Wednesday, September 26, 2012

NBA Finals: Los Angeles Lakers (0-3) @ Boston Celtics (3-0) - Game 4

At halftime, the Los Angeles Lakers (and Kobe Bryant) had everything to smile about. But as the final buzzer sounded, the purple and gold titans would be looking forward to next year, when they hope for more satisfying results. Surely, Kobe Bryant cannot be content with being swept out of the NBA Finals.

However, tonight's conclusive victory for the Boston Celtics could not have come with lesser difficulty. After permitting physical play in the 1st three games, the referees cracked down on the Celtics, not allowing them to contest any shots without hearing a whistle. To their credit, the Lakers knocked down countless free throws as the 1st quarter dragged on forever and Boston had nothing but foul trouble to show for it.

To make matters worse, Steve Nash was more patient with the ball and had his best game of the Finals, after shooting too much in the first 3 games; and the reserve lineup for Boston barely compensated for the stars in foul trouble.

With nothing else to go on, Celtics coach Doc Rivers went "all in" and put the stars back on the floor. They could no longer be inhibited if Boston was going to stand a chance. Luckily, the desperate move worked. Not only the supportive home crowd, but also a blessing graced Boston as the Lakers' scoring efficiency dropped.

For the longest time, Metta World Peace and Antawn Jamison had helped maintain LA's lead, but Kevin Garnett went on a roll (despite 4 fouls), playing a crucial role in Boston's amazing turnaround with 26 points and 13 rebounds.

Once the Celtics got their legs back, they outran LA in the fast break. On the glass, Boston eventually out-hustled the Lakers in the rebounding department and took their first lead of the game, caused by finally gaining on-court flow. Boston never looked back, and neither did Paul Pierce, as he burned the Lakers with three-pointers in the final two minutes, stifling any hope LA might've had to make a comeback of their own.

The Celtics surged to a shocking victory of 85-104, the biggest losing margin for LA thus far in the Finals, and the one that ended their championship hopes.
Kevin Garnett was crowned the Finals MVP and deservedly so, averaging 17.8 points per game on 60% field goal shooting, 82% on clutch free throws, 9 rebounds a game, and for stomaching the foul trouble tonight and transforming it into a dominant victory.

Overall, as the NBA season comes to a dramatic finish, we look back at how the Boston Celtics only lost a single game in the Playoffs (courtesy of the Miami Heat). They eeked by their adversaries and narrowly won several games. But this isn't a sign of weakness; it's a sign of Boston's outstanding passion to win, to reach the coveted mountaintop of the NBA and they owe to themselves and to their tremendous resilience.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

NBA Finals: Los Angeles Lakers (0-2) @ Boston Celtics (2-0) - Game 3

Kevin Garnett had a tremendous performance, dunking it hard through the rim after an offensive rebound, the perfect answer in response to Kobe Bryant making a miraculous lay-up through two defenders with little time to spare. Like Game 2, it came down to the wire once again.

The Lakers, while playing well enough to have a chance, relied mostly on Kobe Bryant (30 points). Free throws by Rajon Rondo extended Boston's lead to 3 in the dwindling seconds, but a wide open corner 3 by the Black Mamba nearly sent the game into overtime, only for it to be overshot and smack off the side of the rim. The Celtics corralled the loose ball and the game was over.

In an excellent performance, the Celtics were simply hungrier tonight and looked comfortable trading blows late in the game against the star-studded Lakers.

This remarkable victory practically seals the championship for the Boston Celtics, but without a doubt, Kobe Bryant will come back even harder in Game 4, now that the Lakers is in a precarious win-or-go-home situation.

NBA Finals: Boston Celtics (1-0) @ Los Angeles Lakers (0-1) - Game 2

While the Boston Celtics still shot 50% to the Lakers' 44%, Los Angeles learned from their mistakes in Game 1 and came out with a much stronger and fluent effort in Game 2.

Kobe Bryant & Pau Gasol both scored 22 points and powered the purple and gold titans, hitting clutch shots down the stretch in what became a do-or-die finale in the STAPLES Center. Several lead changes, including a 3 point lead at one point by LA, and a dramatic finish made this one an instant classic.

Paul Pierce led Boston's charge and seemed to hit the biggest shot of the game, a three-pointer on the right wing after a hectic possession by Boston that narrowly escaped a turnover. After a timeout, the Lakers threw the ball to Steve Nash, who drained a responsive 3 of his own, evening the score at 92 in the highly contested showdown.

Instead of calling a timeout of their own, the Celtics raced the ball up court, threw the ball inside and then dished it back out to Kevin Garnett, who raised his arms and drained a mid-range jump shot, leaving scarce response time for the Lakers, who immediately called their last timeout.

Anxious, Boston, not wanting to lose the game, guarded the three-point line. "Overtime or victory" was the mantra in Kevin Garnett's mind as he ran out to guard the perimeter. Reading the defense, Steve Nash threw the ball into Dwight Howard, who elevated like Superman, with the intent of throwing it down over Roy Hibbert. But the ex-Pacer had other plans and as Howard attempted his flashy dunk, Hibbert extended an arm, somehow swatting the ball out of Howard's hands in mid-air. The ball fumbled, fell into Rondo's hands and the buzzer sounded, 94-92, as the Celtics went up 2-0.

For Los Angeles, this intense defeat may spell the end for their championship hopes because the next three games will be played in Boston. The Celtics only need to win 2 of them before the series shifts back to Los Angeles for a faraway Game 6.

This win reveals the intent Boston had since the genesis of this series, to utilize the 2-3-2 format as their only answer to LA's home-court advantage. The victory was achieved by stellar play once again by Josh Howard, who didn't have 29, but had enough, knocking down 3's, along with Kenyon Martin who spent most of Game 1 on the bench. Tonight, every Boston Celtic, including Rajon Rondo and Kevin Martin, hit a clutch shot that insured whatever lead Boston had throughout this competitive game.

NBA Finals: Boston Celtics @ Los Angeles Lakers - Game 1

The Boston Celtics brought their 'A' game to the STAPLES Center and left with a convincing victory, 101-85, courtesy of superior shooting and solid team chemistry on the floor.

The Los Angeles Lakers suffered from shooting woes all night, losing the shooting battle, 42% to Boston's 54%. Superstar, Kobe Bryant, only shot 30% (6-20) for a meager 14 points. Pau Gasol had a decent showing with 17 points and 10 rebounds, as did Dwight Howard (16 points, 13 rebounds). But LA's on-court flow, or lack thereof, was sorely distinguished from that of Boston, as LA lost the assists battle 17 to Boston's 24 and committed more turnovers.

Meanwhile, the Celtics addressed the issues that had cost them both regular season games against the Lakers, only losing the rebounding war by 5 and hitting the offensive glass to elicit plentiful rewards. Steve Nash finished with 21 points, but only 7 assists, another indication of LA's scrambled play. He was outmatched by Rajon Rondo, who while scoring 1 less in each category than Nash, was more effective at giving his teammates the ball, especially Josh Howard (29 points), who splashed in 7 amazing three-point shots by running around on the floor, using screens and defensive lapses to his advantage.

In Boston's front-court, Kevin Garnett had 14 points and Roy Hibbert's size helped Boston on the boards along with 2 monster jams. Paul Pierce (11 points, 35%) had a similar night to Kobe's, but luckily had other options to dish the ball to. The balanced effort on offense let everyone get rest on the bench, so when they came into the game, they were most effective. Kevin Martin strengthened Boston's lead with 13 points and Charlie Villanueva plopped in 12 points.

While LA stayed on Boston's heels, they failed to trim the lead to less than 6 and Boston's strong defense helped keep it that way. The Lakers should hope for a better scoring performance in Game 2 and try to increase the tempo despite Boston's urge to keep things slow in the half-court style. Ironically, Boston outscored LA in fast break points, 16 to 6. Regardless, Boston is definitely on the right path to a championship.

Looking Ahead: The NBA Finals

After a rocky start, the Boston Celtics have quieted the critics, surging past the Indiana Pacers (4-0), Chicago Bulls (4-0) & Miami Heat (4-1). While most of those games went down to the wire, the Boston Celtics proved they were the best team in the Eastern Conference.

Yet, meanwhile on the west coast, the Los Angeles Lakers tore through the Golden State Warriors (4-1), the Utah Jazz (4-0) and the San Antonio Spurs (4-1), proving why they'll have home-court advantage in the upcoming all-or-nothing series against Boston as the top dog in all of the NBA standings.

How will this historic showdown end? In 2008, the Boston Celtics defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in 6 games; and in 2010, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics in 7 games.

Either way, the Celtics will have to fight their hearts out to win at least one of two in the City of Angels, a place that handed them two losses in the regular season, if Boston wants to limit this historic series to a 4-game sweep of the purple and gold titans because the series will then to shift to Beantown for 3 straight crucial games.

Can--and if so--how will Boston counterbalance the size, skill and presence of Pau Gasol and new Lakers center, Dwight Howard, while also dealing with Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, and the wily passing skills of Steve Nash?

ECF - Miami Heat (1-3) @ Boston Celtics (3-1) - Game 5

The Miami Heat hung around in the first half, but clearly weren't as offensively proficient and suffered when a "run to the Finals" by Boston in the 3rd quarter ignited the Heat's deficit to 20.

A collective effort by the Celtics emphasized a more controlled style of play that went unseen in South Beach, as both teams split victories. While they lost Game 4, Boston's vital victory in Game 3 allowed them the opportunity tonight to put away the defending champions.

The score was much lower than the past two games, reflecting more of Boston's half-court style as it presented too much imbalance for Miami's preferred up-tempo play. LeBron James didn't have a strong showing (only 7-16 from the field), but Chris Bosh poured in 30 points, along with a strong double-double by Dwyane Wade. Ray Allen did what he could to keep Miami in the game, but had another inconsistent showing that would lay shadowed by his great turn-in for Game 4 in South Beach.

To their credit, the Miami Heat never quit when Boston confidently and conscientiously pulled out their top contributors to start the final quarter as a way to rest for the looming Los Angeles Lakers, Miami utilized this weakness and kept their top scorers in the game to gain the necessary advantage. They cut the lead as they could, but 17 points by Roy Hibbert held them at bay, along with 11 by backup guard, Avery Bradley.

A timeout late in the final minute cast a gloomy face for LeBron James, who "knew" the game was over and this precognition became apparent as Boston stole the ball shortly after the inbound, leading to 2 made free throws by Roy Hibbert. Now trying to defeat the impossible, the superstar of the Miami Heat, LeBron James, nailed a pull-up jumper at the buzzer, perhaps proving that Miami is capable of winning but simply wasn't superior tonight, as the Miami Heat's championship dreams fizzled, 101-109.

ECF - Boston Celtics (3-0) @ Miami Heat (0-3) - Game 4

Ray Allen, after being hit-and-miss in the first 3 games of this series, lit the court up with 20+ points, serving as the x-factor in a much needed win for the Miami Heat. They were simply too fast, too strong and too unstoppable in the 4th quarter.

At one point, the Heat pulled away by 20, but 31 points by Josh Howard and a defiant surge by Kevin Garnett kept the crowd in a hushed silence. The Celtics cut Miami's lead to 5 late in the 4th quarter, but a terrible turnover sealed the must-win victory for the Heat, despite the fact that Boston came out strong to start the game.

Too many missed three pointers and poor on-court flow cost Boston tonight. While the Heat picked up an inspiring victory tonight, they now travel back to Beantown, away from their supportive crowd, a place where they lost the first 2 games, a place where they simply can't lose again.