Pau Gasol may not have the force or vast defensive impact of Dwight Howard, but his Game 1 performance provided a convincing case that Gasol is one of the best all-around bigs in the game.
Put him in the high post, and he set up plays for his teammates while pulling Kevin Garnett away from the basket. Put him in the low post, and he backed down KG and Rasheed Wallace while drop-stepping his way to glory. Flip to the other side of the court and Gasol was providing exquisite help on Boston’s perimeter players (note his end-of-shot-clock block of Ray Allen on a pick-and-roll switch) while also staying home on Garnett and helping around the rim.
Then, there’s the doozie: eight offensive rebounds, which matched the Celtics’ team total. Those extra possessions are back-breakers for a quality defensive team, and near the top of the list of explanations for Boston’s Game 1 loss.
However, just as pertinent is a question posed by Arnovitz regarding his play in these playoffs juxtaposed with his 2008 run:
On Thursday night in Game 1, the Lakers dominated the Celtics in the
paint (48-30) and in second chance points (16-0). Kevin Garnett, often
regarded as the paragon of intensity, spent most of his evening
confined to the perimeter. Meanwhile Gasol set up shop at the elbow
and, when he wanted to, down on the low block. Should we ascribe
Gasol’s success to toughness, or is it the fluency that comes with
applying that varied skill set over and over and over again for more
than 28 months in a system that runs on trust and precision?
NBA finals, Lakers Celtics: L.A. made statistical anomalies look easy in Game 1
Even if the Laker lead in Game 1 never got completely out of hand, there’s no question that Los Angeles was in control. L.A. was in sync both offensively and defensively, and their offensive balance and defensive resistance offered the Celtics a challenge they’ve rarely faced in these playoffs.
It was a bit odd to see a Boston team that has fared so well throughout this postseason give way to L.A. in so many different regards, but that was the story of the finals’ opening game. Zach Lowe of CelticsHub broke down some of the Lakers’ triumphs in greater statistical detail:
It’s a recipe for disaster: giving up a good shooting percentage and allowing
a lot of offensive rebounds. In Game 1, the Lakers shot 48.7 percent from
the floor and rebounded 12 of their 39 misses–an offensive rebounding
rate of about 31 percent. To put that in perspective, only two teams
recorded offensive rebounding rates of better than 30 percent this season–Memphis (31.3) and Detroit (30.3).
So Boston, an elite defense, allowed Los Angeles to shoot well and
dominate the offensive glass. A good team can win when allowing one of
those things to happen, but not both.
How rarely do teams pull off this dubious double against Boston? [It’s only been done in] 24 games out of 304–or about 8 percent of all Celtics
games over the last three seasons. And as you can see, Boston is now
6-18 in those 24 games.
The Los Angeles Lakers accomplished something unusual last night in
decimating Boston’s defense with their shooting and their rebounding,
with much of the latter built on aggressive dribble penetration from
Kobe, Jordan Farmar and others.
That’s quite a high mark for the Lakers to set from the opening tip, with Boston’s biggest concern perhaps being that L.A.’s performance seems replicable. No one Laker really stepped outside themselves for Game 1, but their ball movement, penetration, rebounding efforts, and shooting were enough to dismiss the Celtics with relative ease. Boston is a good enough team that we shouldn’t expect it to be that way in every game of this series, but their defense will have to refocus and improve from this Game 1 slip.
NBA finals, Lakers Celtics Game One: Kobe can play a little defense, too