Game 4 Recap
It was an ugly affair, the strangest NBA Finals game Magic Johnson had ever seen. Game 4 played out like an ugly nightmare for the Zen Master and his puppets. The Los Angeles Lakers edged the Boston Celtics for most of the night before being torched by two bench players. Adding insult to injury the Los Angeles Lakers and the world watched Glen Davis and Nate Robinson pump their chests and scream profanities with saliva dripping from their jaws, as they proclaimed their self-entitled greatness with their cameo heroics in the fourth quarter of Game 4. Even veteran teammate Ray Allen looked annoyed in the shadow of Big Baby and Little Nate’s exuberance. The Lakers made these two guys look like hero’s allowing them both to score at will with the game on the line, and failing to make free-throws including two as a result of technical fouls called on Rasheed Wallace and Nate Robinson. It wasn’t enough for Nate Robinson to simply play great off the bench, pound his chest, shout about his self-proclaimed greatness, he had to get in the face of Lamar Odom chest to chest after being fouled in the 4th quarter. Doc Rivers burned a time-out to calm his little man down. Ray Allen also voiced his concern. I can hear the late great coach John Wooden saying; handle failure like you handle success. They don’t hand out W’s for playing with class. But I hear ya Coach. The Lakers got punked in the fourth quarter and allowed the Celtics to tie up the series 2 games apiece.
1st Quarter Recap
8:58 the Lakers earned their first lead of the game 6-5. 6:23 Kobe’s basket gives LA a 12-11 lead. 4:27 Derek Fisher earned his second foul and went to the bench. Paul Pierce ate up Ron Artest for 10 points on 4 of 6 shooting in the first quarter to give Boston a 19 to 16 lead at the end of the quarter. Lakers made 8 of 21 field goal attempts, Boston made 8 of 23 attempts.
2nd Quarter Recap
7:40 Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher return to the game and Lakers regained the lead 28 to 27. Kobe Bryant scored 8 straight Lakers’ points to give LA a 39-33 lead with 3:00 minutes remaining in the 2nd quarter. Bryant finished with 12 first half points, Pau Gasol earned 13 points. Lakers won the 2nd quarter 29-23 and entered half time up 45-42.
3rd Quarter Recap
6:47 Lakers’ led 53-48. Boston had a mini 6-0 run to capture the lead 54 to 53 (5:06). Kobe Bryant answered with a 3 pointer at 4:42. Later with just 1:48 remaining in the 3rd Kobe Bryant made two more back to back 3-pointers to give the Lakers the lead again 59 to 58. Boston won the quarter 18 to 17 making 7 of 20 field goals. The Lakers made 6 of 16 field goals. The score after 3 quarters was 62 to 60 in favor of LA.
4th Quarter Recap
Boston’s bench began the 4th quarter with an 11-2 run for a 71 to 64 lead. Glenn Davis and Nate Robinson scored at will against the Lakers starters who remained in the game. 7:46 Boston led 74 to 66. Boston led by as many as 11 before the Lakers cut the deficit to 79 to 85 with 2:51 remaining. They were unable to stop Nate Robinson on the perimeter or Glen Davis in the paint. Boston outscored LA 34 to 27 in the 4th quarter alone.
Give credit where credit is due. Nate Robinson delivered in areas that Rajon Rondo can’t. Nate shot 100% from the free-throw line and 50% from 3-point land. Also undersized Glen Davis exposed 7-footer Pau Gasol’s defensive weakness. Gasol has tried to shed that image, but it was to no avail in game 4.
Phil Jackson likes to emphasize momentum of games. Clearly the Celtics obnoxious arrogance, and over-the-top exuberance fueled their win. It’s kind of like back in high school when the geeky girl gets the compassionate vote for prom queen and stunningly wins. You feel good for her in a sentimental way, until she pronounces herself as a glamorous beauty, and says she is going to become a fashion model. You then feel like puking. Ugly or not, the Celtics won game 4 and the Lakers have no one to blame but themselves.
Position by Position Analysis through the first 4 Games
Before the 2010 NBA Finals tipped off I provided a position-by-position comparison and prediction. With the series half over and all tied up let’s see the results so far.
Pau Gasol vs. Kevin Garnett
I caught some flack from Celtics fans who still believe Garnett is the dominant player he once was. Despite Pau Gasol’s weakness on defense, he is the most offensively skilled big man in the game today according to most basketball experts. Garnett gave a strong performance in the Celtics Game 3 loss. But overall in these four games his numbers just don’t compare to Pau Gasol’s. KG has earned a respectable 60 points on 50% FG shooting (25 of 50) to go with 20 rebounds, 13 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks. Celtics fans should be thrilled with KG averaging 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals in these 2010 Finals so far. But it doesn’t match Pau Gasol’s 82 points on 26 of 48 shooting with 13 assists, 13 blocks, and 2 steals. Gasol may have reverted back to his old ways of being soft in Game 4 but his 13 blocks show he is overall a better defender than in 2008.
Gasol’s 2010 Finals average of 20 points 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, 3 assists are conservative. If Kobe Bryant would share the ball, you could add 33% to each of those stats. Gasol has played 55 more minutes in the first four games than KG as well. KG can continue to pound his chest and spew profanities in excitement over a single made basket. Gasol will quietly continue to dominate throughout.
Advantage Prediction: Lakers Result: correct
Kobe Bryant vs. Paul Pierce
The two franchise players don’t always play head-to-head guarding each other. But at the end of the day, the fate of their teams depends on them. I predicted Kobe Bryant to dominate this match-up and he has. He has played just 4 minutes more than Pierce in these 2010 NBA Finals and has led both teams in scoring, with 113 points on 38 of 93 FG, 10 of 27 3-pointers, 27 of 29 FT, to go with 25 rebounds, 18 assists, 9 steals and 4 blocks. Paul Pierce’s 68 total points is 4th best on his own team. He is 20 of 48 FG, just 3 of 9 in 3-pointers, and compatible to Kobe in just free-throws with 25 of 29, along with 15 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocks. Kobe hasn’t been as efficient offensively in these Finals compared to his journey throughout the 2010 NBA Playoffs. His shooting percentage is down and he has committed 17 turnovers. (Pierce has had 10 turnovers). The difference between these two superstars is Bryant is the go-to player when the game is on the line. Pierce has been a 3rd of 4th option. 17 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists average is not enough for Pierce if he wants to be considered one of the greatest NBA players of all time.
Advantage Prediction: Lakers Result: correct
Derek Fisher vs. Rajon Rondo
I had several angry comments from Celtics fans about my prediction of Derek Fisher being more valuable than Rajon Rondo. Don’t hate NBA Nation. I know Rondo is the latest baller to be anointed to stardom, but I do have a valid argument for my choice.
So far through the first four games Rondo played 21 more minutes than Fisher, and earned 12 more rebounds (26 total) than Fisher (14), 19 more assists (29) than Fisher (10), and 5 more steals (7) than Fisher (2). Rondo also scored 53 points on 24 of 57 FG, compared to just 37 points for Fisher on 14 of 34 FG. Rondo’s 4th quarter performance in Game 2 secured the win for Boston. Likewise Fisher’s 4th quarter dominance in Game 3 secured the win for LA. Celtics fans reading this are saying; I told you so, see the stats show Rondo is the better player. Not so fast!
Fisher is normally a 50% 3-point shooter; so far he is 0 for 7 from downtown. That will change I guarantee it. Rondo is a career 20% 3-point shooter and is 1 of 3 in these Finals. (Lucky!)
Another stat of significance is free-throw percentage. Ask any coach in the world who he would rather have on the court in the final minute(s) with the game on the line, a 25% FT and 20% 3 PT shooter (Rondo) or 90% FT and 50% 3PT shooter (Fisher) in the game, every coach worth their salt would choose Derek Fisher. Rondo’s shooting woes are now a liability for his team. That is why Doc Rivers left Nate Robinson in the game throughout the 4th quarter. When the Celtics had a 3 possession lead with around 2 minutes remaining, he put Rondo back in. Rondo is just 4 of 15 with free-throws in these 2010 NBA Finals. Fisher is 9 of 10. I said it before and I’ll say it again; name one hall-of-fame point-guard who shot less than 25% from downtown, and less than 50% from the charity stripe. You can’t. There hasn’t been any.
Against Rondo, defensively Bryant is able to sag into the top of the lane (free-throw area). The same cannot be said against Nate Robinson. If I were the Lakers, I would prefer Rondo to be in the game over Nate Robinson. You don’t have to guard him past 15 feet. And if he gets past you with his quickness, put him on the free-throw line.
Don’t hate! Advantage Prediction: Lakers Result: correct
Ron Artest vs. Ray Allen
Have you ever purchased a used puzzle or board game from a thrift shop? The excitement of the bargain is ruined whenl you get to the end and realize you are missing a piece. It makes you wish you had bought a new one. Sure sometimes you get lucky, but too many times you end up frustrated. That’s kind of how Celtics fans must feel about Ray Allen. The man is flat out awesome then flat out sucks. Allen’s record setting 8 made three-pointers in the Celtics game 2 win was followed up by a record setting choke of 0 for 15 FG, leaving basketball purists confused. The future hall-of-famer’s 2010 NBA Finals average of 9 points, on 35% FG shooting and just 8 of 25 from 3-point distance to go with only 5 total assists, 1 steal, and 13 rebounds in 4 games is pathetic.
Ron Artest is shooting 32% FG and 29% 3PT a hair under Allen’s percentage. Artest has 7 more rebounds (19 total) than Allen (12), 6 assists (1 more than Allen), 4 steals (3 more than Allen), 3 blocks (none for Allen). Overall Ron Artest has done a better job defending pierce than Ray Allen has defending Kobe Bryant. (Though the match-ups don’t always happen that way.) Allen has played 6 more minutes of game time than Artest in the first 4 games and scored a perfect 14 of 14 free-throws compared to just 6 of 11 for Artest.
Artest still isn’t comfortable in the Lakers’ triangle offense, and it has forced LA out of rhythm at times. His forced errors on ugly shots are made up for on his hustle, and passion to win. Ray Allen can suck offensively last night, but you still have to respect his shot the next night. One performance doesn’t negate the resume’.
Advantage Prediction: Celtics Result: correct. (But don’t be surprised if despite his struggles, Ron-Ron comes up with a clutch play or performance like he did against Phoenix.)
Lamar Odom vs. Rasheed Wallace
Rasheed Wallace’s talent is overshadowed by his poor attitude and gravitation towards imploding and earning technical fouls. This has been consistent throughout his career. Did the Boston Celtics really need this headache? Is Rasheed really the missing piece to another Boston championship? I can’t see it.
Partly because of injury, Wallace played just 77 minutes in these Finals so far (26 fewer than Lamar Odom). This is a match-up not because they always defend one-another, but because they both are the key 6th man for their respective teams. Which player gives their team the more value for their minutes?
Lamar Odom’s inconsistent play is well documented, as much as Rasheed Wallace’s technical foul out-bursts. Combine the rebounds, steals, assists, blocks and the two are near even, 26 total for Wallace and 27 total for Odom. Wallace is shooting 42% on 8 of 19 FG, Odom is shooting 52% on 13 of 24 FG.
The risks of Wallace’s back injury and negative attitude both flaming up without notice is a liability for Boston. Lamar Odom’s ability to play every position on the floor, combined with his one championship ring give him still the advantage.
Advantage Prediction: Lakers Result: correct.
Jordan Farmar vs. Nate Robinson
Through these first 4 games Nate Robinson gave the Celtics 41 minutes and Jordan Farmar spent 44 minutes on the floor. Both players shot 47% FG with Robinson earning 24 total points on 8 of 17 shooting, and Farmar getting just 16 points on 7 of 15 shooting. Farmar had more rebounds (+2) assists (+3), steals (+3) than Robinson. While their number are compatible the edge has to go to Nate Robinson for his Game 4 fourth-quarter performance which has made him a hero in Boston (for the moment).
Advantage Prediction: Celtics Result: wrong (I had given LA the edge before the series started).
Extended Bench Comparison
The rest of the bench players for both teams do not include any of the names mentioned above. The 67 minutes of action for the Celtics was primarily from Tony Allen. Shannon Brown earned most of the 59 minutes of scrap time for the Lakers. Celtics scrubs shot 5 of 15 FG for 16 total points, compared to 24 points on 9 of 19 shooting for the Lakers bench journeymen. No disrespect meant by the term scrub, heck, Mike Smrek is out there somewhere wearing 3 rings from the Lakers championship run in the 1980s. Who, you ask? That is my point exactly.
Advantage Prediction: Lakers Result: correct.
Coaches: Phil Jackson vs. Doc Rivers
Doc still hasn’t found a way for his stars to all share the load. It’s hit or miss with the big-3, excuse me, I mean the big-4. He barely escaped with a game 4 win with all 4 stars taking a back seat to the Nate Robinson and Glen Davis show. The Zen Master is the prized motivator. When Gasol doesn’t get enough touches he isn’t afraid to voice is dismay. He still gets the vote.
Advantage Prediction: Lakers Result: correct.
Tally the prediction score, and I’ve been correct on each analysis prediction so far except for Nate Robinson outplaying Jordan Farmar. As we inch closer to the final buzzer which players will emerge as heroes and step up for their team? I still predict the Lakers to win the championship in 7 games.
Game 5 Preview & Prediction
Phil Jackson is the master at motivating his team. He will have them focused for Sunday night. The Lakers have yet to play great basketball in these Finals. Bynum is less than 50%, Bryant is shooting sub-par, Artest hasn’t shown up yet, Fisher hasn’t hit a 3 pointer yet, and Odom isn’t exactly leaving fans in awe. And despite all of that the Lakers are only 2 wins away from another championship. Game 5 is a must win for the Lakers. They don’t want to lose two in a row, or head back to LA on the brink of elimination. They can afford to lose a game 6 if they win Game 5. But they can’t lose Game 5 and feel confident about winning the last two. Both teams will be rested. It should be an intense battle. Game 5 Prediction: Lakers win by 1 point.