NBA Finals Preview Part II: When The Lakers Have The Ball

Darius Soriano —  June 1, 2010

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Just as we said yesterday, defense wins championships.  A team may not need to be the best defense in the land, but they do need to get the crucial stops in the key moments of the game or be able to generate streaks within a game where they make life difficult on the opposition’s offense.  So with all that in mind, it’s no wonder that the Celtics are in the Finals and in position to win their 2nd championship in the last 3 seasons.

This Celtics team defends.  And they do so with an intensity and at a level that is greater than any team the Lakers have faced so far in these playoffs.  Fueled by an incredible scheme and the smarts to execute it, the Celtics are the NBA equivalent of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens or the Pittsburgh Steelers – they just stop you, plain and simple.  So if the Lakers are going to beat this team and claim their second championship in as many seasons, they’ll need to find a way to break down the Celtics’ D to get the baskets they need to come out on top.

When I spoke with Phillip about how the Lakers could go about scoring against the C’s vaunted D, he spoke to me about getting back to fundamentals:

If the Lakers are going to be successful against that Boston defense, they’re going to have to go back to the two most fundamental offensive philosophies: 1) Moving the ball, and 2) Movement without the ball.

The Celtics starting unit will be the biggest, longest, most physical starting unit the Lakers have seen this post season. This Celtics team, much like the title winning team in ’08 defends extremely well as a team, and take pride in doing so. To counter their defensive tenacity, you have to make them work as individuals as much as possible. The Lakers have a tendency to stand around and watch others operate (most notably Kobe ) instead of moving without the ball, cutting or setting screens. If this happens against the Celtics, they will eat the Lakers alive. It all starts with Kevin Garnett, who communicates defensively in the same way someone like Ray Lewis does: he’s talking all the time, telling his guys where they need to be, when they need to be there, and what they need to do when they get there. It’s fascinating to watch how well they communicate defensively, but if you have guys constantly moving around, it gets harder for KG to pay attention to every thing going on if he has to focus more on not letting his man get free.

On this point, I could not agree with Phillip more.  The Celtics’ defense is predicated off knowing what you want to do, anticipating your next pass, and then trying to take those options away or limit their effectiveness when they start to play out.  They’re a fantastic one on one defensive team, but their team schemes are predicated off of their ability to help and recover so they give off the look of playing a “zone” scheme when, in fact, they’re actually just very good at cutting off angles and showing offensive players a second defender before they scurry back to recover to their own man.

This type of defensive scheme can be broken down in the exact way that Phillip describes – with ball and player movement – but in order to actually accomplish it,  there needs to be a high level of execution and commitment to whatever task is being performed.  That means the Lakers can’t lazily cut through the lane when they’re clearing the side for a post up and they can’t half-heartedly set screens when trying to free up a teammate.  Playing anything but all out on the offensive end will allow the Celtics to deny passes to the wing and on ball reversals, which are the staples to the Lakers motions in the Triangle.  Much like two seasons ago, if the Lakers decide that they’re going to stand and watch or in any way not move in unison and with purpose, the Celtics D will look much like the nearly impenetrable phalanx of 2008.

But the movement around the perimeter is only one key to the Celtics defense.  The other (and equally impressive) facet of Boston’s defensive work is their ability to defend the post with single coverage.  Both KG and Perkins (and, to a bit lesser extent, Wallace) are top notch post defenders using their bulk (Perkins) and incredible instincts and length (KG, ‘Sheed) to thwart most post players ability to get easy, uncontested buckets at the rim.  Ask Dwight Howard what it’s like banging with Perkins (or ask Gasol about ’08) – it’s not any fun.  Or as nomuskles emailed me and explained:

I have a strong dislike for (Perkins) but can’t deny how much he impacts the game with his strength on defense and on the boards. Will the Lakers front line stop his bullying by matching his physicality or will the Lakers try to finesse their way around him? Either option has merits but the general consensus seems to agree on the latter.

And that is the key for the Lakers.  As I mentioned yesterday in my little radio conversation (around the 32 minute mark), Perkins and KG are such good defenders that they often fight you for position, but do allow the post entry.  So, Pau (and Bynum) are going to get their chances in the post.  The key is how the Lakers attack them and what tactics they determine to work the best.  Again, Phillip gives us a potential preview of what we may see:

I think we will start to see more of the offense run through the pinch post like we did during the Utah series. The Lakers went away from that during the Suns series, mainly because of the zone, but also because Kobe put himself in a lot of isolation situations…Seeing Pau Gasol back at the elbow will do multiple things for the Lakers. One, it puts Pau in one of his most comfortable spots on the offensive end of the floor. He has a nice face up jumper, can get to the rim relatively easy against most defenders and it opens up those interior passing lanes. Either Garnett or Perkins will be forced to guard him there, opening up lanes for guys like Kobe, Ron Artest, and Lamar Odom to cut to the basket. With Gasol at the elbow, the Lakers have the opportunity to make the Celtics play as individuals; spacing and crisp passing is going to be key.

I agree with Phillip that we’re likely to see Pau play more at the elbow/mid-post, especially when matched up against Perkins and Wallace (two guys that will pound Gasol and try to rough him up whenever he makes a catch in the low post).  Pau’s ability to shoot the jumper and use his good first step will pay dividends when playing 15 feet and out.  However, I also expect to see Pau in the low post when he’s matched up with KG (or, if it happens, Glen Davis).  As great a defender as KG is, his athleticism is not the same as it was two seasons ago and his frame is quite similar to Pau’s.  Gasol should be able to get moderately deep post position against KG and then use his array of post moves to get good looks at the basket.  Whether Pau turns and faces, uses his quick spin move, or backs down KG for one of his jump hooks or turn around jumpers, I do think Pau will have more freedom to play one on one than he saw against Phoenix.  And, I think the same will hold true for Bynum against Perkins.  Yes, ‘Drew will have to battle with Perk for position and he’ll surely pay the price with a variety of shoves and shivers to his back, but if Bynum can make catches from 8 feet and in he’ll show that his offensive skill set (even with the limitations of his knee) is more polished than any Center the C’s have faced these playoffs.

But (getting back to the perimeter for a moment), what can we expect from Kobe?  Two seasons ago, the Celtics were able to make Kobe work for every basket and had a litany of defenders to throw at him (Ray Allen, Tony Allen, Paul Pierce, and James Posey).  This season, the presence of Posey is gone, but these other options remain.  As Kwame A. states:

Tony Allen’s health may be very important.  He is arguably their best defender on Kobe, he played Kobe well in ’08, and also played very well against LBJ this year.

And Phillip adds on that some of what’s worked in the WCF won’t be adequate against Boston:

(Agaisnt Phoenix) when Kobe went iso, he either went one-on-one, or was able to draw double teams and find the open man. Against the Celtics, those kind of offensive principles are not going to work. Kobe is going to see a lot more one-on-one defense from Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, both of whom guard him fairly well. They’ll try and force him into tough jumpshots knowing that either Garnett or Kendrick Perkins will be there waiting for him if they get beat off the dribble.

So, how to get Kobe free?  I think we’ll see a lot of what we spoke about already in this post – Kobe will need to work well off the ball and find the creases in the defense by getting free off screens and curls while also working off the post ups of Gasol.  I also think the Lakers will play a fair amount of P&R (like they did in the ’08 Finals) to force Boston to either play him with the standard hedge/recover tactic or trap him completely – which will then allow Kobe to read the defense and make the correct play coming off the screen.  And in the end, with Kobe being as dialed in as he is right now, I also expect him to take (and make) some of the tough shots that he’s been hitting since the end of the OKC series.  After all, Kobe is still Kobe and those shots are part of his repertoire.  As long as he’s not over-dependent on this part of his arsenal, I think that he (and subsequently the Lakers) will be able to score enough points.

The last two points that are very important to the Lakers’ offensive success in the Finals come down to limiting turnovers and continuing their strong play on the offensive glass.  Boston is one of the better teams at forcing turnovers and securing defensive rebounds after getting the initial stop.  If the Lakers cough up the ball too frequently it will fuel the Celtics transition game and, similar to the Suns series, allow the C’s to get easy baskets at the rim or from behind the arc (something they excel at).  Meanwhile, the Lakers also need to extend possessions by getting extra shots from securing offensive rebounds.  The C’s do have a very good defensive rebounding front line, but one player that I think can make a difference in this area is Odom.  Based off the C’s rotations, he’s likely to spend a lot of time matched up with Davis and/or Wallace and these are players that LO has advantages over (Davis with his length and ‘Sheed with his quickness).  If the Lakers can excel in both of these areas their offense will be good enough.

Obviously, this is a lot to sift through and, seemingly, a lot of aspects in this series that the Lakers will need to perform well if they hope to be successful.  But, as we mentioned, the Celtics are the best defensive team in the playoffs and things will not be easy.  All that said, the Lakers have the personnel, overall skill, and talent to score the ball effectively against this team.  It will take discipline and execution, but what else is new?  We’ll see if the Lakers are ready on both sides of the ball come Thursday.

Darius Soriano

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55 responses to NBA Finals Preview Part II: When The Lakers Have The Ball

  1. What about the possible wrinkle of putting Kobe in the post? This aspect of his game was not on display against OKC and Phx when they had defenders that were lanky. But against the shorter Utah defenders, Kobe experienced a lot of success forcing the D to either send a double team or he’d score over his man.

    With Tony and Ray being shorter defenders, I’d think Kobe would be able to have success down in the post. It would also allow Pau to cut and move off the ball minimizing KG’s banging on him.

    Additionally will Bynum’s knee being drained mean his effectiveness will be enhanced? In the two regular season games this year, it seemed like Bynum figured out how to deal with Perkins’ physicality and was able to score over him efficiently. Anything close to that and it would aid immensely in compromising the defense.

  2. I brought this over from the previous post.

    Rondo-Pierce-Allan have seen their minutes spike upward in the playoffs, and as a consequence they’re getting to the free throw line more, turning the ball over less, and hitting a higher percentage of threes.

    By being more efficient in these areas, the Celtics control tempo. Opponents are taking the ball out of bounds and their transition and early offense opportunities are limited.

    When you permit the Celtics to set up their defense, it’s much more difficult to score. And when it’s much more difficult to score, opportunities for their transition game and early offense–which happens to feature Rondo, Allan, and Pierce–increase.

    This is how the Celtics are dictating tempo.

    Interestingly, KG and Perkins aren’t playing more minutes.

  3. My guess is that the Lakers start out going to Bynum a lot; to get him going, to force some help down low, and to frustrate Perkins – hoping to later draw that dreaded 7th technical.

    This can then be followed by feeding Gasol, who can hit cutters or Andrew and create his own shot.

    All this should compress the defense and allow people like Ron and Fish to spend most of their early energy on defense.

  4. Kobe in the post might not be a bad idea, especially when Gasol and odom are the bigs out there with him and can stretch the defense a bit more than Bynum can.

    As Darius said, I’m excited about the possibility of more low-post catches by Gasol. The way OKC and Phoenix took him out of the offense by fronting and doubling, I think the Lakers missed Gasol’s passing from there even more than his quite efficient scoring.

    Having him distribute from there by drawing a second defender upon starting a move will also help ease the load on Kobe to be a playmaker. In his limited chances in the Phoenix series for example, Gasol was still a willing and creative passer instead of getting frustrated and just trying to get his. I trust him to be more effective than in 2008.

  5. Chownoir:

    That is one aspect that hasn’t been discussed much to date. One of the big differences between 2008 and 2010 is that Kobe is now a legitimate low post scorer, and he should be able to take both Allens down to the block with regularity and ease if the Cs insist on singling him. Of course, to get the ball in to him unimpeded he would need to be on the weak side, and the ball movement would need to be crisp.

  6. I think we are being silly that the Celts are going to run 100% SSZ D. Do not be surprised if we see zone against this club, especially against the second unit, as teams want Lakers other than Kobe to take jump shots. Could be a wrinkle, but lets not be so silly to believe the Lakers are going to easily be able to establish position in the post.
    Also, the C’s are a team of floppers, and posting up and allowing the help D coming from Perkins/Garnett plays into their strengths, not their weaknesses. This is especially true if Wallace is in the game – he is a very underrated post defender. While I want to see Wallace get a ton of minutes (he can single handedly destroy the C’s without our help), he is a dangerous weapon who is not afraid to flagrant foul because he knows their is no real consequences to him if he gets suspended. Watch out for some D.I.R.T.Y. play from the Celts bigs.

  7. Interesting comment from CelticsHub:

    http://celticshub.com/2010/06/01/kobe-bryant-is-playing-out-of-his-mind/comment-page-1/#comment-62894

    He is not the only one. I pouched this from CelticsBlog and all props to the poster drza44.

    Beasley.
    ‘10 reg season: 14.8 ppg, 45% FG, 1.7 TOs, 30 min/game
    ‘10 playoffs Celtics (KG on bench): 19.5 points/30 min, 62% FG, 2.2 TOs/30 min
    ‘10 playoffs Celtics (KG in game): 7.7 points/30 min, 32% FG, 3.2 TOs/30 min

    Jamison
    Jamison: ‘10 reg season: 18.7 ppg, 46% FG, 1.4 TOs, 36 min
    Jamison: ‘10 playoffs (not Boston): 19.4 ppg, 51% FG, 1.8 TOs, 35 min/game
    Jamison ‘10 playoffs (Celtics, KG on bench): 26 points/36 min, 56% FG, 0 TOs/36 min
    Jamison ‘10 playoffs (Celtics, KG in game): 11.2 points/36, 38% FG, 1.9 TOs/36

    Lewis
    Lewis ‘10 Reg season: 14.1 ppg, 43.5% FG, 1.5 TOs, 33 min
    Lewis ‘10 playoffs (not Boston): 16.4 ppg, 54% FG, 1.8 TOs, 37 min
    Lewis ‘10 playoffs (Celtics, KG on bench): 17.3 pts/36 min, 48% FG, 1.3 TOs/36
    Lewis ‘10 playoffs (Celtics, KG in game): 5.2 pts/36, 24% FG, 2.0 TOs/36

    Gasol…you next!

    I look for Gasol to be so much better than in 2008. There’s Bynum, and he’s also well-integrated in the offense (OK, except when they don’t get him the ball…). And I don’t think the trio of Beasley/Jamison/Lewis can hold a candle to Gasol, especially inside. Gasol will really challenge Garnett, we’ll get to see how far back Garnett is being to the defensive force of yore.

  8. When it comes to posting up Kobe, I’d like the Lakers to be selective about it.

    If he’s battling for position, using energy up trying to maintain his position while waiting to receive the entry-pass, that’ll wear him out.

    It’s worth it in crunch time, or to stop a run. I think going to it too early and too often would be a strategic error.

  9. i think kobe will go to the post every time he has allen on him. that way he will most likely draw a double team or get allen into foul trouble. he will probably drive if they stick pierce or tony allen on him. both wont be able to keep up. cant wait to see what kobe and ron will do this series. i trust pau and lamar to show up big time, they´ve proven themselves to be anything but soft since that game 6 loss

  10. @Jaz

    good post. Plus i think we can all agree that Pau is a much better low post than any of those players.

    im just tired of waiting, lets play!!

  11. Agree with everything you said.

    If we focus on what the two teams are doing well. Two factors stand out.

    One. The Celtics are the best team in forcing turnovers, creating turnovers on 16.1% of opponent possessions.

    They do this by:

    1. strong on ball pressure by the point guard, forcing the offense to initiate plays later in the shot clock which increases urgency, pressure, and ultimately poor execution and turnovers.

    Lakers counter: Odom and Kobe, and not just Fisher are very adept at initiating the offense.

    2. Aggressive pressure on the perimeter passer and agressive ball denial.

    Lakers counter. Run the safety valve counter, back door cuts at the base line and quick give and go , pinch post sequence.

    3. Strong side zone (yes we stole this one from them). Over load the ball side and cut off passing lanes.

    Lakers counter. Make the easy pass, not the cross court pass.

    4. A lot of charges taken and flopping. Especially by Davis and Pierce.

    Lakers counter. Know your opponent’s tendencies. An open lane to the hoop with Davis in the game is likely to end in a charge.

    The Lakers averaged the lowest rate of turnovers on offense at 11.4% (bar the statiscally irrelevant Blazers and Bulls). Keep the turnovers to this rate and the Lakers the minimize one of Boston’s key strengths because although Boston’s defensive rating is the best in the playoffs, their opponent’s EFG of .482 is actually worse than the Lakers’ .479.

    Reducing turnovers reduce transition point opportunities for Boston. Their transition offense is outstanding with Rondo, their half court offense is mediocre.

    Two. What you didn’t mention is the Laker’s improved offensive rebounding.

    The Lakers’ ORB% of .304 is the highest of all teams and a tick up from their regular season mark. In fact, of the top 4 offensive rebounders in the playoffs, Gasol, Odom, and Bynum are 1, 2, and 4 (Amare is 3).

    Because Boston is very good at defensive rebounding at .775, LA will be challenged to maintain their O rebounding rate, as well as the strategic tension between committing to offensive rebounding OR getting back to stop transition offense.

    A possible strategy: Attack the hoop with dribble penetration. Because Boston is also a very good shot blocking team, with the highest block total of the playoffs, dribble penetration should draw shot blockers, and create rebounding lanes for the Laker bigs.

  12. Great Great article on Fisher.

    http://www.nba.com/2010/news/features/fran_blinebury/05/31/fisher.profile/index.html

    a few quotes

    “Nobody ever has doubts about Fish,” said Bryant.

    Nobody, that is, inside the L.A. locker room. But to much of the outside world in Lakerdom, Fisher is perennially and inexplicably viewed as the weak link in the chain.

    In short, Fisher is the player that Bryant trusts most.

    “I knew we had to get Fish back,” Bryant said. (referencing the seasons he didn’t have Fish)

    “I just try to keep doing what I do,” (Fisher) said. “You know, there’s a song out right now called ‘All I Do is Win’ and that’s pretty much what I focus on and I allow that to do the speaking.”

  13. I’m not sure is this is more about the Lakers O vs. Celtic D than it is the Lakers doing the things that allow them to be successful on Offense which is not meant to slight the Celtics but my “unsophisticated” eye tells me that when the Lakers do a couple of things they have success.

    1. Laker big men getting good position. When any of the 3 laker bigs get good deep position close to the basket (but not directly underneath it where Odom struggles) they will have success against anyone in the league. I don’t view this as something the Celtics can prevent rather it just takes consistent effort & focus (ie they need to think about it each time down the court). This allows Bynum to dunk or do his two hand lay-up/drop-in thing, Gasol to work is his either arm swinging moves and allows Odom to get put backs.

    2. We must take our time on offense. Again in my unsophisticated watching of the offense it seems that when we move the ball and work the offense methodically (much like playing chess) we have tremendous success. When we start running around and passing in what appears a frenzied fashion we struggle, a lot.

    3. We have got to work the ball from the inside out. This is clear to everyone but when we start settling for hurried (see above) 3’s or start dribbling for 7 seconds than putting up a 2 for a lack of a better option there are problems.

  14. I hate to say it but with the agressive and physical way the Celtics play defense this series will largely depend on how the game is called. Somehow it’s already become an accepted fact that the home teams will get more calls their way. Why? Who knows. Are rules different based on the venue?

    If the Celtics are able to bump shooters, push on rebounds and throw blocks instead of screens the Lakers will have a tough time with it. Not because they’re soft but because they won’t be allowed the same leeway…mainly because they don’t have the reputation as a “tough” team.

  15. Do you think simply playing the SSZ in 2009 (which took elements from the C’s defense) has helped us prepare to break the C’s defense down? Now that we’ve actually played a similar defense in practice and in games, wouldn’t it make sense that we’re more familiar with the weaknesses of the defense.

    Can’t agree with Bill more. No cross-court passes. I’d rather see the ball reversed with short, quick passes where everyone is in proper position to receive the ball, rather than the long pass, which will almost definitely get picked off.

    Here’s a great article on Artest, really unique insight into Ron:

    http://www.cbssports.com/nba/story/13461732/artests-road-to-redemption-may-conclude-with-lakers-in-finals?tag=coverlist_active;coverlist_footer

  16. I’d like to see just a few of KG’s illegal screens called.

  17. Bill Bridges,
    My one fear with having Lamar on the perimeter is that he will put his head down and drive an apparently open lane when Davis is in the game (most of the time Lamar will be playing early).

    This is apparently instinctive with Lamar as he has done this his entire career with the Lakers.

  18. I think that the Lakers can’t lose, because no one is afraid this time. This moment defined that coming out, for me:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SX_5o-mxH4w

    No one is scared.

  19. As much as people hate to hear this argument about Pau (including myself) if he lets Garnett bully him around then he will once again retain that “soft label”. We Lakers fans will love him no matter what he does but around the league that is how he will be known just like he was after the 2008 series. It’s just how the NBA is, it always seems that the negatives about a player stick while the positives seem to be forgotten especially when it happens on the biggest stage of the game with everyone watching. I love the guy and I hope he is going to be up for the challenge because Kobe needs him now more than ever.

    Also I have to say Kobe’s shooting these last 2 series has been unreal (maybe the best in a few years), if he keeps this up there is nobody on Boston’s team who will be able to stop him because there isn’t much defense a player can supply when the guy is hitting jumpers like he did against the Suns.

  20. I am not worried about the Lakers’ D holding up. They will be fine. It is the offense that I am concerned about. The Lakers are going to have fight for points. It’s going to be ugly and low-scoring. Kobe is going to need help from the entire team, it is going to take a balanced scoring attack and maybe a different guy or two stepping up each game. Don’t expect Kobe to go supernova in this series. I really don’t see him shooting a high percentage this series. I think he is smart enough now to work within that, but the others have to step up.

  21. Funky Chicken June 1, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    My heart tells me that this is going to be a tough series, based on the 2008 experience and how tough the Celtics D is. My head, however, thinks that this might be a lot easier than most are predicting, because:

    1. Kobe will be guarded by a FAR inferior defender this time. In 2008, the primary defender on Kobe was Paul Pierce, and when Pierce went to the bench it was James Posey. Those guys are small forwards, about 6’8″ and strong. This time, Pierce will be busy with Artest (if not, Ron will be abusing Ray Allen in the post…) and Posey is long gone. That leaves Ray Allen and Tony Allen.

    2. KG will not be able to roam like last time. If Bynum can stay in the game, Perkins will be preoccupied with Drew, and KG will have his hands full with Pau. Last time, KG was guarding a very passive Lamar, which allowed him to roam defensively–which is one thing he still does very well at his age. Not this year.

    3. Pierce will not be the series MVP because he will not be guarded by VladRad. This has been discussed ad nauseum, but it remains a huge difference (and Laker advantage).

    4. Ray Allen will not be as effective an offensive weapon because he will be defending Kobe all game long (see point #1). If he doesn’t get into major foul trouble, he will at least expend so much energy defensively that he won’t be the dead-eye shooter that he is when he can coast on defense.

    5. Boston does not have a bench advantage this time. In 2008, several Celtics bench players played huge, and largely made the difference in the series. Anyone remember Leon Powe? The guy came out of nowhere to kill the Lakers. Posey was awesome on defense and shot lights out from 3. How about PJ Brown? That guy made nearly every shot he took. Throw in Eddie House and that bench was vastly superior to this year’s version. For all the legitimate criticism of our bench, the 2008 Laker bench was much worse than this year’s group, if for no other reason the fact that our two BEST reserves in 2008 are two of the WORST guys who get any minutes this year (Luke and Sasha). That group now also has LO, Farmar and Brown, so you have a better Laker bench today than you had back 2008. And they’ll be playing against a worse Celtic bench.

    For these reasons I think that the Celtics might actually end up being perceived as a paper tiger once this series is over. They matched up very well with their playoff opponents so far, but that is not going to be the case this time around. With Andrew, the Lakers are bigger AND faster than the Celtics, and the Lakers just finished a series against a team with the best bench they’ll face in the playoffs.

    So, the head says Lakers in 5.

  22. why don’t we put ron in the post?
    Ron is the strongest Sf in the league (besides Lebron James), and he should be posting up, since his shooting has been sucking for the whole playoffs besides that one anomaly (Suns game 6). I don’t get why Artest doesn’t drive to the hoop more often or flash in and out of the post like ariza does –there is no SF in the league that can stop him once he starts bulling his way to the post. Given he sucks at finishing around the rim, it’s still better than him shooting jumpers with a foot on the 3-point line. Plus, he is a very underrated passer…I wonder why the Lakers don’t consider putting him on the block (and have Kobe play on the wing, since Kobe is great on the wing too)

  23. Lakers8884,
    I have to take issue with you about Pau. We all take ourselves too seriously and this is a good case-in-point. The people who count are those who play the games and those who coach the games. We fans and the talking heads love to banter comments about, but that is all it is – banter.

    Pau’s reputation is with his peers and the coaches. My guess is that Doc and the Celtic team is not talking about Pau being soft because that is a good way to overlook the talents of someone who was called ‘the best big man in the NBA’ just last series. The minute players are caught up in the hype they get burned by their opponents.

    Under the worst of situations Pau is still the 2nd best player on a team that has made it to the finals three years running. That is a team no opponent wants to underestimate.

  24. RE the officials: my one and only hope (and believe me i know im delusional for thinking this can happen) is that the officials call games consistently. if they decide to let boston completely pound on our bigs, i can live with that IF we are allowed to do the same on our defensive end. if they allow boston to be physical with our boys but then call us for ticky tac fouls (much how a few of those PHX games were), we could be in some trouble.

    Also, it seems like 90% of boston fans are thinking they will sweep or win in 5. im not surprised but i still find it amusing.

  25. “Also, it seems like 90% of boston fans are thinking they will sweep or win in 5. im not surprised but i still find it amusing.”
    ——–

    Fans who believe this on either side are either not paying attention or just don’t understand basketball at this level. I would LOVE to see the Lakers sweep the Celtics. I would love to see them eliminate Boston in front of their home crowd. I would love for Kobe and CO. to shut that crowd up for another 20 years while the Celtics struggle to be relevant again. But I know better than that. I see it going six possibly seven games with LA winning. I just don’t see the Lakers letting this opportunity get away, not with the memory of 2008 still fresh in their minds.

  26. Craig W, I disagree with you I think teams with great coaches and the means to guard Gasol know exactly how to get him out of his element and thats by playing rough around the basket with him.

    I am sure he is respected by everyone in the league but that by no means says that Doc Rivers isn’t going to tell Garnett and Perkins to play aggressive on him down in the post just like they did in 2008. Respect is earned not given and quite frankly I dont think the Celtics big men have Enough respect for Gasol, that’s why I am hoping he bounces back from his 2008 performance and sheds that “soft personality” he is sometimes given. Notice I said sometimes, meaning he only plays that way against specific opponents who have the ability to body him in the post.

  27. What i dont understand is people constantly saying that the lakers were completely shut down in 2008 finals. most of those games except game 6 were close and the only reason it didnt go 7 was because of that game 4 and all those games the lakers didnt have andrew and artest whho is a prefect matchup for pierce

  28. @21. Funky Chicken

    “So, the head says Lakers in 5.”

    I’ve had this kind of thought as well.

    I have to agree with all the things you listed, with three other factors:

    1. Home Court Advantage: this is a big switch from 2008. The Lakers playoff record at home speaks for itself.

    2. Boston’s Home Record: they have proven to be very beatable at home.

    3. Games Every Other Day: It was evident towards the end of the Orlando series that Boston was starting to feel the effects of the tightening playoff schedule.

    The Lakers must hold the first two at home. If they can do that, the series is over in 5.

    If not, they’ve got a serious fight on their hands.

  29. Lakers8884,
    I think you are listening to the talking heads too much and assuming that is what the players/coaches are saying.

    I don’t think Doc or the Celtics are going to take it easy on Pau, but to say they don’t respect him sounds like a fan talking, not a player. Ignore him at your peril. They must still account for him.

    Also, when he is playing Perkins most of the time and then KG I don’t think it is to his advantage. When he plays KG most of the time and then Davis I think it is a whole ‘nother ballgame.

    Daniel,
    Fans often mistake the end result for the effort. That certainly is the case for the 2008 Finals. Of course, a 39pt loss is a matter of heart — our team didn’t show any that day and it affected all aspects of the smell of that series.

  30. Pau’s long-to-midrange jumper must be automatic to make Garnett pay for helping off him. Garnett usually helps in a way that allows him to quickly get back to his player, so Pau will need to be able to take a few steps back (to create distance) and hit that long jumper.

    For laughs:

    http://i935.photobucket.com/albums/ad199/docfunk3000/BigBaby-Jose3030.gif

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_CqDk4jAv_Y4/S_thyWlCnXI/AAAAAAAADjs/GEvbOTDREzc/s1600/16.jpg

    This is hilarious, I believe it’s Doc Funk too. If so, it’s up there with his Bill Simmons caption for best ever:

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_CqDk4jAv_Y4/S_N45ik0gBI/AAAAAAAADSA/cbtGtEKL_kE/s1600/02.jpg

    OK, the first one is just disturbing. Don’t click if you sleep alone at night.

  31. hillcrestwildcat June 1, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    Celtics fan first time poster. Just my random thoughts, this is a much different series. In 08 I was suprised how many people were suprised the Celtics won in 08. In 08 I thought the Celtics were the clearly better team (especially with Pierce v Radmonivic and Walton at SF). This year I think the teams are as close to even as possible with on paper the edge going to the Lakers (they have the best player in the series, and the world for that matter) on thier team and homecourt advantage. Everything else is a wash I would say. This series will come down to execution (with coaching and adjustments being part of that equation) and mental toughness/desire. Cliche as it is the team that wants it more and imposes their style of play will win. I’m obviously siding with the Celtics but I in know way shape or form think this is a sweep or anything less than a 6 game series for either team.

  32. @7 Celtic comment, those forwards are chumps.

    Pau isn’t and he’s 7 feet tall.

    Pau plays inside out, not outside in like those others.

    As long as Pau doesn’t shrink or get frustrated, he will pose a lot of problems to the Celtics.

    Once again, the Celts fans disprove the myth that they know anything, let alone about basketball.

    Bye.

  33. #33. Way to be objective there, Gabriel. I would say extreme homerism isn’t a trait that’s isolated to Celtics fans. There are plenty of knowledgeable C’s fans just as there are Lakers fans. With franchises that have the great history of these two, you’re going to find fans that are both old timers that know of what they speak and bandwagoners that are only along for the ride of the current highs. I think we need to be careful of not painting with too broad a brush when it comes to any large group of folks – even C’s fans.

  34. with all the talk that LA’s frontline is soft and the more physical C’s are going to destroy them, i remember the early-90s bulls going up against the pistons and the knicks. on paper, cartwright, horace grant and a bench that had will perdue and stacey king were no match against the Bad Boys’ bigs and the Knicks’ ewing, oakley, charles smith and anthony mason. the bulls, however, found a way to beat those teams en route to the first three-peat.

    i thought about bringing up those matchups, because i really think the LA-Boston finals is going to be about how kobe can play “offensively consistently at a very high level” (note all three qualifiers) throughout a series like that jordan guy to whom he is always being compared.

    i mean part of MJ’s legend is that no matter how hard the pistons/knicks threw their bodies around the bulls (or specifically the jordannaires), jordan would make a shot or two, or a play or two, that would wear down on the opposing teams psychologically.

    as much as I want everyone else on the lakers to contribute against Boston, i don’t see that fire in the eyes of kobe’s supporting cast. that’s clearly not the case with a driven Kobe, who (hopefully) might have given us a glimpse of what’s to come in the finals with his virtuoso performance in the WCF.

    am i saying the lakers can win with kobe in solo flight? absolutely no. all i’m saying is, for LA to stay aggressive, it has to see kobe taking the lead. after the knicks beat the bulls during jordan’s retirement, jordan said it was like the neighborhood bully picking on the little brother because he wasn’t around.

    kobe needs to have the exact same mentality going into these finals — as long as he’s around, nobody’s going to push around his little brothers.

  35. I’m a Firm believer that this series will be won in the Paint. Therefore, considering the Physicality of Boston’s Bigs, it’s imperative that Big Drew, L.O. & especially Pau attack the rim with Force. Go up Strong & DO NOT try to AVOID the contact. Invite It. Put the Onus on the Refs to make the call. This BeanTown team isn’t OKC, Utah or the Suns (teams we had the height & strength over). We’re not going to be able to just Shoot Over their Defenders and/or get 2nd shot opportunities. If the Refs get the slightest inclination that our Bigs are playing passive/soft & not matching the C’s physicality, trust me, they’re going to swallow their Whistles.

    With that being said, I’m of the Mindset that Pau and Drew will be able to establish good position & have every opportunity to score the ball against KG & ‘Mean Face’. As mentioned in the preview above, while still effective defensively, KG just isn’t what he used to be on the ‘Championship’ side of the ball. That knee injury that he sustained last year has taken away alot of his Athleticism. He isn’t as Quick off of his feet as he was in ’08. Meanwhile, ‘Mean Face’, while physically imposing, isn’t accustomed to playing against Bynum. I believe the main reason why he handles Dwight so well is because he’s very familiar with him. In the 2 reg season games, Bynum played effectively (19 pts & 11 rebs and then 14 & 9) against Boston. If Drew can establish position (a big If), he should have no problem getting his shot over him. Granted he’s not 100%, but judging by those Ice Packs that ‘Mean Face’ applies DURING the game (not after, as when he knows that he’s not going back into the game), he’s not completely healthy either. Another advantage is that ‘Mean Face’, who plays with so much emotion, will have to be on his P’s & Q’s due to his Technical Fouls situation.

    Also, as stated earlier by another commenter, I would like to see Kobe utilized in the post. With the size advantage he would have over either Allen (Ray or Tony), he’ll be able to get off a good shot or force the C’s to send a secondary defender; @ which point he’ll be able to hit a cutter or a spot up shooter for the open J.

    However, a Major concern for me offensively is ‘Captain Fisher’. Due to the fact that he’ll be the primary Defender against ‘Jesus Shuttlesworth’ (chasing him around all of those screens), will he have the Legs to continue knocking down Key perimeter jumpers late in the game. I Pray he will.

  36. A great way to lower a shooters FG% is to tire him out on defense. If Kobe forces Ray to guard him in the post and battle him for position it’ll wear Ray moreso than Kobe because KBs got the bigger body.

    Can you imagine Ray being bodied up in the post, fighting for position than having to run around a series of screens on the offensive end without always receiving the pass..

  37. it’ll be interesting to see if they let pierce match up with kobe defensively. if they did, that would mean ray allen would be covering artest.

    artest posting up allen may not be pretty, but i like the chances of artest getting an easy basket or our bigs playing volleyball with the backboard.

    personally, i see ray allen defending kobe with pierce and tony allen getting spot duty on him. i don’t think pierce’s body can handle guarding kobe and trying to score on artest for a seven game series. i’d like to see kobe post up more when he has either allen on him.

  38. i like the idea of posting artest up, just so he makes allan or pierce exert a lot of energy trying to get him out of there.

    i’m not too crazy about the spacing on the floor when that happens, though.

    i wish i had our recent games against the celtics on tape. i’d like to analyze our offense against them, identify which plays provoke an aggressive response, and identify the players responsible for helping. that ought to show us the chinks in their armor.

  39. anyone have any thoughts about #22 and putting ron artest to the post?

  40. So much will depend on the refs. If they start out Game 1 calling it tight, that’d generally work in our favor among the bigs. If that happens, however, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ron sit with 2 early fouls. The guy’s so amped up and bound to be playing physical defense, I just hope the refs don’t limit him.

    This will be a complex series, but if I had to pick one statistic to watch as a barometer of the series, I’d pick the boards. I think rebounding against their frontline will reveal so many trends as to how our bigs and team are stacking up against theirs.

  41. Kenny – I’m a little conflicted. Ron definitely has the size advantage if they try to put Allen on him. But Ron’s not exactly a skilled post player; he’s a ball-stopper and doesn’t pass well out of doubles. The Celtics bigs are excellent at helping without being out of position to recover. I can see Ron backing Allen (or even Pierce) deep into the paint, but if he doesn’t get the proper angle (and if our bigs don’t properly space the floor), Garnett will come over and bother the shot. Remember, Ron’s not the best at-the-rim finisher, historically. And I don’t think he could read a soft double and hit Pau/Drew for a pinpoint pass.

    If Lamar’s in the game, it changes a little, because then there’s far more spacing. It could work, and I definitely think we should try it. But if it doesn’t work, we shouldn’t keep going to it, because I think it’ll bog our offensive down. Once Artest is told to score, he goes 1-on-1 and stops running the offense.

  42. how about if lakers play little fast pace against boston. Boston don’t have anyone except Rondo who can play fast pace and as we seen in regular season, boston have trouble again teams that play run and gun.

  43. Even if it should prove not to be the most efficient way of scoring, I would still love to see Artest punish Rayray in the post 3-4 times a game.

    Think punishment first, scoring second.

  44. thisisweaksauce June 2, 2010 at 2:31 am

    I agree. We need to get easy buckets in transition or in semi-transition. We can’t always be waiting too long into the shot clock to start the offense; when Orlando started slowing the pace down, it played right into the Celtics’ hands (as Jeff Van Gundy noted on television). It will be hard enough to score against the Celtics’ half-court defense.

  45. manny, im sure the lakers will play fast in spurts (especially when the bench unit comes in and we have lamar running the point at times).

    about the gasol-garnett matchup: how come nobody mentions that kg is the only “real” low-post threat that boston has (the 10 points provided by perkins are usually layups after offensive rebounds). gasol is a very good defender (i think he has proven that the last 2 years), and i think he will make garnett work very hard for his points (thus taking away his energy on the defensive end).

    2008 gasol had to score on perkins and kg, this year its 80% of kg´08 and the dead body of sheed (i dont think the celtics will try big baby on gasol… thats like trying nate robinson vs kobe).

    pau has so many options to score (compared to beasly, jamison and lewis) and he is very good in drawing fouls. granted, he might not get the calls on the road, but at least the home games will be a little easier for him. and even if he is not scoring, he is a very good passer, defender, offensive rebounder…

    what im trying to say is that in my opinion, the lakers have not 1 but the 2 best players in this series. i´d take gasol over pierce in a heartbeat. cant wait for thursday

  46. 34: Uh….yeah, maybe that was just a tad too broad a stroke with my last line.

    I’m usually cooler than that.

    I guess I could go into the subject about perceptions of our fan base versus the Celtics and others, but that probably wouldn’t be so interesting.

    My main problem was the complete dismissal of Pau in the quote.

    It would be as silly as me thinking Rondo could be shut down easily when he hasn’t really yet.

    Bye.

  47. It will be nice to not have James Posey and Leon Powe to deal with. They came up big for the C-words in ’08.

  48. 39)”when Orlando started slowing the pace down, it played right into the Celtics’ hands ”

    The difference is that Orlando didn’t have near the half-court offensive capabilities that the Lakers do,

  49. 38, 39.

    I’m all for taking the fast break opportunities as they present themselves, but picking up the pace as a primary tactic or trying to mimic another team that may have had some success presumes that the Cs are better in the half court than we are.
    I’ll take our halfcourt game over theirs any day. They’re the team that should be considering switching their style of play for us.

  50. I have to say, I like the official schedule wallpaper that Lakers.com put up this morning. The Celtics look… small. :)

  51. In 08 it felt like I was one of the only ones who thought the Celtics were the better team. This year I do not feel that way, but there are a couple of concerns that I think some overly optimistic Laker fans are overlooking.

    1. Bynum’s health. The Lakers need Bynum to give them solid minutes especially on D and on the boards. If he is too limited, this series may tilt the other way.

    2. You can not judge the Celtics by individual matchups. The whole is greater than the sum of their parts right now. In the regular season this was not the case, but somewhere in the Cleveland series they turned a corner and started clicking on all cylinders.

    It will come down to heart/desire and the ability to stick to and execute the game plan in the face of intense team pressure.

  52. Kobe and others should be in the attack mode from the get-go.Transitioning might baffle the big 4.

  53. The morning links are up. There’s some good reading in there, check ‘em out.

    http://www.forumblueandgold.com/2010/06/02/around-the-world-wide-web-nba-finals-eve/

  54. The problem with posting Ron is that he can’t elevate to get his shot over an attached defender. We’re talking about Pierce, right? Maybe he can muscle Allen off him enough to get separation, but PP? I don’t see it.

    @32, welcome to you and all level-headed C’s posters. I pretty much am in accord with your read on this series– extremely tight with a small edge to the Lakers based on HCA, Kobe, and I would add Phil over Doc (although I think he’s had a great year and has proven that he’s a top-level coach). The bench is also a critical question: the C bench players who scared me the most are gone – Posey, House, Powe to a lesser extent – to what degree will Baby and Sheed play a useful role in the series and will the Lakers get anything out of their bench (other than Lamar)? We’re looking at such a contrast of styles, this is going to be just awesome to watch.

    Tom’w, baby! IT’S ON!