SLAM Finals Picks

With 2010 NBA Finals tipping off tonight, another season nears completion. SLAMonline’s been covering it all, from last summer’s Draft through All-Star weekend and, more recently, the NBA Playoffs. Hopefully you’ve been with us for the duration of the ride. If not, it’s never too late to get down with us…

Over the next two weeks, we’re gonna be shifting it up another gear, posting tons of content live from L.A. and Boston.

Lang kicked off our Finals coverage yesterday. Today, we all get into the mix.

Before you are SLAM’s 2010 championship predictions.

Tonight the end begins.

And we’ve got you covered like Artest does Pierce.

Kobe Bryant/Paul Pierce 2008 Finals.


Jake Appleman: Fans in 7
I’m picking Game 7 to win the NBA Finals in, obviously, seven games. Which team wins is mostly immaterial. The Hollywood glitterati and the insufferable Massholes can get a room for all I care. I just want an all-or-nothing war of attrition to decide the championship and an epic six-game journey to get there. We’ve seen most if it before. All that’s left is the lion share of the postseason entertainment and drama we’ve been deprived of over the past six weeks. And that should include…Kevin Garnett getting down on all four’s and barking at Kobe, or, at the very least, Pau Gasol…Paul Pierce driving himself off the court in a motorized wheelchair…Kobe responding to a question about a game-winner by noting that he told Ray Allen to “say chowdah,” coming out of a timeout…Someone telling Sasha Vujacic that Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck spells his name “Wic,” creating a beef that The Office’s Mindy Kaling is forced to tweet about…Kendrick Perkins eating Jordan Farmar…Ron Artest doing something that can’t be predicted…Phil Jackson throwing people, places and things under the bus…and, of course, Rasheed Wallace placing a championship belt at center court before the decisive game. I don’t think it’s too much to ask.

Russ Bengtson: Celtics in 6
There’s no way I would have made this prediction six months ago. There’s no way I would have made this prediction six weeks ago. As of right now, though, the Boston Celtics are the best team in the NBA and are headed for their second title in three years. They might be woozy from (presumably) errant Dwight Howard elbows, Scowlin’ Kendrick Perkins might be one technical away from an NBA-mandated vacation, and Tom Thibodeau might already be drawing up schemes for New Orleans or Cleveland or wherever he winds up next.

Still, I think they steal Game 1 in Los Angeles, and close out the Lakers on their home floor in Game 1. Yes, Kobe Bryant would be the playoff MVP if there was one. But Rajon Rondo should shred Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar, Kevin Garnett appears to be back in 2008 form (or at least close), and if the Lakers were flummoxed by the Phoenix zone, they’re going to be driven completely insane by Boston’s defense. Also, rumors of Rasheed Wallace’s demise were greatly exaggerated. Sorry Kobe, but you’ll have to catch Magic some other time.

Maurice Bobb: Lakers in 6
The 2010 Boston Celtics are vastly different than the 2008 batch.  Gone from Beantown are clutch sharpshooters James Posey, Eddie House and, let’s face it, 40 percent of Kevin Garnett.  We’re seeing a remix of Jesus Shuttlesworth (Ray Allen) circa ’98 and Rajon Rondo clearly emerges from a phone booth before the starting lineups are announced.  These healthy Celts have outlasted The Flash, Bron Bron, Superman and everyone’s expectations, but the Auerbach stops here.  The L.A. Lakers are poised and are playing like they should have in ’08.  Pau Gasol wins the matchup against the Big Ticket this time around and if Bynum can stay out of foul trouble and isn’t hampered too much by his wheels, he’ll cause all kinds of havoc down low—even if Kendrick Perkins sidesteps all technical foul landmines.  Lamar Kardash…er, Odom finally knows how essential the mismatch he poses to opponents is to the team and Phil Jackson now has Ron Artest to break his Zen concentration on the bench and stop Boston’s iso-machine, Paul Pierce.  Kobe no longer needs to expend energy chasing The Truth.  It’s Ron-Ron’s job to make Pierce’s life miserable and he’ll do just that.  Mr. Make ‘Em Say Queensbridge has secretly ratcheted his defensive pa-pa-pa-power in these playoffs and this is his end-game.  This is where he can finally shed some of the weight of the infamous brawl incident and keep his awkward “shower promise” to Kobe Bryant. And the Black Mamba? Those of us who have been paying attention to his ascension to Jordan-esque post season dependability know that he lives for this moment and will deliver.

Ben Collins: Celtics in 7
Look, this thing is going to be physical. It’s going to take time for the Lakers to catch up. The C’s probably win one at staples. L.A. probably takes one at the Garden. But how long will it take Pau to adjust? How long can Kobe chase Ray through picks and still hit game-winners? How long can Derek Fisher stay in front of Rajon Rondo? The answer to that third question is zero seconds. The answer to that second question decides the series. But everybody’s human. Celtics in seven, in one of the best Finals ever.

Bryan Crawford: Lakers in 6
Two years ago, the Lakers and the Celtics met in the NBA Finals for the 11th time and for the first time in 21 years. Boston won that series impressively, leaving Kobe Bryant with a bitter taste in his mouth. Two years later, he has his chance at payback. The Celtics hold the all-time record against the Lakers in the Finals (9-2), but this L.A. squad is different. So are the circumstances. The Lakers have the homecourt advantage this time around–a luxury that Boston had two years ago–and are more or less the better team. The Celtics got everything to click at the right time and have knocked off some pretty impressive squads this postseason, but all things must come to an end.

Sandy Dover: Lakers in 6
I have to go with the L.A. Lakers, and here’s why: 1) Kobe Bryant is a man unmoved. He’s been given the rest he’s needed to personally champion his own cause for a championship, and no one wants to lose to their franchise’s historical rivalry; Kobe (according to ESPN’s John Hollinger) has had the best postseason of his career and so what can stop him? 2) Kobe’s legacy is fueled even more by the fact that I believe five championships will removed him from the shadow of Michael Jordan and give him the right to be called the greatest Los Angeles Laker in the history of the franchise–whether that’s actually the truth is beyond me, but it gives him a certain legitimacy and Mr. Bryant won’t allow another Finals loss right here, right now. 3) The Boston Celtics may have done well up until now, but with the injuries to Rajon Rondo (who would be vital to sniping the Lakers with his penetration and court vision) and Kendrick Perkins (who would have to be the primary bruiser to keep the Celtics honest in the paint next to Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol), the team in green is significantly weakened. It’s all speculation, but there’s a lot of good vibes in Southern California, even more so than that kind in Massachusetts.

Graham Flashner: Lakers in 7
With six players eligible for free-agency, Phil Jackson’s future uncertain, Kobe Bryant hellbent on revenge, and Ron Artest hellbent in general, this should be Phil Jackson’s Last Dance II.  As in, we’re not sure what this Lakers team will look like next season, so let it all hang out now.  The C’s defensive intensity will bother the Lakers, but KG isn’t the terror he was two years ago, and the Lakers have better matchups than they did in ’08: Artest to bang with Paul Pierce, Andrew Bynum (instead of Pau Gasol) to bang with Kendrick Perkins, and Kobe to harass Rajon Rondo.  Plus, it’s about the time the Lakers won a Game 7 from these guys–here’s hoping Jerry Buss won’t stick balloons in the rafters a la Jack Kent Cooke in ’69.

Adam Fleischer: Celtics in 6
From the start, I gotta admit I’m going with my heart here. Luckily, my head isn’t really telling me to do otherwise. Despite a lackluster regular season, Boston has been playing extremely well throughout the Playoffs. The Lake Show have been, too, of course. Kobe is gonna play out of his mind and win L.A. a game (maybe even two) on his own. Celtics starters have been playing well, too, with Rondo driving a bandwagon that’s something like an 18-wheeler filled with ants and Ray Allen knocking down shots. Something that seems to have clicked for the Celtics this playoffs—that looked to be a strength on paper heading into the season but didn’t necessarily turn out to be—has been the bench play. Save for a random Rasheed Wallace outburst, Lamar Odom will be the best bench player in this series. But Boston has a much deeper, more talented bench from top to bottom, and if they can work that to their advantage—throwing different guys at Kobe and using their slew of bigs—they’ll win the series. It’ll be a dogfight no matter what.

Ryan Jones: Lakers in 6
This pick is predicated on Rondo’s stupid back. If he’s healthy, I think Boston wins in six. But he seems unlikely to be, and the Celtics have come to rely too much on him. I will be happy for Derek Fisher and leave it at that.

Matt Lawyue: Celtics in 7
Boston’s bench is going to be the deciding factor in this series. The way Tony Allen, Big Baby, and Sheed come in and fill in their roles is going to cause matchup problems for the Lakers. At the same token, the Lakers can throw out Odom and create problems for the Celtics. It’s going to be tight the entire series, but I’d rather have a better defense over a better offense. Kobe will get his, but we’re going to see the official, official coming out party for Rajon Rondo. (And say “wordaapp” if you’re still flabbergasted Nate Rob is suiting up for the Finals…)

Marcel Mutoni: Lakers in 7
Unlike 2008, L.A. has homecourt advantage, the bigs have learned from that humiliating experience, and Kobe’s playing out of his mind.

Ryne Nelson: Celtics in 5
Some say it’s defense. Others say it’s Ubuntu. But Boston wins by targeting its opponent’s heart. Then ripping it apart. That’s how they disposed of the King and the Orlando Magic Act with relative ease. This team has one man’s morale left to break. If they frustrate Kobe early on, the Lakers will be quickly handing back the Larry.

Chris O’Leary: Celtics in 6
For 354 days, darkness has stretched across the basketball landscape. I’m not talking Charlie Murphy/Rick James darkness. The basketball world as we know it is ruled by a villainous tyrant. Part man, part mamba, part gesticulating eyebrows…all evil.

Life under the Purple Reign regime has been an endless foray of comeback wins, crushing blowouts and heartbreaking buzzer beaters. It’s a scary thought: Kobe Bryant’s 2010 L.A. Lakers might be the best roster he’s ever had assembled around him. And yet, there are glitches. Inconsistencies peak out of the Lakers roster like little sprouts of water in a not-quite-right dam. If there’s one team that can zero in on those cracks, it’s the Boston Celtics. The C’s have taken out two powerhouses already in the Cavs and the Magic, Rodney Dangerfielding their way to the Finals, having their journey chalked up to Cleveland’s meltdown and Orlando’s softness. Still, they’re underdogs in this thing. The Larry O’Brien is L.A.’s to lose, and Kobe has two years’ worth of motivation to take out on Boston when the ball goes up tonight. I’ve been saying all year that you’re probably not going to beat L.A. in a tight game and the same goes for this series. The Celts’ window is exact. Split in L.A. or pull all three out back in Boston, then deliver the knockout at Staples. It’s Boston in six, or the iron-fisted ruler and his eyebrows will fade it to black for another year.

Ben Osborne: Lakers in 7
I think it’s almost a toss-up, with the deciding factors being the Lakers having home-court advantage and Kobe Bryant, who is playing at such a high level. My one caveat would be that if Andrew Bynum can’t play at least 15-20 minutes of mildly effective basketball in at least four of the games, the Celtics will win because of how that increases what Lamar and Pau have to do…

Biggest winner of all should honestly be the NBA. Yes, they probably would have preferred Lakers-Cavs (and we, um, have some business reasons to have preferred that as well), but Lakers-Celtics should also get phenomenal ratings and, as long as the ref baiting/sniping can be kept under control, should be a very entertaining series that shows all the NBA has to offer.

Charles Peach: Celtics in 7
Chemistry. The Celtics have it, and they’re peaking at the perfect time. L.A. has faux chemistry, which I think Boston’s defense will exploit. The Lakers haven’t played a team with interior toughness in these Playoffs. Kobe and the revenge factor will keep it interesting, but chemistry shall prevail in the end. (Finals MVP: Rajon Rondo.)

Susan Price: Celtics in 6
I’m going with the Celtics in six for a few reasons. Some are just personal, like, I’m sick of Phil Jackson and his smug face. Others are work-related, like, I’d love to see Rajon Rondo on the cover of our Champs issue. I think each and every game will be close, no blowouts. Maybe an OT or two along the way. And yes, Kobe is Kobe. But KG, Ray and PP are still pretty damn good themselves. And the team has been on such an upward swing, I think they won’t stop until they get another trophy. And Rondo gets his cover.

Sam Rubenstein: Celtics in 6
The Celtics can’t stop Kobe. He’s too good, and the best player on the floor, the alpha, always wins in David Stern’s league. Of course the Celtics shouldn’t have been able to stop Dwight or LeBron or Wade either and how’d that work out for them? The Celtics had to overcome major challenges. The Lakers just had to get past their own cockiness. I think the C’s are tougher and take it in 6. Gotta love that Ron Ron and Rasheed get to fight it out on the biggest stage. Hopefully literally.

Vincent Thomas: Lakers in 6
Although both teams are motivated to win this title, the Lakers have the added and compelling motivation of redemption and vengeance.

Bonsu Thompson: Celtics in 6
Lakers’ largest weakness: Derek Fisher’s pg defense. Rondo averages a mean double double against the Lakers. What better arena to run in than the Staples Center? Rondo will make Westbrook’s performance the prequel.

Lakers’ second largest weakness: Bynum’s 40 oz knee. Big Baby and Perkins will take turns bullying Gasol while KG neutralizes Andrew. Plus: Pierce is too smart for Artest and Ray will keep Kobe doin’ suicides in hopes that it will affect his killer J.

Boston will win Game 2 in L.A. L.A. will win Game 4 in Boston. Then it’s nothing but Loss Angeles from there. Go green.

Tzvi Twersky: Lakers in 6
I’ve got so much to say about both teams, I could write a couple books on the matter. But I won’t—there’s too many out there already. I will say this, though: I hope I’m wrong.

Lang Whitaker: Lakers in 5
I picked L.A. back in September in our SLAM season preview issue, and then again a few months ago in the Playoff preview, and I haven’t seen anything that’s made me consider changing my mind. As much as people complain about L.A.’s lack of a bench, I think they’re deeper or as deep as the Celtics, and other than with Rondo, I think the Lakers match up favorably across the board. But mostly, I think the Lakers are in this for revenge. They won a title last season, but they lost to the Celts two years ago. Looking for motivation? There it is. Also, I can’t wait to see Ron Artest in a championship press conference. He might break NBA TV.

DeMarco Williams: Lakers in 6
Though I fully expect the Cs to play their hearts out, Kobe’s on a mission to accomplish three things: 1) Get revenge for ’08; 2) Give Phil something to think about before leaving; 3) Grant folks even more to consider when naming the 10 greatest players ever.

Ben York: Lakers in 6
Boston has proven they’re a good team, but they haven’t face anyone like the Lakers in the Playoffs yet. Plus, Kobe had a vendetta—surely no one has forgotten what he did to the Suns when he had a score to settle…

Nima Zarrabi: Lakers in 5
Kobe Bean Bryant. There is so much at stake. If the Lake Show can pull this off, Bryant will secure back-to-back titles (without Shaq; very important), get his first Finals win against the Celtics (settling the score from ’08) all while potentially putting up the best Playoff statistics of his career. Magic and Kareem each won five titles with the Lakers and that would also put him one away from MJ, placing him in serious striking distance to achieve his goal of becoming the G.O.A.T. That will likely take seven rings and nine appearances in the Finals, but if LA can win this year, the table could be set.

If the Lakers lose, Bryant’s beautiful canvas will be stained by permanent marker. That ink will be the Celtics and two losses to them in the Finals would take his legacy down a path the haters would love. “He could never beat the Celtics.” In the end, Kobe Bryant cannot let that happen. He’s a vindictive motherfu**er.