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22 Hours To Go Notebook: Unlikely Finals Teams, Doc’s Cash Money, Those ’69 Cs, And More!

 

• Basketball-Reference did a neat little thing (neat, I say!) in figuring out which NBA Finals teams played furthest above their expected levels during the playoffs. To figure this out, the great Neil Paine used regular season efficiency numbers (i.e. points scored and allowed per 100 possessions) and factored in the quality of each opponent a team faced in the playoffs. 

The result? The 2010 Celtics made the 2nd-largest jump in history from expected play (based on regular season numbers) to actual post-season play. The interesting thing: Essentially the entire jump stems from Boston’s defense, which has allowed about 3.5 fewer points per 100 possessions in the playoffs despite playing long series against two of the league’s top six offensive teams. 

And that’s a good thing, because the Lakers’ offense has scored 116 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs so far. Guess how many teams have hit the 116 mark over a full season in NBA history? 

Any guesses?

None

Cue the irresistible force versus immovable object clichés. I’d rather be the irresistible force, by the way. Sounds much more intimidating and supernatural. 

Also of note: The 2008 Celtics are nowhere to be found on the Basketball-Reference lists of teams that over-achieved (again, based on regular season stats) on offense and/or defense in the playoffs. Despite a few early-round hiccups, the ’08 C’s played about exactly as expected in the post-season. The contrast with this team is huge. 

• I absolutely adore this story in the Globe’s Celtics blog. After the C’s beat the Lakers in Los Angeles in mid-February, Doc Rivers walked into the locker room and did something weird: He asked for an envelope, and then he asked everyone in the room—26 people, it turned out—to each give him $100, which he placed in the envelope. And then:

Rivers took $100 from everyone in the room – players, coaches, managers – to the tune of $2,600 and put it all in the envelope. He then hid the envelope in the locker room.

“The only way you’ll get it back,” he told them, “is if you come back here and get it.”

The challenge was set months ago, and when the Celtics returned to Staples Center today, a day before Game 1 of the Finals, Rivers made good on his part of the deal, opening the envelope and giving each player his reward.

The hidden treasure obviously didn’t curse the Lakers, but it was another one of the many motivational tools Rivers used throughout the season.

Is that cheesy? Sure. There are two ways to read this: Doc might have hidden the envelope, waited for everyone to clear out and then retrieved it and kept it himself. Or: Doc actually managed to stash $2,600 in cash in the Lakers’ locker room for 3 1/2 months

That can’t be what happened, right? Some Laker player or staff member would have found an envelope stuffed with cash and either reported it or used it to buy an expensive gift for a loved one, right? 

• Here’s a huge ESPN roundtable previewing the Finals. I wanted to mention this observation from J.A. Adande: 

Kobe Bryant will have to devote his full defensive attention to Rajon Rondo, instead of leaving him to help elsewhere. Can’t give Rondo open 18-footers anymore.

Actually, you can. Rondo’s shooting percentage on long two-pointers dropped significantly this season (and fell below even his ’08 numbers), and he’s just 16-of-49 on long twos so far in the playoffs, according to NBA.com hot spot data:

There’s no question Rondo is a much better player today than he was a year ago, but that’s not because he’s become a threatening jump-shooter. 

• Sebastian Pruiti at NBA Playbook becomes the first writer I’ve seen to come out against the idea of Kobe Bryant guarding Rajon Rondo for reasons related to solely to LA’s defense (i.e. not “It will make Kobe tired”). As usual, Sebastian’s got nice video, so go check out his work, but the upshot is this: Rondo won’t be guarding Kobe, so Bryant is going to have to locate Rondo on every LA offense-to-defense change, which could create chaos and all sorts of cross-matching. 

• Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated reminds us of something very, very important about Derek Fisher in this NBA Finals preview:

Expect [Fisher] to bump Rondo often when he comes into the lane and draw offensive fouls on Boston’s screeners. Fisher is very demonstrative when he is hit with a screen, often drawing the attention of the officials. Boston’s big men need to take care not to move on any screens, lest they pick up any careless fouls.

This is a fantastic point, and one I’ve neglected to mention. It becomes especially important when Boston’s best screener has six post-season technical fouls and one very bad temper. 

• The great M. Haubs of The Painted Area becomes the latest writer to compare the 2010 C’s to the 1969 Celtics, but he goes deep into the 1969 season and finds so many parallels as to be downright eerie. One example among many: 

On January 18, 1969, the Celtics were a strong 31-14 following a win over the Seattle SuperSonics, before a three-game losing streak started their second-half slide – the C’s finished the season just 17-20 from there.

Sound familiar? 

Seriously, if you want a wonderful five minutes of Celtics history, please go read that post, which is based largely on Thomas Whalen’s wonderful book about the ’69 Celtics

• Kelly Dwyer on why the Celtics can win:

Phil Jackson has long liked to send a small forward back when a Laker shot goes up so as to take away quick strike opportunities — think of Rick Fox or Trevor Ariza last year — but Ron Artest often thinks individual defense before he thinks team first. Artest can be keyed on his guy sometimes too much, and if he doesn’t get back, and Kobe’s left to chase down Rondo? The older team could win with a younger man’s game.

• Kelly Dwyer (whom I suspect will pick the Lakers when he makes his official pick) on why LA can win:

No defense, no matter how stout, can top a triangle offense flowing the right way. Because it’s a read-and-react offense at its core, the triangle can overcome any amount of longish arms, if it’s run properly. The problem with this Laker team, up until about six weeks ago, is that it wasn’t being run properly. Too many screen and rolls. Too much orthodoxy.

And:

If they revert, and run back to that screen and roll, the Celtics can load up. You don’t want a team withKevin Garnett on it loading up on your two-man game. Move the ball.

• Chris Forsberg has a wonderful timeline of the 2010 Celtics season, packed with the six or seven flashbulb moments—the opening night win in Cleveland, the Christmas win in Orlando (without Pierce!), the four-game stretch in which they lost to the Hawks, Magic and Lakers, and the rock-bottom loss to the Nyets. 

My favorite part of the piece: Being reminded of this Doc Rivers quote after the C’s beat a Kobe-less Laker team in LA on the day of the trade deadline:

“I like this team when we’re in the hole. We haven’t played with a great rhythm the last 20 games; I get that. That’s fine. Whoever jumped off the bandwagon, stay off. I like this team. I’ve said it over and over again. I don’t think we needed to make a lot of changes — and we didn’t — so we’ll see if that was the right decision.” 

Game 1 begins in 22 hours, 23 minutes.

  • I love Green

    Alright so everyones talking about Kobe on Rondo, and how he’ll lock him down.

    Well right now I’m watching that January game against the Lakers this year, and for a stretch of time Kobe was guarding Rondo. Almost everytime they came down the floor Big Baby would set a screen switching Odom onto Rondo. Or Sheed would set a screen, or Perkins, but mostly Big Baby. Rondo was torching the Lakers with the screen and roll, getting other players good looks, and getting to the basket easily.

    Now I know they won’t do this every possession of a finals game just so Rondo can have an advantage, but it definitley is one counter to Kobe locking him down. Also if a good post player like KG or Sheed sets the screen and Kobe switches to him, it’d be almost an automatic bucket from the post.

  • I love Green

    Yep they were still running screen and rolls in the 3rd. Expect to see a lot of that tomorrow to get Rondo free.

  • Curlandwe

    I have to correct this only cuz I watched Dark Knight on HBO last night … **UNSTOPPABLE** force meets an immovable object, if my short-term memory serves

  • Celts Fan in Dubai

    hey all, forgive the relatively unrelated question here. i was aggravated in ’08 that the stars of the ’80s Laker teams showed up to the home games (Magic, Worthy, Kareem, etc.) while the Celtics could only trot out Cowens, Havlicek, and Russell (still legends, but before my time). Where the hell is Bird, McHale, Parish? I’d even settle for Jerry Sichting!

    What gives? Is there bad blood?

  • Perry

    I guess Rondo is a magician after all. Many of us, if polled, would consider him a more efficient jump shooter this year. In fact, if any of you guys watched the presser yesterday one reporter asked him about Mark Price during the off season. By all accounts, Price enabled him to ‘appear’ to be a better shooter – at least to the naked eye.

    Still, I’ve studied this game for too many decades not to understand that stats can be misleading. While I have no data to support my conjecture, I would say many of those 16 to 23 foot shots were under duress as the shot clock was winding down. Many times, when ball movement staggers, he becomes a spot up shooter. At the moment that is not his strength. They say the hardest shots to knock down are the ones where you’re left wide open, unless of course you’re Ray Allen.

    Actually Rondo has developed into a decent ‘I’ll make you pay’ shooter. The made baskets seem to be coming at the right time, like the 17 footer he nailed in game 2 over R. Lewis with less than two minutes remaining in the 4th quarter.

    What’s discernable now is he’s even more adept at getting into paint than he was two years ago. That comports with the home loss to LA when Kobe played. He was masterful dishing out 12 assists, shooting 9 for 16, but only 1 of 6 from mid range. His percentage did not dip because he stayed aggressive in transition and was able to blow by slower defenders when Kobe got caught in help defense.

    Here’s a warning. Do not discount Fish in this series. He is more than capable of following Ray through those screens, and is shooting better than 50% from mid range in the playoffs. The Lakers surely don’t want Fish on Rondo, but they won’t be happy if Kobe is logging in a few miles a night chasing Ray around.

    The more I think about this series the more I beleive it will be less about who guards Rondo and more about the physicality and officiating. Needless to say LA has not faced this kind of a front line that can overpower you 1 through 4 (Perk/KG/Sheed/Davis). Bynum’s knee puts LA in a position where Gasol could play longer minutes thus wearing down. So if the officials let the Celts be physical, and they can limit the Lakers to one shot then Rondo can do his thing in transition. This would be a huge factor and limit what Kobe, Fish or Farmar can do in the half court. I doubt we’ll see large doses of Kobe on Rondo. Kobe must preserve his energy, and his ability to roam defensively has a tendency to disrupt any offense.

    So in the half court I suspect Jackson will continue to instruct Kobe to cheat off of Rondo as much as possible. But don’t tell that to Mike Brown and Lebron. They know better. Rondo made them pay dearly. Doc has repeatedly said they don’t care who guards Rondo, and the results thus far have proved him right.

  • Urbeltic

    Is there any chance the Cs trick it up on occasion with a suns zone???

  • http://CelticsHub.com Zach Lowe

    No zone, at least not in the Phoenix full-on-zone sense. They’ll certainly do things like occasionally overload the strong side by parking a weak-side defender over there to cut off driving lanes, which some refer to as a “strong-side zone.”

    But the C’s will not play a straight-up zone.

  • Dr H

    That cash story really brings a smile to my face – I don’t think I’ve heard of anyone doing anything like that before. There’s no way Doc kept it hidden in the locker room for that long, but if it was then that would just be hilarious. Can you imagine if that got out to the media right after it happened and the visiting teams each game went on scavenger hunts to find the envelope during halftime and everything? Now THAT would be funny.

  • NHBluesMan

    i feel like our depth is going to be a huge factor. Forsberg gave the Lakers bench the advantage because the had Vujacic and Odom coming off the bench (the reason being Vujacic used to start). Personally, i think thats bull. How much has he showed up in the playoffs? And he neglected to mention that Big Baby started last year, and Sheed was a starter, heck, even Daniels was a starter for his team before joining us (not that he’s been effective in the play-offs, just saying).

    If Bynum aggravates his knee, or does anything to make the injury worse, his already low minutes will decrease even more. That puts Odom (who has a history of inconsistancy) and Gasol vs. KG, Perk, Sheed, and Baby. Even when Odom comes in, and we switch to KG on Odom and Perk on Gasol (the ’08 match-up) i feel like that gives us an advantage.

    Kobe will be Kobe, but our team defense usually gives him trouble (i’d be surprised if he averaged under 20 a game). Artest will give Pierce trouble, but i expect Pierce to step up his game, and Rondo is quick enough to stay with Fisher.

    Lakers have 2 big scoring options in Gasol and Kobe, we have the chance for any one of 4 starters to have big scoring nights, and even guys off the bench to have big games. The only edge i would normally give to the Lakers is homecourt advantage, but with the way the Celtics have been playing on the road, i don’t think that will be as much of a factor.

    It’ll be a tough series throughout, but i’m gonna go with Celtics in 6. Split the first 2, win 2 out of 3 at home, then finish it on the road

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