Lakers/Celtics: Frustration After Faltering Down the Stretch

Darius Soriano —  February 19, 2010

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In what was a wildly entertaining and hard fought game, the Lakers came up short.  On this night, another that Kobe did not suit up, the Lakers were cursed by poor guard play and shoddy execution down the stretch and just didn’t have enough of a finishing kick to pull out a game that was there for the taking.   Ultimately, this was a game that was both fulfilling because of the effort displayed by the our guys while also being extremely frustrating because of a closing 7 minute stretch where the Lakers executed poorly and missed a golden opportunity to sweep their bitter rivals from the east.

The game started out with Boston taking an early and healthy lead due to unbelievably accurate shooting and some sloppy Lakers offense.  Boston just couldn’t miss.  Fadeaway jumpers by KG with Bynum all over him?  Ray Allen making some vintage leaning to the left jumpers after curling off screens?  Rondo taking a twenty footer when the defender goes under the screen?  No problem for the Celtics in the first 12 minutes.  Just a tremendous offensive output for a team that has struggled all season to generate high level offense.  But, the C’s would stay true to form and go on a drought that would let the Lakers back in to the game.  They started to turn the ball over, the Lakers started to go inside on both the dribble and on post ups, and the tide started to turn.  And once again, without our superstar guard, it was the Lakers front line that led the way.

If there is credit to be doled out on offense for the Lakers, it needs to go to our fowards and centers.  Ron, Andrew, Lamar, and Pau combined to shoot a very efficient 25-50 from the field and 12-15 from the foul line for a total of 64 of the Lakers 86 points while adding 38 rebounds, 7 assists, and 6 blocks.  Just a beautiful night for our four bigs.  All night, they worked hard and fought for every inch against a physical Celtics team.  Bynum went to work on the block.  Gasol was good in the post and even better from the mid range.  Lamar played his trademarked open court game.  Artest was just a beast.  It seemed like the Lakers front court was just taking turns making plays and it kept the team in the game.  Bynum would get an offensive rebound and an “and one” finish.  Then Odom would create in the open court and drive to the hoop and either score (that dribble right, left hand dunk was power and grace personified) or create an easy offensive rebound for a crashing teammate.  Two plays later, Pau would show his patented patience on the block, turn and face, then sink a 16 footer over an outstretched arm.  On seemed like the next trip down, Artest would get a steal and a dunk.  But, it wouldn’t be enough.

Because all the while, the Lakers’ guards couldn’t buy a shot.  The worst of the bunch was Derek Fisher, but Farmar and Shannon shared in Fish’s misery from the field.  Those three combined to shoot 5 for 25 and effectively halted momentum on several different occasions where the Lakers seemed primed to either cut into the Celtic’s arm-lengthed lead or bring the game to within a single possession.  Shannon would pound the ball and then miss a long jumper.  Fish would push the ball upcourt, see a sliver of an opening, and then force a drive that end up missing or getting blocked.  Farmar seemed content at not playing his typical aggressive game and floated around the perimeter before taking a three pointer.  And on it went all night.  The saving grace for the guards was Sasha, who provided his typical blend of hustle and scrappy effort while adding a level of decision and shot making that was on par with his activity on the court.  Early in the 4th quarter, when the Lakers were looking for a spark, it was Sasha grabbing some key rebounds and making a couple of shots that helped the Lakers take a 4 point lead.  But, that too, would not be enough.

Down the stretch, the Lakers made a bunch of little mistakes that added up to too many missed opportunities.  Early in the 4th quarter and after the Lakers made their run to finally get a lead, Bynum came back into the game and the team tried to hold it together but just couldn’t.  The ball stalled in the post, then guards decided that it’d be better to force their own shots rather than going to the players that had proven most effective the entire evening.  By the time that Pau returned to the game and the offense found it’s fulcrum, the damage was done and the Lakers could no longer put together a solid possession.  A post entry and kick out turned into a forced jumper rather than a re-post.  A pass to Pau at the high post was followed by a mistimed cut that ruined spacing and allowed help to flow to a posting Artest, leading to a blocked shot.  A series of passes around the perimeter leads to a post up, only to see the ball get knocked out of bounds with then only precious seconds to get another long jumper as the shot clock wound down.  Another post up leads to a questionable pass to a three-quarter-effort backdoor cutter that ends up a steal for the opposition.

But, despite this haphazard play down the stretch, the Lakers still had a chance to pull out the victory.  Down by one with 30 seconds left, the Lakers would get the one stop they would need to earn the last possession.  When Artest hounded Pierce and contested a jumper, Lamar secured the rebound and raced the other way as the clock ticked down.  However, in mid stride and closing in on the basket from the right wing, a whistle blew.  Time out, Lakers.  In what would be a fitting moment of more poor execution down the stretch, Phil had signaled Pau to call a timeout so he could diagram a final play rather than letting the play develop as he has so many times in the past.  I won’t criticize the coaches in this instance, but it was obvious that the players did not know that a timeout was desired had the team gotten a stop and secured the rebound.   After the play was diagrammed in the huddle, the Lakers ended up inbounding the ball to Fisher with 2.2 seconds left where he promptly missed another jumper that sealed our fate.  On a night where three of our four guards were completely ineffective, this seemed fitting.  Ballgame.

In the end, I am proud of the effort our guys displayed while being disappointed a loss that just as easily could have been a win.  Without Kobe this team has fought hard and played well beyond what most people thought possible.  But it’s games like this – close battles where that singular and spectacular player can make a difference with the game on the line – that we missed #24.  I am frustrated by the loss but fulfilled by the fight that our guys showed.   It’s never a good feeling when the Lakers lose, but our guys can hold their heads high – they battled ’til the end.  They just didn’t have enough to pull it through on this night.

Darius Soriano

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28 responses to Lakers/Celtics: Frustration After Faltering Down the Stretch

  1. Nice wrapup Darius. I wish I didn’t have to play the Fish card but it haunts me daily. There are 40 PG’s in this league better then Fish and it could be our down fall. I just can’t accept that.

  2. Great wrap-up Darius.

    The Lakers, minus Kobe, played a better game at home than they did at the Garden and came within a botched time-out of winning the game.

    Seriously, how long was Pau calling TO before they got it?

    Anyway, the guard play was just atrocious. One play that stands out to me was in the 4th with a thin Laker lead and ‘Drew with the ball just outside of the paint…and not a single player moved. Just Drew ISOed to the left while everyone else stood to the right. No cuts. No rotations to the 3 point line. Nothing. The offense stalled and it wasn’t Drew’s fault, it was the fault of everyone else. It was as though they mistook 17 for 24 out there.

    Anyway, losing sucks. However losing by 1 without Kobe to a team we beat by 1 WITH Kobe before is not too shabby.

    Like Barkley said: Without Kobe we won’t win a title, but we’re good enough to go deep into the playoffs. And knowing that means that Kobe can take time to get healthy, and when he comes back, the players know they can contribute, and Kobe knows they can come through. All of that is a win for the Lakers.

  3. Great Wrap up Darius. I enjoyed the game a lot. One more bucket would have helped.

  4. I had no expectations of winning this game…until I finally settled in and watched the second half…..and Boston kept letting us hang around…..and we were at home……and by the time the game ended, I was dejected by the loss….couple points for discussion:

    1. This was ’86 Lakers versus ’88 Celtics….a team that is one player short versus a dead team walking……

    2. Pau with the ball on the wing with the game on the line…..forcing a bad bounce pass to a guard under the bucket moving away from the bucket…..this is why he’s an unmatched #2 but nobody’s #1…..

    3. With no alpha dog you must run a PLAY, not a basic sideline out of bounds. Did ANY Laker fan think Fish would make that shot?

    4. Ughhh….agree with others….we did show some fight, and the Machine was both feisty and effective…….

    5. at what point does Phil just give in and put our best 5 on the floor….Lamar, Pau, Bynum, Kobe, and Ron Ron….matchups be damned…..the Lakers have the best 2 combo in the league, the best 3 combo in the league….the best 4…..the best 10….but can’t for the life of them find a 5 man squad to trust and feel good about….this is unfortunate…based on the rules of basketball……

  5. Ray,
    Responding to the last thread. I feel for you man. I really do. I can relate. Everyone attacked me last year when I was the first to question the temple that is Derek Fisher. So I know what it is like to feel this kind of heat. If you really believe Fisher is better than Brown, Farmar, and or Sasha keep up the good fight I say.

    However… all evidence suggests he is worse than possibly all 3 guys that could start over him at PG. He is the worst shooter of the group, he is the worst defender, he is the worst penetrator, he is the worst finisher, and he is the worst rebounder. Knowledge spreads like a virus sometimes. Ask last seasons Rockets if Farmar should start in the playoffs. In the one game Farmar started last season he played a better game than Fisher did in the entire playoffs.

    We are free LakerNation… Let the past go…
    The Emperor Has No Clothes!!!!

  6. This was a real nail biter, and when was the last time we had one and Kobe wasn’t in the game? It was nice to see the team really battle out there even though this gets chalked up as a loss.

    Does anybody think it may be wise, as an option for the last shot/play, to have andrew parked in the key so the lob option is open? He’s mostly automatic by the basket and if he got the ball for the last shot the defender might foul him out of shock.

  7. Thanks for the wrap up Darius. Losing to the Celts always sucks. I am an old Laker fan and I still hate them the same way I did in the 80’s. Every loss to them takes something out of me. It may sound ridiculous, but I REALLY hate those guys.

    Lurch, I mean Kevin McHale said that was how the two teams felt about eachother in the 80’s and it continues for some of us to this day.

    I really wish we could do something with our guard play. I hope someone worthwhile gets waived and can help us. We NEED help at the point. All we can hope now is that Sasha can contribute every game he plays like he did tonight. We HAVE to limit Fisher’s minutes. I know he wasn’t the only culprit but he is our starter.

  8. The biggest issue I had with the time out was if we got the ball back why didn’t we take it out under the basket because that was where we were when the refs realized the Lakers were calling a time out.

  9. Wish I had seen this game. The highlights of Odom´s and Artest´s slams are huge.

    I love the way The Greatest Pierce of All Time just kind of bounces of Artest before he flushes a nasty dunk in the face of the helper.

    But even without sitting throught the complete game, the final play hurts to watch…

  10. Darius,

    Great analysis and writeups. Unfortunately, your outstanding work on this blog is being undone by hopelessly thoughtless comments–usually emotional one or two liners–repeated over and over and over . . . . . .

    There were over three hundred comments I had to wade through on the previous thread to read no more than 10 with meaningful content. We’ve managed to degenerate to the point that, apart from your always well written analyses and a few scattered comments, we’ve become just like all the other sports blogs–spewing hateful personal epithets rather than thoughtful commentary.

    I love every player on the Lakers team, but I have had occasion to think unflattering thoughts about every one of them from time to time–often expressed in this blog. Unfortunately, the blogosphere seems to focus and amplify emotional affect onto individual players, and recently this blog has focused hateful rage on our captain–Derek Fisher.

    The Zeitgeist could (and eventually will) shift focus to Sasha, Adam, or Andrew–or even Pau and/or Kobe–but the hate will remain the same.

    On another sports blog I noted the following: it has been speculated that one million monkeys typing on one million typewriters could reproduce the works of Shakespeare–but the internet has proven them wrong.

  11. Sasha played great in the second half; Phil should have kept him in the game because our starting back court pair was not effective on offense or defense; Allen was having a free pass on defense. Sasha brought some back court defensive order in the second half and his offense was timely.

  12. I’m pissed. That was a foul on Fisher at the end. We should have totally won this game. The Celtics are slow old and are a terrible team. The Lakers, even without Kobe, should have won.

  13. Good wrap-up Darius, but the time between the whistle – I heard it on TV – and when Lamar shot the ball was not put back on the clock. Very, very poor officiating – this is in the Ed Hockule class of official failures.

    However, after that I think this one sits squarely on Phil. He is the one who ran an inbounds play with the last man standing being Fisher – the shortest man on the court and a very cold shooter against an excellent defense. It was such an obvious situation to have us go against type and use both Pau and Andrew together, then have them split up, with Andrew moving toward the hoop for a possible lob and Pau moving to the elbow for a shot he has made all night. We have the length, why not use it?

    Such a waste Phil.

  14. Results aside, I have this feeling this loss has more positive to say about the Lakers with more Negative about the Celtics.

    BTW, this is the game where they missed Kobe the most. Needing a basket with 2 minutes to go, and no one could do it.

  15. BTW, I also found it funny how on another thread, some posters kept saying Cleveland would not loose again. And guess what, they did! That’s why the game has to be played, and some rosters do not guarantee a playoff. There’s no guarantee for the Lakers, but you have to like your chances when the majority of that roster has recently won a Championship.

  16. Well, Artest’s defense on Paul Pierce (aka Kanye West of the NBA) was admirable. However, it begs the question, can Artest play such great defense on the two guys duking it out in Cleveland last night, or does he fare better against slightly slower, and less unathletic SFs like Pierce?

    I’m hoping that there will be some waiver wire looks by the Lakers, because our bench severely lacks depth at the SF position (LO shouldn’t play the SF position). Just the sight of AMMO sitting there on the bench sort of represented the “can’t buy my dream Corvette because we need to save money to replace the roof on the house” mentality of the Lakers. Sure, we would have loved to move him, but we couldn’t.

    Fisher did try to keep up with Allen, but he gives up far too much size (at least 4-5 inches) and Allen can just shoot right over him. So that was just intrinsically a difficult matchup for him all night.

    And how about blast from the 2000s dunks from Artest, Odom, KG, and Allen?

  17. drrayeye,
    You fail to take into account that the monkeys are simply typing letters. These monkeys actually think they are saying something – that’s a very large difference.

  18. I didn’t wanna wade through 300 comments coz I didn’t read any. I knew how it was gonna play out. Unlike the “others” I didn’t blame Fish. I didn’t blame PJ either. Instead I blame the missed free throws that brought us to that particular moment in time.

    Oh and that timeout is ridiculous. Boston had to foul Lamar or give him a layup. Would’ve been a win either way.

  19. Chownoir (was J) February 19, 2010 at 9:01 am

    Amen, Drrayeye and Craig W. I’m not a homer Laker fan by any means, but I’m just so tired of the echo chamber or one note complaints.

    Anyway, to try and actually contribute something instead of piling on with just baseless complaints, some things that caught my eye.

    Sasha has been playing pretty steadily now for several games. The injury really frustrated me as it forced Phil to take him out. During the game I was hoping Sasha’s performance would finally exorcise the demons of his 08 Finals failure against Ray and turn the corner for him. Ray was definitely less effective when Sasha was on him. On top of his string of solid games, I was pulling for Sasha to use this game to get his head right and be a solid contributor going forward.

    I think if Sasha hadn’t been hurt, you would have seen him close out the game instead of Shannon.

    With Shannon, I thought a lot of the bad habits he exhibited in the past few games came to roost in this game. I still maintain that at this point of his development he should and can be a very effective catch and shoot guy. Last night, most of his misses was off the dribble and not standstill. But these were the same shots that fell for him previously. I also thought he didn’t attack the rim as intelligently as he did previously. A few times he had Pau with him and the spacing was wrong for taking it straight to the hoop. He should have either pulled it back out or taken a different line to create a better lane. Although these are all correctable habits and mistakes, it concerns me that he hasn’t shown much improvement in that area. Not sure if the coaches aren’t stressing it or it’s not sinking in. He seems to listen and improve in other areas but his offensive game is just fundamentally raw.

    In addition to all the great things already said about the front line’s performance, I also wanted to note how hard Pau was challenging shots on the perimeter last night. He went hard at KG a couple of times when it looked like an open 18 footer and KG missed as a result. Another time, he blocked a shot close to the arc and was flying down court. But the guards couldn’t secure the loose ball fast enough for the outlet.

    Liked how hard Bynum banged and was actually boxing out Perkins a few times. Drew has shown growth in handling physical play. Perkins and Boston’s physicality used to take him out of his game. The two games this season, Drew has taken it to them. I’m hoping this is another step in his development and he can apply it against Orlando and Clev/Shaq. Seems like that’s the only other elite teams left that he hasn’t put up a solid outing.

    A frustrating and encouraging night is a good way to describe the game.

  20. Nice post Darius
    you forgot to mention one gigantic “little” mistake that wound up not hurting us because Ray Allen missed the FT but the foul that gave the opportunity for an “and 1″ by shannon can’t be defined by any other word than stupid.
    @4 refer to derek fisher’s 0.4 game winner against spurs or last year’s 3pt against orlando(google tells me it was game 4), kobe technically didn’t run the play, though in both cases he drew a double team(spurs one fisher was still marked though)
    I am almost sure he also hit a game winner from an in-bound pass this season, but I’m not 100% positive. I for one have no problems with fisher actually taking the game-winner, but that play kind of sucked. Like 12, I thought andrew should have run towards the hoop, maybe someone setting a screen, there were at least 3 celtics who could have contested fisher at his shot and then he fumbled it.

    @11 imo, it was a foul too but Fisher should have known better than to try drawing a foul(he said that was his goal when interviewed) as that was a no-call in his previous attempts in the game. It’s basically the star treatment, I have no doubt kobe would get the FTs, Pierce would get it too, unfortunately, fisher didn’t

  21. It’s not “hateful rage” or “baseless complaints”.

    Fisher is statistically the worst starting point guard in the NBA. If you use what matters, effect on winning and losing, he is near the worst.
    People are correct in their opinion that this is the Laker’s biggest weakness. It makes absolutely no sense that Phil doesn’t at least give Farmar a chance.

    Another fun Fisher fact to add to the collection- Fisher has 0 assists in 4 of the last 8 games. He has had more than 2 assists only once in that time.

  22. Who on the lakers has hit most end of clock shots besides kobe? For some reason I kept thinking that Farmar has ending quarters and shot clocks with success.

  23. A couple of moderation notes:

    #5. I made a small edit to your post due to the religion reference. If you think this was over cautious of me, I apologize, I just think your statement could have been interpreted wrong by others and could have led to a discussion that isn’t appropriate for the site. I hope you take no offense as I don’t think the spirit of your comment has been changed.

    For the others, I don’t mind the criticisms of players. However, variations of “player X sucks” (even if that is not the term that is used) will be moderated. I hope to keep the discussion level high and if you have something of substance to say that would be better than a one or two line venting of how a player isn’t any good.

    I do this not to appease those who have made comments about those types of comments, but because I believe in a discussion and debate where ideas are exchanged and their merits are weighed. It is what drew me to this site many years ago and why I am still here now as the main contributor to it’s content.

    I mean no offense to those that have valid complaints about our players. I share many of those same frustrations and hope to have discussions in this forum with all of you about them. We are all fans of the same team – but we will not always agree. I love that about sports and this is a place where I have learned from many other commenters and posters and will, I think, continue to do so. I want FB&G to be a place where we can all have a healthy discussion and lively debate on the topics of the current day, the past, and the future of this organization. I thank all of you for your contributions to trying to achieve this.

  24. @Aaron,

    Did you read that article by BK? let me know what you think.

    The thing was about yesterday’s post, was I actually agreed that Fisher was the reason we lost and played his worst game I’ve ever seen him play. I usually forgive the 2 drives to the basket for running the offense, but Fish didn’t do that yesterday.

    And I’ve already stated that Fish is the weakness of the starters, but since PJ keeps going with him, I’m ok with that. The guy knows more about BBall than I ever will, and has a great track record. If there are reasons (that he’s stated many times) then I’ll go with that. He’s brought the promise land too many times.

    What I couldn’t stand yesterday was the scapegoating of Fisher as the reason to not win a championship. The thing is, we don’t know. If he is the reason at the end of the season, I will be the first guy to say so. But what bothers me, is we make assumptions that this will be the cause of the downfall. Which makes no sense to me. I don’t mind the “this is the reason they lost the game” analysis on a player, but I cannot stand the “OMG we’re not going to win a championship” this year after a lousy game, especially after a lousy game where we lose by one point.

    So damn right I’ll keep fighting that type of talk, because it’s bandwagon to me. Lose and we suck, Win and we’re great.

    This is the team we have. For better or for worse. Criticize the coach for a terrible out of bounds play (which sucked). Criticize Fisher for a terrible shot. Criticize Pau for a terrible pass to sasha under the basket. Criticize Ron for not being aggressive the second half. But I do choose to look at the positives. Down by ten, we fought and pushed back against the “physical” Celtics. And if Kobe were back, we’d have been set.

    Even with that loss yesterday, I don’t see the Lakers getting beat in the playoffs in a 7 game series. (and neither do most sports analysts, even with the cleveland trade).

  25. Ray,
    I was speaking on your thinking that Derek is better than Farmar, Brown, and/or Sasha.

    Phil Jackson is the best coach of all time… but he isn’t perfect. I am not going to blindly follow him off a cliff. If Phil is starting playoffs at the end of the season (which I don’t think he will) I will think this is one of Phil’s bad decisions.

    And what BK article are you talking about? Do tell…

  26. Maybe i’ve missed it somewhere…but has no one questioned that 3rd- or 4th-quarter decision to let Shannon shoot that Technical free-throw rather than Pau? What was up with that? Shannon appeared to wave Pau off…Pau, who was 8-8 at that point from the stripe.
    Was that some sort of character-building exercise by Phil or what?
    I’m relatively happy with the game, by the way, and think it will only help us down the road to get battle-tested without Kobe.
    But that moment was a head-scratcher.

  27. @aaron

    http://espn.go.com/blog/los-angeles/lakers/post/_/id/3083/the-point-guard-l-a-s-dirty-little-not-so-secret

    And aaron, I’ve already stated that Farmar is the better basketball player right now over Fisher. Imagine how much worse our bench would be if Farmar or Shannon weren’t on it but Fisher was? Fisher is still the best starting option.

    But whatever, I’m done with this arguing about it. Phil is the best coach. I’ll be happy with his personnel decisions.