Lakers fans expect a competitive NBA Finals against Boston Celtics
There's not a day that goes by for 24.4% of Lakers fans who continuously ponder the team's 2008 NBA Finals loss to the Boston Celtics. For 38.5% of fans, bitter feelings about that loss pop up from time to time, but the old wounds have reopened even more this week. And then there's 37.1% of fans who believe there's no use revisiting the past. The Lakers won the 2009 NBA championship, have won three of the last four regular-season meetings and have a chance to redeem their 2008 Finals loss with a 2010 title win over Boston.
Though results from a recent L.A. Times Lakers blog poll reveal a split among fans on how hard they've taken the Lakers' 2008 NBA Finals loss to Boston, they mostly remain confident with the Lakers' chances to redeem themselves with a championship victory over the Celtics. But there are plenty of reasons why Lakers fans believe the effort won't be easy, with 51.4% predicting L.A. in six games and 16.1% taking the Lakers in seven. There are 49% of fans who are equally impressed with the both the Lakers' and Celtics' playoff runs.
The Lakers have won all eight postseason games at home, went on a six-game winning streak and have apparently shed the complacency that dragged them for parts of the regular season. The Celtics prevented a Kobe-LeBron matchup, halted a NBA Finals rematch between the Lakers and Magic and suggested that their old age won't stop them from making another title run. Considering how good both teams look, it appears execution and game flow will ultimately determine each outcome, which serves as a possible explanation why 50% say the Lakers' home-court advantage gives them an edge. But for the very same reason, 38% argue that the Lakers can't solely depend on the friendly confines of Staples Center because they'll likely need to steal at least one road win at TD Garden in Boston.Fans believe there's a lot of factors that play in the Lakers' favor. With guard Kobe Bryant scoring at least 30 points in 12 of 13 games, 72% of fans see no reason why he can't maintain that level, with 50% also believing that Bryant should defend Boston point guard Rajon Rondo. Nearly 62% are also confident that Lakers forward Ron Artest will shut down Paul Pierce, a welcome contrast to when Pierce earned the 2008 Finals MVP.
But that doesn't mean Laker fans don't have any worries. With center Andrew Bynum playing with torn cartilage in his right knee, 67.6% expressed concern that the injury will negatively affect him. Nonetheless, 40.5% of those voters believe Bynum will still provide a complementary role to Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, even if he's not at full strength. The other concern involves Gasol, who took lots of blame for the 2008 Finals loss and further fueled his reputation as a soft player. There's 47.5% of fans who believe his individual success will heavily determine the series outcome, while 35.7% who believe it's also important for him to have a good series so he can shed the "soft" label.
Despite the many challenges, Lakers fans remain confident the team is in strong position to repeat. And if that were happen, L.A. fans expect to be treated to an added bonus, with 60% believing that another championship would result in Phil Jackson returning to coach.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Lakers power forward Pau Gasol is fouled by Boston power forward Kevin Garnett in Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals. Garnett would lead the Celtics to a 98-88 victory at TD Banknorth Garden with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times