A cousin text messaged me at the end of the third quarter of Game 1 of the NBA Finals and said it was the best game he’s ever seen. A stretch, no doubt, but still a very entertaining first game, especially when compared to the four stinkers the NBA offered up in last year’s championship series.
Boston 98, Lakers 88.
Considering all the history surrounding this series, and the hype that followed because of it, Game 1 definitely met expectations. I expect to see a very entertaining series the rest of the way.
I’m on record of predicting the Lakers in 6, and last night’s game only made me believe that prediction is closer to becoming a reality. Give Boston credit for doing what they had to do. But what stands out most to me was how the Celtics struggled to put away the Lakers, not the first time in the playoffs Boston has had difficulty sealing a win at home. The difference to me is the Lakers are the best team the Celtics have played thus far and that ineffectiveness will catch up to them in Game 2 or Game 6.
I thought the Lakers hurt themselves more than anything Boston did defensively. L.A. missed easy shots and committed costly unforced turnovers. The Lakers had only eight turnovers, but four of them came in the game’s final 16 1/2 minutes and three of those were the result of sloppy passes.
Kobe Bryant went 9 of 26 from the field, but he never appeared to be as aggressive as perhaps he should have been with his teammates struggling to make shots. He tried to make the smart play throughout most of the game but he could only do so much as long as his teammates weren’t hitting shots.
Which leads me to Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. They’ve got to have more of an impact on the game offensively. They both went 6 of 11 from the field, a good percentage, but Gasol had only three points after halftime and Odom had only seven after the break. Derek Fisher had 15 points, but only two of those came after halftime. And Vladimir Radmanovic was a waste of space last night, scoring five points with five rebounds and five fouls. Someone needs to step up and be a threat offensively for the Lakers other than Bryant. And I expect to see a much smoother offense from L.A. come Sunday.
On the other hand, Boston’s big three delivered, combining for 65 of the Celtics’ point total. It was good to see Paul Pierce come through the way he did in the third quarter following that injury. Pierce is a player who has gotten a bad rap for not winning much — he’s Boston teams have had a losing record in six of his 10 seasons – but I’ve always thought he was one of the most talented players in the league and really underrated and unheralded.
Meanwhile, Boston’s role players did enough to keep the Lakers from stealing a game they probably should have won. Going in, we knew bench play would be a key to the series and it’s a big reason why the Celtics won. L.A.’s Sasha Vujacic, Jordan Farmar, Luke Walton and Ronnie Turiaf scored a combined 15 points with seven rebounds, two assists and 11 fouls. Farmar and Walton, perhaps L.A.’s best two bench players, scored just two of those points with three rebounds, one assist and four fouls in a combined 20 minutes. They’re better than that.
Boston’s bench of P.J. Brown, James Posey, Sam Cassell and Leon Powe combined for 17 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and three steals. Brown and Posey didn’t shoot it well, combining to go 2 of 10, but they came up with all the hustle plays Boston needed to win this game.
I’d give L.A. the advantage in Game 2 simply because of coaching. I expect Phil Jackson to make better adjustments than Doc Rivers come Sunday and find a way to get the Lakers’ offense flowing. That happens and my prediction will be a step closer to becoming a reality.