This Laker team has provided us with an amazing pure run of joy this year. One loss, no matter how painful to watch, does not change that — this squad evolved into a title contender before our eyes, it was the most fun most of us have had as Lakers fans in a long time. And I am not ready for that ride to end.
What I want to see from the Lakers tonight is what got them this far — a counterpunch.
When the Lakers were playing at their best during the season, this is what they did. When the opposing team took away something, the Lakers went to another option and made them pay. Mid-game adjustments were seemingly always key, everyone stepped up and played their roles at key moments.
Not so in the Finals. When the Celtics have made adjustments the Lakers have not ducked and counterpunched, they have taken it on the chin.
In the first half of game four the Lakers came up with a way to make the pick-and-roll very successful against the Celtics, getting the ball to a big at the free throw line on a sort of pick and pop play and having the other big cutting to the basket. The Celtics adjusted to that, changing how they defended the pick-and-roll (plus they were forced to go to a smaller lineup due to injuries, which helped with this). Credit to Boston, they stepped up their defensive intensity in the second half of the third quarter and the fourth. They didn’t give up and played like champions.
And the Lakers countered by….. nothing much. They did not counterpunch through the triangle. They stopped trying to run. They played worse on defense. Maybe they should have abandoned the triangle earlier, but I’m not sold that was the biggest problem.
I think KG summed things up pretty well in his post game press conference.
“If you’ve paid attention to them all year, usually the first half is team ball, second half is usually Kobe takes over the games. Like you said, they weren’t nearly as aggressive as they were the first half. It just looks like they wanted to get the ball to Kobe and him sort of finish it off. That’s what it looked like to me. It didn’t really look cohesive like they did in the first half.
“The second half I thought we took the lay-ups away, made them go to the second and third options. We were giving Kobe every look we’ve got in the book, from different matchups to trapping him, to a guy on the bottom. We were just making other guys make plays. “
Will the Lakers counterpunch tonight? Will the other guys step up? Will we see a team come out and play with real pride and passion. Will Gasol go to the rim and dunk the ball rather than put up a soft layup? Will the Lakers let Kobe go one-on-one at times and spread the floor with shooters (ala game three)? It’s a cliché but it’s one because it is true — they have to take it one game at a time. Win game five, defend your home court. Worry about tomorrow tomorrow. Will the Lakers come out and defend, rebound and finish with authority at the rim?
I hope so, because I am not ready for this season to end.