2010 Finals Game 2 Recap: Los Angeles Lakers (1) vs Boston Celtics (1)
Los Angeles Lakers 94-103 Boston Celtics
Ray Allen’s historic night
The story the media’s going to be talking about until Game 3 is probably going to be Ray Allen’s hot hand from deep. Allen connected on all seven of his three-point attempts with 2:34 remaining… in the first half, already tying him for the Finals record. He hit his final, and record-breaking eighth, trey with 4:39 to go in the third.
“There’s no better place, moment, time … to win a game, and to win in a great fashion.”
This display could be seen as a breakout game who hasn’t had a game as monstrous as this one since his 51-point outburst against Chicago in Game 6 of last year’s epic first round playoff match-up against the Bulls. The common denominator? His primary defenders were Ben Gordon, generously listed at 6’3, and Derek Fisher, listed at 6’1, neither particularly effective perimeter defenders, especially when chasing around the greatest shooter in NBA history around some of the best screen-setters in the league. Add that to the Lakers’ first-half tendency to lag in their transition defense, where at least of Allen’s threes came from, and you get the greatest single-half three-point shooting display I’ve seen since Vince Carter’s 8-8 performance in the first half of Game 3 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals between Toronto and Philadelphia, which I hold in higher regard because of the quality of his defenders, the number of shots and the degree of difficulty – and ballsiness – of his shots compared to Allen’s wide-open bombs. Needless to say, no longer plagued by foul trouble limiting his minutes and keeping him from establishing a rhythm, Allen took full advantage of his mismatch on the helpless Derek Fisher (seriously, all his makes were swishes or barely grazed the rim).
I could watch his stroke all day, just the most beautiful thing you’ll see in basketball.
That said, even with his monster first-half display, the Celtics only lead by seven at the half and the game was tied heading into the fourth thanks in large part to…
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce’s ineffectiveness
After a 7-16 outing in Game 1, Garnett shot just 2-5 in Game 2. Foul trouble held him to just 24 minutes, which may have actually benefited the Celtics as Garnett just looked out of sorts. Showing signs of either age or a nagging injury, Garnett was hurting his team, unable to get lift on his legs, contain Pau Gasol or get going offensively (getting his signature turnaround fadeaway jumpshot swatted on one possession). With Garnett no longer a threat, the Lakers were able to single-coverage him and pack the paint on defense (see Andrew Bynum looking healthy). Just disappointing to see (and will be especially annoying if the Lakers win and we go through a year of Celtic fans complaining Garnett’s injury gave the Lakers the title). Garnett played the last six or so minutes of the game next to Kendrick Perkins but even though the Celtics won, one has to wonder whether the C’s would have been better off going to either Glen Davis or Rasheed Wallace down the stretch.
Paul Pierce, coming off a garbage-time 24-point Game 1 never got on track, shooting just 2-11 from the field in 40 minutes to score 10 points total. Even as the Laker defense focused on Allen in the second half, Pierce never took advantage. Can the Celtics bank on another offensive explosion from Allen and, once again, the all-around brilliance of Rondo to carry the team for the rest of the series if both their Defensive Player of the Year and Finals MVP from 2008 are struggling so badly? Probably not. Are proven veterans like Pierce and Garnett likely to continue slumping, especially as the series moves to Boston for the next three games? Probably not. Something to look out for in Game 3 in Boston.
Andrew Bynum looking healthy
A terrific game for the injury-ridden young center. Electing to forego immediate surgery on his right knee to play in these playoffs, Bynum’s minutes, and performance, had been limited to below twenty a game. He played 39 terrific minutes for the Lakers to score 21 points, grab 6 rebounds and using his superhuman length to block 7 shots, which, combined with Gasol’s own 6, helped intimidate penetrating guards. However, their effort may have been wasted as it came on a night nobody was denying Ray Allen’s jumpshot.
Rajon Rondo’s will
If Allen’s hot shooting kept the Celtics afloat, it was Rondo’s play on both ends of the floor down the floor that gave them the win. Rondo was nothing short of phenomenal. In a game featuring the likes of Gasol, Bynum, Odom, Garnett, Davis and Wallace, the wiry point guard lead both teams in rebounding with 12 (4 offensive) to go along with 19 points and 10 assists. As aforementioned, even with Allen’s scorching hot three-point shooting display, the game was tied heading into the final frame and the Celtics were down by three with just under five minutes to go in the game. Enter Rondo. His putback with 3:21 to go gave the Celtics a lead they would hold for the rest of the game. When Derek Fisher caught him in the air on a pump fake, Rondo recovered in time to block his potentially momentum-swinging three-pointer from behind. He swiped the ball from an unsuspecting Kobe Bryant to prevent an open three. He hit a jumpshot to all but seal the game. The lean guard without a jumpshot had notched 10 points in six fourth quarter minutes on basketball’s biggest stage. The kid just knows when to turn it on as evidenced by this statistic, courtesy of John Schuhmann of NBA.com: Rondo has recorded 4 triple-doubles in 316 regular season games… and 5 in 59 playoff games. As cliched as it sounds, Rondo has the ability to seize the moment. Allen’s performance may grab the headlines but make no mistake about it: Rondo is the reason the Celtics stole homecourt advantage.
Kobe Bryant’s rough night
Bryant didn’t have a terrible night statistically, notching 21 points, 8-20 shooting, 6 assists and 5 rebounds. A decent game. But foul trouble throughout plagued him throughout and may have cost the Lakers a game. Two of those foul calls, however, were more than a bit questionable, one a phantom offensive foul call where Bryant supposedly elbowed either Tony Allen on a Rajon Rondo (replay showed minimal if any contact) and another was a pushing foul called on Bryant as Rondo fell out of bounds (again, replay showed nothing). That said, whistle-blowing was dubious and frequent throughout the night (58 foul calls led to a 48-minute basketball game lasting 2 hours, 51 minutes – longer than the 60-minute NHL game going on at the same time) for both teams but I only point these two non-calls out because they had the greatest effect on the game. Phil elected to keep Bryant in despite his foul trouble for short stretches but his impact on the game was restrained to eliminate risk of compiling fouls, which Rondo, who Bryant matched up against, exploited. It’s the finals; the Lakers can’t afford to play Bryant just 34 minutes.
Lakers’ supporting cast puts up a stinker
1-10 shooting for Ron Artest, 2-8 shooting for Derek Fisher, 5-13 from the bench. Not getting it done. Lamar Odom has yet to make his mark in this series, picking up a cumulative 10 fouls in 36 minutes through two games. For the second straight game, the Lakers’ bench, seen as one of LA’s main advantages, contributed just 15 points. Meanwhile, the entire Celtic bench provided contributed to the Celtics’ win in a big way. When Rajon Rondo took the first six minutes of the fourth quarter to rest for the first time, Nate Robinson went on a personal 5-0 run, hitting an off-the-dribble three-pointer and hitting a fastbreak layup on consecutive possessions. Glen Davis and Rasheed Wallace held his own against Gasol, each playing at times terrific defense and picking up 7 rebounds apiece.
Case in point, with the game tight late in the fourth, Artest contributed possibly the worst possible possession ever, luckily bailed out by Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant (courtesy of Hardwood Paroxysm):
Note to Atlanta: reconsider considering hiring Mark Jackson for your vacant head coaching position
With recent reports revealing the Hawks have scheduled an interview with ABC/ESPN announcer, and former All-Star, Mark Jackson for a head coaching spot, it was most ironic when he provided the following bit of commentary in the third quarter, over a replay of Andrew Bynum picking up an offensive rebound and laying it back in: “You can’t teach this. This is fundamental basketball.” He was pretty horrible all night, really. I get that there were a lot of bad calls but there’s more you can say than, “…and to me, that’s not a foul.” I swear, his commentary is hardly contextual. It’s a shame because he was my favorite announcer when he worked for the YES Network with Ian Eagle – who, by the way, is way overdue for his own national spot – three years ago. On that note, I have to comment on how…
Announcers need to pick up a thesaurus
It’s gotten to the point where when one player or subject comes up, you know there’s a phrase or word they’re surely going to use. The most common ones off the top of my head:
Pau Gasol – skilled; (such a) soft touch (around the basket)
Shannon Brown – (exciting) finisher; athletic
Ron Artest – hard-nosed defender
Kendrick Perkins – size
Glen Davis – (deceptively) quick
Any further suggestions?
The series shifts back to Boston for the next three games so the Celtics have a shot at clinching the title on their own homecourt, one thing I hate about the 2-3-2 format of the Finals because it doesn’t benefit the team with the better regular season record as much as it should. Given that the series is knotted at one as they’re coming out of Staples, the Celtics have to be confident with their chances.