LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 06: Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics reacts in the first half against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Two of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 6, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

We Have A Series! Rondo And Allen Star, Celtics Top The Lakers, 103-94, In Game 2

The Celtics aren't used to being on the wrong side of history, but after losing Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Boston had to overcome one of the most daunting streaks in the NBA to win another championship. And Sunday night, they got off to a good start, beating the Lakers, 103-94, to pull even in the NBA Finals before both teams head back to Boston for the next three. Be sure to check out our Lakers blog, Silver Screen and Roll, and our Celtics blog, the appropriately-named CelticsBlog for further reaction.

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Celtics-Lakers, Game 2: Four Differences Between Game 1 And Game 2

Over at SB Nation's Celtics Blog, the fans are soaking in the joy of renewed hope for a title. But what happened last night to set them apart? There were four differences, according to Celtics Blog. Here's the first:

Rajon Rondo/Ball Movement: If we're ranking the importance of individual performances in Game 2, Ray and Rondo probably tie, seeing as Rondo did his triple-double thing, finishing the game with 19 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. Overall, Rondo did a much better job of controlling the game's tempo and taking advantage of fast break opportunities. While at times he tried to do too much early on, such as attempting to finish every fast break by himself no matter how many Lakers stood in front of him, he eventually settled into a groove and began finding his teammates (Ray Allen in particular). Rondo didn't necessarily go looking for all of his 19 points last night, as he took advantage of either slick cuts to the basket or open spots along the wing (jump shot with 1:50 to play, I'm talking about you). One of his most important plays came with 3:21 to play as he snagged a shot of Perk's that was swatted by Gasol and laid it back in, giving Boston a 91-90 lead. It was his second straight bucket and the third and fourth points of a pivotal 8-0 run, which eventually found Boston up 97-90 with 1:12 remaining. 

Rondo put up respectable numbers in Game 1 (13 points, six rebounds, eight assists), but was undoubtedly more aggressive in Game 2, and as mentioned before, did a much better job on controlling the tempo and the overall flow of his team's offense. It is possible in the NBA to post decent numbers but not actually have that much of an impact on the game. Such was the case for Rondo in Game 1, but he rectified the issue in Game 2.

Rondo recorded just two more assists compared to his Game 1 total, but the team's ball movement overall was much improved. Kevin Garnett didn't play a whole lot better compared to Game 1, but he did manage to hand out six assists, and Paul Pierce contributed four as well. On top of that, Ray and Perk combined for five total assists. Overall, the team generated 28 helpers (just 19 in Game 1) and knocked down 36 baskets (29 in Game 1), which means 77.7 percent of Boston's field goals last night were assisted. Seven of Ray's eight three-pointers were assisted, with five of them coming from the hands of Rondo.

For the other three differences, and plenty more analysis, head over to Celtics Blog.

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Lakers-Celtics, Game 2: Did The Officiating Cost L.A. The Game?

Well, it wasn't the greatest night to be a Laker. On the brink of taking full control of the series, L.A. fans now find their favorite team in a dogfight, and many of those fans will cite the officiating in Game 2 as cause for uproar. What about those officials? Did they cost the Lakers the game? Dexter Fishmore, of SB Nation's Lakers blog, Silver Screen and Roll, takes a look:

Between now and Game Three, Lakerdom will be aflame with complaints about the officiating. Some of them are more justified than others. At least one of the fouls on Kobe, a charging call toward the end of the first half, was a fairly obvious flop by Ray. That sucked, but it's not like no one on the Lakers has ever flopped for a call. It was a bad whistle, the ref should've got it right, but there were dodgy foul calls that went the Lakers' way as well. On the night the Lakers enjoyed a gargantuan (41 to 26) free-throw advantage that would have us bitching up a storm if the numbers were reversed.

What's a bit more hard to stomach was an out-of-bounds call that awarded possession to Boston with 1:59 to play and the Lakers down three. Replays showed unambiguously that Garnett last touched the ball, but the refs failed to reverse the initial call despite consulting those exact replays. I honestly have no idea what they thought they were seeing.

Would getting that call right have changed the outcome of the game? Maybe, maybe not. Rondo finished that possession with a made 20-foot jumper that stretched the lead to five. That's a significant difference with so little time on the clock. On the other hand, the Laker offense was truly a hot, nasty mess in those final minutes. It's very possible they'd have botched things anyway.

And all in all, it's certainly true that the Lakers had a number of calls go against them. By the same token, the Celtics came through in the clutch, and the Lakers, regardless of officiating, did not.

Be sure to check out Silver Screen and Roll for more analysis of last night's loss and the series going forward.

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With Backs Against The Wall, Rondo And Ray Respond, Boston Evens The Series

The Boston Celtics knew they needed to win Game 2 to have a shot in this series. The Lakers knew that if they won Game 2, Boston didn't have a shot in this series. Simple as that.

Both teams needed this game, but Boston needed it more, and it showed. Ray Allen was magnificent in the first half, Rajon Rondo was brilliant down the stretch in the fourth quarter, and just like that, the NBA Finals is tied 1-1 for the first time since 2004. Ray Allen did his best MJ-impersonation in the first half, shoulder-shrugging his way through a jaw-dropping display, hitting 7-8 three-pointers to carry the offense for Boston. And then, when things got tight in the fourth quarter and everybody expected Kobe to assert himself, it was Rajon Rondo that stole the show.

With the Lakers up three with 5:58 to go, Rondo knifed through the lane for a lay-up. Kobe answered with dead-on fadeaway jumper. On the next possession, another lay-up from Rondo to bring the Celtics within one. Then, another lay-up to put Boston up one. Sensing a theme?

The backbreaker came a few minutes later, when Rondo, infamous for his shaky jumpshot, stepped up to nail a 20-footer to put Boston up five, giving the Celtics control that they'd never relinquish. Game over. The Lakers fought hard 'till the very end, though. Even after the game had been decided, L.A. was chasing loose balls and attacking, almost saying, "You won this battle, but the war's not over."

And the Celtics, challenging every shot and chasing loose balls just the same, said right back: "We know. And we're ready for a fight." This is the series we expected the past few weeks.

Now that the Celtics have evened the series, we can say for certain, it's not over. And with the series headed back to Boston, the intrigue really begins. Can the Lakers respond on the road? And Ray Allen can't possibly match tonight's output again, can he? Can the Lakers find a way to contain Rondo, who finished with a triple double Sunday night? All things to talk about.

But most important, with a win tonight, the Celtics ensured we'll be talking about the NBA Finals for at least the next week. It's not over by a long shot. The good stuff is just beginning...

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Lakers-Celtics, Game 2: A Thought Before The Home Stretch

We're about to hit the final minutes of a pivotal Game 2. It's a three-point Boston lead at this point, and if the Celtics win, we head back to Boston and it's anybody's series. If the Lakers win, they put themselves in prime position to win a second-straight title. Those are the stakes, and both teams have responded accordingly, trading big shots for the entire second half. Back-and-forth they've gone, exchanging leads, with role players like Nate Robinson stepping up early in the fourth, and Kobe and Ray Allen are looming as our designated assassins down the stretch.

Does it get much better than this for basketball fans?

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Almost time for the final minutes now. Let's gooooooooooooooo.

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NBA Finals, Game 2: Foul Trouble?! We're Talking About Foul Trouble

It's odd. In Game 1, the whistle-happy refs were nothing short of atrocious and sabotaged the game's entertainment value. Now, in Game 2, the refs aren't as bad, but... Well, Boston's in trouble right now.

Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace, and Glen "Big Baby" Davis all have four fouls with a little more than four minutes to go the third quarter. It's never fun to see the refs decide a game, so let's hope I'm wrong, but... This could become relevant later.

For the Lakers, Kobe Bryant has four fouls, but as Mark Jackson pointed out, it's one of the great luxuries of having Pau Gasol: When Kobe sits down, the Lakers still have a first option.

When Perkins, Garnett, Wallace, and Big Baby are all in foul trouble? Well, the Celtics' interior defense gets A LOT more vulnerable. Something to keep an eye on.

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Ray Allen Vs. Kobe Bryant In The NBA Finals? Not Going As The Lakers Expected

In case you may have forgotten, there's some history to this Lakers-Celtics matchup. Of course, some of that history has nothing to do with the Lakers and Celtics. Ray Allen and Kobe Bryant just don't like each other that much. Or, at one point, they hated each other. You'll recall the NBA feuds article, where Allen had this to say about Kobe:

"He feels like he needs to show the league ... that he is better without Shaq, that he can win without Shaq," Allen said. "That he can still average 30 points and he can still carry the load on this team. The point production is not so much what people will look at, because McGrady did it in Orlando and Allen did it in Philly. But can you win championships? Can he make everybody better?

Fast-forward to 2010, and even though Kobe and Ray Allen are said to have buried the hatchet, you'd have to think to that tonight's game might reignite the tension. As I type this, Kobe Bryant just isolated on Ray Allen, Allen flopped, and Kobe picked up his third foul.

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Oh, and on the other end, Ray Allen's 7-8 from three with 27 points. COT DAMN.

Again, the tension with Kobe has supposedly subsided, but Ray Allen is DOMINATING.

If this keeps up, just remember: Kobe Bean's a vindictive little bastard, and he won't standby idly while Jesus Shuttlesworth runs roughshod over his team. Which brings me to Chappelle's Show... Right now, Ray Allen's in L.A.'s home, and he's got his feet all over the white uniforms, their home court, and their white couch. This has been Ray Allen in the first half:

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And while we're on the subject of Chappelle's Show... Ask yourself: Is Wayne Brady going to have to choke a b**ch? Is Ray Allen going to have to mess around and drop 50 tonight? 

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Lakers-Celtics, Game 2: Quick Fouls For KG, Pau Rolling Early

It's Sunday night, Game 2, and we're coming to you live from my living room! About twenty minutes ago, it was decided that I'd be live-blogging the action tonight... And really, the whole series comes down to tonight. As I said in my gigantic NBA Finals Preview, it all comes back to the home court format:

Just remember these five, simple points:

  1. The 2-3-2 series means Boston has to win three straight games at home in order to hold serve.
  2. That's incredibly difficult, and pretty unlikely.
  3. So, Boston's probably going to need to win two games in Los Angeles.
  4. If they lose Game 1, Boston faces a do-or-die game in the second game of the series.

Now, we're here. The Lakers took Game 1, and tonight, they can take the Celtics' heart with a second win, putting themselves in the driver's seat for the rest of the series. 

So far, the Celtics aren't going down quietly. Rajon Rondo has been great pushing the ball in transition--something that was noticeably absent in Game 1--and just as important, Ray Allen's back to playing assassin from long range. If the Celtics are going to win, they need Rondo to be better, and a big game from either Paul Pierce or Ray Allen. So far, so good.

As for L.A... After Kevin Garnett went out with two quick fouls, Pau Gasol has been excellent, picking up where he left off in Game 1. He's got 9 points so far, and offered some superb insight into being Kobe's teammate:

On playing with Kobe: "We can feel, taste, and smell his desire."

Really Pau? Taste his desire?

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Ahhh, yes. Mr. Gasol: Putting the PAU in "pause" since 2001...

One more thing: So far the Celtics have hit 3-4 from beyond the arc, and have a 7-point lead. That's not a coincidence. The hidden subplot from Game 1 was how thoroughly dominant the Laker big men were on defense. Basically, they shut down Boston's inside scoring entirely, and while that probably won't last, it's pretty clear that if the Celtics are going to win, they'll need to get hot from the perimeter. Glen Davis, Kendrick Perkins, and KG's corpse are not going to get it done consistently on the inside.

...But can Paul Pierce and Ray Allen do it on the outside? They did in the first quarter and the C's lead by 9 at the break. We'll be back with more later on... Stay tuned, ya heard?

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Lakers Blog: Step It Up, Odom!

Our Lakers blog, Silver Screen and Roll, takes a look at Sunday night's Game 2 match-up with the Celtics. Saurav A. Das notes that coach Phil Jackson has taken a 1-0 lead in 47 series, and he has proceeded to win all 47 of them. He says that the Lakers don't have to worry about making too many adjustments, but that Lamar Odom needs to step it up...

He needs to play better, full stop. I don't even remember his fouls, but offensively he was atrocious. He hung around passively on the perimeter, and did not once exploit his significant speed advantage that he had over every single Celtic big man, instead taking pull-up jumpers or passing off passively. He took 6 shots in 26 foul-plagued minutes, and 2 of them were pull-up threes. One third of his shots were threes (bad ones at that), and he's a power forward who's shooting 27% from deep for the Playoffs. He also only garnered 4 boards, a mediocre number for him, and had 2 turnovers in just 26 minutes, compared to 1 assist. On the court, he lacked any aggression whatsoever, seemingly lacking a presence of mind.

...and that the Lakers need to stop giving the ball away.

Offensively, they need to watch turnovers. That was the sole reason their lead at the half was only 9. While they finished the game with only 12 turnovers, the majority of those came in the first half and showed how they could negatively impact us.

Confidence abounds over at Silver Screen and Roll. Head over there to read the rest of their preview.

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Celtics-Lakers, Game 2: Lakers Have Home Court, History On Their Side

Preview courtesy of Sports Network.

The Boston Celtics aren't used to being on the wrong side of history but after losing Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, the C's will have to overcome one of the most daunting streaks in league annals if they hope to win a record 18th championship.

The Los Angeles Lakers are nearly unbeatable when winning Game 1 of a playoff series, holding a 59-7 mark in such scenarios. Even more staggering, their head coach Phil Jackson, has never lost a postseason set when his team takes Game 1, holding a mind-blowing 47-0 mark.

The Celtics hope to take the first step in halting that impressive run when Game 2 of the finals tips off tonight from Staples Center in Los Angeles, where the Lakers have won 12 straight playoff games.

Kobe Bryant's 30-point, seven-rebound, six- assist performance was a near afterthought to his strong defensive effort as the Lakers suffocated the Celtics, 102-89, in Game 1.

"We just want to win the series," Bryant said. "We have to be ready for their adjustments in Game 2."

Bryant hounded Boston point guard Rajon Rondo and his highlight-reel block of Tony Allen in the third quarter was part of a spurt that pushed Los Angeles' edge as high as 20 by the end of that frame.

"You don't want to overcommit too much, but it's a full-time job because he's very smart," Bryant said of guarding Rondo, who was spectacular against Orlando in the Eastern Conference finals. "He gets after it quite a bit. It takes a great deal of energy and effort to key in on him."

Paul Pierce led Boston with 24 points, Kevin Garnett added 16 and Rondo registered 13 points and eight assists. Pierce passed Tom Heinsohn for seventh on the Celtics' all-time playoff scoring list in defeat.

"I thought they were by far the more physical team, they were more aggressive. I thought they attacked us the entire night," said Boston head coach Doc Rivers. "Our defense was horrible."

Pau Gasol added 23 points and 14 rebounds, Ron Artest chipped in with 15 points and Andrew Bynum, a question mark entering this series, not only started but was effective with 10 points and six rebounds while playing over 28 minutes. Bynum had fluid drained from his right knee earlier in the week.

"I'm going to play no matter what," Bynum said. "I've made that decision already. It's important for me especially to go out and get easy buckets for us and just protect our rotation and really understand how I can hurt this team going out and getting easy buckets. Defensively taking up space, clogging the lane and being able to help out like that."

The Celtics will need to find a way to deal with Bryant on both ends of the floor if they hope to get back in the set. Rondo especially will have to find a way to combat Bryant's length.

"He's a good defensive player," Rondo said. " We all knew that. He did a great job on me. A lot of what they do on both ends keys off Kobe."

Boston must also deal with the impending loss of lead assistant Tom Thibodeau, who accepted a three-year deal to coach the Chicago Bulls on Saturday. The Chicago Tribune reported that the hire will be made official following the conclusion of the finals.

"It won't have an impact," Rivers said. "Right now we're focused on basketball. I can't confirm it. I hope it's true, but we're not going to comment on it, I can tell you that. We're focused on the NBA Finals. There's two teams. There's the Lakers and the Celtics, and that's what we're going to keep the focus on."

The 2010 NBA Finals marks the Lakers' 31st trip to the championship series and Boston's 21st appearance with 12 of those overlapping in clashes between the NBA's two most storied franchises.

Their finals history dates all the way back to the 1958-59 season when the Lakers still called Minneapolis home. Boston and the game's ultimate winner, Bill Russell, dominated the early years of the rivalry. The Red Auerbach-era Celtics took the Lakers all seven times they met in the finals, although the Jerry West, Elgin Baylor fueled LA clubs did manage to take Boston to seven games on three different occasions.

The rivalry lay dormant for 15 years until Larry Bird and Magic Johnson "saved" the NBA by bringing their own storied college rivalry to the pros. Bird avenged his loss at Indiana State to Magic's Michigan State Spartans in the 1979 NCAA Finals when the Celtics got past the Lakers in seven games to win the 1983-84 NBA title.

Johnson and his Lakers responded the next season as LA finally beat Boston in the finals for the first time. Magic also won the rubber match two years later before the rivalry went cold again, this time for 20 years as the Celtics struggled mightily in the post-Bird era.

Boston basketball chief Danny Ainge re-ignited things by acquiring both Garnett and Ray Allen before the 2007-08 season. The two All-Stars teamed with Pierce to create the "Boston Three Party" and the Celtics were relevant again. A 17th Boston championship was the result as Garnett and his Celtics got the best of Bryant's Lakers.

A rematch could have been in the offing last season but a knee injury to Garnett derailed any hopes of a Celtics repeat. Instead, LA earned its 15th championship by taking Orlando in five games.

The Lakers and Celtics have combined to win 32 of the NBA's 63 titles coming into this series.

Game 3 of this best-of-seven series is scheduled for Tuesday in Boston.

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