Monday, June 9, 2008

Three Kings And A Cipher AKA LA Lakers, You Just Got Rondo’d!

The prevailing thought amongst most sportswriters, NBA experts and analysts was that the Los Angeles Lakers would walk through the Boston Celtics. They clearly had an easier time in the playoffs (they eliminated the former NBA champions in 5 games) while the Celtics went to the limit with the sub .500 Atlanta Hawks and the Cleveland Cavaliers and had a tough series against the Detroit Pistons.

I, of course, said that all of those sportswriters were dead wrong in my own NBA Finals preview and explained why. So far it looks like maybe I know what the fuck I’m talking about. In that case, someone who gets paid to do this owes me some money. In Game 1, the Boston Celtics shrunk the court, defended with zeal, rebounded like madmen and made every big hustle play imaginable.

The bench also stepped up and the Big Three earned their paychecks on both ends of the court. The Lakers were outplayed and outhustled in an 98-88 loss in front of the Garden faithful on Thursday night.

In Game 1, Phil Jackson was outcoached by Doc Rivers and had no answer for the Celtics rotations or their defensive scheme. In Game 2, he had to find a way to instill heart and mental toughness in everyone not named Kobe. When the Lakers look across at their opponents they see the determination and fire in their eyes. They’re used to fighting.

Nothing ever comes easy for them (Celtics). If they don’t fight tooth and nail for it, they don’t get it. The Celtics want it and they aren’t going to allow anyone to take anything from them without a long, hard knockdown drag out fight. Ask Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford, LeBron James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton.

The question always was “How do you stop Kobe?” and never “How do you stop Pierce/Garnett/Ray Allen/Rajon Rondo?”. No one ever pointed out that if you force the Lakers to abandon the Triangle offense that they have no real lead guard on the court to get people easy shots.

Who on the Laker bench is a shut down defender like James Posey or Tony Allen? What bigs will provide bench scoring, defense and rebounding like P.J. Brown, Leon Powe and Glen “Big Baby” Davis will? I was the only one who asked these questions (Bill Simmons was on some “if/then scenario” shit so he doesn’t count).

In the game last night, the Lakers came out more aggressive to start the game. Pau Gasol was automatic to start the game, ultimately scoring 13 points in the 1st half alone (he’d finish with 17). The Lakers were crashing the boards and moving the ball. They got out to an early lead and although Kobe was in early foul trouble the Lakers lead at the end of the 1st quarter 22-20.

In the 2nd quarter, both teams emptied their respective benches and let them go head to head. That matchup was won by the Celtics trio of James Posey, P.J. Brown and Leon Powe who immediately went to work down on the low block drawing fouls and playing stellar defense. The Celtics began to separate from the Lakers as their defense and excellent passing got them easy baskets in transition and the half court offense. The Celtics had a double figure lead with 7:40 left in the half.

The Lakers put together a 6-0 run to cut the lead to 41-37 with less than 4 minutes to go in the half and possession of the ball. The Celtics tough defense kept Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol out of the paint forcing a long jumper. Rajon Rondo sprinted up the court and drewthe attention of the Laker defense. He promptly passed the ball out to a wide open Paul Pierce who drained the long three ball. 44-37.

On the other end, Rondo stripped the ball from Pau Gasol and Paul Pierce grabbed the lose ball and hit a streaking Rondo who darted into the paint and when the Lakers closed on him he flipped the ball to a wide open Ray Allen (17 pts 2-3 from deep) at the bottom three point line. Bottom. The score was now 47-37. The Lakers had just been Rondo’d. Rondo would strike once again when he blocked Radmonovich’s three point attempt and Kevin Garnett picked up the rebound and hit him with a baseball pass for the easy dunk. Mama, there goes that man again!

The Celtics closed out the 1st half with a 54-42 lead. Kobe Bryant was frustrated and only managed 9 points and 3 personal fouls. The Celtics and Lakers traded baskets for the first 4 minutes of the 3rd frame until Paul Pierce hit another wide open three pointer via a deft Rondo pass to push the lead to 62-46 in Boston’s favor.

The 3rd quarter was a fight as the Lakers fueled by Kobe Bryant brought the lead down to 9 with 4:29 left. Doc Rivers took a time out and told his team to get back to playing defense and attacking on offense. The Celtics then went on a 15-2 run to close out the quarter powered by Rajon Rondo and some explosive dunks from Leon Powe (21 points in 15 minutes). They were 12 minutes away from going up 2-0. Twelve long minutes.

The Celtics played inspired ball for the first half of the 4th quarter as they scored just enough to keep the Lakers at bay but they weren’t playing the same suffocating defense as they once were. They simply looked up at the clock and wished for it to hurry up and run down.

They committed a cardinal basketball sin. They stopped playing. It allowed the Lakers to rain down 7 three pointers and apply pressure to the Celtics offense to score and run down the clock.

Once the Celtics got into the penalty it was a new ball game and the lead steadily came down as the clock ran down. The lead was 11 with just 2:32 left in the game and when Rajon Rondo missed two huge free throws the Lakers knew that they still had a chance to possibly steal this game. Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce traded baskets as the clock ticked to under 2 minutes left and the Celtics held an 11 point lead. Kobe responded with a sweet left handed floater in the lane. The Lakers weren’t gonna just roll over and die. The lax Celtics D had given the Lake Show new life.

Paul Pierce was just holding the ball before he got double teamed and stripped leading into a run out and a transition three by Radmanovich. The lead was 104-98 with 1:32 left in the game. The very next play, Paul Pierce had the bad idea to throw a cross court pass. Radmanovich jumped the pass and drove to the rim for an easy dunk. 104-100 with 1:03 remaining in the contest. The Celtics could only blame themselves for they sparked a Laker 29-9 run.

The next Celtics possession saw the C’s having trouble getting a good look. Rajon Rondo (4 pts 6 reb 16 ast 2 stl 1 blk) ended up clanking a jumper that went right into Kobe Bryant’s hands. Pierce (28 pts 4 reb 8 ast) fouled Bryant with 38.4 seconds left in the game. Kobe sank both freebies to bring the lead down to 104-102. Paul Pierce got the ball at the top of the key, knived through the defense and got fouled with 22.8 left in the game. He knocked down both at the charity stripe to make it a two possession game again. 106-102.

In order to win the game the Celtics would have to play defense. The Lakers inbounded the ball to Radmanovich who then passed to Sasha Vujacich who was behind the three point line. Paul Pierce closed and blocked the shot. James Posey came down with the huge rebound and was fouled in the process. Posey (8 pts 3 reb) knocked down two more clutch free throws to push the lead to 108-102 with 12.6 left in the game. Kobe (30 points 8 assists) was heated that he didn’t get the ball.

The Celtics survived the scare and won Game 2 on Red Auerbach Memorial Court in The Jungle. The Celtics relaxed before the game was over and almost suffered for it. Look for the Celtics to never let up in the future and keep their foot on the Lakers throat in LA if they get a big lead in the future. The Celtics now have a commanding 2-0 series lead and they need to get a win on the road to try and secure a chance to win their first NBA title in 22 long seasons.

Ubuntu! © Boston Celtics

Game 3 of the NBA Finals @ Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA
June 10th, 2008 @ 9:00 PM EST on ABC
(1) Boston Celtics vs. (1) Los Angeles Lakers

BOS leads 2-0 (best of 7)



Passion of the Weiss said...

Blah blah blah blah blah blah.

You and Leon Powe can go fuck yourselves.

Just playing.

You're still cool in my book. Powe is off the X-mas card list.

Vee (Scratch) said...

OK, obviously you're from Baaahston. I'm rooting for either sqad and I think its too early to call the winner. I'm sure the Lakers are coming out hard tonight. But if they go down 3 games to Boston, its a wrap.

Hopefully Kobe is gracious in defeat.

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