Links: Finals Game 1.5!

by Lang Whitaker

After the Lakers beat the Celtics on Thursday night, we all began playing Game 1.5. At least, that’s what it feels like. It’s 72 hours of talking, talking and talking, about what went right and what went wrong, and why it went right and why it went wrong, and how it could go right or wrong in Game 2. It’s tiresome to everyone, from the fans to the coaches to the players. But it’s there, and we don’t have any choice. We avoid it entirely, or we put our heads down and plow right through it.

So let’s plow through. Here are some notes from the last two days…

• I thought the Lakers might be able to overcome Boston’s sticky halfcourt defense by throwing the triangle offense at them, but then L.A. ended up mostly just using pick-and-rolls and still shredding Boston. To Boston’s credit, the Lakers were never able to quite put them away, despite most of the Celtics being in foul trouble the entire night. I picked L.A. to win, in five games, because I thought they’ve just got too much pace for Boston to keep up with, and they definitely seemed like the livelier team in Game 1.

• On Friday, Bynum said that the Celts would probably come out really focused and playing harder than in Game 1 because going down 2-0 would be “catastrophical.” Which isn’t actually a word, though it is probably accurate right now.

• The theme Kendrick Perkins and Rasheed Wallace hit on over and over the last few days was “effort.” Actually, Perk mentioned that Doc Rivers had been hammering “effort” ever since the end of Game 1, and Sheed was resolute that, more than anything else, it was the lack of effort from Boston that doomed them in Game 1. I asked Rasheed how Boston could improve upon their effort in Game 2. “Play harder,” he said. Well, of course.

• One way of judging Boston’s effort in Game 2 will be to watch their rebounding. Perk said “rebounding is all effort,” which might go a ways toward explaining why the Celtics were out-rebounded 42-31 in Game 1. KG said, “If you’re rebounding, then it cuts down a lot of the second-chance points. When you’re not rebounding you’ve just got to basically make your shots or they’re getting a rebound. All those things are detail things that don’t show up necessarily on the stat sheet — the hustle, the 50/50 game. Those are very, very, very important parts of the game which make up the outcome.”

• Bynum talked a lot at Friday’s practice about how the Lakers are trying to defend Boston, which begins with stopping Rondo. Bynum said they tried not to commit too early when Rondo drove, because they knew as soon as they leapt to defend a shot, Rondo would dish to a cutting big man. So Bynum stressed L.A.’s commitment to staying on the ground as Rondo drives, maybe even not jumping and making Rondo just shoot over them. Bynum added that not over-committing can be, for him at least, a form of self-preservation. “A lot of times, I get in foul trouble when I jump straight up but other guys crash into me, so if I can stay down I can hopefully stay on the floor.”

Bynum also noted that if the Lakers had been bothered before by playing against top-notch point guards, they’ve basically received a crash course in defending them this post-season, playing, in order, against Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams, Steve Nash and now Rondo.

• Phil Jackson on the tight refereeing in Game 1 (54 fouls called, 67 free throws shot): “I thought that the onset of the game created kind of a warning level for the referees who then called the game very close and very tight. You know, some of the things were just post-up opportunities that guys got called on, which normally in this game probably wouldn’t be called. But because of the contact in the early part of the game, I think that that was the reason they might have been called. So I think that’s not going to be the normal activity. No one wants to see a team shoot 67 free throws in a ballgame, but that’s still part of the game, and that’s the process you have to adjust to the game as the game goes on, to how the game is being refereed, and we tell players that consistently, that you have to play beyond the refereeing, not above it or whatever, but just beyond it. Just play beyond it.”

• Later, Ron Artest on the officiating in Game 1: “If both teams complain, I guess it’s fair.”

• At practice on Friday, Kendrick Perkins said that in an effort to keep from getting a technical foul in Game 1, he’d altered his pregame routine and skipped listening to his regular pre-game music (which he said included Bun B) and instead listened to some R&B. it worked, but maybe too well (he finished with 8 points and 3 boards). He said he’s going back to the hard stuff for Game 2.

• At Lakers practice on Saturday, I intended to talk to several Lakers, but I began at Ron Artest’s station and couldn’t pull myself away. Ron is just so open and so, well, literal, that he’s must-listen during media time.

— At Saturday’s practice, someone asked Ron if he had anything in his life he’d like to do-over, anything he regretted. He hemmed and hawed for a few seconds, then said that he’d once forgotten his wife’s anniversary and he’d like a do-over on that.

— After two or three basketball questions, someone said they were going to ask Ron about his music career and forthcoming album. Ron said he wanted to talk about basketball, but added, “Not to get too much off-topic, the album…it’s kind of hot.”

— Asked about his offensive game, Ron said, “Offense is kind of like the lottery for me. Whatever happens, happens.” He paused briefly, glanced around and said, “Does that make sense? Is that a good comparison?”

— Asked who he’d like to play Ron Artest in a movie about his life: “I guess Will Smith, because he plays basketball. Or maybe I could play myself, because I’d like to get paid.” Ron, can you act? “No.” Michael Lee pointed out that Ron did some acting in a Toni Braxton video. “That wasn’t acting, that was real.”

— Later, asked about music again, Artest said he would like to talk about 1940’s music. “1940s music…y’all should listen to it.” I asked him for some of his favorite artists from the 1940’s. “Dorsey [Tommy, presumably]…Glen Miller…Fats Waller.” Ron said he likes the ’40s music because it’s the basis of the music we hear today. “That’s where music started. Now it’s 2010. We have autotune.”

— At one point, grasping for a maxim, Ron wondered aloud, “What do they say…time…time…” A few members of the media said in unison: “Time heals all wounds?” Ron responded, “I guess so.”

— “I’m getting older now…not quite Jay-Z’s age, but…you know, 30 is the new 20.”

• After practice today, Marcel and I decided to hit Roscoe’s, where Marcel had never before been. We drove over to one location that turned out to be closed for the day for a special event, so we instead went over to the Hollywood location. We found a parking spot on the street a block or so away and went to feed the meter, but realized we didn’t have any change. There was an hour time limit, though we didn’t think we’d need longer than an hour anyway, and it would take one dollar in change to park for an hour. So I walked into a liquor store around the corner and asked for change for a dollar.

“Is it for the parking meter?” the cashier asked.

“Yeah,” I said.

He pointed to the parking lot out in front of the liquor store and said, “Would you want to park out here? I’ll let you park here for five dollars.”

I’m not great at math, yet even to me that didn’t make a lot of sense.

“But it’s only one dollar to park on the street,” I said.

With a sad look on his face, the man handed over four quarters.

• Friday afternoon, following practice and a visit with my part-time brothers over at NBA TV, I finally accomplished something I’ve been trying to do forever. I’ve been to sports events at stadiums all over the world, from Yankee Stadium to Old Trafford, from Wrigley Field to the new Cowboy Stadium to the Maracana. Yet even though I’ve been to Los Angeles maybe a dozen times in the last decade, I’d never made it to Dodger Stadium. And this weekend, it just so happened that the Dodgers were hosting my Atlanta Braves.

I realized a couple of weeks ago that there was a pretty good possibility the Finals would bump into the Braves visit out here, so I’d already emailed Kevin Arnovitz from True Hoop, a native ATLien transplanted to L.A. with Dodger season tickets, to set up a trip. As it turns out, Kevin lives right up the hill from Dodger Stadium, so I went over and met Kevin and we walked over to the Stadium. It was a gorgeous L.A. night, maybe 70 degrees, and the palm trees in the outfield made for a spectacular backdrop. x2_18777a8The Braves lost, 5-4, and my man Jason Heyward had the worst game of his career thus far (0-5 with 5 K’s!), but the whole experience was great I can’t complain.

After the game, even though I’d polished off a famous Dodger dog during the game, Kevin stopped at a taco truck in Lincoln Heights, where I put a pretty awesome cap on a great California day. Tacos al pastor FTW.

• Game 2 tips tomorrow night at 8:00 PM East Coast time, 5:00 PM West Coast time. Your man Marcel Mutoni will be doing our liveblog here on SLAMonline, and I’ll be tweeting away on the @slamonline account. Please join us. Should be fun.

• Finally, on Thursday night, just before Game 1, word started circulating among media members that John Wooden had been hospitalized in grave condition. Friday night during the Dodger game, I saw people on Twitter noting that Wooden had passed away. Shortly after, the news was broken to the crowd at Dodger Stadium by the legendary Vin Scully via this video that was shown on the scoreboard…

When Scully got to the part about being “blessed by his life,” everyone in the stadium rose to our feet in a mixture of applause and tears. It was one of the most powerful, moving, emotional moments I’ve ever been a part of at a sports event.

To quote Vin Scully quoting Shakespeare by way of Julius Caesar, “His life was gentle and the elements so mixed in him, that nature might stand up and say to all the world, this was a man!”

Rest in peace, Coach.