Never mind the officiating. As sad as it is that Phil Jackson plans to make adjustments according to how the referees are calling the game rather than making adjustments with only their opponents to consider, the Lakers allowed the Celtics to take this game from them. Yes, Boston blames their Game 1 loss on the referees and the Lakers can blame their loss tonight on the same source, but in the end if you want to win the game –YOU TAKE IT FROM YOUR OPPONENT.
The Celtics wanted to rebound from their loss and they didn’t just stroll into Staples Center and hope that maybe, possibly, the Lakers might have a bad game. They forced the Lakers to have a bad game, snatched home court advantage, and now take a win and some momentum back to Boston.
The Celtics learned from their first game loss and struck the Lakers first, taking a 29-22 lead to end the first quarter. Sharp-shooting Ray Allen, plagued by foul trouble in the last contest trying to guard Kobe Bryant, had 27 points by halftime, going 7-7 from downtown before his first miss. With Kevin Garnett in foul trouble, Paul Pierce unable to score, and Rajon Rondo aggressive in his playmaking more than his scoring, Allen took the offensive responsibility for the Celtics and beat mostly every Laker assigned to him to wide-open three-pointers from everywhere he cared to take one.
Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant, historically most effective against Allen, received the brunt of the calls guarding the the Celtics guard. Shannon Brown, left to take over with Fisher and Bryant in foul trouble, continuously left Allen all the space he needed to hit those quick shots. As much energy as Brown provides for the Lakers when he enters the game, his lack of decision-making acumen on both sides of the court leave much to be desired.
With Bryant playing through foul trouble all evening, the Lakers’ Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum were the driving force for the Lakers. Together they produced 46 points on 13-20 shooting, 14 rebounds, and 13 blocked shots. It’s just a real wonder how they only had 20 attempts collectively in the entire game. The Celtics’ defense can take partial credit for trying to keep the ball out of their hands, but it was the Lakers’ over-dribbling and inability to make decisions that cost them empty possessions.
After having gotten behind by up to 14 points, the Lakers ended the first half by scoring 11 straight points. With a few seconds left in the 2nd quarter, and the Celtics with a chance for the final shot, Kobe Bryant intercepted an inbounds pass and hit a long three to cut the lead to six points going into half-time. It was a momentum shifter in the Lakers’ favor, but one they failed to take full advantage of.
The third quarter began with a determined Laker team. An offensive rebound off a missed Andrew Bynum free throw resulted in a three pointer from the corner from Ron Artest. Following that with a steal on the other end, Artest hit one of two free throws to bring the Lakers to within a single point, 54-53. The Lakers had found their groove on both ends of the court in the third, outscoring Boston 24-18 to even up the score at 72 a piece when the fourth quarter arrived.
The final period saw the lead change and the score tied continuously, each team answering each shot and defensive stop with one of their own. Unfortunately, costly turnovers and blown defensive rotations in the end handed the momentum back to the Celtics for good and the Lakers were unable to recover.
Despite the loss, there is still some good to take from this game…
- Ron Artest on Paul Pierce, 2-11 for the Celtics forward. If only Artest could improve his decision-making when he’s got the ball, he could add a plus on the offensive end to go with his defense.
- Andrew Bynum, torn cartilage and all, was not only aggressive and productive, but was able to sustain almost 40 minutes on the floor.
- Pau Gasol, however way his comments regarding Kevin Garnett were blown out of all proportion, allowed only his play to do the talking, again besting his counterpart for a second straight game.
- The Celtics and the Lakers are better than any of the opponents they each faced in the first three rounds, which is what makes the NBA Finals memorable and exciting for everyone participating or watching.
Andrew Bynum told reporters that the coaching staff advised them that tonight could be their last game played at Staples if they allow it, to which he responded, “We gotta win two in Boston.”
It won’t be an easy road trip, and the Lakers face one of their most difficult challenges in this post-season, but if they want to truly avenge that awful loss in 2008, this is their chance to do it.
Pre-Game Thoughts: A simple twist of fate gave the Lakers home court advantage, and it would be a real shame to waste it now.
Half-Time Thoughts: 54-48 — the Celtics did their homework. They’re smothering Kobe, whose 4-11, and they’re out-rebounding the Lakers
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Refs… again, for sucking the fun out of these Finals by calling 58 fouls. With the 54 fouls they called in Game 1, maybe they’re just trying to be consistent.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Andrew Bynum, for doing everything tonight. He was active on offense (21 points), active on defense (seven blocks) and showed he is a force to be reckoned with.