Lakers Fall Short in Game 2

It seemed like the Lakers were left for dead in the fourth quarter, trailing by 24 with just over 7 minutes left. But Kobe and the Lakers would come back to within 2, before finally losing 108-102 at the TD Banknorth Garden. Here are some observations from Game 2:

--Let's be honest. The Lakers only came back to make it interesting because the Celtics fell asleep. There was a premature celebration on the Parquet Floor, but the Celtics forgot that Kobe Bryant is one player who will never give up on a game. Still, the Lakers dug themselves too deep of a hole, and couldn't surpass Boston in the end. I do think the Lakers comeback gives them some confidence though heading back to Los Angeles.

--Where was the Laker defense? If Paul Pierce gets another wide open three pointer, I'm going to throw up. Yes, Pierce is a special player, and he's been the star on the floor for Boston in this series. But it's not that hard for an NBA player to go 4-4 from three-point range when absolutely no one is within 20 feet of him. Pierce's open looks weren't the only problems though. The Lakers became exceptionally lax in transition defense, they allowed Leon Powe to attack the basket, and they just didn't play great team defense in terms of providing help and adjusting to the shooter.

--With all of the NBA head coaching jobs available this offseason, I'm surprised more teams didn't take a serious look at Tom Thibodeau. As the Celtics unofficial defensive coordinator, Thibodeau has drawn up the game plan that's stifled the Lakers' triangle. If the Lakers want to get back in this series, they need to get better spacing and improve their ball movement. Right now, it just doesn't seem like they're rotating properly on offense. Kobe Bryant needs to become more of a facilitator, but he needs his teammates to get open as well.

--The Lakers need to push the tempo more when their bench is in the game. Jordan Farmar, Luke Walton, and Ronny Turiaf look bewildered on the court together. In the regular season, it was the Laker bench that provided a spark, ran the floor, and scored points in transition. In this series, it was the Laker bench that got bulldozed and allowed the Celtics to extend their lead.

--Leon Powe is an excellent player. Many Pac-10 basketball observers have known this for some time, and I always felt that Powe would be a very good NBA player after watching him play at Cal. I broadcast one of his games his college, and you could tell that he had the size and physical strength to play at the next level. However, knee surgery in college set Powe back, and he fell to the second round in the 2006 NBA Draft. Tonight, the Leon Powe who scored 21 points, was the player that many people thought he'd become years ago.

--Leon Powe attempted more free throws than the entire Lakers team. I never like to blame the referees, and the Lakers didn't lose because of them. But the officiating was certainly unbalanced. The Lakers had a few too many calls go against them, and at the end of the game, we see that the Celtics attempted 38 free throws versus 10 for the Lakers. Generally, referees favor the home team with calls in playoff games, but tonight was a little ridiculous.

--The Celtics were 64.3% from beyond the arc. Sure they have some great shooters, but again, the Lakers just aren't even guarding them.

--Again, Lamar Odom got in foul trouble and wasn't much of a factor.

--When did Jeff Van Gundy get so candid on the air? He's suddenly become one of the best color commentators in sports television. His quick wit and friendly sparring with Mike Breen and Mark Jackson make these broadcasts far more enjoyable to listen to. When the Lakers were getting blown out early in the fourth quarter, about the only thing that brought a smile to my face was Van Gundy's discussion of Leonardo DiCarpio's girlfriend and his apology to Julius Erving after Jackson dared to compare Leon Powe to Dr. J.

--If the NBA wants to build their game with younger fans, then they have to start these games earlier. We don't notice it here on the West Coast. But the game started well after 9 PM Eastern Time, and didn't end until close to midnight Eastern Time because of the usually high number of commercials in NBA Finals games. The start times are more understandable for weeknight games because us west coasters are usually racing home from work to catch the action. But on a Sunday, there's really no reason to make it such a late night for east coasters. If the game had started two hours earlier tonight, then I really believe that the difference in ratings would have been negligible.

--This series isn't over just yet. The Lakers obviously play better at home, and there is precedent for a team coming back from down 2-0 in the NBA Finals. However, right now, the Celtics sure look like the better team.

June 8, 2008 8:36 PM • Native Intelligence • Email the editor

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