This was a frustrating loss because the Lakers were able to work their offense into a lot of open shots, but they just couldn’t knock them down. On the other end, the defensive rotations were late giving the Celtics whatever they wanted on too many of their possessions. Still its only the first game, and the series is still young. Let us see who played well and who played poorly.
Who Played Well:
Derek Fisher: Fisher showed up to play in this game. He shot the ball ok, got to the rim, drew fouls on the Celtics players (4 trips to the line,) and hustled his way into a few steals. He played strong defense and got to a lot of loose balls
Pau Gasol: He didn’t rebound very well, but no one on the Lakers really did so you can’t completely hold that against him. He had good movement on offense, which led to him running into a lot of points via nice passes by the rest of the Lakers and his long arms forced KG into a lot of misses whenever he got him to take fall away jumpers.
Who Played Poorly:
Kobe Bryant: He had a lot of decent looks from the perimeter (at least for his standards) but most of those shots rattled in and out. I think he went something like 4-18 from 15 feet out. The problem is, when his shots weren’t falling he just kept taking more rather than attacking the rim. His defense was lazy during early offense opportunities, and he is the one who should have tagged Pierce during those three point shots in the third that turned the tide.
Lamar Odom: He played so passive that the Celtics started moving off of him to help on others; played nearly 40 minutes but grabbed just six rebounds. The Lakers can’t have him become a smaller, more passive version of Eddy Curry if they want to win.
Sasha Vujacic: He comes into the game for Vladimir Radmanovic, and Ray Allen immediately scores 5 points. Then in the second half, he missed pretty much every open shot he got (and he got a lot.)
The Rest of Bench: This was a very hyped unit coming into the game, but no one seemed to do anything. Walton let Pierce dominate him, Farmar made no mark in the game, and Turiaf somehow took five shots in 12 minutes while only getting two rebounds. This unit needs to play smarter if the Lakers are going to have any shot at winning.
Who Played Well:
Paul Pierce: The difference between Paul Pierce and Willis Reed is that while both were inspiring, Reed didn’t do much after scoring on Chamberlain to start the game. Pierce on the other hand not only inspired his teammates, but he also went five for five in the 3rd quarter to help turn the momentum for good in the game.
PJ Brown: when Kendrick Perkins goes down, Brown comes in and actually plays much better defense, especially on screen, and rolls. Brown along with Leon Powe was able to grab 10 rebounds in 30 minutes off the bench including three that were offensive.
Kevin Garnett: didn’t shoot particularly well. He took too many shots from outside the paint especially in the 4th quarter when he took five shots from outside the paint and missed them all. Still, KG came through by dominating on the boards including four offensive rebounds that help give the team numerous second chances.
Who Played Poorly:
Ray Allen: he knocked down his open shots, but also missed too many close shots near the rim. His strong play in the first quarter was neutralized by him not doing too much the rest of the game. He was especially missing in the clutch. The fact that he played better than he did in the previous rounds of the playoffs doesn’t excuse the fact that he still played below his all-star caliber.
- The Lakers couldn’t buy a rebound too often in this game. If they want to win, they have to fix that. Some people have brought up that Utah also dominated them on the boards, but the difference was that the Jazz weren’t able to convert on their second chances opportunities. The Celtics will.
- The Lakers missed almost all of their open shots. Those shots will fall at home, but they need them first to fall in game two.
- Conversely, the Celtics defense is overrated. Periodically, they would play very well, but the Lakers still were able to get the shots they normally take and make. Kobe Bryant isn’t going to play like this every game
- Sam Cassell took something like three shots for every pass. He played ok this game, especially in the first half when he kept the team in the game by sinking three straight shots. The Lakers didn’t pressure him as strong as Lindsey Hunter did in the last round. If they don’t adjust, he gives the Celtics that back up point guard they need to give Rondo a rest as well as a shooter in the 4th quarter to affect spacing.
- Ronny Turiaf trying to grow dreadlocks basically means anyone who wanted to know what Lil’ Wayne looks like on steroids finally gets their chance.
- At the same time, Sasha Vujacic and Pau Gasol keep trying to pull off the long hair look. I’m a big fan of the Lakers, but they keep testing that fandom with the hair bands and scrunchies. It is almost as if David Stern sent out a mandate for subliminal WNBA advertising. (Speaking of which, yes, Candice Parker, I would say all of those things.)
- Doc Rivers keeps bringing up the South African whenever they interview him except that he never actually says his name, just calling him the South African or the man from South Africa. What are the odds that Doc Rivers just doesn’t know his name? What are the odds his name is Ubuntu?
- Ultimately, this game was just the two teams feeling each other out. The Lakers started to get used to the Celtics’ physical play while the Celtics got to see the Lakers’ motion offense (which they were able to adjust to in the second half and force more isolation plays.) From here on out the series starts with both teams making adjustments.
- Speaking of adjustments, one way for the Lakers to fix their rebounding issues and stagnant offense is to get Lamar Odom more involved in the offense. That should motivate him in other parts of the game such as boxing out, and make the Celtics pay for leaving him at any time. The Celtics should just keep running the offense thru Paul Pierce and keep the floor spaced to make the Lakers pay for double-teaming him.