The numbers tell the story: In the first three games of the series the Magic ran 33 pick-and-roll plays. In Game 4 they ran 43. And won.(via Eddy Rivera)
And these weren’t just your standard screens. They were staggered double screens, with Rashard Lewis setting a first screen before Jameer Nelson came off that one and got to Dwight Howard setting a second one. It worked. According to MySynergySports the Magic got 10 of their 33 baskets directly off the pick-and-roll, but when you notice the most of the 9 spot-up shots they made came off the pick-and-roll.
Nelson came off those screens and was able to penetrate, often getting back behind the basket where he could kick out to shooters or even find Howard or other bigs. Celtics bigs had to help on Nelson, freeing up Howard and others to grab offensive rebounds and get easy putbacks. Finally the Magic were able to do to Boston what they did to every other team in the league.
But can they do it again? If the Magic are to send this series back to Boston, they are going to have to keep running the pick-and-roll. A lot. Everybody knows it.
The question is, what does Doc Rivers — and really Tom Thibodeau — come up with?
Rivers said at shoot around he wants more ball pressure, look for the Celtics to do what they do — be physical on defense. As much as the referees will let them. Rivers said he wanted his defenders to “put their body” into the Magic ball handlers.
He’s talking specifically to Rajon Rondo. This is going to come down to how Rondo fighting through the picks and not letting Nelson have is way. The Magic will be playing with a renewed confidence and energy, but you can bet the Celtics will not play as poorly as they did last game. This is a veteran team that has responded better on the road all season.
But in the end, it will all be about the pick-and-roll.
Tony Parker tells French publication he plans to return in January
Back on May 5, Tony Parker has surgery to repair a ruptured left quadriceps tendon, an injury some thought could be career ending for the 35-year-old point guard.
He plans to be back and is aiming for January, he told the French publication L’Equipe, as transcribed by EuroHoops.net.
“I will play my best basketball when I return in January”, Parker told L’Equipe….
“The first thing that came in when I got injured, was frustration. I was super good and we had the chance to go until the end and get the title,” Parker said.
“The coach’s plan worked like a clock. I was consistent, playing for twenty to twenty-five minutes per game. My series against Memphis was good and I had a good start in the season,” he added.
Paker’s return in January (if he can meet that timeline) will have him coming off the bench, meaning the Spurs will still need a starting point guard and some depth at the position.
No, that doesn’t mean Chris Paul is coming to San Antonio, that was always a long shot as Adrian Wojnarowski noted. It’s not like the Spurs to kick guys like Parker to the curb (Bill Belichick does not run the franchise) nor do the Spurs gut their roster, and that’s what they’d have to do. Beyond that, Paul is president of the players’ union and one of the things he/the union got in the new CBA was to turn the over-36 rule (which restricted how much LeBron could get on his last deal) to the over-38 rule — meaning the Clippers can give 32-year-old Paul one more five-year max deal. You really think he’s walking away from that?
Hopefully, when Parker returns he can give us all glimpses of his old self.
Steve Kerr says he’s not ready to coach in NBA Finals, at least not yet
Steve Kerr has been a regular presence at Warriors practices, he’s traveled with the team to playoff games, he’s been part of the planning/strategizing sessions for the team — basically, he’s been everywhere but the sidelines.
He’s not ready to return there. Yet.
Interim Warriors’ coach Mike Brown was knocked down by the flu on Monday, so Kerr ran the Warriors practice then spoke to the media, but said he still is battling issues from his back surgery and is not ready yet to return to the sidelines. Via Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.
Kerr says he has made no final decision about coaching #Warriors in Finals 'but as of right now I will not.'
The Warriors brought in Mike Brown last summer just for this type of situation — he’s a veteran NBA coach who has led a team to the Finals (the Cavaliers, with LeBron James), and the Warriors thought it possible Kerr could miss time. With Luke Walton in Los Angeles, Golden State wanted a veteran on the bench. Brown is that.
He’s not as creative as Kerr is addressing matchups and challenges, but if Kerr is in the film sessions and practices, then his influence is still there. That may be enough for a more talented and more rested Warriors team (than a year ago) heading into the Finals starting Thursday night.
Stephen A. Smith, who has incorrectly predicted last six NBA Finals, picks Warriors
The Warriors cruised into the NBA Finals in historic fashion, going 12-0 in the first three rounds and outscoring opponents by 16.3 points per game. The Cavaliers (12-1, +13.6) weren’t too far behind.
But, at 24-1, they don’t have the best combined playoff win percentage by NBA Finalists.
In 1957, the Celtics (3-0) and St. Louis Hawks (5-0) were undefeated entering a series Boston won in seven.
The Hawks, Minneapolis Lakers and Fort Wayne Pistons all went 34-48 in the regular season to tie for the Eastern Division crown. St. Louis won a tiebreaker against each team and advanced to the Western Division finals, beating Minneapolis, 3-0.
Meanwhile, the Celtics won the Eastern Division outright and received a bye to the divisions finals. They swept the Syracuse Nationals to reach the NBA Finals.
Obviously, three rounds present a much bigger hill to climb than a single series (even with a couple tiebreaker games). Golden State and Cleveland are unmatched in modern times.
Here’s every NBA Finals sorted by combined playoff record entering Finals:
Combined point difference per playoff game really shows how much Golden State and Cleveland overwhelmed their conference foes.
The Warriors and Cavs have averaged a +15.0 point difference per game in the playoffs (averaging both teams’ point difference per game equally, so as not to weigh the lesser team more). In the next-best Finals, 1986, neither the Celtics (+12.4) nor Rockets (+8.1) hit that mark alone – let alone averaged.
Here’s every NBA Finals, sorted by the teams’ average point difference per game in previous playoff games: