Preview and Chat: The Boston Celtics

Darius Soriano —  February 18, 2010

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Records: Lakers 42-13 (1st in the West), Celtics 33-18 (4th in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 109.2 (9th in the NBA), Celtics 107.0 (13th in the NBA) 
Defensive ratings: Lakers 102.0 (2nd in the NBA), Celtics 101.6 (1st in the NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Shannon Brown, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

The Lakers Coming in:  Another night without Kobe tonight, and against our heated rivals no less.  But the Lakers keep churning out the wins, so Kobe can heal up knowing that the team is still racking up the victories and keeping pace in an ever improving league and conference.  There have been a lot of trades happening all over the NBA and every team has been jamming up opposing GM’s phone lines in an effort to improve their respective team, but as the trade deadline has passed it looks like the Lakers have stood pat.  That is no surprise when you consider all the factors – our league high payroll, the reality that any trade would mean jettisoning Sasha (and his bad contract), the complexity of our sets and what that means to intergrating new players, and the likelihood that teams may not want to help out the defending champs by contributing good players to our roster.  So, we go to battle with the same team that we started the season with and I’m fine with that.  If there is any team that is constructed to win the title this year, it’s the Lakers as they have only made one change to a roster that actually did win the Championship last season.  The Lakers, until dethroned, are the kings of the hill and other teams must improve to try and catch them.  Come June, we’ll see if all the effort and extra millions spent at the trade deadline will add up for one of the other contenders and lead to a championship.  Sure, I (as with I would assume most other fans) would have liked to see a trade that improved us in some way (PG, backup SF).  But that didn’t happen.  I’m not dissappointed by this and now that the trade deadline is over and passed, we can all get back to the games at hand.

The Celtics Coming in:  One team that did make a deal was the Celtics.  Reportedly, the C’s have acquired Nate Robinson (and an additional player to be named) in an effort to get  a more explosive back court player that can play some defense and boost the scoring of their 2nd unit.  My take is that Nate is a true wild card that can end up truly helping the Celtics with his offense and ball pressure D, but he’s also a guy that can get moody and has found himself in the doghouse plenty of times for his lack of team play with more than one coach.  How will he play for the Celtics?  As with any of the trades that have gone down, that remains to be seen.  But this seems like a bit of a desperate move and a minor shake up of a roster that needed some life after sputtering with an up and down season (for their recent standards) so far.  What I do know is that this is the type of deal that will put chemistry at the forefront as I wonder if Nate is an Unbutu kind of player that is willing to make the necessary sacrifices to his game to really blend in with a contender. 

Outside of the trade, when evaluating Boston you see the team that many experts thought would come along sooner or later when Danny Ainge decided to go for broke by adding great, but aging players to a roster desperate to compete again.  The Celtics did get their ring, but now they find themselves with veteran players on the wrong side of their peak that are suffering from ineffective play and linger injuries.  This decline is highlighted by the droppoff in shooting by Ray Allen, the balkiness of KG’s knee, and Rasheed Wallace’s body looking like he’s had one too many trips back to the mash potatotes and gravy at Home Town Buffet.  And while Pierce has stayed effective through injuries, this Celtics team is becoming more and more dependent on the effectiveness of its young players.  Luckily for them, those players have been playing well.  Perkins has turned into a solid offensive player and a real beast on defense.  He plays the position game with his post defense better than anyone (save maybe Chuck Hayes) and with above average rebounding and hustle.  Then there is Rondo.  Rajon has really turned into one of the elite young PG’s and plays a style that is seemingly a mix between a young Jason Kidd and the current version of Tony Parker.  Rondo is a menace on defense, has a great feel for running an offense, can finish in the paint with the best of them, but lacks a jumper that makes you respect him completely on offense.  There’s a reason that Rondo was getting crunch time minutes in the ASG last weekend.  He is for real.

Celtics Blogs:  There are plethora of Celtics blogs that are worth reading (if you like being behind enemy lines).  There’s the OG blog of covering the C’s – Celtic’s BlogCeltic’s Hub always has good insight on the greenies.  Red’s Army…I could go on and on.  Check them out, they’re all good spots to get the skinny on what smart C’s fans are thinking (yes, there are smart C’s fans).

Keys to game:  This a game where the Lakers advantage inside is not as pronounced as it is against most teams.  I would still take our front line over theirs, but they have a good, veteran group that knows how to play the game.  That said, this should not stop the Lakers from going inside and running our sets through our bigs.  In the last meeting between these two teams, Bynum had one of his best all around games of the season as he brought effort and intensity on defense and took it to Perkins on offense.  Perk is a beast, but Bynum has the ability to be a monster as well and with a height and length advantage, I’d like to see ‘Drew go to work on the block and get some buckets and (maybe even more important) get Perkins in foul trouble.  Gasol should also be able to attack KG on the inside.  As mentioned earlier (and as we all saw in the ASG), KG is not anywhere near to 100% healthy and he has lost a half step in his lateral quickness.  I’d love to see Pau in post iso’s on the weakside, look for cutters in his typical way, and then drive hard at KG and make him move his feet.  I’d also love to see more of those quick spin moves from Pau after feeling for the angle of the defender on his back.

On the perimeter, ball movement will be key, but the ball must move decisively and with crispness.  The C’s employ one of the best defensive minds in the entire league in Tom Thibodeau and his schemes are very well designed with an emphasis put on denying ball reversals and also showing and recovering with help on the wings.  This will mean that the Lakers wings must play disciplined and not fall into the trap of taking the long jumpers that the C’s want to make them take.  The guards (that means you Farmar and WOW) need to continuously feed the post and cut hard and then screen hard.  The ball will come back to you and the defense will loosen up.  They just have to trust in that and execute accordingly.

On defense, the most interesting decision will be how to play Rondo.  Ever since the ’08 Finals, Phil has played Rondo almost exclusively with Kobe and allowed him to play off Rondo to disrupt passing lanes and roam as a helper.  This has forced Rondo to play outside of the paint more than he’d like and turned him more into the reluctant jumpshooter that is much easier to handle.  But with Kobe out tonight, Phil will have an interesting decision to make.  Does he put WOW on Rondo?  When that match up occured in the 2nd quarter of our last meeting with the C’s, Rondo abused WOW and got anywhere he wanted on the court, sparking a run fueld by back cuts by Tony Allen and ‘and one’ finishes by Rondo himself.  Does he put Fisher on him?  I think we all know that Fish can not stay with Rondo in the open court and that Rondo’s quickness and ability to feint and change direction with hesitation dribbles is too much for our veteran PG.  In the end, I think we see WOW on him with the strict instructions to play way off and invite him to shoot the jumper on every play.  However this turns out will be one of the major keys to this game.

Besides containing Rondo, the Lakers must also be aware of the delayed/secondary fast break and find shooters.  Ray Allen, Pierce, and ‘Sheed all love to run to the three point line on the delayed break and Rondo is excellent at penetrating, getting the D on its heels, and then passing out for a wide open jumper.  Being aware of this should be fresh in the the Lakers minds as they just got a healthy dose of this against the Warriors with Morrow, Curry, and Watson providing the shooting.  Also, be aware of the screens that the C’s set.  Boston is one of the teams that sets the most (some would say illegal) screens in the league.  Knowing where the screen is coming from both on and off the ball is a key and the Lakers must be vocal on defense to sniff out these picks (and if the Lakers feel like they’re being screened illegally, take a hard foul or ‘sell’ the contact to the refs – the only way to stop it is to make the refs notice).  Lastly, the Lakers must be aggressive in going after the ball in both man to man sets and in the passing lanes.  The Celtics are one of the most turnover prone teams in the league and can shoot themselves in the foot with sloppy play.  Be aware of this carelessness and the Lakers are likely to get lots of points off turnovers and that can be the difference in the game.

Where you can watch:  7:30pm start here on the West on TNT.  You know what that means – more like 7:45.  Also on ESPN Radio 710am.

Darius Soriano

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333 responses to Preview and Chat: The Boston Celtics

  1. Who thinks the outcome would have been for the better if this was Cavs without Lebron or Nuggets without Melo? I say it would have been a double digit win for Boston the way Ray Allen was shooting and the strong D they flared all night.
    I’m always upset when the Lakers lose but tonight its not because they didn’t show up or because we played soft. It’s because we played hard and a couple of ill advised plays sealed the deal out of our favor. Oh Well.

  2. I know I’m a little late to respond on the “we won with Fisher last year, don’t bash him this year” comment…but I have news for you, outside of the two shots he made during Game 4 of the Finals, and the flagrant foul against Houston, he was absolutely attrocious last year, too.

    I didn’t think it was possible, but he’s actually worse this year.

    And enough with the “stop bashing Fisher” posters. We, as fans, are frustrated. We aim our frustrations at the players who deserve them, and after yet another epic stinkbomb, Fish is most certainly deserving.

    Fish needs to be glued to the bench – Phil has stuck with him far too long. We’re two thirds of the way through the season and he’s still the worst starting point guard in the league. That’s not going to change. Phil needs to make the switch to Farmar and hope for the best.

  3. First, @ KAVEH?

    Spare you what? The fact that I’d rather not be a downer? You can focus on the crap all you want, I’ll focus on what I want to focus on, and that’s all the good stuff the team does rather than just harp on what the team SHOULD do or SHOULD HAVE traded for.


    Second, @ Aaron (and all Fisher haters)
    I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but man, Fisher played an awful game. Which was made worse by the awful games of Farmar and Shannon. I didn’t comment tonight because I went to a bar to watch the game, but as soon as I saw double screens on Fisher to get Ray Allen going, I knew this thread was going to be Fisher-hating. Yah he made them, but after the first two, I watched closely to see how badly Fish was out of position on those shots. I counted 2 shots where he (Fisher) was no where in his face. I won’t defend any of Fisher’s offensive decisions, though I will forgive his last second shot for two reasons: 1. 2.2. seconds left. 2. Did you see that play?? Shannon and Lamar went to half court, Pau was close to the three, and Artest ran to the spot were Paul Pierce could intercept a pass. But his drives were completely inexcusable.

    That said, he was still the better option rather than starting Farmar or Brown. Brown still loves the dribble pop jumper, and Farmar, I have no clue what he’s going to do.

    The bar was going crazy when Sasha was contributing.


    With all that negativity out of the way. Lakers, sans Kobe, fought back against one of the top teams in the League after being down 10 in the fourth quarter. The offense wasn’t running as efficiently as it had the previous four games, especially in the beginning of the game. And as said earlier, too many missed free throws.

    But man, the Lakers just went 4-1 without Kobe (two weeks ago many people on this site were saying we wouldn’t even compete in any games if Kobe missed time).

    Other than the crappy feeling from the loss, love how tough the Lakers played. At the fourth quarter they were fighting with the “dirty” elbows of the celtics. too bad we wont play them again this year, since they are not making the finals.

  4. Sasha was pulled because he has a grade-1 shoulder sprain. He’s day to day.

  5. 303. he has gotten worse. if fish can stick to just shooting jump shots in the flow of the offense maybe 5 times a game. even if he makes 30 percent of them, i’ll be ok with it. even if he misses all of them, i’d be ok with it. 5 missed shots are not going to kill us.

    what drives me bananas is his out of control drives to the lane which probably have about a 5 percent success rate… it makes no sense to drive to the lane. not making the shot, not creating shots for others, not drawing the foul. absoultely positively nothing good comes out of it. i know he’s always done this but it seems to to me, he’s been doing it more recently. he did it at least 4 times today.

    and then there’s the liability on defense issue. huge liability….

    i know im beating on a dead horse here, but my god, burgundy, not only is he worse from last year. he’s worse from a few months ago.

    and for all this talk that he brings intangibles and can hit the clutch shot, its just not worth the liability that he is. not at all worth it.

    305. thats interesting. is that from the contact with pierce in the 4th? i thought he got hit in the face.

  6. @burgandy,

    actually my response to your comment was
    “Lakers wont win the title with Fisher playing big minutes.” People said that last year also, and we won.

  7. @ray

    Just because we did it last year doesn’t mean that he is contributing to our title run this year, and worse, it actually doesn’t mean that he contributed last year. His clutch shooting might even not have been necessary if he was adequate in non-clutch time.

    But, realistically, I don’t see Farmar or Brown starting for Fisher and making things better.

    Farmar will want to push and push instead of working the triangle, and he is just as likely to fall in love with the PUJIT.

    Brown, ouch, he’s not a true PG and I think I heard PJ say that his handling needs work, but he has shown the tendency to take shots that are tolerated only when Kobe takes them.

    So it leaves us with Fisher, and well, at least he’s not Smush Parker. He may be a liability, but every team has at least one liability – we should thank our stars (pun intended) that we managed to win it all despite Fisher.

  8. @harold,

    I’ll agree with everything you said except the last line.

    I’ve said many times throughout this season that Fisher is having the worst year of his career. But like Harold said, give me a better option. People kept pointing that Hinrich should have been traded for, but it’s easy to spend other people’s money and easy to assume that he’d help the team out. He’s shooting pretty even to Fish/Farmar, without knowing how well he’d fit in the triangle.

  9. @ray (and all Fisher lovers)

    Maybe you can say we won last year despite Fish playing major minutes. He hit shots, but I’ll say the same thing that I used to say about Horry, “What about all the other shots he missed during the game??!! Big Shot Rob missed 10 shots but hit the big one and we would all applaud. The big difference Rob was playing 20 spot minutes a game, Fisher is still playing damn near 30.

    We need Fisher, but only to run the team smoothly when we get off track (like Luke), if its a bad match-up, he shouldn’t be out there (sort of like a guy who can’t hit left handed pitching).

  10. Nice trades Mitch. Fisher is the worst percentage shooter on this team. Its the difference between a parade and a bad ending!

  11. I just hate losing to the Celtics. Some games hurt more than others. The only difference is, unless lil Nate turns into the second coming, we won’t see them again this year.

  12. 305. Ah, ok.

    308. Farmar had a very good game under pressure for us in last season’s playoffs in the one game he’s started (Game 3 vs Houston). He played under control, and had 12 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, one steal, one block, and only one turnover. Perhaps one of the reasons he played under control was the fact that he was playing with the other starters. I think he can play the right way if the coaching staff impresses upon him to run the offense. I don’t believe it hurts the team to experiment with Jordan as a starter.

    Tonight’s game from Fish was perhaps the worst game at both ends of the floor by any PG in the NBA in the past three seasons out of any game I’ve watched, although his performance in the last Denver game was pretty close.

  13. You can’t blame Mitch for not making a trade. You can only blame the economic times. When times were good we gave Luke and Sasha money that was fair for them at that time. Now that money is funny, we can’t get rid of those two players. He was right to try and work a trade for Hinrich. We just couldn’t get anyone to take the bait (Sasha’s contract).

    I will continue to say where we messed-up was not going with 14 or 15 players. Those monies could have been pooled along with Ammo’s to get a player like Hinrich. Being thrifty may have cost us a championship.

  14. Sorry busboys I don’t buy it. Buss made $30 million last year and us Laker fans deserve more then Fisher as our starting pointless guard.

  15. 310. there’s no way you can compare horry (at any stage of his laker career) to where fish is at now….

  16. How exactly am I a Fisher lover when I’ve said many times that he’s had a terrible year and today he had a terrible game that probably lost it for us?

    But I wont go so far as to say that Fisher or not doing anything about Fisher has cost us a championship.

    He cost us this game. Beyond that no one knows.

  17. The part that kills me about fisher is his play after someone burns him on D. He gets his vendetta going and takes an outta control shot to compound the problem.

  18. “We need Fisher, but only to run the team smoothly when we get off track (like Luke), if its a bad match-up, he shouldn’t be out there (sort of like a guy who can’t hit left handed pitching).”

    Something that fisher doesn’t do. With a 1:10 left down one Fisher gets the ball and ran down court with 20 seconds left off the shot clock…he slows down waits until the offense sets and runs the offense…NO HELL NO but we wish…he never does that. Instead, what he did was drive the ball into 3 defenders and throws up a lay up. Fisher was like 0-4 in lay ups (one time he got fouled and missed both freethrows). Why because he insist of forcing himself into the lane with multiple defenders time and time again.

    I’m sick of Fisher. The way he plays is inexusable. The lakers just need him to play okay. Instead he plays extremely bad time and time again. Forces shots, can’t defend anyone. What are Fishers best attributes. 100% of Laker fans will say hitting 3’s and running the offense. Neither of which he does. I’m sick of hearing well farmar and brown played bad to. Look at the shots farmar took then look at the shots fisher took. Then make that comment again. I will not bash anyone for just having a bad game. For instance farmar, he took good open shots and just missed, it happens. But Fisher on the other hand, just does everything wrong.

    And ray mentioning that people saying last year the lakers wont win a championship with fisher but of course they won, well this year the lakers won’t win one. Not versus the Cavs without home court. This was a good chance to gain ground on the Cavs and the lakers blew it by scoring 2 points in the last 6 minutes of the game. If the lakers don’t win the championship because of their point guard play (mainly fisher) they will regret not trading for Hinrich.

  19. i can see fisher getting fried by billlups and if we manage to get past denver, get another beating by mo williams

  20. I will say it again
    If there is a stat or shots blocked per game, Fisher is the winner

  21. Been a Laker fan for 30 years and don’t remember a worse all around starting guard then Fish this year. Even Smush at least had some quickness and never shot under 39%. Fisher is at 37% and can’t stop any one. That is a crime to the Laker nation. We will not win this year because of one man ego and thats sad.

  22. RE: 318

    Joel B hit the nail on the head – all the Lakers need is for Fish to not bring anything to the table. That’s it.

    But he’s actively taking things off the table every game. I hate that he gets the “well he runs the offense” label. What was the nonsense at the end of the game?

    He should be fined $5K every time he attempts a layup.

  23. Where was all this when Fisher played good basketball in the four games we won? He had his worst game of the season and a lot of you go out for blood. But none of you say anything when he plays it well. This makes no sense to me.

    I’m not defending the guys play today. Hell no. He made crappy decisions and was terrible and quite possibly lost us the game. But it is just plain “bandwagon” to start harping on every loss because of terrible play.

    Look at that last play again. What would you have done? Lamar and shannon going to the half court, Pau not moving, and Artest blocked. was the early deficit on Fisher alone or the whole team?

    I’m sorry, but a lot of people are looking for a scapegoat when it comes to losses, especially big games like the Celtics. We praise Kobe for his heroism if he makes a shot to win. Blame Fisher for every loss. That’s what bothers me about these sensational comments.

    IF we don’t win the championship, will we wish we got better? sure. Just like how we wish we didn’t give Sasha his contract or Luke his contract. But hey, it’s easy to criticize an owner who “made 30 million” to not spend any more money, even though he spends the most money out of anyone in the league, paid his way to get us four championships int he 00s, got the superstar we all clamor for.

    It’s a Loss. a one point loss at that. Against a good team who had everyone playing for them. Oh, and our main guy wasn’t out.

    It would have been nice to knock a game off Cleveland’s lead, but we didn’t. Now we practice, and play the next one.

  24. Sorry Ray but when the guy is last in the league in shooting, last in assists, last in points per game and gives up 12 more then he scores of any STARTER you can’t just sweep that under the carpet. Its not just this game its this season.

    We deserve more then that.

  25. So we missed 9!!! FT, with our back court missing 6 of them (it’s always amazing to me, when a pro BB player misses two FT in a row, even more when the player is a PG or a SG), and we lost by one, so even though it was a tough thing to digest, because they were the celts, it’s far from being a meaningfull lost.

    I know it was maybe silly, but I got really mad with Pau, when he let Wow shoot the T FT. Because by that time he was perfect from the line (Wow wasn’t) and he has better FT%, and instead of asserting himself he back down when Wow told him he was taking it (by the way he missed it).

  26. Starting to question Fisher, he should ask to be benched. Give Shannon or Jordan extended time starting to see if they can figure out. They cant do any worse

  27. 325.

    Fisher had 2 good games and one okay game this month. So lets not get carried away with saying where was the criticism when fisher was playing good basketball. Fisher just wasn’t playing terrible basketball. He wasn’t necessarily playing well other than the games vs the spurs and portland.

    But fisher is the scapegoat. When Fisher plays this way the lakers do not win. Period, well unless Kobe bails the lakers out. But I will reiterate, its not about blaming Fisher about him having a bad shooting night, its about his extremely bad judgement, inability to guard anyone on the floor, and selfishness(by this I mean always trying to be the one who makes the big shot and not running the offense when he should) on top of his bad shooting.

  28. @ ray

    Check back to the blogs. If we win and he plays well, we give him a positive comment. If we win and he plays like crap, we blast him. The problem is he plays like crap way more than he plays well and the rest of us are tired of it.

    As far as calling you a Fisher lover, read what you and I both wrote. My comment was to you directly and “to all Fisher lovers”. You were in the sentence but I did not call you a Fisher lover. If so, I would have written “to ray and all you other Fisher lovers”.


    I did not say it cost us a championship, just that it “may”.

  29. Ray,
    I feel for you man. Everyone attacked me last year when I was the first to question the temple that is Derek Fisher. So I know what it is like to feel this kind of heat. If you really believe Fisher is better than Brown, Farmar, and or Sasha keep up the good fight I say.

    However… all evidence suggests he is worse than possibly all 3 guys that could start over him at PG. He is the worst shooter of the group, he is the worst defender, he is the worst penetrator, he is the worst finisher, and he is the worst rebounder. Knowledge spreads like a virus sometimes. Ask last seasons Rockets if Farmar should start in the playoffs. In the one game Farmar started last season he played a better game than Fisher did in the entire playoffs.

    We are free LakerNation… Let the past go and live in the now.
    The Emperor Has No Clothes!!!!

  30. ray,

    Did you know for a fact that when Fisher played/plays well, Farmar and Brown played/plays BETTER?

    We need Fisher, but Fisher needs to tell Phil that he should sit. I’d rather give a chance to a very inconsistent (wild card) Sasha Vujacic than bear 30-plus minutes of Derek Fisher making boneheaded plays one after the other.

    Tell me he has a GREAT basketball IQ, and I’ll show you that he is the worst finisher in the paint aside from Kwame Brown. If he is really SMART enough, he should have known better than getting to the lane expecting a foul to be called every time.

  31. It’s all OVER for the celtics! Lose at home to the NETs!

    This year is all about King James…see you in the FINALS!!!