For the Celtics, Game 1 of these 2010 NBA Finals was a mess. The negatives far outweighed the positives, leaving plenty of room for necessary improvement. Fortunately, the majority of what needed to be corrected heading into Game 2 actually was over the course of the game. In particular, these four differences (amongst others) stuck out the most:
Ray Allen: He has to be mentioned first, right? Without question, Ray was severely hindered by foul trouble in Game 1, and consequently bottled up a killer game inside, which he promptly unleashed mere minutes into Game 2. His first three-pointer of the evening came at the 6:47 mark of the first quarter, and this shot alone, after what took place in Game 1, called for a sigh of relief. But, as the game rolled on, that sigh of relief morphed into several utterances of "Wow" and "Woah", as Ray unleashed a torrid streak of three-pointers that threatened to leave the Lakers in ruins. He knocked down his first seven three-pointers of the first half, which actually tied an NBA Finals record for most three-pointers in a game, before appropriately breaking the record with his eighth three-pointer with 4:39 left in the third quarter. When it was all said and done, Ray played 44 minutes, poured in a game-high, series-high, and 2010 playoffs-high 32 points on 11-20 shooting from the field, 8-11 shooting from three-point nation, and 2-2 shooting from the free throw line.
So, let's compare games:
Ray Allen in Game 1: 27 minutes, 3-8 FG, (0-2 3-PT FG), (6-6 FT), 12 points
Ray Allen in Game 2: 44 minutes, 11-20 FG, (8-11 3-PT FG), (2-2 FT), 32 points
Yeah, I'd say there's a difference there. It was awesome watching Ray bury three-pointer after three-pointer. Mike Breen was running out of exclamation words to yell into the microphone whenever Ray hit a bucket. One can only say "Bang!" so many times.
Rajon Rondo/Ball Movement: If we're ranking the importance of individual performances in Game 2, Ray and Rondo probably tie, seeing as Rondo did his triple-double thing, finishing the game with 19 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. Overall, Rondo did a much better job of controlling the game's tempo and taking advantage of fast break opportunities. While at times he tried to do too much early on, such as attempting to finish every fast break by himself no matter how many Lakers stood in front of him, he eventually settled into a groove and began finding his teammates (Ray Allen in particular). Rondo didn't necessarily go looking for all of his 19 points last night, as he took advantage of either slick cuts to the basket or open spots along the wing (jump shot with 1:50 to play, I'm talking about you). One of his most important plays came with 3:21 to play as he snagged a shot of Perk's that was swatted by Gasol and laid it back in, giving Boston a 91-90 lead. It was his second straight bucket and the third and fourth points of a pivotal 8-0 run, which eventually found Boston up 97-90 with 1:12 remaining.
Rondo put up respectable numbers in Game 1 (13 points, six rebounds, eight assists), but was undoubtedly more aggressive in Game 2, and as mentioned before, did a much better job on controlling the tempo and the overall flow of his team's offense. It is possible in the NBA to post decent numbers but not actually have that much of an impact on the game. Such was the case for Rondo in Game 1, but he rectified the issue in Game 2.
Rondo recorded just two more assists compared to his Game 1 total, but the team's ball movement overall was much improved. Kevin Garnett didn't play a whole lot better compared to Game 1, but he did manage to hand out six assists, and Paul Pierce contributed four as well. On top of that, Ray and Perk combined for five total assists. Overall, the team generated 28 helpers (just 19 in Game 1) and knocked down 36 baskets (29 in Game 1), which means 77.7 percent of Boston's field goals last night were assisted. Seven of Ray's eight three-pointers were assisted, with five of them coming from the hands of Rondo.
Defense/Rebounding: Let's take a look at the numbers.
Lakers in Game 1: 37-76 FG (48.7 percent), 4-10 3 PT FG (40 percent), 24-31 FT (77.4 percent), 42 total rebounds, 12 offensive rebounds.
Lakers in Game 2: 29-71 FG (40.8 percent), 5-22 3 PT FG (22.7 percent), 31-41 FT (75.6 percent), 39 total rebounds, 10 offensive rebounds.
As you can see, LA went down in every single category listed. Pau Gasol still had a field day with 25 points, but grabbed five fewer total rebounds, as well as five fewer offensive rebounds. Game 1 was more or less defined by his insane number of putbacks and second chance points off of offensive rebounds, but he certainly had to work harder for his points last night.
The Lakers received an incredible boost on the offensive end from Andrew Bynum, who put in 21 points, which were actually needed, considering the team got next to nothing from Ron Artest. Artest made just one of 10 shots and scored six points, after posting 15 in Game 1. There was one sequence with Artest with a little over a minute to play where he took the ball from the top of the key, proceeded to drive into the paint, darted out to the left wing, before hoisting a desperation, leaning jumper as the shot clock was expiring, leaving you to wonder aloud: "What was that man thinking?" Fortunately, Kobe was there to bail him out with a deep three from the top. But seriously, what was Artest thinking?
Speaking of Kobe, he suffered, perhaps shockingly, from foul trouble himself, and was limited to just 34 minutes. As a result, he shot 8-20 from the field, including 2-7 from deep, and finished with just 21 points - a far cry from is 30-point outing in Game 1. While he still had his moments in the paint, Game 1 for him was defined by his mid-range game, which tore Boston's defense to shreds.
Transitioning back to the rebound department, Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis were crucial all evening. They each pulled down seven of their own, with five of Davis's coming on the offensive end. Wallace in particular, though, made a point to crash the boards early and often, and it showed, as, for one stretch early in the first half, it seemed like he was pulling down literally every single rebound for Boston. He's clearly still battling back issues, but he fought through them and put forth his best rebounding effort of the entire postseason. He continues to show up in these crucial games, as was promised. Boston was out-rebounded 42-31 in Game 1, and rebounded (literally and figuratively) in Game 2 to post a 44-39 edge on the glass.
Three-Point Shooting: This would be synonymous with Ray Allen had Rasheed Wallace, Rajon Rondo, and Nate Robinson each not contributed a shot from the nation. After suffering through a 1-10 outing from deep in Game 1, the C's responded in convincing fashion, shooting 11-16 in Game 2 (68.8 percent(!)). This marks the third time in these playoffs that the Celtics shot at least 53.3 percent from three in one game after shooting less than 20 percent in the game before. The C's have won important games without relying too much on the three-point shot, but last night, mainly due to Ray, we got a firsthand look at just how devastating the shot can be over the course of a game. Kudos to Nate for stepping into the fray to spell Rondo at the start of the fourth quarter, after having not played through the first three frames. He finished the night with seven points, and his three-pointer with 8:59 to play gave Boston an 81-80 lead at the time.
The Celtics didn't get carried away with shots from the nation last night, which is important, given the fact that some teams fall victim to being too reliant upon it, even when they aren't shooting a decent percentage over the course of a game. They road Ray's hot hand, but besides him, Boston's other three-point threats were rather conservative. Pierce didn't attempt any, Rondo and Robinson each attempted one, and Wallace attempted just three.
Keep an eye on these four factors as this series shifts back to Boston. If the Celtics can hold home court, they will win the 2010 NBA Championship.