Thursday, June 3, 2010

NBA Finals Game 1 Recap: We Won't Back Down

Walking into this game, we know that any Phil Jackson-coached team that goes up 1-0 in a Playoffs series is undefeated. The record is 47-0. I find it unlikely that the Celtics will upset this historic stat, but you can't count them out.

Of course, being a fan of the Lakers (and casually rooting for the Yankees) also gives me a year-round excuse to heckle any Boston teams. Rivalries are a beautiful thing. (When it comes to Argentinean soccer -- a.k.a. futbol, a.k.a. "fulbo" -- I'm a Boca fan. River Plate knows what's up.) Deep down, I respect worthy adversaries. I think any fan with a true passion for the game would agree with that sentiment -- unless of course the game is in play. That's when the fists come out. This is why I was rooting for the Celtics all along. This is why I'm glad to see them in the Finals. This is why I'll ultimately be pleased to see my team come out on top.

Game 1 of the NBA Finals was just about as good as it gets, with exception to some ticky-tack fouls called (I'm looking at you Joe Crawford). The Lakers clearly came out with more energy, tenacity and hunger than the Celtics. Somehow though, the Cs managed to keep the game tight -- until the Lake Show kicked the door down in the 3rd quarter to take a twenty point lead.

Two players impressed me most tonight: Pau Gasol and Ron Artest. Sure Kobe was his ol' self -- hats off to the MVP, again and again -- but Pau and Ron really demonstrated their intentions to prove themselves in this championship series. Pau, who was lambasted by many back in 2008 for being a featherweight, exploded with fierceness and an eagerness to defend and score. Dropping 23 points on 57% shooting, Pau managed to grab fourteen boards, and pick up three steals and blocks. Most importantly, he made Kevin Garnett a non-factor in this game. The Celtics were once known as the "bigger" team. Not any more! This was best demonstrated by a jump ball that took place between Pau and Nate Robinson. Yeah. A jump ball between 7'0" Pau Gasol and 5'9" Nate Robinson. Story of the night. Simply too PAUerful. See what I did there?

Next up: Ron Artest. Ron has never been to the NBA Finals before. He is the newest member of our team and is the only player without a ring. Obviously he doesn't want to be the loner in that regard for much longer. Artest brought his A-game D tonight, even as early as just 27 seconds into the game when he scuffled with Paul Pierce to earn a double technical. He made a few risky defensive attempts early on but wisened up as the game progressed. I was also impressed by his patient shot selection. Say Queensbridge.

It's too early to call the Lakers a sure shot. They showed momentary lapses in strength tonight, especially during the fourth quarter. They can not, I repeat CAN NOT, lose game 2. That game will most likely decide the fate of the series. This is one of the reasons why I think the 2-3-2 Finals schedule is bogus. I'd much rather have the games go 2-2-1-1-1 like they used to be. If you think about it, the 2-3-2 layout doesn't really help the team with home court advantage that much. To some extent, you might even say it's to their detriment. If the HCA team loses one of their first two home games, the opposing team has the opportunity to wrap the series up at their home court in game 5. On the flipside, if the HCA team wins both of their home games and picks up one away game, they've still got to wait 'til game 6 to get back to friendly territory to end the series. The earliest point at which the HCA team can win at home is game 6. The earliest point at which the other team can wrap a series up at home is game 4 or 5. I've been saying this for years. Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy chimed along to the argument tonight. But whatever man, I'm not making any excuses. The Lakers made me proud tonight. Realistically I see us winning it in 6 or 7. Word to Deep Cover: "I can feeeel it." Dr. Dre keeps the heads ringing. The Lakers are just keeping the rings. Get ready to clear out Figueroa Street!