Do Celtics have what it takes against defending champs the Lakers?

In what’s being dubbed as one of the most anticipated and emotional match-ups in recent history the 2010 NBA finals got underway June 3 and basketball fans nationwide are hoping for an exciting series.

But do the Boston Celtics green team have what it takes against the purple and yellow defending champs – the Los Angeles Lakers?

On Thursday the Lakers playing at home dominated in game one with a 109-89 victory. Kobe Bryant scored a whopping 30 points for the Lakers and his teammate Pau Gasol scored 23.

The Celtics trailed by double digits throughout most of the game and it wasn’t pretty.

I was hoping the Phoenix Sun’s would have advanced to the finals.

During their playoff run “Los Suns” protested Arizona’s new draconian anti-immigrant law signed by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer in April.

The Arizona law, scheduled to take effect this summer, criminalizes people who fail to carry proper legal documents and grants local law enforcement officials authority to detain anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally.

As a huge sports fan I thought it was inspiring to see a professional basketball team make a statement in support of ordinary people and our civil rights.

Los Angles Lakers coach Phil Jackson made statements against the Suns saying basketball has no place for politics. He actually favors the law. Too bad because I was always a Jackson fan, being that I’m from Chicago. He helped give us six NBA titles. Yet his support of the Arizona law has changed my perspective.

Back to the Celtics and the Lakers.

Both teams first met in the finals in 1959 and their six match-ups during the 1960s went Boston’s way each time. Those legendary games cemented the teams as historic rivalries.

Most recall the rivalry that began in 1979 when Larry Bird (Celtics) and Magic Johnson (Lakers) entered the league. For years the Celtics dominated the Lakers until Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and their teammates took two titles, finally, from the Celtics in the finals during the 1980s.

“The backbone of the league was built on these two prestigious teams,” said Kevin Garnett with the Celtics to reporters recently. “You have to have an appreciation for the players who made this rivalry. So it’s our responsibility, as Celtics and Lakers, to leave everything on the floor because of the players who came before us.”

Today Boston has 17 NBA titles to show for. The Lakers, not far behind have 15, respectively. Both teams have played each other 11 times in the finals and the Celtics have a 9-2 advantage.

In 2008, Celtics coach Doc Rivers, led the team to the finals. They beat the Lakers decisively 4-2 in the series.

Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and new rising star Rajon Rondo are back this year and seem to personify what team cohesiveness in the sport embodies.

Pierce is an outstanding shooter and can bankroll on free throws. KG is pure heart and can shoot very well at medium range. His height advantage and athleticism is a great resource, despite recent knee problems. Ray Allen’s three-point range makes him extremely critical. And Rondo, whose extraordinary speed and assists, not to mention his take it to the hole lay-ups, brings the Celtics together very nicely.

But the Lakers, well, they’re just on fire.

Kobe Bryant has four NBA titles and is by far one of the best players the league has ever produced. His shooting range and ball handling and ability to bank all around shots are truly what makes the game that much more beautiful.

Spaniard Pau Gasol, an all out hustler is instrumental to the Lakers squad. He has super-intelligence about the game and is not afraid to take the ball up strong.

The infamous Ron Artest and his strong man defense and veteran Derek Fisher and his three-point range also make the Lakers look good.

Meanwhile the Celtics Kendrick Perkins and Glen “Big Baby” Davis and the Lakers Lamar Odom and big man Andrew Bynum are also leading contenders who will most likely make their mark as well.

So who will it be? Celtics or Lakers?

After game one Kobe looks pretty focused and determined, exerting confidence like a man out for revenge.

Although the Lakers dominated in game one, there’s still hope this year’s finals will be a great series to watch and potentially one for the records.

But the Celtics better get it together.

Game on, players. Game on.

Photo: AP/Chris Carlson



Pepe Lozano
Pepe Lozano

Chicagoan Pepe Lozano was a staff writer with the People's World through 2014. He comes from an activist family and has lived on the city's southwest side in a predominantly Mexican-American community his whole life. Lozano now works as a union organizer.