Game 1 analysis
Kobe Bryant: Not So Bad...
Kobe played better than what most people are giving him credit for. He pretty much did an amazing job throughout all the traps and double teams, and it allowed him to make some very key passes to Gasol and Odom throughout the game (especially those easy Gasol shots under the hoop).
Also, if you negate the 1 for 7 shooting he had by the 1:30 mark in the 1st quarter (hey, it was his first 10 minutes in his first game in the Finals atmosphere in a long time), he was 8-19 the rest of the way. Not that good, but he was essentially shooting better than his teammates the rest of the way. And he was double-teamed doing it. Remember that 18-foot fade-away on the double team in the 4th? Sick, is all I have to say.
Pau Gasol: Did His Job, But...
Gasol played a very great game. I underrated him in my Finals prediction article, but he answered one of my analysis by taking only smart shots. He was 6 for 11 from the floor, and had some key rebounds and defensive plays. But he lapsed on a couple of much-needed rebounds, and that intangible of not playing the boards at those moments might be what negated a lot his great performance.
Rajon Rondo Can Make His Shots
I remember reading an article that talked about how Ray Allen shoots about 400 shots after practice, which I thought was crazy. What I thought was crazier about this article (since it was about the Big Three) was that Rondo has also been staying behind and shooting the same amount of shots with him.
After reading it, it has made more sense that Rondo has been shooting more going into and throughout the playoffs. He isn't doing a Cassell and flinging every ball on an open look, but he has added a weapon that will make it hard to double-team the other Celtics players.
Hey, The Pistons had their dagger nailed by Rondo's 16-foot shot. If he can hit it under those circumstances, and if he hits them like he did in hist first game in the big dance, I have a good feeling he is going to wreak more havoc on this defense than anyone may know...
I Remember Playing Defense For The First Time
The Lakers were ill-prepared to ignite a defensive game that they have not played all season. A lot of their great defense comes from great athletic plays from Kobe, Gasol, and formerly Bynum. But overall, they just don't play a continued intense defense to disrupt the Celtics half-court game.
I didn't say this, but even Jeff Van Gundy mentioned that Kobe plays great defense "sometimes", and that there should've been no way he was above Shane Battier in the all-defensive team just for that one reason.
It makes some sense: Pierce, Rondo, and Allen, players that he guarded or hovered around through most of the game, shot 16-33. Radmnonivic was also a defensive liability, as he was getting destroyed guarding Pierce.
BTW: Minute Occurrence: When Pierce went out in the 3rd, Rondo went RIGHT after Kobe, and got fouled under the hoop by Odom. If anyone in our backcourt gets injured, that game-plan, albeit a small glimpse, will be implemented again.
Gasol played really well, and the Lakers bench has a lot of intensity and plays their men pretty well. But overall, playing both sides of the court was new to them, and the amount of energy used in this initiative was apparent in the late minutes of the 4th quarter.
Lakers Lose Their Legs, Lose Their Shot
After Vucajic makes the long-range shot with six minutes left in the game, the Lakers went 1 for 13 the rest of the way. 1 for 13. You can't keep a baseball career with that percentage. But it was less the fault of their opportunities (four of these shots were open, including the Gasol shot on side), and more to the fault of their energy.
They had no more to give. Their legs were withered from playing great defense and running for opportunities on offense. The Celtics have been played extremely hard by many teams in the playoffs; none of these teams have paced themselves to consistently play an intense game against them.
Many teams (especially the three that played them before the Finals), have gone to great lengths to double-team, to Gundy trap, and to close gaps to the hoop on defense, and it is hard since there are three players who are nearly unstoppable without these measures.
Many teams also have to play a lot harder on offense to get great looks and opportunities. The Celtics defense is just that tough, and it is deep enough on their bench that they can continue that pace throughout the game. If you look at the final games of each Celtics series, and even the final quarters of the Cavaliers and Pistons series, you see a predictable story of the Celtics being able to break down the other teams' defense, and see the other team struggle to make relatively easy (remember how many shots Billups & Prince missed in the 4th of Game Six?).
The Lakers, on the other hand, spent the first half using so much stamina and energy double-teaming Pierce, AND Garnett, AND Allen. And Vujacic, who came in to guard Allen, had to spend countless energy points running through screens and picks, trailing Allen to keep him from making his shot. He did a great job, but at the expense of fatiguing to play defense toward the end of the game.
The same went for most of the Lakers; they have to use more energy to make opportunities on both sides of the court, and when you need those legs to hit those clutch jumpers toward the end of the game, those shots aren't going down if your legs run out of gas.
Game 2 Prediction
Both Teams Adjust to Referee Game
A lot of Lakers fans are upset that the a lot of calls weren't called against the Celtics, but the fans have to understand that it was a physical game from the beginning, and they aren't going to call the easy body-bump fouls that refs call in West Coast games.
I see them calling a lot more fouls against the Celtics on players like Gasol and Bryant (who the former I felt got pushed around a bit under the hoop). These refs haven't been calling flops on both sides, so Pierce, Bryant, and Vujacic are going to need to keep themselves from falling and expecting a foul. I do foresee that the Lakers will have more freedom to play harder defense along with the Celtics in Game Two.
Overall, The Celtics were 25-5 against the West Coast this year. I don't see that calling the game soft or hard will affect them as much as the Lakers.
The Lakers won't come out as strong as Game 1
They made a great amount of shots in the first quarter. And that was also with Kobe's brick-shots. But the Celtics will probably force this team to go to the hoop. This may open up the game for Kobe to penetrate, cause trouble, open shots, foul trouble etc.
We'll probably see the Celtics nullify Kobe with sporadic traps, but will try to make him make his shot, or run to the hoop. The Celtics will clamp down on Gasol and Odom, and keep them in from getting a groove that may permeate throughout the rest of the game.
Lakers will hit the Trifecta More
I know that the Lakers ran up a three for 14 three-point spree, but they also made about 4-5 shots with their foot on the line. Their mistake wasn't placing their shots behind the bonus line and getting extra points. Fisher had two shots that were two-pointers, and were inches from the bonus mark. They can shoot, and they showed it in Game One. They just need to be behimd the trey area.
The Celtics Will Make 3's Too
Other than Pierce's heroics, the rest of the Celtics were 3-15 from the line. They had a lot of open trifectas, and they just weren't going in. Look for these to start dropping if the same opportunities arise in Game 2.
Rondo vs. Fisher: No Push
Rondo is just better than Fisher. Fisher had trouble playing Rondo, and it nullified him from playing help defense in other situations. Look for Rondo to also be played by Farmar a little bit more. Look for Rondo to take Fisher on one-on-one, and break down their defense a little more. His ability gave the Celtics a lot of open shots that were missed, and he still had seven assist in 35 minutes.
Lakers Fatigue: More Walton? Maybe Ariza?
The Lakers back court, other than Bryant, doesn't have a lot of good defense. Vujacic is a great defensive player for the Lakers, but energy and defense doesn't correlate if you still let Ray Allen get away for open shots. Walton will probably see some playing time against both Pierce and Posey, and I do expect to see Ariza come in to give Fisher a breather.
If either of these things don't happen, the fatigue factor will kill the Lakers in the 4th quarter again.
By my analysis, the Celtics will win 100-87. Their defense will be better this game. They let up in the first half and the Lakers made them pay with open shots. The Celtics will not give up these shots at the start.
The Celtics, on the other end, missed a lot of open shots, and had to use a lot of energy on the boards. Look for their defense to keep the Lakers' shooters from getting a groove, and look for Garnett to pick it up in the interior. Perkins might not even play in this game, so look for Powe and Glen Davis to fill some of the void.
I do not see Pierce playing more than 34 minutes. Rondo and Allen will pick it up, and I can't see Vujacic and Bryant guarding all three (Allen, Pierce, & Rondo). I do see Perkins playing for about 25 minutes, and I hope that Allen might have some minutes against Kobe. This is doubtful, but the Celtics have the edge on this game as long as they play their defense and make the clutch shot.
The Lakers will only win if Kobe scores more than 15 points in the 4th. I don't see the rest of the team getting through the defense, unlike game one. They will have to play their bench more, and I am still unsure how well it will do against the Celtics'.
Las Vegas Odds
- Vegas nor Offshore odds are pulling up with a clear-cut winner. LSVC in Vegas has the Celtics at -2 ( as of 4:30pm Sunday ), yet competing books in Vegas have the Lakers at around -1 (-110) and Offshore books have the Lakers at -1 (110). Since there doesn't seem to be a clear-cut winner from the sports betting industry, it only shows that people are making bets on both sides, and that no one can foresee who is coming out of this battle with the Finals trophy.
The over/under for all games are around 190. I have already made my prediction about this game, and I'll make a 2nd prediction: This game will not see a combined score of 190. A lot of great shots were made by both teams under great duress for a good portionn of the 2nd half, and there was a total lack of defense in the 1st half of game one. If I was a gambling man, I think the combo score will reach 185.
This is going to be a great game. Even if the Lakers lose, they are in no way, shape, or form lost upon winning the whole thing. These teams match up well, are both insanely talented, and have players who can take over and win under pressure. I expect nothing less or more than a great series, right until the final buzzer.