Game One Thoughts

Kurt —  June 6, 2008

Credit to the Celtics, they did what they wanted to do — they controlled the paint on defense, kept Kobe from penetrating, played physical and controlled the glass. I think the good news for Lakers fans is that Boston did all that and it was still a close game. What matters now is how the Lakers adjust and improve. And, here are a few thoughts along those lines:

• In the first half, particularly the second quarter, the Lakers had great ball movement and were cutting without the ball. They had 14 assists on 16 shots. In the second half the Lakers went away from that style to a lot more isolation, a lot more pick-and-roll (which KG defends well). The Lakers had just 7 assists in the second half, a sign of their shooting and lack of movement. In the fourth quarter the Celtics did a good job of not letting Kobe have space and start a run (he was 1 of 6 in the fourth). As a result, the Lakers shot 25% in the fourth quarter and lost.

• A lot of the Celtics help came off of Lamar, but he didn’t do much with it. Phil said he put Radman in for Odom late with the hope of spacing the floor and making it harder to do those rotations. What would make them harder to do is less tentative play from Odom, which i think we saw more of as the game wore on.

• The Celtics grabbed 28.7% of their missed shots. That is far too many. But the Celtics count on this, they actually are at 30% for the playoffs. And unlike Utah, they made their putbacks.

• The Celtics finished with an offensive efficiency rating of 107.7 (points per 100 possessions), which is slightly but not dramatically higher than their playoff average. However, the Lakers were at 96.7, which is 12 points off their playoff average. While I was frustrated with the Lakers defense at points, the problems were with the offense. And they are correctable.

• Credit to Paul Pierce who was very efficient on offense (85% eFG%). It’s stating the obvious, but the Lakers need to do better on him. That may mean some Ariza time, although his conditioning makes you wonder how much he can really give. And would the quality of his defense be what we expect and need from him? The coaches have a much better idea of that then we do, having seen him in practice.

• The Celtics did a good job of keeping Kobe from penetrating — according to the shot chart he had 23 shots outside the paint and just three in it. On those jumpers he shot 38.4%. Commenter Underbruin notes that Kobe has been hot from the midrange lately but is not normally that good from there, but he also isn’t usually as bad as Thursday (his season average is 46% on jumpers). Many nights he will just hit more of those shots (he got some good looks). He can take his man off the dribble but the help defense from the Celtics gave him fits. The Lakers also need to do things like put in in the post (or mid-post) and let him work closer to the basket.

• Darius added these points in the comments that I thought were a good summation:

It was the 3rd quarter where things went wrong. We instantly gave up the lead, did not execute the offense, and got lost on Pierce in transition where he hit those 3’s. We did not control our defensive glass, we got a little indecisive on offense, and just couldn’t make enough shots. Some of that was the Celtics defense and some of that was just bad luck/tough breaks. I think Pierce’s injury gave them some lift, but it was really PJ Brown and Powe controlling the glass while KG and/or Perkins were out of the game that did us in. Offensive rebounding killed us, and unlike in the Utah series, they were converting on their extra possessions, and it made the difference tonight. I mean, just off the top of my head I’m thinking of that Ray Allen putback and 1; I’m thinking about that missed 2nd freethrow where KG knocks the ball out of bounds off of RadMan who had just replaced Odom; I’m thinking about that PJ Brown rebound where he was tangled up with Luke and then got fouled; I’m thinking about KG’s follow dunk that essentially ended the game.

• I don’t think the officiating was horrible, nor did it cost the Lakers the game. The Celtics got the close calls at home, that’s how that goes.

• Ultimately, the goal was to get out of Boston with a split. The Lakers now have a taste for the physical style, they know what they have to do. I expect a better effort in game two, one where they stick to the motion offense and do less isolation. The chance to return home with everything tied up is well within reach.

Update #1: I didn’t get this up yesterday, but should have. Here is a great piece at Basketball Prospectus breaking down what the Celtics needed to do — and did do largely — on defense. It reminds us that ball and people moving off the ball is the key for the Lakers in game 2 and throughout the series.

Update #2: Over at SportshubLA, David Neiman has a great way of putting what Lakers fans saw last night — it’s not you, it’s me. Fans do tend to see the game that way anyway, but last night in particular that is how we come out it, we think the Lakers can play much better. As KD points out at Behind the Boxscore, we’ll find out Sunday if last night was the reality of the series or more of an aberration.