It becomes more difficult to win a basketball game when…
…you allow the other team to collect 30 percent of its own misses while pulling down less than 22 percent of your own.
…you fail to get stops early in the game, which prevents you from getting out in transition, which forces you to play offense in the halfcourt against an excellent defensive team with great length inside, which leads to a variety of empty offensive possessions.
…you blow the minimally contested lay-up and dunk looks you do get at an inordinately high rate.
…you don’t convert the occasional open look from the outside.
…even though you turn the ball over only one more time than the opposition, 13 of your 14 turnovers come on steals by the other side, which means additional transition opportunities for the bad guys.
…the other team comes up with the game’s first 24 bench points.
…you miss free throws.
It becomes almost impossible to win a basketball game when all of those things happen. Which, unless you spent last night on Mars, you no doubt know by now is exactly how Game 6 of the NBA Finals went for the Celtics. To wit:
Credit three Lakers in particular for the offensive rebounding disparity: Pau Gasol led the way with five, and Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum each grabbed three. Credit zero Celtics for doing an effective enough job boxing out, especially on the play when Gasol sprinted from just inside halfcourt straight to the basket untouched to grab a miss from the left corner and lay it up and in.
Early in the game, ABC mics picked up Doc Rivers stressing that his team was doing everything too slowly and imploring his players to pick up the pace. While part of that may have been said with regard simply to getting to loose balls and rotating on defense, the pace-of-game issue became hard to address while the Lakers were shooting the lights out in the first quarter and cruising to 51 points by the break. The Celtics flourish when they force misses, get the ball to Rondo and let him push in transition. Without the early stops, we didn’t see much of that last night, and the Lakers did a fine job of defending in the halfcourt.
The missed lay-up brigade was dumbfounding. Offhand, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Glen Davis, Shelden Williams, Tony Allen and Nate Robinson all participated. Feel free to shout out any omissions here.
Can’t say I had a problem with Rasheed Wallace’s shot selection. He got several open looks from the outside and missed them. All of them. It happens. The rest of the team was better (because it’s hard to get worse than zero percent), but not by much.
Lots of steals for the Lakers. On multiple occasions, Paul Pierce drove into the paint, only to be enveloped by a swarm of yellow jerseys and find himself separated from the ball in short order. As the ABC crew highlighted, the Lakers effectively sloughed off Rondo outside the lane, and that resulted in extra defenders inside to cause the Celtics trouble in the halfcourt all night. They sprinted for loose balls with more urgency throughout the evening, which led to fast-break dunks for Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar as well as other transition opportunities. Though the Lakers finished only plus-1 in the turnover battle, they went plus-7 in points off turnovers.
Great work by Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown, Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar off the bench for LA. Although the unit didn’t shoot a great percentage (the entire Lakers bench finished 10-for-30), they posted 25 points and brought terrific energy at both ends for the Lakers. That 10-for-30 mark looks like sharp-shooting compared to the Celtics’ bench’s 4-for-26 mark.
Last and probably the least of the night’s many concerns, the Celtics shot 6-for-1o from the line. That’s a relatively small sample size, and it’s hard to imagine those four misses making much of a difference in this one. But that doesn’t make it any more settling to see Rajon Rondo and Glen Davis both miss pairs at the line, particularly with the team’s point guard dropping to 4-for-17 from the charity stripe in the series with a decisive seventh game coming up.
There may be a few blanks (or moreover, particularly disastrous moments that could merit special note) to fill in here, but you get the gist: Fail to defend, rebound, score or get any production from the bench, and the results will be ugly. So they were as the Lakers evened the series with an 89-67 victory.
While the focus this morning remains on the Celtics’ ghoulish performance, one would be remiss to ignore the terrific work submitted by the Lakers from wire to wire in this one. Kobe Bryant dominated early and often, Pau Gasol did a bit of everything in nearly notching a triple-double, the oft-erratic Ron Artest found an offensive rhythm and the bench kept the good times rolling for the purple-and-gold.
That’s enough for the morning. I’m washing my hands of Game 6. Thirty-six hours and counting down to Game 7 of the 2010 Finals between the NBA’s two most storied franchises.