It’d been 716 days or 17,184 hours or 1,031,040 minutes since Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals. All of that time was enough to watch the Lakers win a title, America to vote in a black President and Tiger to shoot himself in the foot. Yet, everything appears to be the same in Sternland. Boston and Los Angeles met again for the title last night, and the NBA loves it and so does most of America. Except this time, there are a few major differences. Here’s how those changes break down.
1. Rajon Rondo is in charge
There is no need to dive into this one too much. Every sports writer in the world is commenting on it. Rondo is much better. But, so is L.A.’s defense. It should be interesting to watch how much attention Kobe Bryant pays to Rondo. In the 2008 Finals (Bryant played him for most of the series) and the subsequent three regular season games since (Kobe didn’t play in their last meeting this year), Bryant has given Rondo space. At times it has worked. In fact, including the 2008 Finals, in his last five games at the Staples Center against the Lakers, Rondo’s averages are 7.2 points and 6.4 assists. In five home match-ups, those jump to 15.4 and 11. Rondo must be great if the Celtics plan to walk away with banner number 18. If Rondo is spectacular, it vaults him into the “Best PG in the League” debate.
2. James Posey is gone
While many attempted to pin Kobe’s subpar play in the 2008 Finals on the defense of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, it was actually James Posey who was the toughest stopper. Kobe had huge scoring first quarters in Game 3 (11), Game 5 (15) and even in the Game 6 blowout (11). Yet, Posey killed any momentum he had throughout the rest of the series. Game 3 was the only contest that Bryant enjoyed an efficient fourth quarter. Posey also hit numerous big shots throughout the series and was probably more productive by himself than L.A.’s entire bench. This time his minutes will be taken by Tony Allen, who is nowhere near the shooter nor defender Posey was in 2008. But, this Laker bench is about half as potent as the one they had in 2008 (even if that group did struggle in the Finals) so that may help to mitigate some of what Boston is missing with no Posey.
3. Andrew Bynum is healthy
Another obvious difference. Bynum wore suits all series long in 2008. Now, he’s wearing the mantle of perhaps this year’s biggest x-factor. During the Lakers’ Jan. 31 win in Boston, Bynum was a pivotal key with 19 points, 11 rebounds and a couple of blocked shots. L.A. won’t be expecting those types of numbers out of the 22-year old with his slightly torn meniscus. However, his length and size will be absolutely critical in a number of categories such as keeping Rondo under control, the points-in-the-paint battle and allowing Lamar Odom the chance to not play inside for 30 minutes a game.
4. Kendrick Perkins has developed
Perkins has developed into maybe the best post defender in the league and took command of the vaunted Boston defense when Kevin Garnett hurt his knee. Freed from Dwight Howard, everyone should expect Perkins offensive game to pick up slightly. He did average 10 points a game this year. Whether he plays Bynum or Pau Gasol, expect Perkins to be an annoyance and nuisance for the Laker bigs. During the 2008 Finals, Perkins was a non-factor and didn’t have a single night of either double digit points or rebounds. He also missed Game 5 with a strained shoulder. This year, his tenacity will play a massive role in the series and not just because he is one tech away from a suspension.
5. Ron Artest is a Laker
All season long, Artest was quietly effective for the Lakers. He did exactly what they brought him in to do: hit standstill threes, improve their defense and bring a physical authority. He answered the call for all three. During the regular season, he made 36 percent of his threes and his playoff percentage increased with each round. Also, according to 82games.com, he was L.A.’s best defender. They gave up 4.5 points per 100 possessions less whenever he was on the court. Finally, there is no doubting this is a tougher Laker team simply because of his presence. He was brought here to defend LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Paul Pierce. Now, he’ll have to do it.
6. Home court advantage
Since acquiring Gasol in February of 2008, the Lakers’ playoff home record is an insane 28-3. This year, they are a perfect 8-0. Reasons? Bryant is an absolute killer at home. But, more importantly their role players actually play like pros in the Staples Center. During the 2008 Finals, Boston had home court and effectively ended the series with their incredible Game 4 comeback win. L.A. has it this year, but Boston is perhaps the one team it won’t matter against. They blew out Cleveland twice in Ohio and then took the first two from the Magic when nobody thought they had a chance. Boston’s record from this season proves their mettle: including the playoffs their home record is 31-19 and their road record is 31-18. There is a very strong possibility Boston wins at least once in the Staples Center.
7. Team mentalities
In 2008, the Celtics played like animals, savagely ripping apart the entire league for most of the season. It was no wonder that once they smelled blood in the Finals, they completely deflated L.A.’s mojo. The Lakers were probably a year early to the party and most of their roster, besides Bryant and Derek Fisher, seemed to believe that. But in this year’s series, both teams have different things on their minds. The Lakers are searching for vindication. Even last season’s championship victory over Orlando did little to suture the wounds they still have from Boston’s beat down. And the Celtics are attempting to join a long list of great Celtic teams. They want to be thrown in that mix with the rest of the green dynasties. They’re playing off pride and the confidence that only hardened champions can earn. It will be interesting to see which team can instill their attitude into this series.
What do you think? What are the major difference between the 2008 & 2010 NBA Finals?
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