Position-by-position, the Boston Celtics outplayed the Los Angeles Lakers, winning Game 5 and inching one win away from another NBA Championship.
A year ago, Trevor Ariza made huge plays in the clutch as the glue to a Lakers 2009 Championship. Last summer, LA replaced Ariza with street-baller Ron Artest from the Houston Rockets. That change is proving to be a bust, and a costly mistake for the Lakers.
Artest still doesn’t know the Lakers’ patented triangle-offense. As a result, the offense is stagnant, and Kobe Bryant is left to try to bail out his team time after time. It is perplexing why the Zen Master Coach Jackson hasn’t been able to fix this. When Artest does have a shot, they are often rushed and ugly. After picking up three fouls in the first quarter of Game 5, he was lit up by Paul Pierce for 28 points. In the final minutes of the game, Artest made just one of four free-throws and failed to foul Rajon Rondo, a 25 percent FT shooter who instead scored an easy layup, which killed the Lakers’ comeback. If the Lakers fail in these Finals, most of the blame will be on Artest, who has failed offensively and defensively in the 2010 Finals.
None of the Lakers’ players gave Kobe Bryant any help. Gasol was thoroughly outplayed by KG and Wallace. Rajon Rondo and Nate Robinson also outplayed Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar. As great as Kobe Bryant was, Paul Pierce was just as good.
Give credit where credit is due. I’ve been hard on KG in these playoffs. Instead of pumping his chest and running his mouth about being the man, in Game 5 he was less animated and simply was the man, dominating on both ends of the court. Pierce and KG led the way for Boston, and received plenty of help from Rajon Rondo and their bench.
Bryant earned 38 points on near 50 percent shooting and got zero support from his teammates. The Celtics lead the Finals 3 games to 2.
1st Quarter Recap
Boston started the game with a 6-0 run. The Lakers responded to tie the game 6-6 at 8:23. After Andrew Bynum played just 12 minutes in Game 4 there were questions about how effective he would be in Game 5. At 8:14 he answered with an alleyoop dunk on a pass from Kobe Bryant. Derek Fisher scored 6 of the Lakers first 10 points including a 3-pointer to give LA their first lead of the night 15-14 (4:57). After a time out at 2:30 Kobe Bryant nailed a 3-pointer, his first basket of the game to bring the score even 18 -18. Final score after one quarter 22-20 in favor of Boston. Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 8 points and Derek Fisher led the Lakers with 9 points. LA had 4 turnovers and Boston 3. Boston shot 60% 11 of 18 FG. LA shot 7 of 21 FG for 33%.
2nd Quarter Recap
8:46: Boston led by 8 points 30-22. Over the next 3 minutes the Lakers would have a 9-2 run, 32-31 (5:46). After Ron Artest fouled Kevin Garnett Rajon Rondo shoved Ron Artest and earned a technical foul (4:42). The Lakers regained the lead 37-36 (3:57).
Boston responded once again, led by Paul Pierce’s 15 points to end the first half leading 45-39.
In the First half the Boston Celtics shot twice a good as the Lakers, 66% FG for Boston, compared to just 33% for the LA. Yet, the Lakers trailed by only 6 points due to their second chance shots from offensive rebounds, and the Celtics 11 turnovers. Notably Andrew Bynum played 19 minutes in the first half (6 points, 1 rebound). Kobe Bryant earned just 10 points on 4 of 12 shooting.
3rd Quarter Recap
Boston starts the second half with a quick spurt to build an 11 point lead. Kobe Bryant missed a free-throw (defensive technical) then responds by scoring 10 straight Lakers’ points on 4 of 4 FG. (8:30 56-46 Boston). Boston continued to play well on both ends, scoring at will against poor Lakers’ defense and forcing 5 Lakers’ turnovers. Kobe Bryant continued a dazzling shooting display making his first 7 shots from all over the court, scoring 23 points in a row for the Lakers including the last 4 points of the first half and first 19 points of the 3rd quarter. Paul Pierce scored 11 points in the third on 5 of 8 shooting. 1:49 Kobe Bryant went to the bench for a rest. The Lakers had a chance to close the gap but Lamar Odom missed two free-throws, Pau Gasol had his shot blocked at the rim by Tony Allen, and Sasha Vujacic’s 3-pointer was worth just two points with his foot on the line. Score after three quarters 73-65 Boston.
Pau Gasol and the Lakers start the fourth quarter poorly. Gasol throws the ball away for a turnover, then on the other end allows Rasheed Wallace to make a 3-pointer on the top of the key, Sasha Vujacic missed a layup, and Pau Gasol gets called for a loose ball foul 9:22. Gasol was just 3 for 10 FG up to that point in the game. 8:24 79-69 10 point Boston lead. 6:01 Lamar Odom gets an offensive rebound and makes a 2 point basket to cut the Celtics lead to 6. Lakers turned the ball over the next three times down the court (5 turnovers in the quarter) and Boston built a 12 point 87-75 lead.
Ron Artest is hurting the Lakers. He is ineffective in stopping Paul Pierce who had his series best 28 points in Game 5. Artest still hasn’t figured out the triangle offense and continues to shoot bricks on wide open 3 point attempts. Kobe Bryant would go scoreless for 5 consecutive minutes in the quarter. Free-throw shooting was a problem for the Lakers in the start of the post-season and it cost them in game 5 by missing 9 FT (17 of 26, 65%). They made just 2 of 6 FT in the final 2:25 of the game. Pau Gasol made just one of two attempts followed by Ron Artest making just 1 of 2. Kobe Bryant fouled by Ray Allen on a 3-point attempt made all three of his free-throws to cut the deficit to 5 points 87-82. Derek Fisher won a jump ball tip over Kevin Garnett which led to a fast break lay up attempt by Ron Artest. He was fouled instead and missed both free-throws. That would have cut the deficit to 3 points. Boston hung on to win 92-86. Kobe Bryant finished with 38 points on near 50% shooting 13 of 27 FG. Paul Pierce scored a personal series best 27 points. Rajon Rondo added 18 points for Boston. Pau Gasol’s horrible performance was encapsulated by just 10 points.
Game 6 Prediction
With Boston holding a Finals lead 3 games to 2, the Lakers are on the brink of failing to defeat their arch rival yet again. Could this be a sequel to 2008? Why are the Boston Celtics (who weren’t suppose to be in these Finals) one win away from defeating the defending Champion Los Angeles Lakers? The answer is the same reason why the Celtics beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, one superstar can’t defeat a super team. The Boston Celtics stars may be past their prime but they are future hall-of-famers. Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce will each grace the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame list one day. The Lakers have just one future-hall-of-fame player in Kobe Bryant. (Though I believe Derek Fisher should also get the nod, he probably won’t.)
The other reason why the Boston Celtics are defeating the Los Angeles Lakers is because defense wins basketball games at every level. All of the Lakers players, except for Derek Fisher are known for their offense not their defense. As a team they were able to outscore their opponents in previous series. They out-ran the Phoenix Suns to get to the Finals. But the Boston Celtics are known for their defense prowess. They have only scored more than 100 points one time in the past ten games.
It appeared in Game 5 that the ghosts of 2008 were haunting the Lakers, as they gave away yet another win. Even more significant than Game 5’s loss was Game 2 in LA, and Game 4 in Boston, both losses that the Lakers should have won.
The momentum is all in Boston’s favor now. Poor free-throw shooting, lack of defense in the paint, Pau Gasol’s softness, and Ron Artest’s horrific shooting were all major weaknesses of concern from the start of these playoffs. If it wasn’t for Kobe Bryant’s impossible makes, in an offensive repertoire of the greatest difficulty in NBA history, the Lakers wouldn’t even be in these Finals. Bryant pulled another rabbit out of the hat in Game 5 but it wasn’t enough.
I won’t be surprised if Boston wraps up the championship in Game 6. But I predicted the series to go 7, and the Game is in LA, it’s a must win for the Lakers. Game 6 Prediction: Lakers by 5.