Tag: Los Angeles Boston

NBA Finals Game 7:  Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Lakers

Lakers to measure themselves against Celtics: What to look for


The Lakers are the two-time NBA defending champions. They have the newest shiny rings and the banner has barely had time to gather dust. Every time they step on the court they are the team the opposition wants to measure itself against.

Except Thursday night. Then the roles will be reversed — the Lakers will be measuring themselves against the Celtics.

It’s not about last June, it’s about this season now. And this season Boston has looked every bit the championship force, the veteran team on top of their conference with their own championship pedigree. They look better than the team that went seven games into the NBA finals last season.

On the other hand the Lakers have looked lackluster, at least as lackluster as a 36-16 team can. They have been inconsistent and uninspired, especially in big games (which they are supposed to win). That includes in a 109-96 win by the Celtics a week ago in Los Angeles, where Boston shot 60.3 percent for the game and pulled away in the second half. The Celtics looked much the better side.

That loss was the straw that broke Mitch Kupchak’s back and had the reserved Laker GM saying publicly maybe it was time to think about trades. It was the first domino to fall, leading us to the current Lakers/Carmelo Anthony silliness.

The Lakers have been more focused of late, especially on the road. Thursday we see if that change was real or cosmetic and the problems in Los Angeles more systemic.

Here are a few things to watch for:

Who controls the boards. These are two of the longest front lines in the NBA and both are used to controlling the glass. In the last 10 meetings, the team that won the battle on the glass won 9. Boston did it in last week’s meeting, but they had Shaquille O’Neal who will be out Thursday with roughly a sore everything. Watch the offensive rebound numbers, if one team has a significant advantage they will have, um, a significant advantage.

Kevin Garnett vs. Pau Gasol. Gasol is the most skilled big man in the NBA, but in the meeting last week Garnett never let him get comfortable. Gasol couldn’t get the ball where he wanted on the floor. Gasol is the hub of the Lakers offense, they need to get him the ball and cut off him. If he can the Lakers offense will click.

Paul Pierce vs. Ron Artest. This is fun to watch just because neither guy gives an inch. Pierce won the battle last go around.

Rajon Rondo vs. Kobe Bryant. In the second half of the last meeting, Rajon Rondo shredded the Lakers defensive plan for him that helped the Lakers get that ring last June. Kobe usually covers Rondo and plays off him, daring him to shoot. Rondo this year has been far better about how to use that space to create passing angles and set up teammates. Or, as he did against the Bobcats a couple nights ago, he can just knock down the shots now. The Lakers need to adjust, it will be interesting to see how.

Ball movement. Both teams use a similar defensive principle — bring a big man over early on the side where the ball is to stymie dribble penetration (get past your defender and Kendrick Perkins or Andrew Bynum is there to greet you). The way you defeat that is quick ball movement to the weak side. Boston recovers and resets quickly, the Lakers do when they are on. But whichever team is getting buckets from the weak side will be the team hitting the easier looks. And in this game the team with more easy looks will likely win.

NBA finals, Lakers Celtics Game 7: Ron Artest leading the break in slow motion

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When Kobe was cold in the first quarter (and the second, and the third and…) the one Laker that stepped up consistently to make plays was Ron Artest. Here he is in the second quarter with the steal and layup to tie the game at the time.

Artest made a number of plays this series like this, but he never looked comfortable handling the ball in the open court. Even in slow motion with cool background music.

NBA finals, Lakers Celtics Game 7: Captain Obvious is reporting that Boston missed Kendrick Perkins


perkins_game7.pngIt’s not all that difficult to figure out how the Lakers won the NBA title while shooting an impressively awful 32.5% from the field. With the Laker bigs as active as ever on the offensive glass, L.A. managed 12 more field goal attempts and 20 more free throw attempts than the Celtics. Those are free possessions conjured by effort and size alone, and even if the possessions gained were used somewhat haphazardly, that’s still an outrageous amount of extra opportunities. Even if most were misses (and that they were), the few hits were enough for volume to win out.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the impact of Kendrick Perkins’ absence. Perk trailed only Kevin Garnett among the Celtics in defensive rebounding percentage this season (and by a slim margin at that; KG grabbed the defensive board 24.8% of the time while on the floor, and Perk got the rebound 24.4% of the time), and his size and rebounding abilities are even more important against a team like L.A.

It’s not quite as simple as pointing to Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis, either. They combined for 17 rebounds in a low-possession game, which is frankly even better than should be expected. The problem big for the Celtics turned out to Kevin Garnett, who not only failed to grab more than three boards of his own, but was clearly incapable of preventing Pau Gasol from grabbing offensive rebounds at will. The Spaniard finished the nine offensive boards without Garnett boxing him out properly or Perkins to clean up the mess, which is a bit of a problem.

Maybe Gasol still would have been a prolific offensive rebounder with Perkins on the court. After all, it’s not like Perk’s mere presence would make Garnett a better rebounder. Still, it’s tough to shake the feeling that Boston having another big body on the floor would make some kind of difference. If not one less offensive rebound of Gasol, then maybe one less for Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom, or Ron Artest.

I don’t know, but one of those offensive rebounds — and especially one of the put-backs that followed — might have had an impact on the game. Y’know, considering the final stages of the fourth quarter teetered between a one-possession game and a two-possession game. Or that Boston was forced to take desperation threes and intentionally foul down the stretch. This was a tight enough game that every little bit counted. Even if Perkins wasn’t going to put up 20 and 10, he could at least be expected to do that much.