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NBA Finals, Lakers Celtics: Slowing Kobe Bryant

Jun 3, 2010, 10:50 AM EDT

Thumbnail image for Kobe_Ganett1.jpgAgainst Orlando, the Celtics were willing to let Dwight Howard score. They single-covered Howard so perimeter defenders could stay home on the Magic’s shooters. They thought (correctly, it turns out) that Dwight Howard could not beat them alone, even if he went off for a big night.

Try that with Kobe Bryant and he will beat you.

Boston knows that, and they don’t mess around with Kobe. History has shown that the way the Celtics defend Bryant is almost the opposite of what they did to Howard — they try to force the ball out of Bryant’s hands and make some other Laker beat them.

Against L.A., Boston goes to an overload defense — they bring the help man over to the strong side early to give Ray Allen help (also look for Tony Allen to get a lot of Kobe time, he may be their best defender on him). What Boston does is not unlike the Kurt Rambis-designed defense the Lakers rode to a tile last year. Boston’s version is more complex and more active, but the principles are the same.

With that setup, there is always help nearby with Bryant, forcing him to go through a couple of men to get off his shot and keeping him out of the paint. The Celtics defense is based around keeping the other team out of the paint.

The Celtics are also very quick to double Bryant, and they bring the double from a variety of places so he is not getting a consistent look. The double also will come if a Lakers big comes out and sets a high screen for Bryant — the Celtics will trap Kobe coming off the screen.

Whatever Boston does, Kobe is still going to get his points — he is playing the best basketball of his career right now. The Lakers offense was very fluid against an admittedly overmatched Phoenix defense, and Bryant came through shooting 52.2 percent for the series. He buried the Suns with the impossible at the end of Game 6. Whatever Boston does he is still going to get and hit some crazy shots.

If the Celtics goal is to take the ball out of Bryant’s hands, other Lakers are going to have to step up and win games. The Lakers will need quick ball reversals; they will need to make the Celtics pay for their double teams and overloading the strong side. The Lakers do that better now than they did two years ago, but they are inconsistent.

In the end, Bryant (and Pau Gasol’s) creativity will be key. There are not a lot of secrets with what the Lakers do on offense or who the Celtics plan to do on defense. These teams know each other from two years ago and their strategies have not changed. By the third game, it will be execution and the ability to freelance that will get points, because the opposing team will anticipate the next pass or offensive option.

And when it comes to creativity in getting points, nobody is playing better than Kobe Bryant right now. Stopping him will not be easy, because even when you think you do he still hits the shot. Just ask the Suns.

But for the Celtics, beating the Lakers starts with slowing Bryant.

  1. Gr8 Scott - Jun 3, 2010 at 12:54 PM

    Kurt – we miss you over at FB&G, but your articles here are still a great source of daily info. Keep it up.
    And let’s go Lakers!

  2. Omnius - Jun 3, 2010 at 1:40 PM

    It won’t help the Ancient Celtics trying to doubleteam Kobe, he’ll find the open man and Kobe’s mates will find their way to the hole for a score. Air Kobe is flying high and playing the best ball of teh year, as are all the Lakers. Odom and Artest will help keep the pressure off Kobe, and Gasol will keep scoring against the aging sergeant. Then there’s Derek for late game heroics with his Fisher Swishers. Kobe is driven by revenge for 2008 as are several other Laker players who remember that crushing defeat in Boston. Lakers in 6 games, though best to watch them win in 5 and celebrate on the same TD Gardens floor they were humiliated on two years ago.

  3. Omnius is lame - Jun 3, 2010 at 3:14 PM

    “air kobe”
    “fisher swishers”
    “aging sergeant”
    you sire are a f*ckin loser
    Ron artest will help on the defensive end, but is far worse offensively then anyone you ran out at the SF position in 08.
    Bynum is going to get killed so badly by rondo on Pick & rolls that he will be relegated to the bench, meaning your 5 primary players (now that odom is playing so much) will be your ONLY players able to give you quality minutes. Your lack of depth will burn you as our 2nd unit makes runs to close out quarters.
    We simply have too many “go-to” options on the offensive end to hold us down consistently, and Kobe is not going to get the help he needs to beat this TEAM on the other end

  4. omnius is lame is lame - Jun 3, 2010 at 4:12 PM

    R u serious. your bench. artest worse offensively than ariza??? bynum on the bench because of rondo??
    you must be on some pretty good dope to think thats how this is going down…. let me spell it out for you. kobe is going to kill the celtics.. look for him to average at least 34 per game. artest will d up the 2008 finals mvp paul pierce )whos gonna need a wheelchair forreal this year) and render pierce unaffective. bynum will do his work on the offensive glass, defensively, and get us some huge points down low. bostons bench is garbage and will be shut down, and the lakers will show just how “old” the celtices really are…. end result lakers 4 – boston 0
    get your brooms ready……

  5. tb - Jun 3, 2010 at 4:44 PM

    “Ron artest will help on the defensive end, but is far worse offensively then anyone you ran out at the SF position in 08.
    In 2008, the primary SF for the Lakers was vladimir radmanovic, as Ariza was out with an injury and Odom was playing PF. You’re honestly saying that Artest is a worse offensive option than Radmanovic, who’s been a scrub everywhere he played? Artest is a HUGE improvement on offense and an even bigger improvement on D. If you can’t see that, you’re not knowlegable about pro basketball and shouldn’t be commenting on it.

  6. NHDank - Jun 3, 2010 at 5:15 PM

    Kobe hits 2 jumpshots against the suns with a hand in his face and all of a sudden defense doesn’t matter against him? How about the first 25 jumpshots that were uncontested that got him in that rhythm? And the jumpshot with under 2 minutes to go, the defender turned around because he wasn’t used to playing defense. The Celts will play defense and it will matter and Kobe will never average 34 points on a celtics team that has given up 40 twice in 3 years and one was in OT.
    And check Pierce’s numbers with Artest guarding him in the playoffs… 23.9 ppg.
    This series will be a battle and it has the exact same feel as 2008 right now. A Celtics team that is stifling and playing on all cylinders against a Lakers team that the national media has deemed the best in history led by God himself.
    Maybe people should ask kobe how it’ll turn out.

  7. Jeff - Jun 3, 2010 at 6:19 PM

    The Lakers will have their hands full of dirty Cletic tricks. Like the old days of McHale and Havlecheck the dirty Celtics will try to disable Bynum and his knee imediatly. They will use every dirty trick they can find on Kobe and low-bridge Gosal to try to win. Go Lakers!

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