NBA Finals: Game 2 Preview & Chat

Darius Soriano —  June 6, 2010

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In every series up to the this point in these playoffs, the Lakers have been an excellent home team, not yet losing a game at the Staples center.  This evening, the Lakers look to keep that streak going as this game 2 will be just as pivotal to the outcome of this series as the win they claimed in game 1.  If the Lakers are able to go up 2-0 over the Celtics, Boston will be in the difficult situation of needing to win 4 of the next 5 games with their only home games coming in sequence over the next week.  And while recent teams (2004 Pistons, 2006 Heat) have been able to sweep those middle home games on their own court, it’s a task that few teams are up to as winning 3 games in a row against a Finals opponent is difficult (especially when the teams are evenly matched as this year’s Lakers and Celtics are).  All this is said to stress the importance that both teams are placing on this game and to emphasize that this is a must win game for Boston and that they’re going to play accordingly.  If you’re the Celtics, losing this game is not an option.

And that means the Lakers will also need to bring their best effort.  There is no comfort level in the Finals.  A 1-0 lead is nothing to be too excited over and as Kobe said in yesterday’s press conference, “we’re not thinking about game 1” – with the message being a clear one:  the Lakers need to approach this game fresh and bring the intensity and focus that they had in game one but with an in-the-moment emphasis tilted towards the task at hand.

And while we’ve been talking adjustments, there are still a couple of things that have yet to be explored.  After re-watching the Lakers’ game 1 win, there were a couple of things that became abundantly clear.  First and foremost was how reliant the Lakers were on the P&R to get good looks at the basket – especially Kobe.  The Lakers really used this action to disrupt the Celtics half court defense as Kobe did an excellent job of forcing the hedge man (usually Perkins) into staying with him and then working him off the dribble to get favorable angles to the rim or create open passing lanes to an open Gasol flashing to the FT line.  If the Celtics are to win this game, they’ll need to find an answer for the Lakers P&R, and this will be something I’ll be watching intently over the course of the game (and will have more on in the upcoming days).

Because the Lakers P&R really creates a domino effect for how they can build success in this game (and ultimately the series).  As was mentioned in the recap to game 1, the Lakers owned the rebounding battle, dominated the Celtics in second chance points, and had a huge advantage in points in the paint.  All of this was based off the Lakers dribble penetration off both P&R sets and standard isolation sets.  If the Lakers can continue to get into the lane tonight, it will force the Celtics bigs to help and that creates the angles for offensive rebounds, put backs, and renewed possessions that force the C’s to defend for extended periods (something that legs of any age would prefer to avoid – but is even more key for these older Celtics).  If the Lakers can continue to get these looks at the basket, they will win the game.  If the Celtics are able to successfully “shrink the floor” they’ll have a much better chance of slowing this attack and making the Lakers go to plan B.

But these are all actions that will play out over the course of the game.  For now, they’re just X’s and O’s that are drawn up on a grease board or envisioned in the coach’s heads.  It really will be on the players to come out and execute them and put the ideas into action.

But if the Lakers are to take the 2-0 series lead that they seek, it won’t be just about the plays that are diagrammed, it will be about the effort and response to the increased intensity that Boston will bring.  Understand that since that game 1 defeat on Thursday, the Celtics have been bombarded with claims of being old, soft, and plain outworked.  They’ll surely be looking to respond to all the critics with a performance that will turn the tables on those perceptions and bring the series back to Boston even.  And if the Lakers are to avoid that scenario, they’ll have to not only match the Celtics, they’ll need to outwork them again.  They’ll need to be even tougher while still maintaining their smarts and focus.  The Lakers know what is in front of them.  The past two seasons have prepared them for this moment.  The time is now to claim what they think is theirs and go and get it.  Game 2 can’t come soon enough.

Darius Soriano

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