With three games in the can, we’ve already witnessed just about every possible matchup and almost every possible adjustment and counter-adjustment. Although the Lakers now lead two games to one, the series remains up for grabs, and there are multiple questions still to be answered:
Will Ron Artest ever make another jumper? Did Ray Allen shoot himself out in Game 2? Has Lamar Odom permanently emerged from his coma? Can Kevin Garnett continue to travel back to the future?
Even so, there are several more aspects inherent in this series that have already been definitively decided.
Ray Allen has quick hands on defense and knows how to crowd Kobe Bryant, but Allen’s lateral movement is quicker going to his left than to his right. This means that Kobe has a relatively easy time getting good looks against Allen by dribbling to his left and then pulling.
Tony Allen, however, sits on Bryant’s left hand, thereby controlling which way Kobe can drive and allowing the Celtics to pinpoint where their help spots will be.
Also, T. Allen has the strength, quickness and desire to hamper Kobe nearly as effectively as James Posey used to do. But T. Allen’s inept jumper means that his playing time must necessarily be limited.
Rasheed Wallace can just about negate Pau Gasol’s low-post offense. He’s even more effective in defense of Bynum.
Rajon Rondo must be constantly aggressive with the ball in order for Boston to win.
Furthermore, Rondo’s tendency to play matador defense and then try to snipe at the ball from behind is paying diminishing dividends.
Both Andrew Bynum and Kendrick Perkins are so slow off their feet that even guards can block their put-back attempts.
When both Kobe and Gasol are on the bench, L.A.’s offense stalls and makes the second unit incapable of sustaining whatever lead they might have inherited.
Glen Davis does more for Boston than Perkins.
The refs are usually correct in their identifying and penalizing moving screens, but for the most part it’s absolutely unnecessary for the guilty screeners to have illegally moved to begin with.
By hooking the screen, throwing his body into the bigger screener, and then flopping, Derek Fisher has mastered the art of making every screen placed in his path appear to be a moving one.
Because of the Celtics’ specialized defensive tactics, they either win outright or steal every jump ball.
Boston must improve its off-the-ball interior defense. Too many Lakers are either cutting unopposed along the baseline or making uncontested dive cuts.
Davis takes so long to maneuver for his shot in the low post that he’s extremely vulnerable to having his dribble stolen.
L.A.’s bigs are so intent on providing help when R. Allen dashes around baseline screens that they lose contact with the screener. Two-step cuts and easy passes result in too many layups.
Artest can indeed limit the offensive production of Paul Pierce.
When Pierce and R. Allen are shooting blanks, the Celtics are losers.
Derek Fisher is a winner.
Boston must develop an effective strategy for handling the screens that Kobe sets for Fisher.
For someone who’s supposed to be such a terrific passer, Luke Walton is befuddled by the speed and precision of Boston’s defense, and winds up making bad passes while he’s in the air.
The Lakers consistently get into trouble when their triangle straight-lines and too many players either try to go one-on-one, or settle for long jumpers.
Too often, the Lakers become bystanders as they wait to be bailed out by another Kobe miracle in clutch situations.
Garnett had a super Game 3. Yet, because he needs so much time and space to get his shots off in the low post, the Lakers can double him for profit in the endgame.
No matter who might be guarding him, Kobe can be counted on to unleash at least five bad shots per game.
Used to be that only the best refs worked the Finals. These days even mediocre guys get a shot at the bonus money. And it’s easy to tell the difference.
Here’s a suggestion to help minimize the damage caused by so many blown calls: Institute the no-foul-out rule that was used in the CBA.
In this scenario, a coach can elect to keep a player in the game after he commits his sixth foul. However, every subsequent foul on that player results in an extra free-throw attempt by a player chosen by the opposing team.
I know from experience that playing a guy who’s used his normal limit is a risky move in close games. But to use him or not becomes part of a coach’s endgame strategy.
Anything is better than having the misguided calls of inferior officials having an unholy effect on such high-level championship competition.