Then, Shaq sits because his toe hurts. Rick Fox can't keep his hands to himself and doesn't even get to go to the games. Suddenly, the Spin Machine is in full swing. We see Kobe Bryant on TNT, saying that without Shaq, the Lakers go from a "Three championship team" to a "no championship team". Shaq himself gives us pearls of wisdom like "Forget Superman", and bemoans how he's getting older and won't return from his injury yet because he wants to be dominant when he comes back. The Lakers get embarrassed by the Cleveland Cavaliers and score their lowest point total in 40 years.
Then the Lakers "allow" Boston to come back and win. Hear that? They "Allowed" it. After being down by 17 points at halftime. They only had a chance because Kobe Bryant took a staggeringly ridiculous number of shots--47--just to try to keep the Lakers in the game.
Here's some news for the Lakers, their fans, and the sportswriters who put their questionable reps on the line by essentially coronating the Lakers as champs before the season started.
The Boston Celtics--the team that last season was "expertly" forecast to not even make the playoffs by 99% of the sports maves out there, and to be blown out in the first round by the other 1%--beat the Lakers last night.
For the THIRD CONSECUTIVE TIME.
Last season, they played two games. One game was in LA, and Shaq was there, and the Lakers lost 109-108. The other game was in Boston, when he was (surprise!) not playing due to his "injury", and they lost again, 99-81.
Last night, the Lakers lost again, 98-95. That's 3 for 3 against the supposed elite team of the NBA.
Let's take a look at the team that beat them. Boston was playing the second night of back to back away/home games. That means that on Wednesday night, they beat the Chicago Bulls IN Chicago. Then they flew back to Boston, where the NEXT night, they faced the Lakers. Boston was, to this point, 2-2 in the new season, with everyone hurrying to mention that they had no true Center, no true Point Guard, and their own high-scoring duo of Walker and Pierce wasn't scoring very much lately. Oh, and they had an 11 man roster--not even enough guys to properly practice with. But that was ok, because in that game, Coach O'Brien only played eight of them anyway.
Those eight guys came out in the first half and slapped the Lakers around like 98 pound weaklings. The only reason they Lakers got 35 points in the first half was 1. Brian Shaw cam in and got a couple of quick outside hoops, and 2. there were a couple of cheap baskets at the end of the first quarter.
What happened in the Third quarter? Simple, the Lakers realized they were being embarrassed on national television and tried playing like they had some idea of what they were doing. Let's face it, Phil Jackson ditched the triangle like a one night stand, told Kobe to shoot and the other guys to concentrate on defense only. It worked. Kobe shot the ball every time he got his hands on it, as fast as he could, and enough of those desperate shots started falling--many of them tough jumpers from outside, but his teammates kept clearing a path to the basket so he could get close enough to take some higher percentage shots. Pierce was defending him one on one, and could have used some help in the third quarter.
That was it, scoring wise, for the Lakers. Have one guy take so many shots that the law of averages came into play. It didn't work, as Kobe went cold again in the fourth quarter. Had he NOT had that amazing stretch in the third, the Lakers would have been down by some 30-40 points by the end of three quarters.
The Celtics outrebounded the Lakers, out defended the Lakers, and generally outplayed the Lakers.
But the Celtics were, according to some sports writers, "Allowed" to win?
Nope. The Celtics played stifling defense in the first half. The defense needed some tweaking in the third quarter, and by the fourth quarter, it was back on track.
The truth is, the Lakers were "allowed" to make the game look respectable, because they asked the unreasonable of one of their players and he got lucky.
Let me tell you--if the road to the championship goes through LA, then it's an expressway, and the Celtics are poised to drive through at top speed. The next game is March 23, on ESPN. When the Boston Celtics look to go undefeated by the Lakers for the second consecutive year.