Celtics hold the Lakers to 61 points in first three quarters
The Celtics are playing lock-down defense on every player in a Lakers uniform. I thought going into this series that the pressure perimeter defense would work against the young Lakers and it has in the first two
games. The Lakers are a good shooting team, but the Celtics are keeping them out of big runs with one exception – the fourth quarter. The Celtics run at every shooter with great rotation. So even a head fake cannot give them an avenue to get layups or attack the basket and draw fouls. There is a serious reason why this team won 66 games and critics who chose the Lakers to win this series better take notice. They are so good I saw them switch four players off on Kobe Bryant on one play in the fourth quarter. They are determined to force the Lakers’ others to beat them and so far the plan has worked.
Leon Powe huge off the bench
Historically the team that wins a championship has a player that gives them a great game when least expected. Powe was the guy in Game 2, scoring 21 points. Powe sent a message to every young player in America and that is “Always be ready to play.” He was huge with his scoring and ability to get the Lakers in foul trouble. Powe shot more free throws in 15 minutes (13) than the entire Lakers team (10).
Consistent Big Three
Another 60-plus combined effort is huge by Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. Pierce was the best player on the floor, especially early when the Lakers where trying to get a big lead. Allen, who struggled in the Eastern playoffs, has regained his touch and confidence. He has also made Kobe work extremely hard for every basket. Garnett has effectively opened up the middle for uncontested drives with his shooting. If this continues, the Lakers will find it hard pressed to win one game.
31 assists on 36 baskets
Wow! Although Doc Rivers can’t be happy with the Celtics meltdown in the fourth quarter, he has to be ecstatic with the ball movement and unselfish play spearheaded by Rajon Rondo, who had 16 assists.
Star of the game: Leon Powe. Leon Powe was spectacular in 15 minutes. He changed the flow of the game and gave the Celtics’ bench another victory over the more touted Lakers’ bench coming into this series. This despite not even knowing if Doc Rivers will use him or Big Baby Davis from game to game. You want to cheer for Powe, who fought odds beyond basketball to put himself into this position. A wonderful accomplishment for a young man who grew up in foster homes with his siblings when their home burned to the ground and just one parent to care for them. Hooray for Leon Powe!
Turning point: Leon Powe entered the game with the score 22-21 with 11:21 left in the second quarter. The physicality of the game increased and the Lakers seemed to wither under the pressure. With Powe getting to the line and putting pressure on the Lakers frontline, the lead grew to double figures and the Lakers were climbing up hill all night long.
Unsung hero: PJ Brown has become the huge pickup the Celtics thought he was. His defense on Pau Gasol has been solid and has allowed Garnett to keep Lamar Odom under control.
Who needs to step up? I am not picking on Lamar Odom, but he’d better step up quickly or he will be fodder for every critic with a pen. Odom must know now what Scottie Pippen felt like playing next to Michael Jordan. The difference between the two is Scottie figured it out and performed. Odom seems to be headed in reverse.
Gasol can’t be left out. He shot one free throw in Game 2. He is as soft as they come, but showed some heart with a few strong moves. The Lakers need more.
Game 3 strategy
– Doc Rivers will treat this game like a Game 7. He knows if his team goes up 3-0 it’s over, so expect a hungry Celtic team for game 3
– The Celtics have realized that the Lakers cannot beat them if their bench matches the Lakers.
– They must continue to make the Lakers shoot jumpshots. They had a 38 to 10 free throw advantage in Game 2.
– Run the offense through Paul Pierce. The Lakers have no one who can guard him except Kobe and Phil Jackson would be making a huge mistake if he tried that matchup early in Game 3.
Los Angeles Lakers:
– Get Odom some post-ups and isolations early
– Double Paul Pierce early and often and live with Allen and Garnett taking jumpshots.
– Find a way to make it a fast game, although Rondo has been great with his pace.
– Hit somebody in the mouth and play Ronny Turiaf more minutes, especially since Luke Walton has been AWOL.
– Kobe needs to take 30-plus shots if that’s what it will take.
You would expect the Lakers to pick it up at home, but it doesn’t matter where you play if you don’t fight. The Celtics have slapped them around despite a fourth quarter meltdown in Game 2. I honestly think the Celtics will take more from that fourth quarter than the Lakers because they won Game 2 and will go into Los Angeles and win Game 3. No way I would be thinking this could happen before the series started, but as I stated in my preview article, the Lakers are a soft unit and the Celtics are sensing it and will go up 3-0 in the series.