NBA Finals - Game 2 Recap
Boston 103, L.A. Lakers 94 - Series tied, 1-1
Maybe the Boston Celtics aren't as old and creaky as previously thought. In one game, the Beantowners broke even with the Los Angeles Lakers, and now, a long series appears likely in the 2010 NBA Finals.
What was surprising about this contest is that Boston won without much of any production from the two men who formed the core of the 2008 championship team.
Kevin Garnett is playing comatose, body-snatched basketball in this series. The former superstar scored only six points and snatched just four rebounds. Garnett was a liability for almost all of the game, and he just couldn't generate any lift or jump with a body that looks 40 years old.
The other big name who isn't delivering for coach Doc Rivers is Paul Pierce. The MVP of the 2008 Finals hit just 2 of 11 shots on Sunday night at the Staples Center. Hounded by L.A.'s defensive specialist, Ron Artest, Pierce scored just 10 points and was a non-factor from start to finish
Boston big man Kendrick Perkins was okay - his 12 points represent a solid scoring contribution to his team. However, Perkins also grabbed only six rebounds and continues to battle his nerves.
Indeed, the Lakers dominated in the low post once again. After hammering the Celtics to the tune of a 16-0 margin in second-chance points in Game 1, Los Angeles once again turned to its bigs to make Boston look small.
They generally succeeded. Pau Gasol continued his superb playoff run by scoring 25 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Teammate Andrew Bynum - bothered by a persistent and considerable knee injury during these playoffs - turned in what was by far the best effort of his 2010 postseason. Bynum fought through pronounced and evident pain to score 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting. With Gasol and Bynum combining for 46 points, shouldn't the Lakers have won going away?
Amazingly, they didn't. A few reasons exist for this reality.
First, Lamar Odom crashed and burned for a second consecutive game. Odom is the barometer for the Lakers. His energy comes and goes, and he is a feast-or-famine player. When Odom is flying around the court and using his combination of quickness and length to bother opponents, L.A. is positively unstoppable. When he flatlines, however, the Lakers become mortal, and that's what happened in Game 2. Odom picked up three fouls in the game's first three minutes, did a lot of sitting on the pine, and never got into the flow of the contest. Odom finished with an embarrassing 3 points and 5 rebounds. Coach Phil Jackson sorely missed Odom's production and will need it as this series shifts to Boston.
The other big reasons for Boston's win were dressed in Celtic green. Ray Allen naturally jumps off the page as a Celtic hero. The gifted sharpshooter was at his very best on Sunday. Allen hit eight 3-point field goals in this game, an NBA Finals record. Allen racked up 32 points and gave Boston the dependable scoring presence it must have in order to win this series.
The other big key to Boston's win was Rajon Rondo, the man who needs to be "the man" in order for the Eastern Conference champions to prevail over the Lake Show. Rondo - who looked achy and out of it in Game 1 - displayed renewed hunger and liveliness in Game 2. Rondo littered the stat sheet in vintage fashion, producing the triple-double numbers Celtics fans like to see. When Rondo is gobbling up 12 boards and dropping 10 dimes while scoring 19 points, Boston is generally going to win games. This was the case on Sunday.
Beyond the raw numbers, Rondo simply dominated the fourth quarter. Whether he was outworking the Lakers for loose balls, stripping L.A. guard Derek Fisher, or driving to the bucket on a pick and roll, Rondo outflanked and outmaneuvered the Lakers. He was the best player on the floor, better even than Kobe Bryant, who suffered through a pedestrian 21-point performance on the grand stage of the Finals. Rondo's defense and off-ball rebounding gave the Celtics more possessions than the Lakers down the stretch, and that - as much as anything - is why the Celtics, trailing 90-87 with 5:20 left, shut out the Lakers for the next four minutes and 28 seconds.
It wasn't until the 52-second mark of regulation that the Lakers got off the "90" mark and scored another bucket. By that point, it was too late. The C's led 98-93 and didn't allow another Laker field goal the rest of the way. Rondo's defense lay at the source of Boston's fourth-quarter superiority.
The series now moves to Boston for the middle three games of this series. If Rajon Rondo continues to be the star of the NBA Finals and Lamar Odom remains in a funk, the outlook for the defending champions is almost certain to grow very dark.
By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer
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