by Craig Kwasniewski
Lost in the Pau Gasol finally grew a pair talk was just how thoroughly unimpressive Rajon Rondo was in Boston's 92-83 loss to the Lakers on Christmas Day. For weeks I keep hearing how Rondo is the secret behind THE GREATEST WINNING STREAK EVER and that he's definitely All-Star material. Are you kidding me???? Here's what I saw in person yesterday: several bad passes, several missed WIDE OPEN shots, several blown layups and a heated moment with Ray Allen that got so out of hand that Paul Pierce had to intervene... any signs of an All-Star there? Okay so maybe he had an off night. Everyone's allowed that.
But here's a little secret to Rondo's "success" in 2008: NOBODY'S GUARDING HIM!!!!
Everyone guarding Rondo cheats off him to help out against the big three. So yeah, let's give Rondo an All-Star appearance, after all he's hitting W-I-D-E O-P-E-N jump shots. (Kobe cheated off him all night and he still couldn't produce. And those 12 assists... he had two sweet behind-the-back passes but otherwise they came from feeding the big three... whatever!)
So will he be the worst player to ever make an NBA All-Star team? Close but that title goes to David Stern's reverse affirmative-action effort with Wally Szczerbiak back in 2002. Devin Harris deserves that spot!
Anyway, here are a few other very very brief thoughts on the game from my seat in Section 316:
The Upside to Farmar's Injury - This forces Phil Jackson to play Kobe, Vujacic and Ariza on the floor at the same time, giving the Lakers their best hustle/athletic/defensive lineup available. Add in Odom and Bynum and you have serious length and athleticism across the board. As great of a coach Jackson is he still tends to frustratingly stick to the same rotation throughout the year. Losing Farmar will force the Lakers to go big at all five positions... which worked well with Jackson's Bulls and 99-00 Lakers.
The REAL reason Pierce scorches the Lakers. Paul Pierce is from LA... we get it. But that has nothing to do with why he continues to dominate the Lakers over the years. It has more to do with Rick Fox, Devean George, Luke Walton and all the other slower small forwards that Phil Jackson continues to match up on Pierce. Clearly, Pierce is quicker and stronger than Walton and when all else fails he finds a way to get to the freethrow line. Now if Pierce dominates a Kobe-Ariza tandem, then I'll be impressed. Instead, Jackson feels the Lakers can withstand a Pierce barrage and still win.... and it worked yesterday.
The refs were not the deciding factor!!!! Despite whatever Boston homers write, the refs were not a factor yesterday. Just because the Celtics were not allow to clutch, grab, hold, push and pull on defense does not mean the refs were helping LA. The Celtics play with the mantra "you can't call every single foul" and bring a very physical style that pushes the defensive rules to the limit. As a result they tend to get away with A LOT! So when a crew actually takes hold of a game and calls it fairly... well Boston media whines.
The Lakers offense bogged down in the 3rd quarter. Boston almost took control of the game halfway through the third quarter as their defense forced the Lakers into too many one-on-one possessions on offense. Ball movement, ball movement, ball movement... that's the key to beating the Celtics' defensive schemes. I haven't seen the C's enough to truly break them down but simply their defensive premise is to force the opposition into one-on-one basketball and collapse on all penetration. The Lakers lost their offensive rhythm halfway through the 3rd quarter and held on the ball instead of swinging it around the perimeter for an open J. Instead they got a lot of ugly heaves with the shot clock winding down.
It really wasn't until Lamar Odom's back-to-back threes that the Lakers finally regained their rhythm. Make or miss, I initially thought they were awful shots but Odom took them early in the shot clock and changed the pace.... which helped the Lakers confidence. And his sweet runner from the left side down the stretch was pure confidence overflowing.
KG for MVP? The prospect of Pierce getting MVP run really pisses me off. Yes he's their best scorer down the stretch and yes he's had some monster offensive games but Kevin Garnett is the heart and soul of that franchise. Pierce has been with the C's through the lean years and he wasn't carrying them to 50-plus wins. It wasn't until KG arrived that the C's became the proud and intimidating franchise it is today and for that along KG deserves some MVP run. Hell, even the scrubs (and trust me, there are a lot of them on Boston!) were on their feet cheering down the stretch. You could totally see KG getting in their faces ordering them to participate in any way they can. Give Pierce the Finals MVP but give KG the franchise MVP!
Celtics scrubs were just that... scrubs. Nothing much to say except that Tony Allen, Kendrick Perkins and Eddie House all run their mouths like they actually brought #17 to Boston by themselves. Know your role and shut your mouth! You guys benefit and live off the Big Three and nothing else! Haven't you noticed that defenses double off you giving you W-I-D-E O-P-E-N looks? Yet one lay-up equals a stare-down, primal scream and a chest thump. Just be thankful that Boston is so far over the cap that they NEED your cheap contract. The scrubs did nothing today except for exposing the Celtics lack of depth. But as long as KG, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce can continue to bring heir Hall of Fame games, the Celtics will be there every single night.... despite having Tony Allen, Kendrick Perkins and Eddie House on their roster.
Love/Hate for Christmas Day games. I love the NBA on Christmas Day... on TV. In person, well that's a different story. This is my 10th season as a Lakers season ticket holder and this was the first time I attended a Christmas Day game. Being married and having a Catholic upbringing (meaning I fall prey to the powers of guilt) I never have a chance to see the annual Lakers Christmas Day game in person. There are just too many family members to offend. "You're missing Christmas for a basketball game?" is always the response. They just don't understand...
Well with the renewal of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry I had no choice but to let Santa down. So props to the wife for understanding this year and providing a unified front to all the family members who gave me a hard time for going. The game was worth all the hype, the crowd was more electric than the Finals (there were a ton of serious hoops fans who represented with several "Boston Sucks!" chants) and I got to see it in person. I love it!