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Monday, June 2, 2008

A match made in the front office

The pro basketball finals matchup between the Celtics and the Lakers, which starts on Thursday, culminates one of the most noneventful NBA playoffs ever. The lower-seeded team won just one round, and that was the creaky No. 3 Spurs over the upstart No. 2 Hornets. Yawn.

Despite the utter lack of drama over three rounds so far, the league must be happy with the money aspect of the way things have turned out. Think of how many times they will get to replay video clips from the classic Celtics-Lakers matchups of the 1980s during this year's finals games. Many fans of a certain age will remember those older series with great nostalgia. I hated the Lakers with great fervor then, and I still hate them now.

With all the sweat being poured out on the court, this finals showdown was pretty much engineered off the court. In the last off-season, the Celtics acquired Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves, from which he was traded by former Celtic (hmmm) Kevin McHale; and Ray Allen from Seattle. In mid-season, the Lakers traded basically nothing in exchange for star big man Pau Gasol, and the league blessed it despite its lopsided nature. The next thing you knew these two teams were going through the rest of the league like Grant through Richmond.

While the Lakers have several years of dominance ahead of them, the Celtics probably do not. This means that Boston may need to win its title this year, or else wait a long time for another shot at it. They'll be up against a referee corps that unabashedly calls fouls night after night on anyone who even breathes heavily on their darling Kobe Bryant. The Celts are an emotional team that is going have to keep its cool when the calls don't go its way, which will be often.

These playoffs have been so deeply manufactured that the cynics are wondering whether the ultimate outcome is already set. Surely the series will go six or seven games, if there's anything the league can do about it. And barring an early-game injury to a key player, I suspect the winners will be the men in purple and gold.

Comments (18)

I had high hopes for these playoffs and was surprised at how they turned out. Still, a decent finals could catapult it into worthiness.
What really bothers me is that once again the Blazers will have to deal with a young Lakers team that is great. This group could go for another 5 years. We have Greg Oden waiting in the wings but they have Andrew Bynum to add to a stellar cast. It's not fair and may even prove that the universe is inherently evil.
The saddest part is that I actually like the Lakers players except for Kobe. There's Luke Walton for example. How can you not pull for someone who is named after Maurice Lucas?
By the way, are Portlanders showing enough respect for the pain Bill Walton is in with his back and hip? He recently spent a month lying on the floor. If we're going to reap the rewards of Blazermania we have to be there after the final whistle sounds. Get well, Bill Walton!

once again the Blazers will have to deal with a young Lakers team that is great. This group could go for another 5 years. We have Greg Oden waiting in the wings

Unless Oden is better than I think he is, there will be no rings for the Blazers any time soon.

I too remember the Lakers-Celtics matchups from the 1980s. I do not relish the thought the current NBA finals being plastered with those old clips. The two current teams have nothing in common with those from the 1980s.

BTW, Kevin McHale is the worst GM in basketball. Even without the Garnett trade.

These playoffs were uneventful? Were you even watching the games?

I've never understood the thinking behind the theory that a sports game or series is only good if the underdog wins. If that's the case, why isn't Roulette a bigger TV draw? While the potential ability of both teams to win certainly plays a role, a good basketball game is defined by the quality of the play, how the teams move the basketball, how the two teams react to moves made by the other, the ability of players to step up their games, individual plays of brilliance made at key moments in the game, the number of tense moments, and displays of raw athletic talent. (Among other features as well).

There were some absolutely fantastic playoff games and series this year, particularly in the west. And I can't wait until next year when the Blazers will have a role in all of this...

Lakers win 4-2.

Boston had so much toruble with Atlanta and the Lakers are the same type of team, but with better players.

"We have Greg Oden waiting in the wings"

I hear you, but this is a guy who has never played a complete season, so who knows how he does against real pros.

Greg Oden couldn't win a fist fight against Yves Saint Laurent or Sarah Jessica Parker.

Did Magic Johnson put on that much weight or is he sneaking Gary Coleman into the Staple Center under his coat ??

Sir Charles Barkley as Republican VP.

As much as I hates the Kobe, he's found another gear this playoff. He's been murdering teams in the 4th, without getting to the line a ton (ie, Dwayne Wade/Finals).

Funny that the Gasol/KG trades were absolute scams. Why even keep the franchises in Minny and Memphis. Those poor saps who give them season ticket money.

I'm sure they said that about us when we signed Shawn Kemp.

Were you even watching the games?

I tried to get into the Spurs and the Lakers, but it was boring. As is anything involving the Pistons. Aside from some games that the refs determined the outcomes of, I found little to remark about.

And I remark about everything.

By the way, are Portlanders showing enough respect for the pain Bill Walton is in with his back and hip? He recently spent a month lying on the floor.

I'd guess there was a considerable amount of "medical" marijuana involved.

As much as I hates the Kobe, he's found another gear this playoff. He's been murdering teams in the 4th, without getting to the line a ton

actually, Kobe's gotten to the line an average of 30% more against all teams in the playoffs so far.

even former Laker Magic Johnson remarked about the playoffs: "i've gotta say, the refs are showing Kobe a lot of love this year."

and even a quick look at the playoff stats show me this: if the foul totals had been the same for both teams, Lakers would have lost nearly two-thirds of the games they won.

Blazers will get their title. As much as I am excited about seeing Oden on the floor, I'm equally excited about seeing Rudy. Blazers are going to be adding a significant amount of talent next year, and Roy, Aldredge and Outlaw are only going to get better. Way too much pessimism.....

actually, Kobe's gotten to the line an average of 30% more against all teams in the playoffs so far.

I dunno, I found stats of 9.7 FTA per game vs 9.0 in the regular season. And he's behind Lebron by 20 attempts, even though BronBron hasn't played for a few games now. He's also not too far ahead of Pierce in attempts.

Stats aside, since we're in 'taking Magic Johnson seriously' territory, I haven't seen much evidence that Kobe is getting ridiculous calls, especially in the 4th qtr. And I'm no Kobe fan, so I'd be quick to howl and whine about preferable treatment from Messrs. Salvatore and Crawford.

Also worth noting: Kobe shot 11 FTs *total* in the Spurs series, including one each in games 2 and 3, and ZERO in game four (courtesy of Joey 'Don't laugh' Crawford).

I agree it feels like the fix was in for this finals matchup, but I don't remember this many good teams in the playoffs. When teams like Dallas and Phoenix are first round fodder...

As for the belief that the Lakers are starting a new dynasty and the Blazers won't be able to break through... baloney. The current squad OWNED the Lakers this year... without Oden and Rudy. Gasol couldn't do anything against LaMarcus all year, whether at Memphis or LA. I'm just not impressed, and maybe that's why it feels like their road to the finals feels rigged. I dunno...

I found any Hornets game in the playoffs was fun to watch and covet Chris Paul. Alas, my old favorite Phoenix really faltered and it looks as if Steve Nash has topped the hill and heading down the other side.

The Spurs-Lakers series would have been far more interesting if Brent Barry had been allowed to shoo three free throws after being fouled at the end of the fourth game.

As for the Lakers-Blazers rivalry, Bynam has proven he can play in the NBA. Oden hasn't. And I'm not going to hang my hopes on a very skinny shooting guard from Spain.

I'm afraid this Blazers squad is going to need to, you know, actually make the playoffs and do some damage before it makes sense to compare them to the Lakers.

I dunno, I found stats of 9.7 FTA per game vs 9.0 in the regular season. And he's behind Lebron by 20 attempts, even though BronBron hasn't played for a few games now. He's also not too far ahead of Pierce in attempts.

right you are. in my haste, i wrote "Kobe" instead of "the Lakers", sorry. and LeBron got 167 attempts in 13 games; Bryant got 145 in 15. which makes sense, given LeBron scores far more of his team's points than Bryant does.

here's one 2008 playoff tidbit:

Laker free throw attempts: 442
Opponent free throw attempts: 382
Differential: ~15%
Average Point Differential (wins):11% or +10.6pts
Average free throw point advantage: +5.5

meaning of the 12 games won, 4 would have been losses had the foul calls been equal. in other words: the Lakers would be home now.

Kobe Bryant free throw attempts: 145
Average opponent starter attempts: 84

and so on. in 2001, the stats above were far more curious. Bryant and O'Neal combined to get roughly 38% more free throw attempts than *any other player in the league.*


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