Throughout his career,
With four more playoff victories, the 10-year veteran can move into their category, making the leap from star to legend. Gaudy statistics may get a player's number raised to the rafters in other cities, but in Boston greatness is measured by rings on your fingers.
"In Boston, they always talk about how many championships you won," Bird said. "I think it's very important for Paul to win one if he wants to be put up there with the great ones, even though I think he is a fantastic player, probably one of the best players to ever come through there."
Here, then, are five reasons why Pierce and the Celtics will beat the Lakers in the NBA Finals:
There will be no
And Pierce is hungry. The Boston-L.A. rivalry was what first got Pierce onto the blacktops of his native Inglewood, Calif. This will be the biggest stage he has played on, and with a decided edge in matchups, he knows it presents a golden opportunity to put forth a dominant performance.
I've heard all the arguments for Gasol, that his athleticism and mobility will enable him to keep up with
Garnett, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, is not just a great off-the-ball defender but he also excels in one-on-one situations. Detroit's
One key against the Lakers is to force
Boston, with assistant coach
Bryant spent a lot of time defending Utah's
Granted, this hasn't been Allen's finest postseason: He is averaging 14.2 points on only 40.3 percent shooting from the field and 34 percent from three-point range. But Allen seemed to regain his stroke toward the end of the Detroit series, scoring 29 points (on 9-of-15 shooting) in Game 5 and adding 17 (on 6-of-12) in the Game 6 clincher.
The best way to slow down a great offensive player is to force him to play defense. Despite Allen's struggles, he is still a threat to shoot every time he crosses the half-court line. Bryant will have to respect that. And if Allen can get hot and make Bryant expend energy defensively, it will only benefit Boston as the series progresses.
Let me go on record as saying the 2-3-2 format is terrible. I understand the reasoning: the desire to limit transcontinental travel for teams in the Finals. But if the road team can come away with a split in the first two games, it has a chance to win the series at home. That happened the last time the Lakers were in the Finals, in 2004, when the Pistons took Game 1 in L.A. and went on to sweep the three games in Detroit.
Still, Boston can take advantage. If they can take both games in Boston (where they are 10-1 in the playoffs after going 35-6 in the regular season), the Celtics will have to win only one game in L.A. in order to come home with two chances to clinch the series. And though the Lakers haven't lost at home in the playoffs, they have looked vulnerable, particularly in the conference finals.