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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