As Spurs fans, we know the feeling when your team is about to give up a big lead. The lead would have been gotten through some sort of oddity, like unusually hot 3-point shooting, combined with poor defense. Once that well dries up, the team can't seem to score. Meanwhile, the other team hits two threes, to cut, say, a 23-point lead to 17. The players seem to have a nonchalant attitude like "no big deal, we're still up 17." They screw around more, get out of the offense, then you look up and the lead is at 11.
Fans and players start looking at the scoreboard, thinking "surely there's not enough time." But then you realize that there's something like 4 minutes left in the third, or ten in the fourth... plenty of time.
The thing is, the Lakers are even worse off than the Spurs in those situations. The Spurs can always get a good shot by throwing it in to Timmy and letting him go one on one or kick it out to a shooter. When things are going bad for us, Timmy misses the FTs, and the guys miss the open J's. The Lakers, on the other hand, don't have that kind of low post threat (Smeagasol doesn't count).
Instead, they get Odom driving wildly to the basket, and assorted other guys (Fisher, Vujacic) shooting contested jumpers, with Pau disappearing entirely. Then Kobe gets visibly upset with the lot of them and exaggeratedly claps his hands to call for the ball, and rolls his whole head (not just his eyes) if someone misses a shot after not passing to Kobe. Then Kobe goes into "Hero Mode" and shoots contested 20 foot jumpers. Against us, he made more than his share. Last night, not so much.
Each one of the Celtics' big three came up big last night. Throughout the game, the Celtics would cut the lead to 12 or so, but then LA would respond and push it back to 18-20. It looked like they would blow Boston out, but then either Allen (ugh) or KG would score a couple of baskets to keep Boston treading water when no one else could do anything. Then, at the end of the third, when the rest of the team (Posey, Eddie House) finally showed up, they started scoring points in bunches, and feeding off each other's energy and confidence.
I have to say that Paul Pierce was simply AWESOME on defense. Looking at him, you wouldn't think he'd have the quickness to stay with Bryant, and he really doesn't. But he's just quick enough, and he's so strong, and clever with his clutching and grabbing, that he can prevent Kobe from going around him easily. He has long arms and high shoulders (as Charley Rosen would say), so he plays taller than his listed height; he even blocked a Kobe jumper. And his effort was absolutely off the charts. He scored some points down the stretch, but his D on Kobe was absolutely game and series turning.
No TD in the Opening Scene?
The opening of the show is a cool montage of various Finals moments. They show Olajuwon, Bird, Magic, etc. They even show Ginobili vigorously pumping his fist while being hugged a little too closely by Sean Marks. But no TD? Come on, ABC, FOUR TIME CHAMPION Tim Duncan deserves better than that.
Rajon Rondo doesn't like needles
The commentators mentioned that Rondo had refused a cortisone shot for his ailing ankle because he was afraid of needles. WTF? Can't they knock him out by drugging his milk, BA Baracus from the A-Team, then shoot him up? I've had those shots, and they do help. I could see if he was worried about long-term health consequences, but if it's just some weird needle-phobia, you gotta take it for the team.
Vujacic-Sweep the Leg
There was a sequence where my two all time favorite players Ray Allen and Sasha Vujacic got tangled up on the floor. Allen tried to get up, and Vujacic wrapped his legs around Allen's ankle in some kind of MMA scissor maneuver. At least he got a foul called, but man, that's seriously bush league. Imagine if Bruce tried something like that.
Foul to Give
Doc Rivers made a big deal of the Celts having a foul to give with 1:44 left in the game. Then they fouled Kobe 6 seconds later, bleeding the clock ALL THE WAY DOWN to 1:38. I fail to grasp the strategic significance of that maneuver.
Doc's Pregame Speech
Speaking of our favorite ex-Spur commentator turned coach, in his pregame speech he instructed his team to focus on "winning." Umm, how about focusing on rebounding, or making the extra pass? How do you focus on winning-by visualizing the scoreboard with your team having a higher number?
Kobe's Lame Attempt
At the end of the game, with the Lakers down 5 and needing a 3, Kobe pulled up and shot an incredibly difficult fadeaway with a toe on the line. Watching real time, he appeared to have been fouled, but when they showed the replay, it was clear there was no contact at all. Nevertheless, Kobe pulled the arm flail / scissor kick stunt that he used to clock Manu in the beak last year. I respect Kobe's game, but that was beyond weak.
So What's Next for Game 5?
It's hard to say. Boston has generally seemed tougher, hungrier, more physical. I'm going to go out on a limb, though, and guess we'll see a large FT disparity in game 5 favoring the Lakers. I don't think the Lakers will have a psychological issue overcoming the blown lead, but the real issue is having lost a game they should have won. I see them winning game 5, but losing fairly convincingly in game 6 to end the series.