No excess delays. No having to sit and second guess a loss. The Lakers are right back in it tonight in Boston and that’s exactly how all parties would want it. After a long flight yesterday morning, both teams must now be ready to play the most important game in the series. Because the winner tonight will have a distinct upper hand in this series. Nothing that can’t be overcome by the losing team, but tonight’s winner will have a series lead and the momentum going into Thursday’s make or break game 4. And while Boston should feel confident tonight, the Lakers should feel pretty good too. Because as we saw in yesterday’s break down of the final 5 minutes, the Lakers had their lead going into the home stretch. Yes their execution failed them, but that’s what the game tape is for – to get those things right the next time around. Tonight is their chance.
And speaking of tape, Phillip put together some videos for us on the Lakers’ P&R attack that I think will be useful for game 3. Even though I said that the Lakers should be less reliant on “plays” and more reliant on their base Triangle offense, the Lakers are not going to stop running the P&R completely (and I’ll have suggestions on some ways that I can work better later on). So, let’s look at the film and see what worked in game 1 and how Boston countered in game 2.
In this first video we see how the Lakers need to run the P&R if it’s to be successful. Look at how Kobe feints going to his right hand before setting up the screen. Look at the depth that Ron got in the corner to create the spacing that allowed Kobe to attack Perkins in space. And then recognize the brilliance of Kobe’s hesitation dribble to set up that sneaky lay in.
In this second video, we see how the success of earlier P&R’s allowed Jordan Farmar to successfully go away from the screen that was being set. As you can see, Michael Finley’s head is on a swivel anticipating the screen and Farmar was able to explode by him and get to the rim before any help could arrive. The screen also pulled out the second big man in hedge position that eliminated the second help defender. Granted, the success of this play was much more of an individual effort than Kobe’s previous play. But in the end, it was all set up by the threat of the P&R.
However, that success was missing in game 2. In this video see how the spacing is off and it allows Rondo to play both in a position to help on Kobe while still being close enough to recover to Fisher. After that initial screen action didn’t work, I would have liked to have seen Kobe pull the ball back out and either run the action again or (even better) pass to the corner so Gasol could get a touch and either shoot his jumper or make another pass as the Triangles back side motions went into effect.
In this last P&R, you see the individual excellence of Kobe get a bucket. But what you also see is a botched P&R with bad timing, a poor angle on the screen, and a lazy roll by Bynum that allows KG to cover both the roll man and then stick to Gasol who flashed too early. All in all, two points on a bad play. (On a side note, did you hear JVG saying that the NBA should get Steve Javie a “segue” to officiate the games? That made me laugh. Javie is one of the best. Get well soon.)
Why am I showing these plays when I’m asking for more Triangle? Because even though these actions should be relied on less in game 3, it’s still an important play for the Lakers success. If the Lakers are going to run the P&R, they have to do three things: 1). Get a better screen. 2). Space the floor in the direction that you plan to run the action. 3). Have better timing on the flash from the weak side and combine that with a harder dive from the roll man. If the Lakers do these things, they’ll have better success. If they don’t, the C’s will gum up the middle and the entire action will be disorganized.
But I also wanted to share the video’s because they show the difference in execution by both teams from game 1 to game 2. In game 1, the Lakers execution, spacing, and attention to detail was just better. In game 2, Boston was the team that could hang their hat on their doing of the little things. And in game three, the winner will be able to say the same thing.
So tonight, what I’m looking for is better ball movement and more decisiveness from the players. In video three you saw how Kobe didn’t have much going for him off the dribble but still forced the shot. It’s on those types of plays that, in this game, the Lakers need to make the extra pass, go set a hard screen, and then create a look for a teammate.
And speaking of screens and getting shots for teammates, the Lakers are going to need a better defensive effort in game 3 against Ray Allen and the C’s screen actions. In a fantastic post over at NBA Playbook, Sebastian Pruiti put together some excellent footage on how a hot Ray Allen can affect the entire defense beyond the points put up on the scoreboard after a make. So, the key tonight is to give him less catches and not allow him to operate in his comfort zone as often as he did in game 2. After game 2, Kobe was asked how you stop Ray Allen when he’s got it going the way that he did and he simply said that “you can’t let him touch the ball”. When prodded about what you have to do after he catches the ball, Kobe reiterated the fact that you have to deny him his catches. Now, we all know that Ray’s going to get the ball – denying him is going to be extremely difficult “if the Celtic big men are going to get away with all those moving picks away from the ball.” as Henry over at TrueHoop said last night.
So, as Henry also said, the Lakers must make adjustments on how they play those actions. I think they can do this by showing out harder with big men to disrupt the passing angle, locking and trailing with the man that’s guarding Allen, and also by rotating behind the helper so he sees the 2nd and third defender when puts the ball on the floor. Remember, when the Celtics have any combination of Rondo, Tony Allen, Perkins, or (to a lesser extent) Big Baby on the floor, they’re playing a non-shooter that is more of a defender and hustle player. Those guys must be made into scorers while the other players are made into passers and spectators. This will be easier said than done – especially with a player as mindful of being a creator of offense as Rondo – but the Lakers need to turn this game on it’s head in some way and it starts with playing this particular action better.
I’m also looking for the things that we’ve been asking for all series: discipline on both sides of the ball, remembering the keys to transition defense (marking shooters that run to the 3 point line; turning the ball handler; being aware of who’s running and what their tendencies are), and an assertiveness on both backboards. In the comments (and by Phillip) it’s been repeatedly noted that this is a series where many of the stats can be ignored in the boxscore except for total rebounds. If the Lakers can win the battle of the boards, they’ll be in good shape tonight.
And here we are. As mentioned at the beginning, this a big game. But, I want to also say that this is why we follow sports – for moments just like these. We’ve always talked about enjoying the journey and it’s moments like these that should be the most fun. Yes it’s panic inducing and surely the emotions run high, but I can’t say there’s anything I’d rather be doing tonight than watching these two great teams battle it out for the the lead in these Finals. Here’s to a Lakers victory. Let’s go get it.