Archives For June 2008

Lakers/Celtics Game 2 Chat

Kurt —  June 8, 2008

Going down 1-0 in a seven game series may not be ideal but it is not a big deal. On the other hand, 2-0 would make it a very steep mountain to climb.

If the Lakers are going to even this series it is going to take a team effort, not a “Kobecentric” game. Nomuskles rewatched game one, closely watching Kobe’s shots, and had these observations:

I have some bad news when it comes to Kobe and his offense against boston’s defense. Their defenders, one on one, did a very good job staying in front and forcing him to be a jump shooter. Once he went up for the jump shot, he had a hand in his face way more often than not. I was one of those who felt Kobe missed a few good looks but Kobe only missed two shots that I would consider pretty good looks and both of them were threes (1:38 left in the 1st quarter wide open on the left side and 0:32 left in the 3rd quarter over Rondo). The rest of his misses were contested pretty closely, usually someone had a hand a few inches away from the ball on release. And by usually I mean, of the 26 shots he took, I considered 3 of them to be moderately contested, 2 were not contested at all, and the rest, a whopping 21 of them were contested closely.

The Celtics played off Kobe, taking away the lanes, getting help when he committed to his drive and they did not bite on his pump fakes. The Lakers need to get Kobe going and in the paint, so expect him to be posted up some.

We don’t need Phil Jackson’s whistle to alert us to the other things the Lakers need to do — rebound, get out and run, play through the physicality, get better play from the bench mob and Lamar Odom, and use quick passes and ball movement to get open looks. If you want to know more, just re-read the last couple of posts and comments where we break it down in detail. The good news for Lakers fans is we know this team can do that, they are a cohesive team (unlike some of Phil Jackson’s teams in Chicago).

What adjustments are the Celtics going to make? Mike Moreau of Scouts Inc. has some ideas:

The biggest adjustment Boston will have to make for Game 2 — which they made in the second half of Game 1 — is how to defend the slips and rolls of Pau Gasol. With the Celtics hedging hard on ball screens, Gasol found some easy baskets in the first half when he caught his man cheating on the high side. In Game 2, look for Boston to rotate its baseline defenders further up the floor to cut off that path — as it did when Garnett met Gasol at the rim in the fourth quarter and blocked his shot. Boston will also commit its help later in the action — staying on Gasol’s bottom hip as long as possible. This could allow the Lakers’ ball handlers more chances to turn the corner in Game 2.

With the Lakers sinking and many times switching on ball screens in Game 1, look for Boston to put Allen and Pierce in more ball screen action in Game 2, to take advantage of the momentary lack of pressure or to go at the mismatched defender. This gives the Celtics’ best scorers a midrange jump shot with little pressure, and also more opportunities for Boston to punish the Lakers for the switch. Pierce was able to do this in the fourth quarter of Game 1, when he posted and scored over Derek Fisher.

Be sure to clink that link above to get David Thorpe’s game thoughts as well. Then there is the thoughts of Jeff and the people at Celtics Blog, which are always worth checking out.


This will be my last post for a week, Monday morning my wife and I will be off to the hospital to have daughter number three. However, this site will keep running, and at a Nuggets-like pace (and with way more passion than said Nuggets). Some of the big names from around here will be running the site (and managing the comments). Treat them with respect, I know you’ll love their work. I’ll be watching and you’ll hear from me in week. Enjoy the finals and Go Lakers.

What Needs To Change

Kurt —  June 7, 2008

I agree with the assessment of many on this board — the Lakers played one of their weaker games of the playoffs. They can play much better. But the Celtics did not play their best, I would say (from my somewhat-limited knowledge of the Cs) slightly above average for them. (You could make the average argument, I wouldn’t fight it.)

In game two we are going to learn a more about the makeup of this year’s Lakers than we have all playoffs. If they can bounce back with an above-average to good performance, they will win. An average performance, or another like we saw Thursday would mean a loss (and have us seriously considering that it is the Celtics winning and not the Lakers losing). The big question from game one: Were the Lakers off or was it because of the Celtics defense? If it is somewhere in the middle, is it far enough over for the Lakers to win one in Boston? We shall see.

A few other thoughts:

• We (and many others) going in said the benches would be the difference, and it game one that battle went to the Celtics. Yes, the points were almost identical and neither bench shot a high percentage, but the Celtics bench did grab five more boards, got a boost at one point from Cassell and generally played better on defense. More importantly, you could argue that the benches battled each other to a standoff, but that still doesn’t help the Lakers who should win that battle. It’s a concern to me that the young Lakers bench seems to thrive at home but struggle at times on the road. Some adjustments need to be made, but this may be a mental thing those players need to get over. Fast.

• Crash the boards. Not only would that cut down on the second-chance points the Celtics got it gives the Lakers a chance to get out and run, to get some easy baskets in transition. When things were humming in the second quarter the Lakers had a few times where in the rush down the court the Celtics were forced into defensive mismatches that the Lakers took advantage of. We need to see more of that, but it starts on the glass.

• Ball movement, quick touch passes, with the offense working from the post out. That can be high post, mid-post or on the block, but the Lakers need to get the ball into the paint first and then move fast — be aggressive toward the hole and move without the ball. A lot of help came off Lamar Odom’s man, we knew it would, he must step up, play better, and be more aggressive. We need better than average games from him.

• I think commenter DTC had some good points:

1. Fewer long 2s, like other posters pointed out. Those are the most inefficient shots available, and he can have them any time – so it’s a fall back option
2. More patience on his drives. The Celtics rotate really well, with the objective of taking charges. That means you don’t go bulldoze into the defense – you drive but maintain your dribble, then look for midrange J, floater and runners as well as kick-outs. In Atlanta, Joe Johnson KILLED the Celtics D this way
3. More drives into the middle of the paint – and better if it comes from picks or post up situations. When he gets into the heart of the Celtics D, he becomes the ultimate decoy. And the C’s slap and grab like crazy, it increases the chances of him going to the line

• At the last practice Kobe was working from the post. Good. The offense works well that way (and back in the Jordan era Chicago had a tad bit of success with Jordan in the post — and by tad I mean post-panamax cargo ships of success).

• Side note to Kobe: The Celtic defenders were not biting on the pump fakes. Don’t expect them to start, you need to take it into their body to get the fouls. But you probably knew that already.

• This series is going to be physical. That’s fine, but the Lakers seem to take time adjusting to that (this is similar to Utah, where the Lakers did not really adjust to the style in their first game on the road, the difference was they won on their home court). The Lakers need to get into that mindset fast.

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.

Lakers/Celtics Game 1 Chat

Kurt —  June 5, 2008

Let’s Get Ready To Ruuuummmmbblllleeeeee.

No need brig out Michael Buffer to get Lakers and Celtics fans pumped up for this one. I think we all know we are in for what should be a rare and exciting finals. When was the last time the best team from each conference met in an evenly-matched finals?

And yes, I said evenly matched. The more I have looked at this series, the more I think it is a pretty even matchup. Kevin Pelton made a comment over at the TrueHoop statgeek showdown I thought was a great insight — the Celtics are basically a better version of the Spurs. They play very good defense (better than the Spurs). They have a “big three” surrounded by solid to good role players. Think about it. Perkins is better than Oberto, for example. And while I though the Spurs role guys faded away the Celtics have been getting other guys to step up and make plays (Rondo some nights, PJ Brown another, and the list goes on). Yes, the Lakers beat the Spurs in five but there were a couple close games and a better version of the Spurs means a bigger and harder challenge.

The most interesting end of the floor will be the Lakers offense against the Celtics defense — the best in the league against the best in the league. Boston plays great team defense, with quick help and rotations, plus they switch a lot (on picks) and have a great defensive chemistry. But they have been torched by a motion offense — Utah did it to them back in March. That game to me is key to what the Lakers have to do to win — when the help comes the Lakers need to move without the ball to the open space and then hit the looks they get. They need to work the ball inside (a post pass to Gasol or a Kobe drive) and if either of them are single covered they need to score. And, inside, there can be no “weenie shots” because KG sends those into the fifth row.

Boston coaches have said they plan to single-cover Kobe as much as they can (which means we may see a lot of Posey). In meetings earlier this year they were able to make Kobe a volume perimeter shooter, but Darius said he doesn’t see that this time around.

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 jump shooting. 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… I think we all have our fears of “competive Kobe/taking it personal Kobe” trying to do too much and inadvertently 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.

One other offensive note – the Lakers would benefit by running. The Celtics can run and like the Spurs they are good in transition defense, but in any close game a few easy buckets can be key. Also, if Gasol runs down and gets early post position on the block, it means Perkins will have to run with him and that will wear him out.

On the other end of the floor there are some interesting defensive matchups that the Lakers will go with early: Radman on Pierce, Gasol on KG and Odom on Perkins. In crunch time I think we can expect Radman to be on the bench, with Sasha on Ray Allen an Kobe on Pierce. If either of those last two can get the other in foul trouble it will be a big help for his side

Bill Bridges also had some thoughts on the Lakers defense, starting with what happens when the Celtics post Pau up.

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 (KG’s man) 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 a lot 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 basically 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.

Maybe the deciding factor in this series will be the bench play — the Lakers have a good deep bench but the Celtics have had different guys step up nightly. It’s a little hard to predict how the Celtics bench will fare only because it’s impossible to know what Doc River’s rotation will be. He coaches by “feel.” I’d dismiss that out of hand, noting that he felt good about Sam Cassell, save for that his feelings are right at times, and he pulled all the right strings against Detroit.

If all of those words were not enough, check out Celtics Blog with Jeff, or listen to the Hoops Addict finals preview podcast where I stumble over fewer words than normal, or check out the LA Times Lakers blog as the Brothers K rock, or watch Tyson Chandler talk about Kobe, or read about how the Lakers almost got KG, or read the Laker fans at the Wall Street Journal (seriously). Basically, anywhere you point your mouse and click today you’ll find something good.

This is not going to be an easy series for the Lakers, and to really get into Boston’s heads the Lakers need to win one of the first two, and I think Game One may be their best chance. That is why tonight is going to be big.

And a lot of fun. Enjoy the game.

It’s the late 50’s and a pattern begins. It involves an emerging professional basketball league, and a team that is about to drag it out of the smoky arenas and into the consciousness of the American sports fan. It involves a team that will draw attention to the new league by its singular and, in retrospect, ridiculously one-sided dominance. 11 banners in 13 years. 8 championships in a row.

In our modern sports lexicon, we carelessly bandy about the word “Dynasty”. If 3 in a row or four in a decade is considered a dynasty, then those early Celtics were an uber-dynasty.

As the ’50’s turn into the ’60’s, and Bob Short moves his Minneapolis Lakers west, another piece of that pattern becomes painfully evident for the Los Angelinos who filled the seats of new owner Jack Kent Cooke’s Fabulous Forum.

As much it is hard to imagine a franchise dominating for an entire decade, it’s even harder to imagine that every year they would be vanquishing the same team.

“I still see green people,” Jerry West said in a recent interview on the Dan Patrick Show. “It definitely left me emotionally scarred.”

The Lakers and Celtics would meet in the finals from 1961 to 1969. They would push the Celtics to 7 games three times, but never get their hands on the trophy.

And the Celtics would do it with the same “Seven master plays” of Red Auerbach. With future Hall of Famers filling the Celtic’s and Laker’s roster, the short answer for this dominance is answered in two words: Bill Russell.

But what about Wilt? There’s a simple answer there as well. Wilt intimidated everyone and dominated all comers…all except Russell.

West and Elgin Baylor would take turns filling the bucket, scoring 60 plus, hitting half court shots to send games into overtime, but to no avail.

Frank Selvy is a name few Laker fans may recognize in 2008, but he was the goat of ’62. If he hits a wide open jumper in that game 7 in ’62 at the end of regulation in the Garden… but he doesn’t. And teammate “Hot Rod” Hundley consoles him in the locker room with,

“Don’t worry. You only cost us $30,000 dollars. (their playoff share). You b*stard.”

They would push Havlicek and crew to 7 games again in ’66 only to have Russell score 25 points and pull down 32 rebounds in the pivotal game.

Until ’69…

This would be the Laker’s year. They finally had the home court advantage. Jack Kent Cooke would have the USC band there to play “Happy Days Are Here Again” and balloons would drift down from the rafters of the Forum.

Russell would look up into those rafters and see those balloons and, as the mythology goes, say…

“Those balloons are going to stay up there a hell of a long time.”

And so they did.

But Russell would retire, and Baylor would as well. Leaving West and Chamberlain to lead the team to their first ‘chip in L.A. It would do little to satiate West after so many years of Garden-variety abuse.

Mr. Clutch’s sole ring would come against the Knicks, and he would be coached by a Celtic legend, Bill Sharman.

Bill Sharman, A Celtic player with 3 rings would be the architect of the first Los Angeles team to win it all, and use Auerbach’s blueprint by convincing Chamberlain to imitate Russell: focusing him on playing defense, rebounding, and throwing the outlet pass to start the break.

As the Lakers scuffled through the ‘rest of the70’s after West’s retirement, Auerbach would retool with his ability to flummox other owners on a regular basis for their best players, and utilize his uncanny knack for drafting players late who would turn into the key cogs of a team that would capture two more titles in the 70’s.

If you’re keeping score, that’s 13 to 1.

A Small Amount of Redemption

It’s 1979, and the rivalry that would save the the waning and increasingly NBA, is in its nascent stages.

Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team is man handling Larry Bird’s Sycamores.

Auerbach, in another one of his savvy thinking ahead of the curve moves, drafted Bird when he was a junior using a loophole.

“…a player who expressed interest in entering the draft early could return to college even after being selected.”

Auerbach’s unsurpassed shrewdness would surface again when he traded the first pick of the draft, Joe Berry Carrol, to the Golden State Warriors for the third pick, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parrish.

The rivalry is set when prospective owner Jerry Buss tells outgoing owner Jack Kent Cooke that if he picked Sidney Moncrief with the number one pick, the deal was off.

The Lakers would add their second banner in Magic’s rookie season.

The Bird led Celtics would garner their first title by defeating the Rockets in 1981.

As Bird, McHale, and Parrish would gel, Showtime would begin its extended run…

Head to Head Once Again

1984 would be the first time that the two teams would meet since the crushing loss of ’69. The Lakers would play the Celtics close but reminiscent of the 7 game losses of the ’60’s, a handful of plays down the stretch would decide the outcome. A too slow cross court pass by Worthy that Gerald Henderson stole in Game 2. A clothesline of Rambis by McHale after Bird referred to his teammates as “sissies”.

In defeat, missed free throws and turnovers by Magic would grab the spotlight. The sports writers pounced and questioned the moxie of Johnson. Sure he was great player, but he had crumbled down the stretch in the crucial moments.

“…take a last look at one thing the series settled: Earvin (Magic) Johnson, L.A.’s superstar guard, simply is not a clutch player…When the very biggest games get to be their very closest, is Magic’s unreliability chronic? Show us it ain’t so, Earvin.”

The Die Hard Garden Curse

In 1985, the two 60 plus clubs would clash again, the Celtics looking to be the first team to repeat since the Russell-Cousy teams. The Lakers would look to wash away the pain of ’84. The Celtics would have home court advantage and would throw the first punch.

It was a hay maker that has been ensconced in the psyche of Laker fans as the Memorial Day Massacre. Celtics 148-Lakers 114. Kareem would score 12 points and collect 3 rebounds. He would apologize to his teammates and promise that he would never play like that again. The loss was surprisingly just what the Lakers needed.

Kareem would redeem himself, averaging 30 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, and two blocks in the four Laker wins.

“Abdul-Jabbar was old enough to invoke the most felicitous analogy. “It’s like the Dodgers beating the Yankees in 1955,” he said. “Celtic pride was in this building, but so were we.”

It is still the one and only time that an opposing team has claimed a championship on the Celtic’s home floor, and the smile that would adorn the mug of the normally stoic Captain would tell the whole story.

The demons and jinxes of 8 straight years of losses could not be squashed with one win, but it was a small amount of redemption for both the current and past Lakers.

But even that would be short-lived. The Lakers would be shocked the following year by the Houston Rocket’s Ralph Sampson’s desperation heave and the Celtics would again capture the title.

Junior Junior Sky Hook

1987 would be the final match up between the Bird-Magic incarnation of the rivalry. The Lakers would hold home court advantage and snatch the first two games in LA. But the defining moment of the series would come in Game 4.

The Celtics had let a 16 point lead slip away, and the Lakers found themselves with the ball and a chance to win. The play was called for Kareem, but McHale would switch out onto Magic away from the basket. And Chick would capture the moment as only he could…

“Magic down the middle, just like I thought. A hook shot of 12. It’s goood.”

The Laker struggles of the 90’s would lead to a return to prominence in 2000, as the Celtics would struggle, attempting to recover from the tragic death of Number One draft choice Len Bias less than 48 hours after he was picked.

Here We Are Again

Looking for redemption. A modern vindication the likes we haven’t seen since ’85.

For some it evokes memories of Sunday afternoons, and the rivalry that would galvanize our love for the Lakers and basketball.

For some it will remind them of the long ago pain of 8 straight losses.

This match up has now passed the Yankees and Dodgers for the most times professional franchises have faced each other in a final.

How much does it effect the current series?

Lakers 15
Celtics 17

Ask any Celtic fan, and they would tell you they were dying to return to relevance. After winning 16 rings in 30 years, they hadn’t been to the Finals in two decades. This mini-dynasty will solidify their prominence by having it span eras.

Ask any Laker fan, and they will tell the consistency and titles are just too much to argue against. The ghosts of those long ago losses fading into ancient history.

Because a good rivalry with a storied history adds excitement to a game.

Simply put, familiarity breeds contempt.

-Scott Thompson aka Gatinho

Roland Lazenby’s “The Show”, “My Life” by Earvin Magic Johnson, “24 Seconds to Shoot” by Leonrad Koppett, and The vault were used in the writing of this post.

Today, Jeff from Celtics Blog has been given this space, and I have been granted a little time over at his site.

Hello Lakers fans! Kurt was kind enough to lend me a little space on this blog to discuss the Celtics and I am doing the same for him on To be clear, this absolutely not intended to be a trash talking article. Far from it. Kurt is one of my favorite bloggers in the business and I respect the Lakers and fans like you a great deal. Hey, if Larry and Magic can be best of friends, then maybe we all can coexist harmoniously, right?

Anyway, Kurt and I thought it would be a fun idea to address the opposing team’s fanbase for a day. So here are some things that I wanted you to know about the Celtics and in particular Celtics fans.

Bill Simmons doesn’t always speak for all of us. Let’s get this out of the way up front. I think Simmons is a fantastic writer. He’s gotten on a lot of people’s nerves lately (especially with this whole reverse-jinx thing). Still, a lot of us in Boston still find Simmons to be clever and he’s always had a knack for expressing the emotions of being a fan (especially a Boston fan). His has a gift of putting into words exactly how it feels when we get stomach-punched (Len Bias) or when we are on top of the world (2004 Red Sox). With that said, he doesn’t always speak for a nation of Celtics fans.

He does know his basketball, but that doesn’t mean we always agree with him. For instance, not everyone is convinced that Doc Rivers is responsible for everything wrong with sports, clubbing baby seals, and the rising cost of crude oil. Some of us actually give Doc credit for taking a diverse set of alpha-dogs, getting them to buy into the team concept, and guiding the team to 66 wins and a Finals berth in their first year playing with each other. If I had to put a number on it, I’d say 50% of Celtics fans probably do think the way Simmons does about Doc. The other 50% is cautiously optimistic that he’s good enough to guide a potentially great team to the title. Nobody will confuse him with Red or even Phil, but we’re hoping he’s something like another KC Jones.

We are head over heels for Rajon Rondo (and to a lesser extent Kendrick Perkins). It is hard to put a finger on exactly what makes Rajon so popular, but I think it has something to do with the fact that we haven’t had a young, dynamic playmaking point guard in a long, long time. The best points we’ve had since DJ left have been an old Kenny Anderson and an older Gary Payton. Rondo’s a revelation with his quickness, penetration, distribution, and defense. But most importantly, the offense simply runs 100% smoother when he’s in the game than when he’s not.

I know you’ve all heard about his sub-par jumpshot. You must be salivating at the idea of leaving him open outside to double down on one of the big three. Sometimes that works, but not as much as you might think. First of all, he’s getting better and better at taking and making those wide open mid-range jumpers. Secondly, if you give him room to roam, he’ll still blow by most defenders and force you to react to him. There will be nights (like game 5 of the ECF) when he’s shooting very poorly and making the kinds of mistakes that second year point guards make. But then you’ll look up at the box score and he’s still got 13 assists, 4 steals, and 6 rebounds. The kid is just a joy to watch.

We are also big fans of Kendrick Perkins. You probably won’t like him. He is very emotional and he celebrates big moments like a linebacker that just got a sack. You might find yourself wondering why a guy that averages 6.9 points a game would ever open his mouth. But from where we sit, he’s earned his stripes with the all-out effort he gives on the court.

He’s not much of a scoring threat, but he’s been known to drop 18 points on an unsuspecting opponent from time to time. Where he’s really valuable is on defense and on the boards. He’ll blitz the pick and roll at the top of the key and sprint (not easy with a 280 lb. frame) back to the baseline to pick up his defensive rotation and box out. Let’s put it this way, Celtics fans (like our hero Tommy Heinsohn) love hustle plays and hard working players. That is Kendrick’s whole game and we love him for it.

We are not “front runners,” we’re just bi-polar. Some people will try to tell you that we are “front runners.” That might just be the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. If Celtics fans can be accused of anything it is for caring a bit too much. On any given day, our fans are either over the moon in love with this team or tearing our hair out in frustration. That’s just the way we’re hard wired.

Take CelticsBlog for example. Last year the forums were full of people with 100 different theories about why we were so bad and everyone had a different plan to make the team better. This year, with a drastically better team, the amount of activity on the forums actually dropped a bit during the regular season. Why? Fewer things to complain about! Any team is going to pick up your standard pink hat fans when the team is doing well, including your Lakers. However, as a general rule Celtics fans are amongst the most diehard there is.

I admit, we’re pretty self absorbed. I mean, this whole post is about us isn’t it? I blame the East coast biased media. For my part, I did my part to help fans avoid the “Boston fan” stereotypes.

Some more quick hits:

• We respect Kobe’s game, but will never admire him like we do other team’s stars.

• We absolutely love Tommy.

• We like Big Baby, but right now we prefer Leon Powe off the bench.

• “Beat LA!” started out as an encouragement to the 76ers.

• Scalabrine is as much of a joke to us as he is to you.

• The 1986 team would have destroyed the Lakers, I’m still personally bitter about that.

• We love our history but we’re trying not to live in the past or become like Yankee fans.

• We are officially done with the Sam Cassell experiment. Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!

• If you see a guy from the 70’s dancing in a “Gino” shirt, you’ve already lost.

• We really don’t want to see Phil Jackson pass Red.

Feel free to pepper me with questions about the Celtics or offer your own comments on what I wrote. I’ll answer the best I can. Thanks for your time.

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.