Sunday, June 6, 2010
Lakers in danger of repeating history
By Rick Fox
Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com
Editor's note: Rick Fox offers a unique view of the latest NBA Finals showdown between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, having worn the uniforms of both teams. He was a Celtic from 1991 to '97 and a Laker from 1998 to 2004, winning three championships in purple and gold.
Heading into Game 2 of the NBA Finals, could the Lakers maintain the dominance in the paint against the Celtics they had established in Game 1? Would Paul Gasol continue to bury the image of his ineffectiveness left over from the 2008 NBA Finals? Would Kevin Garnett continue to struggle as he had in Game 1?
A look at the box score of Game 2 would certainly seem to indicate each of those questions is deserving of a resounding yes.
One category in particular, blocked shots, highlights that Laker dominance. They had 14 blocks, tying the all-time franchise playoff record. Gasol (six blocks) and Andrew Bynum (seven) had personal playoff highs.
Gasol had 25 points and eight rebounds, Garnett only six points and four rebounds.
Yet outcome was much different, Boston winning 103-94.
The difference was in the backcourt where Ray Allen had an NBA Finals record eight three-pointers and scored 32 points, and Rajon Rondo had a triple-double with 19 points, 12 rebounds and ten assists.
So much for dominance in the front court.
I'm impressed anytime a point guard rebounds like a forward, but I'm sorry, from the Lakers point of view, that just cannot happen. Somebody has got to put a body on Rondo.
Same thing with Allen. Yes, he's a great shooter, but he had way too many wide-open looks.
Where was Kobe Bryant? In foul trouble all night.
It's not hard to figure how that happened. The referees were sitting around for two days after Game 1 hearing all the talk about physical play, hearing how the Celtics got bullied by the Lakers. So the refs knew both teams would be coming back determined to bang bodies, the Lakers to maintain their momentum, the Celtics to hold their ground.
So how did the refs react? By calling a ton of fouls.
Two Lakers in particular struggled in Game 2, Ron Artest, who had just six points and was one for ten from the field, and Lamar Odom who had just three points in 14 and a half minutes.
Lamar hasn't found his comfort zone yet in this series. We've seen it in the past. He can get lost in a game, or a series. I don't expect it to last the whole series, but his ineffectiveness in the 2008 Finals was one of the reasons the Lakers lost.
The road ahead for the Lakers reminds me of the road faced by the last Laker team I played on.
We reached the 2004 NBA Finals and split our first two games, both at home, against the Pistons.
We went to Detroit where they knocked us down in Game 3 so hard that we never recovered. We lost that game by 20 points, 88-68, and lost the other two in Detroit as well, ending our season in five games.
Looking back, I think we spent too much time and energy trying to figure out how we had lost our way. It was paralysis by analysis.
I think we panicked, something these Lakers have to avoid even if they lose Game 3.
They must be aware of history, but not afraid of history.
They must remember that in a playoff series, when one team gets a big win, there is always talk that the series is over for the other team.
And they must be confident that they are not going to play the next three games they way they played in Game 2.