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The Series Shifts to LA for Game 3


Boston Celtics (2-0, 14-8) at   Los Angeles Lakers (0-2, 12-5)
NBA Finals Game 3 
Tuesday, June 10
9:00 PM ET
Staples Center

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The series now shifts to the Staples Center for game 3.  The Celtics are up 2-0 and are looking to get at least one game in LA.   The Lakers are tough in their house and so far, haven't lost there in these playoffs.   The Celtics struggled on the road in the first two series, but won 2 of their last 3 games in Detroit and closed out the Eastern Conference Finals on the road. 
The early road losses were due to a lack of focus on the Celtics part and a failure to play defense.  During their series with Detroit, they seemed to have solved their focus problem on the road and hopefully will bring their focus and defense with them to LA. 
The story after game 2 was Phil Jackson's complaining about the officiating.  The Celtics need to be ready for a large number of fouls to go against them tonight.   They have proved in the earlier series that they can play 5 on 8 and still win so hopefully that will continue in this series.  Defense is still the key to this series and if the Celtics bring theirs, they should have a good chance to win this game. 

Probable Starters
PG:  Rajon Rondo vs Derek Fisher
SG:  Ray Allen vs Kobe Bryant
SF:  Paul Pierce  vs  Lamar Odom
PF:  Kevin Garnett vs Vladimir Radmanovic
C:   Kendrick Perkins vs Pau Gasol 

Celtics Injuries
Scott Pollard, ankle, out
Paul Pierce, knee, will play
Kendrick Perkins, ankle, will play
Sam Cassell, wrist, day to day

Lakers  Injuries
Andrew Bynum, knee, out
Trevor Ariza, foot, day to day
Derek Fisher, partial tear in right foot tendon, will play
Kobe Bryant, torn ligament in finger, will play

Key Matchups
Rajon Rondo vs Derek Fisher
In games 1 and 2, Rondo out played Fisher on both ends of the court.  He used his speed to get past Fisher and set up the offense.    His 16 assists were the most for any player in the Finals since Magic  Johnson had 20 back in 1991.  In spite of Fisher's 3 rings and playoffs experience, Rondo has out played him.  The Celtics will need more of the same aggressive play in game 3 if the Celtics expect to win.  He can't be tentative because the Celtics depend on his aggressiveness to set the tone for the entire team. 

Paul Pierce vs Lamar Odom
Paul Pierce has been huge for the Celtics in both games 1 and 2 in spite of the knee injury.  He is now going home and loves playing in LA.  I expect him to play even better in the games in the Staples Center.    Although by position he is matched up with Odom, he will probably be once again matched with Radmanovic who can't stay with him.  The Celtics are going to need the Captain to take control and be the go to guy in this game. 

Honorable Mention
Ray Allen vs Kobe Bryant
So far, Ray has done a good job on Kobe defensively.  He has held Kobe to 20-49 shooting in the first two contests.  At the same time, Ray has averaged a respectable 18 points a game.   The Celtics need Ray to continue to play solid defense on Kobe and also to take his shot when it is there to make Kobe work on defense as well. 

Keys to the Game
Play 48 Minutes   The Celtics were up 24 points when they inexplicably stopped playing defense and let the Lakers climb back to within 2 points.  They can't depend on having a 24 point cushion in LA and can't afford to let up against a team that is as offensively potent as the Lakers.   The Celtics must come out strong to start and keep up the aggressiveness until the final buzzer.  Every Lakers' possession must be met with swarming defense.  Every offensive possession must result in a good shot.  The Celtics must not let their focus waiver.  They are too close to the championship now to play any way but all out for 48 minutes. 

Defense Defense wins championships.  The Celtics have the best defense in the  league and the Lakers don't.  When the Lakers came back from that 24 point deficit, it was because the Celtics lost their defensive focus and let them back in.  The Celtics must play their swarming defense from the opening tip until the final buzzer sounds.  When the Celtics lost games on the road early in the playoffs it was because they suddenly forgot how to play defense.   Defense isn't easy and it takes effort, but it is what will win these guys their rings and so they must play it on every trip down the floor.  If they do, the Celtics will win. 

Rebound  The Celtics have held the rebounding edge in games 1 and 2, but just barely in game 2 as the Lakers made a concerted effort to crash the boards.  They are going to be even more aggressive going after the boards in game 3 and the Celtics must match that intensity and crash the boards, not allowing any easy put backs for the Lakers. 

Ball Movement  When the Celtics move the ball and find the open man, they are virtually unstoppable on offense.  In game 2, they had 31 assists on 36 field goals.  They are going to need to continue that ball movement and unselfish play in game 3. 

Take Care of the Ball  Careless turnovers have hurt the Celtics in the first two games.  They must take better care of the ball and not make sloppy and careless passes.  Limiting turnovers will go a long way to helping them win on the road.   

Bench Play   In spite of all the "experts" declaring the Lakers' bench superior to the Celtics bench before the series, the Celtics bench has outplayed the Lakers bench in both games.   In game 1 it was PJ Brown coming up big for the Celtics.  In game 2, it was Leon Powe.  It is certain that Leon won't sneak up on them again.   The Celtics will need  solid play from their bench if they want to win on the road.  Who will step up in this game?  PJ or Leon again?  Or, maybe Posey or House.  But the Celtics need the bench to produce and so far they have.

Officiating  With Phil Jackson and Kobe complaining so much about the refs, will the refs give the Lakers all the calls and limit the Celtics by calling them for ticky tack fouls?  Or will they call the game  evenly in spite of Phil's incessant whining?  If the Celtics get a fair shake from the refs, they can win it.
Officials for tonight's game are Joey Crawford, Bennett Salvatore and Mark Wunderlich.  In case you forgot, Salvatore is the ref who made that horrible call on Pierce in game 6 of the Pistons series.  

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