• Hey, do you think Phil Jackson might not really like the way this Celtics team plays? Here’s Jackson in the Globe:
“Yeah, you can be provocative and get out there and act kind of like they do if you want to and get in people’s faces and do that,’’ Jackson said. “But that’s not the way I like to coach a team. That’s not what I consider positive coaching, and that’s what I like to think is the right way to do things.’’
This isn’t Jackson’s first shot at the C’s style of play. Jackson prefers something of a beautiful game, and the combination of the triangle and a group of big men who pass willingly produces the style of hoops Jackson prefers.
The Celtics don’t play quite as beautiful a game, but I think Jackson sells them short a bit in this regard. Rajon Rondo has a stylish transition game, and the C’s half court offense, when it’s working, is predicated on all sorts of off-the-ball screening and movement and nice interior passing. It’s not as if the Celtics are the Hawks, you know?
• Marc Spears at Yahoo! checks in on the C’s battle to contain Kobe Bryant and gets Rondo to give a simple, accurate explanation of how Boston is guarding Kobe:
“When he is driving, [Kendrick Perkins] and Kevin [Garnett] are going to step up, making him see defenders.” “On the wing, guys like myself and Paul Pierce are going to shrink the floor and make him see four guys on the gaps and the elbows.”
Kobe has his own explanation for his game-high seven turnovers in Game 4:
“That’s just me playing like crap,” Bryant said.
Note: Kobe is talking only about the turnovers there. He ranked the C’s defense “right up there with the best of them,” Spears reports, and he has praised Tony Allen specifically during this series.
• And that praise is justified, according to Dave McMenamin at ESPNLosAngeles.com, who offers up some interesting numbers on the TA/Kobe match-up:
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Bryant is now just 5-for-19 (26.6 percent) in the Finals with Tony Allen as the Celtics’ primary defender on him.
Even when he doesn’t cause Bryant to miss a shot, he deters him from even taking one. In the 73 possessions that [Tony] Allen has guarded him this series, Kobe has touched the ball 79.5 percent of the time. In the 234 possessions when it’s been somebody other than [Tony] Allen checking Kobe, Bryant has touched the ball 88 percent of the time.
Phil Jackson adds this:
“I think he steps on his right really well, makes him go left and keeps on the floor instead of getting up [in the air] on the pump fakes,” Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said. “He does a good job of that.”
Jackson nails it here. When I watch TA guarding Kobe, my first reaction is that TA is crowding Kobe too much. He sets up just to Kobe’s right and gets himself nearly chest-to-shoulder with Kobe, and he just looks so vulnerable to a Kobe blow-by going left. And he is—sort of. When Kobe goes left decisively, he can certainly get a half-step on TA right away. But the key, so far, is this: TA is strong and quick enough to prevent that half-step from being a full step, which would be enough for Kobe to turn the corner, get into the paint and draw the defense.
Instead, Kobe often ends up taking a pull-up jumper from the left wing as TA recovers to contest the shot. And that’s exactly the shot the Celtics want Kobe to take in that situation. If he does get by TA and turn the corner—or at least approximate turning the corner—at least one Boston defender is there to swarm Kobe and keep him from the rim. This forces a pass a tricky 10-footer against tough defense.
The C’s are willing to live with that scenario, too. They can’t live with the open jumper in the flow or the easy blow-by into the paint. Ray Allen has been susceptible to the latter.
One thing I’d expect Kobe to try: Go left, fake the pull-up jumper and try to cross TA up with a hard dribble to the right. Be ever vigilant, Tony.
• As expected, Sheed’s 4th-quarter tech—his 6th of the post-season—will not be rescinded, the Herald reports. He remains one away from a suspension. I wonder: Could Sheed play with the same muzzling device the cops used on the gimp? I don’t think that would effect his mobility or his shooting stroke.
• Doc Rivers thinks Rajon Rondo may have taken the first step in getting over his recent free throw problems during Game 4 (via the Globe):
“I thought in Game 3 when he missed a couple, he stopped driving, and that’s what happens when you miss free throws and then you don’t want to get fouled anymore,’’ Rivers said yesterday. “I thought [Thursday] night he kept taking it to the basket, and for me that was huge.’’
And the problem (of course!) is mechanical, not mental:
[It’s] nothing that he can’t be taught, I can tell you that. He fell away. His elbow was out. The first one [Thursday night] you could see it right away. So we’ll get it back.’’
“There was a time, if I saw a Laker on fire and I was holding a glass of water, I’d drink the water,” said Maxwell.
“There was a time I couldn’t say the name ‘ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’ without throwing up,” Maxwell said.
• Doc on next season and the championship window (via Chris Forsberg at ESPNBoston.com):
“I think, hopefully, we sign Ray back. I think I can say that; if not, I just got fined. I think Kevin is going to be better next year because of a year away from surgery … So we don’t think that [the window is closing]. I think everyone outside of us, a lot of people do.”
I have a hunch that people are over-estimating the market for Ray Allen. I’ll leave it at that until the off-season.
• Darius Soriano at Forum Blue & Gold discusses what the Lakers might do if Andrew Bynum is a no-go on Sunday. Among the possibilities Darius mentions: 1) Some playing time for long-lost big men D.J. Mbenga and Josh Powell; 2) Using Ron Artest at the power forward spot to defend Big Baby.
Interesting. You’d think that Artest could only really defend Big Baby if the Lakers went small and pushed Odom to the bench, but I suppose it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Odom could shift to the three on defense and do a semi-credible job on Paul Pierce (or whichever player at at the three at the time) for a few possessions.
But at that point, we’d be talking about a ton of cross-matching both ways.
• Phil Jackson also mentioned the possibility of Mbenga and Powell seeing minutes (via the Globe):
“Sometimes a guy hasn’t played in a while and you’ll look in there and it may be kind of vacant in there, a wake-up type of thing,’’ Jackson said. “But I do check every game or so to see if these guys are still on beam. D.J. has lost a little bit in the process of not playing, and he needs that. But Josh Powell is ready to play.’’
I love the way Jackson talks about his players. Honest and candid without being insulting.
• At NBA Playbook, Sebasitian Pruiti shows (with video, of course) how the C’s Bench Plus Ray unit used superior off-the-ball movement to create decent looks against LA’s defense in Game 4. This illustrates a theme we’ve come back to all season here: The C’s cannot afford to get away from their principals on offense. The veterans aren’t as efficient in isolation as they once were, and Rajon Rondo remains hit-or-miss as a finisher, particularly against elite teams. They must treat every possession with care.
Pruiti also nicely sums up Baby’s occasional problems finishing at the rim:
Against two bigs, Glen Davis isn’t all that effective (he out-muscles one, but the other big man gets the block). Against one, he can use his body to get the ball up on the rim.
Lamar Odom does not appear to be the sort of big that bothers Glen Davis. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol represent precisely the type of player pair that can squelch Baby’s inside scoring.
• Pruiti also has this post about Big Baby’s ability to finish at the rim in Game 4.
• On Friday, Doc discussed how Glen Davis and Nate Robinson have reacted to the pressure of the Finals (via the Herald):
“I think our young guys are loose,” Rivers said. “They’re extremely confident. Just watching (Glen Davis) and Nate (Robinson) in the postgame interview, you wouldn’t have thought that they were in a world championship the way they were acting. That’s just who they are. And sometimes that’s really good and sometimes it’s really bad. But when you’re down, I think it’s good because they don’t care. They’re just going to play anyway, and that’s a good thing.”
I’ve been joking among friends that I’m not sure Nate Robinson actually realizes this is the NBA Finals. The downside of such looseness, of course, is the occasional pull-up 20-footer when the offense should be reset and the sort of taunting that can lead to a technical foul. That must be cleaned up going forward.
• Our own Brian Robb, who is in Boston, had the pleasure of interviewing Julius Erving for TrueHoop. I urge you to read the full interview—Dr. J talks a lot about Boston and this Finals series—but here’s an interesting excerpt:
The emphasis on the Celtics establishing the low-post game and getting Kevin Garnett going in Game 3 also hurt their offense in my opinion and swung the momentum. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce struggled shooting because they were the second and third options on those plays. They looked nothing like Game 2, when they were moving the ball around and finding the open man. Instead they were intent on establishing Kevin, and they did it, but in establishing him, it took them away from what they needed to be doing on offense.
• The ratings for the Finals have been killer—the best since ’04—which is obviously proof that the NBA has fixed the playoffs so the Celtics would face the Lakers in the Finals.
On that note, enjoy the World Cup today. U-S-A!