This was a really fun game to watch. Even though it was not
the best played game it was intense and hard fought.
I have to confess that I was quite surprised to see how
anxious the Lakers looked in the second half. I imagine most folks will suggest
that the return of Pierce from injury was the turning point but the Celtics actually
began changing the tenor of the game as soon as Pierce was carried back. The first half seemed to set a great
stage for them to steal home court advantage in Game 1 but it just didn’t
appear that they viewed it as an opportunity. The Lakers seemed to be playing
not to lose for a large chunk of the second half. Very atypical for this club.
The real difference of the second half was that the Lakers
clearly appeared to be waiting for Kobe to win the game for them. Fisher played
hard but didn’t score much in the second half and neither Gasol nor Odom had
the kind of impact the Lakers will need them to have if they are to win the
title this year.
The Celtics seemed to ride their emotion and effort to
victory. They were the more aggressive team on both ends of the court
(exception coming soon) and that means they got to the foul line, were effective
in forcing the Lakers to take contested shots and make contested passes and on
numerous occasions won tips, kept balls alive, made deflections and generally
outhustled the Lakers (DFish was a notable exception).
All that being said, Celtics fans should still be nervous as
Doc Rivers made some pretty poor coaching decisions. Even Mark Jackson noted
that Sam Cassell stayed in the game too long. Obviously. And the exception to
the aggressive tendencies of the Celtics was Kevin Garnett. KG did a better job
of taking enough shots to really impact the game. Good stuff. In the second
half, he kept taking jump shots and missing them. Bad stuff. Doc Rivers needed
to remind KG how he got into such a great rhythm in the first half. He went to
the basket repeatedly and strongly. On the couple occasions he made a concerted
effort to drive the ball in the second half he reverted to taking layups that
were contested instead of forcing his way to the rim or foul line. He needed to
take fewer Alex English shots and more Moses Malone shots. Of course KG has always
seemed more interested in being English than Malone, hasn’t he?
From the results of Game 1 I think the Lakers’ best lineup
might be DFish, Vujacic, Kobe, Odom and Gasol. By the way, if Phil Jackson has
already lost faith in Odom for the whole series then Kobe will have to be more
like Michael than he thinks for the Lakers to win.
For the Cs I’d say their best group is Rondo, Allen (Ray of
course), Posey, Pierce and Garnett. Depending on game play though, the Celtics
might legitimately want to consider having Brown, Perkins or even Powe on the
floor if Odom plays well enough to force KG to guard him. All three of those
bigs are energetic and rebound well enough to really frustrate Gasol.
Hopefully the series continues the level of intensity of the
first game and the players settle down enough to increase the quality of play.