Andrew Ungvari writes for the Bleacher Report, and his articles and insights on the game of basketball are amazing. Upon waking up ( with a splitting hangover not settled from yesterday's on-court skirmish between the yellow & green, and booze ), I decided to look at what everyone had been writing about the game. Ungvari, although his analysis has been on-point, is a good representation of a lot of today's analysis on the game.
My whole point of writing this article is to confront his viewpoint, and offer a more fluid treatise on what transpired from game three, comparing, contrasting, contradicting, and reviewing Ungvari's remarks.
1) Kobe on Rondo to start the game.
I thought this was a very smart move by Phil Jackson. It caught Rondo off-guard. He hadn't been the same player on the road in the playoffs as he had been at home. I'm interested to see what happens in Game Four. I'm sure the Celtics will scheme to make the Lakers pay by finding Ray Allen, and exploiting his match-up with Derek Fisher.
Red Sox Maniac
1) Kobe on Rondo
Actually, this is a very good play. But if anything, it comes to show all of those people that felt that Fisher somehow has been playing a good game against Rondo. Not did the Lakers' put their best defensive player against our 5th option scorer and quarterback, but they had put it Farmar to do the same thing. Whoever has been analysing that Derek Fisher and Rajon Rondo at point was a push for both teams, need to take a look on how much the game-plan was implemented against Rondo. Kevin Garnett didn't get this much attention, which makes perfect sense since he the best player on the team?
People have underestestimated Rondo, but now are simultaneously praising the game-plan used against him. He is a great point guard, and for all the Rondo nay-sayers, now you see that the Lakers went out of their way to disrupt his game.
2) The Third Quarter
The Celtics still own the third quarter. Tonight, they outscored the Lakers 25-17. In five games against the Lakers this year, the Celtics have outscored them 145-110 in the third quarter.
Red Sox Maniac
2) The Third
Can't argue with that. The disparity of game two negates a median number. If a team scores a plus 18 against a team in one quarter of one game, in series where only three games are played, the sample is too small for analysis. We are always good in the 3rd, and from that I really can't argue.
3) The Fourth Quarter
As dominant as the Celtics have been in the third frame, unfortunately for them, this isn't hockey. In the past two games, they've been outscored in the fourth quarter by a margin of 68-44.
Red Sox Maniac
Ahh, gotta argue with this. The Lakers have been good in the 4th, but again, the disparity of game two. Of course they have been outscored. Of course, the Lakers have played a great game in the last frame. But much of game two you can attribute to the Celtics lapse ( read my NBA Finals analysis ) more than a Lakers' run. If you have been watching the Celtics, you have been much acquainted throughout the entire season the "lapse" in play.
The 4th quarter in game three was actually in favor of the Celtics more than it was the Lakers. The Celtics were down by two, and the Lakers had a great transition set-up to Vujacic ( The Player of the game, by leaps and bounds ), who nailed a three. That was coupled with the fact that the next play for the Celtics, Paul Pierce had the opportunity get an easy shot and missed his layup, thereby solidifying the five-point lead, and ruining the chances of the Celtics making a legitimate late-quarter run.
It favors the Celtics because they had their chances and missed them. But, if these shots were going down ( and a lot of these shots were easy and/or close to the basket, not jumnp-shots ), if just two of our missed layups ( and missed free-throws ) were made in the 4th, we would have Boston fans going to the nearest store ( or cleaning closet ) to bring out the brooms. The Lakers held on, especially with Bryant closing the door with his amazing shots in the end, but the 4th quarter disparity does not correlate to how close the game could've been lost by the Lakers.
4) Different Perspectives
It's funny how fans of both teams are looking at the game. Celtics fans are saying the team played horribly, and yet they only lost by six. Lakers fans are saying their team played horribly, and yet they still won the game.
Both schools of thought are correct. The Celtics got 19 points on 8-for-35 shooting from Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. The Lakers got 13 points on 5-for-18 shooting from Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom.
If I told you before the game that Kobe Bryant and Sasha Vujacic would count for 63% of their points, I doubt you'd think the Lakers would win.
Red Sox Maniac
Absolutely right. But playing horribly on your own home court vs. the road is something to think about. It is game three of the Finals, and the Lakers, being down two games, play one of their worst games of the season in front of Jack Nicholson? Not very funny, by Lakers standards.
The Lakers played not horribly more than people are still unaware of how good the Celtics defense is. If it takes the last game of the series to prove that the Lakers will never be able to play their transition game, so be it.
5) The free throw disparity.
Nobody is surprised that the Lakers shot 12 more free throws after the Celtics outshot them by 28 in Game Two. A bigger surprise came from the fact that the Lakers missed 13 of their 34 free throws, including seven misses by Kobe Bryant and five by Pau Gasol.
Despite the disparity in attempts, the Lakers only had six more points off of free throws than the Celtics did.
It was interesting to hear Doc call out Phil Jackson for "whining" about the free throws in his post-game news conference. He might have done more harm than good by eliminating his right to complain later in the series.
Red Sox Maniac
5) Even game with the refs
The only part of the game where I was flinging my hands over my head was the 1st quarter. Kobe ran into the lane and received a lot of fouls. He got bumped a lot, but in comparison to the rest of the game, these fouls were a litte bit of a karma kick-back for the disparity in game two.
As a Boston fan, I felt there was a disparity, but at the same time, the game was called pretty evenly for the most part. The Lakers played good defense, and we didn't make our shots when we had the opportunity.
Ungvari has mentioned Doc Rivers doing more harm than good by talking about Doc Rivers' critique of Phil Jackson's complaints of the officiating in game two.
Fist of all, this isn't Jeopardy, or Wheel of Fortune. If Doc wants to rant about Phil, or vice-versa, they can do it as much as they want. If I wanted to write about Ungvari's article 80 times on the Bleacher Report, I have free reign to do so. There isn't a three strikes policy for talking about other coaches in the NBA. Not that I'm aware of, I guess.
6) The box score.
It's pretty crazy how close the teams were in the box score. They were within one turnover, two blocks, four steals, four rebounds, and two assists of one another. Also, the difference in shooting from behind the arc was 1.5%.
Red Sox Maniac
Very true. It was a close game. It was a crazy struggle.
7) I counted three.
Kobe Bryant, Sasha Vujacic, and Jordan Farmar. Those were the only guys that showed up for the Lakers tonight.
Trevor Ariza definitely looked better than he did in Game Two. He knocked down a couple of shots, and shook off a little rust. The more he plays, the less we'll see Vladimir Radmanovic and Luke Walton.
Red Sox Maniac
Trevor Ariza has barely played in the playoffs, so I don't expect him to come into his own in the series. I know a rebuttal would be "Well, Leon Powe is on your team and look at what he did!"
Not to be mean, but Leon Powe is better than Ariza. Ariza is just not as good as Powe. And Powe will probably not have another game like that anytime soon, or even get that amount of playing time.
I still contest this as a disagreement of how people don't attribute the Lakers game to the Celtics defense.
8) Kwame Gasol
Pau Gasol had nine points, 12 rebounds, and zero blocks in tonight's game. In his only Game Three of last year's playoffs, Kwame Brown had 19 points, six rebounds, and two blocks against the Suns.
...I'm just saying.
Red Sox Maniac
8) Who are the Big Men For The Celtics Again?
Pau Gasol was handled really well by Kendrick Perkins. He is a smart player who picked up some key rebounds throughout the game. His game was stifled by the strong side of Perkins and the weak side of Garnett. Plus, the ball was in Kobe's hands 30% of the time, and even when he posted up, it usually went right back out to disrupt the transition defense of the Celtics.
His game is going to be hurt because the transition and interior defense is really good, but it will make his team better because the Celtics will have to continuously occupy him with the great defenders, thus leaving their backsides vulnerable to cuts by Vujacic, Kobe, and Farmar.
9) The Injury Report
The Celtics have now had three players go to the locker room with injuries in three games. We don't really know how Kendrick Perkins's ankle is because he hasn't stayed out of foul trouble long enough to get a read on him.
Rajon Rondo's ankle looked fine, although I was surprised Doc Rivers left him on the bench for that long when Rondo returned from the locker room. He played the last eight minutes of the game, hit one jumper, grabbed one offensive board, and committed two fouls.
The bigger question, though, is Pierce's knee. You can count the number of times he drove to the basket in Games Two and Three on two hands. He had two days off between Games One and Two, and only one day off, and an airplane ride between Games Two and Three. Kobe did a good job of guarding him. I doubt he'll be in foul trouble as early in Game Four as he was tonight. I'm interested to get a read on the knee with three games in five days.
Red Sox Maniac
9) The Injury Retort
I think I'll do a Da' Tara and finish this off at the end...
10) The longer the series goes, the more I think the Lakers will benefit.
Tonight's game was the Celtics' 23rd playoff game. It was the Lakers' 18th. Kevin Garnett had looked tired in the fourth quarter of every game in the series, and the Celtics had had three starters forced to leave the court to get medical attention.
The pressure is still squarely on the Lakers. But if they win the next two games, they'll ride a ton of momentum against a team that is older and more banged-up heading back to Boston.
If the Lakers can win Game Four on Thursday, I think we're in store for one hell of a Game Five on Sunday.
Red Sox Maniac
10) The Longer the series Goes, The More I Think Lakers Fans Are Delusional
I don't mean to step on anyone's toes, but if you are a Lakers fan, and somehow believe that going into a game six or seven is going to help your team, you might as well stop watching basketball now, and impede the emotion of heartbreak from entering your life after Garnett holds the Finals trophy.
I would be scared if I was a Lakers fan because:
A) The Celtics have played against the Lakers with backups. The Lakers beat the Celtics by six and they had no point guard for 18 minutes ( House is a shooting guard ), The Lakers had Pierce and Perkins who still have injury issues, and the Celtics' best player ( Kevin Garnett ) went 6-21.
Not only did he shoot 6-21, but most of those shots were OPEN. He didn't miss them because of tenacious defense, or disruption from the Lakers, but from having a bad game.
B) The combination of Pierce and Garnett went 8-35. 8-35! If they made just two of the open or easy opportunities they had, the Lakers would've lost. The Lakers didn't play well, but the Celtics nearly beat the golds playing their worst game of the season.
The Lakers had other players who didn't contribute ( Gasol & Odom ), but they pale in comparison to the scoring options of Garnett and Pierce. The Celtics beat themselves, and the Lakers barely survived on their own home court.
But, the Lakers almost one in game one, right?
C) The Celtics have played their game in every single game against the Lakers this year. The Celtics even beat the Lakers on the end of back-to-back road games. The Celtics have played their style of offense and defense, and the Lakers have had to adjust. Kobe has bailed out the Lakers with his amazing talent, but he ( based on Ungvari's analysis ) is going to have to guard Pierce? And Rondo? And Allen? And Posey?
How long are the Lakers going to ride on Kobe's back. 23 games vs. 18? Garnett has missed 15 games this season. Ray Allen has missed 6-7. Rondo hasn't even reached more than 30 minutes playing time. And they all were rested for at least five games before the playoffs begin.
The Lakers have been playing in the intense Pacific Division for the past 50+ games. They have had to battle to reach the top, whereas the Celtics have been able to stroll throughout the regular season.
The fatigue game may be a factor, but if so, I'll take my chances with the team that has been resting all season, and when they play, have been playing with great intensity during the game. There is no way anyone can currently take a Lakers team that can't implement their offensive scheme, cannot play defense, and nearly lost to a team where two of their best scorers didn't show.
If I am a Lakers fan, I would want the series to end as quickly as possible. Because right now, I don't consider that Lakers fan's dream is the dominance of the green. If Eddie House is holding fort on your own court, and Leon Powe can run the entire floor against the four players, I would have to worry about how many times I feel that Kobe can save the Staples center from the nightmare that has been the Celtics game.
Great article, Andrew, but I have to draw criticism against the perception that Lakers fans believe that they somehow have the upperhand against a team that they have barely beat ( with backups playing ) in just one game.