title. And that’s probably good.”