LONGSHOTS: Moods swing wildly in NBA finals
by Dave Long
We are in the midst of the 12th rendition of the Lakers and Celtics in the NBA Finals as I write this after Game 2. And nothing happened so far to change my opinion that a vast majority of the public has faster mood swings than uber L.A. fan Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
After Game 1 there was panic in the streets and local media, while the national media branded L.A. in control of the series thanks to the otherworldliness of his (or maybe itís their) highness Kobe Bryant and the superiority of their front court length. Kevin Garnett was old, Rajon Rondo totally under control with Kobe there to cover him and the Cís were in deeeeeeeep trouble. Three days later, after Rondo goes for a triple double, Ray Allen bombards the supposedly invincible Kobe-led D for 32 and KG emerges from the witness protection program during a 16-4 surge that ices the game, L.A. has coughed up home court advantage in a 103-94 loss and theyíre now in deeeeeeep trouble.
Accordingly the Lakers got scorched in the L.A. papers for their casual attitude and ďlack of killer instinctĒ ó all of which sounds a lot like what folks (especially me) have been saying about the Cís since Christmas (the last six weeks aside). Although goof ball LA Times writer T.J. Simers ó who must be related to Oliver Stone ó was trying to pass off a conspiracy theory that a fix was in from the league to insure a more lucrative six- or seven-game series. Thatís despite the entire Celtics front court being in foul trouble from the time KG went to the bench four minutes in and L.A. took 15 MORE foul shots than Boston. If thatís a fix, itís a pretty weird way to do it. But with logic like that now you know how Arnold got elected governor out there.
And as it all happens, fans on both coasts are as high as the Rockies one day, and out on the ledge ready to jump three days later. But I guess thatís what makes it all so much fun. The only thing to do is chuckle and risk another e-mail from my friend Mike Moffett telling me I should write more about MMA, by telling the Above-the-Tarrier-Line crowd their panic-induced mood swings might lessen with knowledge of, say, the Celtics Memorial Day Massacre of 1985, when after Game 1 the papers were calling Kareem ďolderĒ than theyíre now calling KG ó right before L.A. won four of five and he was named series MVP.
Itís hard to make a firm statement about where the series lies now, as Game 3 happens after I write this but before you see it. But there are things I can say about the current series, including:
KG Factor: While he was even worse in Game 2 than Game 1, at least until the final five minutes, Iím completely confident Garnett will be a big contributor in this series. And when you look back on the Game 3 box score, Iíll bet Iím already proved correct.
The Goat Improves: Having said that, there was no bigger card-carrying anti-Pao Gasol guy than me in 2008. But I said going in heís a lot better now and heís showing that to be true.
The Refs: Donít disagree they havenít been very good and have changed the complexion of both games by sending Ray Allen, all the Celtics bigs and Kobe to the pine with really iffy fouls, but itís had nothing to do with why the Game 1 and Game 2 were lost.
The Tuck Rule Revisited: No way Kobe pushed Rondo out of bounds for his fifth foul ó he should have gotten it for barreling into Rasheed Wallace after a strip and drive a bit earlier. True, Wallace was in the arc, but he was there when Kobe made the steal and had no time to get out. Which means if thatís a foul, all Kobe has to do is run into him on purpose. That rule is dumber than the Tuck Rule. And I say that with full knowledge that Super Bowl I doesnít come the Patriotsí way without it.
Kobe, Kobe Ė All the Time Kobe: By now you must know I think the public/media vastly overrates Kobe. Not that heís not really good, but just not that much, if at all, better than LeBron, D-Wade or Dwight Howard. And the way to deal with him is to cover him with one guy as he gets his and shut down the other guys as they did beating LeBron, D-Wade and Howard. No big secret.
Ray-Ray: Jeff Van Gundy was right ó Danny should sign Ray Allen for next year at half-time. After his 32 and 8 bombs in Game 2 itís icing on the cake to the obvious fact that at 34 heís still got game.
Yahoo L.A. Media: Hereís how the aforementioned Simers started Mondayís L.A. Times column: ďThe Celtics stink and their fans pretty much know it.Ē Heís either really thin-skinned after being bombarded by Boston e-mails or itís like Johny Most was reincarnated into the body of an L.A. reporter. WHAT a goober.
UnYahoo L.A. Media: But there was some objectivity the next day. The Timesí Mark Heisler had the best line in mocking his much-ballyhooed 47-0 series record when Phil Jacksonís team wins the opening game by writing, ďAnyone know what Doc Riversí record is in playoff series that are tied 1-1?Ē And Bill Planske gets points for saying L.A. lost by playing with a casual attitude (though Iíd disagree regarding their starting bigs) and that anyone blaming the refs for the loss was nuts.
Rondo the Jump Shooter: Donít know if itís just me, but there are two times when Rondo is about to take a jump shot, whether itís a three or from the elbow, that I know itís going in. The first is if the shot clock is about to expire. And second, while heís an improving trick-or-treat first-half shooter, when the shot really matters like his Jís in Game 2 vs. L.A. for the 95-90 lead and Game 2 vs. Orlando for the 93-90 lead that iced it. Not sure if heís just clutch, in the way DJ was, or if he forgets about everything else and just shoots it. But in those situations, heís money.
Final Word: Finally an allusion to my opening salvo about mood swings. Guess what ó neither is in trouble. Itís just a five-game series now with the Celts having home court advantage ó which theyíll lose and have to win another in L.A. Whoever plays best wins ó which I think will be Boston. I said Celts in six at the start and nothing has changed my mind. Especially after their winning Game 3.
Though Iím hoping itís five ó just to see what T.J. Simer has to say about that..
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.