Less than four minutes into the first quarter of Game 1, Ron Artest hit a 22 foot jump shot from the top of the key. When looking back at the Celtics loss, I am struck by this moment not because Ron decided to pull from a step inside the three point line, (a shot coaches often refer to as, “the worst shot in basketball”) but because Artest’s bucket would prove to be a red herring for what the C’s would endure in Game 1.
By now, you’re all aware of the beating the Celtics were handed last night. Out of respect for you I will avoid the statistical breakdown, as I’m sure many of you can regurgitate it from memory. Instead, let’s examine Game 1 as a narrative, highlighting the important plot points of this modern tragedy. The following is a breakdown of moments that were crucial to the development of Act 1 of the NBA Finals.
1. 27 seconds into the game Paul Pierce and Ron Artest got tangled up under the boards. Minor showmanship and dick-measuring ensued. I expected nothing less — this is a Celtics-Lakers championship series. What I didn’t expect was Joe Crawford’s issuance of a double technical foul. To employ my favorite rhetorical–really, dude? Did you forget to take your Nootropic medicine yesterday? The whole ‘rivalry’ thing must have slipped Joe’s mind. It’s amazing to me how soft the league has become, throwing out Techs like they’re British Petroleum stock. Kevin McHale probably threw up in his mouth a little when he saw that call.
2. Less than 2 minutes and 20 seconds into the game, Derek Fisher made his first shot attempt. Congratulations, D-Fish. I sincerely believe that this was the only time I’ve seen you make your first field goal attempt in a game. On a good night, it takes Derek Fisher three or four shots to get going. From the outset it appeared that Lady Luck was wooed by the bright lights of Hollywood and she would spend the evening sitting squarely in Jack’s lap.
3. With 6 minutes and 34 seconds left in the first quarter, Ray Allen picked up his second personal foul. Allen would be plagued by foul trouble all night, scoring 12 points in only 27 minutes of action. You’d think Jesus might have gotten a little more love in the City of Angels.
4. With 5 minutes and 41 seconds left in the half, Andrew Bynum yammed one off a pass from a cutting Derek Fisher. It was a forceful dunk, almost Shaquille-esque. At that moment it was apparent that, at least for Game 1, Bynum wasn’t going to play like the Pillsbury Doughboy. Bynum ended with a respectable 10 points and 6 rebounds. Still, I wouldn’t worry about his influence throughout the series, as Andrew appears inherently soft. If KG and Perkins don’t break him, his knee, or perhaps Kobe’s yelling, will.
5. Rondo ended the half with a fade away 21 footer next to the Celtics bench, and the C’s were down 50-41 going into the half.
I thought this shot would provide a critical boost as the Celtics entered the locker room. Specifically, I hoped that draining such a difficult shot would give Rondo confidence to let go from the perimeter. From the outset, Kobe had made it clear that he would not track Rondo beyond 18 feet, giving him limitless freedom to launch from the outside. Obviously, perimeter shooting is the most underdeveloped aspect of Rondo’s game. Still, the Celtics are going to struggle if he continues to pass up wide open looks. Rondo needs to, at the very least, create the illusion that he is confident shooting from three. If Rondo can sink a couple of outside shots Bryant will be forced to extend his defense; thereby creating ideal Rondo’ing conditions.
6. 4:48 left in the third quarter, Ron Artest dropped another half-baked attempt from just inside the three point line. You can’t expect to win when this continues to happen. Under most circumstances, these are the shots you hope for, moments when Ron Artest’s severely malnourished mind works in the Celtics favor. Unfortunately, like the saying goes, every dog has his day.
7. With 2 minutes and 12 seconds left in the 3rd, Kobe Bryant caught a transition lob pass from Derek Fisher to put the Lakers up 13, 75-62. In the words of ESPN anchor, Neil Everett, “boy, that one really electrified that LA crowd.” Everett sounded genuinely surprised, which makes sense–it takes nothing short of basketball magic to stimulate the jaded, superficial Los Angeles crowd.
8. 6:24 Ron Artest blocked and stripped Glen Davis. Artest proceeded to perform a touchdown-style dance, while Jordan Farmar recovered the ball and threw a length of the court assist to Pau Gasol. I’m sure Kobe loves watching Artest celebrate like he just won the series in the middle of Game 1. Keep it up big guy.
9. Perhaps the defining moment of Game 1, Kevin Garnett missed a should-have-been-dunked layup, with 5 minutes and 35 seconds left in the 4th quarter. At the time, the Celtics were down 91 to 78, and in need of a critical jump start. I’m not one to prematurely throw in the towel, but I have to admit, at that moment, I lost hope for Game 1.
To prevent a similar storyline in Game 2, adjustments need to be made on both ends. The Celtics need to infuriate LA defensively, establishing themselves as the more physical team. On offense, the C’s need to move the ball, working for more high percentage shots.
That being said, some of the Lakers’ play was downright lucky. Ron Artest won’t consistently hit 21 foot jump shots. Ray Allen won’t be in foul trouble for entire games, and it seems unlikely that Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant are capable of continuously shutting down Rajon Rondo.
One thing is for sure, Doc Rivers will not allow the Celtics to be continually outworked on the defensive end.
Hopefully, the heroes will prevail in Game 2.