Thoughts from Game 4 of the NBA finals.
Eventually, we have to get a great game, right?
Game 3 was choppy, poorly officiated and downright ugly, especially for a tilt between the two best teams from each conference, which is what they were all season long.
That said, it was still a close game, even with Kobe Bryant glaring at every one of his teammates, a big first-half foul shot disparity and basically nothing from Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce for the Celtics.
Game 4 should be better, if only because now we’ve heard what Curt Schilling thinks about Bryant, which you can check out from Schilling’s blog, 38pitches.com, here. And — and this is a big AND — the NBA has to have a fairly officiated game. Has to.
But — and to me, l think this is a big BUT — if the Celtics’ Rajon Rondo can’t be effective, all bets are off. The Lakers hit on something in Game 3 that Cleveland was doing in its series against Boston in round 2 — pressure Boston’s guards full court. The Celtics don’t take great care of the ball (enough with the lazy backcourt lob passes already!), and by pressuring them, the Celtics’ offense begins 35-to-40 feet from the basket. That’s why Boston’s offense looked so bad in Game 3 — it was rushed as the shot clock was winding down.
So if Rondo is out of there or ineffective because of the bone bruise on his ankle, and if Doc Rivers insists on a lot of Sam Cassell in his place, look out.
As good as the Big Three have been for the Celtics, Rondo might be their most valuable player in a pure team basketball sense. Game 4 could tell us a lot about that, as well as where this series might be headed.
The tip is coming. Here we go.
9:04 The word is that “the Lakers look sharp early,’ taking a 9-2 lead.
But you know what? Three fouls charged to the Celtics already, including a technical called on Rivers and a “foul” on Boston’s Kendrick Perkins on boxing out for a missed foul shot. C’mon.
No whistles for L.A.
That’s a joke.
6:31 The Lakers are rolling. Absolutely rolling, getting eight early points from Lamar Odom. They lead by 10, 16-6.
Seriously, though, is Boston the worst fast-breaking team in the history of the game?
3:20 This is starting to take on Kansas/UNC proportions. L.A. is making everything and is in a flow while the Celtics are 3 of 15 from the field and have missed their last eight attempts, none of which were even close.
Why doesn’t Pierce try to take Vladimir Radmanovic to the hole? This is close to being one of those 25-point laughers, especially with Garnett on the bench with two fouls. 24-7, Lakers.
:00 And so the Lakers keep pouring it on against a sluggish Celtics team. It’s 35-14 at the end of the period, setting a new NBA Finals record for biggest lead after the first quarter.
Certainly the Celtics can’t keep playing this badly, and surely the Lakers can’t keep this pace up.
Then again, Bryant only has three points.
Another thing, Garnett is on the bench looking like it’s over already. OK, so maybe it is, but show a little life. There are three quarters left. Get it to 10 by the half and who knows?
That said, I’ll check back in if something interesting happens.
And dammit, 15 foul shots for the Lakers to just two for Boston?
Answer that, Stern.
8:13 Lakers by 21. Yawn.
5:36 Lakers by 24. Rondo hasn’t played since being lifted early in the first. The Celtics have one assist.
If he doesn’t come back healthy, the C’s won’t win another game.
And then I’d be right — Lakers in six.
3:02 What do we have here? Pierce hits a jumper and it’s a 12-0 Celtics run. The lead is down to 12, 45-33.
2:36 But a ticky-tack foul on James Posey on a ludicrous runner from Derek Fisher, and now the lead has a chance to go back to 15.
:00 That’s the kind of night it is for the Lakers. The Celtics appear to be getting themselves back within shouting distance, by then Jordan Farmar hits a runner that banks in at the buzzer.
Oh, it gets worse for Boston. After looking at the replay, the officials rule Farmar’s shot was a 3. 58-40 at the break.
7:06 Wake me if the Celtics get closer than 12, because each time they do, the Lakers come back with a run of their own.
I just can’t believe this is the same Boston team that was so good defensively in Games 1 and 2. 68-48, L.A.
3:14 Stop the presses! It’s under 12.
It’s 11, 72-61, as the C’s go small again and try to swarm and poke balls free for turnovers.
Here’s the thing though: if Phil Jackson, with all nine rings, will call a timeout when he’s still ahead by 11 and his team has just given up a mere 7-0 spurt, why does Roy Williams sit on his TOs?
2:01 The move of the series — an incredible dipsy-doo scoop, plus the foul, from Pierce, and it’s a 14-3 run and a nine-point game, 73-64.
Get this thing a little closer, and Pau Gasol and Odom will start to shrink.
1:41 Like I said, they’ll shrink. Gasol just missed a dunk.
1:25 And a 3 by Eddie House! It’s 73-67!
41.2 Allen is fouled, hits ’em, and it’s a four-point game.
1.7 Unfreakingbelievable! A bad offensive set by the Lakers leads to an air ball by Farmar, and P.J. Brown dunks it home to make it 73-71.
Are you kidding?
The Lakers had 35 points after the first quarter. They’ve had 38 since. Bryant will have to shoot now, and he may lead them to victory, but he’s far from in a rhythm right now, so there’s a chance he could be cold or force stuff.
Who could have seen this coming?
And it’s no coincidence that a lot of this has come with Rondo back on the floor and running the offense. It’s so subtle, but he’s a difference-maker.
Just incredible. We have a ballgame.
10:15 Leon Powe backs in Odom and kisses it off the glass. 73-73.
Read that last sentence again.
6:06 79-77, Lakers. Gasol hasn’t played a second of the fourth quarter.
5:48 Drive and dunk for Kobe. It’s 81-77. Celtics have to careful here. The next team to go on a run will win.
4:10 Um, Doc? This is why you shouldn’t play Cassell over House. Pretty J from the wing, and the Celtics inexplicably lead, 84-83.
Ten huge points from House and 15 bigger ones from Posey, who hit a 3 earlier to keep the Celtics’ hopes alive. We could be watching history tonight.
3:13 Reverse from Allen — after he had skied for an offensive board. 86-83, C’s.
2:10 OK, skeptics. THAT was a big-time move from KG, putting the ball on the deck and shooting over Gasol. 88-83, Celtics.
No way. No friggin’ way.
1:13 No, Posey. No, Posey. No, Posey. No, Posey. No, Posey.
YES, POSEY! A 3 drifting to his left — 92-87, C’s.
39.0 A quick bucket for the Lakers, 94-91.
32.0 Allen dribbling.
29.0 Allen dribbling.
25.0 Allen dribbling.
23.0 Allen dribbling.
21.0 Allen blowing by Sasha Vujacic like he’s standing still.
20.0 Allen scoring an easy lefty layup. 96-91.
15.0 Vujacic miss.
11.0 Kobe trying to draw a foul on a 3. No call.
5.0 House rebound.
Ballgame. I think I said that once already tonight.
Final 97-91, Celtics.
The Celtics were down by a record 21 after the first quarter, down still by 20 in the third quarter, and by getting huge contributions from everybody — Pierce, Posey, Allen, Garnett, House — they somehow win. Just an incredible night of basketball.
On the other end, a look at the boxscore will tell you that Odom and Gasol were huge. But what did they do once the game got close? They shrunk offensively — Odom should’ve owned Posey in the fourth quarter, especially with Posey having five fouls — and were worse defensively.
Give the officials credit, too. It was a evenly called game in the second half, and the better team won, not unlike what the Celtics did in the fourth quarter in Game 6 of the Eastern finals against the Pistons. Once the whistles were fair and going both ways, the more complete team won.