|06.13.10 at 10:49 pm ET|
The Celtics are headed back to Los Angeles one win away from taking their 18th NBA championship, after beating the Lakers, 92-86, Sunday night at TD Garden. Here are five reasons that was made possible. (For a complete recap, click here.)
1. Limiting the Lakers’ top two options: Kobe Bryant might have gotten his points (38), but few were easy. Ray Allen was particularly effective against the LA star, staying on his shooting hand from the get-go, with Bryant going just 1-for-4 in the first quarter and 4-for-12 in the first half. Paul Gasol, who was checked by both Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins, couldn’t take advantage of the Celtics’ early willingness to let him shoot from the outside, going just 1-for-4 for the first half. Gasol did show a renewed aggressiveness in the second half, taking six shots in the third quarter. But at the end of the day, Gasol never established himself as the interior threat witnessed in the series’ first few games, finishing with just 12 points.
2. Paul Pierce: It was clear this was Pierce’s time to take top billing when it came to the Celtics’ offense, coming out of the shoot going 7-for-10 in the first half. He then continued in the third quarter, going 5-for-8 from the floor. With Ray Allen and Co. clearly deferring to Pierce, the Celtics captain never stopped displaying the kind of aggressiveness that he hadn’t offered at any point throughout the finals, finishing with 27 points. This was the Paul Pierce who carried the Celtics to their 2008 NBA championship.
3. The Celtics’ overall defense: As promising as it was that the Celtics had held the Lakers to just 33 percent shooting in the first half, the fact that they led by just six points heading into the intermission was cause for concern, especially considering the Celts had shot 65 percent. But the C’s defense never let up. And to cap it off, nobody on the Celtics was getting into foul trouble, with Allen becoming the first Celtic to pick up three fouls with just under eight minutes left in the game. Another sign of the Celtics’ resolve was their rejuvenation on the glass, with the C’s actually out-rebounding LA, 27-22, through three quarters. The Lakers finished shooting 40 percent from the floor, to the Celtics’ 55 percent.
4. Ability to control the paint: Remember the matchup problems the Celtics were supposed to continue to have on the interior? Many of them magically disappeared in Game 5. Leading the way was Kevin Garnett, who found his Fountain of Youth, going 5-for-6 from the floor through the first three quarters while grabbing nine boards and helping control Andrew Bynum (1 rebound) and Gasol during that time. Credit has to go out to Perkins, as well, with the center not only making both his shots from the floor while keeping the Lakers away from the glass, but also keeping his composure. At one point Perkins walked away from a rift with Gasol, holding his hands in the air while pointing to his head as a reminder that he wasn’t going to be coaxed into his seventh technical foul of the playoffs.
5. The point guards: Perhaps statistically, Game 2 was Rajon Rondo‘s best game, but Game 5 offered how far Rondo has come as a point guard. He consistently got the ball in the right hands (usually Pierce), while taking few bad shots (as his 8-for-11 showing from the floor would suggest). But it wasn’t only Rondo (18 points) who helped set the tone for the Celtics at the point, with Nate Robinson continuing to play with confidence, albeit not too much confidence. Robinson went 2-for-4 in his 10 minutes, only turning the ball over twice while coming away with a plus-1.
|06.13.10 at 7:57 pm ET|
Every coach likes his team to be focused on the task at hand.
“Our guys haven’t talked about that a lot,” Rivers said. “I’ve heard it a lot. I think fans realize we don’t have Games 6 or 7 here so this is our final home game.
“Our guys really are just focused on THE game tonight and I like where our focus is, in this case, over the fans’ focus. I don’t know if players have the chance to look at big picture, or coaches in some ways, and that’s probably good.”
[Doc Rivers believes his team’s focus is where it needs to be.]
|06.13.10 at 7:42 pm ET|
Through the first four games of the NBA finals Rajon Rondo has been solid, yet hardly spectacular, save for a triple-double in Game 2. Rondo played only 31 minutes in Game 4, shooting 5-for-15 and finishing with 10 points, five rebounds and three assists.
The key to Rondo’s effectiveness is defensive rebounding and the Celtics have been up and down in that regard. The Lakers have also done a better job of getting back in transition since Rondo was able to turn them inside out in the second game.
But there is a concern that Rondo’s inability to make free throws combined with the Lakers size inside has taken away some of his aggressiveness.
“He kind of got back to it in the second half of Game 4,” Doc Rivers said. “He missed some layups. I thought he hung his head a little bit, and that happens. You know, I still think we forget how young he is. So, he still has some growing to do.”
Maybe so, but the time for growth has passed, at least this season. The Celtics need Rondo to play at an All-Star level because the Lakers don’t have an obvious counter for him. If Rondo and Ray Allen can get going in the same game, as they did in Game 2, it would force Phil Jackson to make a choice between Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher and that plays heavily into the Celtics advantage.
|06.13.10 at 7:42 pm ET|
Bynum, who had his right knee drained after Game 4, will play in Game 5. He played just 12 minutes on Thursday, and while there is the possibility that his minutes could be limited, Rivers is not going to bank on the big man being on the bench.
“We’re going to play the game,” he said. “Andrew is not going to change how we play. Again, usually the last six or seven minutes of the game Andrew is not on the floor. It’s usually Gasol and Odom for the most part. That’s what they’ve done all year and they’ve done it in the series. But he is a factor, his size is a factor, and offensively we do change things when he’s on the floor to try to get the size out of the paint. But other than that, there’s not two game plans.”
Bryant remains a constant concern for the Celtics on defense. Even though Bryant has credited the Celtics D for limiting him offensively, the C’s know he is capable of scoring at will on any night. But they can’t plan their whole strategy around that threat.
“You don’t worry about it. I mean, hell, he’s Kobe Bryant,” said Rivers. “We’ve talked about it before. We are going to have to win a game eventually in this series where he goes off for a big number. But that number, whatever it is, it’s still not the final number. Other people still have to score for them. So as far as we’re concerned, we’re just going to do our best.
“What we can’t do is overreact to it, and I think that’s where the great players get you, the LeBrons and the Wades and who we’ve already faced. They have that big game and everybody overreacts and wants to change the defense and wants to change things. No, we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing.”
|06.13.10 at 7:24 pm ET|
“No change since this morning,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson announced before the game. “You know, he’s ready to play the game and ready to go out there and perform.”
Jackson was also asked if the Lakers considered sending Bynum home to Los Angeles after Thursday’s Game 4 when the knee was drained so he could rest up for Games 6 and 7, if necessary. “Not even considered,” Jackson responded.
|06.12.10 at 11:16 pm ET|
The Celtics do have Kevin Garnett but the they don’t use him like the Suns used Amar’e Stoudamire on the pick and roll.
And the Celtics don’t score between 110 and 120 points in every playoff game like the Suns.
In other words, Odom, despite Thursday’s loss in Game 4 at TD Garden, still likes his team’s chances for being able to cover everything the Celtics could throw at them.
“We have the quickness and the size to defend this team,” Odom said. “If we communicate, we’ll be alright. It wasn’t like they scored 125 points or anything like that.”
Time will tell if those words are enough to bring out more masks or spark more chants directed at his wife Khloe Kardashian.
Odom can’t control that but he, like Bynum before him, said the Lakers need to control Glen Davis and Nate Robinson better. The pair, before their Shrek and Donkey routine after Game 4, combined to score 30 points off the bench.
“Even with Glen Davis getting going and a couple of their other guys getting going, it wasn’t a barn-burner for them offensively,” Odom said.
|06.12.10 at 3:56 pm ET|
On Saturday the Celtics and Lakers prepared for Game 5 of the NBA finals. The players kept the same mentality that every game, not just the upcoming 2-2 tie-breaker, is a must-win. Here are a few soundbites from Saturday’s practice:
Big Baby knows his role: Glen Davis isn’t getting ahead of himself after scoring 18 points in Game 4. He understands his job on the team and is more focused on fulfilling his role than living up to any expectations set by his performance.
“It’s not my job to go out there and score points,” he said. “So [when people say] he’s not going to do that again, if I have to do it again, I will. But I’m not the primary scorer on the team. I’m not the go-to guy in the clutch. I’m just a guy that goes out there, don’t have no plays called for me, just goes out there and plays the game like it’s supposed to be played, and that’s all will and determination to get the game won. So if I don’t score at all next game, I know my effort and just the will to win will be there. And that feels even greater to me, especially if we get the win.”
Giving Kobe a break: Minutes have been a concern for the Celtics the entire season, and Phil Jackson is conscious of it too. Kobe Bryant is averaging 40 minutes through the first four contests, but Jackson wants to conserve his energy for the most critical minutes of the game.
“They like to get Tony Allen in there to make him really have to work, get a body on him,” said Jackson. “I’ve got to find a little space and time for him to give him some rest in that situation so he can come back with renewed energy. But after he’s played 30-plus minutes, to have that kind of energy to finish a game out is important to us, and we’ve got to get that back.”
Perkins gets technical with Sheed: Both Kendrick Perkins and Rasheed Wallace are a technical foul away from an automatic one-game suspension. Perkins has sought out advice from Kevin Garnett in the past, and now he has offered advice to Wallace on how to avoid being called for number seven. The Celtics were happy to hear of Perkins’ conversation.
“Whatever works because we need both those guys,” said Paul Pierce. “Those technicals, they can hurt you if we lose either one of those guys. Whatever Kendrick does for Sheed, whatever Sheed does for Kendrick, I hope they realize we need these guys in there for all of them. And whatever they can do, I’m all for it.”
Rivers addresses “flopping” comments: Following the Lakers Game 3 victory, Doc Rivers was asked about Derek Fisher’s ability to get through screens. Rivers began his response by saying, “Derek? What, besides flopping, he doesn’t do a lot extra.”
On Saturday, Rivers clarified his comments. “It’s funny, what I was saying about Fish the other day, I said he flops, he’s good at it,” he said. “I think guys, they understand that and there are certain guys who have perfected it. To be a great flopper, you have to be a great charge-taker too. … Fish and me and John Stockton, you can go through the list, they took charges and flopped on half of them too. It’s tough. It’s a tough call. He’s good.”
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