Archives For Finals 2010

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This is the first post from long time reader Jeff Skibiski. Like the rest of us, Jeff bleeds forum blue and gold, and will be contributing more often here at FB&G. Jeff and I were exchanging emails last week and he said he’d be interested in putting together a post on Derek Fisher. And then last night happened – Jeff has good timing. So, join me in welcoming Jeff to FB&G and enjoy his first post.

Despite being treated like a dying dog all season long by fans and critics far and wide, Derek Fisher once again came through when it mattered most for his team in Game 3, proving that there is still plenty of bark – and a whole lot of bite – left in his 35 year-old body.

With Kobe unable to connect and the entire offense seemingly out of whack after a second half comeback by Boston, Derek almost single-handedly willed the Lakers to a pivotal Game 3 victory, scoring 11 fourth quarter points that doubled as giant exclamation points in an otherwise subpar season for the savvy veteran.

“He won the game for them,” said Doc Rivers. “Derek Fisher was the difference in the game. He’s just a gutty, gritty player and he gutted the game out for them. I thought Kobe was struggling a little bit, and Fisher – he basically took the game over.”

Just like a slow building crescendo, Fisher’s Game 3 performance turned what was previously an unglamorous, but quietly very productive postseason – scoring almost 11 points a game and connecting on more than 44% of his field goals – into the latest entry on his greatest hits tour. Somewhere between the end of the season and Round 1 against  Oklahoma City, he found his shot again, even if it has been overlooked until now thanks to more flashy plot lines like Kobe’s 30-plus points streak, Pau’s last-second put-back against the Thunder and Artest’s instant redemption buzzer beater against the Suns. When it seemed like the majority of Lakers Nation was panicking about the state of the starting point guard slot for much of the season, Fisher maintained his composure.

“Sorry, I’m getting a little emotional,” explained Fisher, fighting back tears while being interviewed after the game. “We work hard in this game and sometimes things don’t go your way. I love this game, I love this team, I love this guy (Kobe) and I love what I do. Nothing means more to me than helping my team win.”

No apologies necessary, Derek. Not after two consecutive Finals where he has proven himself as a key difference-maker – lest we forget it was only last year when his three-point daggers deflated an upstart Orlando team in Game 4. And definitely not after 13-plus years of exemplifying the selfless, service-oriented work ethic that defines the everyday lives of many Lakers fans.

After Tuesday night’s game, Kobe said this was just another case of “Derek being Derek. He makes big plays all the time and it never ceases to amaze me.”

While Kobe trusts Fisher implicitly, it isn’t difficult to understand why many fans and critics were down on Derek after a career-worst season in which his field goal percentage dropped to only 38%, while his shooting from beyond the arc dipped to 35%. With those types of numbers and several big nights from opposing teams’ younger, faster point guards, it made perfect sense when Kirk Hinrich’s name surfaced prior to the February trade deadline. Even though most fans pleaded with Jerry Buss to go even deeper into luxury tax territory to accommodate the Bulls point guard, the organization opted to stay with their longtime trusted gun.

Once again, Fish has somehow managed to leave his indelible stamp on another title run, making Mitch Kupchak and Co. look like geniuses for the time being and calling into question the historical significance of his accomplishments. No disrespect to the timeless efforts of fellow role players such as Robert Horry and Byron Scott, but there is something to be said about Derek’s longevity with the team and his uncanny ability to step up in big moments with such incredible frequency. I think it’s easy to be overshadowed when you share the backcourt with one of the greatest players of all-time, but Fisher’s playoff dramatics should at least put him in the conversation of greatest role players in franchise history, if not the entire NBA.

Heading into free agency, it is hard to imagine next year’s Lakers team without him, even if in a reduced capacity. Critics point to his faults – often streaky shooting, slow-footed defense, forced layups – as reasons for letting him walk off into the sunset, but Game 3 should serve as a reminder that he is just as vital to this team as any player not wearing #24 on their jersey. Finding a player who can make shots in quarters one to three isn’t too difficult, but players who can look pressure in the eye and make tough shots, take charges and make hustle plays when it matters most don’t exactly grow on trees.

With the battle against Boston certain to intensify as the series moves forward, there is no player I’d rather be in a bunker with than Fish. After all, there is a reason why Kobe chooses to put his unconditional faith in Fisher as he does no other player; he earned that level of trust years ago. This latest clutch performance leaves no doubt that this old dog still has a few rings to win before he trades in his Lakers tag.

– Jeff Skibiski

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After last night’s win and Phillips superb recap, there’s still a few more things I wanted to touch on.  Obviously the story of last night was Fisher (and we’ll have more on him this afternoon) but after games like that, there’s always more to say right? (Or maybe we just don’t want the moment to end.  Either way, here you go…)

*Hero mode.  Shot selection.  Offensive balance.  Ten for twenty-nine.  These are phrases that you’re sure to read when people disect Kobe Bryant’s game 3 performance.  And, to a certain extent, it’s fair.  Kobe took some questionable shots last night (the one that stood out to me above all others was his PUJIT 3 pointer when Pierce – who just picked up his 4th foul – picked him up with Kobe having the ability to take it to him off the dribble and maybe draw his 5th foul, but instead settled for the long jumper).  However, Kobe was still pretty damned good last night.  It’s always easy to point at a player’s efficiency on offense, see a bad night and then say the player didn’t play well.  However, when you examine the rest of Kobe’s stat line, you see 8-8 from the foul line, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 3 blocks, and only 1 turnover in 44 minutes (which, is pretty impressive considering how often Kobe had the ball in his hands).  He was also a +10 last night (third on the team to LO’s +14 and Luke’s +13).  Yes, Kobe took some tough (and sometimes ill advised) shots.  However, I thought at least 5 or 6 of his FGA’s were taken late in the clock where everything had broken down (credit Boston’s D) and Kobe was put in a position of being the last guy with the ball.  Overall though, I thought Kobe played a strong all around game and even though his personal offensive efficiency wasn’t strong, I thought his presence made a difference.  Whenever he was on the court the team just seemed better off (whether it was because of the attention he was drawing or all the other little things he was doing to help the team).  Anyways, this was just a long way of saying, I think piling on Kobe for his game 3 performance is off base.

*I mentioned Walton’s +13 on the night and while that stat can sometimes be misleading, last night it wasn’t.  After Artest picked up two early fouls, Phil called Luke’s number and he responded with some very good play on both sides of the ball.  Offensively, I thought he did a really good job of helping the Lakers to settle down at a time of the game where they seemed off kilter and sloppy.  Me made the right reads with the ball, didn’t force anything, and was always in the right place.  He even hit a step back 20 footer right before the shot clock expired on his first shot attempt.  But, where Luke really impressed me was with his defense.  He’s not tenacious and dogged defender that Artest is, but Luke worked hard and executed the game plan against Pierce to help limit him while Ron was on the pine.  He played good position D and used his strength to battle him for position and deny him the spots he wanted on the floor.  Luke’s never going to be a “great” defender, but he’s better than given credit for – especially against guys like Pierce (who aren’t exceptionally quick and who rely on stength and savvy to get off shots rather than quickness and explosiveness).  I actually thought that when the C’s went small in the 3rd quarter (with Pierce out and with Tony Allen in) and the Lakers offense was stagnant, Luke should have gotten more time over a relatively ineffective Shannon Brown.  But Phil went with the more athletic WOW to match up better.  Overall though, I think Luke did a very good job in his 13 minutes.

*One key stat that I usually like to look at in road games is FT%.  When on the road, FT’s matter so much as they’re a way to get those easy points that can stop runs and quiet down the crowd.  They slow the game down and have a way of draining momentum from the home team.  At times these playoffs the Lakers haven’t shot their FT’s well on the road.  Last night was not one of those times.  In a game the Lakers won by 7 points, they made 21 of 24 from the line.  They calmly went to the stripe and knocked down their freebies and, to these eyes, those points were one of the big differences in this game.  And when you consider that the C’s got the same number of attempts (24) but only made 16, that’s a 5 point swing in a 7 point game.

*The other key stat was, obviously, rebounding.  The winning team has now won the rebounding battle in every single game.  It’s only been three games, but I’m convinced this is not a coincidence.  The Lakers were much better containing Rondo’s rebound chances and limited the C’s to only 8 offensive rebounds while grabbing 11 of their own. 

*At this point, I do not have any hard information on Bynum’s knee (UPDATE: Via the Lakers Twitter account, Bynum says that his knee was swollen after the game but that it’s returned to normal.  He’ll have another treatment today. It looks like he’ll be ready to go tomorrow).  We all saw him limp off the court last night after he seemingly had another flare up with his bad wheel.  However, I think it’s fair to say that if he was really hurt, he would not have come back into the game in the 4th (and play well in that short stint).  As an aside, last night was a tough night for Phil to decide what his big man rotation was going to be.  Bynum was obviously helping the Lakers’ interior defense and the rebounding.  But Odom was having a pretty good game as well and his presence on the floor gives the Lakers a different dynamic with his ability to initiate the offense, put Pau at the post, and move Kobe from a guard spot to the wing.  If LO wasn’t playing well, I have a feeling we would have seen more of ‘Drew down the stretch.  I also think that even if ‘Drew is a bit more limited, nothing is going to keep him out of these games.  The Lakers are too close and he seems intent on gutting it out.

*Lastly, there were many times last night where it looked like the C’s were going to push through and get over the hump.  But the Lakers continued to answer and make the plays they needed to fend off the home team.  Those are the plays that championship teams have to make and last night the Lakers were able to do just that.  I don’t think enough can be said about the Lakers’ resolve in the face of an inspired home team and its crowd.  The Lakers (and Fish especially) were rocks when they needed it most.  What a night.

UPDATE #2.  Just saw this spot and had to share.  Fish was the closer last night, but we all know that Kobe is the league’s preeminent closer right now.  Or should I kloser?

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (L) congratulates guard Derek Fisher in the fourth quarter during Game 3 of the 2010 NBA Finals basketball series against the Boston Celtics in Boston, Massachusetts June 8, 2010. REUTERS/Adam Hunger (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Going into the fourth quarter, the Lakers only held a six point lead, a far cry from the 17-point lead that the Lakers held earlier in the game. With their new found momentum, the Celtics opened up the fourth with two Glen Davis layups followed by a Rajon Rondo lay up, cutting the Laker lead down to one.

With 8:56, the Lakers savvy veteran got to the rim to stop the bleeding. His layup pushed the lead back to three points. After a Kevin Garnett jumper and a Davis free throw, he went to work again, hitting a barrage of jumpers and leaners in the paint.

6:20 – 12 footer in the lane after creating space from Ray Allen
5:33 – 19 foot jumper to extend the lead to six points
4:33 – 15 footer following two straight Glen Davis buckets

We’ve become accustomed to scoring barrages like this since 1996. Kobe Bryant has always had the ability to light up the box score in short periods of time. Eight points in just over four minutes isn’t something we haven’t seen before – but this time it wasn’t from Kobe. It was Derek Fisher who almost single handedly kept the Lakers alive with the Celtics threatening to retake their first lead since just under five minutes left in the first quarter. And it would be Fisher who would ice the game. With just under a minute left to play, Fish grabbed a defensive rebound, pushed the ball and scored while getting fouled. His free throw moved the lead to seven and completely out of reach for the Celtics.

It’s always great to see a guy like Derek Fisher come through in the clutch. 11 points in the fourth quarter, closing the game for the Lakers much like his draft mate Kobe has done countless times over the years. It’s the ability to close games that gets you championships – the Glengarry Glen Ross principle as I like to call it:

To win championships, you have to know your ABCs. You have to Always Be Closing. In Game 2, the Lakers were given the conjectural Glengarry leads (a three-point lead with about five minutes left to play) and they couldn’t close the door. The leads were thrown away, allowing the Celtics to close and go back to Boston with home court advantage. Game 3, the opposite happened. The Celtics put them in a position to take another win from the Lakers and Derek Fisher came through for the Lakers despite the poor shooting from Kobe and huge game from Kevin Garnett. To further the GGR analogy, Game 3 can be broken down into four categories: AIDA (Attention, Interest, Decision and Action).

Attention: The Lakers really paid more attention to detail in Game 3, especially on the defensive end of the floor. I thought the Lakers did a fantastic job on Ray Allen. The Laker bigs were showing on screens, not allowing Allen to get off uncontested jumpers. They packed the paint when Paul Pierce had the ball, not allowing him to get going. He made three 3-pointers, but you can live with that when he isn’t able to get to the rim or knock down that shot he loves to take at the elbow. Keeping Pierce on the perimeter also meant keeping him off of the free throw line. Rajon Rondo didn’t come anywhere near 10 rebounds this game and was held to 11 points. Kevin Garnett finally got going scoring 25, but he was making a lot of tough, contested shots. I can live with that if the Celtics, especially since the rest of the Celtics only scored 59 points.

Interest: One of the things about Lamar Odom is, on nights where he’s not playing well, he looks disinterested. Tonight was not one of those games. Odom came in right away and created a good look for Pau Gasol which led to two free throws. 12 points and five rebounds are a far cry from his most productive game of the season, but it was a huge improvement from his first two games. I also thought he made one of the biggest plays of the game that won’t be found on the box score. With about 1:45 left to play, Pau Gasol and Kobe had to switch on a Rondo-Garnett screen and roll. Kobe was on the block guarding a hot Kevin Garnett (he had just made two straight shots on Gasol) one-on-one. Lamar Odom rotated over from the right block to double-team Garnett, which ended in a Garnett turnover. (You also have to give some credit to Ron Artest for rotating down to a wide open Glen Davis, who was having a great quarter at that point, also. Garnett saw him as Artest rotated down, if not for Odom and Artest, the lead is cut to two, and the Fish three point play probably doesn’t happen.)

Decision: The Lakers offense in the first half was much improved from what it was in Game 2. The ball was constantly moving, guys were moving without the ball, and most importantly, they were making quick decisions. For much of Game 2, I wondered what happened to the crisp passing and quick, smart decisions that gave the Lakers the Game 1 win. Well, those offensive principles came back for Game 3. There were very few possessions in the first half where the ball was held for too long, there wasn’t any over dribbling and the Lakers were attacking the rim which gave them the 12 point edge going into the half. Those principles disappeared in the third quarter, allowing the Celtics to come roaring back into the game. The Lakers decisiveness is going to be key in Game 4.

Action: Action is simply the state of doing, and the Lakers had loads of action in Game 3. They were active on the boards (43 to 35 advantage), they were active defensively and they were active when their collective backs were against the wall. Before the game, I talked with a friend about how I’d like to see the Lakers win a tough one in Game 3. There is nothing that puts more confidence in a group of guys winning a tough playoff game on the road – especially when it’s the NBA Finals in the Boston Garden. The Lakers acted upon the Celtics initial run by closing out the 1st quarter on a 21 to five run. After a big lead, the Celtics made it much closer than it should have been, but he Lakers fought through the adversary and closed the game on an 8-2 run.

The Lakers are now in a great position as far as this series is concerned, but it’s not over. There are still two more games to be won before they can put up their 16th banner, but knowing that they’re only two games away from the title because of Derek Fisher’s clutch play down the stretch is a great feeling. Game 4 is on Thursday.

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No excess delays.  No having to sit and second guess a loss.  The Lakers are right back in it tonight in Boston and that’s exactly how all parties would want it.  After a long flight yesterday morning, both teams must now be ready to play the most important game in the series.  Because the winner tonight will have a distinct upper hand in this series.  Nothing that can’t be overcome by the losing team, but tonight’s winner will have a series lead and the momentum going into Thursday’s make or break game 4.  And while Boston should feel confident tonight, the Lakers should feel pretty good too.  Because as we saw in yesterday’s break down of the final 5 minutes, the Lakers had their lead going into the home stretch.  Yes their execution failed them, but that’s what the game tape is for – to get those things right the next time around.  Tonight is their chance.

And speaking of tape, Phillip put together some videos for us on the Lakers’ P&R attack that I think will be useful for game 3.  Even though I said that the Lakers should be less reliant on “plays” and more reliant on their base Triangle offense, the Lakers are not going to stop running the P&R completely (and I’ll have suggestions on some ways that I can work better later on).  So, let’s look at the film and see what worked in game 1 and how Boston countered in game 2.

In this first video we see how the Lakers need to run the P&R if it’s to be successful.  Look at how Kobe feints going to his right hand before setting up the screen.  Look at the depth that Ron got in the corner to create the spacing that allowed Kobe to attack Perkins in space.  And then recognize the brilliance of Kobe’s hesitation dribble to set up that sneaky lay in.

In this second video, we see how the success of earlier P&R’s allowed Jordan Farmar to successfully go away from the screen that was being set.  As you can see, Michael Finley’s head is on a swivel anticipating the screen and Farmar was able to explode by him and get to the rim before any help could arrive.  The screen also pulled out the second big man in hedge position that eliminated the second help defender.  Granted, the success of this play was much more of an individual effort than Kobe’s previous play.  But in the end, it was all set up by the threat of the P&R.

However, that success was missing in game 2.  In this video see how the spacing is off and it allows Rondo to play both in a position to help on Kobe while still being close enough to recover to Fisher.  After that initial screen action didn’t work, I would have liked to have seen Kobe pull the ball back out and either run the action again or (even better) pass to the corner so Gasol could get a touch and either shoot his jumper or make another pass as the Triangles back side motions went into effect.

In this last P&R, you see the individual excellence of Kobe get a bucket.  But what you also see is a botched P&R with bad timing, a poor angle on the screen, and a lazy roll by Bynum that allows KG to cover both the roll man and then stick to Gasol who flashed too early.  All in all, two points on a bad play.  (On a side note, did you hear JVG saying that the NBA should get Steve Javie a “segue” to officiate the games? That made me laugh.  Javie is one of the best.  Get well soon.)

Why am I showing these plays when I’m asking for more Triangle?  Because even though these actions should be relied on less in game 3, it’s still an important play for the Lakers success.  If the Lakers are going to run the P&R, they have to do three things: 1). Get a better screen. 2). Space the floor in the direction that you plan to run the action. 3). Have better timing on the flash from the weak side and combine that with a harder dive from the roll man.  If the Lakers do these things, they’ll have better success.  If they don’t, the C’s will gum up the middle and the entire action will be disorganized.

But I also wanted to share the video’s because they show the difference in execution by both teams from game 1 to game 2.  In game 1, the Lakers execution, spacing, and attention to detail was just better.  In game 2, Boston was the team that could hang their hat on their doing of the little things.  And in game three, the winner will be able to say the same thing.

So tonight, what I’m looking for is better ball movement and more decisiveness from the players.  In video three you saw how Kobe didn’t have much going for him off the dribble but still forced the shot.  It’s on those types of plays that, in this game, the Lakers need to make the extra pass, go set a hard screen, and then create a look for a teammate.

And speaking of screens and getting shots for teammates, the Lakers are going to need a better defensive effort in game 3 against Ray Allen and the C’s screen actions.  In a fantastic post over at NBA Playbook, Sebastian Pruiti put together some excellent footage on how a hot Ray Allen can affect the entire defense beyond the points put up on the scoreboard after a make.  So, the key tonight is to give him less catches and not allow him to operate in his comfort zone as often as he did in game 2.  After game 2, Kobe was asked how you stop Ray Allen when he’s got it going the way that he did and he simply said that “you can’t let him touch the ball”.  When prodded about what you have to do after he catches the ball, Kobe reiterated the fact that you have to deny him his catches.  Now, we all know that Ray’s going to get the ball – denying him is going to be extremely difficult “if the Celtic big men are going to get away with all those moving picks away from the ball.” as Henry over at TrueHoop said last night.

So, as Henry also said, the Lakers must make adjustments on how they play those actions.  I think they can do this by showing out harder with big men to disrupt the passing angle, locking and trailing with the man that’s guarding Allen, and also by rotating behind the helper so he sees the 2nd and third defender when puts the ball on the floor.  Remember, when the Celtics have any combination of Rondo, Tony Allen, Perkins, or (to a lesser extent) Big Baby on the floor, they’re playing a non-shooter that is more of a defender and hustle player.  Those guys must be made into scorers while the other players are made into passers and spectators.  This will be easier said than done – especially with a player as mindful of being a creator of offense as Rondo – but the Lakers need to turn this game on it’s head in some way and it starts with playing this particular action better.

I’m also looking for the things that we’ve been asking for all series: discipline on both sides of the ball, remembering the keys to transition defense (marking shooters that run to the 3 point line; turning the ball handler; being aware of who’s running and what their tendencies are), and an assertiveness on both backboards.  In the comments (and by Phillip) it’s been repeatedly noted that this is a series where many of the stats can be ignored in the boxscore except for total rebounds.  If the Lakers can win the battle of the boards, they’ll be in good shape tonight.

And here we are.  As mentioned at the beginning, this a big game.  But, I want to also say that this is why we follow sports – for moments just like these.  We’ve always talked about enjoying the journey and it’s moments like these that should be the most fun.  Yes it’s panic inducing and surely the emotions run high, but I can’t say there’s anything I’d rather be doing tonight than watching these two great teams battle it out for the the lead in these Finals.  Here’s to a Lakers victory.  Let’s go get it.

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Coming into the 4th quarter of game 2, the Lakers and the Celtics were all knotted up at 72 and it would be the team that executed best in that final frame that would win the game.  As we all know, that team wasn’t the Lakers.  But rather than going through all the plays of those determining 12 minutes, I’ve decided to only focus on the final 5 minutes and change where the Lakers were still very much in the game and actually leading after Kobe Bryant made a baseline jumper from about 17 feet.  And that’s where we pick up the action.  At this point in the game, the Lakers are leading 90-87 and there is 5:21 left in the contest.  (Please note that the Lakers score will always appear first.) 

5:21; 90-87 – Rondo walks the ball up and deliberately sets up the Celtics offense.  He calls out the play which is a P&R between he and KG.  At this point, Kobe plays off Rondo in his customary style and is set up about 5 feet off Rondo right around the FT line.  As KG comes to set the screen, Kobe goes under the screen, but as Rondo dribbles to his right he changes directions to his left hand, KG changes his angle and resets the screen on a buried Kobe, and Rondo gets all the way to the basket for an easy lay up.  This is one of the real dangers of playing off Rondo.  Kobe is determined to go under the screen, but the pick is set right around the FT line.  At this point, if Pau can’t hedge (which at this point is difficult due to Rondo’s change of direction and KG’s movement) Rondo has free path to the rim from only 12 feet out.  That’s too easy as one dribble gets him right to the rim.

4:45; 90-89 – The Lakers push the ball up court in an attempt to set up their offense quickly.  The seem intent on getting the ball into the post with Bynum setting up on the left block and Fisher looking to make the entry pass.  However, the Lakers waste a lot of time swinging the ball around the perimeter with little purpose or intent.  Finally the ball gets back to Bynum’s side with another look to ‘Drew on the block.  After the ball finally gets into the post (with only 7 seconds left on the shot clock) the weak side exchange between Fisher (cutting to clear the side) and Ron brings Artest back to the top of the key.  Bynum, looking to not force a shot, passes to Ron who’s now circling to his left towards ‘Drew.  And in an attempt to free Ron up, Bynum sets an illegal pick on the defender trying to contest the shot after the pass is delvered.  Turnvover #1 in the last 5 minutes of the game.

4:17; 90-89 – Boston initiates their sets looking to get Ray Allen a good look coming off a screen (sound familiar?).  Ray circles the court, runs Fisher off multiple screens, and finally makes a catch off a pin down has he curls towards the top of the key on the extended right wing.  After making the catch, Bynum leaves Perkins (the screener), steps out to contest Allen’s jumper and forces the (airball) miss.  This is probably the best recognition and show out by a Lakers big all game on an Allen jumper.  Good defense by all.

3:54; 90-89 – The Lakers bring the ball up, pass the ball around the perimeter, and then set up Kobe at the top of the key looking to allow him to create a shot for himself or a teammate.  After Bynum comes to set a screen, Kobe waves him off, and then proceeds to work in isolation against Ray Allen. Kobe drives to his left hand, spins into the lane, and fires up a flick jumper from 12 feet that misses.  This is a play that Kobe’s made a thousand times in his career to mixed results.  It’s neither a good nor bad look, but it’s ultimately an ineffective miss.  This is the exact type of play that has fans cursing when it’s a miss and out of their chair when it’s make.  These are the shots we live with when it’s Kobe on our team as his ability to make theses shots is what makes him special.  But when they miss, the possession often seems wasted.

3:41; still 90-89 – The Celtics push the ball up and set up a play for Paul Pierce in isolation against the defense of Artest.  After getting a rub screen at the FT line extended, Pierce makes his move to the middle of the floor and draws a non shooting foul on Artest – side out of bounds.  On the subsequent possesion, the Celtics go back to Pierce in isolation against Ron, this time on the right wing.  After forcing Pierce to back dribble to the top of the key, Pierce makes his move with the dribble to his right, spins, and falls down – foul called on Artest (which is questionable, at best).  That’s fouls #4 and #5 against Artest on a single trip down the floor.  On the subsequent inbounds, the C’s go back to Pierce again, who dishes to KG on the left wing, who then hits a cutting Perkins for a point blank attempt at the basket that Gasol blocks.  However, after blocking the shot, Pau tips the ball towards the wing where Rondo scoops up the ball, makes a move to the basket, and finishes at the rim.  I think this was just a miscommunication between Pau and Kobe.  It looked like Pau thought Kobe (who was right next to him when the shot was blocked) was going to grab that ball after the tip.  Instead, Kobe was flat footed and Rondo grabbed the ball and got the deuce.  If you’re counting at home, on that single possession the C’s drew two fouls, got an offensive rebound, and then scored a bucket to take the lead.  It would be a lead they wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the game.

3:12, 90-91 – After bringing the ball up the court, the Lakers look to post up Gasol on the right wing.  While jockeying for position, KG fouls Pau (his 5th foul)- side out of bounds.  After the inbounds, the Lakers again look to post up Pau – this time on the left block.  However, KG does a good job of forcing Pau off the block so he’s actually near the FT on the extended wing (a place that Kobe often posts up, but not a great place for Pau to make a catch).  Artest tries a bounce pass into the post but skips it out of bounds.  This is a classic case of not having good spacing nor a good angle to make a post entry.  Ron was above the FT line and Pau was digging in only a few feet away for a catch.  If Ron drops down to create a better angle and then looks for Pau to fight KG to do the same, he’s likely successful with his pass.  Instead, it’s turnover #2 in the last 5 minutes of the game.

2:47, 90-91 – The C’s initiate their offense by running a double screen action for Rondo.  First Pierce sets a screen on Kobe forcing the switch to put Artest on Rondo.  Then, they run a P&R between Rondo and KG which forces another switch that puts Artest on KG in the post and Gasol on Rondo.  After the post entry, KG backs down Ron to about 8 feet out and hits a turnaround jumper.  This was just good offense by Boston.  They forced the switches that they wanted and got KG and easy jumper in the lane over a shorter defender.

2:25, 90-93 – The Lakers set up their offense for another Kobe isolation this time from the right wing.  After jab stepping, Kobe goes hard to the middle of the court, sees the help, and then passes to a wide open Artest in the corner.  But instead of shooting, Ron passes to Fisher who is a good 3 feet behind the three point line.  Fisher ball fakes on a closing out Rondo, hesitates and then elevates to shoot a jumper.  But Rondo recovers and comes from behind to block the shot.  On this play I really don’t blame Fisher, but rather look to Artest for being at fault.  When Kobe hit him with the cross court pass it should have been a catch and shoot situation.  Instead he hesitated and passed to a player that was in a worse position to get a shot off.  What should have been a good look from the corner becomes a turnover that Boston takes the other way on a fast break.  Luckily, Kobe races back to contest the shot and forces a Ray Allen miss on his lay up attempt (avoiding his 6th foul in the process).  But after making the defensive play, Kobe can’t secure the rebound and knocks the ball out of bounds.  Celtics ball. BTW, that was turnover #3 in the last 5 minutes of the game.

2:07, 90-93 – The Celtics inbound, run a screen for Allen who misses a jumpshot from the left elbow.  On the rebound, both Pau Gasol and KG go for the rebound and the ball gets knocked out of bounds.  So you know, at that moment Mike Breen said “out of bounds off the Celtics. Oh! They say it’s off the Lakers!”.  At this point I have nothing to add beyond what’s already been said.  I thought the ball was off of KG, the refs thought different.  Play on.  On the ensuing inbounds, the Lakers play good defense on the screen action that the C’s run for Ray Allen by showing out hard with Pau and having him chase Ray off the three point line.  When Kobe slides over to help on the penetration, he passes to Rondo who steps into an 18 foot jumper that he just buries.  Ouch.  Say whatever you want about the refs call on the out of bounds, but Rondo making that jumper is what hurt the most.  He’s not a shooter but was on that possession.

1:45, 90-95 – Kobe brings the ball up quickly looking to waste as little time as possible.  He passes to Fisher and then cuts on an angle to the left block.  Fisher passes to Ron who looks to Kobe briefly in the post, sees that he’s fronted and then passes back to Fisher.  Ron proceeds to set a down screen for Kobe who pops to the extended wing, receives a pass and fires a looong three pointer that misses.  In my eyes, this is a decent look and a decent shot, but one that probably wasn’t needed on that possession.  At this point, down 5, I think you still have enough time to look into the post for Gasol.  Remember, KG has 5 fouls and Pau has had an excellent night.  Why not go into him and look for him to create a basket?  Instead, Kobe takes a shot we’ve seen him make many times before, but usually when there’s less time on the clock or the score is more desperate.  If that goes in, the Lakers are gravy.  Instead, they’re now severely behind the 8 ball.

1:42, 90-95 – On the ensuing rebound to Kobe’s miss, the Celtics take their time getting the ball upcourt and Doc Rivers calls a brilliant time out to set up an inbounds play to get the ball past half court to avoid an 8 second violation.  On that inbounds, the Celtics run a great play, get the ball inbounds, break the Lakers pressure (as two players rotate to Allen trying to get a steal), and the end up with a KG to Perkins pass that nets a lay up.  Needless to say, this was a huge sequence.  On one end, Kobe takes what can be considered an ill advised shot, the C’s then avoid a turnover from an 8 second violation, and on the ensuing play they get a lay up to go up by 7.  This game is now nearly entirely slipped away.

1:35, 90-97 – On the next play, Kobe tries to get a quick basket by racing up the floor and driving into traffic for an interior shot.  He’s halfway looking to get the basket and halfway looking for the foul and gets neither.  On the ensuing rebound, Pau fouls Perkins.  Perkins makes 1 of his 2 foul shots to put the C’s up by 8.  And that, ladies and gentlemen is essentially your ball game.  The Lakers may have the ball, but there’s no coming back from this deficit without a miracle.

1:12, 90-98 – Now for the tragic comedy portion of our show.  With the Lakers down 8 the ball gets inbounded to Artest who brings the ball up the right sideline.  Obviously looking to get Kobe the ball, Ron dribbles, dribbles, and dribbles some more all while looking at Kobe (who is semi open for a good 4 seconds after breaking free from Ray Allen’s denial).  When Ron finally decides that Kobe isn’t open enough to pass to (which, to any observer isn’t true as Kobe is open enough), Ron calls for a Bynum pick, dribbles off of it into the lane to his left hand, doesn’t shoot and instead goes all the way back out to the 3 point line while keeping his dribble alive.  Then Ron picks up his dribble, shot fakes, and does an up and under jumpshot from 21 feet that misses badly.  Without over exaggerating, this is one of the strangest plays I’ve ever seen in my life.  I’m essentially stunned with this play even when watching it on replay a day later.  The Lakers do grab the miss though, and ultimately hit Kobe with the pass ( the one he should have gotten 3o seconds earlier) and he promptly buries a three pointer.

:52, 93-98 – On the ensuing inbounds the Lakers scramble defensively, force a bad pass to a streaking Ray Allen up the court who then tries to save the ball with a cross court pass to Rondo and Ron Artest gets whistled for a call that no one seems to be able to see (aside from the ref that made the call).  Ron fouls out on the play.  This play, while a desperation one and could have been the miracle play that the Lakers were looking for just didn’t go their way.  I wish I had more to say on this, but even on replay it’s difficult to see what actually happened as the camera was trailing the action.  All I can really say is that the Lakers really could have used that steal but didn’t get it as the whistle blew right before Fisher was closing on the ball free-safety style.  After the foul, Rondo makes 1 of 2 FT’s to put the C’s back up by 6.

:39, 93-99 – On this inbound, the Lakers again race the ball up court looking to make a quick shot that will cut into their deficit.  Kobe dribbles to his left hand and Rondo (a bit beat on the play) reaches around Kobe’s back and tips the ball away.  Turnover #3 4 in the last 5 minutes of the game.  Upon review, this looks like a clean play and one where Rondo uses his great hand speed and length to tip a ball away.  It’s plays like these that placed Rondo on the All Defensive 1st Team.  On the ensuing C’s possession, Rondo gets fouled and again makes 1 of 2 from the FT line.  Time out, Lakers.

In the final 30 seconds of this game, the Lakers try two more desperation three pointers (one from Kobe, one from Pau) the Celtics secure defensive rebounds, get fouled, and make some FT’s to ice the game.  The end.

In conclusion, the Lakers suffered from some questionable calls BUT did themselves no favors with their clock management, shot selection, and most of all their sloppy play that resulted in turnovers.  All in all, after making that baseline jumper with 5:21 left in the game, Kobe took 5 shots and made 1 (the three pointer after the offensive rebound on Ron’s circus possession).  The Lakers had 3 4 turnovers including two when they tried to go into the post (offensive foul on Bynum with his illegal screen and the bad pass from Artest to Pau where the spacing and angle was bad).  Gasol took 1 shot (the desperation 3) and Bynum didn’t have a single FGA.  If you just read this paragraph you understand fully why the Lakers lost this game.  They played poorly in the closing minutes and the Celtics took advantage of every mistake made to either get a basket or draw a foul.  We’ve discussed this some already today, but in game 3 the Lakers must get back to basics and execute their sets with discipline and precision.  On defense, they must find a way to combat the screen actions the C’s use to free Allen while also limiting the baskets the C’s get in transition and early offense.  We’ll see tomorrow if they’re up to the task.

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In Sunday night’s game 2, you saw one team get back to the fundamentals of their style of play – the Celtics.  Their defensive game plan led to cut off passing angles, which forced ball handlers to extend their dribble, which led to too many forced jumpers that ultimately missed.  And then the Celtics took those misses the other direction and used their transition game and semi-fast break to get themselves good looks at the basket and behind the arc and 103 points in a winning effort.  This has been the Celtics winning formula for three seasons now; they got back to basics and it led to a victory.

Now, it’s the Lakers turn to do the same thing.  They too must get back to playing their game and executing their schemes at a level that got them to the point where they are now.  And for me that means doing these things (among others):

1). Running an “offense” and not relying on “plays”.  In game 1, the Lakers executed the high P&R to near perfection.  They consistently compromised the C’s help schemes where either Kobe or one of the Lakers bigs got a good shot at the basket.  It was a great “play” that the Lakers milked to great success.  However, when that play was taken away (by a great P&R defensive team, btw – how do you think they dispatched Cleveland and Orlando?) the Lakers settled too often on penetration (which was rarely open) and jump shooting (which was rarely successful).  The part of their game that was not explored frequently enough was the post game that opens up all of their offensive options in the Triangle.  In game 3, the Lakers must get back to initiating their sets through the post and letting Gasol work against Garnett.  After the ball goes into the post they then need to cut and screen with purpose in order to get the Celtics defense moving and shifting.  It’s these motions that will open up the court for Gasol and also free up players on the weak side to get good shots for themselves.  Also, if the post entry is not there, the Lakers must do a better job of reading the defense and making quick decisions with the ball.  Too often the Lakers held the ball for that extra second, throwing off the timing of their sets and making it so the Celtics were able to recover and contest passing and penetration lanes.  In one of the Lakers timeouts, Phil Jackson implored his team to “move the ball around and then penetrate against the closing out defender”, but too often the Lakers tried to penetrate first.  This process needs to be inversed if they’re to be successful in game 3.  This leads us too…

2). Do not settle for the outside jumper.  This has been an ongoing theme these playoffs, but the Lakers still fall back on this bad habit.  Every post-season opponent has wanted the Lakers to take outside jumpers, rebound the missed shots, and then get the ball to a dynamic point guard that could then push the ball back against a scrambling transition defense.  Rondo is now the 4th straight PG that has enjoyed executing this defensive plan (joining Westbrook, Williams, and Nash) and reaped the benefits from how it has translated to offensive success for his team.  If the Lakers are to slow down the C’s transition and early offense opportunities, they’ll need to show more discipline in their shot selection and not settle for the jumps hot nor put themselves in a position where a jumps hot against the shot clock is their only offensive option.  I understand that the Lakers can’t properly play offense without taking some outside shots.  But those shots should be the byproduct of good ball movement and, essentially, wide open shots.  Because if they’re not, we’ll see the C’s transition game flourish.  Making this next point even more important…

3). Maintain discipline and awareness in transition defense. As was the case in the Phoenix series, the Celtics wing players don’t run for layups, they run to the three point line.  On several occasions last night, the Lakers wings lost sight of this fact and recovered to the paint and allowed shooters to get good looks from behind the arc in the open court.  Some of these shots missed so the Lakers, in a sense, were lucky.  When the Celtics return home, the Lakers can’t rely on those shots rimming out.  So, the Lakers wings must find their man early in transition and then latch onto him so he doesn’t receive the ball for an easy shot.  Meanwhile the Lakers bigs must get on their horse and sprint back to help build the wall so that Rondo doesn’t easily get into the lane.  An act that allows him to get lay ups or collapse the Lakers defense.  Too many times in game 2, the Lakers bigs (I’m looking at you Odom) contested outlet passes rather than busting tail back the other way.  Staying behind the ball does the Lakers transition defense no good; the Lakers bigs must get back and help their wings against an advancing Rondo in the open court.

4). After stops, secure the rebound.  I’m going to keep bringing this up because it’s important: no rebounds, no rings.  Pat Riley knew of what he spoke.  Before game 2, Phillip sent me this message in an email:

Rebounds may decide this series more than any other difference discussed between this year and ’08. In 2008, the Celtics grabbed .266 percent of their offensive rebounds and .744 percent of their defensive rebounds. A trend that I’ve noticed in the past is that, if you add up those two numbers from any team, it will give you a good idea of how well a team rebounds. If that number is above 1, that team is generally a very good rebounding team, if it’s at 1, or right around one, it’s a good rebounding team, and if it’s below 1, that team is a poor rebounding team. 

If you add up the numbers for the ’08 Celtics, it’s at exactly 1. This year, however, the Celtics rebounding numbers are down significantly to .738 of defensive rebounds and .228 of offensive rebounds, giving them a number of .966. From 1 to .966 may not seem like a significant drop at face value, but you should understand that that .34 drop means a drop from the league’s second best rebounding team to the league’s second worst rebounding team. The Lakers on the other hand have gone from .997 in ’08 to 1.02 this season. While I don’t expect Pau Gasol to out rebound Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis again, I do think the Lakers will continue to out rebound the Celtics, and if they continue to out rebound them by 10+, I see the Lakers putting themselves in a great position to continue winning games.

Last night the Lakers lost the rebounding battle by 5 and subsequently the game.  I understand that some of that had to do with the fact that the Lakers only shot 40%, so there were a lot of rebounds for the C’s to gather in.  However, Boston only shot 42% from the field and the Lakers gave up 13 offensive rebounds, several of them late in the game where securing the ball with a chance to score was pretty important.

These are just a few of the things that the Lakers need to do better, but they’d be a great start.  The Lakers are now at a point where they must strip their game plan back down and start to do the little things.  As John Wooded told us “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”  In game 2, the Lakers didn’t do enough of the little things and it cost them dearly.  So in game 3, they must get back to the basics as doing so will reset the tone for them to play winning basketball.

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Before this game started, we spoke about the urgency that the Celtics would play with knowing that an 0-2 deficit would essentially be a death knell to their hope of winning their 2nd title in 3 seasons.  Well tonight, the Celtics showed that urgency and rode the hot shooting of Ray Allen and the all around game of Rajon Rondo to pull out game 2 over the Lakers 103-94.  So, the Lakers now fly to Boston in the wake of their first home loss of these playoffs and enter a hostile environment of the new Garden with the very real scenario that they may trail a playoff series for the first second time in two seasons.  Needless to say, this is not what the Lakers nor us fans would want after two games.  But, here we are.

And we got to this point because the Lakers struggled with an improved Boston defense from what they showed in game 1.  Gone were the easy driving lanes.  And when the Lakers did beat an initial defender, the help arrived quickly and with authority.  The pick and roll action that the Lakers ran with so much effectiveness in game 1 was stifled.  Overall, everything the Lakers tried to do on offense was met with a defense that was more prepared and intent on making the Lakers lives harder than what it was in the last game.

And the Lakers didn’t help themselves with the way that they decided to attack the Boston defense.  Rather than relying on quick passes and ball movement, the Lakers instead tried to attack the Celtics off the dribble – playing right into the hands of the overloaded schemes that Boston loves to throw at teams.  This approach was especially frustrating considering the success that the Lakers big men were having against the Celtics.  Pau Gasol and Adrew Bynum combined for 46 of the Lakers 94 points and were just having their way on the inside.  Doing their damage on only 20 FGA’s (and a combined 20-25 from the FT line), the Lakers bigs were the rock that needed to be leaned on more in this contest than they were, but instead were relatively forgotten men in the closing minutes where their presence and production really could have made a difference.  I wish I had an answer on why this occurred, but alas I do not.

And If the Lakers suspect execution on offense were not enough, they also didn’t do their due diligence on the defensive side of the ball.  Before this series started, we talked about how Ray Allen was really the key to the Celtics offense.  Sure, Rondo’s penetration is key and Paul Pierce is this team’s leading scorer, but a lot of the Celtics’ offensive success is predicated off of Ray Allen’s ability to shoot the ball coming off screens.  Because when Ray is hot, he can change the momentum of any contest and then force big men to help on screens and the dominos start to fall in favor of the Celtics getting the types of shots that they want.  And tonight, Ray Allen simply had it going.  Allen made 7 threes in the first half alone (ending the night making an NBA Finals record 8 threes out of his 11 attempts) and scored a game high 32 points on a variety of jumpers that the Lakers plain defended poorly.  Too many times they cheated on screens and allowed Ray to make clean catches that led to open jumpers.  On other occasions the Lakers defenders (I’m looking at you Shannon Brown) simply lost Allen by turning their heads or needlessly helping which led to him moving into open space and giving him that split second he needed to get his shot off.  Don’t get me wrong, Ray had a tremendous shooting night that should not be played down as only the result of poor D.  But, he was too open on too many occasions and that was the result of the Lakers not playing with enough discipline on the player that requires the most when he’s your defensive assignment.

But it wasn’t only Ray Allen that killed the Lakers, it was Rajon Rondo as well.  Ending the night with a triple-double (19 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists), Rondo wreaked havoc in the open court by grabbing defensive rebounds and simply ramming the ball down the Lakers throats.  When the Celtics took their big lead in the first half it was entirely on the back of Allen’s shooting and Rondo’s pushing of the pace where he got lay ups and set up his mates for other good shots either at the basket or behind the arc when the Lakers defense went scrambling.  Then, in the second half, when the Lakers needed to secure stops to keep pace with the points that the Celtics had put on the board it was Rondo that grabbed offensive rebounds that gave his team the extra possessions that they’d need to ice this game.  Just a fantastic performance from the C’s young point guard.

But all is not lost for the Lakers nor is this series now “over” just because the Celtics won a game on the road.  The Lakers are one of the better road playoff teams and have won clinching games on the road in their last 5 playoff series.  If there is any team capable of going into a hostile environment and taking control back in this series it’s the Lakers.  And while this game was disappointing and frustrating for all the things that the Lakers did poorly, it should also be encouraging for some of the things that the Lakers did well.  We now have a series on our hands and that’s a position that the Lakers have proven themselves to be comfortable in over the last few years.  It will take smarter and more disciplined play, but the Lakers are capable of just that.  Game three is only two days away and when it arrives we will see what both of these teams are made of.

Some other notes on this game:

*Many will point to a couple of the questionable calls that were made against Kobe Bryant (the offensive foul committed against Ray Allen and the force out play against Rondo) and complain.  I agree, those were tough calls and set up a situation where the charge call that Big Baby drew on him essentially neutered his aggressiveness.  However, Kobe also picked up a couple of bad fouls (most notably his body foul on Ray Allen defending 35 feet from the basket) that was needless and bad judgement on Kobe’s part.  And, just like with Ray Allen in game 1, Kobe saw how needing to play a bit smarter with fouls is a necessity when you’re a catalyst for your team’s offensive success.  Tonight, bad calls and all, I thought Kobe could have played a bit better.  And if asked about it, I have a feeling he’d say the same.

*Ron Artest was awful on offense tonight.  He ended the night 1-10 from the field and had some questionable plays in the closing minutes (most notably his forced post entry to Gasol that led to a turnover and his dribble around and force a jumper “thing” that I can’t adequately describe).  But guess what? – he was just as good on defense.  Did you look at Paul Pierces stat line?  Pierce went 2-11 from the floor with Ron essentially living in his jersey.  Remember, Pierce is one of the more important offensive players for the C’s and it will be tough for them to win games if Ron continues to play him as well as he is defensively.  Sure, Ron will need to be better on offense in future games.  But to call him out or scapegoat him is unfair and completely one sided.  Ron’s doing some really good things for the Lakers; tonight was just a bad offensive night for him.

*The Lakers bench – especially when playing at home – needs to play better.  Farmar was passable and so was Sasha in his limited minutes.  But Odom and Brown were below average in several facets of their respective games and those guys need to do more.  On a night where Pau and Bynum played heavy minutes, LO needed to give the Lakers some quality minutes when those guys rested and he couldn’t do it.  I’m as big a fan as any of Odom, but tonight the fouling, lack of activity on offense (and I don’t just mean scoring – I mean cutting, passing, creating for others) was poor.  And Shannon just had too many defensive lapses on Ray Allen.  I mentioned it already, but too often he found himself out of position and helping where it wasn’t needed and doing so off of the hottest player in the building.  And considering that Kobe found himself in foul trouble in that third quarter, a bit more was needed of Shannon.  And like LO, it wasn’t there.

*I need to go back and give some more praise to the Lakers’ big men.  I mentioned their combined points, but look at their individual stat lines: Pau – 7/10 FGA, 11/13 FTA, 25 points, 8 rebounds (3 offensive), 3 assists, 6(!) blocks, 1 steal in 42 minutes; Andrew – 6/10 FGA, 9/12 FTA, 21 points, 6 rebounds (3 offensive), 7(!) blocks in 39 minutes.  Yes, their rebounding numbers could have been better.  But overall they played fantastic basketball between them and needed to get more shots and touches down the stretch of these games.  Their numbers look even better when compared to their starting counterparts (Perkins and KG combined for 18 points, 10 rebounds, but with 9(!) assists in their 72 combined minutes).

*The Lakers shot 5 for 22 from the three point line in this game.  Shades of OKC in how those long misses fueled run outs by Rondo and the C’s and set up a lot of their baskets in their early offensive sets.  Remember, in game 1 the Lakers only took 10 three pointers and tonight they took more than double that amount.  I think it’s safe to say there’s a correlation between the number of deep shots the Lakers took in this game (even accounting for the ones late in the game where they were trying to scramble and come back) and the resulting loss.

*The Lakers were out rebounded by 5, out-assisted by 10, and had 15 turnovers (2 more than the C’s).  The turnovers were especially damaging because of how many of them came late in the game.  If I recall the stats correctly, in the last 36 possessions of the game the Lakers had 9 turnovers while the Celtics only had 2.  If you want to know how a team loses a game in the 4th quarter, when they enter tied and briefly hold a 3 point lead that is how – they give the ball away to the other team (while also not controlling their defensive glass).


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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.