In his recap of game three, Brendan noted how Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett finally exploited Miami’s puny interior defense. KG took only two shots outside of 11 feet on his way to 24 points and 63% shooting and one of those long jumpers was in the final minute after the game was decided. Compare that to game two, where he took 12 shots outside of 11 feet or game one, where it was nine shots. KG’s been so reliable from the mid-range that we sometimes forget he’s seven feet tall and has no business lingering on the perimeter in this series, save for specific sets.
It takes at least two Heat defenders to stop Garnett down low. And sometimes even that’s not enough. The Celtics had enormous success getting Garnett deep position in game three. The Heat relentlessly fronted the post but Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and others all found ways to get Garnett the ball.
I spent some time on mySynergySports going through KG’s 16 shots from game three. This was the most common occurrence: KG pushes hard upcourt after a Heat miss, and gets a foot or two in the paint. Boston spreads the floor to limit the ability of weakside defenders to help the post defender, who almost always fronts Garnett. The C’s lob the ball into Garnett and he makes a quick move for a shot as the help defenders scramble at him. On a few occasions, Miami was able to force a miss, but Boston almost always got the shot they wanted because the Celtics made quick, sharp entry passes and Garnett went up quickly when he got the ball.
Garnett is going to continue to be taller than all Miami defenders and Miami can’t be much more more aggressive sending doubles so keep an eye on whether they adjust and try and pressure the entry passer to make the lob more difficult for Garnett to catch.
Of course, that’s problematic when it’s Rondo with the ball because he’s so dangerous off the dribble and Miami seems inclined to give him room to operate (and shoot) in order to deter him from attacking the rim. If they jam him up on the perimeter, that almost begs him to drive into the paint.
If Pierce is attacking, it makes things even harder for Miami. On one one fourth quarter set, Garnett sets a back pick on Pierce’s man at the elbow and rolls to the basket. The screen gives Pierce a driving lane so he takes it hard to the hole. Miami’s suddenly faced with two unappealing options. The first is Pierce drawing contact or finishing and the second is the lob Pierce threw to KG for an easy layup.
Miami will surely pick up its defensive intensity on the perimeter tonight, which means driving lanes may be at a premium in the halfcourt. That means the Celtics have to continue to look for Garnett down low and he needs to look to score when he’s got position or when Boston can force a mismatch.
In this series, an effective Boston offense is predicated on KG’s willingness to play the role of Incredible Hulk instead of Bruce Banner. If he SMASHES consistently enough, we’ll be heading back to Miami tied 2-2.