NBA finals, Lakers Celtics Game 2: Where did the Laker offense go wrong?


bryant_game2.pngAll things considered, the Lakers’ Game 2 offense was not a failure. Their free throw rate was off the charts, their offensive rebound rate was stellar, and the turnovers were completely manageable. It was L.A.’s drop-off combined with Boston’s improved offensive execution that tipped the balance, which makes assigning specific blame a bit tricky.

Sure, you can look at Ron Artest’s 1-for-10 night and say that he failed spectacularly or point out Derek Fisher’s weak defensive strategy against Ray Allen, but there was no singular force — not even the sweet-shooting Jesus Shuttlesworth — that earned Boston a Game 2 victory.

That leaves us all looking beyond the obvious, and in doing so likely attributing too much influence to minor factors. It’s not easy to diagnose a loss like this one for L.A. (at least in terms of their offense), but we can start small and work our way back up. However, maintaining an understanding that no individual element of the Lakers’ offense can be marked as the goat is crucial. As such, it was a combination of somewhat minor differences between Game 1 and 2 that gave the Celtics the opportunity to take a game at STAPLES.

For example, we can look to the Lakers’ execution on the pick-and-roll. The screen game is an essential element of any NBA offense (even the triangle), and L.A. was far more successful coming off screens in Game 1 than they were in Game 2. According to Synergy Sports, the Laker ball-handler in pick-and-roll situations scored 1.43 points per possession in Game 1 (scoring on 64.3% of such possessions), the model of efficiency.

In Game 2? Not only did the ball-handlers in pick-and-roll situations finish plays only about half as often, but L.A.’s ball-handlers only scored 0.75 points per possession. That’s a substantial difference, not only in the plays directly accounted for, but in the way those plays influenced the Celtics’ coverage of the pick-and-roll. Boston was able to negate the impact of L.A.’s ball-handlers coming off of screens with calculated pressure, rather than having to respond to the Laker guards’ success in those scenarios with a scrambling last line of defense.

Don’t underestimate the difference between the two, as when and how a defense elects to apply pressure matters a great deal. When the Celtics are dictating when they help on pick-and-rolls (or more importantly, who they help off of), they’re a defensive force. When Kobe Bryant, Jordan Farmar, and Shannon Brown are forcing Boston to adapt to their assertiveness, it’s a different game.


Kevin Love unsure about opening-night return

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He’s back in practice with the Cavaliers, but there’s still no clarity on whether Kevin Love will be available for the season opener. Love had shoulder surgery in April after suffering a torn labrum in Game 4 of the Cavs’ first-round series against the Celtics, and doctors initially gave him a timetable of four to six months for a return. The six-month end of that is right around opening night (October 27), but Love still doesn’t know whether he’ll be able to play against the Bulls—although he is hopeful.

Via the Sporting News‘ Sean Deveney:

“I feel pretty good,” Love told Sporting News. “As far as the opener goes, I am not completely sure. I’ll probably get with the doctors and see what they have to say. I know that my six-month post-op is coming up here pretty fast. As far as getting the strength back, getting the range of motion, I feel pretty good, so I am looking forward to getting into some more contact, getting into a rhythm and getting out there as quickly as I can.”

Love has been cleared for 3-on-3 practices, but not yet for 5-on-5. If it were up to him, he’d be back on the court, but he understands he needs to follow the rehab protocol for his injury.

“(Six months is) just a ballpark figure that has generally been thrown out there by anybody who has talked about the rehab process for this kind of an injury,” Love said. “I like to think that I am ahead of the game, but there’s different tests and the due diligence that the doctor will go through and the training staff will go through. So all I can do is go out there every day and attack my rehab and hopefully I will be able to go out there and help these guys as soon as possible.”

At the very least, the Cavs will be without Kyrie Irving (still recovering from knee surgery) and Iman Shumpert (out up to three months with a wrist injury), and probably Tristan Thompson too, unless his contract situation changes unexpectedly. So having Love available would be some much-needed good news. But it’s more important that Love (and everyone else) is healthy for the playoffs. If he’s not ready to play, there’s no need to rush back for an October game.

Greg Smith fails physical, will not join Pelicans

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With both starter Omer Asik and backup Alexis Ajinca out injured for the rest of the preseason (and maybe a little longer), the Pelicans are looking for a center to put next to Anthony Davis for a stretch. That could include a handful of regular season games.

Greg Smith was going to be that man, but the 24-year-old failed his physical, reports the Times-Picayune.

The New Orleans Pelicans were set to sign power forward Greg Smith, but sources said Friday night that he failed his physical examination and will not be joining the team.

And so the search goes on.

The problem is, there are not quality big men still out there on the market, there is a limited supply and just about anyone worth having is spoken for. A few with non-guaranteed contracts may be waived as we get closer to the end of training camps, but that is likely a couple of weeks away.

With both Asik and Ajinca expected back in a few weeks, it’s not worth making a trade or some big move to bring in a center, the Pelicans are just going to have to live with what is out there.