Focus and desire
The Celtics refused to lose Game 4 and a ton of credit goes to Doc Rivers. He remained positive throughout and did not panic. His smooth demeanor in the face of a huge deficit gave his team a base to build up from. And boy, did it work.
Celtics know how to ride that roller coaster
The one thing a fan will never understand is the emotional ride a player competing at this level goes through. The great thing about the NBA is that the 24-second shot clock allows that ride to be even more emotional.
The Lakers and their fans were having a good time in the first two and half quarters. Kobe Bryant was smiling and talking smack, Lamar Odom was dancing, Pau Gasol was strutting. Meanwhile the Celtics were looking grim as can be. They were spooked and embarrassed and their body language showed it.
Fast forward to the fourth quarter when the Celtics finally took the lead (after trailing by 24 points) on an Eddie House jumper and the looks were magically transferred to the faces of the Lakers and their fans.
Now you know why this game puts wrinkles on coaches' faces and induces players to leave their skin and act out of character in anger. That’s the part of basketball I will never miss and the Lakers paid a serious price for falling into it.
Kobe had no rhythm
Although the Lakers were rolling early, I had a problem with the fact Bryant was not in the flow. Why? Because the same players that were rolling early for the Lakers were not closers and historically those guys become resistant to shooting when the game becomes intense. So by Kobe having no rhythm, I felt the Celtics had a chance if they got the deficit to 10 by the fourth quarter. Well, they got it to two and that spelled doom for the Lakers with Kobe struggling to carry them home.
Celtics' bench continues to dominate
There's one big difference between Eddie House, James Posey and Sam Cassell and the Lakers' bench (with the exception of Sasha Vujacic)... The Celtics guys don't care if they fail. Those guys could miss 10 straight shots and still shoot. They are tough minded and strong willed and that is why I felt they would hold the edge in this series. And they have. 29 points combined from House and Posey were huge in the comeback and solidified who has the most productive bench in this series.
I told my wife at halftime that if the Celtics could hold the Lakers to 90 points, they would win the game. She looked at me like I was crazy, but I knew that the Celtics are the only team in the league other than San Antonio that could shut the Lakers down and still have the ability to score enough to make up a huge deficit.
This win was incredible. They held the Lakers to 33 points in the second half and yet everyone claims that they are the best offensive team in the league. I guess we now know who has the best offense. The Celtics have cold-blooded scorers in Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, House, Cassell and Posey. These guys don't care about shot attempts whereas Kobe, Vujacic and sometimes Derek Fisher seem to be the only aggressive-minded scorers for the Lakers.
Ray Allen shuts up his critics
Allen has been huge and is making a run at securing MVP honors for the series after averaging 20 points and 6 rebounds over the first four games. Allen made two huge drives down the stretch to get the win. His effort on defense against Kobe this series has been great.
Star of game: James Posey was huge because he kept the Celtics in range with three-point shots during a period when the Lakers would build the lead back to high-double figures. He has been the unsung hero for most of the playoffs, but his 18 points in Game 4 elevated him to star over teammate Paul Pierce, who did double duty by giving Ray Allen a breather guarding Kobe in the second half.
Turning point: The second quarter was significant because the Celtics started making runs and although the Lakers would repel them, they would come right back. I felt these runs and the calmness of Doc Rivers finally got them a 21 to 3 run late in the third quarter that made it a two-point game entering the fourth quarter. They never quit and the Lakers paid the ultimate price.
Unsung hero: Eddie House is the perfect offensive role player. He reminds me so much of... Well, me! He has never met a shot he didn’t like and he has supreme confidence. I understand why Doc Rivers contemplates at times if he should use him, but I think Rivers realizes now why he shouldn’t contemplate. House is not afraid to fail and that is why he has survived in this league and was huge in the Celtic comeback scoring 11 points.
Who needs to step up for Game 5?
Los Angeles Lakers:
Kobe can't wait any longer. Although the Lakers built a huge lead, they did it with non closers and when those same guys needed to continue they shied away and deferred to an out-of-rhythm Bryant. Jackson can't afford to ignore Kobe within that triangle for a half and expect him to be ready to finish the game with confidence against this stingy defense.
The Lakers' bench has turned out as I expected. I said in my preview that inexperience would do them in and it has been true to form.
If Kevin Garnett wants to solidify his career, here is his opportunity. Paul Pierce has stepped up big, Allen has been great and now the icing on the cake is for Garnett to have the game of his life and live up to the
greatness everyone has expected of him.
Game 5 strategy
Los Angeles Lakers:
- Must play a solid 48 minutes against a hungry Celtic team.
- Kobe must be aggressive from the start.
- Pressure guards continuously full court thus taking time off the shot clock.
- Crash the offensive glass, especially with Kendrick Perkins hurting.
- Gasol and Odom must stay aggressive
- Stay focused and not think the Lakers will fold.
- Apply tremendous pressure on Kobe
- Defensive rebounding and getting to loose balls.
- Play off Garnett in the post.
- Stick with House and Posey to negate Kobe's scrambling help defense off of Rondo.
History says teams don’t come back from 3-1 deficits, but Kobe is a fighter and the Celtics will find out this game will be the most difficult to close. I believe if they get an early lead and put tremendous pressure on those struggling role players, they will win. The key for the Celtics is that they have two players in Posey and Cassell that understand Finals' closing games and that will be the difference. The Celtics are the better team and they should end the series in five games.