Some background before we delve into game two.
This weekend was scorchingly hot. Just the way I like it. Most Bostonians bitch and complain when it’s 3 degrees outside and the sidewalks are coated in ice only to turn around to bitch and complain when it’s 90 degrees outside and the sidewalks are cooking your feet.
The lesson is Bostonians like to bitch and complain about anything. There are maybe 3 days of the year that everyone is happy and even then it might be a bit too windy for their liking. ‘Can’t take my boat out in this choppy water’. Oh, you poor spoiled baby! How do you get on?
Anyway, since I’m fully into my new workout routine, I went to the gym Saturday and Sunday during this heat. I also mowed the lawn, cleaned some gutters, put up the pool (which has a leak and may flood our yard before everything is said and done) and had some night time fun with the wife.
What I’m trying to say is I was fucking exhausted by the time the game started. I also think I was borderline dehydrated due to the heat and workouts. Whatever the reason I saw no way I was making it to midnight. If I made it to half time I would have been impressed with myself.
Well, I watched the first half and sucked down two glasses of water, two Gatorades and one flavored water. Suddenly I was a new man. I felt good, my headache that had been lingering since late morning was gone and the Celts were looking good. I even cracked open a couple of beers. Mmmmmmm, beer….
Where was I? Oh, so not only did I make it past half time, but I made it the entire game! My reward? Only the most impressive two quarters of basketball the Celtics played this entire post season. I am fully aware of the fourth quarter debacle, but this team has always done that. Coasting instead of finishing off the other team. They’ve done it with Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit and now Los Angeles. This isn’t a new development.
I can forgive it, though, for the Celtics in the second and third quarters looked so impressive I couldn’t help wondering we’re they’ve been these playoffs. Doc Rivers apparently does read this space, because Leon Powe was out there for more than spot duty and absolutely abused the Lakers front line.
Or maybe not as Sam Cassell also showed up, but he didn’t do much damage and even made a nice pass to a sharpshooting Pierce for a wide open three. That was an ongoing theme of the night, by the way. Pierce somehow standing at the three point line with no Laker within five feet of him. How does that happen? This team is coached by Phil Jackson, right? We’ve determined he’s not an imposter?
Some highlights from last night’s game.
- Rondo being his irritating, chaos creating self. I love when he plays with a sort of controlled, reckless abandon. He was poised and calm on offense and a literal pain in the ass to the Lakers on defense.
- Powe’s coast to coast dunk. Not one Laker wanted to get in his way which said more about the Lakers’ defense than it did about Powe.
- Pierce being Pierce on a mission. He has really come into his own this series and – so far – has had one of the more impressive Final performances I can remember. Let’s hope he keeps it up in LA.
- Ray Allen actually playing some defense. No, really! He seems to have taken it as a personal challenge to give Kobe nothing. He’s never been a great one on one guy, but he’s been staying with Kobe and harassing him into bizarre fall away shots and keeping him away from the rim. Hey, it’s something.
- Old Kobe showing up! Anyone see his eye rolling, grimaces and screaming on the sidelines? I’m sure his teammates loved that coming from a guy who’s been shooting like shit.
- Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol disappearing in the second half. They both had me worried with some inspired play in the first half (including Gasol dunking on Garnett!!!), but they predictably faded when the Celtics imposed their will in the paint.
- Rondo blocking a six foot ten guy's three point attempt then racing down court for a dunk.
- Garnett staying out by the three point line in the first half. What the holy hell was that about? Game one proved Gasol can’t defend KG, so why wasn’t he down in the post? Granted once they got back to that the Lakers started double teaming, but Garnett is an excellent passer and double teaming means someone is open. I would like to point out that the Celtics impressive play in the third quarter was when they went back to putting Garnett in the post. Just saying if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
- The collapse in the fourth quarter. Give the Lakers all the credit for most of that as they couldn’t miss from three point land for a 6 minute stretch and they sensed a defensive let down from the Celtics. The Celts also let the Lakers finish the game with some confidence. It would have been much more effective if they killed them by 15 or 20 heading back to LA, but now think they can score on this team.
- The referees. I don’t even think I need to get into this. Not horrible, just horribly inconsistent. Again.
That’s all I’ve got for lowlights. Not much for Boston fans to be unhappy about.
Before we go I wanted to address the foul shot discrepancy. It was the first thing Phil Jackson mentioned in his post game press conference (yea, stayed up for that, too) and some talking heads are saying what a lopsided officiating job it was.
First of all, it was lopsided, because the Lakers idea of defense is to simply swipe at the ball when the Celtic players are going up for a layup. You'll get arm more often than not when you do that. The Celtics were also the team getting offensive rebounds and driving to the basket. The Lakers were taking a majority of their shots from 18 feet and beyond. You don’t get many fouls called when you’re jumping straight up. Driving to the basket (see Pierce, Paul) and grabbing loose balls and going up aggressively (see Powe, Leon) is how you get to the foul line.
In summary, here are things we’ve learned from the first two games of this series:
- Nobody on the Lakers (except maybe Kobe) can guard Pierce.
- The Lakers defense is soft. At best. Guess that’s what happens when your front line is made up of Europeans and a pot smoking power forward who prefers to stay out by the three point line.
- Kobe might choke one of his teammates to death on the court. On live television. (While we’re on Kobe, he got a technical last night after scoring a basket and the impression was he thought he was fouled on the play and cussed out the ref to make his point. However, replays show nobody even touched him on the play. So what the hell was that about?)
- That Kobe is not Michael Jordan. Maybe this will change, but Jordan used to face similar defenses when the Knicks (only with hand checking allowed) would face the Bulls in the playoffs and he would put up 50 points on them annually. Can you imagine Jordan settling for jump shots against this Celtics team? He would be systematically picking them apart with layups and passes out of the double teams. Again, this may change when he gets back to LA, but Kobe hasn’t been dictating how the game is being played.
- That Phil Jackson might not be Phil Jackson. Has he made any adjustments? Has he done anything? Does he think Kobe is Jordan, too and is just waiting for him to take over the game? Cause that ain’t happening!
- That I can stay up for these ridiculously long games and function the next day. Although Tuesday’s game will be the ultimate test.
I’m tired just thinking about it.
Today’s distraction: Two of my favorite things are clashing. This is like witnessing your two children face each other in a championship game. Who do you root for? It’s just depressing all around.