By John Carroll, Scouts Inc.
The Lakers won Game 3 of the NBA Finals because of the offensive and defensive contributions of Derek Fisher. Fisher defended Ray Allen and held him to only two points for the game. Allen shot 0-for-13 from the field after burning the Celtics for 32 points in Game 2. Offensively, Fisher scored 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter. He made tough, timely shots with the game on the line to help his team win maybe the most pivotal game in this series.
Fisher is a journeyman player who has been written off many times before. He is the leader of the Lakers on and off the court. He runs the team, operates the offense, instructs the young players, and is the only Laker with the cache to deal with Kobe Byrant. Bryant and Pau Gasol are the two best players on the Laker roster, but Tuesday night Fisher put the Lakers up 2-1 in this series.
The Celtics have been one of the most inconsistent teams in the NBA this season. Unfortunately, their inconsistency is killing them in the Finals. They have played up and down in the first three games, both individually and as a team. The Celtics have been unable to get more than one of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Allen to have a good game on the same night -- Allen was the star of Game 2 but non-existent in Games 1 and 3, Pierce has struggled in the last two games and Garnett came up big in Game 3 but struggled in the first two games.
Game 4 Adjustments
The Celtics held the Lakers to 91 points and that should have gotten them a win in Game 3. Their dilemma is finding consistent offense. They have gotten inconsistent play from perimeter players Pierce and Allen in the first three games. Pierce has now had two poor games back to back. He is being hounded by a stronger, more-physical Ron Artest, whose Artest’s primary goal is to shut down Pierce.
Allen was spectacular in Game 2 but forgettable in Games 1 and 3. Fisher got into his body, limited his options only allowing off screens and contested his shots. Allen appeared to be flat on many of his shots, a sure sign of fatigue.
Garnett provided the C’s with a big lift in Game 3 with 25 points on 11-for-16 shooting from the field. When he faced up Gasol and attacked his body, he had success versus his length. But Garnett will need to provide the Celtics with a consistent inside scoring threat as this series progresses. In order for the Celtics to win this series they will need Rajon Rondo to push the ball on every possession, get into the paint and create for himself and others. Then the C’s must get two of their three superstars to play well together in Game 4.
The Celtics need to take care of the ball and make free throws to win games in this series. These two teams are very evenly matched and the C’s did not help themselves with fourth-quarter turnovers. They had only four turnovers going into the four quarter when they proceeded to turn it over six times.
Additionally, the Celtics shot 24 free throws for the game, the same number as the Lakers. But The C’s shot 16-for-24 (67 percent) while the Lakers shot 21-for-24 ( 87 percent). In a close series, turnovers and free throws can be the difference between success and failure.
The Celtics must also continue to get significant contributions from their bench the rest of this series. The Celtics bench was one of the most important reasons why the Celtics got back in last night’s game in the third quarter. The Celtics’ bench combined for 26 points, but it was Glen Davis and Tony Allen who led the way. Davis brought energy, scoring (12 points) and rebounding. Allen brought defense, scoring (seven points) and toughness. He defended Kobe Bryant, got up underneath him and made him work for every shot and basket. Kobe scored 29 points on 29 shots and a lot of his problems were caused by Allen.
Offensively, the Lakers got themselves in trouble in the second half and it almost cost them the game. They consistently over-dribbled the ball and lacked movement within their triangle offense. They scored 52 points in the first half then got bogged down in the third and fourth quarters with poor movement of the ball, standing around and low shot-clock situations. The Celtics are having a tough time stopping the Lakers when they move the ball, move themselves and utilize their big men on a consistent basis.
Gasol is shooting almost 62 percent for the entire series, and the Lakers do not give him enough touches; Tuesday night he only had 11 field goal attempts. The Lakers need to run more offense through Gasol and make sure he gets a high number of touches. Gasol is a matchup nightmare for the Celtics because of his size, length and skill. He can shoot, post or faceup to score. He has gotten the entire Celtic frontline in foul trouble, and it is imperative that the Lakers get him the ball early and often in Game 4.
Kobe needs to become more efficient as this series wears on. The Celtics’ game plan to limit his scoring has worked very well. Ray and Tony Allen have made it difficult for him to get to his sweet spots and the Celtics are providing a ton of support for them and making it tough to get into the paint.
Lamar Odom has always been the key to the Lakers’ success. Bryant is the best player in the NBA, but Odom may be the most important player to the Lakers winning the Finals. When he plays well, the Lakers win. When he plays well, it seems to trigger the entire Lakers bench. L.A. got a nice performance from Odom in Game 3. He score 12 points, grabbed five rebounds and played without getting into heavy foul problems. If Odom can play more consistently in Boston the Lakers may be able to steal another game on the Celtics’ home court.
Prediction: Celtics win Game 4