A renewed emphasis on defense, a record-setting performance by Ray Allen, some clutch moments by Rajon Rondo and just like that the Lakers lose home court advantage.
Celtics Played Better Defense
The Lakers had few issues on offense in Game 1. They worked it inside, worked it outside, and were able to get to the rim at will. This would not be the case in Game 2. The Celtics came out with a lot more energy on the defensive end. They played much better help defense - especially on Kobe Bryant. He wasn't able to get to the rim nearly as much as he did on Thursday. The Celtics got to the loose balls they had conceded to LA. The defensive effort then translated to opportunities on the offensive end. In Game 1 they had five fast break points and in Game 2 they had 11. But that doesn't count some of the buckets that were a result of pushing the ball off of stops. By pushing the ball, the Celtics got some open looks before the Lakers were able to set up their defense but they aren't technically classified as fast break points - including a few Ray Allen three-pointers.
What a Difference Ray Allen Makes
In Game 1, Allen played limited minutes due to foul trouble and was never able to get into a rhythm. He found his rhythm last night. His first half was one of the greatest performances ever in a Finals game. By halftime he had already tied the record for most made three-pointers in a Finals game hitting 7 of 8. Derek Fisher is probably quite bruised from the amount of screens the Celtics set. Ray Allen ran around from one screen to another attempting to shake Fisher to get his shot off. Then he did the work and made shot after shot to give the Celtics a big first half lead. Allen cooled in the second half but still managed to break the Finals record for three-point field goals made when he hit his eighth in final three-pointer midway through the third quarter.
Kobe Limited with Foul Trouble
It's not often Kobe Bryant gets in foul trouble but it's not a big surprise given how the officials called this game. There were 58 personal fouls and plenty of bad calls - like when Ray Allen leaned in when Bryant was driving and caught a slight shoulder to the face and took a dive. But there were bad calls on both sides and they probably offset each other. Unfortunately, the calls limited Bryant - not only in minutes but in what he could do on the court. He could no longer risk driving to the rim for fear of an offensive foul (to which he was whistled for one on another questionable call). He couldn't help on defense either, and he couldn't foul to stop the clock at the end of the game. Bryant managed just 21 points off of 20 shots ending a streak of five straight games scoring 30 points or more.
That's the Ron Artest Lakers Fans Are Used To
In the two previous playoff games Artest had averaged 20 points and had knocked down 7 of his 12 three-pointers. Lakers fans were relieved to see him finally finding his offensive game. Well, it appears he has lost it again. How can someone who has been playing basketball for so long look so awkward dribbling the ball on a fast break? Artest seems like more of a wrestler than an NBA player. He made just one of his 10 field goal attempts including shooting one for six from three. He's back to looking completely lost on the offensive end. He dribbles too much and tries to bulldoze his way to the basket but then he doesn't have the elevation to prevent help from disrupting his shot.
And That's the Rajon Rondo Celtics Fans Are Used To
It was Ray Allen coming through in the first half and Rajon Rondo doing it in the second. Rondo was tentative on Thursday but looked to attack last night. His aggressiveness didn't translate into points in the early going though, as the Lakers big men were able to help contain him. But he contributed in other ways and then in the fourth he was able to do damage through scoring. He finished with a triple-double scoring 10 of his 19 points in the fourth while dishing out 10 assists and grabbing 12 rebounds. But beyond the stats, he made big plays when they needed him. He grabbed an offensive rebound off of a blocked shot and laid it back in to give the Celtics the lead for good, 91-90. He blocked Derek Fisher on a game-tying three-pointer a couple of plays later. And he knocked the ball away from Bryant from behind to preserve the win in the final minute. This is exactly the type of game the Celtics have come to expect from their superstar and they'll need more of the same to win this series.
Now it's onto Boston for three games (don't ask me why. Does anyone
like the 2-3-2 format?). These series are all about adjustments. The
Celtics made the right adjustments to win Game 2. Can the Lakers now
counter to take one or two in Boston? Phil Jackson and the Lakers have
their work cut out for them.