Perhaps in Tuesday night's Game 3, the first time in this series, when the NBA finals shift to Boston, we'll find out.
As the Celtics move back into their comfort zone, with Ray Allen clearly in his comfort zone, one wonders whether Allen's Game 2 three-for-all might also have been there in Game 1 without his foul trouble in the series opener. In that case, in this 2-3-2 format, Boston might actually have had a chance to close it out at the Garden.
"I felt like I never really was a part of Game 1," Allen said of Boston's series-opening loss, when a second foul midway through the first quarter essentially ended any chance of developing a rhythm with his stroke.
For that matter, what if Kobe Bryant was able to compete without the shackles of banishment-by-fouls Sunday?
Would he have settled for that late 3-pointer instead of attacking for a three-point play? Would he have been more aggressive with his defense on that late two-on-one Celtics fastbreak?
No, we're not going back to the tired referee referendum here. Last week's Jim Joyce-Armando Galarraga episode taught us all a lesson in human frailty.
Instead, what about protecting the game itself? What about protecting the game from itself?
Before Jeff Van Gundy took the national pulpit with his recent no-foul-out suggestions, another sideline voice was offering a similar tune.
A decade ago.
"I think the no-foul-out rule is really important for the NBA to look at," the voice of reason said as we discussed one of his counter-culture takes on the game. "It's a rule that would create what we want to have in the NBA. Who wants to go and see a team that gets to play once in a rival conference and they have the game change because one player can only play 20 minutes in a ballgame, because of fouls or whatever.
"Dr. Naismith didn't have a foul-out rule."
Then, as now, that coach was guiding the Lakers.
This was not Phil Jackson reacting to one game, such as Sunday's home loss to the Celtics.
This was common sense.
This is where the NBA should be headed.
Through two games of this best-of-seven series, continuity has been in short supply.
Lamar Odom, to a degree, remains a rumor.
"If I'm out there, I’m going to produce," the Lakers' sixth-man said. "Plain and simple. I'd rather be out there and play bad than not have a shot."
The reality is that for all of Sunday's foul trouble, only Ron Artest fouled out. But the concerns about that sixth and final foul limited Odom, Bryant, Garnett, Wallace and Davis, just as they limited Allen in Game 1.
Even Jackson, who has espoused the benefits of allowing a player to develop a rhythm by playing through foul trouble, admitted he was trying to pull Odom before that third foul limited his versatile forward to 2 minutes, 38 seconds of Sunday's first half.
"He got, bang bang, two fouls immediately, and I turned to my crew and said, 'Do you think he can play through this?' And, as I was talking to them, he got his third foul," Jackson said. "So, obviously, he couldn't play through that sequence. He just basically got in the ballgame and got those three fouls and it really took him out of the ballgame. That's a bit unfortunate for him.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said there wasn't a targeted strategy to get Bryant out of the game after he was called for his fifth foul with 11:10 remaining Sunday.
"I could hear my players talking about it when we were in the time out," Rivers said. " I kept saying, 'Guys, stay within the rhythm of your offense.'
"I believe when teams try to get that sixth foul, they lose the rhythm, the ball stops moving and you usually don't score or get the foul. We would have loved to have gotten his sixth foul."
In Game 2, Allen showed the value of the longball, as he eased the travel burden of the Celtics' long haul back to Boston. The 3-pointer, of course, was adopted to the old American Basketball Association. Another innovation during the ABA's limited red-white-and-blue run? The no-foul-out rule.
It's not that difficult. Remain in the game with a sixth foul and commit another? An additional free throw for the opposition.
Concerned games will get out of hand? Increase the penalty for each ensuing foul, such as awarding the opposition two free throws for an opponent's eighth foul, and so on.
The reality is that rule rarely would come into play. As the closing minutes of Game 2 demonstrated, referees are well aware of a player's foul status. Bryant stood little risk of actually fouling out Sunday.
PBT: San Antonio found what worked and it’s on the Grizzlies to raise their level enough in Game 2 in San Antonio on Tuesday to get a split in the series.
PBT: The Pacers were too tough for the Knicks, but Miami is a different animal. The clubs face off in the East finals, starting Wednesday night.
Check out some of the best images from the 2010 NBA finals.
Video: NBA from NBC Sports
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PBT Extra: Kurt Helin previews the matchup between Heat-Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals by taking a look at Chris Bosh and Roy Hibbert. Helin thinks the Heat will win the series in six hotly contested games.
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