NBA finals, Lakers Celtics: The good news and the bad news for Boston's offense


Celtics_bench.jpgAs the Celtics look to move on from their Game 3 loss, they can find some redemption in how much they were able to accomplish with so little going right. As much as I’d like to say that Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were smothered by the Lakers’ defense, that doesn’t quite do justice to just how much the shooting of the two left to be desired.

L.A. clearly learned a few things after Ray Allen turned Game 2 into a resume-builder, as the Laker bigs did a better job of preventing open looks and the guards a superior job of chasing him down. But even a team of the world’s most disciplined defenders won’t prevent Ray from getting open at some point, and on numerous occasions Allen found himself open beyond the arc or within it.

Clearly, something was different in Game 3. Allen elevated in idyllic form — his back a straight, steady, and perfectly vertical support from which his arms would heave yet another faultless attempt — but his shots met a less idyllic result. Ray just…missed. Quite a few times, actually. There weren’t flaws in his mechanics, but only the reality that no matter how good of a shooter Allen is or could ever hope to be, he’s going to have nights like this one. Obviously it’d be preferable if those nights didn’t come during the NBA finals, but what are you going to do.

Pan to Paul Pierce, one Celtic capable of making up for Allen’s poor shooting with a three-point assault of his own or another well-timed scoring explosion. Yet Paul wasn’t much help, either. He too missed some very makeable shots — some of them wide open — and finished with just 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting. His three hits from outside were much-needed, but this is the second straight performance in this series where Pierce has failed to produce in the scoring column, with his only fault being his inability to hit the shots he’s worked so hard to get.

This is Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, two fine scorers, both going cold at just the wrong time. They’re getting open, they’re getting the shots they want (on some occasions, but not all), but the ball just can’t find its way through the net. Factor in a decent but somewhat uninspired performance by Rajon Rondo, and it’s easy to understand why the Celtics lost in Boston: they were waiting on the arrival of two heroes that never showed.

Still, the nature of the Celtics’ struggles should leave Boston fans somewhat optimistic. Everything that transpired in Game 3 can be fixed with some troubleshooting and a bit of luck, and should Pierce and Allen return to form for Game 4, we could see another tiebreaker as both 2-2 teams square off in Game 5. You’d have to think that both Celtics would be able to rebound from their poor Game 3 performances in one way or another, and if not, Boston will have to get creative in using the mere threat of their offense to open up opportunities for Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Rasheed Wallace, and others.

That’s where things could get a bit dicey. The bad news is that the Celtics don’t have a ton of weapons, and thus they need the scorers they do have to produce. The good news is that the scorers they do have are so experienced and so skilled, that it’s extremely unlikely they’ll be kept down for a significant portion of this series. Even if Ron Artest is playing tough defense and the entire Laker team is aware of Allen’s cuts and streaks, Paul and Ray are plenty capable of rebounding in Game 4.     

Pistons reveal “Detroit Chrome” alternate uniform

1 Comment

I’m a fan of the Pistons’ alternate uniforms in general — their “Motor City” ones may be may favorite alternates around the league.

Now they have a new one — Detroit Chrome.

The Pistons will break these out for seven home games this season. From the official release:

The inspiration for the Detroit Chrome jerseys came about as a way to honor our coolest cars from the past and the cars of the future. Detroit is universally known as the auto capital of the world, where chrome leaves an indelible mark on the cars we create. The uniforms feature a matte chrome base color with clean simple lines inspired by the classic muscle cars that have roared up and down Woodward Avenue for decades. The navy trim and Detroit emblazoned across the chest represent the blue collar work ethic that the auto industry and region was built on.

Clean, simple, cool — I like it.

That would look good in the first round of the playoffs, too. (I’m predicting they get the eight seed.)


51 Questions: Do the Phoenix Suns finally have a playoff formula?

Miami Heat v Phoenix Suns
1 Comment

PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:

Do the Phoenix Suns finally have a playoff formula?

It has been five years since the Phoenix Suns made the playoffs, tying the franchise record for longest playoff drought. It’s the fourth longest active drought in the NBA (Timberwolves at 11, Kings at nine, and Pistons at six).

Think about it this way: The Magic, Sixers, and Jazz have been to the playoffs more recently than the Suns.

Phoenix hasn’t bottomed out on a rebuild, they’ve actually been pretty good — they surprised everyone and won 48 games two seasons ago, then had 39 wins last season when things went very wrong and injuries crushed the team after the All-Star break. However, in a deep Western Conference pretty good isn’t good enough.

Suns management and ownership wants that to change. They want back in the playoff dance. Now.

It’s why they went hard after LaMarcus Aldridge this summer, coming in a surprising second to a Spurs team that nobody was likely to catch in that chase.

This summer the Suns made other moves to address needs. They went out and got Tyson Chandler as a free agent. The first reaction was he was there to provide a shot blocking and defensive quarterbacking, two things the Suns sorely lacked. However, just as importantly, they needed a vocal locker room leader, a vacuum that was part of the problem in Phoenix’s implosion last season.

The Suns also needed shooting, they went out and got Mirza Teletovic and drafted Devin Booker.

It’s easy to think the Suns regressed because they lost a lot of talent since the last trade deadline — Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, Gerald Green, Brandan Wright — but they believe the pieces they have now fit together better.

Phoenix believes it can make the playoffs; it thinks it finally has the right formula.

Maybe. They will be in the mix. But a four things have to happen to make that a reality.

First is Chandler has to lead a defensive renaissance on this team. Last season they were average, 17th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, but Chandler can help change that. First, he gives them defensive rebounding that they lacked. He gives them a quarterback that they needed to call things out and have everyone on the same page (reports of how he talks on defense are already pouring out of camp). And he helps protects the paint — that means Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, and P.J. Tucker can pressure the ball more and take risks out on the perimeter knowing Chandler can erase some mistakes.

The second is an obvious one: Bledsoe and Knight need to be able to work well together. They are going to share playmaking duties, and both are going to spend time working off the ball, both need to be ready for that mental adjustment. We haven’t seen that much yet, we need to see how it works out.

Third, there needs to be shooting to space the floor. Bledsoe is a penetrator who is a career 32 percent from three, while Knight shot just 31.3 percent from three after being traded to the Suns (likely due to ankle injuries that required off-season surgery). Those two men will be running the pick-and-roll with Chandler, who sets a good pick, rolls hard and can finish, but doesn’t have shooting range. The Suns other two starters are likely P.J. Tucker, who is not a huge threat from three but shot a respectable 34.5 percent from there last season, and Markieff Morris, who is a career 32.8 percent from three.

If I’m an opposing defense, what’s to keep me from going under picks and packing the lane against the Suns? Phoenix needs Knight to return to the guy who is a career 36 percent from three, they need Morris to improve from the outside, and they need guys like Teletovic and Booker to play key minutes and space the floor at times.

Fourth, and finally, they need the potentially volatile mixture of an unhappy Morris and a coach in Jeff Hornacek in the last year of his contract not to combust. Everyone is saying all the right things at the start of camp, and this is why guys like Chandler and Ronnie Price were brought in, but there is the potential for things to go sideways, especially if some early losses pile up.

The biggest hurdle for the Suns in ending their playoff drought is they are in the Western Conference.

Even if all four of things mentioned above go right for them — if they run and hit more threes plus play better defense — this is likely a 45 win team (give or take a few, and probably take). The problem is that in the West that may not be enough. Barring injuries, there are likely seven lock playoff teams in the West — Spurs, Warriors, Clippers, Rockets, Thunder, Grizzlies, and Pelicans. That leaves the Suns battling teams such as the Jazz, Mavericks and maybe the Kings for that final playoff spot. It may take more than 45 wins, and things are going to have to break the Suns’ way to get there.

Maybe Robert Sarver gets his way and the playoff drought ends this season, it’s more likely than snow in Phoenix this winter. But I wouldn’t bet much on either happening.