NBA Finals Preview: When The Celtics Have The Ball

Darius Soriano —  May 31, 2010

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As the old saying goes, defense wins championships.  And since the mantra of the site is “the Lakers will only go as far as their defense will take them”, I think it’s best to start our Finals preview with the the Lakers D when the Celtics have the ball.  If the Lakers are to win this series, we all understand that they’ll also need to score the ball, but slowing down the Celtics’ attack will be just as important.  When you’re facing a defensive powerhouse like Boston, you can’t rely on your offense to win you games as they’ll never allow enough points for that to be a winning strategy.  So, the Lakers must get stops.  But how to get them?

Before we get into the sets that Celtics run, we need to explore the individual match ups in this series.  Yes, the success of the Lakers D will be dependent on the team structure and the schemes that the coaches deploy.  But, it all starts on the individual level and that means match ups.  So, the first question is who will guard who?  And even more specifically, who will guard Rondo.  When I exchanged emails with some of our long time commenters, nomuskles was wondering the same thing:

I’m interested to see how the Lakers decide to play Rondo. He’s much improved his scoring ability and decision-making. There’s been a lot of talk about how deadly Rondo has become this year. The crucial question is, can the Lakers make his life difficult and disrupt what Boston wants to do on offense? Against Phoenix, the Lakers showed that they are quite capable of mental lapses in coverage that resulted in wide-open looks for shooters. Being on the same page defensively is critical if the Lakers want to hoist another trophy.

When that question was put to Kwame A., he responded with the answer that most fans probably think is most likely:

The Rondo issue is a tricky one.  Fish really may do just as well as Kobe would guarding Rondo, but what makes me think Kobe should guard Rondo is the Ray Allen factor.  Kobe is not the type of defender that excels at running around screens and staying with a dead-eye shooter.  Kobe is much better on-ball, although Rondo ‘aint no duck walk’, Kobe needs to get the first shot at him.

Ultimately, I agree with Kwame A.  Kobe, at this stage in his career should not be asked to chase Ray Allen around screens and then stay with him when he’s on the weak side in spot up situations.  Plus, this is the way that the coaches have decided to guard Rondo since game 3 of the 2008 Finals.  In the remaining 4 games of that series and the 3 games that Kobe’s played versus Boston in the past two regular seasons (Kobe missed a game this year), he’s been deployed on Rondo.  So, if Kobe is on Rondo, the rest of the match ups should shake out this way: Fisher/Allen, Artest/Pierce, Gasol/Garnett, and Bynum/Perkins.  If the match ups do play out this way, the Lakers will not only need great individual defensive performances from all these guys but they’ll also need them to be keyed in to the Celtics offensive sets as they are a team that focuses heavily on teamwork and execution to get their baskets.

And when analyzing the Celtics sets through Synergy Sports’ database, it was this teamwork and high level of execution that stood out.  The Celtics offense actually is not that complicated.  They run P&R’s with Rondo, stagger screens for Ray Allen, isolations for Pierce, and post ups for KG/’Sheed/Perkins.  But within these base plays, there are several options on each action and the Celtics consistently seek out the extra pass in order to get a better shot.  This is where the Lakers discipline will be tested because even if they are able to shut down Boston’s primary option on a play, the C’s willingness to move the ball or reset their offense will test any defensive scheme and the Lakers will need to be able to rotate to the next player and shift their defense to account for these second and third options that are built into their sets.

A perfect example of this is evident in the baseline stagger screen action that the Celtics run for Ray Allen (and sometimes Pierce). Kwame A. explains:

Defensively, the Lakers have to create a plan to deal with the pin-downs when pierce/allen come to catch and garnett/davis are setting the screen.  These guys set great (illegal) screens, so Pierce/Allen usually have the option of an open shot, or they get the defense to get confused, both defenders go to Pierce/Allen and they both throw a great quick bounce pass to the mobile big who can roll and dunk or pick and pop.  It is a staple play and we will need to rotate weakside help over to prevent the dunk, hopefuly leaving rondo open on the weakside for an ugly jumper.

After looking at this play ran a bit more closely, what I saw was that Rondo starts out with the ball at the top of the key while Ray Allen starts out on the baseline either right outside the lane line or positioned right in the middle of the lane.  After Rondo calls out the play, Allen proceeds to run off a screen from one of the C’s big men and then curl to the opposite wing where Rondo then looks to hit him with a pass.  However, on this action there are a myriad of options and the Celtics will run this play looking for the one that is most open.  If that means hitting Allen curling to the wing than the pass is delivered there – where Allen is in position to shoot his jumper.  However if the big man guarding the second screener (who is usually Perkins) “shows” out to contest the pass to Allen, Rondo will hit that screen man with a pass as he’s the player that’s open or if  Allen does receive the pass but is covered well, he’ll also look to pass to the player that just set the screen for him.  In either case, the rolling big man either has an easy shot at the rim or he has the option to pass the ball to either the other big man that is diving to the rim from the opposite side or to the other wing player that is positioned cross court (usually Paul Pierce spotting up for a three pointer – as seen here in the first play of the highlight).

As you can see from the highlight, the quick ball movement and unselfishness leads to a wide open shot from one of the better spot up shooters in the league.  If the Lakers are to contain this action (and others just like it that involve Pierce on the strong side) they’ll need to fight through screens and help each other at every turn (while still recovering and/or rotating).  And this is where the doggedness of Fisher (and Artest) comes into play.  Fisher is one of the better players the Lakers have at fighting through screens to stick to his man or initiating enough contact that he’ll make the refs decide if the screen being set is legal or not – something that is important against a Celtic team that sets…um…some of the better moving screens in the league (as Kwame described above). And while Fish is undersized in being able to contest Allen’s jumper, he is (besides Sasha) the best at playing this action and it’s one of the main reasons I’m on board with Fish on Allen (with Kobe on Rondo).

But slowing these screen actions in the C’s half court sets are only one concern.  The other main way the Celtics get shots are in transition.  Rajon Rondo is a demon in the open court and he’s got some of the best court vision in the entire league.  This leads to him being able to get his own shot by getting all the way to rim on “one man fast breaks” and also controlling the tempo on the break so that when Pierce and Ray Allen run to the 3 point line he can hit them in transition for wide open threes.   So, in order for the Lakers to slow this aspect of the Celtics’ offense down, they’ll actually need to pull on their experiences against the Suns where  they too excelled in running to the three point line with a crafty PG feeding them for open jumpers.  Obviously Rondo is different than Nash in a lot of ways, but in this instance they’re quite similar.  If you close off the lane against him and then recover to shooters, the Celtics then become a half court team and one of their main ways of scoring the ball has been slowed (or even neutralized).

In the end, the Celtics actually embody a lot of the offensive traits that the Lakers have seen from their other opponents in these playoffs.  Like OKC, they have a tremendous talent at SF, a physically gifted PG (who is a much better play maker), and are a team that runs a lot of screen actions and pin downs to free up their wings.  Like Utah, this Boston team is well coached and disciplined and they have no qualms with pulling the ball back out and resetting their offense to get the look they want.  They’re more than willing to make the extra pass and thrive on making defenses work and react to their precision.  And like the Suns, this team is excellent in transition with a penetrating PG that loves to set up shooters that run the three point line while looking for bigs (KG/Perkins) that run to the rim.  Plus, in the half court (like Phoenix) this team will also run a lot of P&R where the PG is looking to penetrate the lane and either get his own lay up or collapse the defense so his shooters get good looks (and I haven’t even mentioned the pick and pops with Wallace – which is very similar to what the Suns do with Frye).  So, in a way, the Lakers should be prepared for what they see from the Celtics.  However, they must also understand that the C’s boast the best combination of players in these roles and that the combination of these traits – while not making them the best offense the Lakers have faced – make them quite dangerous.  And to beat them and slow them down the Lakers will need to show the Celtics that they play defense too and that the top 5 defensive ranking that the Lakers held for most of the season is not a fluke.  Whether they can do it or not remains to be seen, but I have confidence that the Lakers are up to the task.

————————————————————————————————————————

Many have commented that there seemed to be a section missing on Artest vs. Pierce.  Sadly this portion was left out of the post and not added back in before it went up.  So without further ado, the missing section on the match up at SF – this section was to appear right after we discussed the C’s screen action in the half-court.)

But besides the screen actions and the P&R’s run with Rondo, the other main option of the Celtics half court attack is Paul Pierce.  The Celtics run a variety of screen actions and also place Pierce in isolation situations to take advantage of his all around offensive skill set.  Being the Celtic’s leading scorer, slowing Pierce down is going to be a key factor in this series.  In 2008, Pierce’s ability to beat the Lakers SF’s (RadMan, Walton) off the dribble and create space for his jumpshot made it so Kobe had to spend a lot of time on #34 – wearing Kobe down and making him less effective on both sides of the ball over the course of the series.  However, this season the Lakers have Ron Artest to put on Pierce and it’s this match up that has everyone waiting in anticipation.  And the regular season results from this match up seem to favor the Lakers.  In the two games this season Pierce averaged 13 points (5 below his average), while shooting a combined 4-11 on three pointers.  In the game that that the Lakers won, Pierce was hounded into comitting 4 turnovers and had 5 fouls (none bigger than the offensive foul that Artest drew at the end of the game that allowed Kobe to eventually sink his game winner.)  Now, we must understand that coming into this series Pierce is playing very well and it will take a great effort from Ron to slow him down.  Pierce is coming off (probably) his best game of the playoffs as he scored 31 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the series clincher over Orlando.  However, if Ron plays Pierce closely and takes advantage of the fact that Paul’s first step is slightly diminished, he should be able to stick with him off the dribble while also being able to contest Pierce’s jumper.  This will be easier said than done as Pierce is one of the best players at creating his own shot, but if Ron plays disciplined D (as he has these playoffs), I expect that we’ll be treated to a level of defense that we all wished the Lakers could have played on Pierce in 2008 where he earned the Finals MVP.

Tomorrow, when the Lakers have the ball…

Darius Soriano

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45 responses to NBA Finals Preview: When The Celtics Have The Ball

  1. Can someone care to explain why the refs don’t call moving screens on the Boston bigs, especially Garnett and Perkins?

    If they keep letting those moving picks go, espcially on the P&R’s, then the Lakers will have a big problem.

    On another note, I’m worried about Farmar covering Rondo. The Lakers need to make it a priority to constantly pressure and harass him. Maybe try Brown and Shasha on him to relieve Kobe. Even Artest if Pierce is not on the floor.

    The Celtics also play a lot of transition threes, especially when they are a bit on a roll offensively. Lakers Transition D should still focus on locating the shooters, especially Allen and Pierce. If Artest can live to his billing and limit the effectiveness of Paul Pierce, it may spell the difference between Lakers in 5 or 6 and a gruelling seven game series

  2. Fish does a decent job ‘pointing out’ illegal screens, so hopefully that will help.

    Mostly though I am worried that this may come down to ‘who loses focus/concentration first.’

    Boston’s defensive focus is good, and they can play defense for extended stretches, while we tend to get a bit more easily distracted and frustrated, which will lead to a less organized offense, causing even worse defense, and so on.

    Thus I think there will be a game where we may get blown out: not because of individual matchups or talents, but team-focus and concentration.

    This is something that tends to happen to Kobe too, so it’s one place I think where Ron may actually help us. If he can help our team maintain its defensive focus even when the team is struggling defensively, make a key play/stop to get us back up consistently, this series could be over quick.

  3. Hahaha, Sasha on Rondo, that’d be interesting…

  4. Don’t forget, folks. In the past three seasons (counting regular season and playoff games) against this incarnation of the Celtics, the Lakers were 0-4 with Fish on Rondo until Phil put Kobe on him for Game 3 of the Finals. Since then, the Lakers are 5-2 against Boston with Kobe on Rondo, and have won three in a row. It would be insanely stupid of Phil to make Kobe chase Ray by fighting through hard screens, and tiring himself out.

    Kobe on Rondo, Artest instead of Vlad and Luke on Pierce, and Bynum on Perkins for part of the game (giving Pau some relief) is going to translate into another victory parade down Figueroa in a couple weeks.

    Edit – forgot to mention that Drew got his knee drained on Monday. If his knee can get back to the way it felt in the first two games of the Utah series, then…BONUS :D

  5. kobeApologist June 1, 2010 at 2:04 am

    @Dude, you hit on all the salient points

    With Artest on Pierce limiting his effectiveness, where is the Celtics’ offense coming from? Ray (when and if he’s hot, which is only occasionally), random 3s by Rasheed, random jumpers from KG, and whatever havoc Rondo can wreak. Won’t nearly be enough.

    Also, to get Tony Allen in the game to control Kobe, which I expect a lot of, Ray or Pierce has to go out.

  6. On NBA fastbreak, Legler said the Suns exposed the Lakers pick-and-roll defense. With all due respect, Garnett isn’t as athletic as Amare.

    And Legler gives the coaching edge to Doc Rivers. Wow…

    As long as Kobe keeps Rondo in front of him, I can live with him shooting mid-range jumpers, make or miss.

    Perkins only averages about 25 minutes a game. I hope Drew can match that.

    I think this is a series where our big lineup will be useful. Stick Odom on Pierce, and use Artest to do to Allen what he did to Durant.

  7. Pau Gasol just announced in his web page that he’s not playing in Turkey this summer. Great news for his health, his motivation in the Finals and the Lakers.

    http://www.paugasol.com/PauNews/Noticias/present,circumstances,advise,against,participation,World,18763,6,2010

  8. I’d also like to give Sasha time on Ray Allen. He’s always remembered for the horrible footspeed in Game 4 in 2008, but Sasha’s probably our best player at getting through screens. It’s just his penchant for crazy fouling that worries me. I can see him giving up 4-point plays.

    The C’s offense also strikes me as very simple. For the most part, they rely on good ball movement and individual offensive talent to score.

    We did it well against Phoenix, but for some reason, historically, our players fail to mark Pierce and Allen at the 3-point line in transition. We need to treat it with the same urgency as against Phoenix. Pierce and Allen have hit backbreaking 3’s in transition that have completely swung momentum.

  9. Great breakdown! I’m also concerned about Artest on Pierce. Can Ron play him without fouling (or more accurately, without being called for fouls?). Will Bynum/Odom play smart inside, or will they end up drifting out with the Celtics motion, returning to help too late and fouling?

    The obvious thing about the Celts right now is that they are a very disciplined offensive unit. And we have in Ron/Bynum/Odom/Farmar/Brown some ill-disciplined defenders, though all can be adequate, and Ron can be exceptional.

  10. The Celtics are just hot right now. They shouldn’t even be in the Finals. There are always those miracle teams that don’t play well during the regular season, have alright talent, and then somehow get hot in the playoffs. We’ve seen it before and the Lakers shouldn’t have a problem ending this Cinderalla story.

    Rondo won’t be difficult to guard. He can’t shoot and is overrated.

    Ray Allen is past his prime and isn’t nearly as deadly.

    Pierce is still doing his thing, but is def. a step slower. He reilies too much on getting the foul than actually making an effective play.

    Garnett, well, he’s just all bark now.

    Perkins is NOT a good defender. Just sets illegal screens and dunks once and a while.

    The Celtics bench doesn’t have a pure scorer. Nate had one good game, but besides that who do they have? Mr. Mistake (Tony Allen) or the older than Earth Wallace?

    We’re better and faster at every position and as long as we keep the tempo up, the Grandpa Celtics won’t be able to keep up.

  11. Offensively, I think my biggest concern is Allen. If he gets hot that will be hard to handle because they are such a balanced and disciplined team.

    I am not so concerned about Artest on Pierce. He will not shut him down, but will make life difficult and I don’t think Pierce is looking forward to a seven game series with Artest on him for almost every minute. Artest has a harder time with the quick players. I think Pierce has lost some of his speed, so that plays in Artest’s favor.

  12. I like and agree with TDA’s comment. We have better match ups than in 08. Their only improvement is with Rondo, their bench is worse and you could argue that the big 3 are also not as good as they were in 08. That being said they just handily beat the #1 & 2 seeds.

    My concern on defense is will the Lakers focus and communicate the entire 48 minutes for each game in the series. The answer is no but my hope is the lapses are minimal.

  13. 6. chibi, you mean that Legler actually believes that because the pick and roll with Nash and Amare was effective, the pick and roll with Rondo and *random big* will be effective? The reasons the Nash/Amare combo is so devastating are (1) you have to respect Nash’s jumper, so you can’t go under the screen, (2) Nash’s running floater is equally devastating, so he can burn you if you go over the screen, (3) Amare is a beast at the “roll,” and (4) Amare can also pick and pop with a decent midrange J.

    Kobe can go under every screen against the Boston PnR, making Rondo a jump shooter, plus Garnett is now at the stage where he’s much better at the pick and pop. He can still roll to the basket, but not nearly as well as in 2008, and not nearly as well as Amare.

    Sheed is strictly pick and pop, and Big Baby has to be wide open on any rolls to the hoop to be able to make a shot at the rim. He won’t be able to shoot over Drew, Pau, or Lamar. Also, I don’t think Perk is all that proficient, either.

    Finally, our pick and roll defense really improved in Games 5 and 6. The Suns prepared us well for the Celtics in more ways than one. Obviously, no team can replicate Boston’s off the charts defensive intensity, but this time our guys will be ready.

  14. Snoopy2006,
    Ron was brought in specifically to guard Pierce or James. He showed what he can do against Durant, while Pierce is less athletic and stronger, Ron should be able to both stick with him and body him up. Also, Ron doesn’t get as distracted with the entire game as Kobe, so I expect fewer lapses where Ron is simply out-of-place.

    With the exception of Pierce and Allen, all the Celtics are streak shooters. This means we have to work especially hard not to let any of them get hot. This is hard for our guys and argues for more Sasha and Drew and less Farmar and Lamar. I don’t know if Phil will play it that way, but that is how I see it.

  15. The Celtics are decent defensively, but their offense is the most predictable in the league. It’s just get the ball to Pierce every time. They don’t have a solid numbe 2 scorer. Garnett can barely get up to the rim anymore and Ray Allen isn’t seeing the net well right now.

    I think if we contain Pierce their offense will shut down. This won’t be tough because as long as someone has a body on Pierce and takes away his shot, he’s practically useless and their offense will crumble.

    We have them beat at every position and as long as we get Kobe and Gasol on the same page we’ll dominate. Lakers in 5.

  16. I can’t take this over-analyzing of Rondo’s agame anymore. He was the worst all-star selection in the past 10 years at least. HE HAS NOT SHOT AND FALLS DOWN EVERY TIME HE GOES TO THE BASKET! How is he in the NBA? He’s not difficult to stop and only scores like 10 pts a game TOPS! He’s only good because he has the Big 3. Once that’s over, he’ll drop very far down the PG rankings.

    What the Lakers NEED to do is get their pick and role game going from the START and then get our shooting game going beyond the arch. We’re unstoppable if that happens and as we saw from the Celtics against the Magic, they have a very difficult time guarding the perimeter.

  17. My bad – pick and ROLL game.

  18. One of the concerns I have is the bench when Fish or Ron gets into foul trouble. With this kind of physical series and their style of play, both of those guys will get into foul trouble in at least a couple of games.

    Sasha chasing Ray through the screens is an option if he’s not back in the dog house.

    But who’s going to replace Ron? Move Kobe over to SF? That’s not the most ideal solution. Would Brown work? He’s strong and quick enough but too short. Wheelchair can shoot over him. Also I’m not sure if Brown would be disciplined enough.

    The back up SF spot is definitely a concern.

  19. To those bloggers who think Boston should be easy — they didn’t get here on smoke and mirrors any more than we did. They beat the teams with the two best records in the league. We can argue about what all that means, but we shouldn’t try to dismiss them.

    This is not a perfect match-up for either team, therefore, it should be a great series.

    This is an extremely intelligent blog and that is why I prefer Kurt and Darius over the other options out there. Let’s not make comments like I have seen coming from some of the Celtic fans – or some of our more insecure shout outs.

  20. 16, I think Phil will use the same tactics as he did against OKC. When Pierce sits, Artest sits, that’s that. And Artest is pretty good at not getting into foul trouble. Only in Game 1 of the OKC series did Artest get 5 fouls, otherwise he never got above 3.

  21. Totally on point Craig @ 17. The C’s being here is not by accident. They are peaking at the right time and will be a tough out no matter what.

    I do feel better about the bench comparisons this go around. I think that we have yet to really put it all together (aside from game 1 of WCF) against a team that focuses on D like Boston does.

    Just have to stay focused as a team and keep making plays throughout.

  22. 17 – haha yeah comments that imply The Lakers will walk over The Celtics are delusional, a form of whistling past the graveyard.

    Should be a fun series however. I just hope Ron doesn’t hurt anybody.

  23. I just don’t see any individual matchups in the C’s favor. Team offense and execution is nice, but through a series teams will figure each other out, adjustments will be exhausted, and you have to rely on individual mismatches that you can exploit to compromise the defense. We have – Kobe vs. anyone, LO vs. big baby/rasheed.

    Which brings up an interesting point. To neutralize LO’s footspeed advantage, will Doc go w/ Rasheed/Bbaby on Pau & Garnett on LO after the first substitution?

    Either way, the big baby matchup should also be something we can exploit during bench play.

    As for guarding Rondo, I think it will be important (as Thorpe advocates) to play up on Rondo – but only to a degree – when he is near the FT line or elbow extended waiting for a play to develop. Here he just has too many options and angles not to be up on him, yet is too close to the basket to allow enough steps to beat a guy [w/ length] like Mr. KB24. However, I don’t think we should be playing up on Rondo anywhere further than that, like Cle tried using West out to the three point line and repeatedly got burned. Rondo just has too many steps from that far out. I hope a disciplined KB will be able to use his defensive instincts and talent to neutralize the Celtic creator.

  24. Darius, Am I the only one who thinks that the Suns have a much more difficult offense to guard than the Celtics? There are many more mismatches on that team that gave the Lakers trouble (Amare, Nash) as well as probably the best bench in the NBA with some of the best shooters. To me in this Boston series there will be several keys on defense, Kobe needs to force ROndo to shoot jumpers because he still is not a good shooter (although it will take the entire team hustling back to limit his transition scoring), Fisher needs to make sure Ray doesn’t get clean open looks (especially in transition), Bynum and Gasol can guard Garnett and Perkins 1 on 1 (especially Garnett because he isnt the same offensive player he was in 2008) and Ron just needs to make like difficult for Pierce. To me the Lakers struggled with more athletic teams and teams that had incredible ball movement. Boston’s offense really is not that complicated and it really plays out in the Lakers favor. Just play sound 1 on 1 defense and help your teammates when necessary.

    I truthfully think the entire key to this series will be the Lakers offensive execution, will they allow Boston to dictate their offensive play? That’s what concerns me most.

  25. That 2008 Celtics bench was amazing (Casselle, PJ Brown, Powe, Posey, and Eddie House). My recollection is Posey came off the bench to check Kobe with his length, PJ Brown muscled our bench bigs (Turiaf and yes, Mihm), and Casselle and House just punished our inexperienced bench (Farmar). Also, Powe had that crazy 20+ point performance.

    This year, Bynum’s presence changes a lot of things. Perkins will be physical, but he’ll have to punish a fellow 275-280 pound brute in the post. KG will of course, try to intimidate Pau, but let’s hope that Pau is ready (hopefully, he had a menacing poster of KG in his room after 2008, and now, in a symbolic sign of readiness, has ripped it into pieces).

    I harken back to 2008, when Artest ‘joined’ Kobe in the shower after the humilating defeat. To me, this series will pique Artest’s interests on the defensive end, as he has bad blood with Pierce. Like the other comments, if Pierce is held to 13-15 points, the Celts will need Rondo to be a scorer and for KG to lob more and more jumpers. Pierce was the key in 2008 and unlike BP, Artest will render “Operation Top Kill” on Pierce, and the incessantaly blabbering pipe-hole named “the Truth” will be contained.

    All things said, you have to ‘respect’ what the Celtics do on-court, as they have amply demonstrated this playoffs that they are ready to play. They have eliminated the first, second, and now are playing the third best team (record wise) in the Finals. They are ready, and I believe our Lakers will be too.

  26. First of all, RE Pierce – when you “cut” and then “paste” remembering the “paste” part is pretty key. I had a section on Artest/Pierce that has gone missing. I blame my proofreaders. They’ve since been fired. I’ll try to recover that section and add it to the main post soon.

    Second RE the Celtics offense and Rondo – Sorry Henry Lane (#14) and Zen’s Men (#15), but I couldn’t disagree with you more. The Celtics #1 scorer is Pierce, but Rondo, Allen, and KG are all secondary scorers. Also note that because of their fantastic teamwork, their 2-8 players can all get them points as they have clearly defined roles and reads within their sets. ‘Sheed/Davis/KG all know where their shots are coming from and are quite good at knocking those down. Not to mention guys like Tony Allen and Nate Robinson also have the ability to get the C’s 12-16 points on any given night. They have plenty of players that are capable and when you play like a team any guy can (and will) step up on any given night. It’s like people have forgotten 2008 already in that Boston (under Rivers and since the KG/Allen deals) have been about team work and having role players that step up. Don’t you remember House turning a game? Or Posey? How about Powe or PJ Brown? Don’t think for a second that guys like ‘Sheed or Tony Allen or Robinson or even old-as-hell Michael Finley won’t end up making a bit shot or three in this series.

    As for Rondo – please, this guy is fantastic. He’s in the Jason Kidd mold of PG’s and can impact a game in a lot of different ways. Even with Kobe on him he’ll get into the lane and he is masterful at running the C’s offense. He’s a monster in transtion and finishes in the lane as well as any guard in the league. He’s a physical freak (quick, explosive, long arms, huge hands) and his BBIQ is off the charts. Not respecting this guys game is a mistake that fans shouldn’t make as I know the players aren’t doing that.

    This is not the time to be overconfident. A proper level of respect is needed in this series and I’m hoping that the fans can take the same approach that the players and coaches are going to take and understand that the C’s are a fantastic group. You don’t roll through Cleveland and Orlando without being a damn good team.

  27. I agree with Darius in that Rondo is a beast, but so is D-Will and certainly Nash.

    We will have to be on our game every game, but I think that our journey to the Finals has prepared us well this go around.

  28. I think the focus on the matchups is a good place to start, but the make or break moments are going to occur when the screening and switching starts, and how do the Lakers do when they get caught guarding people we don’t want them guarding?

    One of the things Boston obliterated the Lakers with in 2008 was the guard to guard screen and roll. It usually involved some combo of Cassell, Rondo, Ray Ray or Pierce and at best (for the Celtics) created wide open looks or at worst (again from the Celtic POV) match up nightmares that eventually led to points. How many times can we get stops when Artest has switched onto Ray Ray, and how often do we sidestep possessions where Fisher has to cover Pierce? Therein lies the concerns…..

    My opnion is that the Lakers are not a strong enough defensive team to break the Celtics down completely, but they don’t have to be to win. There are two points of emphasis they need to start with:

    Limit/eliminate Ray Allen Threes. For both practical and psychological reasons, this has to be where the Lakers’ start. Yes, Ray has shown some pretty good off the bounce game in the playoffs, but three is more than two, and I don’t believe the Celtics can make enough two point baskets to beat the Lakers. psychologically, his threes galvanize the Celtics more than any other shot from any of their players, and they conversely deject Celtic opponents. He will make some, because he is a relentless cutter and a phenomenal shooter, but it will be worth any defensive compromises (switch off screens if we get caught-let Pau or whoever run him off that line even if it means a dump in to the screener-again 2 is less than 3.

    The other issue is rebounding. I don’t believe the Celtics will make enough first shots to win either. They win on the strength of threes and second shots. Rondo is a huge part of this, and Kobe needs to be aware of this, if he ends up the guy guarding Rajon. Barkley pointed this out a while ago, but Rondo routinely sacrifices defensive transition for an offensive rebound. If the Lakers can keep him off the boards, not only will it hinder Boton’s O but could lead to several precious easy leak out buckets the Lakers will need, because the Lakers will not make enough shots against Boston’s set half court D to win, but we can save that for the Laker offensive preview…..

    Allen Threes and Rondo O Rebounds. The Celtics cannot win without those. Pierce will get his, if for no other reason that he gets (and deserves) the 5 Star Ref Treatment, but the NBA is not about shutting down a team’s star, but about addressing the 2nd 3rd and 4th options. Take away (realistically just limit) the two options above, and Boston can be had.

  29. The comments dismissing the Celtics are amusing. This is a team that just beat the two teams with the best records in the NBA. They are playiing their best basketball since they won the title and 2008. This is not going to be an easy series at all.

    And Rondo is probably the 3rd or 4th best PG in the NBA (depending on where you rank Nash). To dismiss him as overrated is a bit ridiculous. He is possibly the best player on their team at this point.

  30. While the Celtics’ bench doesn’t have the same punch it did in 2008 (James Posey’s loss especially), don’t underestimate how these guys can get a strong performance from a bench player you least expect. Leon Powe’s 21 points-in-15 minutes in Game 2 still haunts me! Rasheed Wallace can shoot lights out in stretches. Make sure he misses that first one and we’re good to go!

    The Lakers have some X-factors of their own and that includes Luke Walton and Sasha Vujacic. We’re not talking 20-point games, just give us some good possessions for 4-5 min. stretches on both ends . . .

  31. Perkins has 6 techs, garnet and wallace both have 4.

    >>>One-game suspensions are issued when players reach seven Ts and with every other technical past No. 7 (Nos. 9, 11, 13, etc.).

    >>>Jackson did show sympathy for Kendrick Perkins, one of the Celtics’ most physical players. The Lakers coach said his team had no desire to frustrate Perkins in an effort to force the center into a technical foul.

    why not? perkins’s one or 2 suspensions would be huge for Pau.

  32. 27 – Rondo over Nash no doubt.

    Who are the #1 and #2 PGs?

  33. 3 Finals in 3 years. It seems we lakers fans are the lucky ones.

    Please appreciate that.

    Regarding this Boston Cetics. I do not think that age will be a factor, I see them as a very strong group.
    But this time Lakers is also a very tough group which can defend at the same level. I love Artest.

    And I agree Lakers is the better team in offense. Kobe is playing fantastic. Pau is ready and he will step up (do not forget how good he has been these playoffs, only the last 2 games have been average and lakers won, sure the Suns were focusing on him in defense which opens other ways).

    That should make the difference.

  34. Rondo is their best player for me as well.
    He has been growing as a player the last 3 years. He is a great player. No doubt about that.

    I also agree with Darius. Sure Lakers players respect Celtics players.
    I am sure there is also respect the other way around.

  35. I’ve added the section on Pierce/Artest to the post as I was able to find it in a word doc. One thing that I did not mention are Pierce’s tendencies. Without sounding over the top, Pierce is actually one of the most complete offensive players in the league. He can shoot his jumper going in both directions, can get all the way to the hoop, is excellent at drawing fouls, and also has a good enough post up game. He’s just an excellent offensive player. That said, Ron should understand that Pierce still favors his right hand in shooting his jumper especially when iso’d at the top of the key (where he goes hard to his right and tries to get to the elbow to shoot his step back jumper). And when Pierce goes to his left hand, he’s often trying to draw the foul as he wants to get his shoulder by the defender where he can initiate contact to go to the FT line. If Ron understands these tendencies when playing Pierce in isolation it will go a long way towards slowing him down. And since Ron is one of the better isolation defensive players in the league, I have high hopes for his success.

  36. Lakers8884,
    Undoubtedly Phoenix has a better offense than does Boston. That is Phoenix’s calling card and they play defense to supplement that. Boston’s calling card is defense and they play offense off their defense.

    The advantage the Lakers have is their balance between offense and defense — not quite as good on offense as Phoenix and not quite as good as Boston on defense.

    Since Boston does have a more predictable offense, compared to Phoenix, I can see where you are coming from. The problem is Boston’s discipline – like the old Utah teams – and the number of people who can score 8-10 points within their system. That is where temporary lapses on defense by people like Farmar or Lamar can let a 2nd line player get hot.

  37. R. The two best PGs are Derron WIlliams and Chris Paul. In whatever order you want to put them in.

  38. Those of you disrespecting Rondo are crazy. Dude is crazy good. Now, he’s not a great shooter, and probably never will be, but he’s much improved in that area. And his floor vision, defense, and transition/penetration game are all elite. In fact, Rondo is the reason the Cs are back in the Finals. The ’10 versions of Allen/Pierce/KG are all worse than the 08 versions, but Rondo 10 is much, much better than Rondo 08.

    To me, there are 3 major factors this year that make this different from 08, and these reasons are why I expect the Lakers to win in 6:

    1) The Cs have no one who can effectively check Kobe. Allen and Pierce will get their time on him, but neither is an elite defender, and as Boston’s most dangerous shooters, they can’t afford to expend all of their energy on the defensive end for risk of seriously impacting their offensive game plan. In 08, the Cs had Posey, who was very effective at playing positional defense on Kobe, and they played him major minutes. He logged the 5th highest amount of playing time for the Cs that series at 151 (just 11 less than Rondo played over the 6 games). Tony Allen will get the call this year, but he is the not the defender Posey was (nor is he as clutch a 3-pt shooter), and at 6-4, 213, Kobe should be able to do to him whatever he wants.

    2) In 08, we had no one to guard Pierce. Our SFs were VladRad, Walton,and Kobe sliding up to 3 (which happened a fair amount, as Sasha was 5th in minutes played for the Lakers in that series, indicating that Kobe played a lot of 3.) None of those are ideal options. Vlad and Luke are terrible defenders against anyone really, and Pierce is one of the few wingmen who can muscle up Kobe effectively. Now we have RonRon to trot out on Pierce, and really, this is Pierce’s worst nightmare. Ron is both stronger and tougher than Pierce, is just as quick (although neither have much of a first step anymore), and worse yet, stays at home on D, playing tight and rarely going for up fakes. Pierce basically has 3 go-to offensive moves: 1) the step-back pull-up semi-J (because sometimes it seems like more of a set shot), which sets up both 2) the up-fake and step-in to draw the foul, and 3) the up-fake and drive past his defender to the rack. Against Artest, moves #2 and #3 probably won’t be there all that often, mainly because Ron simply doesn’t go for up fakes all that often. Pierce should be able to get #1 almost any time he wants, but he’ll have to do it with Artest crowding him and chopping at the ball with those crazy strong hands of his. Needless to say, this is a major, major improvement over 2008.

    3) Anything we get out of Bynum will be a major plus over 2008. As we all know, he didn’t play a minute in that series, and thus our front line consisted of the thin men, Gasol and Odom. Say what you will about AB, but dude is 7-1 and 285, and is a big presence out there. The Cs are mostly undersized up front, relying on bulk to get their baskets down low (KG isn’t undersized, but his game is primarily perimeter Js and turn-arounds from the baseline). But with Bynum out there, Perkins and Big Baby will be facing someone who weighs just as much as they do but who has 3-4 inches on each of them. The key here will be whether Bynum will stand up to the two, especially Perkins, who likes to play the bully, but will back down if you push him back.

  39. I think a major part of Boston’s offense that is being overlooked is when the Big Crybaby comes into the game. Perkins is not a very good offensive player (at least as far as I have seen), but Crybaby has the ability to hit the fifteen footer consistently and keep our bigs out of the lane. I actually thought against Orlando that the Celtics were most dangerous on O with crybaby in there.
    Tony Allen was also a non-factor in the last series, and I believe that was mostly due to a sprained ankle. If he is better, when Pierce goes out, he is going to be Kobe’s primary defender, and if my memory recollects, he did a relatively decent job. So that is another issue we will have to lookout for.
    But the biggest issues when the C’s have the ball is not to get caught up with all the C’s crying. Even though the C’s claim to be a “defensive and physical team,” any time the physicality is exhibited by the other team – like the Magic in games 4, 5, and beginning of 6 – they cry like their is no tomorrow. The C’s and their fans went so far as to call Dwight Howard dirty, and I think it effected the refs in game 6. It sad when that was their gameplan in the series – hit Dwight so many times that the refs will be unable to call them all, punch them if you have to, and then cry about the other team being dirty every time Rondo falls.
    I have a feeling that is going to be their gameplan against Artest – to take him out of his element – and even though he has been very stable, it will be an issue to look into. I am also curious if Artest is going to be ready to not “bite” on the Pierce offensive foul/I mean pump fake where he jumps sideways, and sometimes backwards into the defender and then jacks up a shot. It should be interesting how they call that play as well.
    Also. the C’s get to the free throw line a lot because of skewing continuation, as I have often seen refs call either jump shots or continued missed layups for the C’s even though they were not in the act of shooting, or driving towards the basket. If we foul, limiting the action after the contact is pretty critical to limit the C’s O.
    And finally, their is the Rasheed factor, who, while he has been pretty bad most games, has given the C’s two or three good games in these playoffs that could be dangerous for us. He plays in the same role as Frye on offense now (essentially a floor stretcher), and remains an overall solid post defender. He can shoot Boston in or out of games (as he did with Detroit) and will be a dangerous weapon.
    Do not forget the fact that the C’s have essentially 4 big guys (Garnett, Perk, Crybaby, Sheed), while the Lakers really only have 3 (Pau, Bynum, Odom). So expect them to foul and shove every time at the basket or on D because they are not worried about getting into foul trouble.
    Pau also has to neutralize Garnett. As we have seen Garnett hasn’t been as stellar on O this season/postseason, he is still a force, and though his primary role now is to set screens and run to the boards, he still hit some big shots against the Magic in game two, and can have some good games.
    The whole series is going to be a test of focus and intensity, one game and one play at a time guys.

  40. Williams and Nash may be better than Rondo, you can make that argument. But for our personnel, Rondo is much harder to guard. He’s in the mold of Russell Westbrook, who torched us in the 1st round (obviously Kobe locked him down, but Westbrook is green and Rondo is on a different level). It’s not impossible, but it’ll be a challenge.

    I’d just like to see what happens when Kobe bodies Rondo up. Thorpe has promoted it over and over again – without pressuring Rondo, the defenders are giving him easy driving lanes, passing angles, time to read the defense, and space to build a running start. Historically Kobe has done well by laying off Rondo, but this may be a different Rondo.

    Craig – I agree Ron won’t let Pierce out of his sight normally, but in transition, everything gets messed up. If Rondo is leading a break and Artest is the first one back, he has to cut off the paint, right? Or you get Leon Powe walking to the hoop. And so that’s where I worry we won’t mark Pierce/Allen in transition at the 3-point line.

    The way I remember 2008, although Posey did the best job, I still remember Pierce and Allen playing damn good defense on Kobe within their system. Pierce in particular gave Kobe problems. That’s why I don’t like stopping the discussion at individual matchups. It doesn’t take into account a great team defense. In 2008 I would have taken Kobe over Allen and Pau over Perkins anyday, but it didn’t quite work out that smoothly.

    One great thing about this matchup – for the first time all season, we can stop worrying about complacency. If we lose, it’ll be because of poor execution, not because our players were asleep.

  41. This is an awesome quote from Artest that I’d never seen before. It’s from when we played the C’s on January 31 and him and Pierce got into it before the jump ball:

    “I was in my position and he tried to put his leg over my position. But if you’re not strong enough, you shouldn’t be fighting with me,” he said. “If you really can’t match my strength, then why even try to pick a fight? Why even try to tussle? I was on the white line and you cannot cross my line.”

    It is so sweet not to have Vlade on Pierce. I remember being physically ill in 2008 when I first realized who’d be guarding Pierce.

  42. One more thing to mention – Kobe is actually better than he was in 2008. In 08 he tended to athletically try to take over the game and Pierce/Posey were able to take him on by using physical force (Ron’s trick). Kobe doesn’t do as much athletically now, but his footwork is much better and he is always trying to involve his teammates – except when they show they are thoroughly ‘out of it’.

    This means Kobe will be very, very dangerous against any SSZ defense.

  43. Snoop – I saw you mention Thorpe’s view of defending Rondo in another thread as well, and there’s definitely merit to that perspective. But I’d have to imagine that Kobe discusses his approach to Rondo with our slew of coaches before and after every game.

    I think that the bottom line is, if they feel an adjustment has to be made at some point, then it will happen. As it is right now, I believe our coaches favour the lay low and prevent penetration approach, and we’ll see how that works out – these are, after all, more experienced basketball minds than Thorpe; or at least we hope. Thorpe is, after all, the best ESPN has to offer.

  44. The key to the series will be guard rebounding. If you watch the Celtics, you will see that Pierce and Allen never go for offensive rebounds unless they’re already under the basket. Those two are the ones assigned with getting back on defense (because they’re older and slower), while KG, Perkins, and especially Rondo, crash the boards. Rondo is an excellent offensive rebounder, so Kobe has to box him out. We’ve seen Kobe box out much bigger guys, so he definitely has the skills, but like many things with Kobe, it’s all about mindset. If he gets Rondo to put up a 15 footer, which would be great for us, he needs to turn around and body up Rondo so he can’t pursue the rebound.

  45. As I view this series, I find myself amazed about how evenly matched these 2 teams are. It’ll be interesting to see how we match-up against a team that’s just as big/long as us (Pau/Drew & L.O. vs K.G./Rasheed & Perkins). Both teams’ success is predicated upon their Defense. It’s always been this way for the C’s and we’ve definitely stepped up our intensity this season on the ‘Championship’ end of the court. I believe ‘Jesus Shuttlesworth’ is the individual that we’ll have to Mark, therefore, the key players on our end will be Captain Fisher & Sasha/ShanWOW.

    As mentioned by Darius earlier, P. Square is their best offensive player because of the various ways in which he can create buckets 4 himself. After Pierce, I believe it’s Rondo because of his ability to score and facilitate for others. With that being said, I believe, when FOCUSED, we have 2 of the best On Ball Defenders in the Association in Kobe & Ron Ron. One made 1st Team All Defense this season & the other, in my opinion, should have been right by his side (obvious bias by the Media ‘gainst Ron). Fortunately, in this series, they’ll have every opportunity to prove why they’re held in such high regards (for the most part) on the defensive front. Kobe has to stay in front of Rondo & contest his jump shots (with his length, that shouldn’t be a problem), keep him out of the paint in their half court sets and as team, we’ll have to limit his open court opportunities. Ron Ron has to force Pierce to his weak hand/side (Left), stay down on his pump fakes & body him up when called for. With each of them being highly motivated (for obvious reasons), I feel that they can/will neutralize Boston’s two primary scorers.

    As good as K.G. is, he’s just not the same player as he used to be prior to the Knee Injury. Not as Athletic or Explosive and definitely not as Intimidating. Therefore, Pau (who is a very underrated defensive player, IMO) should be able to contain K.G. throughout the series. And no Disrespect to ‘Mean Face’, but if we have to worry about him offensively, there’s no need for us to even be in this Title Contest.

    Which leaves us with ‘Jesus Shuttlesworth’. A knock-down shooter, who utilizes single and double screens as effectively as Reggie Miller used to for the Pacers. The reason why I say he’s the Key to their offense is because he’ll have a smaller defender (Captain Fisher) chasing him around. One, who is not used to applying that type of defense (tailing Pure Shooters ’round screens) against an opposing player. Guarding ‘Jesus Shuttlesworth’ will be a totally different challenge than defending D. Will, General Nash &, for the majority of the Thunder series, Sefalosha. Sasha has the height (6’7) to challenge the shot, fresh Legs to keep up (considering he hasn’t played too many mins all year), but not the temperament and he won’t get the benefit of the doubt from the Refs. As for ShanWOW, he’s just not a good defender. He’s what I like to call ‘A Run By Defender.’ Meaning he’ll just Run By a player without actually challenging the shot.

    So Bottom Line: ‘Jesus Shuttlesworth’ is The MARKED MAN because he has the ADVANTAGE in his match-up in this series. Basically, it’ll take a team effort to contain him. If we can do this, we’ll retain ‘THE BELTS.’

    BTW: Thanks Darius & Crew for the Acknowledgment in the Game 6 Re-cap.