The Lakers Won? Nope, the Celtics lost

For the rest of time, game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals will be remembered as a LA Laker 83-79 victory over the Boston Celtics. The score sheet will show that Paul Gasol had a double-double, 19 points and 18 rebounds. That Ron Artest poured in 20 points. It will show that despite Kobe’s poor shooting night he was able to come through and muster a large double-double of 23 points and 15 rebounds. Even though the score sheet shows a Laker win, many of the fans who watched the game know in their heart that the Celtics lost.

Throughout last night’s game it was apparent that it was the Celtics game to lose. It’s not too often, especially in these 2010 playoffs, that you see an off night like that from Kobe Bryant. But it wasn’t just Kobe Bryant who had a poor shooting night. Only one player on the Lakers shot over 50% and that was Derek Fisher’s 4-6. I guess that’s what explains the dismal 32.5% shooting. It begs the question though of how in the world is it possible that a team can shoot 32.5% and not be beaten?

The problem for the Boston Celtics was that there were plenty of reasons why they couldn’t beat a team who shot 32.5%.

Shooting. They didn’t exactly shoot the lights out with a 40.8% rate of success from the field. But it wasn’t just poor shooting. It was the inability to get baskets when they had the opportunity to pull away from the Lakers. Time after time Ray Allen was given good looks and was not able to hit. Ever since he broke out with 8 three’s for an NBA finals record he was unable to find his stroke again. There was one instance in particular last night where Ray Allen curled off a screen for a mid-range jumper, caught the ball, but didn’t seem ready to shoot. He wasn’t looking towards the basket when he caught it, so he hesitated. To me it looked like he didn’t want to take the jumper, which is just inexcusable for a guy of his caliber, in a game of that magnitude. There are always so many “what if’s” in big game’s, but what if Ray Allen had just a normal day at the office? Not a great day, just a regular ol’ Thursday at the office.

Bench. I do realize that Rasheed Wallace is a bench player who did a good job in relief of starting center Kendrick Perkins but the fact of the matter is that the bench scored a grand total of 6 points. The only player on the Boston Celtics who got significant minutes off the bench was Glen “Big Baby” Davis who had all 6 of their bench points. I don’t like to be one to second guess a very good coach in Doc Rivers but when his starters weren’t getting it done on the offensive end it seemed like it was time for a change. Part of the problem that was even more evident last night was how compact the offensive zone was for the Celtics. A few things contributed to this. Whenever Rondo had the ball Kobe Bryrant was playing way off of him. For example when Rondo was at the top of the three point line, Kobe Bryant was guarding him at the free throw line. Also, Paul Pierce was unable to shake Ron Artest in isolation situations, which made it so the Lakers did not really have to double team Pierce. Moreover, Ray Allen did not extend the defence like he can because of his inability to make his shots over the last 3 games of the series.

The Celtics needed someone to take the pressure off of Paul Pierce who was relied upon so often, and so often was unable to make something happen. Rajon Rondo did have 14 points and 10 assists but he was pretty much non-existent when he came back into the game with 9 minutes or so left in the 4th quarter. Well, except the big 3 pointer he hit in the last minute of play. I think it would have been a good idea to stick Nate Robinson and Tony Allen to try and change the dynamic of the game. It is pretty much a given that Tony Allen is going to bring energy and toughness into the game. However, with Nate Robinson it is a toss-up but the fact that Kobe Bryant was sagging so much off of Rondo made it almost impossible for the Celtics to do anything. Nate Robinson coming in and actually given a chance to make a play would have hopefully extended the defence and open up space for other teammates.

Rebounding. In each game of these NBA finals whichever team won the rebounding battle was the team that won the game. In game 7, the Celtics weren’t just out-rebounded, they were manhandled. In total the Celtics had a -13 differential on the boards, but the key stat in this was that the Lakers had 23 offensive rebounds to the Celtics 8. Without those offensive rebounds there is no way that the Lakers’ poor shooting would have prevailed. Rasheed Wallace played great defence in the post but constantly was being out-matched on the boards. It wasn’t just the Celtics’ big men though, the smaller players were not gang rebounding. The colour guys on ABC pointed this out a number of times.

Perkins. Now I’m not sure how much Kendrick Perkins absence actually hurt the Celtics to the extent that I thought it would, but what I am sure of is that it couldn’t have helped. Any key player on an NBA team could be the difference in a 4 point game. Another what if, but what if Kendrick Perkins had been good to go in game 7?

Free Throws. The Boston Celtics made it way too easy for the Lakers in the 4th quarter because over and over they were giving them easy buckets at the free throw line. Kobe and Pau alone combined for 28 free throw attempts, but the Lakers were shooting so terribly yesterday that those two also missed 10 freebies. Overall the Lakers shot 37 free throws, 20 more than the Boston Celtics. That’s not going to get it done in the NBA Finals.

On the other hand, it wouldn’t be fair to give the Lakers zero credit for last night’s victory. Ron Artest played outstanding defence the entire night and had to have convinced his critics of his true importance to his team. Ron Artest stood out to me, but you can’t play good defence without all 5 guys on the floor being in sync and the Laker defence was 100% in sync last night. As I somewhat alluded to earlier the Lakers, although bigger, seemed to have more fight for those 50-50 rebounds, which ultimately gave them the opportunity to win.

For all you history buffs out there the Battle of Britain would seem to be a great comparison to yesterday’s game 7. Despite all the thing’s that the British did right, the Germans ultimately lost the Battle for themselves.

This pill will be a hard one to swallow for the Boston Celtics. However, it would be much harder to swallow if they didn’t already have that most important 1st ring from 2008.

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