Lakers over Spurs, 7 games – These teams are so evenly matched in my eyes now that it’s kind of eerie. Tim Duncan and Pau Gasol will draw each other on the match-up, you’ve got your slashers in Kobe and Manu (although Kobe will likely draw Bruce Bowen as a defender), you’ve got solid bench players on both sides. Rationale and reason would dictate that the Spurs should get my pick because they’re the champs, they’ve been here before and done it, etc., but here’s why I’m going with Kobe and the so-called Bench Mob: I think the Lakers have an obvious advantage when the game speeds up, but if the Spurs slow it down and get the rotations going, Los Angeles can play that style too — as long as Phil is telling them to try and remember the triangle as often as possible. The way this can turn for the Spurs is f Tony Parker continues to be the Tony Parker we saw starting in last year’s Finals. Here’s why: Deron Williams exposed the Lakers behind Derek Fisher at the point; if Fisher is forced out by early foul troubles, Jordan Farmer is a weakness to exploit. Parker isn’t nearly Williams’ size, but he can take advantage of a back-up PG badly. Gasol needs to take it to Duncan in the post and may him defend, maybe get him to take ill-advised fouls early, and Kobe has to continue to trust the team around him and not try to force himself on the game when he’s not feeling it. That’s the adjustment he made from Game 4 to Game 5 against Utah.
Pistons over Celtics, 6 games – I really can’t trust a team that can’t win a playoff game on the road and has had to play all 14 possible games up to this point. Detroit is more than capable of taking Games 1 or 2 in Boston, but are the Celtics ever going to be able to win a game in Auburn Hills? There’s the health of Chauncey Billups to consider, but Rodney Stuckey has played well in Chauncey’s absence and Rip, Sheed, Tayshaun, and Antonio McDyess compensate well when he’s not there. There are things I didn’t like seeing from the Celtics against the Cavs that I’m not sure they can fix, the most prevalent being Kevin Garnett’s tendency to avoid going to the rim with post moves in single coverage, even with smaller opponents. Ray Allen’s prolonged slump is another problem, but KG has to go on the block and take it to Wallace and the rest of the front line. I just don’t see it. I’d like to see Celtics-Lakers, but I think we have a 2001 Finals re-match on our hands rather than a late 80s rivalry revival.