Lakers shut down two of the Big Three
Defense played a big part in the Lakers' Game 3 win. I have said all along that if the Lakers could negate one of the Big Three, they would have success. Well, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett shot a combined 8 for 35 and to make matters worse got to the free throw line five times. The Lakers held the Celtics to 35 percent shooting and although Boston scored more baskets in the paint they missed a ton of shots outside the paint. Garnett drifted further and further away from the basket with each shot attempt. Phil Jackson’s decision to let Kobe Bryant roam off of Rondo effectively caused Boston’s offense to sputter all night long.
Sasha steps up with 20 points
Sasha Vujacic was huge with his 7 for 10 shooting. If he doesn’t step up, the Lakers would be looking at a 0-3 deficit this morning. Jordan Farmar gave a solid 20 minutes, but other than that the Lakers' most publicized bench has been all hype and no show in the first three games. Sasha hit timely shots all night long and proved to be enough with Kobe being Kobe
MVP took over
Kobe was expected to be aggressive from the start and he did not disappoint. He took great shots all night long and got to the line 18 times. He also had seven rebounds which helped the Lakers fight off a team that was bricking shots from everywhere. He must have thought it was his birthday when Doc Rivers decided to stop trapping him late in the fourth quarter and left Ray Allen on an island with him where there is only one survivor – Kobe. That was caused by Vujacic nailing a three, but Doc should have continued to trap Kobe.
Plus 14 on the free throw line
This was big for two reasons:
1. It helped ease the pain of Boston’s dominance in the first two games.
2. The Celtics tied the Lakers on field goals made and were a plus 14 in field goal attempts. The plus 6 free throws made was the difference in the game.
Rondo sprains ankle
Although Rondo was a liability because Kobe was creating havoc by guarding him, the Celtics struggled down the stretch to get into their offense and find good shot attempts.
Star of the game: Kobe was dominant from the start and put pressure on the Celtics defense the whole game. He didn’t get to the rim a lot, but he got there enough to solidify a great effort from the free throw line. He took great shots the whole game and his help defense disrupted Paul Pierce's ability to attack the rim and that was the deciding factor.
Turning point: Boston was trailing 78-76 with 1:53 remaining in the game. Vujacic made a three-point shot to put the Lakers up five points. This turned the tide because Doc Rivers decided to guard Kobe with only Ray Allen and he made the final two baskets to win the game.
Unsung hero: The Lakers' bench was in trouble but Vujacic came through when it was needed most and he became the Leon Powe of L.A. This is how this series will be decided and the Lakers will need another effort from Sasha in Game 4.
Who needs to step up?
Sam Cassell or Eddie House, especially if Rajon Rondo’s ankle will hamper him in Game 4.
Paul Pierce cannot afford another mail-it-in effort in Game 4 and Kevin Garnett has to stop thinking he is only a jump shooter and attack Pau Gasol.
Los Angeles Lakers:
Listen, I have said it since the trade and I will continue to say it... Pau Gasol is highly skilled, but soft as two wet pancakes. He is withering away from the constant beat down of the playoffs and he better find a way to step up or the Celtics will end this series in Los Angeles.
Someone once asked me if I had to pick a player that had the perfect size, height and agility in the league, who would that player be. I immediately said Lamar Odom. Lamar still has not figured out he could be a defender's worst nightmare. He thinks too much and gets himself out of sorts – or as Phil Jackson said, “looking confused." The Lakers will not win four games without Odom playing well. That has to be a huge concern right now.
Game 4 strategy
Los Angeles Lakers:
- Jackson realizes he was extremely lucky in Game 3. He cannot count on Vujacic to have another great game against the Celtics' stingy defense. He has to get Gasol and Odom more attempts.
- Continue to apply pressure to Paul Pierc,e who could be affected by the bad knee.
- Pressure the Boston guards 94 feet, especially Cassell and Eddie House.
- Get off to a good start and make Boston climb uphill.
- Convince Garnett his Jumper is AWOL and to attack the rim.
- Counter Kobe’s roaming defensively off of Rondo
- Keep Kobe out the paint because it got them in foul trouble and got Kobe to the line 18 times.
- Continue to be physical with Odom and Gasol.
I do not expect Paul Pierce to have another terrible game. The Lakers barely beat the Celtics when they shot 35 percent. The Lakers' bench has been outplayed the first three games as a whole and I expect it to continue. Boston will recover and win Game 4, but it will be a barn-burner!