How Los Angeles Lakers supporters go about assessing Game 2 of the NBA Finals will seem to depend entirely on how they self-identify in terms of their optimism.
If they see themselves as people of the glass half-full variety, the sort of individuals who believe in moral victories, then you should have a great deal of positive elements to take away from Sunday night loss to Boston that tied the series at a game a piece.
Such affirmative Los Angeles fans can say with great confidence that, despite seemingly nothing going right for the purple and gold all night, the team was still in a position to steal a victory in the closing minutes. They dodged bullet after bullet, and almost got away with it.
Of course, for those fans who do not share that positive worldview, Game 2’s various failures point to more trouble ahead as the series heads to Boston for the next three games.
In fact, those Chicken Littles among the Laker faithful might now worry about whether the series will even back it back to Los Angeles next week.
To those pessimists, things look that bleak. That bullet-dodging their optimist counterparts appreciated so much? To the naysayers it just proves the NBA Finals are not the Matrix after all.
“You should have taken the Blue pill,” they say.
Myself? I lean on the advice of the late, great George Carlin and say that while some think the glass is half full and others think it’s half empty, I just think the glass is too big.
There were some positives to take away, and a lot of negatives, and while I believe conceptually in moral victories, they are useful in February, not in June.
The laundry list of things that went wrong for the Lakers is exhaustively long:
- They somehow forgot for the entire first half that Ray Allen is one of the best pure shooters of all-time and gave him open look after open look in transition to the tune of a record seven threes in the first half and eight for the game. Shannon Brown in particular should be embarrass of his defense on Allen, who also needs to be credited with giving one the best individual performances in Finals history. For the next 20 years, this will be remembered as “The Ray Allen Game”.
- Their leader, Kobe Bryant, picked up his third foul with more than three minutes left in the first half and his fifth a mere 45 seconds into the fourth. Foul-trouble or not, Bryant was very human throughout Game 2, and his well-rounded statline hides the fact that he did not attack the rim the same way he did in Game 1, or the baskets he had to concede defensively in the fourth so not to pick up his sixth foul. Simply put, if Bryant plays like that the Lakers cannot win.
- Lamar Odom, perhaps the Lakers’ most important X-Factor on offense, picked up three fouls in just 2:38 minutes of play in the first half. For the night he played just 15 minutes and chipped in a mere three points and five rebounds, marking his second poor performance in as many games.
- Ron Artest… what is there to say, really? To begin to describe the depth of his awful play on offense in Game 2 you would need several hours. Yes, he was that bad. 41 minutes, 1-10 from the floor, 1-6 from three, 3-8 from the foul line, three turnovers, and about five heart-attack inducing sequences in which he dribbled around with seemingly no purpose or direction. While the defensive effort he provided was vital to keeping Paul Pierce contained for almost the whole game (Pierce was just 2-11 from the floor), his offensive display will give Laker fans nightmares for weeks, if not months. I’d call attention in particular to the possession in the fourth quarter with a minute and a half to go that saw him waste the entire shot clock, dribble aimlessly into the key, get off-balance, back out the three point line, never look for an open teammate, and jack up one of the ten worst considered shots I’ve seen in my life. That the Lakers got the rebound and Bryant hit a three is a shame, because it will take deserved attention away from this horrendous sequence.
- After working so hard in Game 1 and winning the vast majority of hustle plays, the Lakers simply were outworked by the Celtics on nearly every loose ball. This is best shown by Glen Davis’ five offensive rebounds, an indictment of their hustle if there ever was one consider Davis cannot jump over a phonebook.
- They wasted what is likely to be the best performance in this series from Andrew Bynum, whose excellence (21 points on just 10 shots, plus seven blocks) was the only thing keeping the game close in the first half. Bynum was only outdone by Pau Gasol, who was as good as we have ever seen him (25 points on 10 shots, eight rebounds, six blocks, and three assists). Los Angeles cannot ask for more productive from their frontline.
- They were up by three with 5:21 to play and only scored one more field goal the rest of the game, giving up a lead (on their homecourt!) to a Boston team that lost every fourth quarter to the Magic the previous round.
And on and on it goes.
Of course fans in Boston will surely scream for everyone to hear that every failing listed above is not because of the Lakers shooting themselves in the foot, but because of the excellence of execution that is the Celtics.
Yes, Rajon Rondo was tremendous en route to his fifth career playoff triple-double. Yes, Boston had to go about hitting those 11 three pointers, no matter how open the Lakers transition defense left them to do so. And yes, Rasheed Wallace and Nate Robinson both provide a major lift off the Boston bench. None of that is debatable, even from my view as a Laker diehard.
In the end, whether that metaphorical glass that was Game 2 was half full or empty is debatable. Either way, Game 3 will tip in Boston Tuesday night, with control of the series up for grabs – that much is true whatever your prespective.