Nobody ever said it would be easy.
The Celtics took a huge lead into the fourth quarter, then watched the Lakers finally get hot from three point land. The Lakers cut the lead all the way down to two. I threw my remote control at the TV. It was an ugly scene in the Crowe house—almost as ugly as the Celtics’ fourth quarter defense.
Then Mr. Celtic, the Captain, Paul Pierce iced the game by driving to the hoop, making two clutch free throws, then blocking a shot at the other end and the Celtics held on to take a commanding two-to-nothing lead in the NBA Finals.
Coming into the game, the question on everyone’s mind was how Paul Pierce’s knee would hold up. We all knew he would play, but we wondered how well he’d play.
He answered that question right away.
He was the best player on the floor, all game long.
And for those of you who emailed me and said I was crazy for saying he deserved regular season MVP consideration earlier in the year, Kobe Bryant was on the floor at the same time as Paul Pierce. Paul Pierce was still the best player on the floor.
Leon Powe was tremendous. He dominated the Lakers’ bigs, was the most aggressive player on the floor, and provided a much needed spark off the bench—especially with Kendrick Perkins struggling once again with foul trouble.
But I keep coming back to Paul Pierce.
Kevin Garnett played pretty well defensively, but struggled a bit offensively. It’s amazing how he’s taken a backseat to Paul Pierce since game seven in the Cleveland series. The Celtics seemed to figure out that they needed a top-dog, and Paul Pierce has morphed into that guy.
Think about it. The original Big Three consisted of three great players, but in crunch time…it was the Big One.
Larry Bird was the man, and everyone knew it.
Since his now famous duel with LeBron James, Paul Pierce has been the Big One when the Celtics need it. And now he’s two games away from being the first player since Larry Bird to lead the Boston Celtics to an NBA championship.
So far, so good for Paul Pierce and his Boston Celtics.
So Where Are We Now?
The Finals format makes it tough on the team with home court advantage. Had the Celtics lost one of these two games, they would have been at a huge disadvantage. They didn’t want to go to LA with a chance that the Lakers could close them out without ever making the flight back across the country.
The Celtics did what they had to do. Now the plan is to try to steal a game in LA.
Game three is pivotal. If the Lakers win game three, then they have a chance to make this a series.
If the Celtics can steal game three, then the series might not make it back to Boston.
It’s clear that there are some significant match-up problems that the Lakers need to figure out how to deal with. The Celtics are dominating inside. The only mismatch the Lakers have to work with is Kobe Bryant, and for whatever reason they haven’t been able to take advantage.
I do think the Lakers win game three. I do think this series makes it back to Boston, probably with the Celtics up three games to two.
But if the Lakers don’t play more like they did in the fourth quarter (and hope the Celtics play like they did in the fourth quarter as well), then this series is going to be over before it begins.
Sean Crowe is a Senior Writer at Bleacher Report. You can email him at email@example.com. His archive can be found here. You can find everything he writes, including articles for other publications, here.