Wow, there are few words to describe the shock and disappointment that I feel, but one of them has to be wow. The Los Angeles Lakers, who at one point were ahead by as much as 24, completely squandered their lead in the second half. They abandoned their aggressive style of play from the first half in favor of playing into the defense and missed jump shot after jump shot. The theme of this whole series has been that whoever is more aggressive wins the game. Well, the Celtics were that team in the second half and that made all the difference. They played harder and simply wanted it more. The Celtics can now win just one of the next three games and still earn the right to be called the NBA champions. The Lakers on the other hand now firmly have their backs against the walls. Wow…just wow…
Who Played Well:
Ray Allen: The steadiest of the big three showed up once again when it mattered most. His lay up in the 4th quarter to put away the Lakers will be played over and over again on the highlights and forever be shown in ESPN Classic. Before this series started, Allen seemed to be the most fragile of the big three, and yet here he showed his toughness by playing all 48 minutes of the game.
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett: Team leaders withstood the early lead by the Lakers to comeback in the second half to finish with 20 points and 7 assists and 16 points and 11 rebounds respectively. Pierce was big in the second half by agreeing to guard Kobe. Here, he did exactly what you are supposed to do when you guard the game’s best player. He was patient, never bit on most of Kobe’s fakes, and allowed his teammates to help as well.
James Posey and Eddie House: these guys came off the bench and hit big shots to help bring the Celtics back. They did all the little things that the team needed. In the end, they played like champions and as a result are just one win away from forever being immortalized as such.
Who Played Poorly:
Rajon Rondo: he was clearly hindered by his injury, which further allowed the Lakers to exploit his lack of a consistent jumper. If Eddie House hadn’t come in to hit shot after shot, Rondo’s flaws would have once again been highlighted.
Kendrick Perkins and PJ Brown: The big men were unable to rebound in this game or not foul drivers and cutters. The Celtics did their best and made their comeback when both of these guys were on the bench.
Who Played Well:
Lamar Odom: The entire first half lead can be attributed to his play. He played point forward and destroyed the Celtics defense by getting inside and either dishing it to the open man or getting the basket. He didn’t get the ball enough in the second half and never took advantage of being guarded by James Posey. Still, compared to the first three games, Odom had a solid game by his new standards.
Pau Gasol: He got 17 points and 10 rebounds to help lead the Lakers in winning the rebounding battle for the first time this series.
Who Played Poorly:
Sasha Vujacic: after his superb play in game three, he couldn’t buy a shot by going 1-9. What is worse is that he couldn’t really hinder Ray Allen at all. He was the one who was beaten so badly on that lay up by Allen that put the game away. Hopefully, this game doesn’t affect his confidence and change his career, because the Lakers will need him if they still want to win this series.
- Every member of the Big Three for the Celtics came to play (at least in the second half.) When was the last time that happened?
- Kobe Bryant didn’t get put in either the played well section or played poorly section because his game was entirely so up and down. During the first half, he didn’t force any shots, but helped out his team with six or so assists. In the second half, he never drove in for the first 20 minutes and settled for jumper after jumper. Then in the end game Kobe came thru by driving in and getting key baskets. Too little too late, but at least he did something. A lot has been made about his being a poor teammate, but in all honesty, what will cost the Lakers the series is not Kobe, but the inability of the majority of the Lakers to come through for him when it mattered most.
- Trevor Ariza did a solid job in the first quarter before being a non-factor for the rest of the game. If he continues to improve his jumper, he will be a great asset off the bench next year.
- As depressing as the outcome of this game is, Laker fans should take solace in the fact that this team will be even better next year. A healthy Bynum along with a full year of a healthy Ariza will make the Lakers that much better for next year. No matter how this series turns out, the Lakers did gain valuable experience and hopefully won’t be so inconsistent next year.
- If the first half showed anything, Rajon Rondo should lock himself in the gym to work on his jumper during the off-season.
- Sasha Vujacic has gone full circle during this series. He went from being the guy with the hair band who wasn’t hitting shots to the clutch reserve in game three, which he then followed up by dressing like a European gangster for post game comments. Then tonight he went back to being the bench player who couldn’t buy a shot. Hopefully, this means he explodes in game five.
- Speaking of Vujacic, how did someone not point out to him that dressing up like you are in the mob the same day the Donaghy allegations came out was a bad idea? He was just tempting karma there.
- The Lakers lost despite having eight more assists.
- Kevin Garnett finally played in the post and played well. It is about time.
- Each time one of these teams makes a huge comeback, they do so by playing small ball. How did it take this long to go to those lineups?
- Is Doc Rivers actually out coaching Phil Jackson? Jackson seems to keep expecting his players to figure it out and play through it, but at some point, he needs to step in and show everyone why he has nine championships.
- Speaking of coaching, how is Tom Thibodeau not going to get a head coaching job after his superb job with his team’s defense? If I’m Seattle, New Jersey, Minnesota, or even Denver and Cleveland, how am I not firing my current head coach to give Thibodeau a chance? Not to speak ill of their current head coaches (except for PJ Calisemo of whom I am not a fan at all,) but none of them will help win their respective teams a championship so why not roll the dice with the hottest name in assistant coaching? Especially the New Jersey Nets who have stopped listening to the otherwise superb Lawrence Frank. With their entire goal seeming to be the acquisition of Lebron James in 2010, why not bring in a guy that Lebron has had trouble getting past and thus respects?
- This series is still not over. Unless the comeback by the Celtics has broken the spirit of the Lakers, they should win in LA. If the Lakers can will themselves to be the more aggressive team in each of the next three games, they will win them all.
- As for the Celtics, they cannot get complacent. Everyone brings up the fact that Paul Pierce was part of one of the greatest comebacks when he was going against the New Jersey Nets, but in the end the Celtics lost that series.