Game 2: Boston, 103 – Los Angeles, 94
No man is a god here on Earth. No man should ever wish or try to be either. However, there are times when mere mortals perform such feats as to make us question whether they are deity or man. Though rare, they are endlessly remarkable and astounding. The basketball world is occasionally graced with such feats. Michael Jordan almost made them seem standard but we all know that such things are never standard. Yet again the NBA and its fans were treated to an amazing performance worthy of the Gods.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Last night, Jesus Shuttlesworth came knocking on the Lakers’ door. He found what he was looking for. In fact he found much more than what he asked for. This humble man became exalted. Ray Allen put on a show that no human has ever replicated. Allen looked as though he were a character in NBA Jam as the net was scorching with each shot he drained. To use the cliché yet appropriate phrase, he was on fire. In the first half he connected on seven three-pointers, tying the NBA Finals record for three-pointers made in a game. Allen did all this, on route to scoring 27 of his 32 points, in one half of basketball. He continued to move, running by screens that were set for him all across the court to free himself from his defender for open looks. He was wide open for transition threes as the defense would collapse on Rajon Rondo as he led the break. Los Angeles paid for its mental blunders, leaving Ray Allen open is always a dumb idea. Derek Fisher, Shannon Brown, and Jordan Farmar all received opportunities to try to be coolers to Allen’s hot hand. All failed miserably, they were impotent, especially Farmar and Brown. Fisher was constantly two to three steps behind Allen as he was banged on screens set everywhere. For the Lakers, the situation was desperate. So desperate in fact, that Kobe Bryant shifted from guarding Rondo to defending Allen midway through the second quarter. Ray quickly made Kobe look foolish. As the Celtics brought the ball down the court, Allen’s eyes got wide as he got Rondo’s attention. Quickly, he moved around screens to his spot on the arc, received the pass, and drained a three in Bryant’s face. Allen set the Finals record half way through the third quarter with his eighth three. He did not connect on another shot from deep for the rest of the game. The Lakers once fallow fields had just seen a swarm of locust devastate them.
With Shuttlesworth’s cool down in the second half of the game, Rondo, like he has done throughout the playoffs, took the reins and did the damage. Rondo had been leading the Celtics charge all game while attempting to establish the tempo. Boston ran at every opportunity they had. This blatantly displayed the Lakers trouble with transition defense and their inability to defend in the full court. They are a half court defense that relies on the length and size of their interior players. Rondo exploited the Lakers’ transition deficiencies throughout the game, even in the half court, Rondo challenged the Lakers’ bigs as he was not willing to settle for jumpers and play into the Lakers’ hands. It was the Rondo summer basketball clinic. In the fourth quarter, with the game wavering back and forth between the two franchises, Rondo scored ten crucial points. With 3:21 to play, Rondo scored the go ahead layup and the Celtics never trailed after that point. Rondo finished with his fifth triple-double of the postseason with 19 points, 12 rebounds, and ten assists. He was also key to the Celtics excellent ball control down the stretch. In their first 54 possessions, Boston committed 12 turnovers. However, in their last 37 possessions they did not commit a single turnover. During that stretch the Lakers turned the ball over nine times.
With excellent play from their guards, the Celtics did not need much help from the rest of their players. It is a good thing that they did not because many of them were plagued by foul trouble as the whistle sounded often, against both teams, during the game. Kevin Garnett was forced to the bench early with two quick fouls. This allowed Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol to do heavy damage to the Celtics’ interior defense. Both of these players were the Lakers’ only bright spot offensively. This may have been Bynum’s best playoff performance of the postseason if not his career as he actually played heavy minutes in the fourth quarter. He poured in 21 points, gathered six rebounds, and blocked seven shots. Gasol was equally effective as he recorded 25 points to lead all Lakers in scoring, grabbed eight rebounds, and had six blocks. However, these were the only two players who decided to show up for the entire game.
Bryant was marred by foul trouble throughout the game and was therefore very limited; he picked up his fifth early in the fourth quarter. It was not only the fouls, but the Boston defenders, that also slowed Bryant’s performance to numbers that were more reminiscent of the first round series with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He scored 21 points but was 8-20 from the field with a hand in his face on almost every attempt. Ray Allen was not a one trick pony in this game. He gave Kobe problems as he played physical bump and grind defense against him. Each Celtics player who defended Bryant used their own skill set to slow him down. Tony Allen used his length, speed, and physicality to slow him and Rondo used is ball hawking sixth sense to tie Bryant up and strip the ball. Boston may have found their top kill for Kobe.
Once again the Lakers bench was nothing short of abysmal. This time though, the depths of dreadful play wrapped its grasp around the one bright spot on the bench. Lamar Odom was terrible. There is no way to sugar coat it as much as Khloe Kardashian may want it to be. He was plagued by fouls, like many of the players in the game, and only played 15 minutes and scored three points. So far this series is not going well for Odom. In the Utah and Phoenix series, he committed a foul every 8.4 minutes. Against Boston, Odom is committing a foul every 3.6 minutes. It is rare to see Odom succumb to the ineptitude that is rampant on Los Angeles’ bench but after this game it is clear that no one is immune if they spend any time with the scrubs who perpetually ride the pine.
Los Angeles made the game interesting in the second half of the game as the score was tied at 72 after three quarters. But, the Lakers simply did not have enough in them to finish the game strong. To end the game, the Lakers were actually pathetic as they allowed Boston to close them out on a 16-4 run over the final five plus minutes. Now the series shifts to Boston and with the Celtics winning game two they have a commanding home court advantage. The next three games will be played in the TD Garden. If the Celtics are able to take at least two of the next three the series should be considered over. Right now the ball is literally in Boston’s court. Ray Allen destroyed the Lakers’ temple and he hopes they cannot rebuild it. If the Lakers cannot find a way to get more production from players not named Kobe or Pau they will find themselves on the wrong side of history and Boston will raise eighteenth championship banner.