Not a blowout, just the Lakers remaining in complete control throughout, imposing their will on the C’s for the majority of the 48 minutes tonight. Altogether, it was a thoroughly impressive effort by the defending champs, dominating the C’s on the board, in the paint and on the defensive end.
A line has been drawn in the sand and as of tonight, it was the Lakers that looked like the tougher team. They were the ones making the hustle plays and playing the tough physical D needed to be Champions. The good news is there are still plenty of games to be played, the C’s just need to answer the call. The Lakers won’t make that easy.
There were a lot of heroes tonight wearing yellow jerseys but you have start with the Spanish Llama, one Pau Gasol. Taking the knocks on his toughness to heart, he led the way for LA, logging over 46 minutes and putting up a crucial 23 points and 14 rebounds, (8 offensive), 3 assists and 3 blocks. Just a tremendous line that spoke volumes about just how much of an impact had on his contest.
Gasol picked his spots well, working the pick and roll to perfection with Kobe and company all night long, while setting the tone for his team from the opening tip with his effort on the glass. He also carried the load with half of the Lakers roster was beset with foul trouble throughout the first half, keeping the Lakers in control before their big run at the end of the second quarter.
There was no question that Gasol had the edge at the power forward position going into tonight, but he made KG look flat out old on both ends of the floor. He outrebounded him 14-4, got to the basket at will, the C’s had no answer for him. Just a tremendous performance.
Looking around the rest of the Lakers squad, it was a perfectly balanced effort. Kobe got his 30 with relative ease, while keeping Ray Allen in foul trouble for much of the evening. The role players stepped up throughout with Ron Artest and Derek Fisher hitting some timely jumpers. Andrew Bynum looked strong in 28 minutes of floor time, putting up a respectable 10-6. Just a polished all-around effort.
The Lakers made a couple of runs in this back and forth affair, one at the end of the 2nd to bump the lead up to double digits and again in the 3rd to essentially put the Celtics away early. When the Celtics are down 20 and Ray Allen is stuck on the bench with 5 fouls, there is no way this team is winning, pure and simple.
Enough credit for the Lakers though, let’s get to the C’s. They were outworked tonight. Outhustled. Not to an embarrassing degree, but enough to make the difference. They were tentative all night on the offensive end, never gaining any kind of rhythm. A lot of that had to do with Ray’s foul trouble throughout the game. It’s tough to play offense without Ray, but that chore becomes he even more challenging when you are playing from behind, which is what the C’s were doing all night.
The long range game was non-existent as well with the C’s shooting just 1 of 10 from downtown. The Lakers played a smart disciplined defensive game, making the C’s earn their points with either tough shots or at the free throw line.
It wasn’t that anyone on the Celtics was playing particular bad, (except for TA and KG at points) it’s just that no one played particularly well. Few teams this playoffs have been able to contain all of the C’s weapons but that’s exactly what LA did tonight. Rondo, KG, Pierce all held in check. No one got any kind of flow going, which limited the C’s from sustaining any kind of runs offensively. Never a serious threat, the closest they got the second half was nine points.