All week people have stopped me on the street wondering how Boston was going to stop Bryant. A good team defense is five players playing with intensity; when you have four guys D’ing up strong and a fifth taking it easy, the weak link will destroy the chain. Boston has played tough D all year and especially against Bryant. Kobe shot 45.9 percent from the field this season, but in two games against Boston the combination of Pierce, Tony Allen (who practiced on Tuesday after reports he’d miss the series due to a Achilles tendon injury), and James Posey limited him to 32.6 percent or a total of 15-48. In addition, Boston assistant coach Tom Thibodeau is one of the best defensive strategists in the game. Whenever the Celts try something that doesn’t work defensively, he seems to fix it with alarming speed. His second half adjustments against Detroit in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals turned a 70-60 third-quarter deficit into an 89-81 win. Detroit is still wondering what hit them.
This series is a traditional great-offense versus great-defense matchup. I think Boston will win in six games, but Kobe and Co. may be good enough to force a game 7. Still, we all know what happens when the Lakers and Celtics play a game 7.
Martin Johnson is a regular contributor to The Root.