THE TOPIC: Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers in the 2010 NBA Finals

THE CONSENSUS PANEL: Trey Kerby (Ball Don't Lie), Lang Whitaker (SLAM), Matt Moore (Hardwood Paroxysm), Bethlehem Shoals (Free Darko), Joe Budden (@mousebudden), Wil Cantrell (Bright Side Of The Sun), Tas Melas (The Basketball Jones), Andrew Simon (ESPN The Magazine), Linwood Jenkins (FiyaStarter), Russ Bengtson (SLAMOnline), Rey Moralde (The No-Look Pass), Jeff Clark & Roy Hobbs, (CelticsBlog), Rashad Mobley (Hoops Addict), Jorge Sierra (HoopsHype), Kyle Weidie (Truth About It), Ryan Jones (SLAMOnline), Jared Wade (Both Teams Played Hard), and Donnie Kwak (Complex).

CONSENSUS: LAKERS in 6

See commentary from each panel member below...

balldontliePANELIST: Trey Kerby, Ball Don't Lie
PREDICTION: "It's hard to pick against the Lakers right now—Kobe's playing too good. Furthermore, I heard that if you do pick the Celtics, Ron Artest will come to your house and break all the eggs in your fridge. I don't want to take that chance; eggs are delicious."
PICK: LAKERS in 7 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
slamPANELIST: Lang Whitaker, executive editor of SLAM
PREDICTION: ''I picked the Lakers back in September and I haven't seen anything all season to make me change my mind. They've got the best player remaining and the best coach, not to mention Ron Ron the Rottweiler. I also think people sleep on just how good Pau Gasol is, and after the Celts beasted him back in 2008, I think he's due for a big series. People talk a lot about L.A. not having a very deep bench, but to me it's just as deep as Boston's bench, if not deeper. For Boston, I think it all rides with Rondo. L.A. doesn't really have anyone who can keep up with him, and Rondo could slice and dice them like Westbrook did for OKC in the first round and steal a game or two. Thing is, the Lakers made adjustments and won that series, and I think they'll do it again."
PICK: LAKERS in 5
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hardwoodPANELIST: Matt Moore, Hardwood Paroxysm
PREDICTION: "You know how God is often presented as a benevolent, all-knowing, kind, just being that eventually levels the uneven playing field on this planet through karma and his righteous deliverance? Yeah, that's a bunch of crap in the context of sports. The Lakers are Sodom and Gomorrah, lifting their skirts at the basketball deities who for some reason continue to bring them cupcakes like they're neglected girlfriends. The Lakers were blessed with Pau Gasol like some sort of golden calf to worship, and then managed to get Lamar Odom to re-sign for a fraction of his value and Ron Artest to climb on board in return for Scooby snacks and an occasional TMZ appearance. They have been marked for ascension and 2008 was merely their temporary excursion into the cold and dark, like when Charles Grodin lost his Filofax in Taking Care of Business. They're too tall, too talented, too brazen to be busted by lightning. Party on, Ron. Party on, Kobe."
PICK: LAKERS in 6
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freedarkoPANELIST: Bethlehem Shoals, Free Darko
PREDICTION: "You can't look to the regular season, because the Celtics were hurting and Rajon Rondo hadn't taken his little-known hajj to parts beyond. You can't look to previous playoff series; the Lakers were, as usual, uneven and at times unfocused. You would be horribly remiss to reference the 2008 Finals, since this time around, Pau Gasol's bigger in the torso, he and Kobe have their pride on the line (don't sleep on Spanish feelings), and there's Ron Ron hanging 'round to make sure Boston doesn't get too physical. So with all hard data rendered moot, I'm going with that best buddy of lazy sports fans (or journalists, or scouts) everywhere: my gut. The Celtics have momentum for days. Coming off of the Phoenix series, so does Bryant. There are other things to consider, like Andrew Bynum's knee, Rondo's ailments, Kendrick Perkins's suspension if he gets one more technical, and the duel concussions of Big Baby and Marquis Daniels, which are clearly the sign of some sort of curse. At the end of the day, though, you've got more absolutes on the Celtics than on the Lakers. This won't be a repeat of 2008—seven games seems like a given, and no one's going to embarrass themselves—but the Celtics can count on more than the Lakers can."
PICK: CELTICS in 7
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buddenPANELIST: Joe Budden, rapper, @mousebudden
PREDICTION: "I think the Lake Show having the best player in the game is helpful, but they had him two years ago and still lost. But a few new things to factor in: 1. Ron Artest. L.A. was outmuscled last time these two teams met. Ron Ron won't let that happen. Need I mention that Artest approached Kobe while he was still in the shower after their last Finals exit and vowed to help him make sure that never happened again? 2. Revenge. I think Kobe, Odom, and Gasol remember the devastation, embarrassment, and humiliation they felt. I'm sure payback is in all of their minds. 3. Fatigue. I think Boston has had a tougher road to the Finals with tougher competition, and frankly, I don't think their health will continue to be a non-factor—we're already seeing Rondo having injury issues. But hey, I'm just a rapper, what do I know?"
PICK: LAKERS in 6 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
brightsidePANELIST: Wil Cantrell, Bright Side Of The Sun
PREDICTION: "As a Suns fan and AZ native, I was born and bred to despise the Lakers. The WC Finals this season was an anomaly of sorts as none of us in the Valley here thought the Suns would get that far, and many of us didn't think they'd get to Game 6 after the first two losses in L.A. With the Suns overachieving this season, the loss to the Lakers wasn't as bitter a pill to swallow as losing to the Spurs, our 2K nemesis. So, my thoughts have nothing to do with my natural hatred for all things L.A. To put it simply, I love the Celts' defense, and I think it will be the difference in this series. They have the size and length to contend with the Lakers bigs. Kobe will get his, and even though he pretty much single-handedly dispatched the Suns in Game 6, I don't think he can take on the Celtics by himself. Enter Pau Gasol, Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom, an injury-plagued Bynum versus KG, Ray Ray, Pierce, and the up-and-coming Rondo. Is it up-and-coming, or has he simply arrived? I believe the latter. This kid is balling in the most pressure packed of all sports. The starters on both squads will do serious damage to one another, and we can argue who has the best starting five, but I give the advantage to to the Celts. Rondo will be too much for Fish to handle. KG will control the paint, and if Pierce is matched with Kobe, it's going to be a difficult time for Kobe, dealing with Pierce's size and length. Pau can be pushed around by Perkins and Allen will hold his own.

So, to the bench...The Lakers bench statistically isn't so hot. Odom is tough but has obtained the reputation for pulling disappearing acts from time to time. Farmar and and Brown are complementary players, but they can't turn a game around against a tough defensive unit. So matching Allen, Wallace, Davis, Robinson versus Brown, Farmar, Vujacic, and sometimes Walton is a no-brainer. In short, the Lakers inside size won't have the dominant effect versus the Celtics as they did against the Suns, and the Lakers bench will be insufficient and exploited by the Celtics. And if you want to get into the battle of the hearts of men, I'll take KG willing his squad over Kobe in this one."
PICK: CELTICS in 7 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
basketballjonesPANELIST: Tas Melas, The Basketball Jones
PREDICTION: "Those annoying Celtics fans have been ragging me all playoffs for not giving their team enough credit so I'm just hoping the Lakers shut them all up. This is solely a spite pick. On second thought, I should be taking the Lakers in 4. In all seriousness, this series will be epic and I'm going to enjoy every minute of it no matter what the outcome, especially if a Boston fan runs on the floor and screws up the deciding play in favor of the purple and gold."
PICK: LAKERS in 6
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espnPANELIST: Andrew Simon, senior editor, ESPN The Magazine
PREDICTION: "While this series should go down to the wire, the slight edge goes to L.A. For two reasons: 1. Ron Artest. Artest will wreak just enough havoc on the defensive end to keep Pierce, the 2008 Finals MVP, from taking over games. Sure, Pierce will get his points, but they won't come easy. And remember, Artest will be one of the few players on the floor without a ring. He'll want it. Badly. 2. Kobe's revenge. Even with four rings to his name, Kobe still can't be happy about losing to Boston in '08, when the Lakers suffered multiple meltdowns. The 24-point Celtics comeback in Game 4. Losing by 39 in the decisive Game 6. Had L.A. taken that series, Kobe would now be playing for his sixth 'chip. Who else has six rings? Michael Jordan. Bryant inches closer to MJ's mark this year by lifting the Lakers to a title."
PICK: LAKERS in 7
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fiyastarterPANELIST: Linwood Jenkins, FiyaStarter
PREDICTION: "Kobe in 6. Not because of revenge against Celtics, his place in Lakers history, or anything you're fooling yourself into believing. The only truth here is he needs that fifth ring in the next two weeks to put him in shooting range of Cheese Eyes and his six. Mike played for five and six to top Magic, and Kobe is playing for six and seven to trump Golden Eyes. No sane person should bet against anyone crazy enough to look at this series from that perspective...I'm not."
PICK: LAKERS in 6
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bengtsonPANELIST: Russ Bengtson, columnist, SLAMOnline
PREDICTION: "Here's the deal: When a Phil Jackson-coached team wins the first game of a series, they win the series. Period. Phil's teams have won Game One of a series 47 times, and won all 47 series. That's a big enough sample size to have to take seriously, even if Phil has only coached teams led by MJ and Pip, Shaq and Kobe, and Kobe and Pau. Hence, if the Celtics expect to win this series, they're gonna have to win the first game. In L.A. They will. Then all they need to do is hold serve at home and close the Lake Show out in Game Six back at the TD Garden. Simple enough, right? Fine, Kobe Bryant is the best player in the playoffs—if not the whole NBA. And yes, the Celtics aren't exactly spring chickens, or even summer geese. (Fall swans? Winter ducks?) But if Kobe's the man, then Rajon Rondo is the man standing next to the man. While the Lakers get shaky as they go down the bench, the Celtics are deeper than rap. And age doesn't matter nearly as much when the Larry O'Brien is within reach. Besides, the Celtics just beat the Lakers two years ago. And they'll do it again. Well, as long as they win Game One."
PICK: CELTICS in 6
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nolookPANELIST: Rey Moralde, The No-Look Pass
PREDICTION: "My supposed expertise is pointing to Celtics in six. But I'm from Los Angeles and L.A. logic says you never, ever, ever, ever, ever pick Boston in a series against the Los Angeles Lakers. So against my better judgment, I'll pick L.A. in six. If I put up money on the Celtics, I don't care if I lose that money if the Lakers win the series. It'll be worth it. Yeah, I'm pretty stupid but I would never, ever cheat on the Lakers—like I would ever cheat on my girlfriend or wife."
PICK: LAKERS in 6
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celticsPANELIST: Jeff Clark, manager, and Roy Hobbs, editor, CelticsBlog
JEFF'S PREDICTION: "Sometimes clichés are true. Defense wins championships and we've got a championship-caliber defense. Just ask the Cavs and Magic what that defense can do to quality opponents. It won't stop all the Lakers all the time, but it will slow them enough of the time to give our offense (led by our new MVP Rondo) a chance to shine. The other great thing about this squad is how it reacts to other teams' defensive strategies. Take away one guy and another one steps up. We've just got too many unselfish stars ready to step up or step aside, depending on the situation."
JEFF'S PICK: CELTICS in 6

ROY'S PREDICTION: "My eyes tell me we can win this series in five or six, due to our defense and because L.A. doesn't have an answer for Rondo. However, the way this season has gone, I don't think anything is going to come easy for either the team or the fans. Plus, if we're going to follow the path of the 1969 Celts, we need to beat the Lakers at the Forum in a Game 7, with the confetti and the balloons left in the rafters."
ROY'S PICK: CELTICS in 7
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hoopsaddictPANELIST: Rashad Mobley, featured writer, Hoops Addict
PREDICTION: "The rational side of me tells me that the Lakers will win. Gasol and Bynum are younger and better big men than Garnett and Parkins, Ron Artest can nullify Paul Pierce's offense, and Kobe Bryant can be a enough of a disruptive force on defense to throw off Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen depending on who he chooses to guard. Plus the Lakers vividly remember the whipping they received at the hands of the Celtics just two years ago. So rationally, we're looking at the Lakers taking their second consecutive title in six games. But I choose to shun that rational side. The reality is that now that LeBron James and Vince Carter have been eliminated from playoff contention, the only person left for me to hate on is Kobe Bryant. He's smug, his teammates don't seem to like him, he's damn good, and at only 31 years of age, he may have three more years left to get more NBA titles than his idol, Michael Jordan (he currently has four, MJ has six). I hate LeBron because he eliminated my beloved Washington Wizards in the playoffs two years in a row. I hate Vince Carter because he has supreme talent, but a less-than-supreme desire to utilize it. But I hate Kobe Bryant even more because for 14 years he's been winning and winning often, with that damn smirk on his face, and frankly I've had enough. If I can see him humiliated like I did two years ago when the Celtics defeated the Lakers, I would be delighted."
PICK: CELTICS in 4
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hoopshypePANELIST: Jorge Sierra, editor, HoopsHype
PREDICTION: "I go with L.A. The Celtics have probably played the best basketball they are capable of in these playoffs, but I think the Lakers still have an extra gear. Not to mention they also have home-court advantage. Besides, the Kardashian family MUST have an NBA ring."
PICK: LAKERS in 6
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truthPANELIST: Kyle Weidie, Truth About It
PREDICTION: "The winner of the '10 NBA Finals comes down to who would prevail in a street fight, Kevin Garnett or Ron Artest. Sure, K.G. is a tough dude and has the reach. But he's like a playground bully. Don't buy into his antics and/or hit him in the mouth first, and he's more fugazi than a boxing match between Kenyon Martin and Tim Thomas. Ron Ron, on the other hand, would do anything and is unpredictable...and it's not by calculated measure, it's QB instinct. The bridge is over."
PICK: LAKERS in 6
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farmerPANELIST: Ryan Jones, columnist, SLAMOnline; author, King James: Believe the Hype
PREDICTION: "These NBA Finals feature no fewer than four sure-shot Hall of Famers, so it's a little nuts to think of the World Championship being decided by some uncooperative muscles in Rajon Rondo's back—or by Andrew Bynum's knee, which gushes fluid at a rate to make BP execs jealous. But that's how it might go down. Figure we can count on Kobe being Kobe, and while age and inconsistency might betray them sometimes, figure we can count on at least two of the three Celtics' O.G.s to come through every night. Figure Kobe, Lamar Odom, and Pau Gasol roughly cancel out Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen. What are we left with? To me, this one is more about supporting casts than most Finals I can remember. I know, I know—Rondo's been a star this spring, but he's still new to running things on the big stage. If he's healthy, he can give L.A. fits just like he did Cleveland, and that changes everything. If he's not, the C's look like the old team with a mediocre bench we all thought they were a month or two ago. And Bynum? If the young big is rolling, he helps clog the lane and makes the Lakers tougher at both ends. If he's not, the Laker paint looks a lot more vulnerable—and Kendrick Perkins looks a lot less likely to get himself thrown out of a game. So many damn variables, but if I gotta call it...Lakers in 7. Home court is gonna matter in this one, and if it comes down to it, these Lakers can skate by without Bynum a lot more easily than the Celtics can survive without Rondo. Derek Fisher has a ridiculous track record this time of year, and Ron Artest seems to be doing more good than harm. It's gonna be up and down, but after a long, occasionally ugly series, L.A. snatches it in a Game 7 that's probably not even that close.
PICK: LAKERS in 7
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bothteamsPANELIST: Jared Wade, Both Teams Played Hard
PREDICTION: "Unless your name is LeBron, Celtics vs. Lakers is the dream NBA Finals matchup. It's classic, it's bi-coastal and, this year, it's a showdown of two squads that are probably playing even better ball than they were when they won trophies in 2008 and 2009, respectively. With its stingy, suffocating defense, the Celtics have the most reliable weapon but, with Kobe, the Lakers have the most deadly weapon. Despite that, I see it coming down to the Celtics' perimeter (Rajon, Ray and Paul) abusing the L.A. backcourt while the Boston D does just enough on the other end to keep Kobe's onslaught—which will come early and often—in check."
PICK: CELTICS in 7
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PANELIST: Donnie Kwak, senior deputy editor, Complex
PREDICTION: Eminem's "Not Afraid" will replace Mike Shinoda's "30% Testicle Sweat" song as the generic televised sports anthem. Oh yeah, that and Kobe will cry. Cry, Kobe!
PICK: CELTICS in 7
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