Perhaps the biggest discrepancy between L.A.’s play at STAPLES Center and at the TD Garden was how effectively the Lakers were able to execute in the paint.
As it turned out, the Lakers averaged 37 points in the lane in L.A. thanks largely to a powerful 48-point performance in Game 1′s 102-89 win, while Boston came in at 33 paint points on the other end. L.A.’s average might have been considerably higher had Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum not combined to take 25 free throws in Game 2, making 20, while Boston’s bigs attempted only nine foul shots.
But in Beantown, it was an entirely different story, the Celtics averaging 50 points in the paint through three games, and L.A. only 34.7.
FINALS POINTS IN THE PAINT
Game 1: L.A. 48, Boston 30
Game 2: Boston 36, L.A. 26*
*Not including the 25 FT attempts by Bynum/Gasol.
Game 3: Boston 50, L.A. 38
Game 4: Boston 54, L.A. 34
Game 5: Boston 46, L.A. 32
In short, the Lakers were +4 at home, and -15.3 on the road.
The difference in home/away outputs could be ascribed generally to the more physical play in Boston, or specifically to the differences in output from key players Gasol and Kevin Garnett.
While Bynum’s inability to play more than 12 minutes in Game 4, and his limited field goal attempts (six) in Game 5 certainly affected his team’s paint production, the power forward matchup was deliberately marked by one another’s home court edge.
The Spaniard was fantastic at home, averaging 24.0 points on 62.5 percent shooting along with 11.0 rebounds, 4.5 blocks and three assists, but in Boston he produced only 15.3 points on 44.4 percent shooting, plus 9.3 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 2.3 assists.
For Garnett, it was just the opposite. On the road, KG averaged 11.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.5 blocks. But in Boston, he contributed an average of 18.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.3 blocks.
Gasol’s worst, and Garnett’s best all-around game came on Sunday, Gasol offering just 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting without an assist (though he did have 12 rebounds), and KG notching 18 points, 10 boards, five steals, three assists and two blocks.
“(Gasol’s) been consistent for us for a while now,” said Kobe Bryant. “So he can afford to have a bad game every once in a while.”
The good news for L.A., who heads back to STAPLES for Game 6 at least, is that Gasol has yet to have even one poor game at STAPLES Center in the playoffs, scoring at least 20 points in 9-of-10 games, and reaching 19 points with 13 rebounds in the one game he didn’t hit 20 (Game 1 vs. Oklahoma City).
Bynum, limited by his knee injury but expected to start on Tuesday after a six-point, one-rebound Game 5, remains a question mark but received a vote of confidence from Lakers coach Phil Jackson.
“You know, more than anything else, Andrew was out of rhythm in the game,” explained Jackson. “I think he’ll feel much more comfortable getting back (home) and playing. He’s really only played limited minutes since Tuesday night, so we anticipate that he’ll have some opportunity to kind of get himself out there, shoot the ball a little bit and give us more than just a big body in the sixth game.”
While the easy buckets Bynum frequently gets around the rim are nice, it’s his defensive presence that perhaps plays a bigger role in the paint points discrepancy (look no further than his seven blocks in Game 2).
Then, of course, there’s the matter of Lamar Odom, who was quiet both at home – particularly due to foul trouble – and on the road. For the series, Odom is averaging just 7.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.2 fouls per game on 27.8 percent shooting after posting 14.0 points and 11.8 boards against Phoenix in the Western Finals, including a 19-point, 19-rebound performance in Game 1 against the Suns.
What can L.A. expect out of Odom in Game 6? We’ll see.
One thing’s for sure, however, come Tuesday: to understand the game’s outcome, the paint is a good place to start.