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Two Keys to Game 2 for the Lakers

Paul PeszkoSenior Writer IJune 7, 2008

When the NBA Finals resume on Sunday evening in Boston, the Celtics will be looking to extend their series lead over the Lakers to 2-0. If the Lakers hope to prevent that, then two key players must step up.

The Lakers Game 1 troubles actually began in the first half on a two jump shots that helped to extend their lead over the Celtics. Yes, I said the shots helped to extend the Lakers lead.

So, what’s wrong with that?

Nothing if Kobe Bryant or Derek Fisher or Vlad Radmanovic had made those shots. But these two were launched by none other than Lamar Odom,

That in itself is not unusual. The Lakers number three shot man has been known to hit an occasional jumper or two. But, also on occasion, Odom falls in love with those jumpers. When he does, he disappears from the Lakers triangle offense and hangs out on the perimeter waiting for a chance to launch another rainbow.

Unfortunately for the Lakers, that was just what happened Thursday night.

Although Odom did contribute a couple of layups, he was hardly to be found around the paint to help out Gasol, who needed all the help he could get with Kevin Garnet, Kendrick Perkins and P.J. Brown.

Odom’s disappearing act was so complete that he disappeared altogether for the critical climax of Game 1 when Phil Jackson gave him the hook.

Jackson in one of his more polite moods after the game simply said Odom "had a little bit of trouble in the second half." Jackson, not usually known for his understatements, was disappointed that Odom wasn't more aggressive on offense despite how the Celtics were ignoring him.

Jackson replaced Odom with Radmanovic for those last two minutes of the game. "They were giving so much help off of Lamar," Jackson said. "I thought we needed an outside shooter to give us some spacing on the floor."

Odom is one hell of a nice guy and a fairly good power forward. But he could be an NBA All-Star forward if he would bring his A-game every night. With the ability to post a double-double nearly every game, Odom needs to decide for himself whether he wants to be a nice guy or an All-Star.

And we know where nice guys finish. Especially against the Celtics and the likes of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, P.J. Brown, Kendrick Perkins and James Posey. Nice guys just won’t get the job done. Thursday’s rebounding deficit for the Lakers (46-33) proves that beyond a doubt.

Fortunately for the Lakers, Odom has bounced back big whenever he has had a poor game in this year’s playoffs. The Lakers are counting on it Sunday evening.

The second key is more of a question mark. Trevor Ariza is coming back from a broken foot, which has not completely healed but has healed enough for him to get back on the court. He has not had any significant minutes since early January and played only a couple of minutes in the Western Conference Finals.

Ariza, acquired earlier in the year from the Orlando Magic, is a product of UCLA like his teammate, Jordan Farmar. His defensive play is what attracted Lakers GM, Mitch Kupchak, and head coach, Phil Jackson, to pull the trigger on the trade that sent Maurice Evans and Brian Cook to Orlando.

But the real question now is not Ariza’s foot but his cardiovascular capacity. How long can he run up and down the court defending against Ray Allen or Paul Pierce and breaking picks with that cat-like quickness of his?

If he can give the Lakers ten to fifteen quality minutes the outcome of Game 2 could be very much changed from that of Thursday night’s game. The Lakers certainly hope it is.

In his first start against the Celtics back in December, Ariza let Ray Allen score 33 points. But that was not indicative of what he can do.

It was not only Ariza’s first start against the Celtics but also his first start as a Laker. Ariza was still adjusting to his new teammates as well as Phil Jackson’s system.

Overall, it was the Lakers worst performance of the year, shooting only 35%. Kobe Bryant’ stats were worse than the other night. He managed only 22 points on a dismal 6-for-25 shooting.

Speaking of Bryant, just like Odom he has come back strong in games following previously poor shooting performances. So, expect a ramp up there of at least ten points.

Expect more from the Lakers bench, too. They were completely outplayed by a much older Celtics bench of James Posey, P. J. Brown and Sam Cassell. Most likely those youthful opening game jitters will disappear, and Phil Jackson will have the "Bench Mob" calmed down for Game 2.

Also, if Ariza should play, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him guarding Sam Cassell when Doc Rivers decides to insert the ex-Clipper into the game. And don’t expect to see Radmanovic guarding Paul Pierce again. On a number of occasions, Pierce put Radmanovic in the old pop corn machine, as Lakers-legend, Chick Hern, used to say.

One more item, while the rest of the team spoke with the media after practice, Jordan Farmar, obviously disgruntled about his lack of playing time in Game 1, spent the time shooting baskets off to the side. How Farmar will react when inserted in Game 2 is anybody’s guess.

Expect to see a lot of adjustments by the Lakers, and expect Doc Rivers to counter. But the game is played on the court not on the bench or in the locker room.

It’s execution that counts. Something the Lakers didn’t do much of Thursday night. And it’s executing under pressure that wins games.

And all the pressure is squarely on the Lakers. They cannot afford to return to Los Angeles down 2-0.

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