Live from Staples- Lakers vs. Celtics, Game 4
Basically, it's the same situation as Tuesday night. About as must-win as a non-elimination game can be. Let's see if the Lakers (and the Staples crowd) responds.
11:49 - Lamar Odom gets a quick two via goaltending against the Celts. Assuming they keep knocking cylinder shots of his away, that scoring funk he's been in will be conquered in no time.
10:56 - Fisher dribbles at the top of the three point line, penetrates inside, draws two defenders, switches direction and eventually draws a foul on Rajon Rondo while taking it to the hoop. Not sure I'd love Fish pounding the ball over and over so much on every possession, but with his shot not falling lately, good to see him maintaining his aggressiveness. Make it happen somehow.
10:06 - Gorgeous sequence between Kobe, LO and Gasol. Bryant has the ball at the top of the arc, then dumps it inside to LO, who hits a cutting Gasol with a touch pass. Bucket racked. The Celtics don't even have time to react before the stroking nylon.
Lot more running and cutting this game.
7;30 - LO drives through the center of the paint, then dishes off to Vlad parked in a downtown corner. It's early, but we've already seen Kobe's co-starters involved and productive. That can't be a bad thing.
6:37 - Another layup by LO, who's got 8 early points off a 4-4 start from the floor. Dude only had four points on Tuesday, period. It's a real toss up who needed this game more: Lamar or his team. Whatever the case, everyone is happy.
Sorry, technical glitch. But thankfully, the Lakers are more proficient than the Staples Center wireless. During the time I spent signing back on, LO drew Kevin Garnett's second foul, Vlad hit another rainbow three and the Lakers reached a 22-7 advantage.
24-7 Lakers after LO (now 5-5) cans a mid-range jumper around the freebie stripe. Another timeout, this time by L.A. After spending all of Tuesday in a mode beyond sluggish, it's very difficult picturing the Lakers looking much sharp than during this first quarter.
2:10 - Ray Allen is given way too much space in the corner in front of Boston's bench. As Jesus Shuttlesworth is often bog on doing, he drains a three in such a situation.
Trevor Ariza and Jordan Farmar check in during the last two minutes for Fish and Vlad.
51.1 - Ariza and Ray Allen battle for Eddie House's errant trey, with Allen getting a little too zealous. Loos ball foul, and with Boston in the penalty, that'll send Trevor to the line. He hits the first, misses the second, but tracks down his own miss, and ends up left way the hell alone in the corner on the ensuing possession. Boston gives the non-three ball specialist an open look. He makes them pay.
The quarter winds down with L.A. up a whopping 35-14. There ain't much you could possibly cite that the Lakers haven't done right. They've held Boston to a paltry 27%, connected at a robust 65%, drawn 8 fouls on their opponents, moved the ball extremely well, outrebounded them 14-4, outdimed them 10-1 and Lamar Odom is 6-6. If you're unhappy, you're just too freakin' high maintainence. BK will take over what hopefully remains a prosperous game.
11:00- Nice play by Ariza, grabbing the offensive board and getting the easy putback dunk. He's been very active early for the Lakers, but really, that was also some wretched box outs by Boston. He'll take advantage of that all day if the Celtics aren't careful.
Ariza comes back on the other end a couple trips later and makes a great block on Allen. Fair to say he's found a comfort zone in theis one. Great play on the backside coming on the recovery.
8:30- Walton (finally) sticks a three after two failed attempts to give LA a 40-19 lead. The seconds have come out and done a nice job early in the quarter, maintaining most of the lead they inherited. The more they can stretch out the rest for the first unit, the bigger the benefits for the Lakers later in the series, or at least the potential for benefits.
Timeout on the floor, 8:16.
Right now, in a nice change from most of the series, the Lakers are beating the Celtics to every loose ball, are way more active on the boards, are filling the passing lanes, pressuring the ball and forcing turnovers. Hard to find anything to criticize thus far. At this point, it becomes a question of playing tight enough defense and not getting complacent. Unlike Game 2, though, when the Celts blew a big lead late, the Lakers know they have a lot of basketball left to play. That, and the fact it's Game 4 of the NBA Finals, should keep them sharp.
Turiaf, Kobe, and LO return. Farmar, Sasha, Kobe, Turiaf, LO. Another version of the small lineup PJ has employed during the series.
7:34- LO gets the ball in the lane from Kobe, makes a strong move left (no shock) and scores. Another very aggressive move.
6:00- Sasha turns the ball over, but gets it right back from Cassell on the other end. That's the sort of night it's been for Boston. They can't hit an open shot, the Lakers are beating them up and down the floor, etc.
4:15- Allen sticks a triple. A wide open triple. Which makes sense, since he doesn't have a reputation as a shooter or anything like that. The Lakers have to be careful that they don't concede too many easy shots to Boston, and let them creep back to a more reasonable deficit by the end of the half. Open shots will happen from time to time, but they can't get too loose. PJ calls timeout, likely to tell them the same thing. Lakers still up by 19.
Boston is shooting barely 30%, much of which is coming off missed jumpers. Some of those will go down, so the Lakers need to maintain the pressure, continue to run the offense (that's getting away from them a little) and pretend the game is closer.
2:38- That's kind of what I'm getting at. Boston sticks a couple shots- Posey a triple in the corner (LO late in closing), Pierce a J in Rad's face. Meanwhile, on the other end, the Lakers are getting out of the offense. Things have certainly slowed down, though Fish adds a little injection of "good" with a drive and the foul. Nice finish with the left hand, and he'll go to the line with a chance to push the Laker lead back to 15.
Great defensive stand coming out of the timeout, pushing the Celtics to a bad shot at the end of the clock. The Lakers come back the other way, and burn Boston again with that screen and roll where the ball handler flips the rock to a man at the high post, who hits the roller for the easy bucket, in this case, a Gsol dunk.
:59- Fish splits the double at the top of the circle, then attacks the rack and draws Posey's third personal. Makes both, and the lead is back up to 52-37.
:9.1- Great play by Fish. He moves off the screen and roll, doesn't get what he wants, then cuts back to the lane for another screen with Gasol. This time, he draws both defenders, slides the ball to Gasol cutting to the hoop, and the Lakers get the easy basket, plus the foul. He makes the freebie and the Lakers are up 55-39.
END OF THE HALF:
58-40. Farmar flies up the floor, takes off about three feet behind the arc and heaves it off the glass and in for a buzzer beating three pointer, and man alive must that be disheartening to Boston, or what? They controlled the second quarter early, only to see the advantage they had built in the quarter go away with a late Lakers run to end the half, including that fortuitous last-second shot.
Fair to say the Lakers have finally broken through against Boston. Early on, they set up Odom for a bunch of great looks on the move, they were aggressive on the break, allowing them to run up the big first-quarter lead, have continued to frustrate Boston defensively, and more. Tonight, they're beating the Celtics to loose balls, dominating the glass (26-16), are keeping the Celtics from distributing the ball (only four first half dimes, and a 35 FG%), and outplaying them in every fashion.
Oh, and Kobe doesn't have a field goal. Good stuff for the Lakers. The Farmar triple was a huge boost, and it'll be important for them to maintain the energy early in the second half, and have a nice cushion into the fourth.
Vlad starts things off with a foul, sending Pierce to the line. At this point, with this sort of lead, I'd just stick Kobe on him for good and call it a day... and Kobe gets Pierce on the next trip, but KG hits a jumper and the lead is down to 14.
10:57- Kobe hits a pull up J on Pierce, and 24 has his first FG of the game. Rondo comes back on the other end with a bucket.
Kobe picks up Rondo on the next trip, so it looks like he'll be switching up. There is value in having him on either guy, but I don't want to leave Vlad on Pierce too often. And depending on the lead, they can get Ariza in as well for long stretches.
9:35- LO aggressively heads to the rack, and is hacked hard by Perkins, who not only draws his fourth foul, but also has to head to the locker room with an apparent shoulder injury. The force of grabbing LO might have done some damage there.
Next trip down, LO makes a great feed on the break, a nice return pass to Vlad Rad for the bucket. Kobe then sticks another J in Pierce's face, and the Celtics answer... with a turnover. The Lakers lead is back up to 18, and momentum is swinging in L.A'.s favor. A big push here could put it out of reach (barring total collapse). Big couple minutes.
If the Lakers can get out in the open court, and if Kobe continues to heat up, this won't end well for the Celtics.
8:07- Lakers 66, Boston 48.
4:55- After the obligatory, once a game Vlad airballed three, the Celts come back with an Eddie House triple, as Kobe wandered a little too far away (though on the replay, it looked like he needed to slide over to help on the post). Then Kobe is blocked by Pierce on the other end, and it turned into a foul opportunity for Allen.
Vlad nearly turns the ball over on the next trip, but Kobe recovers, and finds Pau for the easy dunk.
Some raggedy play here for the Lakers, but with 4:00 to go, they're still up 72-57.
2 :58- Timeout on the floor, and I can basically guarantee that Vlad won't be on the floor when play restarts. Beyond some odd decision making with the ball- no surprise, he just allowed Allen to go uncontested to the hoop after an LO turnover, passing up a very easy chance to contest said shot. I realize Allen is a good free-throw shooter, but dude, you're 6'10". Get up there and get in the way.
On the other end, the Lakers O has really slowed down. Too much one-on-one, not enough ball movement. But much of their success early was on the break, and they're not generating much there anymore, because in this quarter they've been taking the ball out of the basket too much, turning the ball over too much, etc.
2:29- Ariza and Sasha in, Fish and Vlad out. Garnett picks up a terrible offensive foul, setting about 16 moving screens and basically shepherding Ariza out of the way like one of those broom guys in curling. Stupid foul. Lakers turn it into a Pau FT opportunity on the other end.
Posey picks up his fifth, Tony Allen makes his Finals debut.
2:01- Pierce beats Ariza off the dribble going left, gets into the lane and draws a foul against Gasol, making the bucket with a great circus scooping shot thing. With the FT, a 24-point Laker lead is down to nine.
:41- Allen makes a pair of FTs on the drive, drawing the foul on Sasha, and the lead is four. The offense has gone totally cold over the last six or seven minutes.
END OF THE THIRD:
The Lakers double Garnett (I think) on the wing, leaving PJ Brown wide open for an easy dunk. That'll end the quarter, and the Lakers' lead, which was 18 at the half, is now two. L.A. was outscored 31-15, and most of the 15 came early. The Lakers scored a grand total of three points in the final six minutes of the third, going completely cold from the floor. Two of them came on a Gasol dunk from a Kobe lob off a near turnover. Take that away, and things are even uglier. For a team that needs to play good offense to help set up the D, that ain't good.
Well, we have a ballgame in the fourth. AK will take her home.
Turiaf on the floor, along with LO, Kobe, Farmar and Sasha.
11:38 - The third quarter's bad vibes don't improve immediately, as Ronny misses a pair at the stripe. He follows up with a quick foul at the other end.
10:25 - Sasha picks up his third whistle on a silly sequence underneath the bucket. He and Ray Allen get tangled up going after a loose ball and hit the deck in a heap. They keep knocking into each other while trying to get up, and Sasha ends up using what's basically an Indian leg razzlin' move to trip Ray to the ground. That's not even legal in the WWE, much less in the NBA. Although "The Karate Kid"'s evil Sensai probably would have approved.
9:32 - Kobe slithers underneath a few green defenders for the layup. But it remains rough sledding for Bryant, who's coming in at a 3-14 clip on the night.
7:21 - Ronny bodies KG as best he can while getting backed down, but can't get a hand up in fast enough fashion to prevent to mid range jumper from swishing.
6:21 - Credit Ronny for helping set up LO's 19th point. His swat of Brown's five footer ends up in Sasha's mitts, then shuttled to Lamar, who wraps the ball around a Boston arm and into the basket.
5:34: - Kobe's dunk may have come at Boston's expense on two levels. One, it's a pair of Laker points. But the basket was set up by a 18-foot miss from Pierce, who came down funny and left the court holding his ankle and grimacing. Boston will check him out during the time out.
5:14 - A three ball from a reentered Posey falls. This one ain't over yet. Thankfully, Gasol is aware of that fact, which likely motivated him to add another pair of points to his resume on the next trip down.
4:06 - Pierce connects on a cross court pass to Eddie House, who evades Farmar quick enough to drain a 19-footer while moving sideways. On the next trip down, LO bobbles a pass inside from Gasol. Boston retains possession enough in the scrum to call time out.
2:10 - An 18-footer from KG puts Boston up by five and the Lakers in a spot of trouble. Time out Lakers. They're completely out of sorts at this point. Ball movement has mostly disappeared and when it does happen, guys don't seem ready or sure of what to do.
1:44 - Kobe's pair of makes at the line are met with one of two going down for Pierce. Little time is wasted before Kobe takes it strong again to the hole. He draws the foul on PP, then resets and drives the lane.
1:04 - A three from Posey is met with a bucket just inside the arc by Fish. The Lakers are now within 3.
46.8 - After drawing the foul on Kobe, Pierce goes back to the line and hits both of his tries.
40.1 - Kobe drives, draws the D, then dishes to Pau for the dunk. Lakers back within three.
15.7 - With the floor spread to all sides, Allen goes against Sasha at the top of the arc, then blows past him and isn't met with a secondary helper. The bucket's good, the Celts are back up by 5 and there's little time left to make things happen for L.A.
Out of the timeout, attempts from Sasha and Kobe come up respectively wide and short, sealing the Laker fate. Final score, 97-91. I'm literally speechless. This is an absolutely stunning turn of events. It's hard to wrap my head around how this happened, but I'll give it a little more thought and get back to you. Thanks for dropping by. Sorry we couldn't do better.