Sunday June 6th, 2010

LOS ANGELES -- Coming off their dismal 102-89 loss in Game 1, the pressure is on the Celtics to adapt for Game 2 of the Finals on Sunday. Here are five key issues to watch for:

1. Rajon Rondo at both ends. One surprise in Game 1 was that the Laker point guards almost equaled the production of Rondo, who was held to 13 points and eight assists after averaging 16.7 points and 10 assists over the previous three rounds. Rondo was diminished by the variety of looks presented by Kobe Bryant and other defenders. When he did break into the paint, the Lakers' big men blocked three of his layups.

But Celtics coach Doc Rivers was disappointed most by the defensive effort by Rondo and his fellow guards as the Lakers were able to drive to the basket at will. "We were spaced out," said Rondo of Boston's perimeter defense. "If Kobe had the ball on the right wing, either myself or Paul [Pierce] or someone else was hugged up on the opposite wing, and we didn't make them see us on the nail or on the elbow to help the situation. It's not a big adjustment that we need to make."

Rondo sounded confident that he and the Celtics would give a better showing in Game 2. After watching the Lakers drive as they pleased, it's hard to imagine the Celtics being able to clamp off those seams and suddenly recreating the high blend of team defense that saw them through the Finals two years ago against Los Angeles.

2. Pace of play. As predictable as it was for the Lakers to come out hard for Game 1 -- considering their closeout 39-point loss at Boston in Game 6 of the 2008 Finals -- the Celtics appeared to be caught by surprise. They looked frantic at times offensively, trying to make up for poor ball movement by hurrying to get off shots against the Laker closeouts.

This goes back to defense. Through three quarters, the Lakers held a 20-point lead and were shooting 52.6 percent, which prevented Boston from scoring in transition (where it had been outscored 10-2 going into the fourth) or in the early offense before the L.A. defense could set up.

"If we get stops, it's a different ball game," said Rondo. "But you've got to give them credit that when we did get stops, they got [10] offensive rebounds. So it was difficult for us to come down and get any transition buckets because we were setting up the offense every time down."

Rebounding is a vital indicator. The Lakers were outrebounding their guests 34-17 after three quarters, with Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett combining for four rebounds -- fewer than Bryant had managed. Rivers insisted that Garnett was strong physically. "I just thought he got so hyped up about the game he almost took himself out," said Rivers. "He was trying to slow himself down ... He was talking about centering himself and all that. That's above my head; I just started laughing. But he knew it."

3. Foul trouble. Bryant wore out the Celtics, keeping Ray Allen on the bench for almost 21 minutes as he managed 12 points amid persistent foul trouble. As much as the Celtics complained about the officiating, they outscored the Lakers 30-24 at the foul line.

The answer for Boston is to be more aggressive, to beat the Lakers to the punch. "I didn't think that was a physical game," said Rivers. "I thought one team was physical; we were not. We fouled a lot because they were standing next to the basket and we had no choice."

4. Pressure from Kobe. Any team would be vulnerable to relax after dominating the opening game as the Lakers did Thursday, but Bryant will do everything he can to maintain pressure on his teammates to play as if they're behind. This will be crucial considering the necessity of a win for the Celtics on Sunday, as they shouldn't like their chances of sweeping the three-game homestand following Game 2.

"I expect the [Celtics] to be more aggressive and with a sense of urgency, understanding the importance of Game 2," said Laker forward Pau Gasol. "But I expect us to be even more aggressive and be ready for that type of intensity that they might bring."

5. Andrew Bynum's health. The Lakers center had an efficient game with 10 points on 4-6 shooting and six rebounds in 28 minutes, while altering several Celtics shots around the rim. While Bynum struggled against the mobility of the Suns front line in the last round, he looks more comfortable bodying up against a traditional center in Perkins. If his bad knee can hold up throughout this series, then he'll provide a length advantage against the Celtics.

"His matchup with Kendrick is a good one for him," said Bryant. "The last series was tough for him -- Oklahoma series, as well -- because he did a lot of running and he had guys who were really fast, and it's tough for his knee to get up and down that much."

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