Thanks to some big plays down the stretch by both Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest, the Lakers were able to sneak out of Boston with a 90-89 victory over the fierce rival Boston Celtics. With under a minute to play Ron Artest makes a tough basket going to the rim with 2 defenders in his face, then follows it up with a solid defensive stance against Paul Pierce by drawing a charge. The very next possession Kobe Bryant with Ray Allen all over him manages to hit a touch fadeway from the free throw line with 7.3 seconds left in the game. Kobe providing game winning shot heroics yet again. This time against the hated team in green. Let me point out a few things that I thought were huge for the Lakers.
1. Dominance Inside by Andrew Bynum
Bynum played well. Now i’m not the typical Laker fan who jumps all over the “Bynum” thing whenever he manages to play a descent game. But for the first time since before his injury last season, Andrew Bynum actually gave the Lakers the dominance inside on both ends of the court that they needed. He matched the physical play of Perkins and Garnett inside, something the Laker big men have always had a hard time doing.
I thought the key point in the game for Bynum was during the first quarter, after KG hit a jumper over him and start barking at him all the way back down the floor. Bynum with KG defending him, caught the ball in the post, went left towards the middle, and jammed the ball right over KG posterizing him. It showed the Celtic bigs that Bynum was going to be a beast to contend with all night!
2. Physicality and Toughness of Ron Artest
More and more I am being convinced that the whole Ron Artest over Trevor Ariza thing is starting to work out. From the very beginning of the game you could see that Ron Artest was ready to play and not be pushed around. He got into a little tussle with Pierce right before tip-off, layed out KG as Garnett was trying to run back down the floor, and ultimately pestered Paul Pierce all night long not allowing him to make any kind of real impact on the game. Even though he only had 11 points in his 31 minutes of play, he came up with a couple big buckets in the 4th quarter to keep the Lakers in the game. It looks like Ron Ron is starting to get healthy after all.
3. The Lakers are the more Physical Team
Who would have thought we would ever say this? But it’s clear now after watching today’s “beatdown in beantown” that the Lakers are the tougher more physical team. They may not do as much talking as the Celtics do, but when push comes to shove the Lakers seem to have the mental and physical toughness it takes to consistently win close games on the road. The Lakers size and strength inside with Bynum, Gasol, Odom, and Artest pushed Boston around inside all night long. And when the game was on the line, the hobbled and injured Kobe Bryant found a way to win the game for his team in the end.
There is One Negative From This Game!
Not all is positive for the Lakers after watching this game. After the Lakers built a 30-17 lead late in the 1st quarter, they watched that lead squander thanks to the play of Celtics PG Rajon Rondo. The Lakers had no answer to Rondo in this game. He drove to the basket at will and made play after play building a 10 point lead for the Celtics going into the 4th quarter. Is Rondo a fantastic player? Yes! But this issue of the Lakers being able to defend and compete at the PG position is more evident than ever.
If they Lakers want to win a championship this season, they first need to stay healthy. But even more important is the fact that they need more help at the PG position, particularly on the defensive side of things. Hopefully Laker GM Mitch Kupchak will see what we all witnessed today and make that Kirk Heinrich move that is being discussed. Otherwise it could be a shortened Playoff stint this year!