Monday, December 29, 2008

Score One for the Bad Guys...

Phil Jackson coached the game like it was the post season, Doc Rivers coached the game like it was the regular season. That is the first thing on my mind as I look at one of the best Christmas gifts sports has given us in decades as the Lakers defeated the Celtics 92-83 on Thursday. I choose to speak on the coaches because it was evident that Kobe Bryant was not going to be spending much time off the floor against the Celtics. That is one of the things that cost the Lakers a better chance to beat the Celtics last June.(Kobe leaving the game with double digit leads in games 4 and 5 in LA during last years finals) Kobe played a very efficient 43 minutes scoring 27 points, shockingly none from the free throw line. But for the first time since this Celtic machine was put together by Danny Ainge in the summer of 2007 the Lakers at least for one game showed that they were not going to allow themselves to be physically dominated as they had been in both the regular and postseason meetings last year. Hats off the the Lakers for playing a very good game, especially Pau Gasol down the stretch. Gasol was huge when the Celtics ran their double teams at Kobe. Not only did Kobe bring the defense to him but Gasol to his credit was not standing around waiting for the ball he was moving to the areas on the court that the Celtics defense left vacant, one of them confusing to me was the free throw line. You can bet the next time they play in Boston that will not be the case.

What continued to eat at me after the game was the offensive lapses and wasted possessions the Celtics had, especially in the second half. With Garnett and Pierce on the bench during one stretch and Ray Allen, who got off to a blazing start as the clear number one option on the court, the Celtics were not making it a priority to get Ray Ray the rock. Instead Ed House jumpers off of screen and roll and Tony Allen drives to the hoop with his head down were being settled for as the Celtics had plenty of opportunities to pull ahead further but could not execute. To the Lakers credit, once the Celtics did take a lead with Pierce and Garnett back on the floor along with Rondo, LA did not put their head down or panic, they simply kept battling which eventually lead to them pulling away in the final two minutes. Basketball is a funny game sometimes. Looking at the Celtics they had about four good stretches of basketball over the course of 48 minutes, the Lakers played far from a perfect game, but were able to hold off the Celtics when they needed too and were able built momentum at what seemed like the perfect moments.

On a day when the whole world was watching, a day when the Celtics had a streak of 19 straight on the line and a day where the Lakers felt that they had something to prove not just to the basketball world but to themselves we were given a terrific basketball game that made me at least be thankful for the league, the rivalry and the possibility the Green and Gold will meet again on the Finals stage this June.

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