The Los Angeles Lakers host the Boston Celtics tonight at the Staples Center. A matchup of epic proportions. The Lakers are looking for their second straight championship. Boston is playing for their second in three years. Two of the most storied franchises in the NBA battling it out in the last game of the year.
OTR will now dissect this historic matchup and formulate a winner:
Who will be the first player to get into foul trouble? In every game of this series, one of the star players from either team gets called for two quick fouls, which completely screws up the team’s rotation. That player tonight will either be Kevin Garnett or Derek Fisher. With Kendrick Perkins out with a shredded knee, the Lakers will definitely be pounding the paint. I guarantee you that Rasheed Wallace will pick up some early fouls, but a lot of pressure will be on KG as well to maintain the middle of their defense. Look for the Lakers to attack early with Gasol and Bynum. As for Boston, they’ll need a big game tonight from Rajon Rondo in order to pull out a victory. Fisher has proven he can’t stay with Rondo, so I expect the Celtics to make Rondo the focal point of their offense early and for Fisher to pick up some quick fouls. OTR’s pick: Derek Fisher
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I also want to mention that the refs have been absolutely pitiful in this series and have made parts of these games to be unwatchable (maybe why more people were watching the NHL Finals). They haven’t favored either side, but the numerous bad calls have ruined the flow in the majority of the games. The worst was at the end of Game 3 when they reviewed three plays and it was revealed the refs got the calls wrong on all three plays. They made two minutes last a half hour. That’s only good when you have Megan Fox in your grips.
Which bench will outplay the other team’s bench? Boston’s bench will be depleted due to Perkins’ injury. Big Baby Davis and Sheed will see a lot more playing time than usual and won’t be playing the “spark off the bench” role they are used to. So, we’re left with Nate Robinson, Tony Allen, Marquis Daniels, and a pathetic Shelden Williams (how bad was his missed dunk in Game 6?). Is anyone more annoying than Nate Robinson? The answer is yes, Sasha Vujacic, the only player in the NBA that tries to guard everyone with his elbows. Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown were great in Game 6 and I expect the same from them tonight. Lamar Odom might have to be used early and often if Bynum’s knee can’t go. But, the X-factor coming off the Laker’s bench will be the reborn Luke Walton. I’m obviously kidding. OTR’s pick: Los Angeles Lakers
Will Pierce or Kobe shine? Besides the 3rd quarter of Game 5, we haven’t really seen the Kobe who can take over a game. I’m not saying he hasn’t played well, I just want to know if he has a 40-point game for Thursday evening? I don’t think the Lakers need him to score 40 points, Gasol and Fisher have proven they can carry their own load, but I’d like to see Kobe have a Kobe night. It’s fun to watch. And can Pierce have a night like that of his own? He’s probably one of the most underrated stars in the league. He’s won battles head-to-head against Lebron and Kobe during past playoff games. He continues to get it done, quietly. He’s probably the most unselfish player in the league. He knows when to take over and he knows when to get his teammates involved. I have a feeling both will shine, but one will shine more than the other. OTR’s pick: Kobe Bryant
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Who will shoot blanks? Ray Allen and Ron Artest have been very inconsistent shooting the ball in this series. Allen has gone from ‘can’t miss’ one night to ‘0-for’ the next. Artest has done the same, but in a more ugly, unsmooth fashion. It’s easy to forget that Ron Ron once averaged 18 points per game with the Indiana Pacers before his infamous suspension, but in Game 6 we saw shades of it. I don’t think we’ll see that again. Ray Allen is too pure of a shooter to bet against. If Allen can get going early by hitting his first couple three-pointers, I’d be very worried for Lakers fans that a possible repeat of Game 2 happening. OTR’s pick: Ron Artest
Who will be crying after Game 7? Whether it’s tears of joy or tears from a broken heart, someone will be crying tonight. We’ve already had one episode after Game 3 with Derek Fisher’s emotions getting the best of him. Some thought Fisher more resembled a WNBA player than an NBA player during his post-game interview, but one could argue that the Laker’s Game 3 victory was the biggest victory of the series and Derek knew it. OTR’s pick: Lakers 99, Celtics 87