In Game 4 the Lakers and Celtics added another memorable chapter to their storied rivalry. It began much like Game 3, with the Celtics struggling on offense. But this time, Boston did what they’ve done all season – they bounced back.
Led by their bench, the Celts erupted in the fourth quarter. Paul Pierce had one of his better playoff games. Tony Allen was sound and solid on the defensive end and did a great job guarding Kobe. Glen Davis and Nate Robinson were superb off the bench, boosting the offense and energizing the defense. Big Baby played with force and with passion. He was in the zone and on a mission, racking up 18 points in 22 minutes. Meanwhile his accomplice Robinson put pressure on the defense while firing up his teammates and the crowd. Everybody on the bench had an impact.
The NBA Finals are now tied at two games apiece heading into Game 5. The time off between Game 4 and Game 5 will be beneficial to both teams. Phil Jackson questioned whether Kobe was fatigued at the end of Game 4 and whether he finished the way he is normally capable of finishing. The Celtics starting five also appeared fatigued as the energy and hustle factors were primarily in favor of the reserves. Hopefully after having a couple days off to rest up both teams will come back with the energy and legs to play an outstanding Game 5.
Though the Celtics demonstrated toughness and determination in Game 4, for Boston to come back and take the next one against the Lakers it’s going to take more than just one of The Big Three or two of the The Big Four to do it. The Celtics haven’t been able to put three guys having a good game together on the same night. They’ve always been missing a key component. One guy will have a big night but the other two starters will have a bad game, and the next night somebody else will step up. So it’s been a lack of consistent play from the players that they really count on that has made a big difference in each game. Boston needs energy and productivity from the first unit.
At the same time you have to give a lot of the credit to the Lakers defense for causing them problems on offense. Artest for example, has done a solid job controlling Pierce. But they need to do a better job rebounding – Boston pulled down twice as many offensive boards in the last game. Controlling Rondo will also be key because if they can’t control him off the dribble, he’s going to penetrate and create opportunities. At the same time if they put Kobe on him to try and chain him, Kobe may use up so much energy that he winds up losing steam come crunch time.
With fresher legs Boston is going to try to up the tempo of the game once again. In Game 4 the Celtics had 15 fast-break points and the Lakers only had 2. So Boston will elevate the tempo of the game to get more transition opportunities. In their favor, they had a 54-34 advantage when it came to points in the paint, so they were +20 – that’s a huge differential. That’s fast break layups, offensive rebounds, drives to the basket – Boston did a great job there. And again Boston will have to dominate the glass.
For the Lakers, Gasol will also need more touches and more shot opportunities. But the big question is whether Bynum will be able to play and if so for how long? They really missed Bynum the last game. That’s why the points in the paint situation was the way it was. That second big man factor that Bynum along with Gasol provides for the Lakers was not there. They drained Bynum’s knee after Game 4 and he’s had almost 72 hours to recuperate. There’s a gamble here – the long-term effect on Bynum’s knee if they do wind up playing him. But without him they’re not the same on the interior. And obviously if Bynum doesn’t play, Odom moves into the starting lineup which weakens the Laker bench so it’s a trickle down effect.