After the Celtics beat the Lakers 103-94 in Game 2 to tie the NBA Finals at a game apiece, the reaction has been shockingly expected. Lakers haters everywhere will spend the entire 48 hours in between Game 2 and Game 3 to let everyone know that the Lakers are finished, the Celtics are better, the Lakers are trash, it’s not coming back to LA, blah blah blah.
Lakers fans are having the same reactions, for the most part. The sky is falling down! Kobe is hurting again! The curse of Boston is rearing its ugly head at us again! Blah blah blah.
The fact of the matter is, while Game 2 was a huge win for the Celtics, the series is far from over. Lakers fans need to relax, and remember these five reasons that this series is far from over:
1. Boston three-point shooting in Game 2:
First, I have to give props to Allen (as much as it hurts) for hitting an NBA Finals-record eight three-pointers in the Game 2 win. The most astounding thing about that was that he hit seven in the first half alone.
Now that that’s out of the way, the fact of the matter is that Ray Allen hit eight three-pointers in Game 2. That will not happen again and Lakers fans need to know this. In fact, they need to look no further than the second half of Game 2, when Allen was held to just one three and five points total.
The Celtics as a team shot an unbelievable 11-16 from three-point land, or 69%. Once again, numbers that they will not reach again this series, if in any Finals game for the rest of their franchise’s history.
The fact of the matter is the Celtics dominated the Lakers from outside, yet were unable to put them away at any point during the game until the final minute.
2. Paul Pierce vs. Ron Artest:
Two games into the Finals and this much is clear, Paul Pierce will not be having another MVP series against the Lakers. Ron Artest has effectively taken Pierce out of this series by hounding him every time he touches the ball, to the point that the one open shot Pierce had in Game 2 was so rushed it hit the side of the rim.
Artest held Pierce to 2-11 shooting in last night’s game, something that was hidden by Ray Allen’s 32 and Rajon Rondo’s triple-double. Celtics fans will be quick to point out that Pierce had 24 in Game 1, and that should be enough to show he can still score in this series. But the fact is he had half of those points on free-throws, and has only hit eight shots in two games this series.
The flip-side of that, however, is that despite his great defense, Artest was a huge liability in Game 2. After scoring a respectable 15 points in Game 1, Artest shot just 1-10 from the field and 3-8 from the line in Game 2 en route to just six points.
3. Pau Gasol vs. Kevin Garnett:
Pau Gasol has been the best player on the floor for the Lakers through the first two games of this series. After posting a 23-14 in the Game 1 win, Gasol had 25 and 8 rebounds to go along with 6 blocks. The Lakers faded down the stretch in the fourth because they stopped giving the ball to Gasol inside, where he has the advantage over Garnett, Glen Davis, Rasheed Wallace, or any other Boston big who he is matched up against.
On the other side of the court, Gasol has dominated Kevin Garnett, holding him to averages of ten points and four rebounds through the first two games. Garnett is not likely to get any better as the series wears on, and the Lakers will have the Gasol advantage inside every game. It is just a matter of them remembering to post him up, and not going away from what has worked so well so far this series.
4. Kobe Bryant vs. The Refs:
Game 2 was interesting because it felt like there was no real rhythm to the game. Boston came out great, the Lakers fought back and the game was close for most of the fourth, but an overwhelming number of foul calls never really allowed players to get into any type of flow as the game wore on.
No player was affected more by this than the Lakers Bryant. Kobe was only able to play 34 minutes due to being in foul trouble for much of the game, and was never able to really get into any type of offensive rhythm, finishing with 21 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds, all numbers well below his playoff averages. Bryant picked up his fifth foul on a questionable charge call, the third of the game against him, and had to go to the bench in the middle of the fourth quarter before coming back to close it out.
The flip-side to that is that Bryant shot just three free throws in Game 2, despite attacking the basket almost all game long. If Kobe stays aggressive throughout the series, eventually the fouls even out and he will be rewarded for going to the basket. Look for him to go into attack mode as soon as the ball tips off for Game 3.
5. Common Sense:
The fact is, while Game 2 hurts the Lakers, these two teams are way too evenly-matched for anyone to declare this series over. I don’t think anyone outside of Paul Pierce and his wheelchair is honestly picking the Celtics to win all three games at home. The Lakers are too good of a team to lose four straight games, and just need to pull one out in Boston to ensure home-court and an LA return. The Lakers already this season have beaten the Celtics in Boston, and know what it takes to win a big game on the road.
Lastly, revenge is still on the Lakers minds. They remember what happened last time they were in Boston. They remember 131-92, they remember their bus being pelted with stones by Celtics fans as they celebrated a championship, and they remember that they went 0-3 in Boston in that series.
If the Lakers want to prove that ’08 was a fluke, then they now know they must do something they couldn’t back then, and that is win in Boston. As a Laker fan who has seen every playoff game of the last three years, there is one thing I know about this team; since that Game 6 defeat, they will not quit.
Game 6 is scheduled for Tuesday, June 15th. See you in LA, folks.
Belal Abdelfattah is BSO’s newest writer and comes from a long background in sports writing at the Sports Authority Blog and The Block Radio. You can follow Belal on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/belal_a