Obviously this is a must win game for the Lakers. Although fans of Boston sports know that a comeback from 3-0 is possible in a series, Lakers fans would rather not test that and would prefer a home win tonight to get this series back on track. All that said, we must remain confident. We are a great team. We have not lost a home game in months. And while the Celtics performed well on the road against Detroit, they were taken to 7 games against both Atlanta and Cleveland and really showed that they could be rattled on the road. They are not immune from having let downs on the road and tonight they face one of the best home teams in the league. I know the players believe; we should believe too. And on that note here are some keys to tonight’s game from several of the regular contributors to the site, in bullet fashion:
*The Lakers have not performed up to its (lofty) standards on the offensive end so far. A lot (and I mean a lot) of credit must go to the Celtics’ defense, while some of that dropoff can also be attributed to just missing shots and not playing in any type of rhythm for major stretches in both games. While the Lakers have had some early success in both games (and a nice run in the 4th quarter of Game 2) we must find ways to sustain that effort for longer stretches tonight. There are 2 keys to making this happen and they work hand in hand. First is establishing the post. Pau proved that he could score in the post on both KG and Perkins. He was decisive with the ball and attacked with aggression when given the opportunity. The problem was, those opportunities did not materialize in the second half as we continually went away from the post and were very perimeter centric. We need to continue to get the ball inside and let Pau create for himself and for others. He has a quickness advantage on Perkins and has the size to nullify some of KG’s length and athleticism (and as he showed on that baseline drop-step/spin move, he is not scared to challenge KG when it’s there for him). We need more of this in order to establish our half court offense. But, the Lakers can not just rely on half court sets to beat this Celtics team. The Celtics are one of (if not the) best half court defensive teams we have seen all year. When their defense is set, they do a great job of taking away passing angles with ball denials and shutting down driving lanes. So, we need to create more early offensive chances. That means rebounding the ball (something we were a lot better at in Game 2, 37-36 advantage Celtics) and pushing the ball. This is where Lamar can get on track by rebounding and pushing, and this is also where we can get Kobe more chances to work in space and attack where he sees fit. During our comeback run in the 4th quarter in the last game, Kobe basically got the ball in the open court, created for himself or broke down the defense and created good looks for our 3 point shooters. Basically, we need to play faster when we can, and when we can’t push pace, we need to establish the ball in the post.
*On defense, the Lakers need to play a much stronger game than what they’ve played so far. We need to play position defense and quit the reaching, grabbing, swiping, and hacking. The Celtics are a good FT shooting team and we can’t bail them out by getting into the penalty early. That means we need to quit fouling when players are not in a position to score and that means that we need to eliminate the off ball fouling. Also, defensive possessions end with a defensive rebound. We have played strong defense on many possessions, only to have Boston get an offensive rebound and just reset their offense. As I mentioned above, a major key to us being able to get out and run on offense is securing the defensive rebound. Every players focus should be securing the ball. The bigs need to box out and the guards need to close down the FT line. We need all 5 to the glass tonight.
*We need an improved effort from our bench. Traditionally in these playoffs they have played much better at home than on the road. We will need that improved effort from them tonight. One of the big keys to this series so far has been the effort and effectiveness of the Boston bench. The Lakers need to get that same effort, effectiveness, and execution from their bench. In short, we need a Leon Powe game from one of our guys tonight. Remember, this is a bench that has put up huge chunks of points in games throughout the season. They are capable; they must show it. As for a couple of specifics, I hope to see more Turiaf on Powe tonight. Turiaf is a similar player to Leon and I hope Phil uses him in the same way that he used Sasha on Korver/Ginobili in previous rounds. Turiaf can match Powe in energy and can bang with him on the glass and I hope he gets a chance to prove it. And while I hope to see Ariza some tonight for defensive purposes, I think we can only use him while Odom is out of the game. Phil said after Game 2 that he took Trevor out of the game because his presence was stagnating to the offense. With both Trevor and Lamar in the game, Boston is able to sag off of 2 Lakers and further control the paint with its help defense. So while Trevor’s defense can come in handy, Phil will have to be careful with how he dispatches him tonight (and if to at all) because of the impact it can have on the offense. But overall, we need sharp bench play. Our guys are young and should have fresh legs after a pretty quick turnaround and a long trip.
Overall, as I mentioned above this is a must win game. But we have the ingredients to beat this team and it’s a testament to our team that while playing below our usual standard, we have had the chance to win the first 2 games in the closing minutes. For more insight, please read the thoughts of David Thorpe and Mike Moreau over at the WWL.
Commenting Note: Kurt has been out, but he has entrusted this site to us, the community that makes Forum Blue and Gold the great blog that it is. And in that spirit, I ask that we maintain this site in a manner that is respectful to everyone. So respect the guest posters. Respect the commenters. And for those that leave comments that do not show an understanding of the posting guidelines, your comments will be moderated and/or edited/deleted.
Update: Just wanted to mention that I received news from Kurt that Mom, new baby girl, and family are all healthy and happy. -Gatinho