How Long Until Tip-off?

Kurt —  June 2, 2008

I am not, by nature, a patient man. It’s a virtue I do not possess. So the seeming interminable wait until these Finals start Thursday night seems mighty, mighty long. Phil probably doesn’t feel that way, it’s more time to plan. The players probably like the time to rest the bumps and bruises. And, we’ve got some fun things going on here in the next few days (and in collaboration with other sites) to help pass the time. But, I’d still rather be watching and talking games.

Here are a few things to chew on as we keep talking and waiting.

• The media is hyping this as “Kobe vs. The Big Three,” which anybody knowledgeable about basketball knows is crap. Both the Lakers and the Celtics got here as teams. That is especially true of a Lakers team that has a many-pronged attack. Coach Anthony Macri has his latest piece up at Basketball Prospectus and it looks at the five key moments in game five against the Spurs where Kobe’s teammates made plays that made the win possible — particularly on defense.

The Lakers and Spurs battled early to an 11-11 tie with 6:37 remaining in the first quarter. San Antonio subsequently went on a 22-5 run over the next nine minutes, putting Los Angeles in a 17-point hole. Lakers coach Phil Jackson, always calm, played right to the media timeout. Following that timeout, the Lakers came back on the floor with their three leading scorers (Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom) all on the bench. However, Jordan Farmar brought energy and life to Los Angeles with his driving layup on a clear-out situation. A stop at the other end led to an alley-oop set play for Farmar from Luke Walton, as Farmar passed to Walton on the wing and dove to the rim on a backscreen. Momentum now in the Lakers’ favor, Ronny Turiaf stuffed Duncan’s baseline drive, and after a few missed opportunities on both ends, Farmar scored a transition layup, capping his personal 6-0 run.

While Farmar’s injection of offense is easy to point to in this sequence, it really was the vitality and vigor of the Lakers’ defense that made this series of plays a reality for Los Angeles. It came at a critical time, as the Lakers had looked moribund throughout the early going. It was notable, as well, that this spark came with the Lakers’ leading scorers on the bench. So revived, the Lakers would continue their better play through the rest of the quarter.

• The Lakers bench will be key in this series, if the depth can boost leads (close deficits) as it did in the final game against the Spurs, Boston will have to play their stars more and more minutes. Of course with the long breaks between some games in this series that may not be as bad a thing.

• Henry Abbott just broke down the first couple of Lakers/Celtics games from this season over at True Hoop. It’s a great piece, he noted that the Celtics essentially used the same defensive strategy on Kobe that the Spurs just did — keep him out of the paint, make him a jump shooter, go under picks, don’t foul, dare him to shoot the midrange. It’s as good a theory as is going on how to slow Kobe.

But, as Francis pointed out in the comments: “Kobe just shot 64-120 (.533), the best career field goal percentage in a playoff series in his life.” And that was against Bowen, a better defender than anyone the Celtics can throw at Kobe (especially Jesus Shuttleworth) and using the same philosophy.

It’s hard to take too much from those games, because this is a very different Lakers team. And a different Kobe.

• Along those same lines, good point about the Lakers offense from chearn in the comments:

Caution: the Lakers must utilize the triangle to its fullest move the ball for quick passes, make the older Celtic’s play east to west on defense using their legs and energy. By the middle of the 4th quarter we will be able to exploit them by opening up the running game. Do NOT play into the Celtic’s hands by missing one pass shots, thereby giving them the opportunity to get easy baskets without having to play defense for 15-20 seconds!

• And that leads to a point made by a commenter at Celtics blog that I was going to get to as well — The Celtics defense thrives on quick help. If the Lakers move off the ball, that help will be exploited. Particularly I am thinking of KG and Perkins, the Lakers they have to play (Odom and Gasol) can pull them away from the basket, if they run off to help when Kobe goes to the lane (or to double on Gasol in the post) it will mean open looks for other Lakers.

I really think this is the key to the entire series — just how good a passing team the Lakers are. It will expose what the Celtics do on defense, and after a couple of games to adjust the Lakers will be picking them apart.

• There also is rightly going to be a lot of focus on how the vaunted Celtics defense is/is not going to stop the Lakers offense. I think, like San Antonio, they are going to slow it, not stop it, although the Lakers numbers will go up as the series goes on and they learn which places to exploit,

But I think the key may be how much the Lakers defense can slow the Celtics on offense. Many people, from national pundits to Celtics fans, seem to underestimate the Lakers team defense. I think, particularly as the series wears on, that the Lakers will force the Celtics into less-favorable positions on the floor. The Lakers may just score in the 90s, but that is plenty to win if the other team is in the 80s.

• Kevin Ding touched on this in his blog, and I think it is crucial along those lines:

The Lakers almost surely will start out with Vladimir Radmanovic on Pierce, but if they want to give Sasha Vujacic extensively playing time once again — with the idea that Vujacic can hound Boston sharpshooter Ray Allen the way that he did Manu Ginobili last round — then Bryant will slide to small forward a lot again and match up with Pierce. If it’s Pierce, Winter said Bryant has to “stay attached, which is hard for Kobe to do.”

• If you look around Celtics sites, they are not worried about the “soft” Pau Gasol, particularly on defense. I remember reading a lot of that from Spurs bloggers and fans before that series, too. He will surprise them (although they will mistakenly still call him soft).

• Speaking of Celtics blogs, man there is a plethora of them. Here is a run down of the ones I am aware of (there may be more, and those bloggers can send me a link and I’ll add them): Celtics Blog, TommyPoint, Loy’s place, Red’s Army, Celtics Cast, Celtsheads, The Shamrock Headband, Celtics Club, Can Danny?, Green Bandwagon, Celtics 17, Celtics 24/7.

• Lakers fans keep talking about the 7-game series the Celtics played against teams they should have crushed in Atlanta and Cleveland (well, maybe not crushed Cleveland). But to my eyes, they played their best basketball against the Pistons and may well play better yet in the finals. I expect the Lakers will win, but don’t underestimate the C’s.

Kurt

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43 responses to How Long Until Tip-off?

  1. I have to hope that Ray Allen cools off again. The Ginobili storyline helped immensely in the last series…

  2. Hi Kurt,

    As I said in my response to Aaron in the previous post, I thought Henry Abbott was self contradictory. Here’s what I said:

    I’d say NOT great (but confused) article by Abbott, who sums up by saying:

    “If the regular season is any guide, there’s a championship in the balance.”

    He never tells us why the regular season even should be a guide, but it’s not hard to see how confused he is about the dynamics–and I can go from memory. I still remember the disappointment. I’m sure that Lamar still remembers his “football” move against Ray Allen. I certainly don’t remember Kobe being “outsmarted” by Doc Rivers due to the advice of Thibideau.

    The first game was Bynum’s first big time test, not Kobe’s–and he flunked badly–worst game of the year for him. The main defensive problem was that Bynum didn’t switch on defense very well–and Kendrick got dunks. The offensive problem was that Andrew was not yet ready to play the triangle role of distributer and was not able to execute down low–otherwise Kobe would have had some assists–and a path to the basket.
    Kobe was still coming to the rescue rather than using his teammates.

    In the second game, the Lakers just weren’t ready–even though they should have been–and Kobe was still unsuccessfully trying to be Superman. He was not the victim of diabolical Thibideau.

    Abbott did notice that the early season Lakers were struggling even as the early season Celtics were rolling, emphasizing their veterans rather than building a team, like Popovich would have been doing. Doc was playing the veterans long minutes while Phil was experimenting and exploring.

    Now let’s switch to Laker late season and playoffs with Pau Gasol vs. the Celtic brain trust. Roles are reversed. The Lakers seldom lose–even against the elites. The Celts are struggling. Why? Because the Celts have not fully integrated their players into a team concept, and think one-on-one defense/offense.

    Abbott apparently doesn’t think too much of his own argument.

    He’s picking the Lakers to win the series!

  3. Ok, I’ll admit it:

    During the post-2004 years, I sided with Shaq in the post-finals feud, which eventually led to the trading of The Big Fella. Back then, I felt Kobe wouldn’t play into the team’s advantages and wanted the spotlight for himself. Case in point: I cringed every time he shot a contested 18 ft jumper, just because I knew that anytime Shaq got the ball within four feet of the basket, we were either going to get a thunderous dunk and 2 points, or at least 1 point at the line. Yes, Kobe was a little arrogant and wanted the spotlight. He came through in the clutch many a time, but his desire for fame was truly palpable.

    Flash forward 4 years. All that has changed. Kobe genuinely wants the best for his teammates and seems like the nicest friend and teammate on the planet. Watching the Sunday Conversation and his MVP acceptance speech, you can’t help but think that he loves his teammates and they love playing with him, knowing he can take it over at any moment and that his desire to win fuels them as well. Anyone who hasn’t seen this transformation has been blind.

    Back to Shaq vs. Kobe. A repeating storyline is the idea that Kobe wants to 2 more to get back at Shaq. When mentioning this, all invariably added is that fact that Kobe needed Pau, or at least a much better supporting cast, to win the title. So in that regard, Shaq is still better.

    But Shaq had Kobe!
    Shaq had Wade!

    Everyone looks over the fact that for the Big Fella to win, he needed Kobe just as much as Kobe needed him. He needed D-Wade to make sure the Mavs didn’t collapse on him.

    All I’m saying is that Kobe, or any elite player nowadays, needs 1 more high-caliber All-Star player, or at least 2 borderline All-Stars, to win a championship. Lebron got out of the weak East, but was destroyed by a superior Spurs team with 3 All-Stars (and two Pringles cans rounding out the starting five). Kobe shouldn’t need to defend himself against those saying he needs a superior supporting cast.

  4. On Loose Cannons, they were talking about Chick Hearn and Red Auerbach trash-talking in heaven. Made me smile. Let’s win it for Chick!

  5. Absolute side buster of an article about our favorite Machine:

    http://www.sportsline.com/spin/story/10850978#

  6. Anyone know who will be doing the game for ABC? Hubie? Van Gundy? Dad of Luke?!!

  7. 4-probably Mike Breen, Van Gundy and Mark Jackson for the game broadcast.

    I am very interested in the PG matchup. Fish has had to deal with first-ballot hall of famer Allen Iverson, up and coming star Derron Williams and (former) reigining Finals MVP Tony Parker. Now he has Rondo and not to take anything away from Rondo (great speed, good defender, learning to shoot better) but I think this is the place the Lakers will exploit most. We will punish Rondo by forcing him out of his only sweet spot (baseline 15 ft jumper) and make him shoot either off the dribble, or at the top of the key. Offensively I think Fish will be able to post him up and this too will give us an advantage.

  8. @ Texas Rob: According to the ESPN press release it should be Mike Breen with Mark Jackson and JVG; Tayfoya as the sideline reporter. Hubie will be doing the radio call with Tirico (I guess they’ll just ship Tirico up and down the CA coastline from the US Open to Staples on the day(s) he has to be at both(?)).

  9. 5. Father of Luke has serious back problems and is out for the playoffs. I’m sure they go with the Breen, Van Gundy, Jackson doing the game, with Tafoya around.

    The downside of ABC is we get a much worse pre/post game group. Barry is no Barkley.

  10. Coach Anthony Macri’s marticle makes me think that Lakers have huge advantage over celtics at the coach area

  11. I was actually feeling pretty nervous about this matchup until I clicked over to CelticsBlog and read their preview for this series, their case why the C’s will take the series. It’s really a stretch, and ignores or outright misreads most of the Lakers’ key strengths. I’m still scared of the 2-3-2 format, because of the way history has sided against road teams winning the middle three, and the difficulty of winning a game 6 or 7 in the Garden, but I feel much more confident that we’re the better team.

  12. I’m actually a little worried about Bryant’s jump shot going into this series, in the sense that he has seemed to fall in love with it over the course of the games against the Spurs. My worst-case scenario could be the ‘revenge of the Popovich,’ in a way. Kobe was hot from the mid-range for basically the entirety of that series – as evidenced by his astonishingly low free-throw totals, yet 53% shooting (which is significantly above his career average even factoring in his usual aggressiveness). When he gets “that look,” as Doug Collins likes to say, he’ll fire from anywhere on the court, but it tends to be from the perimeter.

    What I worry is that he goes into the games against Boston looking to continue his streak from outside – and if he has lost a bit of that touch, reverting more to his season norm (which has been mentioned as being fairly mediocre from the midrange), he may try to shoot himself back into being hot. If he does, the Lakers will probably be unbeatable, as we saw against San Antonio. If he fails to do so, though, it could spell a lot of trouble and a potentially quick exit from the Finals for the LAL.

  13. Lakers Optimism is back!!! And I feel great about it :) I will not come out shooting a cannon saying that Lakers will sweep the Celts (it would simply be dumb), but what I believe is that Lakers will easily dispatch Celts in 5 or 6 games. It’s just a matter of time, really.

    There have been many reasons discussed around as to why the Lakers or the Celts will win, why a particular player will be the beast and the decision-maker, How a coach will dominate the other coach, how hustle and athleticism will be an issue, and tempo of the game will determine things… I agree those are very legitimate arguments to refer to when discussing these series.

    But one thing people do not seem to be talking about lately, and something why Lakers Optimism MUST be in full swing, is the vital ingredient for winning an NBA title: CONFIDENCE.

    I am not saying Celts are not confident, that would be a criminal misrepresentation of facts. What I am saying is that Celts confidence can be easily cracked… So far they have not really had to play a team that dictated the game. Atlanta was more like a gym game that wrong couple of times, Cavs were a pretty good exercising partner and Detroit showed some teeth and even stole one from Bostong. But so far Celts have not really gone up against a team they knew they probably would not be able to beat. That’s where the Lakers come in. They have two things that Cavs and Pistons: Decent pack of team-players and Shining superstar. Cavs had the Superstar, Pistons had the decent pack of players. But none of them had both. And both lost

    Lakers have the brightest superstar on the horizon right now, and better than a decent pack of players along with an excellent coach (I think Phil Jackson is definitely more than an “excellent” coach actually). These Lakers have way too many game plans and opportunities not to be afraid of. Against, ATL, CLE or DET, Celts knew they were the favorites. I am sure they are beginning to have doubts about who is the new favorite by now.

    Considering all that, if the Lakers win one of the first two games (which they can more than realistically be expected to do) Celts will be facing a lot of demons in their bags. Playoff Pressure, Clutchness and knowledge that no one is better than you will be decisive. Kobe has that, no doubt. I am not sure any of the Celts have that. I guess they really don’t and in fact the lack of the real ultra-confident player that can put games away is the reason why Celts stretched series with ATL and CLE all the way to 7 games.

    Lakers swept Denver, beat Jazz in Utah and eliminated the mighty Spurs in 5. They are brimming with confidence. They play great team offense, and if they fail they can always run the Kobe show and still get a W. Celts. Celts enjoyed Pierce show for a few games (especially last one against LeBron) and the KG guest appearence with the Pistons, but they do not have the comfort of knowing they have a dude that will step up no matter how hard the carrots hit the fan. And if those carrots do, then watch out ‘coz even more carrots might be coming. Lack of confidence is an ideal cataclyst towards self-destruction, and that is something a team can certainly not afford in the NBA finals. I am glad we are playing the Celts, against DET we would not have had as much of a clear-cut advantage in terms of the level of confidence.

  14. In Jim Cleamon’s video interview on Lakers.com, he said that Lamar would guard Garnett. He said that Garnett likes the low left block and the perimeter and felt that Lamar would do well against Garnett on the perimeter but that he might need help on the block. I completely disagree.

    Much like Pau, Garnett wants help to come so that he find open teammates – especially Perkins for a dunk. Play him straight up and cover the shooters and the defense will be much more effective.

    As Kurt mentioned, the Celtics are a jump shooting team. Their effectiveness increases with open shots initiated by a pass out from a doubled Garnett.

    What Lamar should do is to always play Garnett to go right. Garnett has 2 prime moves: a fake left, pivot right fall away and a fake left, fake right, fake left, pivot right fall away (say that 10 time fast). Don’t bite on the fake and step to the right with arms straight up and make his J difficult.

    To keep you honest, every once in a while, Garnett will face up, and drive hard into the lane for a jump hook. This is his most unstoppable move. But luckily for us, he rarely goes to it and almost never in crunch time.

    When fatigued, he hangs around the perimeter and takes jump shots. If the Lakers force him to run and play defense we might see alot of jump shots from KG.

    If a goal of the defense is to make the offense uncomfortable then we might try the following.

    1. Make Garnett a volume shooter. He is more likely to shoot early in the game than late and I’d rather he not get his teammates easy looks with double teams. Much like the end of game 6 against Detroit, I like the thought of KG passing up an open J in crunch time to a surprised Rondo who hadn’t shot the ball in a quarter.

    2. Ray Allen can catch and shoot straight, going to his right and especially to his left. But if he has to take a dribble or two to set up a shot, it is almost always to his left. Make him put the ball on the floor to his right. (He is basicically a smaller Peja or a mobile Finley). I think he is an easier cover for Sasha than Manu or even Korver (who was making catch-and-shoot fade aways over his left shoulder- something Allen can’t do)

    3. Paul Pierce is one of the few right handed player who likes to shoot jumpers moving to his right and drive to his left (Most other slashers drive to the right and pull up to the left.). That he drives left is another reason why I like keeping KG occupying that spot.

    4. No player other than KG and Pierce can make shots with a hand in their face. So keep a hand in their face.

    5. I’m not worried about Pau on Perkins. Think about it, Pau practices against an active 6’10″, 250 pound center every day in practice. I think he’ll be comfortable both at guarding him and scoring on him.

    Got 3 more days to post so will save the offense for later. But I hope the Lakers studied the tape of the game when Boston hosted Utah and got sliced and diced. Sloan’s passing game had the vaunted Celtics defense rotating like headless chickens and got one layup after another.

  15. #11: Underbruin, I wouldn’t be worried too much about Kobe *falling in love* with the jumper. What has separated Kobe during the playoffs has been his ability to take what the defense is giving him, to play in the flow of the game, and still execute at an MVP level. Against the Spurs, he realized that he was not getting calls on his drives and he also realized that the Spurs had Duncan (most of the time) patrolling the paint and waiting for him at the rim. Hence the jumpshooting. When Duncan and/or Bowen were out of the game, Kobe went to the rim as much as possible by driving around Udoka and finishing over/around Oberto/Thomas. He knows what he has to do and is prepared to do it at a high level. Some players get taken out of their game and can not get their groove back….Kobe is not one of them. In fact, I think back to the times in these playoffs where we’ve been down, and Kobe is on the bench, only to come back in cold and bury jumper after jumper and make play after play. He focuses on what needs to be accomplished and then goes out and does it…is really remarkable.

    I think Kobe, more now than at any other time in his career, is playing the type of ball the real *legends* have played in their careers. He’s seeing the game in advance…ahead of real time and is executing in a way that is at another level. I think we all have our fears of *competive Kobe/taking it personal Kobe* trying to do too much and inadvertantly having a negative impact on the game…but I think those days are gone. He’s maneuvered brilliantly through these playoffs and his performance in the last minutes of Game 6 against the Spurs has convinced me that he is in the right mind. And I think that’s going to carry over when looking at this matchup.

  16. Kurt, I must respectfully disagree with you.

    Pau is as soft as a skilled 7-footer can be and even if his depended on it, he cannot make a tough basket near the rim as evidenced by him getting his shot blocked by Ginobili hobbling on one leg during the 4th qtr of Game 5.
    He is remarkably talented and “intelligent”, but no one is “mistakenly” calling him soft. Pau has earned that label because his play does not suggest otherwise. Even his own coach uses the term weenie to describe his soft nature of play.

    Pau must toughen up and box out Perkins and not give up off. rebs like he did in the UTA series because Perkins is starting to think he’s better than he really is and at this time of the season, a healthy dose of confidence can do wonders for your performance.
    So, Pau if you’re reading this, stick your 7-footer butt out and prevent Perkins from snatching the rebound away from you and please clearer in your decisions in making your move in the post.

  17. http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/playoffs2008/news/story?id=3422861

    Seems like Tony Allen of the Boston Celtics won’t be playing in the Finals. Even though he’s not at all an offensive threat, he did a decent job against Kobe defensively. The only players they can assign to guard Kobe are Posey and Pierce, which is good news for us.

  18. If you look up Sasha Vujacic in wikipedia, it says he’s known for his “fagish good looks”. What the heck does that mean?

    Some people are just haters…..

  19. Bill (18) – You know Sasha gave himself the nickname “The Machine”? Wikipedia says Joel Meyers and Stu Lantz gave it to him, which is incorrect.

  20. This Little Pinky June 2, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    Dcollins (19) As a local fan who watches the local broadcast, I’m pretty sure it was Joel and Stu that gave Sasha the nickname “The Machine”. Not sure how it got distorted so that Sasha gave it to himself. I think it makes for a funnier story, that a role player gave himself a nickname.

  21. Personally, so much of this comes down to whether the Lakers can find a way to take Pierce out of his game.

    He plays so well against the Lakers that it takes a lot of the pressure off of Garnett to rise to the occasion, which especially against the Lakers, Garnett has never been able to do. If they can disrupt Pierce, a lot of what the Celts count on against the Lakers falls apart.

    Plus, whereas Phil has had back to back series coaching/adjusting against truly great coaches (in Sloan and Popovich), Doc Rivers has been having to make adjustments against the likes of Flip Saunders, Mike Brown and Mike Woodson. I have got to believe that the coaching differential is going to be a factor in this series. Not a Rivers fan, and think that he has a tendency to adversely get inside the head of his (especially younger) players.

    That said, the fact that the Lakers don’t have home court advantage in this series and Boston is so good at home, could start LA in a hole, which is the one factor they have not had to contend with in a long time. Will be interesting to see how they adjust if that plays out as it likely will in game 1 (i.e., a loss on road).

  22. Taking Pierce out of the game will be a tough task…. How many hours til tip off???

    Lane
    http://LosAngelesSource.com

  23. 15 – Darius, believe you me, nothing would make me happier than for you to be right and for me to be wrong. I suppose that’s the most maddening part of the wait until Thursday – we just don’t know.

    Anybody have Brent Barry on speed-dial? If he knows how to get a hold of Doc Brown, I’m thinking the three of us can jump forward a couple of days.

  24. Re the letting Kobe just shoot defense. I just want to point out a major reason why it failed so miserably for the Spurs.(Considering going in to Game 6,Kobe had shot just 24% in the 4Qs of Utah Series.)
    During the regular season teams loaded up on Kobe,so when he was Boston gave him what appeared to be open looks he rushed his shots,trying to beat the defender(s) he just knew had to be coming.
    Against the Spurs,Kobe realized they WERE going to give him room to shoot,so he took that extra split-second to get himself set.
    As to the let him shoot being Thibideau’s advice-then obviously JVG ignored it as I don’t remember Battier giving Kobe uncontested jump shots the past few yrs.(Considering how Kobe torched the Rockets the past few yrs,I wouldn’t particularly consider Thibideau the man w/the stop-Kobe plan.)

  25. Overlooked by all the “who’s going to guard KG” is the fact that he played like the Stay Puft Marshmellow Man against Detroit. I have never seen so talented a player so desperate not to take a shot. In Game 6 he was 2 of 8 in 1Q and w/his Coach saying he didn’t care if he ended up 4 for 40,KG just had to stay aggressive,KG proceeded to take 7 shots over the next 30 minutes.

  26. Dcollins, I also agree that Joel and Stu, but mostly, it was Joel, who came up with that nickname.

  27. I am going through some major withdrawal symptoms now. Was so used to coming back from work and switching on the tv to watch a basketball game for the last 2 months. :(

    Coming back to the Lakers, nobody seems to be noticing VladRad who put up a very good performance during the last few games of the Spurs series. Did you know that he shot 65% (20-30) from the field during the whole series averaging almost 9 pts and 5 rebs in 25 mins of action? And he was surprisingly effective defensively as well.

    Reading through Celtics blogs, its fun to see that a lot of their arguments are based on incorrect assumptions about Laker players. I wonder if Celtics fan feel the same reading our comments. Hopefully not. :)

  28. Kobe is a great player, but no one can do it alone. He has Pau, he has D-Fish, hes got my boy Lamar, hes got vlad on the outside, and hes got his bench mob. I cant argue that Derek is a great player, but Pau was obviously the missing link. Hes the first big man since vlade who can handle the ball. His only problem is that he isnt aggressive enough. He needs to hit the weights. When Bynum comes back, we are going to be unbeatable in the paint. What i think they should do next year is have kobe and derek at guards, bynum at center, lamar at small forward, and pau at power forward.

    Now. Sasha. He is having an unbelievable season, but just when kobe lost his bad reputation for the lakers, Sasha’s acting and whining is killing me. In game 5 against the Spurs he was actually crying, and just because Phil got up in his face. Also, he needs to get himself off the floor and stop crying.

    Matchups for Finals, heres what i think
    Derek on Rondo-Rondo is a young up and coming forward, but Derek’s experience i think will give him a little bit of an edge

    Kobe on RayRay-Yeah right. Ray Allen can not guard Kobe Bryant. Simple as that. Ray might have him on the outside shot a little bit though, but Kobe is going to get all his points off driving.

    Lamar on Paul Pierce-Arguably two of the best forwards in the game today. I think Lamar is going to step up to the plate and take him.

    Pau on KG-The only difference between these two players is that Pau is white and KG is black. They are basically the same player and are going to cancel each other out.

    Vlad/Ronnie on Perkins-This is going to be tough for Vlad to stick the big man. Because of this, Ronnie is going to see a lot of minutes because he is an inside and defensive monster, and can take perkins.

  29. Anyone else think the Lakers two regular season losses to the Celtics might actually work to their advantage? The Boston media sure seems to be playing those two blowouts up–and, foolishly, claiming that the Boston defense has proven itself to be the true “Kobe Stopper”. (Ruben Patterson anyone?) If the Celtics underestimate this Lakers squad even a little, they are toast. I don’t expect the core of their team to have any kind of conscious let down, but there may be a more subtle, psychological effect to playing a team you blew out twice and assuming that you can do it again (even if it is a markedly different team in a very different set of circumstances).

  30. Ben:

    As much as we love him, Pau is a koala bear to KG’s gorilla. There is no comparison. And Lamar won’t be on PP, nor Vlad on Perkins.

  31. Let’s face it, Boston has gotten high on renewed success and has lost their friggin minds about anything else.

  32. the other Stephen June 3, 2008 at 1:14 am

    hahah. above all the simple matchup analyses, Stephen, your commentary and mastery of simile remains afloat high above all else. the marshmallow man, i ask you. come on, guys, paint me a picture with your imagination brushes.

  33. 31 is pretty right – almost all the Boston-centric sports information I’ve found to be horribly partisan at worst, or misinformed at best. Granted, I imagine I’m not the most objective observer myself, but it does crack me up when I see fans insinuating that Lamar Odom will fail to be able to guard Kevin Garnett because he is too short to do so successfully.

    Anyway.

    I think the Lakers don’t match up quite as well as some of us might hope they do – Boston’s success has been oriented around their team concept defensively. Looking at their roster, not a single player stands out as being an all-world defender except for Garnett. Everybody has been saying recently that Pierce is underrated – I don’t buy it. His DRtg has been below average for the last 5 years. Even this season, on the team with the best defensive efficiency in the league, Pierce was only league-average. The Celtics are awesome defensively because their team concept works perfectly for their personnel, and Garnett anchors the whole thing. Because of that, looking at 1-on-1 matchups sometimes fails to afford the whole picture.

    That having been said, of course, the same is true (more or less) of LA’s offense. Just one more reason this series is so wonderfully intriguing – strength on strength, weakness on weakness.

  34. I have two huge worries in this series:

    #1 Physical Play. I think the Celtics will employ a bruise and bang approach with Kobe. The Celts saw how the Spurs approach of keeping Kobe out of the foul line simply did not work as it had the effect of getting the rest of the team more involved. In my opinion, they will let Kobe drive to the hoop more and then fould him cleanly – but hard. I think the Celtics-Cavs series will provide good insights as to how this strategy may play out.

    #2 Overhype. I hate the fact that people are labeling the Celtics as the underdogs. As far as I am concerned, the teams are evenly matched and there are no underdogs. I think the “underdog” tag is dangerous for young Laker players who may let it go to ther head.

    At any rate, I think the key to the series will be the play of Gasol, Odom and the bench mob – in particular Ariza.

  35. Warren Wee Lim June 3, 2008 at 7:01 am

    Kurt, I made a post over at Celticsblog. I did make mention that I am a proud member of your blog and I hope I did you justice (and promotion) in saying these things:

    Good Day Celtics. I am Warren Wee Lim from ForumBlueandGold (a Laker blog) and I shall be joining you for the rest of this dream series.

    I am not here to bring homerism, instead, only a small voice “from the other side.” Behold, I send you as sheep amongst the wolves.

    To start with, let me congratulate you for being in the Finals. Its as much a dream come true for us as it is for you – except that yours probably started the moment you got KG, and ours the moment we acquired Pau. This is definitely a clash of the titans of basketball – the 2 most highly decorated franchises in history. Regardless of what happens, it shall be a series to remember.

    Being a little more specific, here are a few notes I’d like to stress out:

    1. Observe the 1st quarter of Game 1. Both teams will be giddy as ever. But he who controls the tempo will come out victorious.

    - The Celtics would use the noise of the garden to frustrate the Lakers everytime they make a defensive play. A single layup by Rondo or a three by Jesus Shuttleworth, or a charge taken by Perk, Boston Garden will explode. Offensively, the Celtics become more efficient when coming off a defensive play.

    - LA will try to run as much as possible. Transition is where even the best defense in the world will scramble. If the Lakers create opportunities to run the break, the Celtics will be in trouble. Expect to see transition threes for Fish as well.

    2. Matchups will be key.

    - As you like to say it, KG has an advantage over Odom. He has a more refined post move and his defense is contagious. Perk is also a big body over Pau Gasol. Depending on how PP plays, Perk will go with him offensively. The question is, how big a difference is KG over Odom? Could you really consider Perk having an advantage over Pau?

    - Paul Pierce is and will be Boston’s best player. He is LA’s toughest matchup by far but you do not know what Phil has under his sleeve. Vlade will guard him and he will probably eat him alive. So will Luke Walton. Ariza might be the best way to go, but is he smart enough to match PP’s intensity?

    - LA has Kobe. Say it all you like until you convince yourself, Ray Allen is not Kobe Bryant. Among shooters, Ray may be the NBA’s best pure shooter. Other than that, Kobe is a wash to win here. Fish over Rondo wins in poise, experience and overall talent. Rajon is simply younger and quicker but that’s about it.

    - To say that Boston has the better bench is quite hilarious. You have the experience of Sam Cassell and PJ Brown, we have the speed and intensity of Farmar and Turiaf. You have Eddie House for instant offense, we have Sasha. You have Leon Powe and Big Baby, we have Luke and Ariza and even DJ Mbenga. LA has the better bench.

    3. Chess Match

    - Phil Jackson is a basketball genius hiding behind his beard and his throne. I say to be calling him a very good coach is underrating his ways and skills. To be earning 9 rings is worthy of respect. Even when he was leading the MJ-Scottie Bulls and the Kobe-Shaq Lakers, Phil has always managed to work around the stars. And now, with this group of kids running around the court, Phil has put to rest the notion that he can only succeed with “ready-to-wear” superstar teams. How he transformed Sasha, Farmar and even Lamar is the biggest wonder of all.

    - Of course, you could as well have put in Mike Brown in here. I respect Doc Rivers as a player and as a coach, but Boston’s success this year is not because of him. To rub him off completely of the glory would be unfair, but there’s a reason why he is not even top 3 in COY rankings.

    Folks, I have placed my 2 cents on “your” cookie jar. I had to be fair and honest in the assessments and I do not intend to “stir your pot” here. Just plain commenting. Peace.

  36. Alright FBG fam, wish me good-health and a safe return…I am off to Boston tonight (don’t have tickets to the game, but I will be patrolling the streets, ensuring nobody messes with Kobe’s cheeseburgers or the hotel fire alarm)

  37. Underbruin,

    While your stats on Pierce’s defense is correct, let’s not forget that 2 critical factors, effort and motivation, have been missing for Pierce for some time. He is a smart player who understands and plays well within the team defense concept of Thibodeau. He is also their best (only) flopper. If Walton gets Pierce on the low block watch for flopping of Turturroan proportions (kinda like Turturro in Miller’s Crossing… “…please…”).

    kwame a, good trip and good luck getting tix.

    Anybody know if the Lakers are travelling today or tomorrow?

  38. Bill, I heard the Lakers are practicing this morning, then taking a flight right afterwards. LA Times article said they had a hard time finding enough rooms, but got it worked out.

  39. Do Celtic fans realize that when Pau is in the Lakers lineup, the team is 35-7? That’s a 70-win season pace and this includes the playoffs, which means the opponents are better than your normal NBA schedule. That’s pretty impressive.

    After the 1st 41 games of the Celtics season, Boston was 34-7 before KG got hurt…but that’s against a weaker schedule.

    I don’t think Boston fans realize how much better the Lakers got after acquiring Pau.

  40. Aaron, when i said that they are the same player, i meant that sisewise. KG is obviously stronger but Pau is a dead eye shooter. I think they should switch the starting line up for the finals.

    Dare i say it, Ronnie should start at power forward. He is strong and fast enough to not shut down, but limit KG. Let’s face it, there is no one on the lakers (besides Bynum) that can effectively shut down KG. He is a manimal.

    Regarding the Celtics being a “Kobe stopper”
    That is ridiculous. There is no such thing as a Kobe stopper. He is the most talented basketball player in the world. He has proven that many times. Anyone who uses the fact that Shaq has more rings than Kobe to say he’s a better player is an ignorant hater. Shaq only has that 4th ring because of D-Wade. They only say that because they hate Kobe and the Lakers. Shaq only has most of the rings because of Kobe and the same thing is true for Kobe. A player wins MVP, but a team wins championships.

    Shaq vs. Kobe
    Anyone who says Shaq is better than Kobe is wrong. Simple as that. Shaq is an inside threat on offense and defense. Kobe is a threat. Period. He can spot up from anywhere on the court and make anyone look stupid.

    The way the Celtics have been playing in this year’s playoffs makes me believe the Lakers can do it. They only have to win one road game, and they are not going to lose at home. If anyone who reads this goes to a game, pump it up. Seriously. The past five years we have been laughed at, and ridiculed for being true to our boys. Now we are being repaid. We can’t get this close and lose. Not this year

  41. I forgot to say this in my previos post (sorry). To all of you going to the games coming up.
    Around the league, there have been numerous “beat LA” chants. Let’s get one going this series.
    If i go to a game I will try to get this started; WE WANT BOSTON clap clap clap clap clap WE WANT BOSTON
    any thoughts or suggestions?
    Please post any ideas if you have them.

  42. I’m ready to just get this thing started. All the “what if’s?,” “who’s gonna play who?” etc….Let’s go. I’m here in RI, so Ihave to deal with the new bandwagon homerism. I just want it to be 9:00 pm EST already. I don’t blog during the series, so I want to wish all of you fellow Laker fans well. Pau will do well, although he will have to adjust to Perk at first, but he will disrupt KG more then people think, Kobe will be Kobe. Fish will do well against Rondo (he’s not a cross-over king like Parker & D-Will). Lamar is the X-factor. Sasha and Farmar need to shoot in Boston, and I’s like to see Ronny get in KG’s shhh after KG opens that trap. Kobe will be Kobe, Lakers in 6.

    P.S. Where’s a good place to stay near the Staple? I’ll be in L.A. for Game 4. I’d rather walk and enjoy L.A. and not rent a car.