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C’s Biggest Game 1 Problem? At The Rim

 

There has been a lot of blame thrown around around after the game 1 debacle amongst Celtics fans, much of it warranted. KG couldn’t hang with Gasol. The C’s offense couldn’t get into a rhythm. The C’s rebounding was abysmal. The hustle and effort weren’t there. Bad Tony made a cameo. The list goes on and on. Yet, there remains one problem that I’ve seen no one touch on yet. The Celtics couldn’t hit a layup, if their life depending on it last night.

Ok, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but the numbers are alarming. For some perspective, let’s get some regular season numbers out of the way, to set some expectations for both teams going in, thanks to our friends over at HoopData

Regular Season At The Rim Numbers:
Celtics: 64.4% (2nd) 26 attempts/game

Defending The Rim
Lakers: 59.8% (10th) 26.9 attempts/game

So we have an elite scoring team around the basket, going up against an above average defensive team at the rim. Knowing the Lakers length in their big men, a dropoff in the C’s percentage this series woul have to be expected.

In fact, Tom Haberstroh, also of Hoopdata did a piece recently for ESPN, chronicling the C’s struggles against elite defensive teams at the rim. Boston shoots just 58.5% at the rim against those top teams.

Still, I don’t think anyone could predicated a performance around the bucket, as bad as the Celtics had last night, where they went a whopping 12 for 27 around the basket, for an atrocious 44.5 FG percentage at the rim.

For a sense of perspective, the worst team in the NBA this year, shot 56.3% at the bucket and the league average for that region of the floor is 61%. That makes the C’s night at the rack, easily one of their worst performances of the season. So who were the perpetratiors in this debacle? I name names, after the jump

These names won’t shock you, as they bare the brunt of responsibility for the poor effort in game 1. Still, they deserve some blame. Here are their game 1 numbers at the rim:

Kevin Garnett 2/6 (season average 65%)

Tony Allen 1/3 (season average 64%)

Rajon Rondo 1/6 (season average 65%)

The guy who has gotten the most attention from this effort has been KG, who missed two point blank shots in the fourth quarter. It was a tough night for The Big Ticket all around, pure and simple. I expect him to rebound, but he will struggle against the length of Gasol all series long.

The guys I am more worried about though are Rondo and TA. Rondo looked tenative last night around the bucket, and his poor shooting percentage seemed to lead to him making the unnecessary extra pass at the hoop when he had an opening to take the shot. That kind of passiveness plays right into the Lakers hands when guarding him, but it’s clear the Lakers length up front will be giving Rondo (as well as TA) problems all series long.

While both guys have been more consistent than ever this year, they can still show signs of being flustered around the basket when they struggle. The C’s can’t afford them to go into a slump in this series, they need offense from both parties. The good news is, the numbers probably can’t get any worse going forward on the offensive end from close in. Then again, the C’s probably can’t expect Rondo to make 3 out of 5 jumpers from outside 16 feet every night going forward either.

The C’s are at their best when they attack the bucket, they just need to make sure they finish the job.

  • Jay P

    It was an off night. I don’t expect repeat performances from a lot of those guys. Series starts Game 2.

  • MP

    C’s usually out of rhythm when lots of ticky-tack fouls are being called like that. Reminded me of Game 5 against Orlando. Hopefully Game 2 isn’t called so tightly.

  • Dustball

    Kobe, the Lakers best perimeter defender in terms of denying penetration missed 9 games and was hobbled with injuries for many many more. Pau and Bynum both missed 17 games a piece and also struggled with injuries in others. Artest also missed 5 games in January. Add in that the Lakers coasted through much of this season knowing they could win the 1 seed in the west with one hand/bum knee tied behind their back, and the quality of this Lakers defense simply cannot be evaluated through regular season statistics. Fans should be impressed that the Lakers registered as above average defensively on the interior when their starting PF and C missed a combined 34 regular season games and their perimeter players missed games and struggled to deny penetration because of injury. Healthy and focused this team is just not at all a reflection of regular season statistics. Really… neither of these teams are.

  • Coolin

    Rondo needs to quit that trick shot crap. His shooting percentage on trick shots is around 33% and that won’t get it done, especially against the Lakers length. Garnett needs to get tough and dunk the ball.

    The best drive to the rim this postseason was Nate Robinson challenging Dwight Howard and drawing the foul. That is how these guys need to attack the rim, as if every play is critical to winning and losing.

  • Dustball

    @Coolin – Absolutely right… You have to take on the mentality that you will have your shot blocked, but put the onus on the Lakers’ bigs to defend the rim. Even if the Lakers rack up double digit blocks every game, you have to go at them because Kobe, Ron and co are going to contest shots on the perimeter. If the choice is between tough shots inside 5 feet or tough shots from 20, you gotta go with the closer one and hope that the defensive rotations allow for offensive rebounds or that you can get the Lakers out of position and find easier shots on the pass. The Lakers do a very good job helping and recovering which is key to their 3 point defense, but taking contested perimeter jumpers off the dribble is just making it too easy for them.

  • jonathan

    I think the main issue is that the Lakers struggled at the rim against quick, elite point guards who could shoot from outside. Rondo is quick and great around the rim but the Lakers are able to put Kobe on him and go under every single screen if they choose.

    Almost more important that the conversion rate in the first game is the number of attempts. The Celtic’s won’t win this series if Rondo can only get to the rim a half dozen times the entire game, even if he finished at the same clip he did during the regular season (which just won’t happen against the Lakers).

    Without the ability to easily penetrate and draw the Laker bigs out of position, the Celtics are going to have to get out and run if Rondo is going to be a difference maker in this series.

  • joe

    Wow. the more and more data that comes out of this game the more and more I realize that BOS played their worst game of the season (well 2nd worse behind that CLE debacle in gm. 3). I highly doubt they play this horribly again.

  • The Dude Abides

    @Dustball: The first thing I thought of when reading this post was how the Lakers ranked at defending the rim in games where they had both Pau and Drew. I don’t know where Brian got those stats, and I wonder if they’re available for more specific situations, such as Pau + Drew availability. When Pierce got going in the 4th quarter, both Ron-Ron and Drew were on the bench. Drew was also on the bench resting when the same thing happened in Game 6 of the Phoenix series (Dragic going off and getting to the rim at will). Although Pau has improved as a rim defender over the past two seasons, Drew is still the best rim defender on the Lakers, even when he’s playing on one knee.

  • K-Town

    3rd Post Ever,

    Definitely need Sheed to come through. The C’s should give the ball in the post to Sheed more. Only way Celtics will win is if Sheed gets them over the hump. If he can clean up half his bad fouls on D and get adequate touches in the post, C’s will look good.

    K-Town, Basketball Oracle.

  • http://espn.com travis zen

    just attack the rim, crash the boards and limit turnovers..we’ll take game 2..i know..be a man KG..ur the leader of this team..and Ray, keeping shooting the ball no matter what..

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