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NBA finals, Lakers Celtics Game 2: The Celtics will play like themselves, but is that enough?

Jun 6, 2010, 1:55 PM EDT

Garnett_jumper.jpgAll that time spent in Boston practices working on the triangle sets, and the Lakers destroyed the Celtics vaunted defense with the old-fashioned pick-and-roll in Game 1.

What people forget is that this happened some in 2008 — the Lakers had maybe their best offensive success with the pick-and-roll. But as Darius of Forum Blue& Gold reminded me in an email the Celtics had a counter move: James Posey. The differences in personnel will force much different adjustments this time around, and it may not be enough.

The Celtics will make adjustments — starting with their energy level and physicality in Game 2. They have to. Everything for the Celtics flows out of their defense, and against the Lakers in particular they need to get stops, rebounds and get Rajon Rondo out and running for some easy transition baskets.

To do that, they have to stop the pick and roll.

The Lakers had Andrew Bynum come out and set the high pick and Kobe Bryant as the ball handler. All too often Kobe was allowed to turn the corner with little or no resistance and he went driving into the paint, which broke down the Celtics defense. Kevin Garnett would step out to help on Bryant and that left Pau Gasol free to get rebounds.

So the Celtics started try and trap Kobe coming off the pick with Kendrick Perkins and Ray Allen, to get the ball out of Kobe’s hands. Then Gasol would flash to the high post area and Kobe would get him the ball. Then Garnett was screwed. He had two responsibilities: Stop Gasol’s 17-foot jumper (which he can and did hit) and cover Bynum rolling to the hoop. Garnett is a great defender, but he cannot be in two places at once. That is where you saw that nifty Lakers interior passing tearing up the Celtics.

Again, this happened some in 2008, but things were different. Gasol was setting the picks for the Lakers, not the injured Bynum, and Odom was the guy flashing to the high post. Back then the Celtics could counter with James Posey, who could body Odom and give him trouble. The Celtics also put Paul Pierce on Kobe because they were not afraid of the Lakers small forward. Pierce did a good job in the Kobe-stopper role. The Celtics could go with a small lineup — KG at the center spot — and had a lot of success with that.

This time around, it’s not that easy. No James Posey, for one. Second, the Celtics run a real risk going small because Phil Jackson will not adjust — he will try to pound the Celtics with his front line. Ask Phoenix and Utah about that. Also, putting Pierce on Kobe now means Ray Allen trying to guard Ron Artest, and Ron-Ron is too big and strong for Allen, the Lakers could post that up all day.

Look for Boston to use some of the Phoenix defensive strategy. Not the zone, but the idea of packing the paint a little more and making the Lakers jump shooters. Even if that means giving up a little of the aggression out on the wings the Celtics like to use to throw teams off. The Celtics cannot let the Lakers once again get into the heart of their defense off the dribble or pass. Nobody is stopping the Lakers front line if they get to shoot 8 footers all night.

Expect to see the physical Celtics, expect to see the Celtics front line that pushes and believes the paint is its home to protect. The Lakers will counter and they still have weapons — Lamar Odom was almost non-existent in Game 1, but he could explode at any time. And these Lakers will push back — as a reminder Jackson has been splicing scenes from “Inglorious Bastards” into the Lakers game film. A movie about guys who took no prisoners.

The style and pace of this game will be more to the Celtics liking. The question is, will that be enough? With this Lakers roster, it may not be.

  1. Palmer Berg - Jun 6, 2010 at 5:37 PM

    We need Kevin Garnett to start shooting rather than passing off. He needs to hit on his famous shot of the turn and fade and shoot.

  2. Joanne - Jun 6, 2010 at 6:06 PM

    The Officials WILL NOT ALLOW LA to lose at home! There is a reason they have not lost there, in the playoffs. The Celtics do not have a chance! I bet Perk gets a T early, so he will be out for the first game in Boston! The outcome has already been decided! The officials are worse in LA, than anywhere. It is so obvious!!!

  3. Toast - Jun 6, 2010 at 6:19 PM

    Why the 2010 Celtics have no chance against the Lakers:
    1. Reading all the Finals previews, most writers thought the 2010 Lakers were going up against the 2008 Celtics. They forget that the 2010 Lakers know how to win a championship; 2008 Lakers didn’t. The Celtics are two years older, and it looks like Garnett has aged 10 years since then.
    2. Home court advantage – Celtics had it in 2008; not this time.
    3. Kobe – He might not be the best player in the NBA, but he’s the best player in the playoffs, and especially the Finals. The Celtics have nobody that can even bother Kobe defensively, and if the Celtics double-team, they’re toast. If game one is any indication, the Celtics don’t have anyone that can bother Gasol either.
    4. Lakers vs Celtics big men. Most writers thought Lakers and Celtics were even at PF and center. Even? If Lakers get 24 minutes, 10 points and 6 rebounds from Bynum, it’s enough to give Lakers a decided advantage. When your best low post player (Garnett) has one post move, and it’s a fadeway jumper, you’re in trouble (ask Patrick Ewing). The only advantage that Garnett-Perkins-Davis-Wallace have over Gasol-Bynum-Odom is more fouls.
    5. Artest – Lakers got tougher, and Artest will make life hell for Pierce, the Celtics best player in 2008 Finals.
    6. Matchups – the Lakers have advantage at C, PF, & SG, while the Celts have the advantage at PG and SF. But Rondo hasn’t had to deal with a defender like Kobe, and Pierce hasn’t had an Artest in his shorts. Odom alone gives Lakers the bench advantage. Kobe’s eyes light up when Tony Allen enters the game. Lakers big men know they’ll register some blocks when Big Baby enters, and all the rebounds are theirs when Wallace comes in.

  4. Hoops McCann - Jun 6, 2010 at 6:25 PM

    Joanne, you are SO full of sh+t! The fouls were even last game and the officials haven’t given the Lakers any breaks all playoffs. Have you been watching the games? Are you trying to say the referees stole game one from Boston? Boston was OUTPLAYED at every single position! Oh, maybe you mean they didn’t let Boston’s players foul on every play (in the name of toughness) without calling a foul. This is basketball, not full contact MMA!

  5. Sonny - Jun 6, 2010 at 11:51 PM

    Shame on the referre! the game was so good but can you guys be more obvious about making this to game 7, the calls!!! Come on, we can call game better than you suckers! Shame..shame..shame.

  6. kt - Jun 7, 2010 at 12:04 AM

    I really get a kick out of you kids thinking that the celtics have no chance. You never watched basketball when defense always ruled. and Basketball is no defferent that any other pro sport Defense always wins…There is a reason why teams like Phoenix and Dallas cannot win….they can shoot the lights out of you but then give up 120 points. The celtics now have homecourt…They may not win who knows….BUT ..if they play team defense like they have shown to anyone with an understanding of basketball….then they WILL win Period…lets see what happens when the celts go back to LA up 3-2 ….the Lakers will be under so much pressure….not only from the Celtics great defense….but they will fold just like they did in Game 6 two years ago….

  7. Bob - Jun 7, 2010 at 12:37 PM

    Well, Joanne was technically incorrect, but it wasn’t as if they didn’t try. Before the Lakers started intentionally fouling at the end, the officials had given them well more than twice as many free throw attempts as the Celtics, even though the Celtics had managed to score more points in the paint than the Lakers (with every bit as much contact on attempts). This is the best way to figure out who is knowingly and/or cluelessly whining. In the Dallas-Miami final, Mark Cuban whined about his team shooting somewhat fewer free throws than the Heat, when the Mavs had not earned free throws by even TRYING to go to the rim. The refs are never going to see every call well enough to get them all right, but it’s a pretty safe bet that they are trying to prop up one team when its ratio of FTA versus its opponent’s is WAY higher than it’s ratio of points in the paint versus it’s opponents.

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