June 07, 2010
Boston 103, Los Angeles Lakers 94; series tied, 1-1
An unfortunate Laker theme returned in Game 2, one that saw the team dribble instead of drive, and hang on to the ball rather than desperately and expertly turning it into a better look for a teammate. The offense was stilted in Game 2, long enough for shots to rebound long and turnovers to fall into Boston's hands. A Boston-y version of a transition game resulted, and the Celtics tied the series.
Don't make this all about Los Angeles' miscues, because Boston played a tough, smart game. Just about every issue from Game 1 was worked on — the team took care of the offensive glass, it picked up some offensive rebounds of its own, it worked in some good offensive spacing of its own while doing what it could to wreck Los Angeles' spacing — and the result was an almost comfortable win.
In the end, Rajon Rondo(notes) was the overall star, hitting for 20 points alongside 12 rebounds and 10 assists in the win, but it was Ray Allen's(notes) shooting that more or less kept the Celtics from being blown out in the game's first two quarters. Allen leaked out in transition and found himself behind the arc long enough to hit a finals-tying seven 3-pointers in the half, finishing the first two quarters with an astonishing 27 points.
And the C's needed every one of them. Because Paul Pierce(notes), Kendrick Perkins(notes) and Rondo combined to hit for just 4-16 shots in that first half. Kevin Garnett(notes) took and made one shot. Ray Allen may have just saved their season.
The Lakers weren't much better on the other end. In fact, they were way worse — shooting just under 36 percent from the floor in the half with a 1-9 mark from long range — but a late burst from Kobe Bryant(notes) allowed the Lakers to enter halftime with just a six-point deficit in a game that felt like a mini-blowout due solely to Allen's work.
The momentum carried over, the Lakers kept picking at that lead long enough to take several leads of their own over the next quarter and a half, but Boston never folded. Had plenty of chances to, but it seemed as if it was taking inspiration from its upside-down headband'ed leader.
Rondo had 14 points in the second half, finding spots in transition or off of 50/50 plays to get to the rim and toss it in, along with the occasional jumper. His help was badly needed, as Paul Pierce continued to struggle in the second half (2-11 shooting), Kevin Garnett missed some more very makeable shots (thought it should be noted that he did play well on both ends during the final few minutes), and Allen cooled off a tick (hitting one more three to grab that record, though, finishing with 32 points).
The key, and not denigrate the winners, was still Los Angeles' poor offense. A few more free throws in a terribly called game (for both ends) helped the Lakers get to over 102 points per 100 possessions, but this team did not run its offense properly, it was not patient with its sets, and it went away from the parts that made it potent.
Like Pau Gasol(notes), who had another monster game. Twenty-five points on 10 shot attempts for Gasol, who turned the ball over just once in nearly 42 minutes, while blocking six shots, dishing three assists, and pulling in eight rebounds. Everything he did was spot on, save for one fumble in the lane in the fourth period and a weak attempt at a finish on the break in the second period. That was it. Otherwise, he was a Celtic-killer whenever he got the ball. And they didn't get him the ball enough. Simple as that.
Andrew Bynum's(notes) 21 points were a different story, as the Celtic center wasn't exactly a go-to killer any time the Lakers needed a post-up score. He was mainly scoring off broken plays and extra passes, again. And while Kobe managed 21 points, his percentages were hurt by too many rushed jumpers, especially late; 3-8 shooting in the fourth quarter with two turnovers for Bryant, who had five of Los Angeles' 15 miscues in the game.
It all could have been avoided had the Lakers just deigned to slow things down, go away from the head-down dribbling, and assume that a good shot was just three passes away. Instead, the team forced things, it worked in some awkward sets, and the tone set by the leaders (Bryant and Derek Fisher(notes)) filtered down to the lesser lights, and bench performers. There were just too many bad shots to make up for (including a ton from Ron Artest(notes), who we'll get to later Monday).
The Celtics took advantage. The team didn't play its best game of the year, but it found stops and scores in all the right places. A three from Nate Robinson(notes). A jump hook to stop a mini-run from Glen Davis(notes). A fourth quarter finish on the interior, finally, for KG. A couple of crowd-quieting bombs from Rasheed Wallace(notes) in the first half. Enough.
Enough to get the split they were after, and turn the tide in this series. Game 3 is just a day and a half away, and both teams are working under familiar territory. The Lakers are wondering why it is, again, that they just can't settle down offensively; and the Celtics are thinking on their feet long enough to react and make the plays needed to win.
So, in the end, as dodgy as the play has been at times during these finals, we're getting the Lakers and Celtics as we know them. Good enough for me.