After stealing the home court advantage in Game 3 on Tuesday night, the Lakers will be looking to drop the hammer on Boston tonight. If L.A. can find a way to get the job done in Game 4, the championship will be only a formality. No team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals. But expect the Celtics to come out swinging. Here are the three keys the Lakers need to concentrate on to get a win:
KEY #1: Use their advantage inside
The Lakers margin for error greatly increases when they don’t get the ball into the paint. With Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, L.A. has two players that demand attention and can score in a variety of ways inside. In Los Angeles, the two destroyed the Boston front line (Gasol: 24 ppg, Bynum: 15.5 ppg). Yet in Game 3, Kobe Bryant and the rest of the crew didn’t utilize them enough. Both Gasol and Lamar Odom made comments afterward about the offense becoming stagnant and their need to play inside-out. Also, Bynum’s knee will play a major role. He tweaked it in Game 3 while chasing down a loose ball, then hurt it again after blocking a shot in the third quarter. While Bynum says treatment has helped dull the pain, we won’t see exactly what he can give until tip time. If his knee is bothering him, it’ll be a giant loss for a team that is 12-1 in the playoffs when they win the battle of the boards.
KEY #2: Corral Boston’s fast break chances
The Celtics best period of play this series was during the early portion of the first half in Game 2, when Rajon Rondo was pressing the issue and his teammates were running. If Boston is going to come back and win this series, it’ll be because of their point guard. He’s the most disruptive weapon they have versus L.A.’s size and length. The Lakers got away with taking a lot of outside shots in Game 3. They were 2-for-15 from behind the arc. However, expect the Celtics to capitalize on their break opportunities more efficiently tonight. They had half of their first dozen points off the break on Tuesday, but then just six the entire rest of the game, as Rondo had a quiet 11 points and 8 assists. If the Lakers can run their offense efficiently again, that should mitigate some break opportunities for the hosts.
KEY #3: Stick to Paul Pierce/Ray Allen
There’s no way Jesus and The Truth combine for 5-of-25 shooting and 17 points in the Garden again. Even though Ron Artest has done a fine job of defending Pierce through the first three games, Pierce should have a high-scoring game at some point. The Celtics’ season is basically on the line tonight, so expect Pierce to aggressively look for his shot. Allen responded after his subpar Game 1 with a huge Game 2, and Pierce will be looking to get back into the action in a similar way. As for Allen, he’ll continue to have Derek Fisher trailing him. But with Doc Rivers making sure both the officials and the league know he isn’t satisfied with the officiating — especially in this matchup — Fisher may get into foul trouble. It’s imperative L.A. once again defends the shooter as a team. If that means giving Kevin Garnett deep post catches to try to beat them one-on-one again, so be it. The Laker bigs need to continue to rotate and give help off screens, bumping Allen as often as possible. His deep shots open everything up for Rondo. If L.A. allows him to get going from the perimeter, it will be hard to keep up with the Celtics in their own building.