Game Three was perhaps the “ugliest” exciting contest in NBA Finals history.
At times the Lakers and Celtics looked as graceful as contestants on “Wipeout” and “I Survived A Japanese Game Show” The Celtics shoot just a notch under 35% from the field while the Lakers convert on 44.5% of their attempts. The biggest surprise is that Kevin Garnett (6-of-21) and Paul Pierce (2-of-14) are the Celtics chief contributors to last night’s Brick-A-Thon. Meanwhile Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, the number two and three options in the Laker attack have 3-of-9 and 2-of-9 efforts from the field. The shooting from the charity-stripe wasn’t much better as Doc River’s crew shot just 15-22 while Phil Jackson’s unit finally had their free throw advantage, going to the line 34 times (after just getting 10 attempts on Sunday,) but unfortunately didn’t fully capitalize on it, sinking just 61.8 % of their throws.
Kobe, who went just-11-of-18 from the foul line, on his free throw shooting woes last night: “I felt like I was in a foreign territory, because I haven‘t been there in so long. It‘s like somebody took me and just dropped me off the middle of Shangai with no translator.” He then added “At least I got there. So that’s a positive”
If the Spurs and Pistons had both reached the Finals and played a game like this, the Nielsen’s ratings for game four would drop to single digits and everyone would moan and groan about the sad state of the NBA is currently in. However because this is the Celtics and the Lakers, last night’s bump-and-grind below the century mark affair is tolerated and even viewed as another classic chapter in the rivalry.
If you’re a fan of the Purple and Gold you’re certainly delighted that the squad got its first W of the series rather then falling into a 3-0 hole which would’ve essentially ended the series but you’ve got to be a little concerned that even with KG and Inglewood’s favorite son, Paul Pierce taking unofficial vacations while Rajon Rondo is limited to 18 minutes after suffering a slight ankle sprain that the Lakers barely escaped with a victory.
Of course, one reason for the Lakers struggles is that Lamar Odom and Vladamir Radmonovic both got into foul trouble again while Pau Gasol frustrated the club’s fans with an awful night blowing several chip shots and could soon have his picture in the dictionary when you look up the word “soft”.
Phil Jackson really should really consider starting Luke Walton at small forward for the Lakers. Radmanovic can’t stay out of foul trouble and although Walton isn’t having a good offensive series his passing skills and court sense would be valuable against the Celtics tough D. Also when Luke Walton has come off the bench, he often winds up as the second unit’s power forward matching up against Leon Powe, something Radmanovic would be better suited for. The Serbian long-range shooting specialist would also be good option in certain situations to replace Lamar Odom.
I think Phil Jackson is an outstanding NBA coach and have always vehemently disagreed with those that claim he has only won his nine titles because he simply had the luxury of coaching Kobe, Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. However I do think he does makes questionable coaching decisions at times. Tonight there were a few things that caused me to scratch my head as the Celtics went on a 15-3 run in the middle of the third quarter to take a 54-50 lead .
1) Where was the side pick-and-roll that was so effective for the Lakers in the second half of game two? Perhaps Doc Rivers and his staff drew up a defensive scheme that could counter it by why not try it once or twice when the team went cold, scoring just three points in nine possessions as Team Green took control of the game.
2) Why was Trevor Ariza inserted into the game at the 7:54 mark of the third quarter instead of red-hot Sasha Vujacic who had dropped 12 points on the Celtics in the first half? OK, perhaps Phil didn’t want to burn out Kobe by having him defend Pierce, but with 4:58 remaining in the quarter, Doc Rivers sat down PP and brought James Posey into the game. This would have been the ideal time to bring in Sasha and assign him to Ray Allen while Kobe could save energy while watching Posey and also double off him when necessary. But Phil stuck with Ariza and waited to bring Sasha until there was only 1:07 left in the third quarter, again when the Lakers were in need of some scoring punch as the Celtics reclaimed the lead.
It reminded me of game two of the 2004 NBA Finals when Phil kept Luke Walton on the bench after he racked up eight assists in the first half but stayed with Devean George and didn’t bring him back Luke back into the game until there were ten minutes left in the game.
Fortunately for the Lakers, No. 24/The Black Mamba/ was on his game tonight (except when shooting free throws) and willed his team to victory in crunch time finishing the game with 36 points on 12-of-20 shooting and showed us all that he is the best player in the game today.
For the Lake Show as great as Kobe was, it’s a good thing their Machine from Bosnia showed up and assumed the role of super-sub off the bench as he complemented Kobe‘s 36 with 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting (while the rest of the squad provided just 31 points) as Leon Powe of Beantown was bumped back into the role of KG”s ineffective caddy logging just six minutes of PT and scoring only one point.
I’m glad that PJ Brown and Jordan Farmar didn’t start throwing down with each other after getting tangled up for a rebound in the second quarter. If they had, we might have witnessed another ugly Kermit Washington-Rudy Tomjanovich moment.
Speaking of PJ Brown, anyone notice that he is a dead-on ringer with Guru from Gang Starr?
Bill Laimbeer was a guest analyst along with Michael Cooper for the Laker post-game show here on the ABC affiliate in Los Angeles. What’s next? Will Kevin McHale volunteer to be Kurt Rambis’ personnel body guard during the Finals?