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Friday, June 06, 2008

Celtics Ride Strong Second Half Defense to 98-88 Game One Victory

In the heavyweight match of the Celtics' league-leading defense versus the Lakers' high-powered offense, score round one for the defense; the Celtics held the Lakers to 37 second half points, survived an injury scare involving Paul Pierce and emerged with a 98-88 victory. Pierce had to be carried off of the court at the 6:49 mark of the third quarter after spraining his right knee but he returned just 1:45 later and a few minutes after that he nailed two big three pointers to give the Celtics a 75-71 lead that they never relinquished. Pierce finished with 22 points on 7-10 field goal shooting, including 15 third quarter points on 5-5 field goal shooting. Kevin Garnett tied Kobe Bryant for game-high honors with 24 points and Garnett also had a game-high 13 rebounds. Ray Allen shot just 5-13 from the field but he played a good floor game (eight rebounds, five assists) and still scored 19 points on the strength of 7-8 free throw shooting. Oft-criticized point guard Rajon Rondo had a nice all around game with 15 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Kobe Bryant scored 24 points and had six assists but he shot just 9-26 from the field as the Celtics did a good job of keeping him out of the paint and limiting his trips to the free throw line (6-6). Derek Fisher (15 points, six assists) played well, Pau Gasol (15 points, eight rebounds, four assists) was solid if not spectacular, but Lamar Odom (14 points, six rebounds) faded in and out. The Lakers got very little production from their much vaunted bench, which contributed just 15 points on 5-13 field goal shooting and not only played poor defense but committed 11 fouls that contributed to Boston's seven point advantage from the free throw line.

The Lakers started the game with some misdirection offensively; while it would be natural to expect them to feed the ball to Bryant--the leading scorer in the playoffs--they instead put him on the weakside and ran some screen/roll plays with Fisher and Gasol and Fisher and Odom. The first one resulted in a jumper by Gasol, while Odom missed a layup after the second one. Defensively, the Lakers used the same strategy employed by Boston's Eastern Conference opponents, using Rondo's man to roam around and cause disruption. The Lakers took a 6-2 lead as the Celtics shot 1-3 from the field and committed three turnovers in the first 2:38. The Celtics quickly settled down and took their first lead (7-6) on a Rondo jumper.

Bryant got off to a slow start, shooting just 2-8 from the field. All eight of his shots were jumpers and none of them were bad shots, as Lakers Coach Phil Jackson confirmed in his interview with Michele Tafoya after the quarter; those are the same shots that he made in the first 15 playoff games as the Lakers won the Western Conference. Sure, the Celtics would prefer that Bryant shoot jumpers as opposed to getting into the lane but those are also shots that Bryant and the Lakers expect to convert.

Meanwhile, Garnett had a strong first quarter, scoring eight points on 4-7 shooting and grabbing four rebounds. There was much speculation about how the Lakers would guard Paul Pierce but they simply used starter Vladimir Radmanovic on him and sent double-teams to dissuade Pierce from getting into the paint. When Radmanovic picked up his second foul at the 5:01 mark of the first quarter and went to the bench Jackson elected to replace him with Sasha Vujacic instead of Luke Walton. Bryant shifted to small forward and drew the responsibility of checking Pierce. That matchup did not hurt the Lakers at all--Pierce had three first half points on 1-4 field goal shooting--but Vujacic had serious problems guarding Allen, who scored five quick points to put Boston up 19-14. The Celtics led 23-21 at the end of the quarter.

Sam Cassell checked in for Rondo in the second quarter and he made three shots in a row versus Fisher, simply shooting over the smaller Lakers point guard. The Lakers solved that problem by switching Bryant on to Cassell. The Celtics led 40-37 at the 5:14 mark when Pierce picked up his third foul and went to the bench for the rest of the half. On the Lakers' next offensive possession they ran an action that I expected them to use more frequently, a screen/roll play involving Bryant and Gasol. Gasol slipped the screen, dove to the hoop and Bryant fed him a great pass for an easy dunk. As ABC's Mark Jackson noted, that was a play that Celtics Hall of Famers Larry Bird and Robert Parish used to run all the time; the great thing about it is there are so many adjustments that the offense can make depending on what the defense does. I think that the Lakers can get more high percentage shots out of this set than anything else. A couple possessions later, the Lakers ran this set again, the Celtics double-teamed Bryant and he fed Gasol a great pass through traffic for another dunk. The difference between how the Celtics guarded Bryant and how they guarded LeBron James a couple series ago could not be more glaring: when James came off of screens the Celtics played off of him, leaving him nowhere to drive and nowhere to pass, resulting in a lot of missed jumpers by James (and some turnovers when he tried to force passes). In contrast, the Celtics sent both defenders to aggressively trap Bryant, but he strung them out until Gasol popped free. Honestly, I cannot understand why the Lakers would not run this action virtually every time they are in a half court set unless there is some glaringly obvious mismatch to exploit elsewhere.

Later in the quarter, Bryant caught the ball on the right baseline and he was wide open behind the three point line; if he were James the Celtics would obviously let him shoot that shot but instead Garnett ran at him and Bryant waited patiently before passing to an open Gasol, who got fouled and made both free throws to put the Lakers up 49-44. Although some people assert that Bryant "trusts his teammates more" this season, ABC's Jeff Van Gundy kept it real: "You get trusted when you produce." Van Gundy noted that last year Bryant would have shot the three pointer in a similar situation because the alternative would have been to pass to Kwame Brown and Van Gundy added that Bryant would have been absolutely right to shoot it in that case. Those six points by Gasol are examples of scoring opportunities created by Bryant's shooting ability even in a game during which Bryant shot poorly; the Celtics know that Bryant is a good shooter and whether or not he is shooting well at a given time they have to respect his shot and that opens the floor up. The Lakers led 51-46 at halftime.

Despite Bryant's eight points on 3-10 field goal shooting in the first half, the Lakers were in good shape because Bryant was creating easy opportunities for Gasol (12 points on 5-7 shooting), Fisher was taking advantage of his open shots (13 points on 3-5 shooting) and the Lakers shot 50% from the field while only committing four turnovers. Their offensive execution was trumping Boston's defense and physicality. Garnett had 16 points on 6-9 shooting plus six rebounds but no other Celtic was really doing much damage. However, that five point advantage that it took the Lakers 24 minutes to build disappeared in the first :45 of the third quarter as Pierce scored a layup and then converted a four point play after Radmanovic fouled him on a successful three point shot. Bryant hit a jumper to put the Lakers back on top (53-52) but Pierce and Garnett answered with a couple jumpers of their own. The Lakers went back to the Bryant-Gasol screen/roll and this time Bryant got into the paint, drew the defense and passed to Radmanovic for a wide open three pointer to tie the game at 56. Right after that, Radmanovic got his fourth foul and Vujacic came in to replace him, so Bryant again shifted to small forward. Bryant made a very tough turnaround jumper and Van Gundy declared, "That's an impossible shot to defend."

After the teams alternated missed shots, turnovers and fouls, Bryant drove to the hoop, drew the defense and fed Gasol for a dunk. The Lakers seemed to be in great shape after another Bryant-Gasol screen roll play resulted in a Bryant bank shot to put the Lakers up 62-58. Celtic center Kendrick Perkins landed on Pierce during that play and Pierce lay in agony on the court before being helped to the locker room by several teammates. With the Lakers leading and the status of the Celtics' go-to offensive player uncertain it looked like the Lakers had a great chance to take command of the game. Instead, Bryant missed a couple jumpers and Vujacic played horrible defense on Allen, giving up a wide open three pointer that tied the score at 62 (Rondo had previously split a pair of free throws). Odom then missed two free throws, Fisher missed a jumper and Allen made two free throws after drawing a foul on Vujacic. The Celtics led 64-62 and the Boston crowd roared as Pierce literally skipped back from the locker room and checked into the game. Note that the Celtics went in front while Pierce was out of the game; afterwards, someone asked Coach Jackson if Pierce coming back to the court had inspired the Celtics and Jackson got a look on his face that suggested that this was the dumbest thing he had ever heard: Jackson replied that what mattered was not that the crowd cheered when Pierce returned but rather that Pierce later hit some big shots. The Lakers actually regained the lead with Pierce on the court and Bryant's ability to distort the defense was the primary reason why. First, there was a transition situation with Garnett running alongside Odom but Garnett left Odom when Bryant received the ball at the three point line, enabling Bryant to feed Odom for a layup. Again, it cannot be emphasized enough that if that were James behind the three point line Garnett would have simply let him shoot (and most likely miss). Then, after an Allen score the Lakers ran the Bryant-Gasol screen/roll, five Celtics collapsed into the paint to contain Bryant and he passed to Vujacic at the three point line. Garnett ran out to Vujacic and fouled him. Vujacic's free throws pulled the Lakers to within one and then Bryant converted a fast break dunk on a feed from Fisher and made a turnaround jumper to put the Lakers up 71-69. After P.J. Brown blocked an out of control shot by Odom, Pierce got free in transition and made a three pointer. Then Gasol slipped the screen, received a feed from Bryant and missed a layup, leading to another transition three pointer by Pierce. That put the Celtics up 75-71 and they never trailed again. Those missed layups by Odom and Gasol that resulted in Pierce treys were the turning point in the game; that was essentially a 10 point swing--four points that the Lakers did not get and six points that they gave up that Pierce would probably not have scored in a half court situation with Bryant guarding him (Pierce did most of his damage against other defenders). The Lakers are not going to beat Boston on the glass, so they must convert a high percentage of their easy scoring opportunities. The Celtics led 77-73 at the end of the third quarter.

Jackson left Bryant in at the start of the fourth quarter, something that he has done a few times in close playoff games when he has not felt comfortable giving Bryant the rest that he usually gets at that time. Bryant opened the quarter by making a jumper to cut the lead to 77-75 but the Celtics went on a 9-3 run to take their biggest lead of the game. Bryant missed a jumper and made a bad pass for a turnover during that stretch. Jackson, whose 1992 Bulls once made a double-digit comeback in a Finals game versus Portland with Michael Jordan on the bench and Scottie Pippen on the court with four bench players, then decided to give Bryant a three minute rest. That is a counterintuitive move that most coaches would not have the guts to make but the Lakers responded well to this challenge, getting some stops and scoring four points to shave the lead to 86-82. Jackson put Bryant back in the game after a timeout and with the Lakers having just two seconds to get off a shot. Bryant missed a jumper and Pierce scored in the post after the much smaller Fisher got switched on to him. The Lakers only trailed 88-82 with 5:23 left but they made just one field goal the rest of the way. After his great first half Garnett almost completely disappeared in the second half, missing eight field goal attempts in a row at one point--but his massive two handed put back dunk over Gasol ended that streak and gave Boston a 94-86 lead with 1:32 left. On ABC's replay, you can clearly see Gasol waiting for the ball to come to him and not boxing out Garnett, who simply stepped in front of the rim, jumped up and went after the ball while Gasol reacted way too late.

After the game, Coach Jackson said that the story was a "tale of two halves," adding, "They did a much better job on the boards and that was the difference in the ballgame." The Lakers shot 50% from the field and led 51-46 at halftime but they scored just 37 second half points on 33% shooting and finished the game with a 41.6 field goal percentage. The Celtics enjoyed a 46-33 rebounding advantage, which obviously is not good for the Lakers but something that they could have survived if they had continued to shoot well; of course, that puts a lot of pressure on their offense but that is the formula that they used to storm through the Western Conference playoffs.

Bryant said, "They played a lot more physical than we did and that is something we have to address. It was a good experience for us. A nice little kick in the ass." Asked about his shooting, Bryant replied, "I had some great looks but they just didn't stay down for me...Those little midrange jumpers that I get, I have to knock them down...I just missed some bunnies, some really, really good looks and I'll be thinking about them tonight."

Looking forward to game two, there are four main questions:

1) What is the status of Paul Pierce's knee injury?
2) Will the Lakers be able to convert a better percentage of their open shots?
3) Can the Lakers narrow their rebounding deficit or will they simply have to make up for it in other areas?
4) Who besides Bryant can play good defense for the Lakers against the point guard, small forward and shooting guard positions?

I suspect that Pierce's injury will bother him more as the series progresses and that it will have a tendency to tighten up after halftime, which is lengthier during the postseason. The Lakers need to raise their field goal percentage above .450, which would have meant making three more shots in game one; considering how many of their shots went halfway down and came out, that is very doable. By playing more aggressively and making up in hustle and speed what they lack in bulk the Lakers should be able to limit the Celtics to a rebounding advantage of four or five a game. As for the Lakers' perimeter defense, they will live and die with Rondo making jumpers but they will have to get better defense from some combination of Fisher, Farmar, Vujacic and Radmanovic versus Pierce, Allen and Cassell. The way that the Lakers had to keep switching Bryant on to someone to cool him off is reminiscent of what happened in the 2004 Finals, when whichever Detroit guard was being checked by Gary Payton had a field day while Bryant contained the other guard.

The tendency after each playoff game is to overreact and think that the winning team will not lose a game and that the losing team cannot possibly win. This series is a battle between Boston's strengths in rebounding and defense versus the Lakers' high-powered offense; what most commentators will probably neglect to mention about this game is that the Celtics only shot .421 from the field and committed 13 turnovers compared to just eight turnovers by the Lakers: the Lakers' defense is better than many people think and it will not take a dramatic offensive improvement by the Lakers to win game two and thus seize homecourt advantage. Make no mistake, though, losing game one should not be easily dismissed, because game one winners end up winning the series nearly 80% of the time; the onus is on the Lakers to win game two but they did enough positive things in game one to show that they are certainly capable of doing just that.

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posted by David Friedman @ 3:44 AM

17 comments

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17 Comments:

At Friday, June 06, 2008 5:01:00 AM, Blogger bordesinremedio said...

As always a great review of the game, whether it can be disagreement about some perceptions of the game you always argue it reasonably.

I would like to highlight the comments Gasol said after the game and go in the same line as you do. He said he was dissapointed with the defeat, obviously, but with a few adjustment the will be have the chance to win game 2. And he was aware of how soft was during some stretches of the game his defense.

I think people sometimes don't apprecciate how Gasol is really aware of the situation and how has been changing throughout the playoffs, adapting to the situation. I think that how Gasol lost his ability to shoot from mid-range with good accuracy is a liability to the Lakers, otherwise they would have even more alternative offensive plays.

Equally people forget that he is not a truly center, he is more a PF, and that more or less he is carrying out with the task.

And now off-topic:

Rudy Fernández is going to announce that he will play next year in the NBA. Whad do you think of him?

Anyway, congratulations for the blog.

 
At Friday, June 06, 2008 7:31:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Bordesinremedio:

I'm sure that there will be disagreement about what I wrote because I did not neatly peg this game into the popular categories of "Pierce is a hero" or "Bryant shot too much." Instead of the "paint by numbers" approach that is so popular--and instead of basing the tenor of my analysis on who won the game--I simply took notes throughout as I always do and described what I observed. The fact that the Lakers lost does not take away from the effectiveness of the plays that I described from earlier in the game and the fact that the Celtics won does not mean that they are now invincible. The Celtics unquestionably have an edge now, as all teams that win game one do, but the Lakers are certainly capable of winning game two.

Gasol is a versatile, talented player who also has some weaknesses in his game and my approach with him--and all players--is to simply analyze the totality of his game. I agree with his assessment that his performance was somewhat disappointing but that the Lakers can win game two with a few adjustments.

In today's NBA, power forward and center have become largely interchangeable. Basically, there are "bigs" and "smalls." Gasol is a "big" and thus he may guard or be guarded by either KG or Perkins.

I have heard good things about Fernandez but I have not actually seen him play very much, let alone against NBA competition, so there is not really too much that I can say about him from an analytical standpoint. In general, the internationalization of the NBA has added a lot of flavor to the game, so I look forward to seeing him play in the NBA and hope that he can continue that trend.

 
At Friday, June 06, 2008 12:10:00 PM, Anonymous deuvidol said...

Great recap of the game.
I think the issue wasn't obivous at all, and the game could have gone either way. Bryant did have a good game, in the sense of making good decisions (then if the shots didn't go in, it's another story), and playing good defense.
However, i think the game unfolded as the momentum changed sides during the last quarter: if the Lakers had maintained the game close it would have put a lot of pressure on the Cs. In this sense, there was a stretch in the fourth during which Bryant made two consecutive errors, and although the game wasn't decided at this moment the momentum definitely was.
The Cs gained confidence, whereas Bryant's teamates seemed to lose focus after that.

Looking forward to game 2, I think the Lakers' offense can improve by much, but I also think that if the Cs are wise they will take much more advantage of the front court difference (what with KG posting up so little in second half ?) and run the Lakers' big men into foul trouble.

 
At Friday, June 06, 2008 12:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

kobe was atrocious... shdve been benched

fell in luv w jump shot ... re-run of 04 finals

 
At Friday, June 06, 2008 12:42:00 PM, Anonymous Brandon Hoffman said...

Fantastic analysis David.

I know Ariza is still recovering from his injury and is probably far from game condition but I find it hard to believe that he couldn't exceed Luke Walton's productivity...particularly on the defensive end.

Your thoughts?

 
At Friday, June 06, 2008 1:11:00 PM, Blogger Allen said...

I agree, the high screen and roll with Pau setting the screen was highly effective against San Antonio as well. They should keep going to it until Boston makes an adjustment that stops it.

 
At Friday, June 06, 2008 4:21:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Deuvidol:

The Celtics had the lead and the momentum throughout the fourth quarter. The game changed in the third quarter when Gasol and Odom's missed layups led to transition threes for Pierce that gave the Celtics a lead that they never relinquished.

KG is going to continue to shoot jumpers with sporadic success and I would not expect to see him post up very frequently.

 
At Friday, June 06, 2008 4:24:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

Kobe missed the same shots that he made in the first 15 playoff games. The quality of a shot is not determined by whether or not it went in but whether or not it is a shot that is in the repertoire of the player who took it. How many of Kobe's shots went halfway down and came out? He usually makes 45-50% of such shots instead of the percentage that he shot last night.

Kobe's passing and his ability to draw the defense directly or indirectly led to most of the points that the Lakers scored.

The main similarity to the 2004 Finals is that Kobe was the only Laker perimeter defender who could control his man.

 
At Friday, June 06, 2008 4:28:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Brandon:

My thoughts on Ariza are that Jackson is a HoF coach who sees him in practice every day and if he thought that Ariza was in good enough condition to play and could perform better overall (not just at one end of the court) then someone else then he would put him in the game. That does not mean that Jackson is never wrong but I think that fans underestimate what it takes to come back from a long layoff and be productive. The Lakers can't afford to put someone out there and "hope" that he can produce. I'm sure that if this were the regular season that Jackson might put Ariza out there for a quarter but you can't risk that now in games where every possession is so vitally important. If Ariza shows something in practice then perhaps he will get some meaningful playing time in this series.

 
At Friday, June 06, 2008 5:29:00 PM, Anonymous Hoffman said...

I undestand the affect a long layoff can have on a player. I've played the game my entire life and suffered through plenty of sprained ankles that had be shelved for months.

But the rust of a long layoff is felt more on the offensive end.

Whereas the Lakers need Ariza's defense in this series.

I think he could provide quality minutes defending Pierce and Allen if he's close to game shape.

 
At Friday, June 06, 2008 11:25:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

that was a rerun of 04 finals yep you right anymous lebron shot 2-18 and kobe shot 9-26 kobe played better but this is a testament to celtics d they physical quick and contest every shot kobe said he missed bunnies lebron said he missed shots he normally makes too. give the celtics they due both of them they shut them down lebron shot better the more the series went i expect kobe to do same. lebron gave his team easy scoreing oppourtunites like kobe did last night as well he had 13 assists in game they wasnt 5 feet away from lebron and let him shoot they played them both the same way kobe didnt get it done david he played bad i expect him to play better but he was atroscious last night no doubt he led to some scoreing oppourtunites not most he had 8 points in first half lakers had 51.

 
At Saturday, June 07, 2008 8:19:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Hoffman:

In order to help the team, Ariza has to be able to play at both ends of the court, which requires him to be in shape, injury free and conversant with the Triangle Offense and how it must be run against a very good defensive team. For all of those reasons, I suspect that we will not see Ariza on the court until next season. In the playoffs and the Finals teams tend to shorten their rotations, not lengthen them, let alone bringing in somebody who got hurt right after he joined the team and has never really been a regular part of the rotation in the first place.

 
At Saturday, June 07, 2008 8:58:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

The main way that this game was similar to the 2004 Finals is that the Lakers perimeter defenders other than Kobe struggled to contain their men, which is why Kobe had to guard Allen, then Cassell and then Pierce.

LeBron's shooting percentage for the first four games of the Boston series was .256 and he hardly made a shot outside of the paint. The Celtics sagged off of him, resulting in a barrage of missed jumpers and turnovers by LeBron. This was one of Kobe's worst shooting games of this year's playoffs and it was not nearly as bad as what LeBron did in those games. Moreover, the Celtics are absolutely NOT defending Kobe the same way that they guarded LeBron. When LeBron came off of screens the Celtics went under, giving him the jumper and taking away his passing angles. When Kobe came off of screens the Celtics trapped, Kobe stretched them out, read the defense and made passes that led to easy opportunities for Gasol, Odom and other Lakers.

Kobe missed shots that he normally makes; LeBron missed shots that he has yet to consistently make during his career. Assuming Kobe makes his normal percentage on midrange jumpers for the duration of the series the Celtics will not be able to stop him, just like the Spurs and Jazz also were not able to stop him.

 
At Saturday, June 07, 2008 1:43:00 PM, Anonymous Hoffman said...

David,

Ariza started 3 games before he got injured so I think it's mistake to state he was never really a part of the rotation.

But I understand your concerns with Ariza being out of touch with the triangle after such a long layoff.

I guess I'm of the opinion that the Lakers can put points on the board with or without him. Even more important to their success is containing Pierce and Allen.

It's my opinion that the risks do not outweigh the rewards.

But again, that's assuming he's in game shape.

 
At Saturday, June 07, 2008 7:38:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

kobe shot terrible this is the best d in the league it happened in 2000 and 2004 where he shot 38 percent. they were best d in leagues the celtics are quick long fast and physical kobe should play better lebron played better the longer the series went he was a stat stuffer from games 3-7 kobe shot 32 percent all 3 games vs celtics give them some due they play tough d. they played kobe same way lebron they trapped lebron like they did kobe at times and others just showed on screens and didnt trap lebron traps also led to easy baskets as well delonte west big z scerbiak arent created there shot often. now they give the jumper to lebron more than kobe because kobe a better shooter but there was similarites.

this is only one game so well see how kobe plays the rest if he is not dominant they have no chance celtics could care less either way as long as they win. i picked lakers got to win game 2 if they gonna win series gasol got to be tougher and better kobe do odom and the bench.

 
At Saturday, June 07, 2008 7:57:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Hoffman:

Ariza started three games when the Lakers were shorthanded due to players being injured and/or just coming back from injury and not being ready to play extended minutes. Also, I believe that Jackson said something at the time about putting Ariza out there and seeing what he could do--and that is my point about the Finals: now is not the time to put Ariza out there to see what he can do unless the Lakers see something in practice that really makes them believe he can have a big impact. Starting three games and playing in a total of 24 for a new team does not constitute being a major part of the rotation. Jackson's main adjustment in game one was to go with Vujacic instead of Walton and shift Kobe to sf to guard Pierce. Kobe did well on Pierce (Pierce's points came against Vlad Rad or in transition, not against Kobe in the half court set) but Vujacic was shaky against Allen. Will Jackson put Ariza in to check Allen? I suppose it is possible but Vujacic has been a major rotation player all season, so I think it is more likely that the coaching staff will work with Vujacic on defensive technique (getting around screens, not going for Allen's shot fakes) then go with Ariza. I don't mean that they have to teach defense to Vujacic, just that they will reinforce certain concepts with him.

 
At Sunday, June 08, 2008 1:39:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

Kobe was injured in the 2000 Finals, missing most of game two and all of game three--which is one of only two games that the Lakers lost in that year's Finals. Kobe made the key plays in the Lakers' game four overtime win.

The 2004 Pistons played very good defense on Bryant--much credit to Tayshaun Prince. Still, Kobe starred in the only game that the Lakers won that series, game two, when he hit the clutch three pointer that forced overtime and then dominated the extra session. The big problems for the Lakers in that series were injuries to Karl Malone and Derek Fisher plus Gary Payton's awful defense.

I don't know why you fail to see the difference between how Boston guarded Kobe and LeBron. The Celtics sagged off of LeBron, daring him to shoot and cutting off his passing angles. I discussed this in detail during the series, particularly Cleveland's home games, which I witnessed in person. In contrast, the Celtics attempted to contest all shots that Kobe took and they trapped him on pick and roll plays.

 

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