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NBA Playoff Journal
by Larry Ness - 06/04/2010
The Celtics manhandled the Lakers in the 2008 Finals. Kobe shot just 40.5 percent in that series, Gasol averaged 14.2-102. but was labeled 'soft' plus Bynum was sidelined due to a season-ending injury. The Celtics were led by their new version of the "Big Three" and the group delivered. Pierce (21.2-4.5-6.3) was named MVP, KG averaged 18.2-13.0 posting six straight "double-doubles" while Allen averaged 17.2 PPG. After winning both Games 1 and 2 in Boston, the Lakers won game 3 back in LA but the series turned for good in Game 4.
LA jumped out to a 35-14 lead after the first quarter of that game and extended it to 45-21 in the second quarter. The Celtics were down 18 points at halftime, but came back to win, 97-91. Only the 1948 Baltimore Bullets, who trailed the Philadelphia Warriors by 21 points at the half of a game in the 1948 Finals, have overcome a bigger halftime deficit in NBA Finals history. After the Lakers won Game 5 in LA, the Celtics finished off the Lakers 131-92 back at Boston in Game 6, the largest margin of victory in a title clinching game in Finals history.
Fast-forwarding to Game 1 of the 2010 Finals this past Thursday night in LA, absolute NOTHING we saw reminded us the 2008 Finals. Kobe scored 30 points for the 11th time in his last 12 postseason games (added seven rebounds and six assists), the once 'soft' Gasol dominated play inside with 23 points and 14 rebounds (made 8-of-14 shots) and Bynum (while not 100 percent) played 28 minutes with 10 points and six rebounds. Artest, who in 2008 toiled for the Kings, scored 15 points and was able to guard Pierce for a good part of the game, giving Kobe a break from the defensive assignment which consumed him in the 2008 Finals.
As for Boston, the team which held LBJ and the Cavs to 86.7 PPG (on 38.9 percent shooting) in winning three consecutive games to clinch the semifinals plus humbled "Superman" and the red-hot Magic in the conference finals (Orlando entered its series with the Celtics on a 14-game winning streak while going 13-1 ATS), never seemed in the game defensively, physically or emotionally. LA led 84-64 at the end of the third quarter, outrebounding Boston 34-17 by that point. Despite just "playing out the string" in the fourth quarter, LA ended with 102 points, shot 48.7 percent and outscored Boston in the paint, 48-30.
Pierce scored 24 points (also had nine rebounds and four assists) but KG made just 7-of-16 shots for 16 points plus grabbed a Stoudemire-like four rebounds. In fact, Gasol's 14 rebounds equaled the total grabbed by KG (4), Rasheed (4), Perkins (3) and Davis (3). Ray Allen made just 3-of-8 shots for 12 points. He, Tony Allen and Pierce took turns trying guard Kobe and the three accumulated 14 fouls. Rondo had a line of 13-6-8 but hardly dominated the near 36-year-old Fisher, as many had predicted before the series started.
The Celtics and Lakers return to the court on Sunday night at 8:05 ET on ABC. Boston already faces this daunting stat. Phil Jackson coached teams are 47-0 all-time in playoff series after winning the first game, including 23-0 with the Lakers. If the Celtics lose Game 2, they will fall behind 0-2 and would have to overcome yet another daunting stat. Teams teams falling behind 0-2 in seven-game series have come back to win just 14 times in 233 previous tries (that's 6.0 percent!), including going 0-10 in the 2010 postseason.
Home teams opened the 2010 postseason doing very well. They went 32-13 SU (.711) in the first round, going 29-16 (64.4 percent) ATS. They opened 7-1 SU and 6-2 ATS in the second round but visiting teams finished the second round on an 8-2 SU and ATS run, leaving home teams just 9-9 SU and 8-10 ATS in second round play. Home teams finished the conference finals 8-4 SU and 7-5 ATS. The Lakers' win and cover in Game 1 leaves home teams 50-26 SU (.658) this postseason and 45-31 (59.2 percent) ATS. Game 1 stayed under for most players, leaving the current postseason with 36 overs, 37 unders and three pushes.
The Lakers are favored by six points in Game 1 (as of Friday night) and the total is 190. "Zig-Zaggers" will be on the Celtics, assuming they have any money left. Playing 'ON' the SU loser of the previous game left one 19-18 ATS after the first round (no harm, no foul). However, following the Zig Zag theory in the last two rounds has been a disaster, as it's gone 6-18! The record stands at 25-36 for the entire 2010 postseason to-date, or minus-14.5 net games (OUCH!). Of course, that doesn't mean taking the Celtics in Game 2 has no merit.
My Game 2 selection will be available by 12 noon ET on Saturday and my next playoff journal will be available at 3:00 ET on Monday.