Sunday, May 30, 2010

NBA: Order is Restored, and NBA and TV network execs can exhale and plan a more expensive vacation as the most fabled match-up in the league is happening after all: both the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers won their game 6 and both won their conference finals, 4 games to 2. They will face each other--and probably a huge viewing audience--for the NBA championship.

For Boston the victory came at home, after two defeats. For the Lakers, their pivotal (and way too exciting) fifth game victory at home was followed two nights later by a pretty convincing victory over the Suns on the road.

Though the historic rivalry of two solid organizations has been repeated often, there have been surprises in how the playoffs have gone so far. First, and the biggest surprise, is that Boston is even in the finals. At best, they were the experts' third choice, behind the two teams they defeated, Cleveland and Orlando. But they are healthy for the first time, peaking at the right time. Their game 5 fatigue--especially Rondo's--disappeared in the sixth game, which they dominated.

The Lakers are supposed to be here, but there were doubts about them, too, because of how poorly they finished the regular season. What may surprise some more is Kobe Bryant. Commentators suggested that he's past his prime, and that LeBron James is the best player in the league. But through the conference finals, Bryant showed that he is still the best. Different perhaps--with more assists and not quite as many points or spectacular shots--but he's running a winning team, and when he needs to, he can take over a game. He's acknowledged as the best finisher, and he has a chance at his fifth championship--no player other than Michael Jordan and a few of his Bulls teammates have that distinction.

But it's not going to be easy. Smart money is on the Celtics. However, the Lakers have home court, and if they win the first game--this Thursday--then they have to be the favorite. Everyone is gearing up for a long series. Wonder if that's another surprise in store.

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