Archives For June 2008

Game 2 thoughts…

Darius Soriano —  June 9, 2008

 

Too little too late….

 

I saw this written in the comments last night and thought it summed up one aspect of the game quite well.  After trailing by over 20 points in the 4th quarter, the Lakers made a furious comeback and cut the deficit to TWO points with about a minute to play.  Mixing in some pretty good defense with some pretty spotty execution by the Celtics (they really were playing to maintain the lead, not playing to win the game), and adding in some timely shooting from Kobe, Farmar, Sasha, Fisher, and RadMan, the Lakers went from getting blown out and fans of both sides wondering if this was the “Memorial Day Massacre” part 2, to thinking that we would come all the way back and win the game.  But, down by two and needing one stop to get the ball back with the chance to tie, the Lakers could not avoid what had plagued them the entire evening when they reached in on a Paul Pierce drive, fouling him, and letting him clinch a 2-0 lead in the fight for a world championship when he sank his two free throws.  That leads us to…

 

38-10

That was the free throw disparity in last night’s contest.  The Lakers could not contain the Celtics penetration by guards or big men.  The Lakers reached.  The Lakers pushed.  The Lakers grabbed.  They did not take charges when they had the chance to.  And the parade to the FT line by the Celtics continued.  And at the same time, the Lakers complained.  You see, the Lakers thought they were getting fouled too.  Phil Jackson would say in his post game press conference that “I think my players got fouled. I have no question about the fact that my players got fouled but didn’t get to the line.”  The fans thought the same way.  We saw Lakers players get hit on shots in the paint but no whistle was blown.  We saw Gasol get hit on an alley oop.  We saw Kobe get grabbed when he went to the basket.  We saw Lamar get bodied when he was trying to finish in the lane.  Were we just seeing the game through gold-shaded lenses?  Was Boston that much more aggressive that they would earn that many more trips to the foul line than the Lakers?  Was Boston’s defense so good that what we thought was a foul was really just an aggressive type of defense that we hadn’t seen before, one part Jazz one part Spurs?  It’s tough to say where the truth lies.  On the one hand, I don’t think one Lakers fan is upset at the number of foul shots Boston took.  The Lakers were fouling.  As I mentioned earlier, they reached in on drives, they held cutters, and they hacked at the rim in an attempt to deter the Celtics from finishing inside.  On the other hand, there is the question of “if a foul is a foul, then what happened on our end?”  And for that I don’t have a good answer.  I will not mention anything implying a “C” word or start to bash the refs.  And I won’t rehash the numerous posts citing very specific grievances.  As far as I know, the refs did their jobs the best way that they could and they called the fouls they saw and didn’t call the ones they didn’t.  I’m not there when they review the game tape and I’m not there to ask them questions about their job.  Besides, we can only worry about what is controllable.  The refs are not one of those things.  What the team can control is its effort, it’s penchant for reaching in, and it’s execution on offense.  Which leads us to…

 

Game 3.  Some quick thoughts, bullet style:

*Kobe found some of his lost efficiency in Game 2.  He scored 30 points on 23 shots.  He also had eight assists.  He got the pick and roll going with Gasol (and Turiaf) and was able to make shots that he has missed all year against the Celtics.  He was effective stretching out the Boston D on the P&R and then finding a lane to either get off his own shot or create one for a teammate.  Most of the 4th quarter comeback was fueled by Kobe just abandoning the Triangle and going into attack mode.  I don’t know if the Lakers can win a game if he uses this tactic for an entire game.  But it was nice to see that he can hurt this team in this manner, and I expect to see more *freelancing* from him in game 3, especially in early offense when the Celtics defense is not set.

*In game 2 we held our own of the glass.   out rebounded the Lakers 37-36 but that is much better than the 13 rebound advantage they had in game 1.  In game 3, look for the Lakers to try and continue this trend and use their better rebounding to push the pace and try to get more good looks in early offense.   was not the best defense in the league for nothing…when they get in the half-court and are set, they are extremely difficult to score on.  So, the Lakers need to get out and run more and continue to attack the Boston defense with good shots, crisp ball movement, and good decision making.  When the Lakers do face Boston’s half court defense, they need to execute the offense well, but also not be afraid to break the offense some to go to plays that are working.  Throughout the series the Celtics have had some trouble with the P&R when Kobe has the ball.  Expect to see more of this in game 3, with Kobe looking to probe the defense and get a shot he is comfortable taking and making while also looking to set up his teammates.  He looked much more comfortable in the latter stages of game 2 and we can only hope that he has finally started to figure out how he can attack the Celtics defense.BostonBoston

*We need the bench to get back to the level of production that made them the “bench mob”.  So far in this series, the bench players that have made the biggest difference are PJ Brown and Leon Powe (and I know I haven’t mentioned this yet, but Powe was a monster in game 2.  I know that he got to the line a ton and some of that could be seen as questionable, but he was in attack mode the entire game.  He played strong inside, went after the ball extremely hard, and never stopped working.  He is a very good young player in that Paul Milsap/Jason Maxiel mold, and he has made a huge impact this series).  We need our bench guys to step up and play the way that they are capable of.  I’m encouraged, though, by them hitting some shots in the 4th quarter during the comeback.  Farmar and Sasha in particular looked good down the stretch and we can only hope that that carries over into the next game.  We all know that role players play better at home, so here’s hoping that trend continues.

For more insight on game 2 and what the Lakers need to do in game 3, please stop by and read KD’s take over at Ball Don’t Lie.  He sums up the game quite nicely and is his usual unbiased self. 

 

Darius

 

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.

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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.