I'm a "team" guy as much as anyone, which normally would lead me to pick the Celtics in this one. But, though I'm uneasy saying this, Kobe Bryant is too good to be beaten in this series. His game and his Finals experience will prove too much. LAKERS IN 6.
I know the Celtics had the best regular-season record, that Kevin Garnett was the defensive player of the year, that the latest incarnation of a Big Three - Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen - has been on a mission from the first day of training camp. But the glint I see in the eyes of Kobe Bryant and the way he has imposed his will on opponents all the way through the postseason trumps all of that. LAKERS IN 6.
The Celtics' great frontcourt, terrific position defense and toughness give them a real chance. But the Lakers won the brutal West in three games over the minimum. LA has the more productive bench and a proven championship coach in Phil Jackson. The Lakers also have Kobe Bryant, who is to Michael Jordan what Tiger Woods is to Jack Nicklaus. Kobe is halfway to Jordan's six championships. I think he wants seven. LAKERS IN 6.
Can the will of Kobe Bryant really overcome the combined will of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen? Not if Lower Merion's favorite son had to win the NBA championship by himself. He doesn't, and he knows it. Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher and a solid rotation provide plenty of support. The home-advantage Celtics finally proved they could win a road playoff game, so the 2-3-2 format of the Finals virtually demands that the Lakers will have to win the title in Boston. Game 7 is Bryant's moment. LAKERS IN 7.