Let’s be honest: This is the game that scares Lakers fans.
We know that the Celtics fans will come and be loud, expecting a coronation. We know that the Celtics themselves will come out and play like this is their game seven. We know it will be physical and the refs are not going to be as much help as we’d like.
We also know every game in this series has been close, and that the Lakers can win — but to do so they will have play their best game of the series.
Usually by this point in a seven-game series there are no secrets, no big matchup changes that can be sprung to turn the tide. And that is largely true coming into this game, although because of injuries and lack of execution there are some things that can be changed up for the Lakers.
On offense, the Lakers need to get to the basket and finish strong — it would be nice if Kobe could do more of that but the Celtics have worked hard to take that part of his game away. Kwame a. had a one suggestion on what to try to get Kobe going:
I think it imperative to play Kobe OFF the ball more. Whether this means cross-screens on the block to give him good post position, or running him off single-doubles on the baseline like Rip Hamilton and Ray Allen, or off the slice cut in the triangle, getting him a head-start to the basket. No matter what, we cannot stick with this top-of-the-key iso, it is asking Boston to flex its defensive prowess.
It is obvious that Odom and Gasol both need to be forces inside, both getting to the rim and on the offensive boards. They were more aggressive in game five but will have to take that to another level tonight.
Defensively, the Lakers need to play off of Paul Pierce more, make sure he doesn’t get to the rim, something coach Anthony Macri talked about at Basketball Prospectus:
The Lakers were largely successful in defending the Spurs’ side pick-and-pop action in the Western Conference Finals. However, their ability to guard high ball-screen action against an offensive player as big, versatile, and strong as Paul Pierce is has been a bugaboo for Los Angeles during this series. If they have any hope of defeating the Celtics, the Lakers must find an effective method of defending this ball-screen action. Because Garnett is such a capable outside shooter, L.A. cannot afford to trap the ball-handler. Their typical soft-hedge and fight over technique has also proven ineffective. Instead, in Games Six and Seven, expect the Lakers to find a way under the screen, daring Pierce to shoot the long jumper off the dribble but preventing him from wreaking havoc in the lane. Again, defense in the NBA is all about making choices, and at this point, with their proverbial “backs against the wall,” the Lakers have little choice but to attempt the high-risk solution.
Pierce is going to hit jumpers, he’s a great player, but fewer jumpers will fall than lay-ups. The Lakers have to force him into help, they have to be smarter on their defensive rotations. The Lakers need to take advantage of when Rondo is in the game by helping off him — but stop doing that on House.
But after five games, this game is going to come down to execution. So far in this series it is the one area the Celtics have outplayed the Lakers consistently — they have done what they wanted to do while the Lakers have seemed to take some mental vacations.
As fans, all we can do is wear our lucky rally cap, hope the Lakers execute tonight and cheer (and not some creepy government-approved cheer but something from the heart). It’s one game at a time still, for us and the team.
May the best team win tonight.