3 big games. 3 brutal losses. The C’s played their best ball of the season in the 2nd quarter of this one, but it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish and the C’s once again showed an inability to close out a superior opponent once again. There was plenty of good to take out of this game, but you have to give credit where credit is due. The Lakers fought back from an 11 point 4th quarter deficit and the C’s recurring problems cropped up as the Lakers did just enough down the stretch to take a 1 point lead with Kobe Bryant draining a jumper in Ray Allen’s face at the top of the key.
The Lakers executed on both sides of the ball, scoring on their final 3 possessions while also limiting the Green to just 5 points in the final 6:40 of this contest, drawing a critical offensive foul on Paul Pierce with a pushoff with 30 seconds left and playing smart defense on the C’s final possession, rotating over to a rolling Ray Allen off his feed from Paul Pierce which forced a tough look from downtown that rimmed out.
So what do they make of all this? I’m not quite sure. The C’s showed they could play with and dominate the best team in the game for large portions of this one. Once again, sustaining it was the problem. The good news is that the defense was probably as good as it has been all season in the final 3 quarters and despite how bitter this loss will be for a team that desperately needed it, the pros you take out of this game outweigh the cons for me in my book. Large problems loom…..but the C’s hung with the Champs. They just need to remember how to do it when it counts.
Before we get to the bullets let’s take a look at the how the C’s fared with their two fatal flaws this year, rebounds and turnovers.
First, the good news. Rebounding. The Lakers are a slightly above average team on the the glass, and the C’s had one of their better efforts this season on the glass on both ends off the floor. They won the overall battle 39-36 as well as the offensive glass 10 to 8. Those numbers won’t blow you out of the water, but given the struggles in the team’s last two contests (-15 vs. Orlando, -4 vs. Atlanta) it’s a step in the right direction.
Perk and KG did well to hold their own down low against LA’s big guys, and with the C’s most active rebounding team (Rondo, TA and Big Baby) getting major minutes together in the 1st half, it paid off dividends. The C’s seemed more focused though in this area with their box out and positioning so my guess is Doc made it a point of emphasis before this game. Let’s hope it’s the start of a trend, rather than an anomaly.
Now the bad news. Those turnovers. They killed the C’s as always at both ends of this game. 7 miscues in the first quarter helped the C’s spot LA to an 11 point lead and a subpar 19 point showing. Same old story.
Then came the magical 2nd quarter and the C’s played the most beautiful basketball that we have seen all year. Now there were a lot of things that went right in the frame in which Boston outscored LA by a 33-17 note, while bringing back subtle memories of the game 6 massacre from the 2008 Finals. Turnovers in this frame? 2. And those both came in the final couple minutes of the frame when the Lakers closed a double digit deficit to 5.
Unsurprisingly, the 2nd quarter was an aberration turnovers wise, as the C’s finished with 18 overall during the game. As Zach Lowe mentioned, that’s too many and the C’s to be perfectly honest aren’t good enough in other facets of the game right now to get away with that number against an elite opponent like the Lakers.
In the 2nd half, it was fewer of the careless mistakes that did the C’s in, but rather the offensive fouls that created most of the problems, with 3 in the 2nd half, including the crucial call on Paul Pierce with 30 seconds left. Say what you want about the call, Ron Artest did some selling, but Pierce still did push off, and he caught at the wrong time.
* Speaking of the 4th quarter, the C’s were only able to put up a paltry 16 points in the frame, including just a pathetic 5 point showing in the final 6:42. What slowed down the C’s and forced them to squander away an 11 point lead in the final 10 minutes? A passive and isolation centered offense in the closing moments along with some stepped up D from LA. Rondo and the C’s stopped attacking the basket and instead were happy to wing the clock down in 1 on 1 situations which led to some average looks from the perimeter away from the perimeter. The C’s are at their best as we saw today when they are attacking both in transition and the half court. In the 4th quarter they did neither, and it cost them the game.
*Some quick thoughts on the final play call. I liked the idea, but Doc tried to get a little too cute here in my opinion. I was a fan of the pick and roll with Paul and Ray but it looked like Paul had the better shot at the elbow with a couple seconds remaining before he made the tough cross court pass to Ray Allen. The Lakers switched well on the play, almost seemingly expecting the pass and Lamar Odom got over and made sure the 3 point shot wasn’t an easy look.
Tough to second guess Doc too much here, given how well he plans end of the game plays, but it would have been nice to see
1) A play going towards the hoop, giving the C’s were down only 1
2) A quicker developing play that would have left some time remaining to give the C’s a chance at an offensive rebound
All in all a tough pill to swallow but the absence of Rajon Rondo on that play loomed large in showing how much less he had been attacking in the 4th quarter.
Even more on the way….