Los Angeles Lakers: Kevin Garnett

Rapid Reaction: Celtics 116, Lakers 95

February, 7, 2013
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin

BOSTON -- A couple of Lakers players' nicknames seriously need to be called into question after this one.

So much for the "Magic Mamba" moniker the pass-happy Kobe Bryant has picked up in recent weeks.

Bryant, who had amassed 75 assists in his last seven games to pick up the nickname, finished with zero assists to go with his 27 points and seven rebounds in 30 minutes on Thursday.

And so long to the "Superman" pseudonym by which Dwight Howard has been known for so long.

Howard, who played for the first time in four games after aggravating the torn labrum in his right shoulder at the start of the Lakers' seven-game trip, had just nine points and nine rebounds while shooting 1-for-6 from the free throw line in 28 minutes before fouling out Thursday night. Those numbers were nearly equaled by Boston backup big Chris Wilcox (eight points, nine rebounds), and nobody is calling him Superman. In fact, when I tweeted that Wilcox was playing in the game, several people hit me up on Twitter surprised that he was even still in the league.

The loss can't be put on just Kobe Bryant and Howard, of course. The Lakers' defense gave up a ridiculous 116 points to a Celtics team that had just played the night before on the road in Toronto. The Lakers missed 12 free throws as a team. Other than Bryant and Howard, the Lakers shot just 23-for-64 (35.9 percent) from the floor.

How it happened: Howard's return didn't give the team the type of boost right from the start that it was hoping for in Pau Gasol's absence. The Lakers trailed by four at the end of the first quarter and 14 at the half, as both their offense (just 37.8 percent shooting as a team overall, not to mention going 2-for-12 from 3 and 8-for-18 from the free throw line) and their defense (allowing Boston to shoot 51.1 percent as a team) struggled mightily in the first half. It didn't get any better after halftime.

The Celtics used a flurry of fast-break points and 3-pointers to break the game wide open and take a 26-point lead into the fourth. Boston shot 16-for-21 (76.2 percent) in the third quarter and scored 37 points in the period to run away with it.

What it means: All the good feeling from the Lakers' winning six out of seven games is gone, and reality is creeping in for a 23-27 Lakers team that will be without Gasol for a minimum of six to eight weeks, according to the team. The hard work is still ahead of the Lakers if they're going to pull off this improbable playoff push.

Hits: Bryant shot 9-for-15 from the field. After that? Umm …

Misses: The Celtics outscored the Lakers 58-36 in the paint.

The Celtics outscored the Lakers 22-4 in fast-break points.

The Lakers' biggest lead was one point. The Celtics' biggest lead was 32.

Devin Ebanks ended his string of 13 straight DNP-CDs only to go 2-for-6 from the field in five minutes in the fourth.

Stat of the night: Kevin Garnett (15 points) became just the 16th player in NBA history to score 25,000 career points, passing the milestone in the first half.

What's next: The Lakers will escape the major snowstorm set to blanket Boston with up to 2 feet of snow Friday afternoon by flying to Charlotte late Thursday night. (We'll see whether we beat writers are as lucky with getting out of Beantown on Friday morning.) The Lakers play the Bobcats in Charlotte on the second night of a back-to-back Friday, and while they've done OK this season on the second night of back-to-backs on the road (3-2), they are just 2-5 all time on the road against the Bobcats. Then, they finish up their road trip Sunday in Miami.

Heat Read: Role players will make a difference

November, 30, 2012
Wallace By Michael Wallace
Editor's note: Throughout the 2012-13 NBA season we'll be asking our colleagues at The Heat Index to weigh in on the progress of the Lakers' newly minted super group. This week, Michael Wallace discusses the value of key players coming off the bench for championship teams.

MIAMI – When sizing up the Los Angeles Lakers for a potential NBA Finals showdown, few teams in the league are as equipped with tape measures as the Heat.

Miami's two key offseason acquisitions bring a combined three seasons of experience from facing Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Co. in the NBA Finals. Now, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis see a far more potentially dangerous Lakers team developing in Los Angeles, with the additions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, than any of the previous squads each of their teams met from 2008 to 2010.

“They've got a lot of great players over there, Hall of Fame players,” Lewis said. “But we feel like we can match up with not just one particular team, but anybody in the league. We've got guys who can play multiple ways, and a team that can play multiple styles, regardless of opponent.”

The Heat's combination of experience, flexibility and versatility are considered their main strengths with a roster anchored by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Barring injuries, conventional wisdom suggests the Lakers are capable of matching -- perhaps even surpassing -- the Heat's star power in would shape up as the most anticipated NBA Finals matchup in decades.

But Lewis and Allen believe that a series with so much at stake against the Lakers, or any opponent out west, will ultimately be decided by the team with the more reliable supporting cast. That was the case last season, when even the best postseason of James' career might have come up short had it not been for Bosh's late-playoff return from an abdominal injury or Shane Battier's breakout play early against Oklahoma City or Mike Miller's magical shooting display in the Game 5 series clincher in the Finals.

By adding Allen and Lewis to a supporting cast that already proved to be deep and effective enough to win a title, the Heat think they took significant steps to further compliment their catalysts and boost their chance to repeat.

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Lakers at Celtics: What to watch, with ESPN Boston

February, 9, 2012
By The Kamenetzky brothers

Just two seasons ago, the Lakers and Celtics battled for the NBA championship in a seven-game series for the ages. They meet Thursday as squads good enough to be taken seriously, but because both are old and flawed, they are widely regarded as outsiders looking into the 2012 title chase. However, neither team seems ready to pack up the tents. And even if they were, there's enough bad blood remaining from a split pair of Finals ('08 and '10) to guarantee a spirited battle.

Along with ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg, we pondered three questions heading into this game.

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
It's always interesting when these chums meet up.

1. What matchup are you most looking forward to seeing?

Chris Forsberg: Kobe Bryant vs. Mickael Pietrus: We sorta know how the starters match up, so I'm interested to see if Pietrus can be a Tony Allen-like Kobe stopper off the bench. Pietrus has been spectacular since being picked up on Christmas Eve after the Suns released him. And Pietrus supposedly said this summer that Bryant wanted him on the Lakers. (Runner-up: Troy Murphy vs. Anybody. Really, he's one of the Lakers' top reserves this season?!)

Andy Kamenetzky: Paul Pierce vs. Metta World Peace. There have been signs that MWP is rediscovering his defensive mojo. Most recently in Denver, he did the lion's share of the work in limiting Danilo Gallinari to just six points. Of course, there are still games where his defense is as ineffective as his offense, which renders MWP a total nonfactor. The Lakers need Paul Pierce kept in check, and much of that responsibility falls on MWP. We'll see if he's up for the task against a potential All-Star.

Brian Kamenetzky: Pau Gasol vs. Kevin Garnett. Pau’s output against what will surely be an extra yappy, extra chest-puffy KG will get the attention, and Gasol needs to produce more efficiently (eight of last 12 games with FG% at 45 or below). If he doesn’t, L.A. will have to find alternative options against a top-end defensive squad. Meanwhile, Garnett’s scoring has picked up, but Gasol has held opposing PFs to a respectable PER (14). If one goes off at the expense of the other, a victory for his team is highly likely.

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Can Andrew Bynum have the "more" he wants?

December, 1, 2011
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
When last we saw Andrew Bynum, he was addressing the media during his exit interview. After his apology to Dallas' J.J. Barea for a dirty flagrant foul, he expressed thoughts on his role in the offense: Namely, it needs to be bigger.

Between Drew's steady improvement, Mike Brown's stated plans to replicate the Duncan/Robinson Spurs and Kobe Bryant's regular reminders of the order in which teammates "eat," consternation over how the post-triangle offense is a given. And not without valid reasons. The division of touches between seven footers and one of the all-time great scorers has been a dicey topic for years. The Mamba is admittedly dead set on "shutting up those MF's saying I'm done," and he led the league in usage rate last season as it is. In the meantime, Bynum isn't afraid to speak up when he thinks the game isn't played inside-out enough. A full blown "Kobe-Shaq II" is probably a long shot, but tension between the shooting guard and the center isn't out of the question.

Danny Bollinger/NBAE/Getty Images
Is there room on the Lakers for Andrew Bynum to stake his claim?

Still, sexy a storyline as this undoubtedly is, the number of shots allotted for Bynum is actually just a microcosm of the bigger issue: He wants more... period.

This is plainly obvious in the way Drew relished his role -- and recognition -- as last year's unofficial defensive captain over a 17-1 stretch when the Lakers looked unbeatable. In the way he's become a more vocal presence with the media, typically offering the least sugarcoated opinions. In the way he's now less willing to be seen as the kid among veterans.

Bottom line, Bynum wants more on his plate, along with a bigger stake in the Lakers' success moving forward.

In theory, this is exactly what you'd want from a highly skilled youngster theoretically tabbed as the next franchise player. In reality, it's not so simple.

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USC and UCLA take the field Saturday in a football game close to my heart. After four years spent at USC, it's ingrained in my head to dislike UCLA. I've actively rooted against them since 1990. For six years bartending at Westwood Brewing Company, a decidedly Bruin-partisan establishment, I annoyed many customers with Trojan smack talk.

Noah Graham/Getty Images
Bobby Jackson was too much fun to root against, even while battling the Lakers.

I've come to appreciate many Bruins athletes upon leaving -- Arron Afflalo, Trevor Ariza, Maurice Jones-Drew, Jonathan Ogden, among others -- but while student body members, I've wished them nothing but failure. As a rule of thumb, that's how I treat anybody on a team I can't stand. I may respect and admire your game, but I ain't about to like you. With one notable exception:

Bobby Jackson, a core member of those Sacramento Kings teams that feuded heavily with the Lakers.

Ironically, at the height of this rivalry -- the classic 2002 Western Conference Finals -- I made the shift from "closet Bobby Jackson fan" to "I love this dude and if my fellow Laker fans don't like it ... oh well."

I'd long found Jackson an extremely fun player to watch. He was a high tempo, unpredictable, whirling dervish. Seriously streaky, but when he got rolling, points were often accumulated in a blink. On defense, he could create steals, and his undersized stature (a perhaps exaggerated 6'1") was offset by considerable strength, so bigger opponents didn't bully him.

But mostly what I loved was about Jackson was his fearlessness, never on better display than during that classic playoff series. Despite pushing L.A. to seven grueling games, it felt like many key Kings tensed up as the pressure mounted. I vividly recall how in the biggest moments, guys like Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, Hedo Turkoglu, Doug Christie and Peja Stojakovic never seemed to want the ball. At times, it felt like they were playing "hot potato." This came to an ugly head in Game 7, as the first four players cited shot a crippling eight-for-19 at the stripe, while Peja missed nine of his 12 field goal attempts.

Jackson, however, boasted grapefruits for days. This reaction was no surprise in a vacuum, but with his teammates often resembling deers in the headlights, Jackson's heart stood out even more. That a role player, albeit among the best in the league, was calmer under those bright lights made the performance even more inspiring. From then on, my Jackson fandom was solidified. I hated the team he played for and cursed those possessions where Jackson carved up the Lakers, but he was among my NBA favorites, Sacto jersey and all.

(To put this in perspective, Mike Bibby was also an absolute assassin during that series, probably the best King on the court. This prowess wasn't lost on me and objectively speaking, I could appreciate the excellence. But I still HATED Bibby. He was annoying, demonstrative, whiny, and had this bizarre habit of clipping his nails while on the bench, which my mom used to call "bad courtside hygiene." Bibby was the only other King who never looked intimidated, and my respect for him grew immensely during that series... along with my dislike for him.)

I've developed a personal affinity for many players who've battled the Lakers for serious stakes. Tim Duncan. Malik Rose. Brian Grant. Arvydas Sabonis. Steve Nash. Shawn Marion. Ben Wallace. Allen Iverson. Kevin Garnett (before he became a classless, bullying parody of himself). But for whatever reason, I never developed a huge distaste for any of their teams. I even found the Portland "Jail Blazers," a team so unlikable they turned off a fan base among the most loyal and fanatical in sports, too comically dysfunctional to truly hate. They were enemies I wanted defeated, but not necessarily destroyed.

The Kings provided no such ambiguity. Those cats rubbed me the wrong way and I relished their failure. But even while actively rooting for their demise, their was still a soft spot in my basketball-loving heart for Jackson.

As Laker fans, have you ever experienced similar affection towards a player on a rival squad? For whatever reason, you became a fan of this guy despite his stomach-churning jersey? Or do those affiliations simply eliminate that scenario, end of story?

Lakers vs. Celtics: What to watch with ESPN Boston

February, 10, 2011
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
Despite appearances to the contrary, the Lakers don't simply exist to generate talk about Carmelo Anthony. Their central purpose is to play games, and tonight's is a marquee matchup. It doesn't get much bigger than Lakers-Celtics, and after the poor showing in January, the Lakers should be primed to ensure a regular season split.

As is our custom, we share local knowledge and perspective with ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg. Topics include panic in L.A., the Celtics' collective health and success inside TD Garden. I found particularly interesting Forsberg's response about the impact of reserve small forward Marquis Daniels' absence:

The Daniels situation has put the Celtics on tilt like nothing else this season and for good reason. Boston has operated all year knowing full well it doesn't have another swingman behind Pierce and Daniels, which was a risky proposition at season's start considering the amount of time Daniels has missed during his career. Ironically, he had appeared in all but one game this season before his scary incident this past weekend and even that absence was related to a family matter and not an injury.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has preached throughout the season that he liked the makeup of this team and said he was content to go the duration with these 15 guys. Now, he's being forced to examine the trade market closer because there's a very real chance that Boston will now have to make a move for a 3 before the deadline (and if they can't facilitate a trade, they might have to sign someone off the scrap heap at the expense of waiving one of their current 15 guaranteed contracts).

Regardless, there's no ideal situation here. Even if Daniels can get healthy before season's end, his projected absence of at least a month is a long time to cover without a backup to Pierce (and even then there's no guarantee Daniels comes back as strong as he was playing before the scare). As Rivers said Wednesday, the team doesn't have anyone who can come in and guard the likes of LeBron James when Pierce goes out.

All of a sudden, Boston yearns for the likes of Tony Allen and James Posey. I've already received 1,473 trade machine suggestions on how to bring back these players. Which is a nice diversion from the daily Rasheed Wallace requests, but some are even suggesting to bring him back and let him play the 3 (after all, he does like to chuck 3's).

Week in preview: January 24 - January 30

January, 24, 2011
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
Two of the Lakers' three opponents are above .500, a trend which will continue throughout the rest of the regular season. With the schedule growing increasingly difficult, the Lakers will need to continue bringing the A-Game displayed against the Nuggets in Denver. This week is as good a time as any to build a steady foundation.
Game of the Week

Sunday vs. Celtics, 12:30 pm PT
With all due respect to a Christmas Day game against the Evil Super Team hyped as containing the fate of western civilization in it's balance, this is the biggest regular season game the Lakers will have played to date. Even more than contests against the Heat, the Thunder or the surging Spurs, a date with the Celtics, quite simply, is the one matters most, and beyond the juicy plot lines immediately jumping to mind:

Beyond the inherent rivalry, reborn after two decades of stagnation with two meetings in the last three finals . . .

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Kobe and the Lakers can never expect an easy contest against the Celtics.

Beyond Kendrick Perkins' bold claim the Celtics would have beaten the Lakers if he'd been healthy (which is certainly reasonable, if fairly shortsighted, considering how easily the same could be said about the Lakers in 2008 with Andrew Bynum available) . . .

Beyond the presence of a certain 7-1, 325 monster whose history with the Lakers (and Kobe Bryant) is equal parts glorious and antagonist . . .

Even beyond Von Wafer coming off the Celtics' bench with the goal of burning the team that drafted him . . .

All hype aside, this is the biggest game of the regular season for the Lakers for reasons more sobering than sexy. The Lakers haven't been playing like a team with rings on a consistent basis and the Celtics are again serious championship contenders.

Yes, the individual matchups intrigue: Kobe vs. the Celtics strong-side team defense. Rajon Rondo vs. whichever Laker(s) guard him. Pau Gasol and/or Lamar Odom vs. Kevin Garnett. Andrew Bynum and/or Gasol vs. Shaq. Ron Artest v. Paul Pierce. Ray Allen vs. his wildly erratic shooting against the Lakers last season. Shrek and Donkey vs. a Matt Barnes-less bench. And on down the line.

But at the end of the day, this game matters for the Lakers because a loss here, particularly a bad one, wouldn't shake the Lakers to their core, but could certainly provide a reality check about how much work lies ahead in order to keep the O'Brien in Los Angeles.

And if it didn't, that's an even bigger reason for concern.

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Lakers poll: How much do you feel K.G.'s pain?

September, 28, 2010
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
The Celtics met the media Monday afternoon, and among the stories passed along by our friend Chris Forsberg at ESPNBoston.com: Apparently, the summer didn't treat Kevin Garnett particularly well.

"[It] was very painful, very dark," he said.

I'm sure it was. And I'm sure Lakers fans are sympathetic. Not the kind to revel in the unhappiness of another person, even a Boston Celtic. Right?

New K Bros PodKast: Game 7 preview

June, 17, 2010
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
You've read my reasons why the Lakers will take Game 7 and Chris Forsberg's reasons they won't. You're read my seven questions heading into Game 7. You've read Brian's thoughts on Game 7 psychology and "the Kobe" we'll see tonight. That's probably enough pregame analysis, right?

You're damn right it's not!

Thus, the newest K Brothers PodKast of this Lakers season. Our look at Game 6, plus what we're expecting in Game 7:

The Lakers romped in Game 6, setting up the ultimate game for fans. Lakers vs. Celtics, Game 7 for the NBA championship. Andy and Brian preview the action, and discuss what's at stake for Kobe Bryant.

Podcast Listen
-(2:40): Brian and I talk about the Laker D in Game 6, then differ on whether on not the Celtics played with less energy than the Lakers. But here's where we're absolutely on the same page: Game 7 will feature a Boston squad playing much better than last Tuesday.

-(6:35): What does the loss of Kendrick Perkins mean? The stats say a lot. No argument from either of us. Brian wondered whether Perk's absence will lead to Boston drastically altering their game plan as a surprise attack, like the Rockets in 2009 when Yao Ming's injury forced Houston to go small. I'm guessing no, since there's so little time to prepare to play without Perkins, much less learn a radically new scheme. We're expecting Boston to duplicate what they do to the best of their ability with the guys they have.

-(13:00): Praise for the Game 6 performances of Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic. It's not often the Lakers get a quality showing from the entire backup backcourt. Do we expect a repeat in Game 7? Probably not, but the good news is the Lakers really need just one of them to play well. The other two simply need to avoid playing poorly.

-(18:10): Prediction time. At the risk of a jinx, we're thinking 16th title.

-(19:10): What does the Lakers winning tonight mean for Kobe Bryant's legacy? You could reasonably argue it's the most significant game of Kobe's career: Game 7. NBA Finals. Hated Celtics, just two years removed from beating him for a title. A lot of resume-building flavor in that mix. Unfortunately, I think people will use the game more as a defining moment to detract from Kobe's career if the Lakers lose, rather than an enhancing moment if they win. It's not entirely fair to Kobe, but it's nonetheless the reality I'm guessing would surface.

Why the Lakers will win Game 7

June, 17, 2010
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
After what feels like eons, the NBA Finals are one game away from reaching their conclusion. Game 7. Lakers versus Celtics. As the saying goes, it doesn't get much better than that.

These finals have been a maddening exercise in futile attempts to forecast. Momentum has failed to surface. Home court has been stolen, then stolen back. Kobe Bryant has been consistently good, but nonetheless unable to can his legendary fourth-quarter shots. Derek Fisher's Game 3 heroics came sandwiched between five games' worth of severe 3-point drought. Kevin Garnett went from "too old" to "too good." Ray Allen has been either en fuego or bien frio, with no middle ground. Both benches have been all over the map. It's led to plenty of pregame prognostication gone wrong for yours truly.

Before the series kicked off, however, I predicted "Lakers in 7." I sit now in the rare position of actually being right about something. Here's why I will be.

Daniel Pellegrino/NBAE via Getty Images
Kendrick Perkins is hurting, and the Celts will be
hurting without him.

1) The loss of Kendrick Perkins will hurt Boston.
First, my sympathies to Kendrick Perkins over his torn MCL and PCL. Injuries are always crummy, much more so when they prevent participation in a championship game. But as bad a blow as this must be to Perkins' psyche, I have a feeling the hit will be even worse for the C's. Perkins will likely never increase membership in "The Big Four" by one, and his face doesn't move Gatorade off the shelves. But his importance to Boston can't be underestimated

For starters, his absence makes Boston's paint vulnerable. He's the Celtics' most physical interior defender and makes baskets at the rim a considerably more difficult prospect. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Perkins ranked first in points per play allowed (0.62) and second in FG percentage allowed (31.2) for post-up situations among participants in this year’s postseason (min. 20 plays).

Perk's also enjoyed success against Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. Against the Celtics center, the duo is five-for-14 from the floor posting up for a paltry 35.4 shooting percentage and .9 points per play. Against everyone in the postseason, they've combined to go 55-for-109 (50.5 percent) and 1.03 points per play.

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Seven Questions for Game 7

June, 16, 2010
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
Game 7.

Just the sound of it sends chills down your spine.

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images
The big boys could be limited or shelved for Game 7.

There will obviously be plenty to analyze in the next two days, but I thought I'd present just the tip of the iceberg. Looking ahead to Thursday's madness, here are seven points to ponder while you await Game 7's tipoff:

1) How will ailing centers affect the outcome?

Andrew Bynum told reporters on Wednesday he is 'definitely' playing, but after once again limping off the floor only two minutes into the third quarter of Game 6, it's reasonable to question how effective he'll be. It's very possible Bynum has, after three rounds of playing on a knee requiring surgery, reached the end of the line. At the very least, he's running on fumes. In the meantime, Kendrick Perkins is out. As reported by ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg, Perkins told reporters Wednesday he has tears in two ligaments in his right knee.

Drew hobbling around has been problematic for the Lakers, but the loss of Perkins could be a game-changer. Should Bynum somehow manage a quality outing, the Lakers will have a huge advantage in the paint. Even if he can't, life for Pau Gasol will be a whole lot more pleasant working against the likes of Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace without the physical punishment Perkins provides. Plus, the Lakers have had weeks -- not to mention last year's playoffs -- to get accustomed to mixed bag performances from Bynum. Boston will have fewer than 48 hours to adjust to Perkins' absence. It's tough accounting for a key cog on the fly.

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What if Bynum can't go?

June, 11, 2010
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
In making my Finals prediction back in 2008 I focused too much on momentum and L.A.'s seemingly overwhelming offensive machine, but three games into the series it became clear the Lakers had a problem on their hands. The matchups didn't set up well.

Three games into this year's Finals, I thought the opposite. This time around, the matchups favored the purple and gold, thanks to the presence of Ron Artest and Andrew Bynum, an improved Pau Gasol, and a Celtics squad not quite as potent as it was in 2008. As it was then for the Lakers, Boston was certainly capable of winning, but would have to do it from a position of disadvantage. The Celtics had to work so much harder to generate the same output as the Lakers.

Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images
Andrew Bynum was limited to 12 minutes in Game 4 thanks to his injured right knee, and his ability to play effectively the rest of the way is in doubt.

But as it was in 2008, neither team this year is so much better than the other that a shift in circumstances, intense swelling of a certain 7-footer's right knee for example, couldn't turn everything on its head.

Should Bynum's knee limit his presence over the remaining games, the Lakers will certainly feel the pain. It's not necessarily a question of losing his statistical output (though that doesn't help) but just as it was in Game 2, when Lamar Odom may as well have been in street clothes thanks to persistent foul trouble, Bynum's absence has a ripple effect, about as unpleasant for Lakers fans as your average Ashton Kutcher movie exploring similar topics.

When the big guy is out it changes the context of the series in a variety of significant ways:

1. A lot more physical punishment for Pau Gasol. You can see examples of it here, in the video from TrueHoop's Kevin Arnovitz posted this morning focusing on the matchup between Gasol and Rasheed Wallace. But without Bynum, Gasol also gets similar treatment from Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett. Boston can throw more bodies at him without fear of leaving Bynum alone, and generally work to wear him down. Thursday, Gasol did a pretty good job of standing up to the abuse, playing to contact and earning 10 free throws on the night, but there is no question it wears down a guy over 48 minutes, and hurts his rebounding as well.

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Lakers 2, Celtics 2: Poll-a-palooza

June, 11, 2010
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
The NBA Finals now sits knotted at two games apiece. Each team has won in the other's house. Each team has bounced back from adversity.

We've seen explosive and dismal performances from star players. We've seen Big Baby drool his way to infamy. We've seen Andrew Bynum's health once again emerge an issue.

Referees have been taken to task. Kevin Garnett has been (briefly) put out to pasture. Paul Pierce has eaten crow after bold predictions turned immediately sour.

Even Khloe Kardashian is fair game for the wrath of Bostonians.

To say the least, chills, thrills and spills have been omnipresent throughout this exciting series between the Lakers and the Celtics. With four game's worth of dust now settled and two days to wait out before the Game 5 rubber match, we wanted to find out how the Laker Nation is feeling.

Below the jump is a series of polls. Vote early. Vote often. Make the system work for you. Whether Republican, Democrat or a Whig party hold out, this blog ensures your right to be represented.

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Five Questions for Lakers-Celtics Game 3

June, 8, 2010
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
With the NBA Finals sitting at a 1-1 split, Game 3 offers the chance for either team to regain pole position. What lies ahead remains a mystery, in particular because the folks listed below haven't performed consistently, but remain capable of shifting the series in either direction. And so begins today's installment of "Five Things (People) To Watch."

1) Which Ron Artest will show up?
When the Lakers signed Ron Artest last offseason, some wacky behavior with the ball in his hands was understood to be a given; the cost of doing business with Ron-Ron. But generally speaking, it's been a season filled with capital gains, thanks to moments of offensive prowess and a relentlessly effective brand of defense.

In Game 2, however, Artest left the Lakers bankrupt with as disastrous an effort as we have seen in Laker Land since the days of trying to develop Kwame Brown into a low post threat.

One-for-ten from the field. One-for-six from behind the arc. By my recollection, at least one airball. Five missed free throws in eight tries. Three turnovers, including a costly one late in the game. An absurd amount of over-dribbling, lowlighted by a display bizarre enough to inspire a "Benny Hill" treatment from Hardwood Paroxysm's Rob Mahoney.

Christian Peterson/Getty Images
WAYYYYYYYYY too much of this during Game 2, Ron-Ron.

As a general rule of thumb, when your actions warrant "Yakety Sax," unless there's a shrimp involved, you have not done glorious work.

Phil Jackson
suspected this meltdown, deemed "one of the more unusual sequences" he had ever seen, was the result of Artest seeking redemption after the previously referenced fourth quarter turnover . Those who remember Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals may recall Artest similarly making up for a bad free throw line jumper with an even worse three-point attempt.

Of course, he eventually played hero with a game-winning offensive rebound and putback. But even more significantly, Artest torched the Suns in the following game. His 26-point effort came on the heels of a rant about feeling disrespected by Phoenix's game-plan of luring him into bad shots. There were concerns Artest's emotions might prompt him to do just that. Instead, he was prolific without being a gunner and helped the Lakers punch their ticket to the Finals.

The point? Artest may sometimes be destructively unpredictable, but he is also capable of playing sensibly, even intelligently.

The onus is on him to keep his head screwed on.

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Breaking down the last five minutes of Game 2

June, 7, 2010
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
Things seemed set up well for the Lakers, right? Three-point lead on their home floor, with just over five minutes to play? Kobe Bryant on the floor, ready to do his closer thing? Fire up the charter, the purple and gold are heading to Boston with a commanding 2-0 lead!

Or... maybe not.

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
The dominant figure of the final five minutes of Game 2: Rajon Rondo.

As I noted in last night's postgame breakdown, what looked so promising turned into a fairly unmitigated disaster. The Celtics were 12 points better over the final 5:20, and now the series is tied with three games coming up in Beantown.

To take a closer look at what went wrong, I woke early this morning and fired up the ol' DVR machine to take a look. Here's the breakdown:

5:15- Rajon Rondo takes the ball on the left wing, with Kobe sagging well off him, looking not only do deny penetration and force Rondo to shoot, but also hedging against picking up his sixth foul. Bryant hangs down with Pau Gasol and Kevin Garnett around the free throw line. Garnett keeps moving near the elbow until he gets himself set underneath Gasol and Bryant, allowing him to set an effective screen on both as Rondo blows by for the layup. Great patience from Rondo and KG, but if Kobe has three fouls, undoubtedly he's playing Rondo more straight up on the perimeter. 90-89, Lakers.

5:00- Derek Fisher holds on the left wing, looking for Bynum in the block. Not there. He hits Artest at the top of the arc, who swings back to Fish. This time, Fish makes the entry to Bynum, who sizes up Perkins inside, then kicks to Artest, now standing about where Fisher was moments ago, and goes to set a screen for him. An illegal one, unfortunately. Turnover.

4:30- Rondo at the top of the key, again Kobe hanging well off him. The Lakers, and Bynum particularly, do a good job switching on the interior as Ray Allen runs Fisher through a maze of screens. Bynum pops out on Allen at the right wing and forces Allen into an airball. Excellent effort and recognition from Bynum.

4:15- Artest on the left wing to Kobe at the top of the arc, guarded by Allen. Kobe, isolating on Allen, dribbles left into the mid-post, spins right into the lane, but misses the floater. A shot he'll often make, but doesn't here.

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Nick Young
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0