The Game 1 Facade
The smug factor was almost as prominent as all the Hollywood wannabes in their garish outfits at Staples Center on Tuesday night.
Once the Lakers had cruised to that victory in Game 1, people all over town were saying the series was over. A friend of mine in the business, while we planned to meet for lunch this week, actually said we’d better not make it on Friday because “that could be the day of the parade.”
“You’re kidding, right?” I said. He wasn’t kidding. Folks around here really thought the Celtics would just lay down the rest of the way. They were actually predicting an L.A. sweep.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I felt differently. First, I knew this Boston team was better than most folks realized. And second, I’d studied the Lakers all season and knew that the vulnerability they demonstrated night in and night out wouldn’t just disappear in the Finals.
Derek Fisher is a wonderful guy to have on the roster. But at his age, he can’t guard either Ray Allen or Rajon Rondo. That means Kobe Bryant has to alternate between the two, and the result can be what we watched in Game 2. Kobe can a) wear down and b) accumulate too many fouls.
Then there are our old buddies, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest. Odom remains the league’s biggest tease. He shows up only when the mood strikes him, and so far in two games, the mood has been almost as evasive as Phil Jackson talking about his future.
As for Artest, maybe the worst thing that could have happened to him was making that dramatic last-second shot to win Game 5 of the Phoenix series. It catapulted him into a town hero and made him think he could always hit big shots. Well, don’t look now, but he can’t. He usually can’t make free throws, either, and don’t think Boston won’t be looking to foul him late in the fourth quarter from now on.
Ron-Ron can turn games around with his defense, but he also can turn games into a mess with his offense, as you might have noticed in Game 2 of this series. What will he give us the rest of the way? Trust me, not even he really knows.
What everyone now realizes is that this should be one tough series to win. Even if Kevin Garnett continues to masquerade as a tired, old man, the Celtics have plenty of firepower. They won Game 2 with little from KG and not much more from Paul Pierce. Don’t count on that the rest of the way, especially from Pierce who always seems to perk up in Boston, where the next three games are scheduled.
Allen’s outside shooting and Rondo’s brilliant all around play were problems before and now seem even more imposing. Jackson will try to scheme his way past it, but it will be difficult, even for the Zenmaster.
Not that the Lakers plan on going away any time soon, either. Pau Gasol has been terrific at both ends, Andrew Bynum’s durability has been a pleasant surprise and Kobe should play more like he did in Game 1 the remainder of the way, too.
So forget about that cruise you were hoping to see, and don’t worry about planning to attend any parades this week.
The Game 1 facade officialy has been lifted. Whatever else happens in this series, it won’t be won easily.
— Steve Bisheff