It's a few minutes before tip-off. I'm going to be doing a phone interview for the first quarter probably, which is just as well, but I'll have the vcr running. What's the key? A neophyte would say: who scores the most points. And in this case, that's right on more than the smart alecky level. Whoever shoots better has the advantage, because both teams like to score in transition after missed shots, especially the Celtics. If they get easy baskets at the beginning, it could be a long night. If the Lakers come out strong, and successfully go inside, it will be a long night for the Celtics.
First quarter: With a minute left, it's the Lakers worst nightmare--they have only 14 points, and sure enough they are shooting poorly and the Celtics are scoring in transition. It looks ugly.
Second quarter: Lakers got back into it with a 9-0 run but lost the momentum. Gasol does not look good. They really need to take the lead into the locker room for halftime.
Halftime: Lakers down six. An absolute nightmare first half, shooting under 30%, with Bryant and Gasol especially shooting poorly. Ron Artest is all that kept them in the game, but at this point, even 6 points can be deceptive. The energy it takes to keep coming back tends to flag, and big leads ensue. Unless the Lakers turn this game completely around in the third quarter, they could see themselves losing by 20.
Their only consolation: they couldn't have a worse half than what they just played. But as bad as they were, they have to be proportionately as good to win this game. Even though this is a defensive struggle, they will have to shoot at least 50% in the second half to win this, while keeping Boston below 50%. A very tall order, considering their energy level in the first half.
There is a whole lot at stake in the next half of basketball, if you believe Bill Plaschke, who writes that this Lakers team will be kept together if it wins, and will be torn apart if it loses, and further, that this could be Kobe Bryant's last chance to be in contention for the NBA championship.
Third quarter: Lakers come out looking dazed, without energy. They look done. This is starting to look like game 5. I can't watch.
As the Celtics build a double digit lead, the one play I glimpsed tells me that this game could live in infamy for the Lakers, because they don't look like they're competing. Standing around and watching. Pathetic.
Monitoring rather than watching: midway in the third quarter the Lakers have made a little run, and are again down 6. Cameras sweep the stands to focus on celebrity actors--actors are paid to transmit emotion through their bodies and eyes. You can see nothing but pain and anxiety in their eyes now.
Lakers pick it up to end the third quarter down 3. They look to be outhustling the Celtics at last. The stage is set.
Fourth quarter: Both teams battling. Lakers get close but can't get over the hump. Story so far is Bryant continues to shoot poorly. Lakers down by 4 at first time-out.
The subtext here is coaching. Is Doc Rivers outcoaching Phil Jackson and the Lakers staff? In this game as in several previous, he seems to have made adjustments the Lakers didn't anticipate, or at least can't counter. If the Celtics hang on to win, there's going to be a lot of sentiment that he did in fact outcoach arguably the greatest NBA coach ever. Who is once again contemplating retirement.
Lakers tie it up with 7 minutes to go, and could take the lead but Gasol misses two free throws. Another turning point missed--the narrative so far.
Derek Fisher--who else?-- hits a 3 and ties it again. Time out.
Kobe Bryant--who else?--hit a jumper and the Lakers are up 4, with 5:41 to go.
Lakers went up by six and looked to extend but faltered, and now are up by just 3 with under 4 minutes to go. Their defense is the best it's been but the Celtics are still getting key shots. If the Lakers had hit their normal percentage of foul shots, they'd been up comfortably. But even Bryant is off. This one's going down to the final seconds.
Gasol's shot puts the Lakers up 6 with a minute and a half to go, or, an eternity.
Game over: Lakers by 4. Defense and clutch free throws win it. In the end it was will. The Celtics were tremendous, but the Lakers are NBA champs.
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