I always take special note of my immediate “gut feel” right after the end of an NBA game. It’s the time when you’re adrenaline is still flowing (especially if it’s a close game), when the emotion of the game is still pulsing through your veins, before you’ve had time to sit back and think about the game objectively and logically (and if you think I only get emotional about Detroit games, you’d be wrong… when its Finals time I’m just as pumped as any Lakers/Celtics fan). Right after the end of game 3 (literally minutes ago), that gut feeling was this: “The Lakers are in trouble”.

I don’t care that Kobe Bryant finally broke out of the Boston shackles and poured in 36 points (I’d be more concerned about his 1 assist). I don’t care that the Lakers aggressiveness was rewarded with several trips to the free throw line (34 to Boston’s 22). And I don’t care that ‘The Machine’ has awoken by nailing 7-10 shots in this one. I don’t care because overall, I’d say the Lakers have a lot more worrying signs than the Boston Celtics do, and with it imperative they win all three games in LA to have any chance, I’m starting to doubt they can win it all.

Pau Gasol was so shaky today I think I’m starting to dislike him as a basketball player. His 3-9 shooting is almost a compliment because one of those baskets was a tip-in amongst a scuffle for the ball, and I’m not even sure Gasol was the last one who touched it. Another one of his buckets came from an offensive rebound after Odom curiously tried to dunk it on KG’s head – of course with KG out of the contest, Gasol had the easy put back. While Marc Jackson called it “great offensive rebounding”, I prefer to call it “being extremely lucky”. The one play to me, that signified Gasol’s complete incompetence in this game came at the 5:30 mark of the third quarter. Gasol received the pass at the high post with his back to the basket. He had room on his defender and the Lakers clearly were trying to force some inside offense. Gasol caught the ball and immediately looked for the pass (more specifically, he looked around for Kobe), he looked like he didn’t want to be there, like he was the retarded kid the others passed to just to make him feel good. But he didn’t pass the ball. Instead, he tried some strange dribble/bucket-pass move straight out of a Brian Scalabrine textbook, fumbled the ball and turned it over, and the Celtics ran down the other end to score. Kobe Bryant gave him a puzzled look as if to say “Man.. are you really an NBA All-Star?”. Out of the 12 quarters of action we’ve seen so far these Finals, Pau Gasol has turned up for two of them. Let’s keep a tally, shall we? Leon Powe: 4, Pau Gasol: 2.

Radmanovic is completely useless against these Celtics. While racking up approximately one foul every minute he plays, Radman has made it clear to me he is only effective when shooting really wide open threes. That is fine, except he’s playing on guys like Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins, and they’re just throwing him around inside the paint. It was five minutes into the first quarter, when Radman picked up his third foul, that it dawned on me: he should not be there, that is Andrew Bynum’s position. I said the same thing aloud to my Celtics house mate, and he replied “that’s why we need to win it this year”. Obviously the Celtics have enough motivation to win the championship this year already, but with Bynum coming into that Laker’s team next year, I wouldn’t blame them for feeling a little more urgency. No one is going to beat the Lakers next year.

Kobe Bryant is being a whining little bitch. We all give shit to Tim Duncan for his post-foul looks of disbelief, his constant mouthing to the refs, and the Duncan Face. But at least we can all have a laugh at Timmy, because such displays of emotion are so against his stoic character. Right now though, Kobe Bryant is reacting to every foul call like a spoiled little brat and it’s starting to annoy me. I conceded that Kobe was on the stiff end of a few non-calls throughout game 2, and no doubt he has been completely frustrated at his inability to get to the line so far. But in game 3, when the calls were mostly going his way, when the refs were clearly swallowing their whistle at Boston’s end, Kobe still found a way to argue every single call. I don’t know why he’s doing it, because it’s not working in his favor at all. The refs have tech fouled him three times already these Finals, and the more Kobe bitches to them, the more likely they lose patience with him – not only for tech fouls, but for normal fouls. I don’t remember Michael Jordan getting so fired up so often at the refs. You might see one or two outbursts from Mike directed at the refs, but he would go silent after that. And you know what? It was effective. It’s the whole “boy cried wolf” thing. Michael chose his ref-abusing spots very carefully. Kobe is hounding the refs on every play and if he’s not careful they’ll go numb to it, and lose the ability to distinguish when Kobe has a legitimate beef, and when he’s just being his usual, whining self. Kobe’s taken a leaf out of Michael’s book in every other aspect of his game. Maybe he should do the same when it comes to complaining to the refs.

There is too much Kobe-watching going on. The Lakers have always been guilty of this, to some extent. When you play with the league’s most complete scoring weapon, there is a tendency to think the best option every time, is the #24 option. That has been less obvious throughout the first three rounds, where Gasol, Odom, and Vujacic all stepped up offensively for several games. But it was really obvious today. No one wanted to shoot the ball today, and it’s the reason why the Lakers had so many possessions where they were jacking up rubbish shots with 1 or 2 seconds left on the shot clock. Vujacic was their saving grace, and would quite happily jack up shots with 23 seconds left on the shot clock. But the only guys other than Kobe and Sasha to take more than four shots were Odom, Gasol and Fisher – and collectively they went 6-24. Those three need to be taking 30-40 shots for the Lakers to have a chance in this series. Right now the Lakers are living and dying on Kobe’s jump shot, and while that was falling today, as we’ve seen against this Boston team, more often than not it will fail. Now, you could just as well say that Pierce and KG also stunk it up today so why am I picking on Odom and Gasol so much? The difference is Pierce and KG have already played two very good games this series, while Gasol and Odom have played zero good games so far. I have no doubt Pierce and KG will pick things up, they just had a bad day. Gasol and Odom had more than a “bad day” – they are in the middle of a slump.

Other game 3 observations:

  • Mike Breen must have read my game 1 blog, he’s finally shaved that horrible goatee.
  • Kobe started the game on Rajon Rondo. An interesting move by Phil Jackson, except it didn’t work. Ray Allen got hot early and almost lead the Celtics to victory. Although watching Kobe defend Rondo late in the game was amusing – I have not seen a player pay so little respect to an opposition point guard’s shooting ability. Kobe was giving Rondo the kind of space you give Zach Randolph from three-point range (i.e. a lot).
  • The wonderful ESPN commercial breaks continued in this game. The first ad break of the game? None other than the Venetian Hotel in Macau. This was promptly followed by another World’s Strongest Man minute, Sunday Night Baseball, and Friday Night Fights. Wow, I haven’t seen those ads for like.. seven minutes.
  • After three minutes of play the Lakers had taken more free throws than they did in all of game 2. I predicted, as I’m sure many others did, that the Lakers would benefit from some friendly refereeing in game 3. I didn’t think it would be obvious so quickly
  • Leon Powe played spurts in this game and continued to look dangerous. I would have preferred to see him play later in the game, as opposed to PJ Brown who I think totally lost the plot when he started trash talking Jordan Farmar after a scuffle in the second quarter. Note to PJ Brown: when you have to start acting tough in the face of Jordan Farmar, your career is officially over.
  • The Machine’s 3rd video blog is now YouTubable. Shoot, camp, shoot, camp…
  • KG seemed to be suffering from more Sheeditis in this game, demonstrating a couple of ridiculous long range fade away baseline Js while being guarded by, wait for it… Ronny Turiaf. The only plausible explanation for KG taking a shot like that is if Ronny whispered under his breath “you better shoot this one fading away Kev, or I’m going to eat your left arm”. Hey, if Turiaf said that to me I would do the same thing.
  • Let’s give a little love, just a little, to Kobe for those two back-to-back daggers in the final minute. I know we’ve seen him do it a million times before, but having done it before is completely different to going out and doing it again. Just like in game 5 against the Spurs, the whole thing seemed inevitable. The 22-footer over Ray… splash. Eddie House stepped up with a trey at the other end (and props to Doc for playing him more in this one, I love Eddie House). Kobe had it again, 50 seconds on the clock. My Boston house mate was sitting on the edge of his seat while Kobe was dribbling, isolated with Ray on the perimeter. My house mate let out a little sigh, “he’s going to do it again, isn’t he?”. He sounded more resigned than anything else. “Yeah, probably” I said, not wanting to make him feel too bad. Splash.

Inevitable.

Comment posted by
at 6/11/2008 10:12:50 PM

As a Laker fan, I agree with your doubts. Those are essentially the same doubts I feel.

Since before Game 1, I said Radmanovich was a bad play in this series. If he’s out there playing the 3, he has to guard either Paul Pierce or Ray Allen. He can’t do either. If you put Kobe on Pierce & Fisher on Allen, he can play the “helper” role while sagging way off Rondo — problem is, he’s an equally horrible help defender. His only usefulness is in the way he can stretch the defense. As we’ve seen in this series, however, Vujacic is better at stretching the defense and is a much better defender. I think Phil made the right call by extending Ariza’s minutes in Game 3 and should continue to do so going forward.

Gasol has been soft. Despite his athleticism and size, he is a very weak rebounder. This has killed the Lakers and is the main contributor to Boston killing them on the offensive boards. I’ve been forced to play the “what if” game and wondering how the series would be playing out if Bynum could be in the lineup for rebounding purposes alone.

Odom is clueless out there. I haven’t seen him in this extended of a funk in a long time. I think the biggest problem is that he’s finally matched up with someone who has his athleticism and length (& then some). When Perkins is matched up against him, however, he should be abusing him off the dribble. This mismatch hasn’t really played out, however, because of Boston’s unbelievable team defense and clogging of the lane.

I think the only way LA pulls off this series is by sweeping in LA and hoping to steal game 7 when the refs will hopefully curb some of this home court biased officiating (which has worked both ways thus far). To do so, they need either Odom & Gasol to combine for an efficient 30 points in each of the next two games. Will that happen? Based on the past three games, it’s not looking too promising…

Comment posted by
at 6/12/2008 12:32:35 AM

Agreed. Odom and Gasol (especially Odom though) need to have big games in Game 4 and/or 5. I think Lamar is such a confidence player that if he has one big game, that will be enough to get him going for the rest of the series. With Gasol, he has to be more aggressive, but it also makes sense why the Lakers don’t go to him every time, because he’s being defended by Kevin Garnett. So he needs to make an impressions without demanding much of the ball, through things like rebounding and blocked shots, and as you said, he’s been pretty week on that front.

Definitely agree Lakers need to win next 2.


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