LOS ANGELES - To say that the Lakers were stunned by the manner of their defeat tonight would be a major understatement. But it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Celtics - contrary to the pre-Finals projections - are the superior team. Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are creating too many matchup problems, their defensive tenacity is exceptional, and on nights like tonight, when their subs spread the floor, they are very difficult to defeat.
The Lakers just aren't getting consistent enough scoring from their second and third options, and those defensive breakdowns tonight were crippling. (see the Ray Allen-Sasha Vujacic sequence).
I thought Kevin Garnett had a very interesting observation. He suggested the Lakers blew their huge lead partly because they began relying too much on Kobe Bryant. "If you've paid attention to them at all," said Garnett, "usually the first half is team ball, second half is usually when Kobe takes over the games. They weren' t nearly as aggressive as they were in the first half. It just looks like they wanted to get the ball to Kobe and let him sort of finish it off. It didn't really look cohesive."
Good news for the Celtics
The stats indicate that, for the Celtics to lose this best-of-seven series after claiming a 3-1 lead, it would take a collapse of epic proportions. The team leading 3-1 has claimed the championship every time.
But you would never know the C's were this close to another title based on Danny Ainge's demeanor. The Celtics' general manager calmly strolled the hallway outside the visitors locker room after the game, pausing to chat with reporters. It's hard to believe that, a year ago, his team was rebuilding and his longime star Paul Pierce increasingly restless. that's one of the unique aspects of the NBA. Once in a while, a franchise is transformed almost over night. Or in this case, in one offseason.