Although I've laid justifiable praise on the Celtics and their general demolition of the Lakers thus far, I'm not quite ready to rule out the MVP and his merry men of moxie (or morbidness if you've only been watching the Finals). I'm not sold on the Celtics being able to close this thing out.
My reason is simple: Boston doesn't respond well to being the favorite in a series. And after the way they've played over the past five games, there's no denying the Celtics are the bonafide favorite these days. But remember what happened the last times they were put in the position of stomping out an underdog. First, they let a below .500 squad take them to seven games in the opening round. Then they allowed a one-man team to take them to seven games in the second round. And then, well, they played pretty well against the Pistons.
Now, I'm not saying the Lakers are going to win this series. Coming back from down 3-1 is next to impossible (actually as of now it is impossible because it's never been done before in the Finals). But I'm also not going to say this thing is necessarily over after tonight or even after game six. Something tells me the Celtics can feel this championship within their grasps and at the same time, they are going to start to feel the heat.
When the Lakers come out for tonight's game, I'm expecting the carefree ball we saw throughout the regular season and during the first three rounds of the playoffs. It's up to Kobe to be that transcendant player he wants us all to recognize him as. Come back from this deficit and his name will go amongst the greatest to ever play the game. Go down meekly, and getting closed out 4-1 or 4-2, and he's just another great player among the 50-75 that have played great over the years.
If all he wanted was a chance to show he's among the greatest, there's no better time than now. That being said, the two major advantages the Celtics will have however much longer this series goes on come down to rebounding and Paul Pierce. Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom can't board with KG, Perkins, etc and nobody besides Kobe can guard Paul Pierce. And unless the Lakers plan on getting Kobe in early foul trouble, don't expect him to stick Pierce until crunch time.
I think Kobe, if he puts his mind to it and stops settling for so many jumpers, can easily offset Pierce. I'm not sure what the Lakers have in mind for the rebounding disparity. You can't really teach brute force.
All things considered, the Lakers are up against a wall that they have shown little interest in attempting to climb. Maybe that will change tonight. But at the very least, you can't just give the title to Boston already. Let's hope the Lakers extend this thing and make them earn it.