The Legacy Series: Who Will Win …

I don’t want to make a prediction on this series. I want to watch it, absorb it, without worrying whether I’ll be “right” or not. I’d rather do that because it’s gonna be a great series. Two great teams at their peak. Teams stocked with great players, Hall of Fame players. And the rivalry … goes without saying.
The Celtics are being pinned with the “underdog’s tail” because the best player on the floor is a Laker. But that’s only talk. The game’s best defensive team, a team that has proven able to thwart (though not always defeat) any team on any night, should never be an underdog.
Okay, except maybe when said team is on its final turn, when three of its stars have enough tenure to qualify for Medicaid.
I call this the Legacy Series because both teams are playing for more than a title. They’re playing for a rarified place the history of their own franchises.
Kobe has four rings. But these Lakers, Kobe’s Lakers, must defeat the Boston Celtics in an NBA Finals in order for him to be welcomed to the Laker elite. Perhaps my most endearing memory from covering the 1985 Lakers-Celtics Finals series was standing near Kareem Abdul-Jabbar moments after the Lakers had beaten Boston in Game 6 to become the first team to win an NBA title on the Celts’ home court. We were in the bowels of the old Boston Garden. Kareem sat on some boxes, exhausted and head bowed. But the look on his face said what he expressed to me. “Finally.”
Kobe needs his “finally.” And the only way he’ll get it is to win this series.
These Celts are playing to join their own elite club. What Boston team can call itself respectable when it’s only one one title?
After reaching the finals, Boston’s leaders talked about needing to win two to he respected as a true champion. Paul Pierce said Michael Jordan, as only MJ can do, tweaked him after the C’s won two years ago, saying: “The first [title] is lucky, the second one is earned.”
So everyone is focused and motivated, Can’t wait.
But there’s another huge factor that could affect the series: Injuries.
Each of the top players on both players is one bad move away from changing the dynamic of the series. Kobe. KG. Rondo. Bynum, of course.
The Lakers could still win the series if Bynum can’t contribute significantly. But I don’t think the C’s can win if one of their top four players goes down. Heck, maybe not if the lose Perkins (to a T) or even Tony Allen or Big Baby.
But let’s toss those bad thoughts aside and say both teams will be healthy for the entire series.
Who wins?
The Celtics.
Why? Team defense, for starters. Before Associate had coach Tom Thibodeau leaves for wherever, he’ll devise a scheme that will keep the Lakers guessing. They do not rely on any one player to stop another (which is why pre-game “matchup” predictions are ridiculous). They do it together.
Oh, the Lakers will score. And score. But not every night, and not consistently.
I try to never predict the number of games a series will last because it’s irrelevant. You get one ring no matter how many games it takes to earn it.
The 2-3-2 format creates a unique and different opportunity for the team without the “home court” advantage. If they take one game on the road (and the C’s have consistently demonstrated that they can win anywhere), then win two of the three middle home game, it puts them in a unique position of having to win only one game. And while games 6 and 7 would be in LA, the “pressure” would indeed be on the Lakers.
So the C’s win. There you have it.
Now, this prediction will self-destruct in five seconds. I never wrote it.

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