The Los Angeles Lakers are like a kennel. A very pricy kennel.
Kobe Bryant is the alpha dog who can nearly singlehandedly lead his team to victory.
Ron Artest and Derek Fisher are pit bulls, ferocious competitors who'll bite your head off for a loose ball.
Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol should be competing at the Westminster Dog Show. They are massive, elegant and gorgeous but temperamental.
Critics have even said that those three at times lay down like dogs.
To be the top dogs, though, they'll have to get past the junkyard dogs of Boston.
The Celtics took a four-month vacation, but are playing ferocious defense again like early in the season.
Their NBA finals series tips off tomorrow night in L.A. (9 p.m., ABC).
Boston wants an ugly street fight like in 2008, when the C's beat up on the Lakers, who shamefully put their tails between their legs for the deciding Game 6 in the Garden, a 131-92 laugher.
But Boston was shorthanded last year and, with Kevin Garnett out, L.A. rolled to the title, roughing up Orlando in five games for its fourth title of the Kobe era and the first without Shaquille O'Neal.
Much has been made of Boston's injury woes, which had Celtic nation fearing an historic collapse after taking a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
But Boston dug deep, with the captain Paul Pierce doing what he has done so often in his brilliant 11-year career.
He took over with 31 points, 13 rebounds and five assists to close out the Magic series in Game 6.
Pierce lives for this.
He grew up a Showtime era Laker fan in Inglewood, in the shadows of the old Fabulous Forum.
So in 2008 he came to town, powered the C's to the title and carted off the MVP trophy. Kobe was left fuming.
Two years older, Pierce doesn't seem to have slipped much. He and the C's conserved their energy and then turned it on in the postseason.
They whipped overmatched Miami then turned in back-to-back stunners over Cleveland (NBA best 61-21 record) and defending NBA runner-up Orlando (second best record, 59-23).
Now they'll try to complete the sweep of the Murderers' Row against the defending champion Lakers (third-best record in NBA, 57-25) with the great Bryant playing some of the best basketball of his career (33.7 points, 8.3 assists and 7.2 assists in the West finals).
With these two proud franchises expect a dogfight.
Five reasons Celtics will win
1. Big 3 in big games: When they've all played, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen have never lost a playoff series (7-0).
2. Speed kills: Rajon Rondo kills slow guards. Derek Fisher, 35, could be the slowest guard in the NBA.
3. Down and dirty: Talented finesse players Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom don't like it physical. Gentlemen, meet Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis.
4. Team ball: Watch out Kobe. Miami (Dwyane Wade), Cleveland (LeBron James) and Orlando (Dwight Howard) had the best player but Boston had the best team.
5. Defense wins championships: Boston stifled Miami (96.5 ppg regular season/87.6 vs. C's in playoffs), Cleveland (102.1/95.2) and Orlando (102.8/90.7).
Five reasons Lakers will win
1. Killer Kobe: Bryant has been brilliant throughout the playoffs (29.4 points, 6.2 assists, 5.1 rebounds), dominating each series after showing his age a bit during the regular season.
2. The reign in Spain: Crafty 7-footer Pau Gasol has a skill set that even longtime NBA observers marvel over.
3. Fisher's price: Derek Fisher makes you pay with his patented buzzer-beating 3-pointers.
4. Doo, Ron, Ron: Paul Pierce will need plenty of ice after squaring off with 6-7, 260-pound Ron Artest, the league's most physical defender.
5. Jeweler's best friend: Phil Jackson (NBA record 10 titles, plus 1 as player), Bryant (4), Fisher (4), assistant Frank Hamblen (6), assistant Brian Shaw (3, plus 1 as player) and assistant Jim Cleamons (7, plus 1 as player) have a combined 37 championship rings.
Boston vs. L.A.: The matchups
PositionBostonLos AngelesEdge Comment
GuardRajon RondoDerek Fisher BostonFast guards usually have their way with Fisher
GuardRay AllenKobe BryantL.A. A legend on top of his game
ForwardPaul PierceRon ArtestBoston Artest has lost a step
ForwardKevin GarnettPau GasolL.A.This could be key to series
CenterKendrick PerkinsAndrew BynumEvenThe talented Bynum is banged up and an underachiever
BenchBostonL.A. has a good one in Lamar Odom but C's have more depth
Pau Gasol is the X-factor. If Kevin Garnett can take him out of his game, Boston is sitting pretty. But he is physically and mentally tougher and KG isn't the 2008 KG. Kobe Bryant obviously is the top player in the series. Boston has shown big-time heart, depth and balance in its stunning postseason run. But Gasol, Bryant and the homecourt advantage should be enough for L.A. in a classic series.
The pick: Lakers in 7