Lakers Seek to Square the Affair
Whatever the outcome, let’s just pray for a cleaner contest Thursday than transpired Tuesday night in Game Three of the NBA Finals.
The Lakers got on the board Tuesday, pulling within two games to one, but it wasn’t pretty. Both teams shot like crap from the line; it was turnover city for both clubs; several key performers were in four trouble; and Boston shot under 35 per cent – yet was in position to win the game late.
Here are the RotoRob keys to the game for both clubs:
For Boston to turn things around and grab a commanding three to one lead, it obviously needs to sink its shots tonight. The C’s don’t necessarily need to shoot 49.4 per cent like they did in Game Two, but another sub 35 per cent performance isn’t going to get it done. Boston won’t win if it doesn’t sink at least 40 per cent of its shots tonight.
When it comes to sinking their shots, no one is more important than Kevin Garnett, who has struggled mightily in his first appearance in the NBA Finals. He’s shooting 35.5 per cent through the first three games, unacceptable for a post player who is putting up over 20 shots per game. The Big Ticket needs to find a way to fight for better position and easier looks because, clearly, the jump shots that he was sinking against the Pistons, aren’t falling in this series.
D is the key for Boston as it has been all season long. Let Kobe Bryant get his points (but hopefully have to use more shots to do so), but if the Celtics can again shut down the rest of the Laker starters, they’ll win this game. On Tuesday, foul trouble limited Vladimir Radmanovic to 13 minutes and he was completely ineffective (1-for-4). Lamar Odom was also in foul trouble – the second straight game he’s been rendered a non factor, although Tuesday was way worse than Game Two. In Game Three, Odom sunk just 2-of-9 in under 30 minutes of action. And Derek Fisher, one of the better Lakers in Game One, was putrid, sinking just 1-for-6 and managing just one assist.
Local boy Paul Pierce needs to play better in his homecoming than he did Tuesday. Foul trouble limited his minutes, but when he was on the court, he couldn’t drop a pea in the ocean, sinking just 2-of-14. The Truth had been on a serious roll since the final game against the Pistons; Boston needs this player back if it hopes to maintain control of this series.
How will Rajon Rondo do on a gimpy left ankle tonight? He was held out of Wednesday’s practice, but says he’ll be good to go tonight. Boston’s offense looked rather stagnant without him down the stretch Tuesday. There’s a chance Rondo won’t start tonight, meaning that Eddie House or Sam Cassell could be in the starting five for the Celtics, and that could be trouble.
For the Lakers to even the series, they will need the Pau Gasol of the first two games, not the one that struggled through a 3-for-9 shooting performance on Tuesday. It didn’t help that he missed five freebies at the line, either. Sure, Gasol has been getting the job done on the glass, but the Lakers could also use some of that intimidating presence he provided against Utah when he averaged three blocks per game. In the first three games of this series, he’s managed just one swat, and that was back in Game One.
Bryant needs to duplicate his big effort Tuesday, at least from the field. While he finally started getting to the line as often as he should be, missing seven free throws in 18 tries isn’t good enough. Yes, he has to take over the game when it counts, but it would also help if Kobe could continue to get his teammates involved in the offense like he did in Boston when his shot wasn’t dropping. Tuesday, he managed just one assist, not enough considering his touches have dropped in each of the last two games. More trips to the line is part of the story here, but the league MVP needs to be putting up close to 25 shots per game – especially when they are actually dropping like they were in Game Three.
When the Lakers are rolling, they are getting key contributions from the bench. Sasha Vujacic delivered Tuesday – pouring in a career-best 20 points in an incredibly efficient manner (7-for-10 from the field). LA needs another effort like this from The Machine – especially if the starters (besides Kobe) struggle again like they did Tuesday.
The Lakers are now 9-0 at home in the postseason, and haven’t lost a game at the Staples Center in two months. A big mountain to climb for Boston, right? Well, consider how close the Celtics were to winning Game Three despite playing like crap and watching Bryant finally stepping up. The Lakers pretty well need to win all three at home, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. I’m predicting an extremely close contest tonight, possibly decided by a single bucket. And I don’t know why, but something tells me there will be a very unlikely hero.