Above The Rim: The Near Choke

There were so many things wrong and right about Game Two that it’s hard to know where to start, other than to admit I was more entertained throughout by most of the soccer I’d watched this weekend. I suppose this will be the case when you see an abundance of cheap fouls being called that normally aren’t and know the balance will be reversed once venues change.

The Celtics were dominant thanks to a willingness to penetrate and hit the rim, never mind the officials’ home cooking that always seems to rise up a little for home teams, no matter who they might be. I fully expect that free-throw disparity to be rectified once Tuesday rolls around, which speaks poorly for the NBA. Like it or not, the inconsistency of foul calls is still plaguing the game right now.  How does this affect play, you ask? The Lakers played absolutely atrocious defense the entire game — it was as if they transformed themselves into the Denver Nuggets for the 2nd and 3rd quarters — while the Celts were able to play their usual aggressive help D. When Kobe, Vlad Radmanovic, Derek Fisher, and Lamar Odom are all getting in first half foul trouble, it affects how the team plays D, because they don’t know what the refs are going to blow the whistle for. (Lest you think I’m being a Laker homer, some of those chippies on Kendrick Perkins could have been let go, too.)

That said, by no means has Boston locked anything up, because that 4th quarter just looked flat out bad for any team. Allowing 41 points in a quarter is really, really questionable.  I don’t care how large your double-digit lead is, and the Celtics were admitting post-game that they let up on the gas, setting themselves up for what would have been an awful, awful choke job; one that would have doomed them for the rest of the series. That last run permitted the Lakers to think they still have a shot — which they do, if they would do more of the rim work they were going for in the first quarter.

The Lakers have to stop Rajon Rondo’s penetration. His assist total of 16 was ridiculous, and Leon Powe playing out of his shoes is something they need to account for. There are too many weapons with the Big Three on the floor and scoring double figures to allow a bench player to get 21.

The Celtics can’t play cute with a lead (as Doc Rivers put it).  Remember where that got the Spurs two weeks ago with a 20-point lead. If they get a double digit lead at any point in the Staples Center, it’s either curb stomping time or they’ll get a major gut check — because Kobe looked disgusted on that bench late until the comeback and he’s liable to go off at home.

Photo: AP/Elise Amendola


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