Garnett has obviously slipped this past year. He's no longer an elite offensive player. I mean, Ray Allen outscored him and Allen has looked to be in decline for a couple of years now. But, hey, his (Garnett's) defense and rebounding when it really matters are still pretty darn good. The Lakers throw Pau Gasol up against KG and, unlike 2 years ago, Gasol looks to be ready for prime time, out-scoring and out-rebounding Garnett a decisive 23-16 and 14-4, respectively.
And make no mistake about it, this is the key match-up. Kobe is going to outplay Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo is going to out-play Derek Fisher. And Paul Pierce is going to outplay Ron Artest, which adds up to a 2-1 edge for the Celtics in those position where there's a clear edge.
The posts, Kenrick Perkins and Andrew Bynum, have both seen their games diminished the past month or so--Perkins distracting himself with all that emotion and all those technical fouls, Bynum with bad knees. They were pretty much a wash the other night, and so were the 2 benches. The Celtics' scored 16 points in 69 minutes, the Lakers' 15 in 64.
So that means that Gasol has to continue to out-play KG for the Lakers to win. I'm not convinced that's going to happen, certainly not at the Gahden. Still, in addition to the numbers I gave you above, it's also true that Gasol got to the line 10 times and KG only 2. Garnett is just not really tough with the rock in his hand, settling for those fall-away jumpers when he should be leaning in and getting the dunk.
Of course, the Lakers also got 30 points from Kobe the other night, which is not unimportant. They're going to need about 30 per night from him throughout this play-off series if they're going to win.
Bottom line: Lakers in 7. Kobe is just too good, and Gasol is just good enough.