Can the Lakers Unlock the Celtics Lock Down?

Paul PeszkoSenior Writer IJune 5, 2008

Maybe that Pau Gasol for Kwame Brown swap wasn’t quite the steal that everyone figured—a former NBA All-Star for an unproductive former No. 1 draft pick.

No, Brown could never handle the ball as well as Gasol. No, he couldn’t pass it as well as Gasol, or score as well as Gasol. Though he is over seven-feet tall, Brown has always had trouble finding the basket. And, don’t even ask about his foul shooting.

But, there is one quality that Brown has that Gasol lacks—Brown would never let himself get pushed around like Gasol does. In many ways, Brown had been the Lakers enforcer.

And that is something the Lakers need right now – desperately.

Gasol’s second half performance against the Celtics in Game One was nothing less than pathetic.

Okay, so he had 15 points and eight rebounds, but he allowed Kevin Garnett to stuff in 24 points and grab 13 rebounds, while P.J. Brown grabbed six more and Kendrick Perkins added four. As a team, the Celtics outrebounded the Lakers 48-33.

That was a big part of the Celtics' Game One win over the Lakers.

Lamar Odom also disappeared in the second half, mainly because of foul trouble. But, while he was in there, he kind of stood still while the Celtics dribbled around, through, and over him for clear shots.

Of course, the Lakers were expecting Andrew Bynum to fully recover by the playoffs, but that never materialized.

So, now the Lakers are up against their greatest concern—stopping the Celtics' front line.

It’s the same old story. Physicality. We saw it in the Denver series, and again in the Utah series, where the Jazz really roughed it out in the paint.

When the tough get going, it seems like the Lakers' front line runs for cover. They allow themselves to get pushed around at both ends of the court. The Celtics front line has the Lakers' front line locked down. The Celtics own them.

If the Lakers hope to do any damage in this series, they had better start Sunday night.

But, we have noted that before—physicality. Not the Lakers' strong point. Finesse is what won the Western Conference title for the Lakers, but finesse just won’t cut it in a series with a gut-it-out team like the Celtics.

So, if Gasol and Odom are going to earn their keep, they had better wake up and take a good look at who they are playing.

This is the NBA Finals, fellas, not the conference playoffs. Leave your finesse back in the locker room. Create space. If you get shoved, shove back. Only harder.

Sure, some will complain about Kobe Bryant’s poor 9-for-26 night, and rightly so. But, in all fairness to Bryant, his front line just wasn't creating space. When there is no spacing, there’s no passing. And, when there’s no passing, all that’s left is shooting.

And, that’s what Bryant and the rest of the Lakers resorted to in the second half, and especially in the final quarter, where they shot a really dismal 17 percent.

Hmm, 17 percent. Even Kwame isn’t that bad.