Sunday, 8 June 2008

Celtics Survive Game 2

Wow. First off, obviously I did not see the Celtics being up 2-0 coming. If I had bet on the NBA Finals, I would be in bad shape right now. Fortunately, I stick to just talking about the games. And after being a bit of a bore for most of the game, the Lakers made things interesting before succumbing the Boston. I was actually going to stop watching without about 8 minutes to go, but with the effort that the Lakers were still exerting (even down 24) I decided to stick around, and almost witnesses something awesome. Obviously I had no inkling that LA would eventually make it a 2 point game, but it goes to their credit that they continued to exert maximum effort. But the result of all of it is that Boston leads 2-0.

How have they done it? Well, obviously defense has been huge. Up until the 4th quarter of Game 2, they had frustrated Kobe Bryant just like they did in the regular season, and nobody else was really picking up the slack. But then again, we knew going on that the Celtics were the best defensive team in the NBA, and their help defense was great. The big reason that Boston is up 2-0 and in control of the series is because they have been so good offensively, which is what I did not expect.

Boston shot 53% in Game 2 and got to the foul line 38 times. Those are winning numbers. For as bad as they looked against Cleveland offensively, they have turned things around quite nicely. They are getting out and picking up the tempo (which we thought the Lakers would be doing), and Rondo is running the break like a seasoned pro. Rondo considers to be extraordinarily effective considering he does not have a jumpshot. 16 assists, 6 rebounds, and constant solid defense? That's more than enough to make up for only 4 points on 1-4 shooting.

The other big thing for the Celtics was the play of the bigs of the bench. Once again, PJ Brown was just solid. He knows his role and his game so well... hit open midrange jumpers, and always be in the right place defensively. He's been monumental for Boston. The reason Boston is so great defensively is because of their help defense, and Brown is the epitome of that. He's always in the right position to help on guys driving to the hoop, or to take charges. Then, of course, there is Leon Powe. His aggressiveness on the offensive end was big in the first half, when the Lakers jumped out to a quick start. Just taking a look at his numbers - 21 points in 15 minutes. Leon Powe might never play a better game in his life.

For the Lakers, they have to figure out how to slow Boston down, and to decrease the disparity in free throw attempts. As noted, Boston took 38 compared to LA's 10. It doesn't take a basketball mastermind to know that you're not going to win a lot of games with a 28 free throw attempt difference. The easy answer is to say that LA needs to be more aggressive and take it to the hoop more, but Boston's defense makes that a tough proposition.

Obviously I have to stick with my prediction of LA to win the series, but it goes without saying that Game 3 is a must-win for the Lakers. At home, with the momentum of a near comeback, they need to get out to a good start in game 3 and exert control over things in LA.

Just a final note, and I know that the refs not calling traveling is a bit of a running joke in the NBA, but come on, how do you not call that travel by Vladimir Radmanovic on the fast break dunk that cut the lead to 104-100? I actually really don't have a problem with them letting borderline travels go, but Vlad Rad's travel there was rather egregious, and on a fast break to boot. It definitely helped the entertainment factor that nothing was called, but he blatantly travelled on a fast break. Got to be called.

Final final note, but Jeff Van Gundy making fun of Mark Jackson for comparing Leon Powe to Dr. J was the highlight of the game for me in terms of the announcers. I had a good laugh. Bravo Jeff Van Gundy.