When the final horn sounded, I wasn’t thrilled by the Lakers finally winning. I was just relieved. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce shot a combined 8-35 from the field and the game still needed Kobe to hit big shots to ice it at the end. With Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant combining for 14 missed free throws, the Lakers were never able to shake off the Celtics and actually trailed heading into the fourth quarter. Still, the difference in this game was the ability by the Lakers to get to the hoop, stay aggressive and draw fouls. In addition, the Lakers were able to stay close in terms of rebounding edge, as the Celtics ended up with just one more rebound.
Who Played Well:
Kobe Bryant: despite missing too many free throws and whining a tad too much after any bad, Kobe set the tone early and often for the Lakers by frequently driving to the hoop and getting the Celtics defense out of sync and opening up the court for the rest of the Lakers.
Pau Gasol: While he had to wait until the third quarter before getting his first field goal, his offensive rebounding in the fourth quarter kept giving the Lakers second chance opportunities and helped demoralize the Celtics when they needed them the most. He also played a big hand in hold KG to just 6-21 shooting.
Sasha Vujacic: 7-10 from the field, and 20 points off the bench. Vujacic made the Celtics pay for doubling and had no hesitation taking and making big shots. The Celtics would be wise not to leave him open in game four.
Who Played Poorly:
Lamar Odom: Another game marred by inconsistency. One good play where he drives towards the basket and opens up the weaknesses of the Celtics defense is sandwiched between two stupid play where he tries to do just that and ends up with turnovers either by getting his pocket picked or by committing a careless offensive foul.
Vladimir Radmanovic: made a quick three near the start of the game, and then managed to commit three fouls in the first nine or so minutes before playing just three minutes the rest of the way. A poor game three after he was so key during the Lakers near comeback in game two, but at the same time anyone who has followed Radmanovic over his career should have come to expect it.
Who Played Well:
Ray Allen: used screens, curls, and a quick release en route towards 25 points on 8-13 shooting. Allen was the only one of the big three to show up ready to play in game three. His play was especially big in the third quarter when the Celtics were able to make a run and take the lead away from the Lakers. With Rondo hobbled by an ankle injury, the Celtics may want to take Jeff Van Gundy’s advice and have Allen play a little point guard alongside James Posey and Pierce.
Who Played Poorly:
Paul Pierce: These playoffs have shown Pierce to be especially streaky. Leading up to this game Pierce was averaging five less points on the road. Well, this game he took it to a whole other level by settling for jumpers, playing soft defense, and ending up with just six points on 2-14 shooting.
Kevin Garnett: Despite the fact that many players shoot worse on the road than when they are at home, KG was shooting only 39 percent after two games in the series. So, it would be hard for him to do worse. Yet, KG did indeed manage to shoot worse than that by going 6-21. In that total you have him going 4-7 in the paint, but just 2-14 everywhere else. Stop settling for jumpers and get inside more KG! In addition, despite his 12 rebounds, KG also managed to be out hustled for many key rebounds in the fourth quarter by Pau Gasol and the rest of the Laker big men.
- Take out Kobe, Sasha, and Ray Allen and the rest of the players on the two teams combined to shoot a paltry 32-109. That’s just 29.4 percent! While defense had to play some part of that, there is no way either team can be happy with their offensive execution. Look for a lot of small adjustments for both teams before game four aimed to fix just that.
- The Lakers shot 14 more free throws than the Celtics, but the Celtics still managed to get to the line 22 times. Most of the close calls did go to the Lakers, but because the Celtics did manage to get to the line that many times the disparity was not quite as great as it was in game two.
- The Celtics giving up with about 30 seconds or so to go was surprising. It is almost as if they wanted to lose, as if the league wanted it to happen, as if the whole thing was a clear set up. Just kidding! Tim Donaghy is just a desperate individual trying to avoid as much jail time as he can. The Celtics lost because the coaching staff went for the steal, couldn’t get it, and then just gave up. There are no conspiracy theories to be found here.
- I agree with Jeff Van Gundy. The man is bald. He shouldn’t have to pay the same amount as someone with more hair after his “haircuts.”
- So much for Odom being inconsistent. In three games, he has consistently disappointed. It got the point where Phil Jackson stated after game two that Odom looked ‘confused.’
- Rondo getting injured in the game when he suffered an ankle sprain should be a huge concern for the Celtics. Rondo isn’t going to help win the game with his shooting so if the injury prevents him from blowing by his defender look for the Celtics to keep him on the bench more and get Eddie House more minutes.
- Speaking of Celtic back-up point guards, the Celtics’ point guards other than Rondo went 3-12 in about 25 minutes of play. Mind you, these guys are in the game primarily for their shooting. More reason to try out Ray Allen as a back up point guard.
- What was up with both teams also missing a combined 20 free throws? It seems the legends of Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O’Neal (career free throw percentages of 42 and 52 percent) live on in LA.
- If the Lakers aren’t going to play Chris Mihm, they need to focus their efforts on getting a fifth big man for the roster for next season. Once Odom and Radmanovic got into foul trouble the Lakers were forced into playing Gasol and Ronny Turiaf more minutes. Turiaf isn’t a bad big man to have coming off the bench, but the more minutes he plays the less he is able to keep up his reputation as a high-energy player. Sure, Bynum will be back next season, but if another injury hits to him or the other big men, it again becomes a problem.
- By the way, David Stern, regarding that last column, despite our conclusions, we here at jumpball.wordpress.com are firmly against any and all forms of tanking by any team. So if you could call off whoever has been following us or listening in to our phone conversations since the column was posted that would be nice.