This was the Rajon Rondo that appeared poised to turn the Big Three into a footnote early in the postseason. Despite playing 41 grueling minutes, Rondo was the most energetic player on the floor, chasing down loose balls, darting in and out of the lane and racking up his fifth career playoff triple-double.
Allen rebounded from a nightmarish Game 1 with one of the finest performances in NBA history. His eight threes set an NBA Finals record and was one shy of the postseason mark. Allen chipped in solid defense on Kobe Bryant, too, while running Bryant ragged on the offensive end.
Perkins had some nice moments offensively, but he continues to get pounded by Andrew Bynum, who has had his way around the rim. Boston's frontcourt was supposed to be a source of strength; in this series, it has been its biggest weakness.
Ugh. Pierce needs to change tactics against Ron Artest quickly because Artest is winning this war. Pierce's 2-11 shooting in Game 2 makes him 8-24 for the series. His defense on Artest was solid, but Pierce is Boston's primary scorer. The Celtics need more from him than that.
Brutal. Absolutely brutal. You can blame foul trouble for Garnett's poor performance, but a couple of K.G.'s five fouls were of the "what is he thinking?" variety, where Garnett gave an obvious and unnecessary bump on Pau Gasol. Gasol continues to dominate K.G. offensively, and Garnett just can't seem to get himself on track on the other end.
Nate Robinson was once again a factor, filling in for a weary Rondo in the fourth quarter and keeping the Celtics' offense running with seven big points. Rasheed Wallace (seven points, seven rebounds in 18 minutes) had another quality game, finishing with a team-high +15. And although Glen Davis struggled with his shot (4-13), he pulled down seven rebounds and played tough interior defense.
Doc Rivers, Head Coach
Rivers gets a gold star for making the most heads-up play of the night: a possession-saving timeout call with 1:26 left in the game. With Boston struggling to get the ball past halfcourt, Rivers raced onto the floor and got a 20-second timeout just before the eight-second limit. In the huddle, Rivers designed a play that not only got the ball over the line, but generated an easy Kendrick Perkins layup that gave Boston a seven-point cushion. Rivers again delved deep into his bench and made sure the Celtics offense flowed through Allen most of the game.
Fisher has been a bit of a liability this series. With Bryant on Rondo, Fisher was left to guard Allen ... and we all know how that turned out. When Fisher switched out on Rondo, he was helpless to keep the pesky playmaker out of the paint. After running a gauntlet of quality guards in the conference playoffs, Fisher should be up for this kind of challenge. In Game 2, he wasn't.
Like Allen in Game 1, fouls -- several of them questionable calls -- plagued Bryant. Factor in having to chase Allen through waves of screens, and it just wasn't Kobe's night. He committed an uncharacteristic five turnovers and never seemed in control of the game. It will be interesting to see which guard -- Rondo or Allen -- Bryant lines up against in Game 3.
This grade is boosted by the fact that Bynum continues to exceed expectations. Expected to be a 15-20 minute player in this series, Bynum played 39 exceptional minutes. He dominated the paint on both ends of the floor while showing no signs of being limited by a painful knee injury.
Artest's defense on Pierce was solid, but his offense was horrendous. Artest appeared wildly out of control at times, often anxiously looking for his shot or over-dribbling on the perimeter. Often times, Artest can look uncomfortable in the triangle offense. This was one of those times.
Gasol once again dominated offensively, overwhelming Garnett on the post while showing a nice touch from the outside. His plus/minus (a game-low -12) is misleading; Gasol carried the Lakers offensively with Bryant out of the lineup, and he prevented Garnett from being a real factor for the second straight game.
Lamar Odom continues to struggle, having finished with more fouls (five) than points (three). L.A.'s bench had a chance to shine when several starters got into foul trouble, but Jordan Farmar (seven points), Sasha Vujacic (three points) and Shannon Brown (two points) could not provide the same impact on this game as they did in Game 1. Brown even made the decision to triple-team Perkins in the first half, leaving Allen open for a three. Still, it's Odom who really needs to get his act together. The versatile forward has been a non-factor this entire series.
Phil Jackson, Head Coach
Odom picked up his third foul in the first half while Jackson debated with his assistants whether or not to take him out. The defense couldn't adjust to contest Allen's shots and Rondo had free reign in the paint. Certainly, the players bear the bulk of the blame for this loss, but Jackson & Co. could have done a little more to help them out.
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