The defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers have battled their way back to the NBA Finals for third consecutive season, but they have their archrivals in their crosshairs and the Boston Celtics have no intentions of laying down for the defending champs in this series.
Despite the Boston Celtics being somewhat rejuvenated in these playoffs with their lockdown defense back to form, the Los Angeles Lakers showed why they are arguably the best team in the NBA as they dominated the Celtics in game one and cruised to an early 1-0 lead with the 102-89 victory.
Kobe Bryant was once again magnificent in game one against the Boston Celtics with a game-high 30 points to go with seven rebounds and six assists, but it was Ron Artest in my opinion who was the game changer and the player that will be the key to the Lakers winning a second straight NBA title.
Coming into the NBA Finals, Ron Artest was given the toughest defensive assignment on the Lakers by having to guard the Celtics leading scorer and LA native Paul Pierce. Now Pierce isn’t a dominant scorer like Kobe Bryant who can put up 40 to 50 points on any given night, but he is a serious threat to the Lakers defense as he can put up 25 to 30 points in any game of this series.
In game one, Paul Pierce finished with 24 points in a losing effort, but the bulk of his points from the free throw line (12 of 13) as Ron Artest forced him into bad shots all night long.
Much like he did with Kobe Bryant last season in the series with the Houston Rockets, Ron Artest played a very physical brand of basketball in order to get into Paul Pierce’s head and therefore take him out of his game. In just the first 27 seconds, Artest and Pierce already started get into it as the tangled up and went to the ground as they were trying box out for a rebound underneath the basket.
Ultimately, both players were given technical fouls and the mood of the series and bitter rivalry was already starting to show as these teams clearly don’t like each other.
Now the series heads to game two at the Staples Center in Los Angeles once again before going to Boston for possibly three straight games. The Lakers without a doubt already look like the better team in this series, but the Boston Celtics will almost certainly come out with a different game plan as they will be looking for a way to try and contain Kobe Bryant.
Even though Ron Artest will definitely play a pivotal role in this series, Kobe Bryant will dictate how well the Los Angeles Lakers play night in and night out. When Kobe struggles, the team struggles. When Kobe is cruising and scoring like a mad man, the Lakers always seem to put it into cruise control and come out on top.
The Ron Artest and Paul Pierce will be intriguing to say the least throughout this series, but also keep your eye on Kobe as he might be poised to have arguably his best NBA Finals performance of his career.