Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Worst of Game 3 of the 2010 NBA Finals

Rondo bent
Rajon Rondo prepares to take it up the you-know-what from Derek Fisher.

The Boston Celtics: Well...after stealing Game 2 in L.A. the Celtics had Game 3 bogarted from them in Boston. But on the bright side, Paul Pierce's "We ain't coming back to L.A." prediction is still in play...assuming the Celts lose Games 4 and 5.

Ugh. Double ugh. Boston opened the game pretty well (going up 12-5) before coming apart and falling behind 37-20 with 9:10 in the second quarter. And yeah, that's about the point where I started to panic.

The Celtics came out running, scoring 8 points (4-for-4) in transition in the first 4:06. Over the remaining 43:54, they scored only 8 more points on the run. One of the reasons Boston won Game 2 was because they pushed the ball relentlessly. For whatever reason, they stopped doing that for most of Game 3. Credit L.A.'s defense for some of that, but all I know is that Rajon Rondo did an awful lot of walking the ball up the court.

Were the Celtics tired? Not all of them. KG (25 points, 11-for-16) looked pretty spry for a dead guy. But Rondo (11 points, 8 assists, 3 rebounds) and Ray Allen (we'll get to him) looked flat as hell. You know how I've been slamming Doc Rivers' rotation -- or, more accurately, lack thereof -- all playoffs? Remember how I said it might bite him in the ass due to the short turnaround (plus traveling) between Games 2 and 3? Well, let's just say sometimes I hate being right.

During the 2010 playoffs, Rajon Rondo is averaging over 41 minutes per game. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are just under 40. Not surprisingly, those three guys numbers one, two and three in minutes played during the playoffs.

Boston shot 43 percent from the field and hit only 4 of their 18 three-point attempts. They also shanked eight free throws -- including seven misses during the first half -- which ended up being kind of big. The Celtics actually outscored the Lakers 50-38 in the paint, but they were outrebounded 43-35 (including 11-8 on the offensive glass). And check out The Four Factors: The Celtics and Lakers were pretty much dead even in every category exept Offensive Rebounding Percentage, which L.A. won by a significant margin. The rebounding stat is huge, especially in this series. Typically, the hardest working team wins that category. Last night, that team was the Lakers.

Ray Allen: There's an ongoing debate about whether the "hot hand" actually exists. However, Ray Allen has provided irrefutable evidence that the "cold hand" does exist...and it froze Allen right out of the game. Ray's line: 42 minutes, 0-for-13 from the field (0-for-8 from downtown, 0-for-5 on two-pointers), 2-for-2 from the line, 2 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 2 fouls, and a plus-minus score of -10.

Ray crowd
Ray finished with more crowd dives (1) than field goals (0). Not good.

ESPNBoston's Chris Forsberg gives us a little perspective on Ray-Ray's shooting night: "Allen's 0-for-13 performance ranked as the second-worst 0-fer in Finals history, falling one miss short of the record of 0-for-14 shared by Seattle's Dennis Johnson in 1979 and Baltimore's Chick Reiser in 1948. ... How bad was Tuesday's performance? Allen had never endured anything even close. His previous high for consecutive missed field goals was nine on Jan. 4, 2008. You'd have to go all the way back to April 4, 1999 (8) or Feb. 26, 1997 (7) to find his other career lows. ... Registering two measly points, Allen produced his lowest career postseason scoring output besides a scoreless performance against the Cavaliers on May 6, 2008, in which he missed all four shots he took over 37:09.

After the way Allen lit the Lakers up in Game 2, his Game 3 performance was mystifying. It was slowly killing me. No, seriously, I had vital functions shutting down every time Allen missed a shot, especially the open three he clanked with 54 seconds left when the Celtics were down only 84-80.

And this is where I point out the psychological damage of Allen's misguided shooting. It wasn't an issue until the second half, but you could tell that Ray was getting frustrated with himself. Worse, his teammates looked deflated as he continued to miss. And after that miss I just described, the wind just seemed to go out of the team, which lead to a huge, game-breaking play for the Lakers (see below).

Of course, this isn't unprecedented. During last year's Bulls-Celtics matchup, Allen started the series with a 1-for-12 performance then scored 30 in Game 2. His 51-point explosion in Game 6 was sandwiched between 3-for-8 and 6-for-14 performances. The point: Ray run hot and most jump shooters do. And sometimes his swings are pretty epic.

Said Doc Rivers: "It's a hell of a swing, I'll tell you that. It's basketball. That's why you can't worry about it. He'll be back in the gym [Wednesday] and getting ready for the next game. I thought he was pressing early on some of them, and, honestly, I thought all of his shots looked flat tonight. I didn't think he had any legs. I don't know if the knee and the thigh had anything to do with it, but I just thought he was short on most of his jump shots. Of the 13, I think eight of them were great looks, and all of them were short, all of them were flat. It happens to the best of us."

Yeah, I'm sure his lack of legs have nothing to do with the fact that you've reached the NBA Finals but still haven't decided on a regular rotation and you've playing Ray 40+ minutes a game in the last three rounds. You do realize human beings need rest, don't you Doc?

Added Derek Fisher: "We obviously didn't expect him to go 0 for 13, but it's a tough gig for him to run around offensively the way he has to and then have to guard Kobe on the other end. I mean, that takes anybody's legs out. It takes my legs out chasing him. So there are going to be nights maybe when his legs aren't there because he's having to work so hard on both ends, but we won't see 0 for 13 on Thursday night, that's for sure."

Speaking of Fish...

Boston's fourth quarter defense on Derek Fisher: For most of the season, and especially after Allen lit him up in Game 2, people have been hosing Fisher down with Febreeze to cover up the dead Fish smell. Rumor has it that Adam Morrison had been tasked with plucking the maggots off Derek's corpse.

Now, some people will credit him for holding Allen to 0-for-8 shooting during the time they were matched up, but several of those were open shots, so I'm not really buying it. Ray-Ray had a meltdown that bordered on supernatural, so unless Fish had a voodoo doll -- and I'm not totally discounting that possibility -- Allen probably would have sucked no matter who was guarding him.

What Fisher did do was take care of L.A.'s clutch scoring. During the fourth quarter -- while Mamba was taking turrible shots and going 1-for-6 -- Fisher reanimated to score 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting. And make no mistake, he hit some tough ones.

Of course, they could have and should have been tougher. Rondo is a pretty good defensive guard, but he sometimes gets caught going under screens and giving his man a little too much cushion. And he sure did that with Fisher down the stretch. I have no idea why. I mean, it's not like Fisher is a stranger to playoff heroics.

I guess Rondo believed that shot was as ancient as Fisher. Sucker. Speaking of suckers, Fisher's biggest play of the game came in the final minute after Allen missed that three I mentioned above. Fish rebounded that miss and, despite that whole "foot in the grave" thing, pushed the ball down court. It was a huge play, because he caught the Celtics napping. Seriously, what were they doing? Not playing transition defense, that's for sure.

Well, Fish drove in for the layup and got fouled by three bumbling Celtics in the process (Big Baby was called for it). He completed the "And-1" to give the Lakers an 87-80 lead with 48 seconds left. Biggest play of the game. The Allen-miss, Fisher-make sequence pretty much decided the game.

Said Phil Jackson: "He saw the opening and went and made a very bold play. ... It was imperative that it goes in for us to win. When he's got an opportunity to hit a key shot, it seems like he's always there and ready."

Added Rivers: "Derek Fisher was the difference in the game. He's just a gutty, gritty player and he gutted the game out for them. I thought Kobe was struggling a little bit, and Fisher -- he basically took the game over. ... I don't know what he had in the fourth quarter ... but most of them were down the stretch."

Kobe Bryant's shooting gunning: Welcome back, Mamba! Maybe he was annoyed that a lot of people think that Pau Gasol was L.A.'s best player in Games 1 or 2, because Kobe had one of his classic "Fuck the Triangle, I'm taking whatever shot I want whenever I want it" nights: 10-for-29 from the field. By comparison, Pau Gasol attempted only 11 shots despite the fact that Gasol is fifth in FGP for the entire playoffs (and, effectively, it should be higher since Arron Afflalo and Serge Ibaka are ahead of him...).

I get it. I do. Kobe wanted to go all IDAK Alpha 12 on the Celtics. Sorry, I'm sticking with my Lost In Space comparison for just another second.

Killer instinct is a great thing, but Kobe was not taking high percentage shots. Here's the breakdown: 1-for-2 at the rim, 3-for-4 inside 10 feet, 1-for-3 from 10-15 feet, 4-for-13 from 16-23 feet and 1-for-7 on three-pointers. And I probably don't need to tell you that many of those were hotly contested. How many times did Mark Jackson or Jeff Van Gundy remark that Kobe's shot jackery was him "putting his foot on the pedal" or "shooting himself into a rhythm"? Really?

Look, I'll be the firt to admit that Mamba was contributing in other areas: He had 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 3 blocked shots and a couple fantastic hustle plays. But Kobe damn near shot the Lakers out of this game. He just got lucky that 1) Fisher saved his ass and 2) Allen was shooting far, far worse.

Paul Pierce: The Half Truth became the latest victim of this Finals' "foul trouble." No, I said I was done discussing the officiating and I meant it. (I'll let Doc Rivers do it for me.) I will say this: Pierce was plagued by foul trouble and, despite logging 34 minutes, never got into the flow of the game, finishing with only 15 points on 5-for-12 shooting. (Sadly, the Celtics probably would have won if Ray Allen had played that well. But I digress.)

What's more, Pierce didn't do much of anything else: 2 boards, 2 assists, no steals. Hey, Paul? Maybe you haven't heard, but you're in the NBA Finals. Feel free to show up and stuff.

Doc Rivers: Okay, I've already dissed his personnel management, but seriously: After scoring 7 points in six minutes in Game 3, he scored 5 points in just under six minutes in Game 4. I'm not saying Krypto-Nate should be getting 25 minutes a game, but the Celtics struggled to score for most of the night. Nate is an explosive scorer off the bench. Rondo is getting worn down by all those minutes. Does anybody see where I'm going with this?

Stupid rules: Okay, you probably already know about that play where Rajon Rondo fouled Lamar Odom but the ball went off Odom's hand so, after a video review, the ball was given back to the Celtics. Mind you, this isn't a slam on the officials. Their call was correct...but only because the video review policy doesn't allow the refs to review fouls and no-calls. That's a pretty big loophole and people would be screaming about it today if the Lakers had lost.

Glen Davis: Memo to Big Baby: Your faces are scaring me. Please stop. Thanks. -Basketbawful

Ray Allen, quote machine: After literally shooting his team to a loss, all Ray-Ray could do was wax philosophic:

"I just know the game doesn't owe anything to anybody. I can't just think that it's always supposed to be the way I want it to be. You gotta make your own breaks at both ends of the floor. Offensively, you have to find ways to get over the hump. Every game, every day, you gotta get out there and get your rhythm and work on your shot. Try to improve it.

"That's why you always have to be humble. When things go great, it's good to be a part of. You have to be sure to make good decisions. Moving forward, you have to continue to work on things you need to work on to be good in the future. Preparation is the biggest key.

"But I never hang my head. [Wednesday] is another opportunity to get right back on track. I gotta take my hat off to them. They took away a lot of the open, easier looks that I had from last time."
Derek Fisher, quote machine: "I think as you grow in this game and you put in the work that's required to still be around 14 years later, you start to recognize that being in this moment, on this stage, it's not a given. It's not something that happens every season. Five or 10 years from now, when I'm long gone, I would have hated to feel like I didn't just do everything I could have to help my team. Things have worked out well, and we have two more wins to get to really put a nice cap on it."

Bill Simmons' psychic abilities: Dan B. e-mailed me Bill's Game 3 predictions:

I have 4 predictions tonight...

1. An absolute kick-ass game from Nate Robinson.
2. A good Lamar Odom game.
3. Perkins getting his 7th technical
4. Rondo going for a 17-12-12 at the least...

I'd like to make a fifth prediction: a big Paul Pierce game. He looks all kinds of jacked tonight. I've been watching the guy for 11 years, I can tell when he has "the look" or not and he has it tonight.

Tom Brady: I figured busting on "Tom Terrific" would make me feel better. Fuck you, Brady. As AnacondaHL put it: "Hey Brady, the teenage girl store called, they're wondering if you're available to cosplay as Justin Bieber."

You know, that kind of worked.

Brady sucks

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