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That was unpleasant

 

Lakers 110, Celtics 109 (OT)

Let’s say it up front: The Lakers were better tonight. We could sit here and be defensive and angry, and complain about the bogus call on which KG fouled out with 4:22 to go (and it was bogus) or the (alleged) contact on Ray as he dribbled around a screen on the final possession (you’re never getting that call).

But here are the facts: the Lakers, minus Bynum, were the better team tonight — not by much, but by a noticeable enough margin that I would not have felt comfortable had the C’s somehow pulled this game out.

The Lakers shot a little better (47.7 percent to 45.2 percent), held their own on the boards (Celtics +5) and took care of the basketball (11 turnovers, compared to 16 for the Celtics). Even what the Lakers did wrong — shooting 17-for-29 from the line — only proves they outplayed Boston tonight; if anything, the margin should had have been bigger.

What’s disturbing about the closeness of those team stats is that we can’t lean on the old “the Celtics played horribly tonight” defense. Individually, the Big 3 were 21-of-46 with solid peripherals, and Rondo had a near triple-double (though it felt like a very quiet 16-12-8 to me).

As for the Lakers, it wasn’t Kobe that did us in tonight. He got his 26 points, and he hit some huge shots–in particular, three big three-pointers when the Lakers had fallen behind late in the fourth. The first, with 5:24 to go, cut a five-point lead to two, and the third put the Lakers up by one with 1:30 to go.

But Kobe missed his last five shots, one with 9 seconds left in regulation and then all four of his attempts in OT. The credit goes to Pierce, who played maybe the best man-to-man defense he’s played in his life, including last year’s Finals. He stayed right in front of Kobe amid all the hard jab-step dribbles and quick shoulder jukes, and his left hand was inches from Kobe’s eyes on every shot. If the Celtics win, Pierce’s D is the headline today. Fantastic effort.

It was Odom and Gasol (44 points on 24 shots) that won the game for the Lakers. KG can guard one of them, but he can’t guard both, and the Lakers were determined to find the weak spots underneath and exploit them.

The Lakers dumped the ball into Gasol in the post on three of four possessions early in the 2nd quarter, interrupted only by an errant Vujacic three-pointer (thanks, Sasha!). Here’s what happened:

Boston Globe photo

Boston Globe photo

(11:29): Gasol backs Powe down on the left block, drawing a double-team. He turns toward the paint and dishes to Ariza, who’s cutting to the rim. Big Baby is too late on the rotation, and Ariza lays it in, plus one.

(10:38): Gasol gets the ball in the same position, and backs Powe down with a couple of dribbles before taking a hard dribble into the lane and hoisting an easy jump hook.

(9:52): The Celtics try Big Baby on Gasol in the right block. Gasol faces up and blows by Baby on the baseline, drawing a foul.

That Gasol-heavy stretch is telling, because the lineup that was in the game (Pierce-Davis-Powe-Tony Allen-House) has played the second-most minutes among the C’s five-man combinations. Defensively, it’s been a solid unit, but it’s not built the right way to stop the Lakers post game.

I’m not sure the Celtics have any answers for that, except for playing KG and Perkins even more should these teams meet again in June.

The good news: That unit has performed worse than average (for the Celtics) on offense this season, but it sparked the Celtics tonight. It’ll be forgotten in the highlights today, but the C’s were down by nine midway through the second quarter, and it was Eddie House and Leon Powe who carried them out of the hole.

Powe got it started with a put-back, House stole the ball from Vujacic and went coast-to-coast for the lay-in and nailed a three off a Tony Allen steal and dish.

Powe had three big baskets in the fourth quarter before leaving the game with 6:29 left, never to return. I don’t like to question Doc anymore, but I wondered why he didn’t come back with Powe once KG picked up his fifth foul with 6:18 to go — at least for a couple of minutes.

I know that’s blasphemy, but KG wasn’t all there tonight, anyway. He fouled out with 4:22 after pushing off of Derek Fisher’s right shoulder in trying to gather a semi-loose ball Fisher had poked away. Soft call, not one you’d expect against a superstar one foul away from a DQ.

Some other concerns, after the jump.

Tony Allen was a non-factor. Tonight you saw the difference between Tony Allen and James Posey. There is no circumstance–none–in which James Posey plays 11 minutes, including just two after halftime, in a game like this. Allen was fine when he was in there, but it’s evident Doc doesn’t believe he’s ready to put his stamp on a game at this level.

Perk was invisible on offense tonight. He took three shots, which isn’t all that disturbing. He’s not a scorer, obviously. I just feel like the C’s play better when he’s at least involved, and he’s got such a size and strength advantage on Odom and Gasol that I’d like to see him take a couple of cracks at them in the post.

Baby came back to earth. All of Doc’s jokes about Baby’s new diet plan aside, he was probably tired after the 42 minutes on Tuesday. But this Lakers team plays better defense, and it seemed, to me at least, that Davis had a half-second less to line up those jumpers tonight than against the Sixers Tuesday. And when you’re a shaky jump-shooter, that half-second can make the difference. His one make was a biggie (to put the C’s up 109-108 with 1:08 to go), but he got a little carried away in rushing up another J with 17 seconds left in OT and the the C’s still up 109-108. Gasol blocked it, Odom recovered and got fouled, and a minute later the game was over.

  • http://kimboslice.com Kimbo

    Yall got fuuuuucccccckkkkkkked uuuuuuup, you bitch ass bitches. Maybe Pirce shoulda faked another knee injury to pump your bitch ass team up.

  • http://www.aol.com exhelodrvr

    Good write-up. Clearly a big victory for the Lakers, and a big loss for the Celtics, but this hardly equates to a "the king is dead, long live the king" moment.

  • Anonymous

    Shut up Kimbo. Don't give us Laker fans a worse than we already have.

    Anyway, nice game Celts. See you guys in the finals.

  • Doc Rivers

    Lakers are the better team. I bet you guys are missing Posey now. Substitute Posey for Big Baby in those last couple minutes and maybe the Celts pull it out. But you don't have him anymore. HAHAHA. LAKERS > CELTICS

  • Michael

    It's funny. I love Boston, love everything about that city, and I even like the Sox…but those darn Celtics. I still have bad memories of game 7, 1984. But last night was awesome for us Laker fans because most were counting us o-u-t. A 6 & 0 road trip is nothing to scoff at…see you Celts in the finals!

  • G1

    Damn, Kimbo, it's garbage like you who give Laker fans a bad name. Get your head out of your ass and give props where it's due.

    Good game.

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    I can't believe you Lakers fans have the guts to stand up to Kimbo Slice. I have a newfound respect. Seriously, great game last night. How about Odom? Wow. Scary for C's fans.

  • B-Roy

    Odom just emerging from his grave?? er???

  • Dennis Johnson'

    Seriously, Kimbo and "Doc Rivers"–if that's your real name! Even if you had a valid point about the Lakers being better (you don't), that shows a total lack of class. the only thing this game showed is that the Lakers won't be bullied this time around. It kind of reminds me of when Larry said that we played like a bunch of sissies one time long ago….

    Nice analysis of the game, Zach. Mature and reasonable–like Kurt at Forum Blue and Gold. This is serious basketball analysis–keep it up. Even though I'm a Laker fan who loves to hate the green, I'll be back.

  • Nick

    I didn't think the Lakers had it in them without Bynum on the second night of a back-to-back at Boston. It looks like Boston's bench is considerably weaker than last year without Posey and PJ Brown. What a game. I hope this is a rematch for the Finals. If the Lakers get home court, the Celts are in serious trouble. If Bynum is back and playing like he was before injury, it won't matter who has home court.

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    DJ's Ghost–Glad we found a few friendly Lake Show fans. Please, for our sake, start giving Odom a hard time again so he becomes a little more emotionally fragile.

  • DMo

    Mr. Lowe did a great job of assessing last night's game. Its importance in the grand scheme of things is totally up for debate, but I have watched every Lakers game this season and I know that L.A. needed that win badly after the Bynum injury.

    The Lakers may or may not be the "best" team in the league, but they are certainly the most talented (even without Bynum). The Celtics are the only thing standing between them and immortality, and they know it. They have now beaten the Celtics with and without Bynum this season, so they can relax and play on, knowing that a championship is still well within their reach. Celtics fans have a lot to be proud of, but if Andrew is back in the lineup at even 80% strength in June, a game like last night's won't be close. The Celtics will have to clinch homecourt and avoid ANY injuries to beat L.A. 4 out of 7 times, regardless of Bynum's health. And they have clearly lost the psychological edge that was so key to last year's victory.

    The Celtics are a tough team. They will bounce back from this loss quickly and continue to play great team ball. But, for the Lakers, this win could represent a movement toward dynasty building. They took the best shot from their best opponent on a night when nobody could fault them for losing, and they still came out on top.

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