It's the Sports Guy here, Bill Simmons. I'm taking a break from my page 2 column on ESPN.com to preview the Conference Finals for Espn.com Boston. I refuse to call the New Orleans by their real name. I can't believe George Shinn killed basketball in the great city of Charlotte. These aren't the Hornets these are the zombie hornets and I will from now on refer to them as the New Orelans Zombies. And no, in case you were wondering I will not hide my Celtic Pride, you should expect nothing less from this homer.
#1 Celtics (65-17)
C:Greg Ostertag (9.8ppg, 10.3rpg)
Mehmet Okur (12.3ppg, 9.3rpg)
PF: Chris Webber (29.3ppg, 11.6rpg)
Kevin Garnett (26.9ppg, 12.7rpg)
SF: Donyell Marshall (9.1ppg, 8.4rpg)
Stephen Jackson (13.9ppg, 4.3rpg)
SG: Eddie Jones (15.8ppg, 5.5rpg)
Aaron McKie (11.2ppg, 5.2rpg)
PG: Gary Payton (19.6ppg, 8.3apg)
Erick Barkley (15.1ppg, 8.1apg)
What a matchup this is going to be. The obvious storyline here to us is the matchup of wily vets in the back 9 of their prime versus newcomers starting their prime. The Average age of starters for the Celtics is 30.4 and for the Zombies it's 25.6. Actually outside of Aaron McKie every starter is 24 or younger. The Zombies were 3-1 in the regular season vs the Celtics but what gets lost in the head to head matchups was the fact that the Celtics were without at least one starter in every matchup. The first matchup they were missing Donyell Marshall and Eddie Jones and were still able to win by 10 at home. The second matchup, an 11 point home win for the Zombies, was against an Ostertagless Boston team. The third, a blowout home loss for the Celtics was a game without Eddie Jones and Ostertag. And finally the 4th matchup a 5 point home win for the Zombies, the Celtics were without their glue defensive guy, Donyell Marshall. This matchup will be strength against strength. The Celtics had the regular seasons best defense allowing the least amount of points per game and lowest FG%. The Zombies had the leagues highest scoring team in the regular season, something is going to have to break.
The Celtics have to win this series, they've got experience (all 3 seasons they've been in the playoffs), they have the history (16 titles), and they don't have the bad mojo of deserting their former city. Just think of all those Charlotte fans cheering for the Celtics just to spite George Shinn.
#4 Warriors (45-37)
#7 Spurs (41-41)
C: Theo Ratliff (9.8ppg, 8.8rpg)
Loren Woods (4.8ppg, 7.3rpg)
PF: Shareef Abdur Rhaim (17.3ppg, 11.3rpg)
Nenad Kristic (7.0ppg, 6.5rpg)
SF:Glen Robinson (17.8ppg, 7.4rpg)
Scottie Pippen (17.6ppg, 7.6rpg)
SG: Courtney Alexander (15.1ppg, 6.0rpg)
Allan Houston (29.3ppg, 5.1rpg)
PG: Bob Sura (9.4ppg, 5.3apg)
Jason Kidd (21.0ppg, 10.3apg)
The regular season series was split 2-2. The Warriors have one of the most active GMs in the league since taking over the position at the beginning of the year, and the Warriors are hot at the right time. And the Spurs...well the Spurs have Jason Kidd. This will be an interesting matchup because Jason Kidd should be able to impose his will over Bob Sura, and Allen Houston vs Alexander is also a good matchup. Pippen and Robinson put up almost identical numbers. But at the C and PF position it appears the Warriors have a clear advantage.
Both teams were in 7 game series in the previous round, but head into the Conference Finals healthy and ready to take the next step.