Lots on the line tonight. For the Lakers, it’s a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead and for Orlando, an opportunity to put everything back to square one. There’s a lot to keep an eye on tonight. Things like, will the Lakers get Pau Gasol the ball in a position to shoot more often, or will Kobe the Closerreturn to form or continue to show signs of wall collision?
For the Magic, will Gina Incandela’s good luck continue because she’s singing the National Anthem again tonight? Speaking of Pau Gasol’s touches, will Dwight Howard get more than 10 shots tonight, something that hasn’t happened in the previous three games? Another key is the play of their guards. In the first two games, Mickael Pietrus and Rafer Alston were non-existent. This changed dramatically in Game 3 as Pietrus contributed 18 and Alston 21.
If the Magic want to tie this sucker up, a repeat performance from those two — or Courtney Lee — is in order.
While teams HAVE come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Playoffs before, most get the feeling that if Boston wins just one of these road games in LA, they’ll be in a great position to finish the job when they get back to Boston. That’s why I expect to see the Lakers come out with even more ferocity than they did in Game 3. However, if they only have two players in double-digits this time, they may not be so lucky as they were Tuesday night.
So besides Kobe, what else can we look for tonight. Well, there is one more Kobe item worth mentioning — you didn’t think he’d take Curt Schilling’s observations without responding did you? Thanks the LA Times, we now know what his response was:
I’m sure Bill Simmons is going to love Kobe even more after all that. OK, back to the other storylines: Rondo is going to play tonight, although, he might not be 100%. Kendrick Perkins explains what the University of Kentucky point guard means to the Celtics with an awesome double-negative:
“When he’s out of the game, we don’t have no kind of offensive rhythm.”
Apparently, Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers aren’t the only ones who think the Big Ticket needs to bring even more to the table against the Lakers. Dan Shaugnessy is looking for some nice, weak-interior-defense-attacking from the man who screams in Boston’s intro and there’s some truth to what he’s saying. I mean, KG, you do have Pau Gasol trying to guard you. How do you NOT attack the rim every chance you get?
As for the Lakers, who will be Robin to Kobe’s Batman tonight? Can we expect an encore performance from Sasha Vujacic or will Lamar Odom finally show his face? How about the aforementioned Gasol? In three games, he’s averaging 13.6 points, five points under his season average. Is this his night for a big game?
One of the greatest attributes of all great NBA players is the ability to make their teammates better. Be it with nice passes, strong floor leadership, or just plain drawing the attention of opposing defenses, the truly great NBA players are also the primary facilitators of their team’s success. The following video is a perfect example of these skills, on a just about all-in-one scale.
While everyone was focused on the pass — rightfully so — what stood out to me is how the defense reacts to Kobe when he has the ball and is in attack mode. With his nifty dribbling exhibition, Kobe draws the attention of three defenders, leaving his main target, Pau Gasol, WIDE OPEN to finish any pass he might receive.
Of course, with his typical flair, Kobe delivers a wrap-around pass that allows Gasol to dunk the ball while further demonstrating the ineptitude of Utah’s defense in the series thus far.