In case you missed my earlier picks, click here for round 1, and here for round 2.
Well, this weekend reaffirmed my love of the second season. We had 2 upsets, 1 actual (Sixers) and 1 perceived (Hornets), 1 instant classic (Suns/Spurs), and a host of potential moving forward. On to the title bouts:
Boston (1) vs. Detroit (2)
On paper, the Stones actually present an interesting matchup for the Boston Three Party. Billups will look to muscle young Rajon around, while Ray Allen will be struggling to keep up with a much more mobile Rip Hamilton. Pierce has been best defended all year by Mr. Prince, and the center match-up will be a push. The real focus of this series, the fight within the fight will be Rasheed Wallace vs. Kevin Garnett. Both present the type of inside-outside game that makes them so valuable to their team. Both are the emotional cores and leaders of their respective squads. This will all come down to who can enforce their own considerable will into inspiring their troops and willing their team to the Finals. Since this year, Garnett has been focus personified, and the team has gone as he has led.
Boston in 6.
Lakers (1) vs Phoenix (6)
As I already said, this is the marquee matchup the NBA is salivating over. The storylines that would normally exist in a rivalry series are multiplied by the addition to Shaq to the Suns. After approximately three days of harping on this being a legacy defining series for pretty much everyone involved, we'd be treated to good basketball. And alot of it. The Gasol-O'Neal showdown alone would be worth the price of admission, as would Kobe making a run at the team that has taken him out of the playoffs repeatedly in recent memory. In the end, I think KB24 shows out to his full potential and carries this thing. Remember, I may not have picked him as MVP, but Mamba is still the best player in the Association. It's true this year, just like it was true last year, and the year before that. And the Black Mamba can strike with 99% accuracy at maximum speed, in rapid succession.
Lakers in 7.
Boston (1) vs. Lakers (1)
What a fitting end to the best NBA season in recent memory, than to have it's two most storied franchises battle it out for the honor of hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy. While the Lakers have given us an up and down season, and the Celtics were marked for greatness all year, both teams proved their mettle by winning their respective conferences and surviving the playoffs until this point. This series will be remembered for one thing: Kobe Bryant, and the way he imposed his will on every game. Even the Celtic victories will be colored by the best player in the NBA playing the best basketball of his career. The series ends in six, because I can't see the Celtics losing at home in a Game 7. Sorry Boston hopeful. Maybe next year.
Lakers in 6.
Finals MVP: Kobe Bryant
I love this game.