Tag: Los Angeles Boston Game 2

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.


NBA finals, Lakers Celtics: How rare is it for a shooter to nail seven straight threes? Not as rare as you'd think.

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Thumbnail image for RAllen_three.jpgRay Allen’s shooting performance last night was positively scrumtrulescent, but leave it to the hard data to put a damper on things. In light of Ray’s finals record-breaking evening (and some prodding in a piece by Henry Abbott at TrueHoop), Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference.com dug into history books to ascertain just how often three-point shooters record seven consecutive makes, and whether or not Allen nets those streaks more than most shooters. Here’s Paine with the results of his search:

So if you hit 40% of the time and take 6,678 shots, you can expect to
have about 6-7 stretches (6.5, technically) in your entire career where
you have seven or more makes in a row. Also, you’ll have at least one
stretch like that in your career 99.9137% of the time — in essence,
this means a “true” 40% shooter is virtually guaranteed to
have at least one run like Allen’s in his career due to chance alone.
These stretches can come in one half, one game, or even across multiple
games; in fact, we find that the best streaks of all time (Brent Price & Terry Mills in 1996, not coincidentally when the arc was shorter) made their 13 straight across several days.

It takes quite the shooting stroke to sink 40% from three over that many attempts, but the fact that shooters such as Allen are virtually assured seven consecutive makes still comes as a bit of a surprise.

There’s obviously a difference between making seven consecutive three-pointers in a game vs. a series of games, plus a difference between making them in a regular season game vs. a playoff game, and certainly a difference between making them in a playoff game vs. a finals game. That’s why Allen’s shooting in Game 2 is treated with such reverence; even if such a streak was bound to happen at some point in Ray’s career, the timing could hardly have been better, and the fact that Allen was especially prolific over such a short period of time is just gravy.


NBA finals, Lakers Celtics Game 2: Milk cartons, desert islands, and Kevin Garnett


Garnett_solo.jpgAfter Ray Allen was plagued by foul trouble in Game 1, it was Kevin Garnett’s turn to fade into the background as the calls piled up against him in Game 2.

KG’s final stat line — six points, four rebounds, and six assists — is probably too rosy a representation of his overall impact; Garnett would occasionally make a play of some import, but for the most part, Kevin was invisible. That’s not what the Celtics have come to expect from Garnett in these playoffs, and Boston will need something more if they’re going to really put pressure on the Lakers.

Boston’s overall defense was improved from their Game 1 calamity, and Garnett does deserve some credit for that. In terms of his ability to function defensively in a team setting, KG wasn’t exactly awful.

Still, his one-on-one defense was poor yet again, which says as much about the superior play of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum as it does about Garnett’s ineffectiveness. This is not the best defense Kevin is capable of playing, and whether it’s a “lack of explosiveness,” a bad match-up, or anxious whistle-blowers that ail him, he desperately needs to make some kind of impact in future games.

Ray Allen is not going to shoot 8-of-11 from three every night, and Kobe Bryant won’t always go 8-for-20 from the field. Ron Artest won’t always be such a possession-killer, and Rajon Rondo may not always rack up a triple-double.

Even if the things didn’t go perfectly for Boston (Paul Pierce’s performance in particular left a bit to be desired), a lot went right. Certainly enough to off-set superb outings from Gasol and Bynum. The only problem is that aside from a nice feed to Kendrick Perkins here or a big make over Ron Artest there, Garnett really wasn’t a part of it.

Expecting KG to best Pau Gasol would be a bit much, but it would certainly be nice to see him do more than simply dress out. He wasn’t inefficient and he didn’t hurt his team while he was on the floor, but Garnett seems an awfully uncomfortable wallflower.

It’s nice for Boston to take a game even without KG’s help, but the disappearing act needs to stop now. If anyone can find the Kevin Garnett that completely shut down his defensive assignments in the first three rounds, tell him to come to the front of the store: his teammates and coach are looking for him.