Siegfried & Roy. Beavis & Butt-head. Mark McGwire and a syringe. O.J. and handcuffs. Pizza, beer and my mouth.
Let’s face it, some things are meant to go together—which brings me to the NBA Finals.
For the 12th time in history—and second time in three years—the Lakers and Celtics will clash for the NBA championship. Although the league’s executives and advertisers were deprived once again of a LeBron-Kobe matchup, they got the next best thing.
In reality, though, there’s nothing “next best” about a Lakers-Celtics Finals. Whenever you get the two most storied franchises in any sport squaring off in a winner-take-all event, nothing tops it. This is Dodgers vs. Yankees, Steelers vs. Cowboys, Ali vs. Frazier, John Daly vs. sobriety, all classic rivalries.
So let’s break down the series and see where some money can be made (with my bankroll at $5,205 after losing $50 taking Orlando to win the NBA title).
Playoff Performances: Boston, the No. 4 seed in the East, is 12-5 straight up and against the spread in the postseason. Most impressively, the Celtics have been solid on the road, going 5-3 SU and ATS.
The Lakers are 12-4 in the playoffs but just 9-7 ATS (including 5-4 as a favorite). Los Angeles has won all eight of its home games (5-3 ATS), but only three of those wins were by more than eight points.
Series History: These teams played a pair of one-point nail-biters three weeks apart this winter, with the road team prevailing each time. In fact, the visitor has scored a one-point victory in the last three meetings (L.A. won two of them). Since losing the 2008 Finals to the Celtics in six games, the Lakers are 3-1 SU and 2-1-1 ATS against their archrivals.
However, Boston has had the upper hand in this rivalry when it comes to the Finals, winning nine of 11 all-time championship series. Four of the 11 series went seven games, while five of them—including the last three—went six games.
Experience: Los Angeles is in the Finals for the third consecutive year and defending the title it won last year (when it beat Orlando in five games). The core of the squad—Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher—has been together throughout this run.
Boston ended a 21-year title drought when it beat the Lakers in 2008. The Celtics, who cashed in all six games of that series, feature mostly the same cast of characters with All-Stars Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo.
Intangibles: Lakers coach Phil Jackson owns 10 championship rings (six with the Bulls, four with the Lakers), and he’s won 46 consecutive playoff series when winning Game 1. Doc Rivers has been Boston’s coach since the 2004-05 season, and his only previous NBA Finals experience came in 2008.
Also of interest: The team with home-court advantage in the NBA Finals has won the last three championships, 11 of the last 14, and 20 of the last 26.
Conclusion: Because of L.A.’s dominance at home all season (42-7) and the track record of teams with home-court advantage in the Finals, I’m more than willing to lay 2-to-1 odds that the Lakers will avenge their 2008 loss to Boston (by the way, the home team won five of the six games in that series). And I think Los Angeles gets the job done in six games, winning the first two at home, taking one of three in Boston and closing things out at home in Game 6.
That said, I do believe Game 1 will be tight, and to get 5½ points with a rested, veteran squad like Boston is worth a shot, especially since the Celtics are 9-2-1 ATS in the last 12 meetings with the Lakers (and the underdog is 6-2-1 ATS in the last nine, with seven of those games decided by six points or less).
So this week’s plays are as follows:
- $600 (to win $300): Lakers (-200) to win the series.
- • $50 (to win $150): Lakers to win the series in 6 games (3-to-1 odds).
- • $110 (to win $100): Celtics (+5½) in Game 1.