'08 Finals Preview--BOS vs. LAL
CELTICS VS. LAKERS:
Celtics have to feel confident about how competitive the Spurs--a team that is very similar to the Celts--were vs. L.A. The Spurs easily could have extended that series if they would have hit some of their 2nd half perimeter looks in Game 1 & Game 4, and it was not their defense that was the problem. Like the Spurs, the Celts are built around a vaunted defense, but both have offenses that can experience droughts from their auxiliary players.
Lakers offense was made to look fairly pedestrian by the Spurs. So it's very conceivable that the Celts could do the same. Yes, Kobe was lights-out, but Bowen forced him to make tough shot after tough shot. Not to mention kept him off the line. And if you take Kobe's unconscious shooting out of the mix, the rest of the Lakers only shot 42.6%.
Posey & Pierce are the best options on Kobe, though can't see either guy making Kobe work for his looks like Bowen. Bowen would often look to funnel Kobe to Duncan, and you can't fault the effort--Bowen & Duncan were in position to challenge many of Kobe's attempts--Kobe was just too good with his jumper.
Boston's weakside defense is good as any, they will need to be alert to the cutters playing off the fulcrum of the Triangle. Kendrick Perkins has really impressed in these playoffs as a terrific help defender, and handles himself well defending on the perimeter. The Celtics will make it their duty to collapse around the painted area, and have to imagine they try to make Kobe a jump shooter like the Spurs did.
Not surprisingly, the Spurs took away the Lakers' effectiveness from long-range--Lakers shot only 32.5% in the West Finals. Not sure Lakers will fare much better vs. the Celts, who were the best at guarding the 3pt. line in the reg. season, and have been nearly as good in the playoffs.
Two main difference between the Spurs & Celts defenses: Celts have no one like Bowen & the Celts have been prone to fouling more than the Spurs--Boston has allowed their opponents to average 5 more ft attempts per game in the playoffs. Though, the Celts are probably a better overall rebounding squad than the Spurs, at least better on the off. glass.
Lakers' defensive rebounding was solid vs. the Spurs, but dicey in the first two rounds, and their def. rebounding was mediocre in the reg. season. Though the Celts aren't Cleveland or Utah, they have been hitting the off. boards at a pretty good clip thru-out the playoffs--30% off. reb pct. KG & Perkins can cause problems for the Lakers, while Rondo is dangerous as well on the off. glass.
The Celts' offense starts with looking to iso, ball screen, & post Pierce. Next it's setting KG up down low--KG loves the left block where he will want to turn right shoulder for a jumper. KG has been a deadly hitting his 20-footers in the playoffs, this needs to continue. After that, Allen will come wrapping around screens, we'll see if the Lakers double/shadow Ray off of screens. Also, the more time Rondo spends time handling the ball the better--when he's off-the-ball he really hurts the offense.
Odom & Gasol have to do a better job of finishing their shots in the series. Both guys tended to pull-the-string on their short looks, almost like they were overly intimidated by Duncan. This needs to change--both guys need to take the ball strong at Perkins & KG.
Maybe the Celts can just let Kobe go, and try to contain the rest of the Lakers. Defense was not the issue for the Spurs, it was the trying to find enough sustained firepower on offense. This is a similar situation for the Celts. The Celts can guard as a team just as well as the Spurs. One difference for the Celts is they don't have anyone as good as Bowen to check Kobe straight up.
Just don't have faith in the offensive options around Garnett & Pierce providing consistent contributions. What let down the Spurs was their spotty offense that would go thru awful droughts. Still not sold on the Celts' offense. Not sold on Allen as a consistent threat.
Think these games will be close because of Boston's defense, particularly their ability to protect the 3pt. line which should keep the Lakers point totals down. Think the Celts have a great shot in this series, the extra home game helps, but guys like Allen, Posey, Perkins, & Rondo will have to step up offensively with some consistency for the Celts to prevail.
LAKERS IN 6