Here is a capsule look at the strengths and weaknesses of the finalists in the NBA Eastern and Western conference championships. In the east, defending champion Boston plays Philadelphia; the Celtics won the season series, 4-2. In the west, Los Angeles plays San Antonio; the Spurs won the season series, 3-2.
Boston vs. Philadelphia
SHOOTING--Although most of the Celtics' scoring comes from inside, Larry Bird and Chris Ford are outside threats. Robert Parish's high-arching turn-around jumper is almost unstoppable. The Celtics shot 50 percent this season because of many break-away layups and offensive rebounds. The 76ers, too, get most of their scoring from around the basket, particularly on drives by Julius Erving, Bobby Jones and Maurice Cheeks. Andrew Toney is the only good outside shooter, but Philadelphia shot 51.8 percent this season.
Bird and Parish give the Celtics the edge.
REBOUNDING--Bird (10.9) and Parish (10.8) ranked seventh and eighth in the league. Kevin McHale and Cedric Maxwell are excellent around the offensive boards and there's always Rick Robey. Caldwell Jones led the 76ers with 8.7, with Erving next at 6.9. Philadelphia was last in the league in offensive rebounds and that could be the difference. The 76ers need 12 rebounds a game from Darryl Dawkins to be competitive.
A big advantage to Boston.
DEFENSE--The Celtics stressed defense more than did the 76ers, but both allowed 105 points per game. The Celtics have the best shot blockers in Parish and McHale (fifth and sixth in the league), although Caldwell Jones and Erving are close (ninth and 10th). There are no candidates for the all-defensive team among the guards.
A slight edge to Boston.
DEPTH--This has been Boston's strength all season, although Coach Bill Fitch isn't using as many players now. McHale is the most valuable reserve in the league. The 76ers lost their best substitute when Toney had to take injured Lionel Hollins' place as a starter, but they still have Bobby Jones coming in.
Hollins' absence gives Boston a slight edge.
GENERAL--There is no way Caldwell Jones and Dawkins can outscore Parish and Maxwell. Last year, Bird outscored Erving, 162-123. Bobby Jones may match McHale, but that still leaves too much making up for Cheeks and Toney.
Los Angeles vs. San Antonio
SHOOTING--Los Angeles ranked second in scoring and had a .517 shooting percentage. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is deadly around the basket and Jamaal Wilkes can match any forward shooting outside. Magic Johnson got enough layups to shoot .537 and Norm Nixon can keep any defense honest with his jumper. San Antonio was third in scoring, but its shooting percentage was only .486. George Gervin, of course, provides offense from anywhere and Mike Mitchell averaged 21 points a game. From there the Spurs drop off drastically
Advantage Los Angeles.
REBOUNDING--This season the Lakers outrebounded San Antonio, 247-223, with Abdul-Jabbar and Johnson getting 50 each. The Spurs had to go to their reserves for their leader, Dave Corzine, with 38. Neither team is particularly strong in this area.
A slim edge to Los Angeles.
DEFENSE--Running and shooting is the modus operandi for both teams. Each has a great shot blocker, though, in Abdul-Jabbar and the Spurs' George Johnson, so it may get tough going up the middle.
Call it even.
DEPTH--The Lakers' bench consisted of multitalented Michael Cooper (there's their defense) until Bob McAdoo arrived. Now they have another scorer, but that's it. The Spurs can count on Corzine to score and rebound, plus Mike Bratz and Gene Banks.
A slight edge to San Antonio.
GENERAL--The Lakers aren't very deep, they're not great rebounders, they don't even play good defense. But they have a relentless running game that won't be stopped in this series. The Spurs have to rely too much on Gervin and Mitchell for their scoring.