Around the World (Wide Web): Oh Those Soft Celtics

Phillip Barnett —  June 4, 2010

Boston Celtics at Los Angeles Lakers

[Note: I just wanted to say that you will see a lot of blog posts and columns suggesting that the Celtics are now "soft". I'd like to advise you to not subscribe to those sentiments. It was one game, one game that the Lakers played extremely well in, but by no means is this series over, and by no means do I think the Celtics are soft (yet). The media is reactionary by nature and will write columns about how the Celtics "toughened up" for Game 2 if they're more physical. They're still the same Celtics until the Lakers win three more games in the manner that they won Game 1.]

THE BLOGS

From Kevin Arnovitz, True Hoop: Pau Gasol took a lot of flak when the Lakers bowed out in six games against an aggressive, physical Celtics team in 2008. Although Gasol is 7-feet tall, his critics derided him as a compromised big man, neither tough enough to perform the function of a traditional center or power forward nor stretchy enough to make offenses pay from deep. That fancy skill set — the capacity to execute the high-low game, hit cutters, run the floor, find open pockets of space, launch hooks with a soft touch — none of it was worth a thing when you were confined to a street fight against a team like Boston.

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: The Celtics were angry when they went in the locker room. John McEnroe angry. That’s not the norm for a veteran team, and it was not at all like the Celtics team that has marched through the playoffs. But they didn’t play like those Celtics, either. These Celtics were pissed. Not with the referees (well, yes they were but not as much as you’d think). They were angry with themselves. For the rebounds they gave up, the bad passes, the blown layups. For simply getting out worked all night.

From Matt Moore, Pro Basketball Talk: The spirit was willing. The body was not. Kevin Garnett reached up with the ball to dunk and found it just.. wasn’t there. In Game 1 of the NBA finals, there were many reasons the Celtics fell to the Lakers by 13 (at one point down 20). But it cannot be overstated the level of Pau-nage that Pau Gasol unleashed upon Kevin Garnett Thursday night. Whereas Garnett enjoyed size advantages over Udonis Haslem, Antawn Jamison, and Rashard Lewis, facing seven foot Gasol was a completely different matter.

From Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie: Showcasing an active attack that relied on brute strength as often as the team’s typical finesse game, the Los Angeles Lakers struck first in the NBA Finals, winning Game 1 102-89. It was a contest marked by whistle after whistle, with a Joey Crawford-led crew calling 54 personal fouls and three technical fouls, infractions that led to some rather stilted play. But no group of zebras were taking this game away from the defending champs. Phil Jackson’s crew came through with their typically stout third quarter, outscoring the Celtics 34-23.

From Sam Amick, NBA Fanhouse: The Artest boys may have been two thousand miles apart on Thursday, but they were chasing the same rainbow. Ron and his Tinsel Town brethren were preparing for Game 1 of the Finals against Boston, his journey from NBA castoff to NBA champion with the Lakers almost complete. The younger Daniel was on Interstate 65, driving 176 miles from Zionsville, Indiana to Oak Park, Ill. for one last shot at his own hoops happiness rather than heading West to live vicariously through his better-known brother.

From Mike Trudell, Basket Blog: The Lakers had two full years to think about a 39-point loss to Boston in Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals. Two years, during which time the Purple and Gold happened to grab their own NBA title, then make it back through the Western Conference for a third straight trip to the Finals. But when looking at an Irish clover, Kobe Bryant still seethed, Pau Gasol still simmered, and Ron Artest just wanted to help. On the other coast, Boston defeated the Heat, Cavs and Magic, giving L.A. what it wanted as the Celtics traveled to Los Angeles for the 12th end-of-season meeting between the two storied franchises.

From Paul Revere, Ed The Sports Fan: Right now, Kobe Bryant is like a shark that smells blood in the water. He can sense it. He can taste it. And he’s never been hungier than right now. He sees LeBron’s crown at the NBA’s pinnacle is getting tight on the king, and he wants to reclaim his post that he never really relinquished. He’s out for LeBron’s blood. Kobe feels Magic’s five titles in his grasp, and he wants to equal the greatest Laker champion ever. He’s out for Magic’s blood. He sees the Celtics in front of him, and he wants revenge. Kobe’s out for Boston’s blood. And yes, on the horizon, he can sense Michael’s six championships aren’t far away, and he wants to legitimize the Kobe-MJ conversation. He’s out for Jordan’s blood. Kobe Bryant doesn’t just want to be in the history books, he wants to be at the forefront of that history. He has blood lust right now.

From Steve-O, Lakers Edge: Game 1 of the 2010 NBA Finals lived up to all of the hype as the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics 102-89 at Staples Center to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Nervous fans were on pins and needles early as physical play took ahold of the game from the opening tip-off. And it was the Lakers that appeared to be flinching first as the Boston Celtics flexed their muscles and their jaws. But maintaining their composure throughout, the Lakers exploded in the 3rd period, outscoring the Celtics 34-23 to take control of the game.

From Don, With Malice: For all the talk of the Celtics much-vaunted physicality, it was the Lakers who out-muscled their opponents in game 1 of the NBA Finals, winning in a trot – 102-89.  Really, the end result flattered the Celtics.  That it wasn’t 2008 became abundantly apparent with Gasol taking the game right to KG, finishing with 23 points, 14 boards, and 3 blocks.  Kobe continued where he left off against Phoenix, well… to a degree – 30 points, 7 boards, 6 assists (shooting in the high 40s %-wise) – a pretty damn good effort in a climate far more defensively intense than that which LA faced vs PHX.  No denying that Kobe – and the Lakers – were not the wide-eyed neophytes in this game.

From Zach Lowe, Celtics Hub: Kevin Garnett scored 16 points in Game 1, his highest scoring game since the Cleveland series. But if you watched the game, you know: KG is going to have a very, very difficult time scoring in the post on Pau Gasol. Gasol is as tall and long-limbed as Garnett, and KG no longer has the raw leaping ability he showed before his knee in injury last season. (And even then, his athleticism was starting to decline). If Gasol stays down on pump fakes, every shot from the post is going to be a tough one for KG. Check out this make from the 2nd quarter:

THE PAPERS

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: This was the season when the duo’s dynamic was questioned for the first time. Validated with a championship stamp, Pau Gasol felt empowered enough to send up passive-aggressive flares about Kobe Bryant when he wasn’t following the inside-out gameplan. There was even a time or two, privately, when Gasol couldn’t resist an eye roll at the tidy smiley-face storyline that Bryant had evolved into the consummate teammate. If Bryant was ever threatened by his new little brother’s sentiments, he never lashed back publicly. He kept on professing his usual appreciation for Gasol’s 2008 arrival. He kept on delivering his even-more-usual heavy-handed encouragement that Gasol was great but could be even better.

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Everyone agreed that this would be a fight, and the Lakers are winning it. Showing improved physicality and interior dominance from 2008 to go with their usual savvy, the Lakers emerged with a 102-89 victory in the NBA Finals opener Thursday night. Boston pushed the Lakers around two years ago en route to the title, but this time the Celtics were outscored by the Lakers in points in the paint, 48-30, and second-chance points, 16-0. “I knew it was going to be physical; that’s a given,” Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. “This being our third consecutive final (series), we understand the nature of the game.”

From Mike Bresnahan, Los Angeles Times: If there’s such thing as delayed payback, the type that sits for two years and accrues interest in the angriest of currencies, the Lakers unveiled it on Thursday. They beat the Boston Celtics, 102-89, their lead swelling as large as 20 points in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, but they also decisively swatted down the continual questions all week that probed their character and picked at their alleged lack of strength directly related to their flameout two years ago against the Celtics.

From Baxter Holmes, Los Angeles Times: Five days to rest their old legs. Celtics Coach Doc Rivers was thankful for such a span, glad his veteran lineup could catch a blow. “We’re not the youngest team in the world,” he said earlier this week. But in Thursday’s 102-89 loss to the Lakers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Celtics struggled to get those legs moving. Rivers denied that the layoff hurt his team too much, saying, “It could have, but, you know, no.” Yet for all the areas the Lakers dominated, they did so by being quicker and more aggressive.

From Monique Walker, Boston Globe: Any haunting memories of the 2008 Finals may begin to fade for Pau Gasol. Two years after a “soft’’ tag was attached to Gasol’s play during the series loss to the Celtics, Gasol showed up to the Staples Center last night and pushed for rebounds, worked for shots, and boosted the Lakers to a 102-89 victory in Game 1 of this year’s Finals. Gasol scored 11 of his 23 points in the first half, helping the Lakers move out to a 50-41 lead at the break. He grabbed 14 rebounds, but eight of those were on the offensive end — matching the Celtics’ total by himself.

From Ron Borges, Boston Herald: Kevin Garnett’s irritation was obvious as he sat in his locker, a sweater covering his shirt and a scowl covering his face. He had not played well in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, but that only made him one of a team of Celtics who had not. The difference was that his play contrasted so damningly with that of the Lakers’ Pau Gasol that it stood out on a night when no one in Green did. Asked if he was disappointed in how he and his teammates had responded to the Lakers’ assertiveness during the 102-89 defeat Garnett snarled, ‘Disappointed to lose.’

THE MAJORS

From J.A. Adande, ESPN’s Daily Dime: Yes, it means more against the Boston Celtics. Nothing to do with Bird, Russell, Hondo or anyone else you’d find on ESPN Classic. This is about scoring 102 points right out of the gate against the 2010 Celtics, a team that yielded triple digits about once a series in these playoffs. This was the Los Angeles Lakers using Game 1 to declare that these NBA Finals will be played on their terms. Given the stakes, the opponent and, yes, the history (recent edition) this 102-89 victory ranks as the most impressive Lakers playoff game of the season. In the two years since they last met in the Finals it seems the Celtics have aged while the Lakers matured.

From Chris Broussard, ESPN.com: They can’t be soft. They just can’t be. Not with Rajon Rondo having a power forward’s mentality when it comes to rebounding. Not with Big Bad ‘Sheed owning as much street cred as anyone who’s graced the league over the past 15 seasons. Not with Glen Davis having the skills and physique of a defensive end. So we won’t go overboard and attach the dreaded “S-word” to the Boston Celtics. But know this: In Thursday’s 102-89 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Celtics certainly looked soft.

From Peter May, ESPN Boston.com: he numbers aren’t bad. Thirteen points, eight assists, six rebounds. On most nights, Rajon Rondo would probably take those numbers — and take his chances. But those numbers were submitted Thursday after a certifiable spanking administered by the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, a 102-89 Los Angeles victory. And anyone who watched the Lakers’ thorough conquest of the Boston Celtics knows that Rondo was, well, not the Rondo the Celtics need to win this series.

From Bryan Chu, NBA.com: The talk coming into the game circled around how the Celtics’ defense may rival that of the 2008 championship team. On Thursday, the Lakers showed their rendition of defense. They took charges. They caused deflections. They altered and rejected shots inside. In short, they frustrated Boston. That defense coupled with a late third-quarter spurt helped the defending champs deliver an emphatic blow to the Celtics, winning 102-89 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals at Staples Center. “I think people forget how good we are defensively,” Lakers forward Lamar Odom said.

Phillip Barnett

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26 responses to Around the World (Wide Web): Oh Those Soft Celtics

  1. Can they start a new chant in LA? Please yell F U Boston when they play next.

  2. Jones – It’s funny you say that… we were at a bar last night watching the game, about 20 of us sporting our “BUCK FOSTON” shirts and we first started a “Boston Sucks” chant, then a “Buck Foston” chant, and eventually some guy was brave enough to start the “F*** Boston” chant.

    The bar owners weren’t too happy, but what can they do? We were a bunch of pumped up Lakers fans! Can’t stop us!

    Check out the shirts as well though: http://www.BuckFostonShirt.com

    Lots of heads turn and lots of thumbs go up in your direction!!

  3. I want people to chant “Princess” at Pierce every time he falls down. Think that would be most appropriate, because he flops like Divac.

    Also, I am kind on perturbed at the commentary on how we won the game. A lot of analysts are crediting the Celtics for “not respecting” the Lakers, and thus, not coming out and playing as hard. From the game I saw, both teams played extremely hard until the Lakers got up by about 20. I also think commentating on the fouls – especially for Allen, is ludicrous. Yes they missed the call that gave him his fifth foul (happens I guess), but the Celtic gameplan from the beginning was to hack us and make the officials call the calls. When the calls start going against them all of a sudden its bad officiating? I don’t understand.
    Also, people have been crying foul the the Celtics didn’t “knock down” our players as they did in 2008. Might that have been because they weren’t in position to knock them down because they had to stay on their man.
    Push it down their throat Lakers, we want it MORE than them.

  4. Boston will get up from the ground, and they will have a brick in their hand.

    Best be ready.

    That said, if the Lakers play each game the way they played in Game 1 this series will go 5 games at most.

    Go Lakers.

  5. I am sure this was noted in the game thread, but J. Van Gundy mentioned “the Posey factor” and I mentioned it to a couple of people before G1 as well.

    While it is dangerous (and usually wrong) to ascribe the mindset of a team to that of its fanbase, I got the impression that the Celtics, like some of their fans, thought that the Lakers would back down once they saw the green uniforms; and that the Lakers, like many of their fans, are taking this series very personally and are going to play that way. G2, as noted above, will be a different story in terms of the Boston approach. The Celtics know now–and I would be willing to bet that Rivers said so when the team was alone–”This ain’t 2008 guys.” The Lakers need to be ready for that and keep executing.

    This was probably noted elsewhere as well, but I wanted to add: the Celtics have now played the Lakers four times when Bynum and Gasol have both been suited up. Boston has yet to break 90 points in any of those games.

  6. Did anyone see that moment in the fourth quarter (when the Celtics were in the middle of cutting the lead down) when Doris Burke decided to start interviewing Chris Rock (who was sitting right next to the Laker bench)?

    Phil came over and scolded both of them.

    I don’t blame him, to be honest.

    THIS IS THE NBA FREAKING FINALS. Who in their right mind would try to conduct an in-game interview with a guy sitting right next to the bench?

  7. Burgundy,
    The media has never been particularly sensitive, nor really intelligent when prancing around sports games. They are there to entertain us, not to watch or really pay much attention to the games. The celebrities just make their job obvious. They think they are the central attraction and the game is just the forum for their presentations. That’s why I call them ‘talking heads’.

  8. There are only two real changes from the 2008 team – Ron Artest and Andrew Bynum. Those two are the physical equalizers in this series. Boston can’t really change their spots (they aren’t that young and they aren’t that athletic, after all) so they are going to have to go with what brung them. The problem is the Lakers have two 1st teamers who directly address this aspect of their game.

    We need to stay the focus. If we do this then we really have the hammers to bludgeon the Cs.

  9. from all the comments here and other sites, it looks like that we have won the series. it is far from over. we just hold our serve, and would be in a very bad situation if we lost game 2.

  10. Palani,
    I agree. This is a war and is not won in the first battle.

  11. Okay, we won the first round. Now, we have to go at least three more, most likely four or five. Keep those glove up and those feet moving!

    @Burgundy
    The same media network that has been interviewing celebrities in the middle of the fourth quarter the entire season… it was annoying then and it’s annoying now. I’m glad Phil told them off, and I hope that if they try again, he’ll scold them for it again.

    We’re trying to watch the game here. Who cares about Chris Rock’s latest movie right now?

  12. I love how Philly-Faddle busted Chris Rock and that lady’s butts. The look on Chris Rock’s face cracked me up. Maybe next time he’ll have Mbenga remove them from the area.

  13. Funky Chicken June 4, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Robinred, well said. Like you, I commented before the series that this matchup was a vastly more favorable one for LA than in 2008. With the exception of Rondo, every Celtic starter is worse than the 2008 version, and their bench is worse (most notably, they lack a solid defender against Kobe who can space the floor on offense the way Posey did).

    By contrast, every Laker starter is better this time around, and the bench (with LO returning to his rightful place there) is much better than in 2008. As dominant as the Celtics were in 2008, the series went 6 games, and that only happened after the Lakers blew a 24 point lead at home in game 4. Add Bynum and Artest, a better Kobe, Pau & Fish, and a stronger bench, and the Lakers were clearly the favorites coming in.

    Boston will adjust, for sure, and will make it harder for the guards to penetrate. However, a little outside shooting will open things up for some dribble penetration, and when the Celtic bigs rotate over (they way they didn’t in game 1) you are going to see a lot of lobs to Gasol and Bynum.

    Lakers in 5.

  14. actually a lot of the comments have pointed out that it’s only one game. i thought robinred’s observation was pretty interesting (90 points). Granted, there’s a big difference between regular season play vs now, but it certainly backs up his point about bynum and gasol. Very happy with bynum’s grit playing through injury – and gasol’s play. i hope they can play harder game 2 – that will be a war! the celtics will need someone off the bench to help them out, and i would not be surprised it rasheed’s defense and post up play are heavily involved sunday.

  15. Great points by robinred re Pau and Drew playing together. That stat works in our favor, as well as my other favorite stat (LA’s record with Kobe on Rondo).

    2. At the bar I was at last night (Sagebrush Cantina), there were Buck Foston t-shirts everywhere. It’s a beautiful thing :D

    Also, everyone should read Evan’s comment #54 from the previous thread (or Evan should bring it over himself). Some great points made.

  16. 6) “THIS IS THE NBA FREAKING FINALS. Who in their right mind would try to conduct an in-game interview with a guy sitting right next to the bench?

    Yeah, and who in their right mind would schedule two off days between games, especially when there is no travel involved?!

  17. At the beginning of the year, Darius or someone wrote a piece comparing the Lakers to the tv show “Mad Men,” and I posted that I wished that he had compared them to the “Sons of Anarchy.” Well last night they were the Sons of Anarchy.

    “Show me the teeth, Kobe, show me the teeth”

    It means assert your will. This team is so talented, so versatile, they can play even better than last night. Bring it guys, bring it with every ounce of energy and strength. You don’t want any regrets when this series is over. These are the days of destiny.

  18. until now we only talked about the adjustments that the celitcs have to make for game 2. there is a lot of room for improvement for our guys too. i loved the energy and determination from all our players but there were certain situations that wont happen again (knowing phil).

    for instance: when lamar brought the ball up court, big baby started guarding him very, very early. lamar used his quickness once (baby fell on his back, and honestly, you cant blame him) to drive by him and get the easy layup, but at least three other times he passed the ball away instead of using this very, very good matchup for him.

    also, luke had some nice open looks he didnt attempt because he always tries to make the extra pass. boston knows that already, thats why they give him some space. im confident that luke can knock those mid-range jumpers down without a defender on him, and it will be interesting to see if he does in game 2.

    last but not least: i hope artest practices posting up sasha until the next game, because that would prepare him for the likely event of having ray allen on him at times

  19. Yeah, and who in their right mind would schedule two off days between games, especially when there is no travel involved?!

    ___

    I am sure you know this, but the schedule is based almost entirely on the wishes of the ABC TV network. The folks here and at Celtics Hub, etc, of course would watch these games if they were on at 3 AM Saturday in grainy black-and-white only. But “casual fans” as they are called, are far more likely to tune in on Sunday rather than Saturday, and Thursday is also a big TV night as well. That is why the teams tip off again on Tuesday even though everybody has to fly to Boston but they have 48 hours off in LA.

    Also, I have read a few places that the league also eliminated back-to-backs in part in an attempt to improve player health/quality of play. There is little question in my mind that the breaks in the schedule have helped both the Lakers and Celtics at times this year.

  20. The funniest moment of all last night was when the camera showed Chris Rock trying to joke with Kobe and Kobe didn’t even look at him, but just sat there with a scowl on his face. I laughed and laughed.

  21. 6) “THIS IS THE NBA FREAKING FINALS. Who in their right mind would try to conduct an in-game interview with a guy sitting right next to the bench?

    ABC and it’s parent companies were responsible. I’m guessing the reporter had no choice in the matter. That’s why the four “stars” of the move they were constantly running ads for just happened to be sitting court side.

    Considering how TV was key in the NBA becoming the force it is, TV tends to run the show.

  22. 20) robinred,
    I know – I was being sarcastic. It’s all about the TV dollars.

    I would actually like to see back-to-backs in the playoffs, because it provides a more thorough test of who the best team is.

  23. Robinred and ex helo

    The Finals schedule could remain T,TH,SU but start on T and have the travel day be the extra day between games 2-3 and 5-6.

    But the way it is sort of accomplishes exhelo’s desired back to back by playing without the extra day’s rest after traveling.

  24. That was the planned start day (Tuesday), except the two series lasted 6 games – making the turnaround too short for the most important series of them all (The Finals).

  25. Can’t wait for game 2 to start… But don’t expect for Boston to play the way they did last game. The Lakers must play even harder than they did and with more aggression, purpose and poise to match or even surpass that of the Celtics. If they go 2-0 coming out of LA, then I’m confident they will win in 5.

    Props for the whole team for playing as a “team” and never once losing purpose in whatever they were doing. Drew did a fantastic job, Farmar and Brown gave quality minutes and provided a spark that gave them a separation in the end of the first quarter. Ron’s back to back baskets lifted the team in the 2nd quarter and his job on Pierce we would never see in the stat sheet. Kobe kept hitting timely baskets the whole game. Fish was amazing defensively. Gasol did a good job containing Garnett and was still able to contribute on offense. Overall effort was amazing

    I hope this Laker team has still a lot of anger and focus to maintain such an effort in game 2. I hope they don’t feel that they have already slain the ghost of 2008.

    GO LAKERS!!!