I just did something that might be less enjoyable than watching the Sex and the City 2: I re-watched every Boston possession from the last 18 minutes of the first half of Game 6. I wanted to get a better idea of what the Lakers did to shut down the Celtics, how the Celtics responded and what opportunities the C’s could have taken advantage of had they reacted correctly.
I mean, we all know a few fundamental things Boston has to do better to win Game 7—protect the defensive glass, get to the line, avoid foul trouble now that Perk is out, get out in transition when they can, etc. There’s no sense in repeating all of that.
The bottom line is that if Boston’s half court offense produces as poorly as it did in Game 6, the Celtics have no chance to win, even if they come out on the right side of all those issues I just listed. Here are some things I think the coaches will stress once they’ve watched the film:
• Attack switches. The Lakers were ultra-aggressive in attacking screen/rolls in which Paul Pierce or Ray Allen were the ball-handlers. The big guy guarding the screener would jump out to cut off penetration, forcing Ray or Pierce away from the basket or toward the sidelines.
And when necessary, the Lakers would switch. And Boston did not do enough against those switches. A Paul Pierce mid-range shot over a big guy giving him a sliver more space than Pierce usually gets is generally a good shot, but you’ve got to mix things up, and if Big Baby is posting up Sasha Vujacic on the right block, feed Baby the fall once in a while.
And if you want to attack a big man off the dribble, then attack decisively. If you pull back and dribble for three seconds, the defense can set itself, the shot clock runs down and an advantage disappears. That leads us to…
• Be decisive. Re-watching the tape, it is striking how tentative Boston was with the ball. When a defense traps and overloads the strong side, there are openings, but those openings vanish in a second. An offense must act fast, and Boston acted too often as if it had no idea what it wanted to do.
Check the 3:16 mark of the 2nd for a perfect example. Pierce and KG run a screen/roll at the top of the arc, with Pierce dribbling left around a KG screen. The Lakers trap Pierce, who swings the ball to a wide-open KG at the top of the key.
If you freeze the tape when KG makes the catch, you would think the Celtics were about to get an easy shot. Kobe has left Rondo to take Garnett, and Rondo is exactly where he should be—wide open under the rim. At the same time, Ray Allen is curling around a Shelden Williams screen toward the right corner. The two Laker defenders near Rondo and Ray (Fisher and Josh Powell) don’t quite know what to do, and no one follows Ray.
KG has two great options. But Kobe’s pressure catches him off guard, and he holds the ball over his head for two beats. That’s all it takes for those options to vanish. KG instead takes Kobe off the dribble (!) and hits a leaner as the shot clock expires.
Or check the next Boston possession at the 2:40 mark. Ray Allen enters the ball to KG on the left block and clears over to the right side of the floor. Ray’s man (Fisher) inexplicably lets him go to double KG (something Fisher did at least two other times), and Kobe also floats off of Rondo and into the paint—just enough to let KG know he’s there.
Here’s where spacing and decisiveness become issues. As KG holds the ball and surveys the scene, both Ray and Rondo are wide open. But there’s a problem: Rondo is standing on the right elbow, and Ray Allen is right behind him on the right wing. KG tosses the ball to Rondo.
And if Rajon immediately flipped it to Allen, Ray would have had an open three despite the spacing problems. But Rondo looks jittery. He fakes the pass, then jab-steps toward the rim, and then finally tosses the ball to Ray. That fake-step-pass sequence takes about a second and a half, but that’s enough for the Lakers to recover and prevent the Ray three.
The decisions must come faster tomorrow. This is also important on the those Pierce and Ray Allen screen/rolls the Lakers annihilated in Game 6. When the LA bigs would jump out on the ball-handler (Pierce or Ray), that ball-handler would (usually) dribble slowly east-west looking for an opening that wasn’t there. This forced the screener to fade away from the basket in order to make himself a target for a bailout pass.
When Pierce or Allen turned the corner quickly or hit the roll man after one dribble, good things happened. Look for more of that tomorrow.
• Rondo must be active off the ball. That means more of this (from Game 1):
And less of this (also from Game 1—watch Rajon in the right corner):
• Rondo must drive to score. The Celtics ran a bunch of plays on which Paul Pierce set a high screen for Rajon Rondo. All of those plays failed. The Lakers defended them all the same way: Pierce’s guy (Artest) ignored Rondo and attached himself to Pierce while Rondo’s guy (Jordan Farmar for much of this stretch) went under the Pierce screen and caught Rondo on the other side.
Farmar was able to catch Rondo for two reasons: 1) He’s fast; 2) Rondo did not attack the screen/roll. He dribbled east-west around the pick, waiting for an opening to materialize elsewhere on the court. In Game 7, Rajon must take more responsibility for creating those openings himself, and that means looking to drive on these plays.
• Post up Rasheed Wallace. When is the last time this happened? Game 1? I suspect this has something to do with Sheed’s back issues, and if it does, well, this may not be a realistic option tonight.
• Make the extra pass. Brian Robb mentioned this in his analysis of Boston’s offensive problems, and he’s right—the C’s seldom made the extra pass on Tuesday, and that’s a bad thing for a team that assisted on a higher percentage of its baskets than all but one other club (the Jazz). That KG clip from above—when he drives on Kobe instead of dishing to one of two open men—is a nice example. So is Rajon Rondo’s decision (4:21, 2nd) to go for a near-impossible up-and-under when he could have laid the ball down to a wide-open Big Baby in the paint.
• Double Screens and Rugby Scrums. We’ve seen it before: If the first high screen/roll doesn’t give Rajon a driving lane, set him another screen near the foul line and see what happens. And if the C’s don’t give us at least three Rugby Scrums tomorrow, I hope someone asks Doc Rivers about it after the game.
There are, of course, lots of other things Boston can do to help its offense. What ideas do you guys have?