NBA Roundtable

Finals Preview: Los Angeles vs Boston

In 2010 NBA Playoffs on June 2, 2010 at 2:27 am

LA Lakers vs Boston Celtics

Lakers Offense vs Celtics Offense

The Lakers offense is vulnerable against teams with strong post defense and teams with strong man-to-man defenders on Kobe. With those defensive strengths, an opposing team is able to force LA into becoming an equivalent of a bottom ten and possibly bottom five offensive team.

The Celtics possess the single best post defense in the league led by Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis. They also have three wings who do a good-to-very good (Ray Allen + Tony Allen) to excellent job (Paul Pierce) defensively against Kobe Bryant. In summary, the Celtics defense has the exact strengths that limit and inhibit the Lakers offense.

Individual Matchups

The Backcourt

The Celtics have an advantage in the backcourt.

Kobe Bryant does not defend Ray Allen well because of his lack of defensive discipline. Kobe is always running around trying to play help D and leaves Ray wide open on multiple occasions every game which allows Ray to post good scoring nights. Nobody on their team has been able to stop Rondo but Kobe does the best job there. In that case, Fisher is too small to contest Ray’s jumper on catch and shoot opportunities so Ray has an even better matchup to exploit.

As for Rondo, Kobe can make his life difficult in the halfcourt and for portions of a game but he isn’t able to hold him down for a full 48 minutes. There will be large chunks of the game where Rondo takes over, especially in transition. As for Fisher, Rondo can eat him alive and also has a large advantage over Jordan Farmar. Shannon Brown is the Lakers second best defender against Rondo but again Rondo has a large advantage and Brown doubles up as an incredibly streaky player.

Pau Gasol vs Kevin Garnett/Kendrick Perkins

A Garnett-Gasol matchup should be fairly even.

Garnett has played against Pau Gasol many times in the past and is very comfortable in knowing how to score against him. Veterans with KG’s skill level and knowledge of how to beat a specific opponent are regularly capable of performing at a higher level than usual in that matchup. Garnett will also provide an extremely tough matchup for Gasol on the other end of the floor with his excellent defense and size/length/quickness (one of the few that can match Pau’s length and quickness).

So, overall, this matchup should be fairly even. On another note, Garnett is likely to switch onto Odom when the Lakers use the Odom-Gasol frontcourt pairing and Perkins will take Gasol.

Gasol can easily beat Perkins but has been hesitant in attacking him in the past. That hesitant play has made Pau a ball-stopper against the Celtics in the past and it is likely to repeat itself here again. Perkins strong post defense and length allows him to contest shots well and forces Gasol to move into several different counters to get a clean look at the rim. So, Pau will be effective but not as efficient (not in FG% but on time spent on the ball and stalling the Lakers offense) as he normally is.

Artest vs Pierce

A Pierce-Artest matchup should also be neutral due to Artest’s defensive ability.

In the past, Pierce has been able to be very successful against Artest but with his declining athleticism (lacks explosiveness, particularly quickness) and declining ability (stamina is a major issue) to play a full 48 minutes at a high level … I think Artest can now cause him problems.

Ron Artest has declined some too, both in terms of athleticism and defensive impact, but not to degree that Paul Pierce has. I think Artest is great defensive matchup against Pierce for what Pierce has to offer at this stage of his career.

The Bench

The Lakers have a large advantage with Lamar Odom in comparison to the Celtics’ Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis. Lamar is too quick for Rasheed defensively and too good overall relative to both of them. However, Odom has no advantage against Garnett and he will be spending at least half and possibly more of his playing time against KG.

The Celtics would like to play with Tony Allen as their sole reserve on the perimeter but his injury troubles may force their hand and force them to play Nate Robinson or Michael Finley some minutes. The Lakers will likely use Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown in those roles. The Celtics advantage here depends on TA’s health, if he can repeat his performances from late in the season and early in the playoffs then the C’s have a good advantage here, and if not, then this is a fairly neutral situation (slight advantage C’s).

I would like to see the Lakers use Luke Walton in this series to backup Artest and play against TA but I don’t know whether we’ll see him or not.

Transition Play

Ever since the personnel change from Trevor Ariza to Ron Artest the Lakers have been a poor team in transition. Especially offensively. Their bigs run the floor well but their wings do not outside of Kobe Bryant and Fisher doesn’t give them much in the open court either. They have become more dependent than ever on halfcourt offense to generate their baskets.

This offensive weaknesses is going to be matched up against the Celtics transition defense which has been the best in the league since Kevin Garnett joined the team. So, this weakness will be more glaring than in past series against dysfunctional defensive squads like the Phoenix Suns and the Utah Jazz.

As for the Celtics, they are a very good transition team in large part due to Rajon Rondo’s brilliance as a creator in the open floor.  Their wings are also threats with Ray and Paul both spotting up for three pointers unless there is an easy layup attempt to be had + Tony Allen fills the lane wonderfully. Kevin Garnett continues to be a good transition player despite his declining athleticism. Perk and Sheed are not effective transition players but both throw some of the best outlet passes in the NBA.

To help the Celtics case, they are also the best team in the league at forcing turnovers. Also, the Celtics were a solid but unexceptional defensive rebounding team in the regular season but have improved and been the best team in the playoffs at protecting their defensive glass creating more opportunities to get out and run. So, the Celtics create a large number of chances to get out in the open court and they are very good at taking advantage of those opportunities.

Andrew Bynum

I firmly believe Andrew Bynum is the determining player in this matchup. The separating factor. If Bynum was fully healthy and playing well, I would say the Lakers still have a small advantage albeit in a dogfight of a playoff series.

However, without a healthy Bynum, without his presence defensively in the paint and on the backboards and some solid contributions offensively … the advantage switches over to the Celtics. I think Boston gains an advantage in the paint on both ends of the court and oh so importantly on the backboards. That combined with their advantage in the backcourt and in transition gives them a large advantage against the Lakers.

The Lakers need Bynum to be able to give them quality minutes for 25 or more minutes a night for them to have a real chance  in this series. Whether Bynum is able to do that or not … it’s tough to say.

It doesn’t look promising but he may be able to play better in a halfcourt game than he did against the run’n’gun Phoenix Suns.

Summary

I think the Celtics are the strong favourites heading into this series because of Bynum’s ill-health. Otherwise, I would have liked the Lakers to win.

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