Preview and Chat: The Boston Celtics

Darius Soriano —  February 20, 2013 — 61 Comments

Records: Lakers 25-29 (T 9th in the West), Celtics 28-25 (7th in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 104.9 (8th in the NBA), Celtics 100.1 (23rd in the NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 103.4 (16th in the NBA), Celtics 99.4 (5th in the NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Earl Clark, Dwight Howard
Celtics: Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass, Kevin Garnett
Injuries: Lakers: Pau Gasol (out), Jordan Hill (out for the season); Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger, Leandro Barbosa (all out for the season)

The Lakers Coming in: It’s almost weird to talk about the Lakers playing an actual basketball game again. They’ve not played in a week and in that span have had to deal with the questions that come with losing to the Clippers, the constant speculation about Dwight Howard’s feelings about this team and his future with it, and the passing of their legendary owner. What happens tonight, then, will serve as a reprieve from all that’s happened off the court and, at least for two and half hours or so, shift the focus back to what’s happening on it.

For the Lakers that means finding a better brand of consistency for the home stretch. They’ve been winning games lately, but have been doing so in a fashion that doesn’t always inspire confidence. Their defense has been better of late, but their offense has dipped at the same time. Kobe the facilitator is a great way to ensure that ball movement is king, but he and the rest of the team must find a better balance in how they operate on that side of the ball. The team must get back to running more P&R action with Nash and Howard and they must do a better job of executing this action when they do run it. Mix that action in with Kobe in the post and the team may have a higher efficiency formula that can carry them.

Defensively, they must find ways to slow teams on the wing and the bigs must do better in slowing penetration higher on the floor. Like it was when Bynum patrolled the middle, bigs (I’m looking at you Dwight Howard) are sitting well below the pick and inviting the ball handler to attack the paint. That’s been a hit or miss strategy and it needs to be cleaned up with a clear philosophy installed that is stuck to more consistently.

Now is the time for the Lakers to circle the wagons. The team is obviously reeling with the loss of Dr. Buss. Outsiders are ready to pounce with critiques and analysis that is meant to drive a wedge through the locker room. The only thing the team can do now is lean on each other and find a way to persevere and battle through. If they do it together, they can make a run. If they fall back into a mode where roles aren’t accepted, they will not get it done.

The Celtics Coming in: After winning 7 in a row, the C’s have lost two of three including last night’s game to the red hot Nuggets. Eight of their last ten is quite the run though, and they’ve seemed to have found their stride even with their guard rotation hit hard by the injury bug.

While the C’s offense has been getting the headlines in their current streak, it’s really their defense that’s been dominant. Over their last ten games, Boston is posting a defensive efficiency of 94.1 which is over 5 points per 100 possessions better than their already elite D. They are clamping down hard on that end of the floor and smothering teams with their strong side help scheme.

Even with the C’s playing very good ball, trade rumors swirl around them. There are rumors that every key player — KG, Pierce, and Rondo — are all available via trade and while a big move isn’t necessarily likely, it’s indicative of the way that Danny Ainge operates at this time of the year. He’s always looking towards the future — with two of his players in the winter of their careers you can’t blame him — and that means deals will be floated and rumors will fly. And through it all, this team just keeps performing.

Celtics Blogs: Check out Celtics Hub and Celtics Blog for insight, news, and analysis on this team.

Keys to game: In the last match up between these teams, the Celtics blitzed the Lakers will ball movement and hammered them defensively. The Lakers simply weren’t ready for the style of game the C’s played that night and it showed on the floor, on the scoreboard, and in the slumping shoulders of the players. Tonight, the Lakers should be better prepared. At least you’d hope.

Defensively, the biggest adjustment the Lakers can make is how they deal with screens. The Celtics have been running a lot of P&R with Pierce in order to get him free for his mid-range jumper or into the lane where he can collapse the defense and kick the ball out to a shooter. The Lakers bigs must step out higher and take away Pierce’s ability to get off a clean shot while simultaneously taking away access to the paint. Dwight, Earl Clark, or whoever else is the hedge man must be aggressive in stepping out hard and ensuring that Pierce doesn’t find his groove early on.

The Lakers must also be active in the passing lanes and look to make their rotations early in order to disrupt the flow of Boston’s offense. Without Rondo (and to a lesser extent Barbosa), the C’s don’t have a great penetrator that can attack in isolation and get into the lane. So, they’re relying heavily on ball movement to act as penetration with quick passes from side to side and in/out of the post in order to get the defense moving. Rotating quickly to where the ball is going is imperative to defensive success and that will require an awareness and anticipation level that hasn’t been there often this season. But the Lakes should know going in that this is the way that Boston wants to attack on O and will need to act accordingly.

Offensively, the Lakers must understand how to beat the ball pressure the C’s will throw at them. Last game, Avery Bradley hounded Steve Nash all night, knocking him off his spots, disrupting him in the P&R, and funneling him into positions on the floor where there weren’t any obvious escape routes. Tonight, I’d love to see Nash work off the ball early in possessions and then move off picks to make the catch and then use a ball screen to initiate the P&R. The Lakers can accomplish this in a variety of ways, but out of HORNS sets and with Kobe working in the post should be good ways to initiate these actions. If Nash can successfully break free in order get into his favored P&R, the Lakers should see better success than they did the last game.

I’d also like to see more P&R between Kobe and Dwight and/or Earl Clark. Kobe can do work in the post against Courtney Lee on most possessions, but he can be just as big a threat creating off the dribble coming off a screen and surveying the floor up high. Make the C’s defense commit to slowing the strong side attack of the P&R and then slip Nash circling back to the top to create the type of side to side movement that will be needed against this aggressive defense. Kobe can also slither into the lane for finishes at the rim if those opportunities present themselves as the C’s don’t have a shot blocker in the paint to deter shots in close.

Also, don’t discount Dwight’s ability to do damage tonight. In the first game he was able to draw loads of fouls on the C’s front court and that allowed the Lakers to play against an even softer front line and get into the penalty early. If Dwight can roll hard to the rim, run post lane sprints to establish position early, and get some easy baskets by being physical, the Lakers can set the tone for this game from the outset. Dwight can expect to have to operate in a crowd and finish in traffic — and will need to avoid turnovers in the process — but he’s capable of doing that. If he’s active, he’ll get his chances.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet and ESPN. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

Darius Soriano

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61 responses to Preview and Chat: The Boston Celtics

  1. Weird, I had a dream and in it I saw a big block of stone with Mitch Kupchak holding a hammer and chisel while muttering something inaudible to himself over and over.

  2. Kobe Alert: Not the ASG we were all looking for from Kobe, but nonetheless, he did move past Wilt, MJ, and Oscar on the all time minutes list to get into 2nd behind Kareem. KB also moved out of a tie with MJ and past David Robinson to get into 12th all time for defensive rebounds in the ASG. His 8 dimes moved him out of a tie with West and Iverson for 8th alone there. His 2 steals moved him into a tie with MJ for the most all time in that category. Kobe’s 2 blocks got him into a tie for 18th on that list with you guessed it – MJ. So, inclusive of the games played area (previous alert), on Sunday Kobe moved by MJ in 4 all time stats (Games, Games Started, Def Rebs, and Minutes). He also equaled him in Steals and Blocks. I track 19 statistical categories for the ASG and Kobe is now 1st in 6 of them, he is 2nd in another 5, and is top 10, in 14 of the 19. And yes – if you watched the end of that game, you did see a Kobe Bryant signature moment. That two minutes of defense on LeBron was simply amazing. Expect to see that on Kobe’s lifetime highlight reel.

  3. In a league that is determined to marginalize centers….we are making a marginal center our future….

    Go figure

  4. With all due respect to Warren….

    FOR JERRY!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Articles like these are going to start being written on a regular basis for the rest of the year. The Redskins comparison is not good for us. An iconic owner who once owned the Forum, the Kings and the Lakers, a complex trust, estate taxes, a flailing team, and hopefully not the same future. It appears as though the armies could already be forming.,0,3130719.column

  6. I second that motion: FOR JERRY!!!!!

  7. Robert – Great articles!

    I’m troubled the most by the USA today article as I think it paints the picture that a fractured FO or a FO where the controlling owners are in constant infighting is a recipe for disaster. I wonder how much of the current dilemma could have been avoided by simply taking Jeannie’s relationship with Phil out of the equation. I mean, would she be as offended as we all think she is if Phil was not her fiance? And, if Phil was hired, how would she react if Jim vetoed Phil’s requests to trade for or trade a particular player? I can see why Jim may have hesitated at hiring Phil. In fact, the more I think about it, I think the best approach going forward would be for the family to jointly agree on a different coach and move on with the Laker organization. I think that once Phil and Jeannie are married Phil can still contribute to the Lakers in an FO capacity – but that position would have to be junior to Jim, of course.

    As far as the Plaschke article, I take what he says with a grain of salt. Plaschke loves to write controversial cr@p to increase his readership. Plus, he has about as much basketball knowledge and insight as the casual fan (me) – and that’s not a complement.

    As far as Magic’s comments, I am frankly could care less what he says. Magic was a great Laker player, a legend, and a good business man outside of basketball, but he has never held a front office job in the NBA . In fact, with a guy with as much personality and charisma as him, I am surprised that no team ever approached him about a FO position. I mean, even MJ, with his cold demeanor and unfriendly persona got a shot in the front office at two franchises. Makes you wonder why that is the case, doesn’t it? Magic knows a lot more about the NBA that I will ever know, but Dr Buss knew a lot more about the business side of the NBA than Magic ever did and he decided to pass Magic up on FO positions for the likes of Mitch Kuptchak for a reason. So, his opinion of the Lakers FO must be viewed in that light. I’m not saying he cannot have an opinion, but he clearly dislikes Jim and he goes to great lengths to praise Jeannie while avoiding any praise for Jim. I mean, c’mon. Who would have passed up a year ago on a trade for Howard that did not cost us Pau Gasol? Can’t Magic even acknowledge that, at the time, this was a good move for the Lakers?

  8. First game out of the all star break, three games out of the last playoff spot. Your beloved owner just died and the first game is against your oldest and most hated rival (who waxed you two weeks ago) who wins only one out of every three road games and who is riddled with injuries and coming off a back to back.

    If the Lakers don’t blow the Celtics out tonight, I will probably turn my focus to the NFL combine and write the disastrous season off–and any player who doesn’t go balls out tonight (looking at you DH-12) should be traded before he deadline. Honor the man, his legacy, and his wishes by squashing these beantown punks.

  9. Sorry – where is a good place to buy laker tickets? i know of stub hub and ticketmaster. Is there a reputable place that doesn’t overcharge? Will be visting la and don’t want to buy tickets outside of staples.

  10. Manny P: “Who would have passed up a year ago on a trade for Howard that did not cost us Pau Gasol? Can’t Magic even acknowledge that, at the time, this was a good move for the Lakers?”

    It’s still a good – no, an excellent – move for the Lakers. Freely granted the Lakers aren’t going anywhere this season, but they have a center who’s leading the league in rebounding; they got him for a center who has missed the entire season to date. How would the Lakers look with Robert Sacre roaming the paint?

  11. Throughout the year, I have compared this Laker’s season to the Book of Job—disaster after disaster has afflicted the franchise, from injuries, to internal strife, to feeding-frenzy journalism, to now—the death of Dr. Buss—the man who was the heart and soul of it all. So much has been written about the man this week that I won’t dishonor his memory by writing what would be a poorly constructed memo that wouldn’t begin to scratch the surface of what he meant not only to the City of LA, and Laker fandom, but the NBA itself.

    I only mention the Book of Job again because LA is now “deep in the weeds” like Job was. Job’s faith was tested by death and destruction of all that he held dear–his children, his possessions, his health (for some reason God spared his wife, but I digress). But the greatest test of his faith was when his own friends came and “encouraged” him to blame the Almighty for his plight–but Job refused to do so and was rewarded for his faith.’

    Well, LA’s “friends” are sure circling now. The local and national media is just waiting to pounce on the carcass before the body that is this season has cooled, licking its chops at the propsect of a complete and total implosion of the team and franchise under the weight of the expectations, injuries, crises and now complete loss that has been experienced.

    What will these men do?

    I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like to be a player, coach, or FO person right now. As spoiled fans of a franchise that has spoiled its fans more than most, it is easy to get caught up in the “you are making millions–deal with it” mantra, and ask people like Kobe, Dwight, Ron, Pau, et al to stop acting like babies and find a way to compete. Well give a man a million dollars and he is still just a man. Nash and Dwight, in particular, have to be wondering how to act, as newcomers to “the family” in the wake of Dr. Buss’ death.

    Simply put, expectations are high, and rightfully so–but this team, its players and coaches alike, are still men. I hope we can all step back and give them a chance–even guys like Dwight and Kobe who have made their share of missteps in the media lately. As fans, we don’t need to join the vultures that are circling, hoping for a meal.

    Right now the numbers say they are mediocre–25 and 29. I will leave the stats and numbers to others that keep track of advanced metrics and analysis because they are far more knowledgable and erudite than I am. At the end of the day, I’m an eyeball-test, gestalt dude that wants to see this team defy what the numbers say they are (no defense, turnover prone, etc) and what the eyes say they are (old, slow, no identity, no leadership) and pull together, Laker lifers and newcomers alike—refuse to curse their lot–refuse to give up–and refuse to concede they are a lottery team without a pick waiting for them. This group of players has an opportunity to show what they are made of and show some Laker Pride for the first time this year, and I hope they start tonight. This isn’t the “lost” season yet.

    For Dr. Buss–Go Purple and Gold.

  12. Houston beat Oklahoma City.

  13. Way to go Houston (argh!). I wonder if OKC and other top seeds will try to ‘give up games’ to lower seeds just so that we don’t have a chance to get into the playoffs…

  14. RR–saw that–thanks for the reality check–I probably needed it after that rant of mine. Isn’t that twice OKC has let us down in the last week or so?

    I guess I’m a PHX fan for the night…Go Suns–Beat those Warriors….(SMH)

  15. Wow our luck is so bad its affecting teams’ ability to beat lower seed teams like Houston so that we can’t make the playoffs.

  16. Hope all that motivate our squad(esp D12) to play hard.

    OKC-HOU Harden 46(!) Lin 29 Sefolosha 28 DURANT 16!? SIXTEEN?!

    Meanwhile the Heats ripped the Hawks 40-17 4th quarter. Lakers are not lucky.

  17. @mindcrime – wonderful post dude

  18. Whoever cursed DH’s free throw shooting and MWP’s 3 point shooting has apparently struck Kobe’s 3 point shooting now as well.

  19. Dwight may finally be getting it. He said he took some trainers with him to Houston to work on his stamina and rehabilitate. Looks more mobile early.

  20. Extremely early in the game, but it looks like D12 got the memo about what this game means to the faithful—although that spill he took after laying out to try to block a shot probably caused some collectively-held breaths until he got up….

  21. Great energy so far from Dwight.

  22. Rusty Shackleford February 20, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    Please no biblical comparisons other than the parting of the red sea for Kobe’s dunk on Brooklyn. I recently went to a job walk for some retrofit work to Arco Arena in Sacramento and that is the definition of desolate. Sacramento is a sad sad city.

  23. Dwight Howard active tonight, off to a nice start.

  24. Good energy from Dwight so far tonight!

  25. hahaha, Boston can’t even foul right.

  26. Does anyone ever expect Jodie to make a layup? I think he may be worse than Fish in that regard…

  27. Dwight isn’t facing up trying to go around his defender. He’s backing him down every time. Big difference and why he’s been successful tonight.

  28. Once again, Pierce having his way with Ron-Ron.

  29. This team is fun to watch when they are protecting the ball and running a crisp offense. This also bleeds into playing not incredibly bad defense too. (aside from allowing Pierce to go off.)

    Dwight is playing extremely well on both sides of the ball tonight and, besides being 2-7, Earl Clark is doing his thing once again. Love, love, love seeing this aggressive Nash!

  30. What’s different about Dwight tonight you ask?

    Simple. He knows he’s not going to be traded & someone really does believe he can be the “future”. This means much for his confidence (see his movements, screens, hustle, etc).

    But at end of day. He’s no ALPHA…2nd option never they not CLEARLY see the writing on the wall?

  31. Got to say superb first half teamwise, cant ask for more, as much as i criticized Howard these last couple of days i have nothing but praise for him tonight i guess Mitch words fired him up, cant bash Metta tonight he have make some good baskets but Pierce is absolutely lights out tonight no matter who guard him if it wasnt for him this game would be over, he always do that when he plays on his hometown. Lets keep this energy up.

  32. Simply amazing team work gracing our screen right now. 75-57 lets go!

  33. Nice no look pass by Kobe to Clark for the slam.

  34. Beautiful basketball right now boys and girls. Beautiful basketball.

  35. I just turned the game on and the second half started. 55 points giving up at the half, but I got to say, this quarter, I have never seen the Lakers play this hard on defense all year. It has been just as impressive as the offense right now.

  36. Both teams shot pretty well in the first half. The difference? LA’s shooting was sustainable, because the Lakers were making tons of baskets in the paint. Boston? Lots of jump shots. Jump shots that have, at least for the moment, stopped falling. LA with a 34-16 points in the paint advantage.

  37. Nash passes Magic on the assists list for #4 all time. Congrats

  38. There is a serious correlation between how well this team is playing on any given night and how busy this board is…. If the Lakers were tanking tonight this board would be littered with post after post after post about how horrible they are.

  39. nash sure having a great game tonight along with the whole team…this is what he looks like when he is a little bit rested. he was probably really laboring down the stretch the last few games.

  40. @KenOak – while a regrettable trend it’s understandable. If the Lakers are playing like poop the LAST thing people wanna do is watch it.

  41. Why even with the Lakers are leading by 14 entering the 4th i feel like we are leading by 1? Lets keep it up pleaseeee end it early, my nerves dont feel like enduring another blown lead lol

  42. How about this defense by Earl Clark against KG!? Good stuff tonight from Clark. Second unit is holding the lead for this frontrunning Lakers team….

  43. Earl Clark is turning into the new Odom a bonafide swiss army knife. This season would had been even uglier if it wasnt for his rise.

  44. When they play well, the harder it is to pry your eyes off the action and come here to rant.

  45. I have really liked the way Blake has played since his return….

    Oh and we are blowing out the Celtics. That is something we can all feel good about.

  46. @ Joe when Blake went down and the Lakers had to make do with Duhon and Morris it made us realize how steady and how well he cam run an offense he is more than adequate.

  47. I’ll take 27 more efforts like this, win or lose. Dr Buss would be proud of this one.

  48. If Howard can keep up the energy and engagement we are going to be a scary team going forward.

  49. Terrible shooting night for Kobe and holy crap- he’s 1 for his last 34 three point attempts? Wow.

  50. Tendinitis must be affecting kobe alot more than we realize. Can’t shoot 3s anymore.

  51. Looks like a really solid win, to bad the teams ahead of us won tonight but if the team bring this effort everynight i dont see how they can miss the playoffs, playing like this every night might put them on the tear they need to make it. Enough of the drama time to go.

  52. “One of the biggest reasons that I bought the Lakers was to beat the Celtics.” -Jerry Buss
    God I love that quote!

  53. Tacos for Jerry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  54. That quote is just wow

  55. Great win. Beating the Celtics is always good. Thank You Dr, Buss.

  56. “One of the biggest reasons why I bought the Lakers so they beat the Celtics.”

    – Jerry Buss

  57. The first game without Dr. Buss and it was against the Celtics. Right now I am not thinking about all the other issues. For this game, for tonight, I am proud of my Lakers. Beating the Celtics will always be just what the Doctor ordered.

  58. Solid win!
    The Lakers played their first completely positive game on offense, defense, ball movement, rebounding, intensity, and effort for 48 minutes this season.

    Steve Blake looks like the guy the Lakers thought they were getting in free agency. He’s played very well since his return to action.

    Jamison has been a steady rebounder with his offense finally becoming a constant. Defensively he is making an effort to stay in front of his man and cause deflections.

    Congratulations to Nash for passing my all-time favorite. I like the offensively aggressive Nash. His mobility looks as though it improved; his leg looked stronger on cuts which made him much more effective as a shooter.

    Nothing new to say about the duke, duke, duke, Duke of Earl! The Lakers have to retain him past this year.

    Dwight Howard played his best game against a quality opponent with the Lakers. Will the real Dwight Howard please stand-up consistently!

    Only 27 games left in the season. Let’s go Lakers!

  59. Nash was moving much better, but a lot of it was Dwight setting some real picks for him and everybody doing there job offensively. Howard moving, converting, not fumbling the ball, setting picks, creating havoc on the offensive glass and playing with a lot of energy, limited ball stopping. Kobe letting Nash run the offence a bit more, and everyone moving better without the ball.

    As I said in the game call, Nash also did seem to benefit from the rest, big time. But if they can keep up the effort and the ball movement, Nash can deliver something like this, more or less, most nights. He won’t be 6-7 and 2-2 from 3 every night, but he can control the game like he did tonight and help create a dominant offence almost every night.

    But in the end its all about Dwight. If he can play something like this most nights, a lot of pieces of the puzzle will fall into place. Don’t know if they can make the playoffs, but at least they will be a much more enjoyable team to watch.

  60. @Mindcrime…great comments.

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