How the Celtics can win the championship

Leave a comment

KG-trophy.jpg

Banner #18. Rondo becomes a bona fide superstar. Doc Rivers proves all his doubters permanently wrong and either stays or retires on his own terms. Tom Thibodeau becomes the most accomplished first-year head coach in recent memory when he goes to Chicago. Paul Pierce, who stuck with the team through all the bad times, gets a second ring as The Captain. All of Rasheed Wallace’s sins are forever washed away. Nate Robinson becomes more than one of the great summer league players ever. KG…I’m not really sure, but it will be good.
What do the Celtics need to do tonight to bring yet another Finals trophy back to Boston? Here are my keys:
1. 48 Minutes of Hell

this is the mentality Boston needs to have if they want to win this game in Los Angeles. They need to use their length and their speed to swarm all over these Lakers. They need to bump Gasol off of his spots in the high post. Ray Allen and Kobe need to bother Kobe on every shot. Heck, they need to bother him on every dribble. Pressure the Lakers early, clamp down on Kobe and Gasol, and make them try to shoot their way back in the game. Bring doubles from different angles, flood the strong side and rotate back, collapse on drives, and hawk those passing lanes. No Perkins? No problem. Rasheed has the length to guard a hobbled Bynum, and everyone should be hungry enough to pick up Perkins’ slack on defense. They know the system. 
They know what they need to do. If they play with aggression and intelligence on offense, they can take the crowd out of it and make the Lakers play their brutal version of basketball. Besides, if the Celtics get stops, they’ll be able to…
2. Get full-court opportunities for Rondo and Co.

The Celtics are a pretty good half-court offensive team. They’re a terrifying fast-break team. If Rondo runs, the Celtics get layups, fouls on the Lakers, and open threes for Allen and Pierce. On both ends of the court, Boston must make the game as frenetic as possible. 
3. Make Bynum move, attack Odom

If Rasheed Wallace can hit some threes early, that would be great. Even if he doesn’t, it would be a huge plus for Boston if he can space the floor and drag Bynum out of the paint. The Celtics need to keep Bynum from camping out in the paint — they need to get Ray Allen off of baseline screens, put Pierce in the pick-and-roll, or get some pick-and-pop action early to make Bynum step out and challenge jumpers. When Odom is in, that’s when it’s time to run the offense through KG in the post, get Paul Pierce rumbling to the basket in ISO, or have Rondo attack the lane. 
4. Get greatness from Ray Allen

When Ray Allen isn’t on, he can get some layups in transition, space the floor, get some open shots, and play smart defense on Kobe. That won’t be enough. The Celtics need Ray Allen on. They need him running the floor, stopping on a dime, and draining threes. They need him picking the helping big apart off of a baseline screen. They need him darting behind double-screens and draining threes. They need him pulling up off the pick-and-roll or changing gears to get to the rack. Ray Allen has all the moves. The Celtics need him to have all of them working in order to score consistently in Los Angeles. 
5. Be the deeper team
Boston can’t have another game where nobody but Rondo, Pierce, KG, or Ray Allen scores until the fourth quarter. Glen Davis, Nate Robinson, Tony Allen, and especially Rasheed Wallace have to believe that this is their time. Nobody else will think it’s their time, and most probably think Boston is going to get sent home without a championship tonight. Then again, nobody expected Boston to make it this far anyways. Thanks to their lackluster regular season, Boston’s players and coaches have been the only people who believed they could actually win the championship this year. And against all odds, their belief in themselves has allowed them to win 15 of the 16 games they need. If they keep believing for another 48 minutes, they might actually end up proving themselves right.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Leave a comment

Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.

John Wall: Bench was Wizards’ ‘downfall’

Rob Carr/Getty Images
Leave a comment

John Wall left the Wizards’ season-ending loss to the Celtics talking about how badly Washington’s bench got outscored.

Now that he has time to reflect and isn’t just speaking with raw emotion shortly after a devastating loss, how does he feel?

Wall, via CSN Mid-Atlantic

“We need to help our bench,” Wall told CSN’s Chris Miller. “Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played.”

It starts from upstairs – just building the right bench guys and building the chemistry. That’s all it is.

I think that’s where they won the game at. I heard Marcus Smart say after the game that I had no legs. He’s basically right. I don’t make excuses. I’m going to play. If I miss shots or make shots, I’ll live with it. I know people will say he finished oh for 11, but I play – I took everything I had in me to keep fighting.

It’s just that their bench guys came in and played well. I think Kelly Oubre could’ve played a little bit more. I wish he would’ve played a little more than Jason. But coach makes the decision, and we stick behind him 100 percent. I feel like those two guys could have really helped us.

Wall – eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension but reportedly unsure about signing one – is clearly telling the Wizards what he wants. Marcin Gortat similarly criticized Washington’s bench earlier in the season, and he apologized. Wall has the leverage not to stand by his assessment.

Both Wall and Gortat were right. The Wizards’ bench was the source of much of their problems.

Washington’s starting lineup outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Its bench (all other lineups) got outscored 15.5 points per 100 possessions.

Only the Thunder had a similar split in net rating:

image

The Wizards knew their flaw and tried to hide it. Washington’s starters played 34.2 minutes per game together in the postseason – second only to the Pacers (34.5). Wall’s heavy workload contributed to him running out of gas late in Game 7 against Boston, which Marcus Smart noted.

What can the Wizards do to upgrade their bench? Spend.

They sound committed to keeping Otto Porter, a restricted free agent this summer. But that would push them near the luxury tax – so they could scrimp on the bench in a variety of ways:

  • Don’t re-sign Bojan Bogdanovic, another restricted free agent. He’s in line for a raise.
  • Trade Marcin Gortat, elevating Ian Mahinmi into the starting lineup and therefore weakening the bench.
  • Trade Jason Smith, who might be expendable at his salary (especially given Wall’s comments about not wanting him to play as much) but at least still provides depth.
  • Don’t use the mid-level exception. That’s Washington’s best mechanism for adding outside help, but it’d be costly.

Will the Wizards take any of those cost-saving measures? Wall is certainly watching.

Don’t like the wait for this year’s Finals? Here’s the top 10 plays from the last two (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

Que the Tom Petty

Nobody is enjoying the week-long break between the end of the Eastern Conference Finals and the start of the NBA Finals (except maybe a few of the older Cavaliers players trying to get healthy). For those of us basketball junkies, we just want to get on to the two best teams in the league battling it out.We need a fix.

Here’s the best we can do today: The top 10 plays from the last two NBA Finals, the last two Cavaliers/Warriors showdowns. Courtesy the folks at NBA.com. There’s plenty of LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and a big shot by Kyrie Irving made the list. Enjoy. And just try to be patient.

Warriors’ center Zaza Pachulia cleared to play in Game 1 of NBA Finals

Getty Images
3 Comments

These playoffs, the Golden State Warriors have been 15.4 points per 100 possessions better when Zaza Pachulia is on the court as opposed to on the bench. That’s a bit misleading, the reason for the gaudy number is he rounds out the dominant starting lineup, which has outscored teams by 32.6 points per 100 this postseason (that is actually better than the legendary “death lineup” in these playoffs). Pachulia is just the first big in the rotation with four All-Star, powerhouse players, but he fills his role well.

Pachulia was slowed by a sore right heel against the Spurs but is 100 percent and ready to go for the Finals when they tip-off Thursday night at Oracle Arena. Here are the details via Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News.

Zaza Pachulia, the only injured Warrior rotation player late in the Spurs series, has participated in all parts of all three practices, without restriction on that sore right heel. He is on track to start Game 1 of The Finals on Thursday.

“We’ve done running, had scrimmages and he’s done everything,” Mike Brown said.

He will have a crucial role on the glass against the Cavaliers. Cleveland brings two dominant rebounders to the party with Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love (plus that LeBron James guy can get some boards), the Warriors will use Pachulia to counter. Before you roll your eyes, he had 13 boards in the second meeting of these teams in the regular season, a blowout Golden State win.

He’s the first big in a rotation of them the Warriors will throw at Cleveland — JaVale McGee may get a little time, but expect a lot of small-ball lineups from the Warriors. If Pachulia can give Golden State a solid 18 minutes a night where he is strong on the glass and helps protect the rim, it will be huge for them.

Pachulia is going to get his shot, he’ll be healthy and ready to go.