Let The Adjustments Begin

Darius Soriano —  June 5, 2010

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Basketball, like life, is about progression.  While there are valuable lessons to be learned from the past, the point is not to live on any past accomplishments or relive past failures, but to take the next step forward and improve on what’s happened. 

And this is where the Lakers are in this series with the Boston Celtics.  It’s obvious that the Lakers have learned and grown since their 2008 Finals defeat; game 1’s victory showed that fact over and over again.  The Lakers were able to get to the basket frequently, they were able to out muscle the team that many have said is stronger, they were able to out strategize and out execute the team that relies on such things to win their games.

But game 1’s effort and execution is yesterday’s news.  Just like the loss of 2008, it can be drawn on as experience and as a blueprint for what works and what doesn’t, but it can’t be used as anything more than that.  The only thing that is carried over from Thursday’s win is the result.  Boston will not come out defeated in the next contest just because the last one ended that way.  And if the Lakers expect to repeat in victory in game 2 (and as champions at the conclusion of this series), they’ll need to do more than just recall what worked, they’ll need to do what worked.  And they’ll need to compensate for what the Celtics will change, as changes are surely coming considering so much of what they tried in game 1 did not work. 

So, once again, we talk adjustments.   In an email exchange I had with Kwame A., he passed along some of things that he thinks the Celtics may try to implement in order to have a more successful game 2:

1st Adjustment: Pierce Defending Kobe. 
I think Pierce will get the bulk of the minutes on Kobe. Doc hopes this will have a two-fold effect. 

One-this will allow the Celts to contain Kobe on the perimeter more, forcing him into lower percentage shots, keeping him out of the lane, and not allowing him to create shots (or second shots) for teammates. 

Two-this will allow the Celts to keep the most important offensive weapon-Jesus Shuttlesworth-out of foul trouble, and available to take Fish and Sasha on the maze of screens he enjoys coming off of and draining sweet jumpers.  We have a counter for their inside game (our length), we have a counter for their go-to scorer (Ron-Ron), we don’t have a counter for Ray Allen and those damn highly effective, 63% of the time illegal, screens he comes of off. 

Like we mentioned in the preview, Allen coming off these screens opens up passing lanes for Rondo, open looks for Boston bigs and those are things we didn’t allow in game 1.  Weird enough, the best way to ensure Allen is on the floor to do this, is with Pierce on Kobe.

I hope that the Lakers don’t let this affect them.  They cannot counter this with an emphasized effort to get Ron the rock on the block.  They have to keep running their sets, and trust Kobe to keep the offense rolling.

2nd Adjustment: More Sheed

Again-this has a two-fold effect.  One-Sheed was the best defender on Pau in game 1.  He blocked a hook, and also was able to move better with Pau than KG could.  Wallace, for everything said about him, is a damn good post defender, and even though Perk was there for the ’08 run, Doc may defer to Sheed and allow him the most minutes against the Lakers most important offensive weapon. 

Two-Sheed opens things up a little offensively for the
C’s.  Without James Posey, the C’s only have 1 full-time threat on the perimeter-Ray-Ray, and another scorer (ADA wheelchair compliant Paul Pierce) who can masquerade as a 3pt threat.  Outside of that, Sheed is their best outside weapon.  When he is in the game, Garnett has more space to operate on the block, and Rondo and Pierce have a legitimate release valve on the perimeter when the drive to the hoop.

3rd Adjustment: More 1-4 Flat Sets For Pierce:

Paul Pierce was having a very hard time getting the ball in a position to score.  This was evidenced by his 9 field goal attempts.  Granted, he took 13 freebies, but still, this suggests Artest did a great job keeping Pierce away from his sweet spots.  To get Pierce a better chance to work in space, and to give him better passing angels on the drive, we may see lots of 1-4 flat sets featuring Pierce up top with the ball.  With their starters, this could allow them to let Allen camp out in the corner (preventing help), while leaving Perk underneath for boards and dunks, Rondo roaming and cutting and Garnett cherry picking spots on the high post to drill from.  The Lakers will have to have their rotations together for this attack.  Kobe must be vigilant not to allow Rondo a free layup on a simple cut, and Pau cannot allow Garnett to get going from 17 feet. This is why timely help by Drew-which he did quite effectively in Game 1, will continue to be key for the Lakers.

4th Adjustment:  The C’s will shrink the floor

Doc Rivers said it explicitly in the post game presser.  They want to shrink the floor.  This was what made Kobe a 40pct in the ’08 finals.  Boston can do this to teams.  They choke you off, and it is what makes them who they are.  They can do this because standard set offenses do not provide the spacing to stop the reaching, rotating and reactions of a tuned in and aggressive C’s defense.  Only thing about that is when you spread it out with great spacing, they can’t shrink the floor.  That is why the triangle is the Lakers best friend and why the 4th quarter was kind of alarming for Laker fans.  Kobe-as Dwyer on Ball Don’t Lie keeps saying-can’t go into a predominantly high screen and roll game.  This is what allows the C’s to key in.

The Lakers can leave the Tri-they did early in the game in favor of a high-low game with Pau and Drew and it worked wonderfully.  The C’s were caught off guard by that, they won’t be next game. 

The other effect of not allowing the C’s to choke you off defensively is that it stifles their transition game, and essentially, Rondo’s overall effectiveness and impact on the game.  Without the turnovers and the run-outs, Rondo is forced to operate in the half-court, and that is where the Lakers want him.

Hey, let’s just hope Tommy T. isn’t working the videotape and is out looking for a job.

I agree with Kwame on all of these points.  Boston must figure out a way to slow Kobe, stop the Lakers penetration, control their defensive backboards, and get their offensive players going where they can score enough points to match what the Lakers are capable of.

From the Lakers’ perspective, I think we should also point out that they’ll need to make some adjustments of their own even though they were the winning team.  For example, even though Gasol was effective scoring the ball, a lot of his points came off offensive rebounds, weak side flashes, and the P&R game.  In game 2, I’d like to see Pau get more straight post up opportunities so he can go to work on the low block.  Over the course of this season, we’ve seen how effective the Lakers offense is when the ball is going inside first and I’d like to see more of that in game two rather than the plan that relied on dribble penetration and screens on the wing from game 1.

On defense, I’d like to see the Lakers continue the things that worked in game one, but I’d also like to see Kobe gamble and help less on defense and not allow Rondo to get behind him as frequently.  In the last game, Kobe helped far too frequently (considering the effectiveness of the players he was helping on) and it opened up lanes for Rondo to cut through and receive passes that set up easy shots for himself or his teammates.  I’d also like to see the Lakers secure rebounds and push the ball more frequently and then get more from their transition chances.  Besides the alley oop the Kobe and the leak outs by Gasol, I’m having trouble remembering much success on the break by the Lakers.  And for a team that rebounded as well as they did while also considering how the Celtics looked in terms of their mobility and quickness, I think the Lakers could have done a bit more.

All that said, these are just a few things that we’ll be looking for.  What say you?  Let us know in the comments as we start to get ready for game 2 tomorrow.

Darius Soriano

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