Lakers/Celtics First Thoughts

Kurt —  May 31, 2008

I can’t tell you how excited this matchup makes me, I feel like a kid five days before Christmas. This is going to be a fun series — the two best teams of today, two teams with a long history, two teams with great fan bases.

Between now and Thursday we will of course talk matchups and strategy, but also there will be discussions of the history and insights from the other side. I’m falling back on bullet points to get this all started, just to try to organize my thoughts a little.

• Kevin Garnett remains the main lynchpin in the Celtics attack — so far in the playoffs the Celtics are +22.4 points (per 48 minutes) when he is on the floor, no other Celtic is even in double digits. (For some comparison, Fisher leads the Lakers at +31.5 and all the Lakers starters except for VladRad are in double digits.)

• The Celtics are a jump shooting team, in the playoffs 67% of their shots have been jumpers (compare that to 60% fot the Lakers). The Celtics are shooting a pedestrian 44.8% (eFG%) on those jumpers, but the good news for Lakers fans is that they have held opponents to 37.9% on jumpers. If the Lakers can play that kind of defense on the perimeter in this series they will get the wins.

• Boston’s defense has been very good in the playoffs, giving up 101 points per 100 possessions. Compare that to the 109 of the Lakers or the 107 of the Spurs.

• The Lakers have been playing about 10 possessions faster per game than the Celtics in the playoffs. Part of that is skewed by the speed of the Denver series, but the Lakers would do well to push the pace. Perkins cannot run with Gasol, for example, and the Lakers bench should be faster.

• There are a wealth of Celtics blogs, befitting the large and passionate fan base they have. We’ll be poking around them looking for information to bring back, but the dean of those bloggers is still Jeff at Celtics Blog. A good blog, great community of fans (and Jeff is just a good person, even if I have to despise everything he stands for during the next few weeks).

• By the way, apparently after his last piece Celtics fans have disowned the “sports guy” Bill Simmons. I’m not sure we want to claim him as our own, however.

• Rebounding will be key for the Lakers, the Celtics are beasts on the boards. In the second half of the San Antonio series the Lakers started to really crash the boards hard, that needs to continue.

• Darius had a few early thoughts about the matchups worth passing along:

* I honestly think the Celtics will have to put KG on Odom and put Perkins on Gasol. Earlier during the year this is how Boston played us (except it was Bynum instead of Gasol) and I expect to see the same matchups. I think this works in our favor as Gasol is much more skilled than Bynum (and just has a much more diverse offensive repertoire) and Perkins is going to have his hands full with this matchup. I know that Gasol has had his offensive struggles lately, but I do not think Perkins has the savvy or quickness to disrupt Pau the way that Duncan did. So I expect us to run the offense through Pau (similar to the Utah series) and for us to turn up the execution on offense to make Boston work on D. This will also open up our high P&R offense with Kobe/Gasol as Perkins is solid there but KG is beastly. If we can avoid KG defending the screen and roll it will be much more successful. I also think that Odom is going to keep KG occupied and try to drag him away from the basket with our spacing. If we can occupy KG and draw him away from the basket, it will open up Gasol for more singled up looks against Perkins and also open up driving lanes for Kobe.

*I think Phil is going to give Rondo the Kenyon Martin treatment circa 2002. In that championship series, Phil made Kenyon a jumpshooter and funneled the offense to him. I expect Fisher to be our defensive roamer and for all rotations to come off Rondo. Now, Rondo has greatly improved his jumpshot (he hit a huge one tonight) and has gained a ton of confidence in his own offense. But he still prefers to drive and create for others, so I think if we make him the scorer it will do a lot to slow their attack and disrupt their flow on offense.