Red Wings Take Stanley Cup – Celtics and Lakers Begin Epic Series

I couldn’t help but think of the Celtics and Lakers matchup watching the final game of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs between the experienced Red Wings and the younger Penguins with youth and the phenom on their side. Is there a parallel to be drawn? Some insight to be gained?

Here are my thoughts and observations, first on the hockey game and then on basketball:

Hockey – The Red Wings experience showed tonight. Shots on goal, composure in front of the net defensively as well as offensive pressure that was relentless. Your heart has to go out to the Penguins’ goalie who made a phenomenal number of saves this series and to the rest of this young team. The pressure was on and the experience counted.

Basketball – As someone said tonight about the basketball game, oh yeah, I think it was Kobe…all the desire in the world won’t win it if you can’t execute. You know these guys are all watching film, trying to find a way to improve their individual game, their team play. How can they be sleeping? KG didn’t sleep 4 or 5 nights in the last series watching film. Not from nerves. Watching film. Good record against the Western Conference (25-5) and defensive player of the year (KG). Improved play by the whole team with more games played which may or may not be an advantage, depending on who you listen to.

Dedication is fierce on both sides. Like the stories of Barry Bonds watching film of the new pitcher he faced named Matsuzaka. Bonds, of all players could have taken a pass on the opportunity, but that never occurred to him. If film was available to him, he asked the reporter incredulously, why wouldn’t you watch it?

Likewise, Kobe has been asking players to keep pounding him on his “weak” side, so he can improve. The elite players never stop trying to improve, find an advantage, better their game. It’s not only about wanting it more, it’s about improving your ability to execute.

The sheer skill is impressive enough at this level. But skill never carries someone into the limelight without discipline and hard work (at least not for long.) In sports, perhaps more than any other field, this is true. On these two teams, there is no lack of determination to keep improving, play better, to win. Some will say it comes down to who wants it more, I think Kobe’s right, though. Wanting it more won’t beat better execution. The veterans know that.

KG, Pierce “The Truth”, and Ray Allen – these guys have gotten better as they’ve had more time to play together in pressure situations. They haven’t gotten rattled, they’ve stayed intensely focused. They have experience but together at this level, they can’t compare to Bryant and Fisher.

The young guys on the C’s have showed improvement and poise, too. The veterans we’ve acquired have added composure, skill and heart to the lineup.

On the Lakers side: it’s hard to ignore the phenomenal talent of Kobe Bryant. How many excellent players retired without their rings because they played in the Jordan era? That’s the caliber of player this guy is. So the game plan won’t be how to contain him. Remember when the Spurs plan was to contain his attempts, and they did, his points off fewer attempts went up. Jackson is a common denominator with these two historic talents.

Winning for the Celtics will depend on containment of Bryant as well as total “A game” execution by everyone on the court. The Lakers will capitalize on any mismatch, mental distraction or mistake. I’m pretty confident they’ve been working hard at improving individually and as a team. There’s little doubt the desire is there.

Doc Rivers showed wisdom when baited by a reporter to answer a question about how he would overcome Phil Jackson’s record and skill as a coach. Like my buddy tells me about cards, don’t worry what others are holding, focus on what you can do with what you’ve got. That’s about what Doc Rivers said.

The only sure thing is that the next several days are going to be an exciting ride. Fasten your seatbelts. Oh yeah, and please don’t call during the game…

Hey mom they found a Tee big enough for me:

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~ by jacqueline1230 on June 6, 2008.

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