Kevin Garnett scored 16 points in Game 1, his highest scoring game since the Cleveland series. But if you watched the game, you know: KG is going to have a very, very difficult time scoring in the post on Pau Gasol.
Gasol is as tall and long-limbed as Garnett, and KG no longer has the raw leaping ability he showed before his knee in injury last season. (And even then, his athleticism was starting to decline). If Gasol stays down on pump fakes, every shot from the post is going to be a tough one for KG. Check out this make from the 2nd quarter:
That is a difficult shot, and one the Lakers will happily accept every time down the floor.
But Gasol’s length also helps against another one of KG’s pet shots: The long jumper off a drive-and-kick. (Note: This is distinct from a pick-and-pop, which causes a totally different set of problems for the defense). When one of Boston’s perimeter players drives into the paint on action that doesn’t involve KG as a screener, Garnett loves to float out to the elbow and make himself a target in the event that his guy chooses to dart down and help on the driver.
Few defenders are long and agile enough to help, recover and contest the KG jumper. And when KG senses even a weak contest coming, he likes to create an extra bit of space for himself by taking one dribble to his left as the defender flies at him. But in Game 1, Gasol was up to the challenge:
KG can absolutely make that shot, but Gasol’s presence creates a higher degree of difficulty than normal.
Garnett had a monster offensive series in the low post against the Cavaliers, but as the playoffs have continued, it has become clear that KG’s production had a lot to do with the height advantage he enjoyed over Antawn Jamison. It was clear at the time, actually. It was an important weapon against Cleveland, and it was a crutch the C’s could lean on when other parts of their offense sputtered.
That crutch will not work as well in this series. That doesn’t mean you toss the KG post-up from the C’s play book; it is too central to what Boston does on offense, and it spurs the other Celtics to move without the ball.
But Boston cannot lean on it. Not against Gasol. They can use it strategically, when KG secures deeper-than-usual position or catches Gasol back-pedaling in transition. And when they feed Garnett, the off-the-ball movement has to be aggressive. The other four Boston players cannot be standing and watching, because if they do, they will most likely stand watch a miss—or, at best, a brutally contested make.
I also think we will see more of KG as the screener in screen/roll situations. Jeff Van Gundy mentioned during the game that the Lakers were switching on the Pierce/Garnett screen/roll, with KG’s guy (Gasol) moving over to guard Pierce while Pierce’s guy shifted onto KG.
Pierce torched Gasol when that switch happened, and so I wonder if the Lakers will make a point not to switch as often in Game 2.
Either way, look for Boston to work KG into more screen/rolls in Game 2. It may represent his best chance to be an offensive threat in this series.