That game got physical real fast. I didn’t expect Paul Pierce to be the initiator, but whatever works (or doesn’t, in this case). Boston looked to try to duplicate past successes against Los Angeles by being tougher, both physically and mentally. They proved neither in last night’s game, but by all rights still may in the approaching games.
Kobe wouldn’t have it. Ron wouldn’t have it. Andrew wouldn’t have it. Derek wouldn’t have it. Heck, even Pau wouldn’t have it, which meant Boston would be in for a long night.
When the Lakers win, its usually because they have too many talented players not to, which was the case last night. They also outworked Boston, which is like killing a bee with a sting. The Lakers beat Boston with varying ways, some of which are:
1. Kobe Bryant – not really surprising, as he has established himself as the best player in the game, again. Shot after shot after contested shot. Its not fair sometimes, especially when Ray Allen is called for fouls that may have only existed in a parallel dimension or in a Kobe vacuum. Whatever they drained from his knee way back in the Thunder series, they should take out from everybody’s knees if they are going to boost their performance like that. Put it this way, through some random point in the third quarter, Kobe had only 18 points and everyone in the Champ’s basement was surprised it was that low. He is dominating games right now, which is scary and exciting (depending on if you are rooting for Boston or not).
2. Pau Gasol – still the role player, but phenomenal at that. Now, people are bringing up the whole is he a superstar or just a star debate. It fluctuates depending on the series, which probably means he isn’t one. Two seasons ago, just before the finals he was. Then after Garnett and Perkins slowed his role, he wasn’t. Then last postseason he was the whole way through. Then against the Thunder and Jazz he was. Then for a couple games against Phoenix he was, then the next four he wasn’t. He is the most skilled big in the game, which might make him a default superstar, but regardless he was great last night.
3. Derek Fisher – nobody blows up screens like Fish, even if he may sell the offensive foul by opposing big men a little too much. He is a better defender than he was thought to be, I suppose. He is tough, gritty, and a little more than dirty. Plus, he takes and makes clutch shots when called upon.
4. Andrew Bynum – a healthy Bynum means an unhappy Boston. He is not healthy, but healthy-ish. His knee is hurting, bad, but he fought his way through the pain for a 10 and 6 night, and allowed Odom to play spot duty, which may be his most important role on the team (Bynum, I mean). He was missing two years ago, and with his addition LA has gone from not long enough to too long for Boston.
5. Ron Artest – I have not wanted a player to win a ring more than I want Artest to win a ring right now (except maybe KG pre-2008). He said he didn’t even enjoy his first Finals action or win because he was so focused on the goal at hand, which is a little frightening. He tumbled with Pierce in the first minutes of the game and helped frustrate Boston’s offense the rest of it. The Lakers were +/- 26 in Ron’s 33 minutes of action, which is tops of any player on the floor last night.
6. The Bench – LO was the only big contributer, although Shannon and Farmar had some significant playing time. Odom is really the difference maker, and I mean whether he is able to come off the bench or not. Coming off the bench he presents his true gifts, a mismatch and length to add to the Lakers’ already formidable size.
7. Kobe Bryant – yes, again. Did I mention his defense? Or his 30-7-6 game? Or how he got Boston into a lot of foul trouble (with the help of some misplaced whistles)? If he plays like this for the rest of the series, then this will be much shorter than was previously thought (I can’t see Boston allowing this to continue). Not only that, but he straight ignored Chris Rock’s attempts to connect while on the bench (see video below). What a monster.
With all that, Boston didn’t play well and I still expect a lengthy series, as well as a very physical one now. Rondo was nullified, Pierce and Allen were in foul trouble, and Garnett was given the ball and expected to score. Not good signs at all.
Also, if you measure Perkins’ angry faces by the amount of kittens that are killed as a result (as some in the Champ’s basement suggested), then there was a kitten massacre last night.
It’s hard to measure this game. Is it a trend that will continue or the blip on a radar screen many in Boston hope? Will the refs continue to call it close all series, especially against those guarding Kobe?
Queensbridge is definitely in the building.