Thirteen playoff wins in the bank, three more to go. That's the calculus the Lakers face in the afterglow of their Game One pounding of the Boston Celtics. Yes, it was only one win, but it was a confidence-boosting one at that. That the Lakers had a 20-point lead in the second half, that they won by double digits going away... these are firm indications that they're well positioned to dispose of this Celtics team. From the Lakers' point of view, the matchups look solid. The home-court advantage is definitely solid. Everything's rocking right now.
It is worth remembering how much the tenor of a series can change between Games One and Two. About a month ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers led the Celts, one game to zilch, and looked more or less in control. Last year, too, in the Finals, the Orlando Magic recovered from a Game One beating to come alarmingly close to winning Game Two in Staples. Today's a new day for Boston, and come tomorrow night they could have well put their Game One loss in the rearview mirror. Until then, however, Laker fans get to luxuriate in the sensual warmth of a series lead.
After the cut, some assorted observations that didn't make it into my postgame recap of Thursday night.
The Staples Crowd - showed up strong. That's never a given for Staples fans, not even in the Finals. They were decently loud in 2009 but weak in 2008, and they've had some pretty embarrassing nights in these playoffs. At times it hasn't been clear to those watching on TV that the Lakers remembered to sell game tickets. It didn't sound promising at the outset on Thursday. Lineup introductions seemed to spark all the frenzy of a November game against Memphis. Once the contest was a few minutes old, though, the noise kicked in. I think a few fans even stood up once. I'm a little concerned there'll be complacency and withdrawal among the Staples crowd on Sunday, but on Thursday they brought it. Having been there in person, C.A. will be able to tell us how it all sounded first-hand.
Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar - played well. I was surprised to see Shannon get 17 minutes, as it appeared he'd been relegated to eighth-man status. Phil Jackson tapped him for significant run, and Shannon delivered. He and Farmar combined for 10 points on eight shots with only one turnover, which will do just fine, thanks very much. As ever, the Lakers don't need their bench to go on huge runs or outplay the opponents' reserves by any real margin. They just the second unit to hold the fort.
The refs - were, everyone seems to agree, rather quick with the foul calls. Basically, we sat through a pair of free throws every two or three possessions, depriving the game of any real flow. One hopes that the officials will let a bit more slide in Game Two.
Speaking of fouls - No technicals were assessed against Kendrick Perkins. I predict that Perk will not actually pick up the tee that would force him to sit out a game in this series. The refs know he's on the verge, they know it'd be cheesy to tag him with a suspension, and they don't want to dodge the flak that would ensue. Unless Perkins really, really steps over the line, I think he'll keep his eligibility.
Kevin Garnett's consecutive missed layups - might have been my favorite moment of the season so far. I have those misses to thank for a nice little endorphin surge I'm still riding. But I still haven't seen any GIF of that historic moment, so hit it up in the comments section if you come across one.
The Lakers' rebounding - is amazing right now. On Thursday they rebounded 36% of their own misses, marking the seventh straight game (and the eighth out of their last nine) their offensive rebounding rate has exceeded 30%. Granted, this stretch hasn't come against elite rebounding opponents, but give the Lakers' credit for exploiting one of their key competitive advantages. In this postseason as a whole, the Lakers have an offensive rebounding rate of 32%. (The league average this season was 26%.)
In Game One against Boston, the Lakers were just as successful on the defensive glass. The Celts pulled in a mere 21% of their misses and went two full quarters, the first and third, without an offensive rebound. The third quarter, in fact, was one of the most dominant rebounding performances you'll ever see. The Lakers had 12 rebounds (five offensive) to the Celtics' two. Boston finished with precisely zero second-chance points.
Two articles you should read - are this one, from Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus, and this one, from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Kevin's piece gives some great numbers, such as that 14 of Kobe Bryant's 22 shot attempts came in the paint. Woj focuses on Pau Gasol and his mission to obliterate Garnett and exact revenge for 2008.
On Friday, Pau stated publicly his view that Garnett has "lost a little explosiveness," a comment that some fear will light a fire under KG. Me, I'm not worried. Pau's too smart to have made such a remark inadvertently. He's deliberately pushing Garnett's buttons, confident that the old man no longer has the game to retaliate. It's a subtle display of aggressiveness on Pau's part and, I think, a welcome indicator of his and the Lakers' confidence.
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