Pistons fans, don’t cringe, yell or probe for any violent, pointy objects, I’m just a homertistic fanboy that wants to throw out a few thoughts if an NBA Finals in June does in fact take place with these two teams that are mentioned in the title. I’m a big time fanboy (or fanman?) of the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics. I’ve followed the Celtics throughout my whole life, and became a Spurs fan when Tim Duncan jumped aboard the NBA in 1997. (what can I say? He’s my favorite player in the league.) I’ve followed both teams as close as it can get over the past few years, and have seen mediocrity and greatness collide.
I’m still skeptical of whether the Celtics can contend thoroughly throughout the whole playoffs without having key injuries that’s going to break them down and bring their game plan into a state of attrition. The Spurs, however, I’m not so worried about. Not because I’m a believer in the continuing of their dynasty, but because they know how to deal with adversity — they’ve done it the past nine years (albeit never completing back-to-back championship reigns).
But, if the cards happen to fall into the right place, and the Spurs and the Celtics meet in the 2008 NBA Finals in June, expect me to write about it like a maniac, and expect several internet Boston sports fans to act like their IBSFS — Internet Boston Sports Fan Stereotype — which includes a bunch of weazel comments on how ‘trashy‘ the city of San Antonio is, and all this other jargon that they consider to be eloquent verbiage.
With the above chewed, mitigated and swallowed, here’s my take on individual player-vs.-player matchups, that is, again, if these two teams match up:
Tony Parker (Spurs) vs. Rajon Rondo (Celtics)
I’m a huge fan of Parker AND Rondo alike. Parker, who is only 3 years and 9 months older than Rondo, has been in the league since 2001. Experience. That makes this year Parker’s seventh (7th — mark it down) year in the NBA. This is the 22-year-old Rondo’s second year in the NBA, spending his other basketball days at the University of Kentucky before leaving for the draft. The two guys have two big matchup comparisons against one another — they’re both almost virtually the same height (Parker is 6’2:Rondo is 6’1) and they’re both speedy guys. The x-factor here is experience and overall skill. Thanks to Tim Duncan’s clandestine ability to draw defenses away and provide his teammates abilities to create space to hit jump shots, Parker will not only be able to get opportunities to knock down give-me 15-20 footers, but also to jive around and penetrate the basket.
Advantage: Tony Parker
Michael Finley/Manu Ginobili (Spurs) vs. Ray Allen (Celtics)
Manu Ginobili could easily start for the Spurs. Poppovich, the team and fans alike me know this. He comes off the bench and provides an agile member to the court ready to exploit the other team’s fatigue bodies, to run past them and pull of a free-wheelin’ behind-the-back mamba jumbo layup. Finley can hit baskets, but can disappear as a game lengthens. This is what makes the comparison between two players and another incredibly difficult: Ray Allen’s ability to go from one side of the court to the other in a timeless manner. The Spurs had to deal with a similar swingman in 2005 when they ousted victim Detroit Pistons and their swingman Richard Hamilton. Allen’s impeccable ability to relentlessly knock down the 3-ball is going to be a test for San Antonio to contend with. But the Spurs’ specialty is playing fundamental defense (which is a reason I love ’em), and I believe in Manu Ginobili if you believe. Do you believe?
Advantage: Manu Ginobili
Bruce Bowen (Spurs) vs. Paul Pierce (Celtics)
The going gets tough here. Bruce Bowen, albeit one of the league’s most hated players on the court (while off the court he’s one of the most liked guys in the league with his involvement in the NBA Cares program and other community service work), is one of the best, if not the best defensive player in the league. He’s seemingly like fine wine that becomes even better as his age elongates. Paul Pierce isn’t the type of guy that’s going to cross you over and pull off a razzle dazzle behind the back pull up shot all at once. He’s a guy that relies on strength to edge his game over another players, and he’d be able to do it here. I’m not saying he’s going to pull off 20 points a game, but I think he’d be able to be effective against Bowen where it counts — at the free throw line.
Advantage: Paul Pierce
Tim Duncan (Spurs) vs. Kevin Garnett (Celtics)
This comparison is like an MF’er to me. Duncan is my favorite player in the league, but Garnett has been — even during his Minnesota days — one of my top favorites in the league to adhere to my favorite player list. I wrote a post (I’m not going to link; you can use the almighty TSTOS search engine) a while back comparing Duncan and Garnett, and who was better individually. I decided on the factor being Duncan, and had equally good reason. I’m a team guy, myself. So is Duncan. I like this factor over Garnett. And it’s funny when people say Parker and Ginobili make Duncan better when obviously TD makes them better himself (look at the difference he made in the Finals against the Cavs to help Parker win Finals MVP). This comparison reminds me of Bill Russell vs. Wilt Chamberlain. Russell had all the titles and the winning team every time. But every game, Chamberlain would individually outplay him night in and night out. While Garnett certainly doesn’t “own” Duncan in the stats category, he poses better stats when the two meet up, most of the time. I expect that if the two garner each other’s skills in the Finals and battle mano-e-mano, you will be seeing Duncan utilize the glass more than usual, and Garnett taking part in fade aways. . . more than usual. To decide a 7-game series battle between these two players is nearly impossible for me, and don’t call me a freakin’ pansy over it! Because I’m not!
Fabricio Oberto (Spurs) vs. Kendrick Perkins (Celtics)
Who in hell knows who will be starting most games at Center for the Spurs when playoff time rolls around. Last year they commanded Francisco Elson at the Center more than Oberto. This year, who knows? I have to say I like Kendrick Perkins in this matchup, though. He’s a small guy (6’10) for a Center, but is a hefty warrior in the paint in turn by fighting for rebounds and erratic shot-gone-wrong baskets. With that said, though, could this position battle be any more insignificant between the two?
Advantage: Kendrick Perkins
I would debate the bench on here, but I just noticed that the two teams are in a tie here (from my mind). Both are 2-2-1. Obviously I’m rooting for both teams to represent their respectful conferences by NBA Finals time (even though I don’t want to anticipate the dreaded whining of, “awww, I hate the Spurs, because I can’t find a flaw in their game I want to call them boring; go Celtics, and F Tim Duncan, and F Manu Ginobili, and F Tony Parker, and F whoever else that represents the boring Spurs! I want some chocolate milk!”).
Hopefully I didn’t just curse either team and by the time the playoffs come around neither one of them showing up (of course, I can’t imagine the Spurs NOT making it to the Western Conference Finals, or at least losing in the Semi-Finals to a team in a Game 7. (Thanks for the memories, Mavericks. . . NOT!)). If the Celtics are going to lose, and they end up losing to some other team besides the Pistons or the Cavaliers* (* = Must be lead by LeBron James), I’m dubbing this season a failure for it, no matter how well they performed in the regular season by that juncture.