Updated: June 6, 2010, 7:06 PM ET

1. Has Kevin Garnett Really Lost A Step?

By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com

Pau Gasol committed on Friday what media professionals refer to as a Kinsley gaffe -- he stated publicly what he and everyone else knows privately to be true.

Gasol was asked how Kevin Garnett's game had changed since the two big men had first encountered each other.

"[Garnett] is more of a jump shooter now, you could say. He comes off the lane," Gasol responded. "On Kevin's part, he's also lost some explosiveness. Before, he had a really, really quick first step and was getting to the lane, and he was more aggressive then. Time passes and we all suffer it one way or another, but he's still a terrific player, a terrific competitor and he's going to bring everything he's got."

The general takeaway from Gasol's remarks was: Them's fightin' words! Gasol just said that one of the league's most prideful, accomplished power forwards had lost a step!

Guess what? Gasol's comments were entirely truthful -- and weren't meant as any slight to the Celtics forward.

Garnett has lost a step. You don't have to look any further than the video from Game 1 to arrive at that conclusion.

When measuring the present against the past, we should return to the Celtics' victory in the 2008 Finals. The Celtics won that series 4-2, but there were stretches in the six games when Boston struggled to score points in the half court. When that happened, Celtics coach Doc Rivers invariably returned to Garnett on the low block to jump-start the offense. Garnett would either wait patiently for the Lakers' double-team, out of which he would make a play to the open man, or he would work one-on-one against a less experienced and less physical Gasol. At times, the Lakers would even double Garnett off the ball when he moved below the foul line extended area. That's the kind of attention he demanded from the Lakers' besieged frontcourt defenders.

On Thursday night, the Lakers didn't bother doubling Garnett at all, a tacit declaration that the threat Garnett posed in 2008 no longer compromises the Lakers' defense. In some respects, the Lakers are deploying the same strategy Boston used against Orlando and Dwight Howard: Stay at home on the Celtics' potent perimeter scorers and force Garnett to beat Gasol & Co. one-on-one.

"If someone's hurting us, we'll adjust," Gasol said. "Every game is different, and you have to react while you're playing the game."

From a defensive standpoint, the Lakers are placing the burden of proof on Garnett to show that he warrants a help defender. Thus far, Garnett hasn't demonstrated any reason for the Lakers to blitz him when he gets the ball. He spent many of the Celtics' possessions confined to the perimeter, more than 20 feet from the hoop. When Garnett touched the ball closer in, Gasol handled the one-on-one assignment quite well, giving Garnett precious little space for his patented turnaround jumper. As Game 1 wore on, it because increasingly clear that if the Celtics chose to go to Garnett in the post, they couldn't do it with the expectation that he could score in isolation.

"If [Garnett] gets it going or they start going to him a little bit more in the post, we may have to go at him," Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw said. "But anyone we play, we don't want to double-team if we don't have to."

Garnett converted only three buckets in the basket area in Game 1. The first came on an alley-oop from Rajon Rondo in transition. The second materialized when Garnett drew a mismatch against Derek Fisher, made a deep catch against the diminutive guard, then went up for a line-drive flick from six feet. Garnett's final successful close-range attempt of the evening came courtesy of a 3-4 pick-and-roll with Paul Pierce. Garnett found an open seam through the paint off the roll, and Pierce found him on the move. Rather than storm to the rim, though, Garnett pulled up at about 10 feet for a quick hook shot.

For each of those three buckets, Garnett failed to finish on three chippies, including a demoralizing sequence when, left alone underneath the glass, he couldn't convert consecutive simple putbacks.

Garnett also hurt the Lakers as a facilitator in 2008, but he managed only one assist in Game 1, orchestrating few of those pretty give-and-goes the Celtics run with Garnett at the elbow and a perimeter cutter diving to the basket. Boston's inability to achieve the successful ball movement it implemented in the Eastern Conference bracket has a lot to do with the Lakers' strong base defense.

"In 2008, we did a lot of roving, and we got burned," Lamar Odom said. "This year, the help is still near. [Garnett] is such a good passer. He can kill you with those passes."

The Lakers minimized -- and virtually eliminated -- that hurt in Game 1. Garnett and the rest of the Celtics' passers had a tough time finding cutters and open weak-side shooters. Ray Allen's limited playing time in Game 1 because of foul trouble further compounded that problem because he's the most capable recipient of those passes coming off screens and pin-downs.

Ron Artest's presence helps a lot because, unlike Vladimir Radmanovic, Artest rarely needs help from the baseline. His capacity to handle Pierce one-on-one means the rest of the Lakers can focus on their primary defensive assignment, be it Garnett or Allen. As a result, the Celtics' half-court offense frequently gets clogged up.

The Celtics are defiant that Garnett's ineffectiveness in Game 1 had anything to do with a diminishing skill set or injuries.

"We didn't get him the ball in his spots enough," Rivers said. "He had a lot of touches outside the paint at the elbows, and we have to mix it up better."

Will situating Garnett in better spots help ignite his game? Can he beat Gasol at the point of attack on a hard drive to the basket from the elbow? Does he still have the athleticism to get the space he needs away from Gasol for those turnaround jumpers? Will Garnett's four teammates be able to free themselves from their dogged Lakers defenders to give Garnett the chance to make plays?

Garnett certainly has the intensity and mental makeup to bounce back in Game 2.

Whether Father Time will give him a hand is another matter.

Kevin Arnovitz is a regular contributor to the Daily Dime.

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2. Welcome to Los Angeles, Ron

By J.A. Adande
ESPN.com
Artest
Artest

All it took was an entire regular season, 17 playoff games, one winning basket and a trip to the NBA Finals for Lakers fans to embrace Ron Artest at last.

You could hear it in the final two minutes of the Lakers' Game 1 victory over the Celtics, when Artest found himself alone behind the 3-point arc and the crowd offered encouragement.

"Shoot it!" the fans started to yell. "Shoooooooooot!"

So he did. And he made it. And there were even louder cheers of approval.

"They said I can shoot today?" said Artest, who claims not to hear what the crowd does. "Sometimes they tell me not to shoot."

The crowd's orders not to shoot were never more vociferous than in the last minute of the fifth game of the Western Conference finals, when the Lakers had a three-point lead over the Phoenix Suns and a fresh 24-second clock, yet Artest still felt compelled to launch a 3-pointer. He missed, and the Suns wound up with a Jason Richardson 3-pointer to tie the score. Artest seemed likely to be the "Man Who Caused Game 5 To Go Into Overtime" until he snatched a missed Kobe Bryant jumper out of the air and threw the ball off the backboard and into the hoop at the buzzer.

To read the entire column, click here.

3. If Lakers Win, Jackson Stays

By Arash Markazi
ESPN Los Angeles
Jackson
Jackson

LOS ANGELES-- For all the talk of Phil Jackson going to Chicago or New Jersey or Cleveland or wherever else LeBron James might end up, the truth is he's three wins from returning as the Los Angeles Lakers' coach next season.

He never will fully admit as much because he doesn't have to and shouldn't in a contract year in which he will be the biggest free agent to hit the market outside of James. There probably will be at least a half-dozen teams that will go after Jackson hard, believing luring him will also guarantee James, who is trying to follow in the footsteps of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

It all makes for interesting off-day conjecture and offseason storylines, but don't believe it.

To read the entire column, click here.

4. Celtics Can't Linger In The Moment

By Chris Forsberg
ESPN Boston
Perkins
Perkins

LOS ANGELES -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers is fond of joking about all the ailments his team suffers from because of its advanced age. Here's one he can add to the list: memory loss.

That's a blessing for a Boston team that, in the past three seasons, has shown an ability to put ugly losses behind it when another team might let them fester.

So the day after an uninspired performance in a Game 1 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Celtics acknowledged their shortcomings but refused to lament them at Friday's practice session at the Staples Center, noting there's little use sweating what's now in the past.

To read the entire column, click here.

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