There are many reasons you can choose the Lakers to beat the Celtics in the NBA Finals. There’s that whole “they have Kobe Bryant” thing, or the “they’re the defending champs” thing, or the “they’re impossibly long and talented” thing. Somewhere near the bottom of that list is “Paul Pierce can’t guard Kobe Bryant.” (Gregg Doyel, CBS Sports)
The Lakers will beat the Celtics.
Because Paul Pierce has to guard Kobe Bryant. [...]
But Rivers can’t win the 2010 NBA Finals — like he won the 2008 NBA Finals, against these same Lakers — because Paul Pierce still has to guard Kobe Bryant.
And Pierce can’t do it.
Not like he did it in 2008, when Pierce hounded Bryant into the most ineffective 25.7 ppg you’ll ever see. Bryant scored his points, but he shot just 40.5 percent from the floor to do it. Shoot as often as Bryant does, and 40.5-percent shooting kills your team.
Meanwhile, at the offensive end, Pierce still had enough gas in the tank to average 21.9 ppg in the 2008 NBA Finals. Even guarding Bryant, as tiring as that was, Pierce was fresh enough to score effectively. And he had help, too. Ray Allen averaged 21.3 ppg in those NBA Finals. Kevin Garnett averaged 18.2 ppg and 13 rebounds. That was too much for the Lakers to overcome.
But none of that will happen this time, because all of the key figures have gotten older, and slower. Except for Bryant. He’s just as good as he ever was, and in these playoffs he has been, impossibly, even better.
These are the times when it really bothers me that people like Gregg Doyel make a lot of money writing about sports while I write for nothing but pennies and the joy of seeing people admire one of my articles. I mean I’m sure this guy Doyel is a lot better writer than I am; I’m sure he’s got a hell of a lot better resume than I do too; but does he even watch basketball or know anything about the sport?
The main problem with Doyel’s piece is that Pierce won’t even spend the majority of his time guarding Bryant. He might match up against him in end-of-game situations (as he did in 2008), but Pierce has never been Bryant’s primary defender. In 2008, Ray Allen spent most of the time guarding Kobe. It wasn’t Pierce. And James Posey, whenever he was in the game, defended Kobe too. Sure, Pierce guarded him sometimes and especially in clutch situations, but it was Allen and Posey who had the assignment for the most part. (For the record, Pierce did a great job on Kobe when he played him. Sorry Gregg.)
And this year? Pierce will almost undoubtedly spend most of his time staring Ron Artest in the face, not Kobe. Artest, at 6’7″ and 260 lbs., is far too physical for Ray Allen to even think about defending. So it’ll almost certainly be Ray, not Paul, who will be sticking Kobe for the most part. Just like it was most of the time in 2008, when, dare I mention, Kobe bombed and the Celtics ended the Lakers’ season in six games.
If you listen to Gregg Doyel, Pierce’s inability to defend Kobe is the reason the Celtics will lose to the Lakers. Even if Pierce were going to defend Kobe most of the time (and I’d bet my left nipple he won’t), I’ve got news for Gregg: No man alive can defend Kobe. Not by himself, at least. It takes an entire team defense, which is why the Celtics were so successful in limiting Kobe in ’08 and why they were so successful in limiting Lebron this postseason.
Look, I’m not saying the Celtics will lock down Kobe or even hold him to the relatively meager stats he posted in 2008. Kobe is playing like basketball royalty, hitting head-scratching shots left and right. It will be tough to contain him and impossible to stop him — I know that. But to say that the biggest reason the Celtics will lose to the Lakers is that Paul Pierce can’t defend Kobe Bryant is foolish on so many levels. Tell me the Lakers will win because Phil Jackson is their head coach, or because they have homecourt advantage, or because they have the game’s best closer. Just don’t tell me they’ll win because somebody who will rarely guard Kobe Bryant can’t guard him. Especially when said Kobe defender normally does a very good job on the Black Mamba.
Doyel went on to say that even if Pierce (or, in reality, Allen) can somehow manage to stop Kobe, the Lakers have other scoring options. Fair enough, they do. I won’t argue that. But Doyel continues to note that the Lakers also have somebody, in Ron Artest, who can lock down the opponent’s best player. Now don’t think I’m conceding that Doyle’s right on this point — I think Pierce will still be productive against Ron, even though it won’t be as easy as it was against Orlando — but for the sake of argument let’s just say he nailed it and Artest completely locks Pierce down. Don’t the other Celtics have scoring punch too, just like Doyel said the other Lakers do in case Kobe gets stopped? Don’t Allen-Garnett-Rondo have as much scoring prowess as Gasol-Bynum-Artest-Odom? Don’t they? Won’t some Celtics step up, even if Pierce has a bad series? Isn’t that something that’s comparable between the two teams, rather than one of the main differences that will let LA win the series? (The questions are rhetorical so I won’t answer them, but the Celtics haven’t had the same leading scorer in back-to-back games once since the playoffs started, setting an NBA record. Thought that deserved mentioning.)
I’m not saying that it’s idiotic to say the Celtics will lose to the Lakers. Far from it — these teams are as evenly matched as teams get, so the Celtics could certainly lose. I’m just saying Doyel’s reasoning could stand a whole lot of improvement. And that I am still deeply upset that people get paid to write columns like Doyel’s while I — someone who has actually watched games, every Celtics game and as many other games as I can get to — toil away in my basement hoping to get discovered by some fool who will actually pay me to write about sports.
P.S. I still haven’t even mentioned the worst line of Doyel’s column: “Rondo has become a better player, but he’s not that much better. Don’t buy into the hype.”
Please, someone tie my hands behind my back so I can’t type my response to the Rondo quote. Please, I’m begging. I’d rather not waste another hour and a half responding to another stupid point from some idiot’s half-assed column.