Heir'z Corner: Boston Piss Party
Not even the most descriptive words you can find in the dictionary could describe how frustrating it was to lose to Boston in the Finals last season. Not just the fact that we lost to green, but the way that we lost. Blowing a 24 point lead at home was painful, but I think we all knew deep down after watching Game 5 that we wouldn't win that series. Then once the players took the floor for Game 6, you just got this uneasy feeling like you knew Boston was ready to take what was theirs in front of the home crowd and we wouldn't be ready for the assault they were about to give us. During halftime all I could do was listen to music so I could drown out the analysts ripping into the way we played, the second half was much of the same. I couldn't feel anything but pain, disappointment, and anger every 5 minutes when I glanced up at the screen to see the score. As tough as those memories are to digest, they're exactly what need to be fresh in the minds of the players if we're going to come out on top this time around. When we beat them Christmas Day, it was obvious that there were a lot of differences between both teams. So if we do face them again, expect the final result to be much different.
Reason #1: Gain vs. Loss- Posey's influence made that one dramatic difference that Boston needed. His performance in Game 4 ultimately sealed our fate and gave Boston all the confidence they needed to take the title home. It kind of makes you wonder if we were to play that series over and have the Ariza we have now, would Posey still have the same impact. Ariza does for us what Posey did for them. Trev would've embraced the challenge of disrupting Posey's freelance play and extra activity after whistles. We may never know, but what we do know is that Ariza is healthy this year and Boston no longer possesses Posey. In other words, they had that extra guy who came in and played hard and did all the dirty work, which was something we lacked. This time, it's flopped.
Reason #2: Luke Moving Into Starting Lineup- Going into the series last season, the Laker Nation (not the site, but yeah) was pretty much split on Vlad guarding Pierce. One half thought he had the potential to do a respectable job because of his size, while the other half thought he had a better chance of becoming a rocket scientist. Me? I agreed with the first batch, but of course we all know Pierce ended up winning Finals MVP. This time around, however, Luke will be starting instead of Vlad. The move will pay dividends for our team not just offensively, but defensively as well. Luke will never be the quickest guy on the court no matter who you play him with, but he has an above average IQ that makes him at least respectable given his physical tools. Pierce isn't even that quick off the dribble and Luke cut him off a few times on Christmas. He forced him to take jumpers while leaving just enough airspace to contest the shot. If I remember correctly, Luke even blocked one of his jumpers in the Finals. As far as offense, Luke's presence makes us even more potent. Vlad just provides outside relief, he plays off of the stars when they get double teamed. Luke is the exact opposite, in a way our stars play off of him because he sets them up beautifully. It's dead obvious we're a more dangerous offensive team on offense with Luke playing the three, but it helps our defense on Pierce also. Why? Since Vlad stayed mostly on the perimeter that gave Pierce head starts in the open court if Vlad missed a shot, but when Luke is actually involved in the offense he's playing in the post, which means Pierce won't be able to run the floor as much, which of course would affect Boston's transition game. Even if Luke does struggle trying to defend Pierce we still have Ariza and Kobe as backup plans A and B.
Reason Number #3: Bynum's Return- Just the simple fact that AB is back is reason enough to think we can take Boston down. In all honesty, I was surprised more people weren't worried about how our front line of Pau and LO would match up against Perkins and KG. Perkins was a wide and physical body, Pau was frail and shied away from contact. KG was a motivated DPOY hungry for his first ring, Lamar was injured and fatigued. But now that we have another 7 footer to throw around in the paint, that influences the game a lot differently. The only big body we had coming off the bench in the Finals was Ronny, this year we've got LO, Powell, and Pau can play center. At the same time, though, Bynum being back does us no good if he doesn't make Boston feel his wrath. It's not as simple as going out and playing, he has to remember that this is the team that bullied us horribly in the paint and it's his job to not only make sure it doesn't happen again, but that we do it to them ten times worse than they did it to us. I'm not entirely sure if it would be a good idea to play him on KG since with a body like that, it might be a lot wiser if he stayed around the basket for rebounds. KG's underrated at taking the ball to the rack and Bynum's foot speed wouldn't be able to handle it. Call me crazy, but I actually think Powell could do a decent job on KG if we played him during short stretches. Throwing a multitude of different looks at a player like Garnett could throw him off and of course it’s pretty easy to get underneath his skin. Boston fans think little things like that won't make a difference but during a drama-filled series with nothing but animosity on both sides, the little things make all the difference.
Reason #4: Kobe Playing Different Role In Triangle- Maybe the key ingredient to Boston winning the title was them shutting down our offense. They played Kobe the same way they did LeBron, having one guy on him at the top of the floor and making him work to get to the basket, then once he propels his way there all five guys collapse and build a wall between him and the basket. It left a lot of us baffled without even the slightest idea of how to counter....except Phil. On Christmas instead of playing into Boston's hands, Phil moved Kobe into the scoring position of the triangle in the post. This move changes things for Boston dramatically in three ways:
1) Anytime you guard Kobe Bryant with one player, especially in a position where he can't receive help on Kobe from his teammates, the results will never be in your favor.
2) If Boston does indeed decide to double team all that will do is create cracks in their defense and with the shooters we have on this team, that'll be a huge problem.
3) Kobe playing in the post means he'll be expending less energy over the course of the game. The last thing you want is to battle a fresh Kobe Bryant, especially if he's already hungry for revenge.
Final Thought- I'm not saying much, just that if we do face Boston in the Finals we'll come out on top this time. Call me crazy for making such a bold statement, but be prepared to eat your words in June (if they make it that far). Of course, what kind of writer would I be if I kept it safe? To any Boston fan that may or may not be reading this, just know one thing: your TEAM isn't safe.