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The Match-Up Boston Is Winning

 

Through two games:

Kevin Garnett: 36 points, 17-of-41 field goals, 2-2 FTs, 20 rebounds*, 6 assists, 5 turnovers, +6

Antawn Jamison: 23 points, 8-of-17 field goals, 5-10 FTs, 15 rebounds, 0 assists, 4 turnovers, -2

*KG grabbed 10 boards in each of the first two games of this series. He reached 10 rebounds in just 12 games the entire regular season.

It’s not a blow-out. Garnett’s shooting percentage is going to have to improve a little bit. But the Celtics have found a weak spot in Cleveland’s defense, and they are going to milk that weak spot until the Cavaliers adjust. KG, for the first time in a long, long time, is a legitimate low post threat, at least when Jamison is guarding him.

And that gives Boston one more crutch to lean on when the offense goes into disarray and the turnovers pile up—things that are inevitable with this team.

The obvious adjustment for Cleveland would be to play Anderson Varejao more minutes at the power forward alongside Shaq.

But this presents two potentially huge problems for the Cavaliers.

1) Varejao is apparently struggling with back spasms. The entire complexion of this series changes if Varejao can’t play at his normal level.

2) Playing Varejao and Shaq on the court presents serious spacing issues for the Cavs offense. Shaq’s range extends to about the block/charge circle at this point, and Varejao is basically a non-threat from outside 10 or 12 feet.

You can look at every five-man unit Anderson Varejao played in this season at Basketball Value. Varejao played 20 or minutes in six line-ups that included Shaq; five of those six line-ups scored below 102 points per 100 possessions, and three of them failed to crack 100 points per 100 possessions.

To put that in perspective, the Nets had the worst offense in the league this season; they scored 100.6 points per 100 possessions.

The flip side is that five of those six Varejao-Shaq units were outstanding defensively. But it’s clear Cleveland prefers not to play the two of them together much, probably because it clogs up the interior and messes with LeBron’s driving game—to the degree his driving game can be messed with at all.

Mike Brown has one potential solution sitting on his bench: Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Z’s range extends all the way to the corner three, and his job on offense is to serve as a pick-and-pop threat and drag one opposing big man out of the lane. Perhaps this spacing issue explains why Ilgauskas played far more minutes with Varejao than did Shaq.

Brown isn’t comfortable using Ilgauskas right now, but he’s going to have to make some adjustment. He cannot leave Jamison—or J.J. Hickson—on an island against Garnett in the low post.

This is the fun of the playoffs. Mike Brown has three days to think about it. What will he do?

  • joe

    Let’s just hope BOS doesn’t come out flat at home like tend to do.

  • joe

    *like they tend to do

  • morey grundman

    If the Celtics beat the Cavs it will be one the greatest non final series they ever won, and if thtey win the championship, it will be my most favorite year as a Celtic fan….

  • carlos rizik

    I would like to see Nate Robinson playing a little bit when the greens are leading by a good margin, like last night, when the C’s were up by 23 in the fourth.

  • morey grundman

    Go Celtics, I am praying you go all the way…

  • VenturaCelticFan…FTL

    It easy to point to Rondo as the primary factor in our apparent offensive resurgence, I however feel that an aggressive (and confident) KG is clearly the “switch” that has been flipped on this team (on both ends). He is jumping off of both legs mire often, and looks to have way more energy. Loving the C’s right now!

  • NickFaldo

    Varejao is a dirty player. I think the Celtics should try their best to avoid trash talking. Let the Cavs stew in their own venom of underachieving year after year after year despite dominating regular seasons.

    One of the best things that could have happened was KG getting suspended during the Heat series. He’s looking very fresh. Now he gets three more days off. No back to backs. This bodes well for that stuck almost closed window being dislodged with some fresh air also coming in next year.

    Perk says it’s going to be a different guy stepping up each game. That’s where the Celtics rule, and we can afford to cut Paul some slack. Maybe one of these games, Marquis or Tony will get into a groove covering elbow man, freeing up Paul for a 30 point explosion. The C’s are looking strong. Any of a number of guys could get 20+ points. Unbelievably, I want Rondo at the free throw line and taking jump shots. Something clicked there.

    Something obviously clicked with Sheed too. Cleveland will not go down easy. There’s always the chance Mo and/or Delonte get in the zone. However, the Celtics couldn’t have played better last night in driving the point home to Cleveland that this series is at best a toss up for them. That’s a far cry from what it looked like going in or even after the game one meltdown.

    I’m surprised how old Shaq and Jamison look. I’m somewhat pleased that LeBron is hurt. Maybe that’s low class on my part, but it’s how I feel. He gets away with so much traveling and charges, I’m done feeling any pity for his elbow.
    :
    I also agree with the other poster asking for some Nate Robinson minutes. The Celtics are vulnerable when Doc goes Thibodeau style with no substitutions for the starters. It’s just asking for the other team to make a comeback. It’s the nature of basketball to have momentum swings. Those guys aren’t 24. Even Rondo shouldn’t be pushed too much. Doc did well to call timeouts during the Cavs mad comeback. He could’ve made some substitutions instead. I was thinking an energy guy or two like Tony, Nate, and Baby compared to a Finley type move. The best Celtics team is when old and young are balanced. This is a marathon. Get by Cleveland, and there are still two more battles ahead before #18 can be won. (Please don’t tell dslack I mentioned momentum. He doesn’t buy into that concept. )

  • Jrmz

    The Cavs may find a way to counter KG, but their kryptonite is always going to be Rondo. They can’t stop his penetration and when they do close out the interior, he drops 19 dimes…They just have no solution for him…heck soon they might put James on him just like they did on Rose.

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    Let’s all go easy on Sheed today. It’s one good game in 7 playoff games, and his defense was still as shaky as ever, especially on high screen/rolls.

    Let’s see him bring it more than once every 7 games.

  • Anthony

    Watching basketball in general is so frustrating because the ref dictate so much of the game. Did anyone see the Mo Williams play somewhere in the middle of the 2nd quarter? Cavs got possesion and Mo was dribbling fast down the court. He saw Rasheed in front and literally jumped on him. Guess who was called for a foul? Rasheed!! And what about the technical foul on Pierce when Mo flopped like he’s just been clotheslined. And on the rebound where JJ Hickson clearly knocked it out of bounds?? I just hope all these ridiculous and obvious calls dont affect the Celtics in a negative way. They need to finish the Cavs off as quick as possible.

  • Dr H

    It’s nice to see KG putting those numbers up, it’s too bad they blew the first game. I’d like to see him shoot a bit better, 41% isn’t too hot lol. They also need to recognize when they’re getting trapped/surrounded quicker than they did last night. How many trips did Boston take up the floor only to get swallowed up in the paint and turn the ball over? I remember that happening to KG a couple of times.

    I can’t wait for Game 3, I’m hoping the Celts bring a renewed sense of urgency and motivation because you KNOW the Cavs will be bringing it.

    @Anthony – that Pierce T was so BS to me..he put his arm over to stop Mo from shooting and he ends up flopping to get the T called on Pierce, I couldn’t believe it. Not even the most bone headed player in the league would randomly put his arm out to clothesline someone when the play is dead.

  • NC

    Zach – It’s OK to be happy with Sheed even though you wrote that column the other day. That column is done. It’s a new day. Sheed made a big difference. Give him some credit.

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    @NC: Oh, I absolutely give Sheed credit, both here and on Twitter during the game.

    I’m just not going to go into, “Now I love Sheed!!!” mode, because he has to play well more than once in seven games. Let’s see him make half his shots on Friday.

  • specialK

    the KG versus Jamison argument is too much of a reach. The second part of the analysis is pretty good.

    going back to the KG post. I agree it was good strategy but KG was not very efficient down there. the FG% shows that. I saw both games and he didnt pass the eyeball test.

    after game 2, he said he was moving too fast, I thought he was working to slow. He waited for the double team to get on top of him before making his move. He seemed to have very weak hands as shown by the TOs. 3 times in game 2 a guard was able to slap the ball away. When he was able to make his move, he blew a lot of lay-ups.

    I still agree with the strategy, but the pay-off is small. Doc would do better to come up with other plays to get him involved down low. Good example is to move him around the baseline and have Rondo hit him on the move. He got at least three lay-ups on that.

    Plan B is get Pierce moving. Not sure what is wrong with the guy. It seemed he’s not mentally in the game for some reason. (would love a post with inside dope on this)

  • urbeltic

    The one thing I have learned so far is that Antawn Jamison is pretty important piece of this series. I had hoped that the Celts could pick him up when the Wizards imploded because I thought his size, shooting, and veteran-ness was essential for a run. But after watching him get abused by the C’s on a regular basis, not really cause significant defensive problems for the C’s, and generally have that deer in the headlights look…I’m so thankful we didn’t pick him up. He probably still has something left to offer, and I just hope he holds onto it until the Kingless Cav’s spiral down to the basement next year.

  • Nowayout

    Z can’t guard anybody at this stage of his career. He might stretch the floor on the offensive end, but he is slower than KG and not as physical as Perk..so will be a liability on the D, I think…

    The biggest news is Varejao having back spasms and can’t flop as he used to…

  • http://DreamGreen Ross in Maine

    Zach, I’ve been trying to find a home and discussion area for what I see is our biggest opponent: the REFs!!! Anthony, I was happy to read your post, I was beginning to wonder if I was crazy. We’ve all had to live through a season (lifetime) of questionable refereeing at best, but the post season has been unbearable. I’ll say it: it *seems* the league is trying to control the outcome of games. There, it’s out in the open. Now: if more fans started barking to the league, maybe, just maybe, we’d see some improvements. Has anyone heard if the PP Tech is under review? If its reviewed, they’ll have to resend it.

    I’ll play Tommy H: what was the final comparison for trips to the line, and what was the points in the paint for each team, and then YOU decide.

  • Jay P

    @Ross

    Going to play Devil’s advocate here a bit. Let’s toss out the foul discrepancy, to be honest, the Celtics played much more physical D, and they did get away with some stuff. There could have been more foul calls.

    Listening to WEEI this morning, they made a good point. Celtics don’t have a problem putting the Cavs (especially James) on the line, it slows the game down, allows guys to take a breather, and stops their momentum. Not to mention their one of the worst FT shooting teams in the league. So their going to be physical and play hard, no easy shots, make em earn it at the line. When that happens, you’ll see very glaring numbers in FTs and fouls, it’s not the refs.

    That being said, there were some just downright god awful calls Monday, the out of bounds call that went Clevelands way when Jamison tipped it out from behind Davis. The PP technical, the missed traveling call when James basically took a giant leap into the lane. Those were really glaring downright god awful calls.

    I don’t think the foul discrepancy was as bad as people want to make it, the Celtics just played for physical. But the babying of James is downright sickening, how they didn’t call that traveling I will never know.

    Oh, and not to nitpick, but the word you wanted is rescind.

  • keith popsicle

    To me, the energy always has to come from KG. He stepped up and Sheed followed suit. Rondo was able to do Rondo things, etc, etc.
    Seriously, a signature Garnett game I think, especially given what was at stake (going down 2-0)

    As far as Mike Brown’s response defensively… I would guess it involves staying with Varejao despite the injury, but hey, I’m just a guinea pig, that’s a little complicated for me, dont you think?

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    KEITH POPSICLE DO NOT SHORT CHANGE YOUR INTELLECTUAL ABILITIES!

  • http://www.livefromapt.blogspot.com w2

    Sheed is a role player. And role players need to step up in the playoffs. It was Tony (game one) and Baby (starting in place of KG) last series. If you can get production (12-16 points from a bench guy) we will win games. Who will it be next? Bench production is critical!

  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    kg looks rejuvenated. i expect more varejao on him.

    Cs look real, real good. nobody playing out of their minds but lock-down D, and running through multiple options on O. also controlling the tempo by keeping it slow and ugly. rondo has really impressed, not cause he is burning mo, but because he is making the high% decision seemingly every single possession. his hoopsIQ is at an all-time high now. if he keeps that up, Cavs have no answer.

    i have been hard on doc in the past, but huge respect to him in these playoffs. last night, those 3 timeouts and increased yelling in each one were uncharacteristic of him – he usually would call one, let a few more possessions slide, call another one, maybe raise his voice. he put his foot down. also credit for sliding ray onto bron because of foul trouble last night – ray played great D. and for calling out sheed finally. i also like how he has not gone to nate or marquis (sparingly)….those guys don’t deserve the burn and he is not bending. the only thing that p*ssed me off was when shaq came back in and got it going on baby…..doc MUST have perk shadow shaq ecvery second of every game, its a great matchup for the Cs.

    also smart of Cs not to stir the soup too much last night. varejao (and mo) were purposely trying to break the momentum by trying to instigate some retaliation. Cs didn’t take the bait (surprisingly). that said, on home court, i’d like to see some harder fouls early, mo needs to fear the paint.

    overall, a smart veteran team is playing….like a smart veteran team. very enjoyable. and not to toot my own horn but *toot-toot*. i liked this Cs/Cavs matchup all along. beside lebron, Cs can handle every individual matchup, and the flow falls right into their comfort-zone. i like their chances.

    friday night will be a great one!

  • DRJ1

    - In the out-of-bounds call on on Davis rather than Jamison, slow-mo showed they both touched the ball at the ~same time. Refs guessed (as they always do).
    - The PP tech was BS… but from the refs’ POV, they had to call something. The ref spent a good minute or two explaining the call to PP (with Lebron listening and commenting). I think it was a bad call, and may get rescinded…. but this is hardly evidence of ref bias. Just another mistake. They make a lot of them.
    - James’ jump play was not a travel. He did not move his feet after landing, except to jump off and shoot.
    - The disparity in FTs was caused by the Celtics deciding to foul on purpose rather than allow easy layups. I.e., there really was a disparity in the foul count. It happens.

    I thought the refs stole Game 1, blatantly. I did not see anything like that in Game 2.

  • JP

    I don’t think the foul discrepancy was as big of a deal as the discrepancy between god awful calls. Jay P mentioned some in his post, and the Celts aren’t really getting those god awful calls their way. As for KG, I thought he and Rondo together dominated the Cav’s front court, especially with Jamison fronting garnett and rondo lobbing the ball over them. That play worked at least 3 times. I’ve said all series, Rondo is our biggest matchup advantage. We need to keep exploiting it.

  • DRJ1

    One point about Sheed. I believe that this game was the FIRST TIME this season that he actually hit a contested 3. Can’t be sure, but that’s how I remember it. Amazing.

    Still… agree with Zach that we need to see more than one game from him. But if he continues in this vein, #18 is not gonna be that hard to get.

  • http://celticshub.com DaBigTicket-Stub

    Hey, new here. I am obviously a green blooded Celtic, but I have to agree about the calls in the first two games. There were more HORRIBLE calls than mentioned. 2nd quarter, Rondo has a fast break and some flopper from the Cavs (cant remember who) slid under him and hit his side. I totally ignore Marv Albert, an absolute itdiot. But I respect Reggie’s take on things because he is an all time great. When Reggie is downright laughing on camera about these horrible calls, you know it is bad. This is even after the NBA told the announcers to take it easy on the bad refs. Reggie just could not contain himself, it was the funniest thing in the world to him. It seems that (yes, I will go conspiracy here) that Stern has told the refs to make sure LeBron makes it to the Finals to play against Kobe and the Lakers. There, I said it. Dude never gets more than two fouls a game, but bodies up all the time, reaches, hacks, ect. What is going on, please, someone educate me.

  • Perry

    @Zach

    I guess we can assume Varejao’s back spasms had something to do with that time of the month???

    Nothing a few days rest and tampons won’t cure.

    In all seriousness, good for the Celtics for not letting Ms. Varejao get under their skin in that 4th quarter. In fact, collectively they were pretty cool cucumbers when it came to maintaining their composure where the horrible officiating was concerned.

    I do have a bone to pick with you regarding Sheed. Actually you and everyone else in Celtic blogsphere. I mean he was just thrown overboard after game one. True, I’ve called him out for the lackadaisical play, but benching him for Shelden made no sense to me. Maybe it was a shot across the bow by Doc to motivate Sheed, but for anyone to think turning to Shelden would turn a series is really displaced from reality. No disrespect to Shelden, but this is prime time, and precisely why Sheed was brought here in the first place. Maybe last night is not enough to turn heads just yet, but Sheed responded to his critics. You have to admire him for that.

    Here’s what I loved about Sheed last night. He goes 3 for 3 in the first half, but doesn’t overload the stat sheet with 3 point attempts. Could have wound up with a 3 for 9 shooting night from beyond the line but he was disciplined enough to limit his shot selection and play big in the post.

    I said before the series the match ups would fall in the Celtics favor. Cleveland has the numerous uno for sure, but the next 4 best players are wearing green uniforms. So the Celtics out playing the Cavs for 6 1/2 quarters doesn’t surprise me. What is a pleasant surprise is Rondo being the best player on the floor for the first two games. Kudos to Flannery at WEEI.com for tweeting that thought.

    The Cavs have no discernable answer for Rondo or Kevin. These long layoffs helps both guys and works in the Celtics favor. I really like the way Rondo is pacing himself, but I am concerned with his passiveness in the 4 quarter of both games. What’s really impressive to me is Ray Allen. Did you or anyone else notice his straight up defense on LBJ? Not too shabby for an old man.

    By the way, another high brow ESPN/NY Times expert has been proven wrong. Abbot’s prediction of a clean sweep fell by the wayside last night. Just thought you’d want to know.

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    Read my benching Sheed post. I don’t recommend benching him. I say it’s time to ask the question because of his defense. Then I go onto say that the danger in benching Sheed for Williams is that Sheed can carry the team’s offense for short stretches.

  • Perry

    Okay, the headline of your most recent post spoke in the pejorative. With all due respect you have editorialized through video clips a discontent. I agree with most of your assessments as always, and you did form a reasonable conjecture as to why Doc should keep his minutes intact.

    Look, I’ve pig piled on him myself, but I think it’s short sided for others to assume Shelden’s steady hand is a worthy substitute for Sheed’s experience and skill set at this level of competition.

    Anybody is welcome to debate me on this issue. I may not be able to change the hearts and minds, but I would also counter by pointing out that even on his worst days as a Celtic he never once used the media to vent his frustration. He’s been a good teammate, and I’ve read plenty of blogs which accused him of being a cancer.

    I don’t know if he’s over the hump; I’m just glad he helped us get a must have game. LOL.

  • rav

    Tbh, KG almost always wins the matchup against his opponent by the highest margin of any starter on our team (though Rondo may have overtaken him slightly this year)

  • rav

    Also:

    When I saw KG drive-and-dunk on Varejao, I knew it was over (for the other NBA teams).

  • Anthony

    Whoever says the officiating wasnt horrible is obviously a Cavs fan. I’m in agreement that the NBA basically tell the ref that Lebron and Kobe has to face each other in the Finals. Watch Lakers games and you can see how many more bad calls there are, in the Lakers’ favor.

    I’m still in shock about the Mo Williams play where he basically dove behind Sheed and flopped knowing the ref will call it on Rasheed. And you can see Mo was smiling the whole time. I know Sheed has a rep but damn.

    Love that stupid cry-baby look on Verajao’s face because none of the Celts pay him no mind. And so tired of all the Lebron elbow excuses. Originally I wanted to tell any Celtics fan attending the game 3-4 to wear an arm brace but I think that would piss off and motivate Lebron too much.

  • What More Can I Say?

    KG SHOULD crush Jamison. Solid post Zach, but let’s expect more out of the Hall of Famer. I actually think he is missing a ton of EASY shots…but he should keep shooting. Hopefully he can get on track at home.

    The fact that Jamison is playing as many minutes as he does is laughable. Mike Brown is an idiot…Hickson or Verrajao should be guarding the Big Ticket…but I won’t complain.

    Jamison can’t stop anybody at all. His defense is about as strong as a wet toilet paper.

  • http://www.mercabanner.com/business/insurance-list Waylon Twichell

    @Michael Can you elaborate on your point?

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