NBA Finals Game 2: Celtics have 4 Do Its

June 7, 2010

by Jack Maidment

I scare myself. I really do. I said it, I said it, I said it.

Then again it was hardly like I disclosed how the Timberwolves could make The Finals next year. It was a case in stating the obvious, but I will take a small amount of credit for drawing up the blueprint for a Boston come back even if it was common knowledge.

Some people might be saying that I actually said the Celtics didn’t have a chance. And, well, I did. But. That’s not the point.

Everything they didn’t do in Game 1 they did in Game 2 and that is why the Lakers are heading to Boston on the back of a beat down.

Not a classic 20-point-demolition-job-beat-down but a we-sucked-in-Game-1-lets-play-like-we-can-beat-down.

Ray Allen, quite simply, was imperious. His eight threes were enough to draw one of the Laker Bigs out of the domain of darkness that Los Angeles patrols down low in the second half, allowing the rest of the Celts to get involved, especially Glenn Davis and Rajon Rondo.

He was so hot that you knew that every shot he took was going in. Not in a ‘he’s my favourite player and he’s great’ kind of way, but in a ‘I feel something weird going on, there is no way this guy is missing tonight’ way.

They gave him the ball, normally with Kobe or Fisher draped over him and his snatch release did the rest. He was unguardable.

(Which leads me to the question: A ridiculously hot three point shooter can win you really really important basketball games. Not only do you get three points but the other team is utterly demoralised as the same guy comes down the floor, continuously, making shot after shot. How do you play that? And why did teams not grab the opportunity to trade for Ray Allen when the Celtics were dangling him for all to see in February?)

The Best Point Guard in the Game When Paul, Williams and Nash Aren’t Around was pure sweet triple double goodness. Time after time he came up with the ball in situations where he really had no business too and even when he wasn’t scoring or assisting he was making plays as he has done all post season.

One of the back breakers in Game 2 was Rondo’s block from behind of Fisher’s 3 point ahead. It sparked a fast break and two easy points exactly when the Lakers could not afford them.

The fact that Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were relatively ineffective highlights the importance and luxury of having four Do It players. Rondo, Garnett, Pierce and Allen. All the Celtics need is two of them a game to show up and play anywhere near there best and they have a great chance to win.

How many Do It guys have the Lakers got? For my money, just two. Pau Gasol and Kobe. Which means that neither of them can have a night off if LA wants to win The Finals.

The officiating also played its part as it did in Game 1 but the shoe was on the other foot, with Kobe being forced to play the entire fourth with 5 fouls (many of which were more than questionable just like Ray Allen’s in Game 1) limiting his drives and turning him into a jump shooter only.

It was a massive wake up call for the Lakers that’s for sure. The Celtics looked dead and buried after Game 1 but like Sayeed in season 6 of Lost they came back inexplicably in Game 2.

And Rasheed Wallace ran the floor in Game 2. Madness. If that sets the tone for this series then I’m not ruling anything out. Maybe even Michael Finley will have his moment a la Robert Horry against Detroit. Or not.

No more brash (and stupid) reactionary predictions from me that’s for sure. Lakers in 5 was a bad shout. But I may as well go down fighting so that’s how it must be.

It should be one hell of a series.


NBA Finals: My Name Is Pau Gasol. Adios Orlando

June 8, 2009

pauby Jack Maidment

Against the very best you may only get one opportunity. One chance to turn the tide, to take advantage of the single time that your opponent slips just a little.

Sunday night the Orlando Magic did not get one opportunity to switch the momentum in the NBA Finals, they got two. As Game 2 built to its climax, the Los Angeles Lakers left the door slightly ajar for Dwight Howard and co on two occasions.

Despite excellent platy calling from Stan Van Gundy, the Magic failed to convert two golden looks, both falling to Courtney Lee. Instead of taking the Lakers back to Florida all tied up, they return home in a 2-0 hole.

Ominous? Yep. The Lakers are 37-1 in series where they have won the opening two games.

Before this Finals began the focus was placed firmly on the Lake Show. If Orlando ended up Champions it would be because the Lakers had gifted it to them.

Regardless of the fact that such a point of view entirely belittles the accomplishments of a very strong Orlando team, it forgets how dangerous the magic can be. Look up potent in the dictionary. There’s a picture of Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis right next to that of Hugh Hefner.

However, if you were one of those people who believed in the Magic, you understood that they had a legitimate chance at rings if they ticked the right boxes.

1. Big games from Lewis to fully justify the amount of money that Florida’s finest (sorry Mr Wade) has committed to his lucrative contract.

2. Continuing clutch play from Turkey’s finest export (?).

Check on both counts. In Game 2 Lewis and Turkoglu combine to go 9-18 from down town. 50% from beyond the arc? Yeah, that could help.

3. Dominance down low and on the glass from Dwight Howard.

He may not have had 40, but Game 2’s perfomance saw Howard grab 16 rebounds to go with his 17 points. That’s pretty good going considering he is rebounding against Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom, 1 on 3.

4. Contain Kobe.

Easier said than done for sure, but 29 and 8 for KB24 is a vast improvement on the 40+ he took in the series opener.

The Magic did all these 4 things in Game 2 but still roll out of town on a downer. Why?

Pau Gasol. The Spaniard is absolutely the key to Los Angeles’ victory and Orlando’s defeat.

24 and 10. Gaudy numbers from a player who is making the people calling him ‘soft’ look pretty silly.

It was Gasol that powered the Lakers to Game 2, 3-3 from the field and 5 of 5 from the line in the 4th quarter and the overtime period.

The City of Angels climbed aboard and he carried them to 2 and 0.

The Lakers record in this situation might be scary, but the combination of Pau and Kobe is scarier. Spanish. English. Telepathy? Their communication is simply infallible.

Game 3 is the biggest in Orlando’s history and anything other than a win will spell the end of their season.

Perhaps it is time to say goodbye to Orlando?

Or as Pau would say:

 

‘Gracias por todo, hasta luego. Adios.’


NBA Finals Preview: Orlando Magic Promise Problems for Los Angeles Lakers

May 31, 2009

05HowardDwight02by Jack Maidment

The Los Angeles Lakers.

The Orlando Magic.

Two teams. Two vastly different histories.

The Lakers are heading to The Finals for the 30th time. They hope to win their 15th title.

In dramatic contrast, the Magic will be appearing in The Finals for only the second time. Since sampling the delights of The Big Dance with Shaquille O’Neal back in 1995, Orlando has very much been an ‘also ran’ when the Playoffs role around.

But the emergence of another All-Star, All League Center in the shape of Dwight Howard, has powered the Magic to the Promised Land despite the prevailing sense of doubt that has emanated from the media all season long.

Boston, LA, San Antonio, Cleveland. They were the ‘real’ contenders.

Yet here we are. Two teams with vastly differing pasts will meet in The Finals for the NBA Championship. And both deserve their spot.

The Lakers may be the Jekyll and Hyde of pro sports, but their talent cannot be questioned. Nor can their heart, which has been shown numerous times.

When the Lake Show was seemingly in a hole, even if they had put themselves in it, they came out firing and ultimately are still standing.

Character, like tea, reveals itself in hot water and you better believe that’s true. As the water boiled around them, the Lakers, led by Kobe Bryant, made the plays that mattered to get the W.

Meanwhile, regardless of commentators’ love of the phrase ‘live and die by the 3 pointer’, Orlando has progressed and shows no signs of changing their style.

And why would they. You can’t stay hot all the time. True. But when you have a team with more long range threats than the US Navy it doesn’t matter if 1,2 or 3 of your guys goes cold. You still got the other 3.

Combine the shooting of Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, Rafer Alston, Mickael Pietrus, JJ Reddick and Courtney Lee with the inside presence of Dwight Howard and the grossly underrated Marcin Gortat then you have a recipe for success.

So where will the Championship be won and loss?

1. Home Court.

The Lakers must be secretly excited that they avoid the Cleveland Cavaliers and thus an extra road game. Their regular season hard work has paid off with the Magic needing a win at the Staples Centre to have any chance at the Gold.

Both teams have maintained a constant disregard for home court this post season. Both have had disappointing losses at home only to follow them up with huge road wins to recover the advantage.

If the trend continues then we have a rollercoaster 7 game stretch ahead of us.

But. If the Lakers can stamp their authority on the series with victories in the opening two games the Magic will face a huge task to wrestle the trophy from Phil Jackson’s hands.

2. Front Court Vs Front Court

The respective 3,4 and 5s of these teams would leave just about every team in the NBA green with jealousy. Both are extremely talented.

The way in which they match up in The Finals will go some way to deciding who prevails.

The difficulty for the Lakers falls on the defensive end where the Magic will provide the same match up problems as they did the Cleveland Cavaliers.

3 guys, all 6-10 or bigger. All Mobile. 2 of them will kill you off the dribble despite their size.

Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom will have their hands full. Whoever isn’t trying to contain Dwight Howard will be tasked with sticking to Lewis and Turkoglu.

Odom is the best equipped to deal with the outside threat of the Magic big men, but who picks up the other guy? Pau or Bynum on Lewis? That could get ugly.

All this to worry about while simultaneously trying to keep Howard off the glass.

3. Kobe Bryant

Kobe’s importance to LA is huge. The Magic will unlikely allow him to score 1 on 1 while they take care of his team mates, but such is his ability out of the double team that doubling up can allow Kobe to get his entire team scoring, boosting the feel good factor and mood of the crowd.

In a series that will undoubtedly be tight, Kobe down the stretch could be the difference. The Magic will look to hustle and hurry him all series long but he will get his. You just have to live with that.

Lakers in 6.