Boston Falls Just Short and Loses Games of Inches
Lakers 105, Celtics 98. What a damned shame of a heart-breaking loss. This was truly a game of inches and on this evening, those inches happened to belong to the Lakers when it mattered most. The shame of it all was the wasted monster effort by Paul Pierce, who scored 38 points (including 16 hard-earned free throws). Pierce strapped his team across his back and nearly dragged them to glory before allowing a tragic poke from behind steal by Kobe Bryant, who converted the subsequent breakaway dunk. The play, which happened with 40 seconds left to play in the fourth, put the Lakers back ahead by 4.
Of note, on the following play out of the timeout, Boston set up a play for Ray Allen, who drove hard and nearly converted on the drive in heavy traffic. Kevin Garnett had a clean look at a put-back but missed wide, a play that essentially summed up his evening in that he worked hard to be in the right place at the right time but just wasn’t able to put the ball in the hole when it counted. Exhibit B: His two missed free throws at the 2:31 mark that would have brought Boston back to a tie.
Let me expand on Garnett’s game a little bit here, because it was a complicated performance to assess. His line for the game was 13 points on 6-11 shooting as well as 14 rebounds. As usual with Garnett, however, the statistics tell only a fraction of the story. On defense, he was a menace and the cause of numerous disruptions to the Lakers’ offense. He was also an important factor on the boards, especially on the offensive glass where he collected 7 of his 14 rebounds. Expanding on his role in the offense, he was an integral part of the pick and roll that has worked so well in freeing up space for his shooters. BUT….on the dark side, he had 4 turnovers and remained mostly absent in the offense in terms of contributing directly. Down the stretch, again, he looked far more comfortable passing out to shooters on the perimeter than in taking on the inferior Laker bigs and creating his own shot against them. It was frankly disappointing and marred an otherwise excellent performance.
With Rajon Rondo’s game , on the other hand, there wasn’t much of a silver lining to be found. He finished with Whatever percentage of capacity he deems himself to be, it simply isn’t high enough to help his team at this point. Look no further than his last moments spent on the court in the third quarter before Doc Rivers mercifully replaced him:
5:42 Rondo misses open jumper
5:25 Gets tied up with Derek Fisher on a loose ball. Loses tip to Fisher on the jump ball.
5:17 Arrives late on defense as Fisher spots up an open mid-range jumper and crashes into Fisher, who sinks the shot and the free throw.
5:11 Turns the ball over to Vladomir Radmanovic on a terrible pass.
5:00 In transition, Randmanovic sinks the open three.
Let’s review. At the midpoint of the third quarter, Boston trailed by one at 65-64 and had the ball, poised to take the lead. Less than a minute later, the Celtics trailed by 7 and were back on their heels against yet another Lakers run.
Out of a timeout, Rivers replaced Rondo with Eddie House but his stint was cut short by a bleeding problem after a collision with Derek Fisher. To his credit, Sam Cassell came in and came up big, scoring 7 straight points for Boston (he finished with 9 on 4-8 shooting).
All of the above said, the game might not have been so close had the Celtics played a respectable first quarter. Instead, they allowed the Lakers to run wild, outscoring the Celtics 39-22. Read that again. 39-22? Early Hole, meet Boston, Boston meet Early Hole…Oh, I see you two have already met. Thus, the Celtics were forced to clamp down hard just to get back into the game, which they did by shutting down the Lakers to just 16 points in the second quarter vs. Boston’s 30. At the half, LA’s lead was 3 and, everyone repeat after me…the Celtics had to feel fortunate being down by only 3 after such uneven play
If there has been one constant throughout this series to count on, it has been Boston’s superior play coming out of the half and winning the third quarter. Alas, that trend came to an end in Game 5 as the Lakers increased their lead by another 6. In that third frame, Boston became over enamored by the three but didn’t hit many of them. Thus, they entered the final frame down 9 and although they reached close enough to grasp the victory, it was all simply too much to overcome.
Two games to go. Boston needs only one. Cue the Jumbotron…
The inches we need are everywhere around us. They’re in every break of the game, every minute, every second. On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves and everyone around us to piece for that inch….
Until Game 6 back in Beantown…
[top image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ekilby/]