Tuesday, May 20, 2008

'08 Eastern Conf. Finals Preview

Boston (1) vs. Detroit (2):
The showdown for Eastern supremacy we have been waiting for since mid-season. Two of the best defensive squads in the East, who protect the painted area & 3pt. line with equal vigor. Two veteran ballclubs with coaches who have the rep of being shaky in pressure situations. My partner thinks this series could very well hinge on which coach screws up less. And he could very well be right.

It's not so much Boston's ineptitude on the road in the playoffs that bothers me, it's that their offense is no great shakes either at home or away. They're a solid offensive bunch, but not great. Pierce can still make things happen (as evidenced by Game 7), and KG can be a load on the block. But too many times KG will pass up golden opportunities to score, while teams pay minimal attention to Perkins & close to none to Rondo. And Allen is now strictly a perimeter shooter at this point in his career, clearly lacking his former explosiveness.

Right now it's a no-brainer that Pierce is Boston's go-to-guy, given Allen's inability to get by his defender off the dribble & KG's proclivity to pass up good scoring opportunites. If Tayshaun can contain Pierce, this could be a rough series for the Celts because we know Sheed can match KG, & Hamilton is just a bigger, better version of Allen at this point.

Look for the Celts to iso, ball screen, & post Pierce. Thought the Celts did not get KG the ball on the block enough vs. the Cavs, & even with Sheed defending, KG needs touches. KG loves the left block where he will want to turn right shoulder for a jumper. Allen will come wrapping around screens (much the same as his counterpart Hamilton). Will see if the Pistons double/shadow Ray off of screens like the Cavs.

Detroit's first order of business will be to expose Rondo on both ends of the floor. Look for Chauncey to post-up often, and see if the Celts need to send help for Rondo. And on the other end, imagine the Pistons will take the Cavs' approach of giving Rondo no respect & have Rondo's defender as a de facto free safety.

Rondo needs to actually have the ball in his hands more. The defense has to pay more attention when he has the ball as opposed when he's off the ball. It's difficult for him to be the post-entry passer for KG because his defender sloughs off into KG's lap, basically sandwiching KG. Trying to hide Rondo on the weakside corner did not work that well vs. the Cavs--West paid Rajon absolutely no mind, and was often lingering on the other side of the paint on the ballside while Rondo was in the weakside corner. The key to the series might be: Can Rondo make the Pistons pay for constantly leaving him?

Pistons match up very favorably with the Celts. Sheed can basically neutralize KG, if he really wants to. You can't ask for a better perimeter defender in the East Conf. than Tayshaun to check Pierce. And as long as Billups is healthy, the Pistons have the advantage in the backcourt. The benches are basically a wash, but I do give the Celts a slight edge.

The Celts do have an edge with an extra home game, but right now it seems that the Pistons are more capable of winning a game on the road than Boston. Just think Detroit is a more capable & varied offensive unit, while the difference between the teams' defense is nominal. Just think Detroit's offense will have an easier time scoring vs. Boston's defense than vice versa.