By: Alex Reimer
It was a Ray and Rajon kind of night. Ray Allen made an NBA Finals record 8 three-pointers (breaking his previous record of 7 in 2008) and led the Celtics with 32 points. Rajon Rondo, meanwhile, virtually took over the game in the final minutes of play, and finished with a triple-double (19 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists).
The series is now tied at 1-1, and in a lot of ways could not be more competitive. Both teams have decisive advantages in different areas.
For the Celtics, the advantage is in the backcourt. Rondo was able to exploit the match-up against the Los Angeles point guards (Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar) in game 2, and the Lakers had no choice but to put Kobe on him for portions of play. Of course, when Kobe is put on Rondo that leaves one of Fisher or Farmar to cover Ray Allen. Not an easy task.
Speaking of Kobe Bryant, he was in foul trouble all night, and finished with 18 points in 34 minutes of play. In game 1, Kobe had a “quiet” 30 points. The assignment of covering Rondo may temper Bryant’s offensive game, but you know he is going to go off in this series. He will not have a game as ineffective (by his standards) that he had in game 2. Which is more reason as to why this was such an important win for the Celtics.
Like in game 1, where 54 personal fouls were called, the referees couldn’t take the whistles out of their mouths in game 2 either, where 58 personal fouls were called. Last night, the Lakers made more free throws (31) than field goals (29).
It’s not that the Finals have been unfairly officiated. It’s that they’ve been “over officiated.” Who wants to see Shannon Brown on the floor instead of Kobe? Who wants to see Tony Allen on the floor instead of Ray Allen, like we saw in game 1?
When it averages out that more than personal foul is called per minute, then something is wrong. If the officials are being told to call an overly tight game, because David Stern is afraid that Ron Artest will ignite a riot if there’s too much contact, then that’s a sad commentary on the state of character throughout the league.
Artest has done a good job of covering Paul Pierce, who was a non-factor last night. Pierce has conversely done a good job on Artest, who went 1-10 from the field in game 2. It is quite possible these two will “cancel” each other out throughout the series.
But if the Celtics have an advantage in the backcourt, then the Lakers have a clear advantage in the front court.
After game 1, Pau Gasol stated that Kevin Garnett has “changed as a player.” He couldn’t look to be more right. Gasol has eaten up KG thus far, with 14 rebounds in game 1 and 25 points last night. With the way he is playing right now, he is surely the most skilled big man in the game.
But what is most scary is that Andrew Bynum, who isn’t completely healthy, scored 21 points last night. The Lakers have absolutely dominated the paint in these first 2 games.
Which leads to the question, was the Celtics’ win last night “fools gold?” Is it fair to expect them to continue to win when they’re getting demolished in the paint? Is it fair to expect Ray Allen to put on a historic performance and for Rajon Rondo to get a triple-double each night?
It isn’t. Kevin Garnett doesn’t have to dominate Gasol as he did in 2008. But he has to be a factor. Especially because Kobe Bryant is going to play better than he has. Plus, Lamar Odom is destined to do something at some point? Right? Right?
If you can survive through the cacophony of whistles which often is louder than the cheers of fans, then this is shaping up to be a highly competitive NBA Final. Far more competitive than what we saw in 2008.
The Celtics have 3 games coming up at home. They’ll have plenty of opportunities to prove that last night’s win wasn’t “fools gold.”
Alex Reimer is the host of the Red Sox podcast, “Without a Curse.” “Without a Curse” is available on both www.thesportsstuff.com and in the iTunes store. Alex is also the host of “The Alex Reimer Show,” which airs every Saturday from 4-6 PM EST on 1120 AM WBNW Boston and www.moneymattersradio.net. Alex can be reached at, Alexredsox076@aol.com.