The officiating: I hate that I even have to bring this up again...but it was pretty bawful and pretty much everybody's talking about it. (Heck, Kobe was asked about it during his postgame press conference.) It wasn’t quite as bawful as American Idol winner Lee DeWyze's rendition of the national anthem, but, I mean, 58 personal fouls? On his live blog of the game, ESPN's Bill Simmons said: "That was the rare game where both fan bases will complain about the refs afterwards." It's true. There were phantom fouls, make-up calls, nonsense whistles, and one bizarre late-game review that went against the Lakers when it seemingly shouldn't have.
Seriously, how do you blow a review? The only possible defense I can come up with is that we don't know exactly what the refs were seeing on their monitor. Their footage may not have been as clean or provided as many angles as what ABC was showing the television audience. Plus, if you're an NFL fan and understand the "100 percent conclusive evidence" rule, it makes at least a little sense...but only a very little.
There was one telling sequence in which Ray Allen won an Oscar, er, drew Kobe's fourth foul on a flop, then got tagged himself when Derek Fisher flopped on the other end. The only thing missing was the banjo music. Later, Rajon Rondo stole the ball from Kobe and fell out of bounds, only he flailed enough to draw Kobe's fifth. Still later, Kobe earned free throws when (I’m assuming) a single molecule from Ray Allen collided with some random air molecules between him and Kobe. Oh, and let's not forget that there was plenty of contact on many of L.A.'s playoff record 14 blocked shots, but Big Baby was called for a foul on a totally clean block of an Andrew Bynum dunk attempt.
This wasn't even a case of "tightly called versus loosely called" -- it was tight the whole way -- it was more a case of too many calls period, many of which made no real sense. Unless David Stern wants to kill the flow of the games and render the Finals somewhat unwatchable. If that’s the case, then mission misery accomplished.
By the by, can people please stop justifying the FTA discrepancy by stating (incorrectly) that the C's were shooting threes. Here are some numbers:
That's right: Lakers took more threes and more jumpers overall despite all the foul shots. And Boston took it to the rack enough to finish with two dunks and 33 layup attempts...the latter of which they hit only 12.
Speaking of numbers, Basketbawful reader Sorbo provided these:
Thought this was interesting:
Finals- Game 1: 56 total fouls (26 LA/28 BOS) Game 2: 58 fouls (29 each)
Comparing two games, we've seen a 70% increase in foul calling in the Finals compared to the regular season.
As always, I'm just sayin'.
LeBron James: I hate that I have to bring this up at all. It's the friggin' NBA Finals...but LeBron keeps popping up everywhere. At this point, I’m afraid of going to the bathroom and finding out somebody has switched my usual toilet paper with another brand that has King Crab’s face on every square. (Actually, on second thought, that sounds like a great idea.)
Over the weekend, the Chicago Bulls made a deal with Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau and the biggest news of that signing was that World Wide Wes -- who has been whispering that LeBron is leaning heavily toward the Bulls -- runs the company that represents 'Bron and Thibodeau. Forget the fact that Boston’s assistant coach and defensive mastermind effectively turned in his two weeks notice during the NBA Finals…his decision might impact LeBron! LeBron!! LeBronLeBronLeBron!!!
Things got even crazier when, again in his live blog, Simmons insinuated that the President of the freaking United States and the secretary of education are colluding to get LeBron to go to Chicago. And this doesn't even touch on the fact that the Cavaliers are cleaning house -- goodbye Mike Brown and Danny Ferry -- so LeBron will stay, or that Pat Riley has concocted a plan to get LeBron and Chris Bosh to accept less money to sign with Miami. Oh, and there was all sorts of buzz that LeBron was going to attend Game 2 of the Finals, only he backed out at the last minute.
And now here I am, talking about LeBron when I don't want to be. He has made me the very thing I hate. I’d damn him to hell, but I know in my heart that hell will not have him [/Dr. Loomis voice]
The Los Angeles Lakers: Oh, hey, we had a playoff game, didn't we? Right. So let's look at some facts: Paul Pierce was apparently playing with an eye patch on both eyes and finished 2-for-11. Kevin Garnett got into early foul trouble and never got out of it. He ended up with 6 points (2-for-5) and had more fouls (5) than rebounds (4). But the Celtics won anyway. In L.A. After everybody left them for dead again. Isn't that kind of like finding out that the fat dude from Superbad is dating Scarlett Johansson? Don't worry. He's not dating her. Otherwise, this post would be written in the blood spurting from my wrists.
There's been an awful lot of talk about Kobe Bryant guarding Rajon Rondo and how it's a key to victory. Now, I’ve gone on record as saying that strategy could backfire. After all, Rondo is way better than he was in 2008 and there's always a distinct possibility that Ray Allen -- the guy Kobe would be guarding otherwise -- could blow up like a bottle of Diet Coke filled with Mentos, right?
Well, how'd that defensive switch work out for the Lakers? I'll tell you: Rondo had his fifth career playoff triple-double (19 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) and Ray Allen finished with a game-high 32 points (11-for-20) while setting a new NBA playoff record for three-pointers made (8).
In Game 1, Rondo was hesitant. In Game 2, he was aggressive as hell. He actually pushed the ball, which in reality is his biggest advantage over whoever guards him. And his 12 boards were a game-high. You read that correctly. And he had twice as many rebounds as Andrew Bynum. You also read that correctly.
Meanwhile, Allen -- who was victimized by the Phantom Foul Menace in Game 1 -- was just ridiculous. I can't even say he played well because his shooting seemed to defy the laws of nature on which life as we know it is based. Phil Jackson eventually switched Kobe onto Allen and it helped slow Ray down...but the switch came too late. The damage had been done.
Pau Gasol (25 points, 7-for-10, 8 rebounds, 6 blocked shots) continued to rip through Boston's frontcourt like an industrial strength weed-whacker, and Andrew Bynum (21 points, 7 blocks) was killing it inside too. Those two guys and L.A.'s 41-26 advantage in free throw attempts kept the Lakers in the game. But despite the fact that Gasol and Bynum were as hot inside as Allen was out, the Lakers shot only 40 percent as a team (including 5-for-22 on threes) and got outrebounded 44-39. And get this: The Celtics outscored them 36-26 in the paint. Who'd a thunk?
The Celtics got outworked and outfought in Game 1. In Game 2, that's what happened to the Lakers. And you know who helped swing the effort needle toward the Celts? Big Baby, baby! Dude toughed it out. There was one possession in which his shot got blocked, what, four or five times? Next possession, he goes right at L.A.’s bigs and hit a short hook. I guess he’s all pumped up about the prospect of meeting President Obama...
Glen, if you stat cursed the Celtics out of the Finals by saying that, I will end you. But great game!
Kobe Bryant: Like Garnett, Kobe spent most of the game in foul trouble. And there wasn't enough contact on his last two fouls to even qualify for a ticky-tac description. But his regular-season-stats-defying shooting cooled off big time. He went 8-for-20 from the field and only 2-for-7 from downtown. He had a team-high 6 assists, but only 1 of them came after the first quarter. And although he had 4 steals, he also finished with a game-high 5 turnovers, including a poke-away by Rondo with 40 seconds left that helped kill any possibility of a Lakers comeback.
At various points, Mamba insisted on forcing up the same tough shots that have been falling for him over the last several games...only they kinda didn't. What's more, his vaunted defense didn't seem to have much of an effect on Rondo and he got fed a three-pointer right after he was switched onto Allen. Rough night all around. But not as rough as the one this guy had...
Ron Artest: The line: 41 minutes, 6 points, 1-for-10 from the field, 1-for-6 from beyond the arc, 3-for-8 from the free throw line, 5 rebounds, an assist, 3 turnovers, 6 fouls. Looks like the Celtics figured out who they want taking shots for the Lakers, huh?
And although his defense was a big reason why The Half Truth struggled to score, Artest failed to realize that the calls were getting even tighter at the end of the game. The result was two fouls in nine seconds on the same possession with under four minutes to go. And both fouls were the same: He was body-bumping the hell out of Pierce. Now, Artest had been allowed to bulldog Paul all night, so maybe you can forgive him for being overly aggressive on the first foul. But that whistle should have been instructive. Instead, Artest kept it up and got tagged again...with his fifth foul.
It was vintage Ron Artest. He's never going to pull back on the aggression. He can’t.
Anyway, that two-foul sequence should have been in indicator to P-Jax that Ron was going "Ron-Ron" on him. But Artest has apparently wormed his way into Phil's Circle of Trust. In fact, I would say that Artest has officially entered the "Rodman in Chicago" zone. However, that trust nearly bit Jackson and the Lakers in the ass with a little over a minute remaining and the Lakers down 98-90. Crazy Pills received the ball and then proceeded to bring it up court and spend most of the possession aimlessly dribbling through Celtic defenders. I swear, it looked like a game of Pac-Man. His wacky ball-handling exhibition ended in an idiotic turnaround 20-footer with a hand in his face.
The possession was saved when Gasol nabbed the offensive board and fed it to Kobe for a trey...but damn, watching that had to have Lakers fans wetting themselves and/or chucking heavy, blunt things at their TVs.
Derek Fisher: Believe it or not, Fisher finished with more rebounds (7) than Bynum, Garnett and Kendrick Perkins. Not bad for a wee little guy. But the Lakers don’t rely on his rebounding, they count on him to hit big shots. And he didn't. Fisher went 2-for-8 from the field and 0-for-2 on threes. And, uhm, that Kobe-on-Rondo defensive switch left him on, er, Ray Allen. Forced him, in fact, to chase Ray around. Which didn't work. Let's face it: At this point, there's no hiding Fisher. He's great for leadership and big shot-making (most of the time), but he's a loss defensively.
Oh, and then there was this…
Lamar Odom: Everybody talks about how Odom is the team's X-Factor, which always makes me think about the team of super-powered mutants in the Marvel Comics universe. Well, if Odom has a mutant power, it's the ability to appear and disappear. Only, apparently, it's not a conscious power...it just happens at random. And he sure did disappear in Games 1 and 2. Last night's "effort" contributed 3 points, 5 boards and 5 fouls (in only 15 minutes!) to L.A.'s cause.
I guess you could say foul trouble is taking Lamar out of the game.
Said Jackson: "[Odom] got, bang-bang, two fouls and I turned to my crew and said, 'Do you think he can play through this?' And as I was talking to them, he got his third foul. So obviously he couldn't play through the sequence."
Added Odom: “Maybe I shouldn’t play defense.” Somewhere, Amar’’’’’’e Stoudemire is nodding vigorously.
Andrew Bynum, poster child: Dream Shake, baby!
Gotta love how Jeff Van Gundy was all like, “That’s a Goran Dragic move, Bynum got Dragic’d!” and Mike Breen had to correct him because, in fact, Rondo has been doing that move for a while now, especially this season.
Doc Rivers: Allen, Pierce and Rondo all logged 40+ minutes. Rondo didn't get his first breather until late in the game. When the Lakers came back to take a brief lead late in the game, the Celtics looked flat-out gassed. With the quick turnaround between Games 2 and 3, Doc’s “eh, why should I bother to develop the bench and/or a consistent rotation” strategy might end up backfiring big time.
This was kinda funny, though:
Notice how Brian Scalabrine went after Rivers and started massaging him? The only thing missing was the happy ending. Scals is all like, “Doc! Doc! I’m still here! You don’t need to sub in Shelden Williams! I have six fouls too!”
Jeff Van Gundy, unintentionally dirty quote machine: At one point, JVG had this to say about the Lakers: "They're coming on every penetration." H/T to Basketbawful reader winnetou.
Ray Allen, quote machine: "I didn't think it was easy, getting the 3's up in the air," Allen said. "You look up and everybody is probably thinking, 'How did this guy get open?' But there's so much going on there -- big screens, misdirection plays. I thought they did everything they could to keep me from shooting 3's, [but we] worked tirelessly."
Rajon Rondo, quote machine: "The best part about getting a triple-double is getting a win," Rondo said. "That's pretty much it. It would be pointless to get a triple-double and lose the game."
Kobe Bryant, quote machine: Love this little gem from the AP recap: "It's a series," Bryant yawned. "You're trying to stay even-keel. You don't get too high, don't get too low after a win or a loss. You just go into the next one and take care of business."
By the way, gotta love the way Kobe pretended not to care about losing the game when you know it was killing him, especially when Ray-Ray was so hot.
Phil Jackson, quote machine: So, uh, why’d you let Ray Allen crucify your boy Derek Fisher so much?
"Well, you know, when they take away any bumps, when Fish is trying to make him divert his path and they don't allow him to do that, they call fouls on Fish and that really gives [Allen] an opportunity to take whatever route he wants to make of the [screeners]. That really makes it very difficult. We just have to adjust to the ballgame to whatever the referees are going to call. Are they going to allow us to take direct line cuts away from him so he has to divert his route, [or] get a foul called on Fisher? That makes for a totally different type of ballgame. Then Fish has to give the routes that [Allen] wants to run in and then he's got to play from behind all the time."
Uh huh. Well, how 'bout Kobe. What would you say about his play?
"I wasn't happy with those foul calls [against him]. Those were unusual calls. It really changed the [complexion] of this ballgame."
Huh. I see. So I guess P-Jax wasn't too thrilled with the officiating. Would all the Lakers fans who eye-rolled me and accused me of whining after Game 1 like to step up and accuse Jackson of whining? I mean, are you eye-rolling him now? No, really. I'm curious. Sarcastic, but curious.
Lacktion report: From chris: "Shelden Williams fathered a 4:1 Voskuhl in 4:13 by countering one board with a brick, rejection, and a pair each of fouls and turnovers."