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Hi, what's up. I would just like to share some of my own analysis from game one, and primarily I am looking at one play.

First off, as some know, I complain about the refs and bad calls more than most, but not this time. I thought with a few exceptions, the calls were correct. Also, the blown calls were on both teams, and it's too bad a couple of them were on Ray, but the Lakers were in foul trouble too.

It came down to better offensive schemes for the Lakers. First off, looking at the Celtics, it felt like every between-play pass made me cringe. By this mean, whenever they were moving the ball to set something up, it was slow and careless or wild and reckless. Kick-outs, loop-backs and other passes in the midst of a play looked good, but when they were setting something up, getting the ball to the starter of the play was just dangerous. It was like a pitcher throwing fastballs down the heart of the plate and saying, "come get it." And often, they did. These poor passes lead to turnovers (like passes to the crowd or steals) of course, and often times moved players from their spots, eliminating a lay-up opportunity or open shot. While the Lakers showed quickness getting to guys on the catch, we didn't do ourselves any favors with our lazy and/or misguided passes.

Secondly, we missed a lot of shots. It seemed like the few open shots we did get we just missed on. I hate to say it, but I give the Lakers part of the credit for this. All playoffs, we just didn't see the level of defense from an opponent that we saw tonight. It's almost like they analyzed our plays! Let's try to do the same thing.

For instance, let's look at one of our oft-run plays, the high screens for Rondo set by KG. Rondo comes down the center of the court with the ball, Ray is on the wing, Perk is just out of the box, as low in the post as he can get, and Pierce is usually on the other wing or moving somewhere inside of the arc without the ball. When they start executing, KG comes up to set the high center screen and his man has to play behind him to prevent a float pass from Rondo to KG with an open lane in front of him. When the screen works, Rondo's man sticks to KG, so KGs man has to back up further to now prevent Rondo, who is now past his man, from driving into the lane. Rondo looks to see who collapses with this play. If he doesn't think there's help, he'll go for a lay-up, if they leave Ray open or Pierce gets free, he'll dish to them, but almost always, KG is open at the top of the key because his man gets pulled back as I mentioned. So as an always-open Plan B, Rondo can pass the screen on the dribble and once KG's man falls back, loop the ball back to #5 who can step into that 20-footer straight-away that he (and I) loves so much.

Hi, I'm Brandon Jennings and I'm not in the playoffs,
but I am in this picture to illustrate a point!

Well last night, it wasn't so easy. Rondo was oddly timid driving to the basket, but perhaps rightly so, because I saw a lot of would-be charges had he ran full-steam ahead. On the aforementioned play, if you're Rondo and you're now driving with no options to pass or lay it up, you have to remember that floater shot. It's like he took it out of his repertoire, and understandably so, since he has been geting to the rim so easily recently. Well, it doesn't look like it's going to be so easy, so bring that shot back! Last night he would stop the attack, slow the dribble and then maybe make a lazy pass, throw up a jumper, etc.


Next, looking at KG on that play, there is nothing you can say other than 'way to be a mutant, Gasol.' KG wasn't doing anything wrong. After he set the screen, if KG got the ball, Pau was always just right there to prevent an open shot. Since Pau is so freaking long and relatively quick, Rondo has to go further past KG to drag Pau further away from him before making that pass, which makes that pass a lot more difficult. When Rondo makes the easier, early pass, Gasol is covering, if Rondo waits, which he only tried once or twice, it might work and KG will have an open shot, or the ball might just go way off target.

Ray Allen, a critical part of this play, was usually absent due to foul troubles. When you bring in TA for Ray, he basically is just an extra when this play is run. Ray Allen's role in this play is like so: He waits on the wing for a pass, if his man leaves to help in the paint, or he runs across the court to try to get open. If one of his teammates looks to make a play to score, Ray will run his man to his worst possible position. For instance, if the ball goes to Pierce or Perk, Ray will run to the weak side and since he is such a great shooter, his man will follow. Ray has effectively taken his man out of the play and so there will be one less defender/rebounder to help against the man with the ball. Insert TA now, the defense knows that it does have to worry about the jump shot. If the ball goes to TA, just stay back and threaten to take the charge. If the ball goes to someone else, leave TA unless he's in the post. Either way, both scenarios lead to better help defense chances when an attempt is finally made.

I would take a look at Pierce here, but that Kobe Beef just was all over him. Pierce is kind of like the x-factor in this play, where if he ends up with an opening, a lane, a 3, he could be anywhere, just hope that the ball goes to him if something opens up. Well, not too much opened up last night. A lot of times he would take the easy way out, which is to just get to the elbows and if there is no pass to him, he'll try to get in position for the rebound. Either way, it didn't work too well last night.

Perk in this play usually fills three roles. He is a potential drop-pass recipient if a player is driving, he can get the ball for an isolation attempt (meaning they will pass to him low in the post and then the entire rest of our team will go to the weak side so Perk can go one-on-one and try his hook over his man) and he tries for offensive rebounds. I felt Perk was a little underused this game, especially considering the supposed knee-situation with Bynum.

Now as you can imagine, this play is very effective with all 5 starters, so that is usually when it is run. All 5 of the guys, in their roles for this play are really great at what they do. Rondo is a great passer on the move and can attack with accuracy and speed, ray allen is the best shooter in the NBA, pierce has an all-around offensive game making him great for the role he's in, KG has that long range jumper down and Perk is just a beast. The problem is that when you lose one of the big 5, you actually lose more than you think. Wallace can do a good job filling Perk's role, and TA can do a decent job with Pierce's role, but the problem comes with trying to replace Ray, KG or Rondo.

Ray's role wants to be handed over to Finley, but do we really want Finley guarding Bryant? uh, no. Remembering what I said about TA and Ray, I think it's safe to say that if you can't put a shooter in that role, you might as well not run that play, but we tried regardless. Bringing in baby for KG is an OK trade here because as we remember, baby has developed that mid-range jumper. Why do you think he developed that? Why do you think we kept Baby over Powe? Well I'd bet money that Doc and co. demanded he work on that shot so that Baby's substitution for KG would go as smoothly as possible. The problem is that it seems he has lost confidence in that shot. He isn't even trying, so the defense isn't bothering to guard it, so the play is breaking down. sad face. As for replacing Rondo, good frickin' luck. Again, you need lightning-fast reaction time, speed, agility, passing skills, and I just don't yet trust Nate enough to say that he can handle all that as often. When Nate or another substitute for Rondo is in, this play just works less often because thse guys aren't as comfortable in that role and sometimes don't make the right decisions.

Alright, well, what can we try to mix things up here? How can we get the maximum potential from this play? I have a few ideas.

1) Use Perkins to screen for Pierce without the ball in the post. If this is to work, Pierce needs to run around more and this will eat up more shot clock, but I think if Pierce moves along the baseline and Artest gets caught, PP can pop out the other side of the paint, receive the pass from Rondo (or even better, KG, if there was already a loopback) and the Lakers will be all confused due to all the new options open. Pierce can redirect and go back to the hoop rotating away from the defense, he can fall-away, he will draw help so he could find the open man, he can shovel back to Perk if Perks man turn around, etc. Not to sound like that pukeworthy excuse for a commentator, Mark Jackson (seriously, how is that guy even employable?), but give the ball to a veteran who has consistently made the right decision over the course of his career and let him do the rest.

2) Have KG move left or right towards Rondo after the screen. I know KG prefers the straight-away jumper, but if Rondo goes right after the pick, have KG go right as well. This will put Rondo right between Pau and KG and present Gasol with a choice. He will either have to switch on to Rondo or drop back to get KG and just hope that Fisher gets back in time, which is very unlikely, or hope that Bynum can block Rondo's shot. Either way, if he switches, Rondo can drive around him or pass back to an open KG. If he leaves Rondo to go back to KG, he may foul Rondo trying to get around him, he may leave Rondo with an open lane, he might draw even more help from Artest, if he is in the area, which frees up Pierce. This small adjustment could help a lot, especially if KG shoots well.

3) Make sure Baby is confident enough to shoot jumpers. I have enough faith in Davis that if he is open with an 18 footer, he should be shooting, unless there is a dunk/lay-up opportunity or an open Ray Allen. Even still, those are options you explore before you receive the pass, if he gets the ball wide-open, he should already know at that point if there is a better option. If he's open and doesn't immediately make a pass to those better options, he better be shooting off the catch.

Well, moving on past the plan which I beat to death, here are a few things just in general that I would like to see in game 2:

1) Help Ray defend Kobe. Ray cannot pick up fouls like in game 1, he is too important because of the matchups this series. Make sure that when TA comes in, he comes in for Pierce. If Pierce or TA have to occasionally leave Artest to help Ray, you live will the points Artest scores and you are glad that Ray didn't pick up the foul guarding the princess of the NBA. You have to take for granted that Ray is a better offensive player than Artest.

2) Poise is a must. Game 1 showed that was can cut into their leads and slow them down, but it also showed that our mental toughness needs a slight boost. Everytime we started to go on a run, there would be a sloppy play eventually, a turnover, a missed dunk, something like that, and the Lakers would capitalize, much to the joy of the crowd. Remember that they only made one basket. Don't go back into desperation mode, don't go picking up technical fouls, don't go trying ridiculous hero dunks, just remember the gameplan and don't let the thought creep in that "they stopped all our momentum." Clearly this is easy for me to say and a lot harder for the guys to actually do, but it makes sense, right?

3) Make the safe pass. We won't even have to worry about momentum changing turn-overs if we are more careful with the ball. This goes back to trusting your teammates and playing a team-oriented game, which is the Celtics' best chance to win. Rather than making a cross-court pass to a wide open Ray that gets tipped or intercepted, swing the ball to the next man with a safe pass, avoid the turnover and trust that Ray will move and find a way to get open anyways.

Clearly there are more plays we run aside from the one we looked at, but it is so important to our success. If they execute well and manage to get all facets of it going here, its impossible to guard consistently. Combine that with a more careful, deliberate attitude, I think our offense can muscle theirs out, provided we place decent defense. I didn't look at our defensive play in game 1 at all here, but that could be a whole separate article... A separate article titled, "Keep Gasol out of the paint."

Thanks for reading.

Three Toe 6/04/2010 10:03:00 AM Edit
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8 Responses so far.

  1. Basketball 101 by Three Toe. Love it! Longest article in CelticsLife history,haha.

  2. I'm not sure why your article was posted below mine. It's much better than mine and should've been at the top. Look forward to more columns.

  3. Conquistador says:

    Amusing caption for the photo

  4. JR says:

    Yeah well written analysis Three Toe. Not sure why it appeared below Karl's piece. If you had included a page break, I might have moved it up for you. ;) Haha.

  5. Jenda says:

    Just one little thing. If Doc uses Finley as a substitution for Ray, it doesn't automatically mean Finley has to guard Bean, does it? He could guard Artest - he has the height for it and as you've mentioned Artest is not the biggest offensive threat of the Lakers.
    I totally love how "an open Ray Allen" is a play of it's own!

  6. JR says:

    If Thibs leaves, I nominate Three Toe to take his spot.

  7. Bohemian says:

    This is when we need Marquis Daniels. I hope he is cleared to play soon...

  8. Three Toe says:

    I think the article was after Karl's because Karl started his after mine but finished it before I did. It takes me a long time. I will look into these "page breaks" next time.

    Jenda, no they can guard who they want, but that's not what we saw Doc do last time, so I was worried it could happen again.

    Bohemian, I think Marquis is probably backing up TA, so we probably won't see much of him. I would like to see Nasty Daniel's triumphant resurgence though!

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