NBA Finals - Game 5
Sunday, June 13, 2010
TV: ABC; Radio: WEEI
Venue: TD Garden
Officials: Joe Crawford, Mike Callahan, Derrick Stafford
The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers clash in a pivotal Game 5, in an effort to assume control of the 2010 NBA Finals.
Facing a 2-1 series deficit in Game 4, and trailing by two points heading into the fourth quarter, Boston received a colossal boost from its bench, led by the two man tandem of Glen Davis and Nate Robinson, who combined for 15 of Boston's 36 fourth quarter points.
Now, the two teams meet tonight in Game 5, each aiming to take a crucial 3-2 series lead, so as to have two chances to close out its opponent when the series shifts back to Los Angeles on Tuesday.
A relatively large question mark for Los Angeles, both literally and figuratively, is the status of its starting center, Andrew Bynum. Bynum, who's battling a partial tear in his right meniscus, was limited to just 12 minutes of action in Game 4, and produced a mere two points and three rebounds. Lamar Odom, another question mark for LA (and not due to health-related issues), took the brunt of Bynum's minutes and only mustered 10 points and seven rebounds in 39 minutes, while getting thoroughly owned by Davis in that fourth quarter. Bynum had his knee drained for a second time, and pronounced himself good to go for Game 5. Still, despite the confidence he's portraying in the media, one has to question how effective he will be once the action gets under way. When Bynum is in, the Celtics would be wise to push the tempo, which should take Bynum, and possibly another Laker or two, out of the picture for LA from a defensive standpoint. And when on defense themselves, the Celtics need to play Bynum in a physical manner, not in an attempt to cause further damage to the knee, but to exploit his weakness and create an increased level of discomfort.
The officials will hopefully allow such a strategy, as they eased up on the whistles in Game 4. There were only 44 total fouls called in Game 4, compared to 47 in Game 3, 58 in Game 2, and 54 in Game 1. For what seemed like the first time this series, the officials weren't stealing headlines after Game 4, and that wasn't just because they were overshadowed by the antics of Davis and Robinson.
Keys to the Game:
Rebounding: The team that has won the rebounding column has won each game in this series. In Game 1, LA took control of the boards, 42-31. In Game 2, it was Boston with the 44-39 edge on the glass. In Game 3, the Lakers were back on the offensive, as they out-rebounded the Celtics 43-35. And in Game 4, LA mustered just 34 rebounds, compared to Boston's 41. Through the first three games of this series, Bynum was accounting for 7.3 rebounds per game, and without that sustained presence on the glass, LA could really struggle in its attempts to come out on top in this statistical area. Pau Gasol, who hauled in 14 rebounds in Game 1, has been held to eight, 10, and six rebounds in the three games since, and his highest total of offensive rebounds since pulling down eight in Game 1 has been the three he brought in during Game 2.
Grit: It's a simple, one-syllable word, yet it holds a particular weight in this series. So far, it seems as though whichever team has been the grittier of the two has won the game. Whichever team has exhibited the most hustle has seemed to emerge victorious. This hasn't been a particularly glamorous NBA Finals, but is instead steadily morphing into a tough-it-out slug fest. Hey, it doesn't have to be pretty. It just has to work.
Still Waiting on the Big Three: If you're a Celtics fan looking for an excuse to be optimistic, consider this: While each of the "Big Three" has submitted a somewhat substantial game in this series (Ray Allen's 32 in Game 2, Kevin Garnett's 25 in Game 3, Paul Pierce's 19 in Game 4, including that clutch fadeaway in the final minutes), they have yet to click on all cylinders with each other during one single game, which is not the typical norm. And because it's not the norm, one would assume that what tends to typically unfold will eventually do so. The trio of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen have each been hindered by foul trouble in at least one of the first four games, which has no doubt contributed to their respective woes. However, if the 44 fouls in Game 4 are any indication, then perhaps the refs will continue to hold back on the unnecessary whistles and allow these grown men to play a free-flowing game of basketball. If that is indeed the case tonight, then maybe, just maybe, Pierce, Garnett, and Allen can all work themselves onto the same page and work cohesively with their other partner in crime, Rajon Rondo.
Rondo: Speaking of Rondo, he played just 31 minutes in Game 4, largely due to a lack of playing time in the fourth quarter because of the success of Boston's bench. Still, he handed out a playoff-low three assists in Game 4 and shot just 5-15 from the field. He's reached double-digits in assists just one time in this series (10 in Game 2), but has still done a fair job of managing the team's tempo in both of Boston's wins. His assist totals have no doubt been hindered by the inconsistencies of Pierce, Garnett, and Allen on the offensive end. Take Game 3, for example, in which Allen missed all 13 of his field goal attempts. Rondo finished the night with eight assists, yet if Ray hits just two of the shots that came off of Rondo passes, the Celtics most likely win that game, and Rondo ends up with 10+ in the assist column. The four stars are undoubtedly dependent on one another, as Allen, Pierce, and Garnett are often at their best when they are effectively set up by Rondo's passing, and Rondo's own production, particularly in assists, skyrockets when his Hall of Fame targets are knocking down their shots.
As always, Let's Go Celtics. Let's get this one tonight.