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NBA Finals Game 1 Preview

   by Matt Fargo - 06/02/2010

The Numbers



The Lakers are -5.5 for Game One of the NBA Finals over the Celtics. The lone regular season meeting in Los Angeles had the Lakers favored by just -2.5 points back in February so this is a big jump from that. The total sits around 192 after opening between 194 and 195. Both regular season meetings stayed well below the number.



Greatest Pro Rivalry Ever?



This is the 12th meeting in the NBA Finals of the two most storied franchises in the NBA.



The series dates back to 1948 covering 272 meetings but it really did not get going until 1959, the first of seven championship meetings in the next 11 years. The Celtics brought home the NBA Title in all seven of those series’ with three of those going the seven-game distance.



The Lakers were able to get some of it back winning two of the three meetings in the Bird vs. Magic era in the 80’s. It was then 22 years before they finally got to meet again, this time in 2008 when the Celtics claimed their first NBA Championship since 1986.


After getting humiliated in the Finals two years ago, including a 39-point shellacking in the deciding game, the Lakers were thrilled that the Celtics took out the Cavaliers and the Magic to get here as they no doubt want some payback.



Better Prepared



While the Lakers were beaten pretty badly in the 2008 Finals, they can draw some positives from it. Los Angeles did not know what was coming at them two years ago but that won’t be the case this year.



“Well, you're just looking forward to the challenge of it,” Kobe Bryant said. “The last time we played them, it was a great learning experience for us. It taught us what it takes to be a champion. The defensive intensity that they played with, the tenacity that they played with, we learned a great deal in that series.”



The Lakers used that series loss as a form of motivation and they were able to get it done last season against the Magic four games to one to bring home another NBA Championship. It was the 15th in franchise history and a title this year will move it to within one of Boston’s 17 NBA crowns.



A win would also move it over .500 as Los Angeles is 15-15 in NBA Finals series. Boston meanwhile is an outstanding 17-4 in 21 trips to the Finals.



Same Teams, Different Teams



The last NBA Finals meeting was just two years and while some things have stayed the same, things have changed as well. The core players for both sides are still in place and the styles of both teams have not changed but there are plenty of differences since then.



Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins have grown and matured as players. Ron Artest has given the Lakers a more formidable perimeter defender than the last time they played, Andrew Bynum is healthier, and Pau Gasol has added 15 pounds of muscle.



Even with these differences, the Celtics are not going to be changing their gameplan or style because they feel what worked then is going to work again and there is no reason to stray from that. The defense that was so tough then is playing with that same tenacity now.



“They play one way and we play a different way,” Ray Allen said. “That's what's beautiful about the Finals because you get a contrast of the two styles. It's about who can take away that team's strengths and force that team to play the way you want them to play.”



More Competitive Please



The NBA Playoffs have always been extremely entertaining and usually have provided us with many great moments and extremely great games. This year however the playoffs have been a dud unless you like blowouts and runaways.



Through the first 14 series, there were more games decided by 20 points or more (13) than three points or less (10). Where is the supposed parity in that? Two rounds back, the Celtics were blown out by the Cavaliers by 29 points only to return the favor by 32 points two games later. On the other side, The Lakers lost to Oklahoma City by 21 points in Game Four only to win Game Five by 24 points.



The NBA Finals last season had two overtime games, both won by the Lakers but it also had two blowouts by 25 and 13 points. Two years ago, the Lakers lost the final game against Boston by 39 points, the second double-digit loss in the Finals by Los Angeles.



After seven long months of pro basketball, is it too much to ask for a series that is competitive throughout and one that will go the distance? I don’t think it is.



Trends



Boston is 9-20-1 ATS against the Western Conference this season.



Los Angeles is 15-5 ATS at home when playing on three or more days rest over the last three seasons.



The Celtics are 10-4 to the ‘Under’ in their last 14 playoff games when underdogs between 5.0 and 10.5 points.



The Lakers are 9-2 to the ‘Under’ in their last 11 home games against teams with a road winning percentage of .600 or better.



The Celtics are 9-2-1 ATS in the last 12 meetings.

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