|Sobe Kobe…||02.05.09 at 1:43 pm ET|
That simple message was delivered at Thursday morning’s shoot-around here in Waltham, mere hours before they take on the reigning NBA MVP and his Lakers on the parquet of the TD Banknorth Garden.
That, and we’re not changing what we do just for Kobe.
“We just play him,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers announced. “We don’t have any Kobe rules or anything like that. We play our defense every night. We literally don’t change our style. Rarely, we may change them for a possession here or there, but you just try to keep him in front of you and wish for the best of luck because he’s tough. If it were easy to defend him, he wouldn’t be Kobe.”
“They’re a good basketball team,” Rivers said. “They’re no different. Obviously, they miss Bynum’s length but they’re going to get through the regular season and get him back for the playoffs and they’ll be fine. Kobe has clearly picked it up the last couple of games but so has Gasol. Gasol has had 31 points the last couple of games himself.”
Yes, Kobe has gone off for a combined 97 points against the 21-27 Knicks and the 19-32 Raptors this week.
“We didn’t play in any of those games that we know of,” Rivers keenly observed. “We can’t do anything about that. That’s the way we always look at that. Let’s hope he doesn’t score 97 tonight. That would be very important for us trying to win this game, I can tell you that.”
Ask Rajon Rondo and the Celtics point guard is quick (and right) to point out that the Knicks have just as much to do with the 61 Kobe scored on Monday at MSG as anything else.
“He’s a great player,” Rondo said. “Sixty-one doesn’t happen all the time in the league but a lot of great scorers go off at times. That was transistion game he played against the Knicks. LeBron had 52 last night. That’s just the style (the Knicks) play.”
And yes, the Los Angeles Lakers come to town tonight with a Western Conference-best 39-9 mark, winners of four straight, playing on the same court they suffered their most humiliating loss in franchise history, that 39-point quit job last June in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
“I’m sure they’ve seen it enough,” Rivers said. “I’m sure no one’s run that on TV at all. Well, they should be. Why wouldn’t they be? They’ll be up for the game. We’ll be up for the game.”
Therein lies the key difference between the Celtics and the Lakers. The Lakers are all about superstars, albeit great scoring superstars, but individuals nonetheless. The Celtics, during their second double-digit winning streak of the season, have built their dominance around defense.
Yes, the Celtics are weakened a little by the flu bug that has run through Kevin Garnett and the rest of the team.
“He felt strong,” Rivers said of Garnett at this morning’s shootaround in Waltham. “He’s fine. We’ll find out tonight. It’s easy to feel strong in a shoot-around but when you’re running up and down the floor when you haven’t done it, that’s a different story. I think there are six guys on Z-Paks, probably all due to Kevin, who knows.”
Z-Paks, for those who didn’t go to medical or pharmaceutical school, are antibiotics given to help those fighting off viruses.
The Celtics will want to be at full strength as they try to ward off Kobe and the Lakers.
|Perk vs. Bynum: Christmas Day Battle of the Bigs||12.24.08 at 10:01 am ET|
“If we had Andrew Bynum, it would have been different.”
He would have shut down Kendrick Perkins, who made Pau Gasol look soft. He would have stopped the Celtics from scoring 131 points in their Game Six victory. He would have helped the Lakers win it all … right?
Not so fast.
Eyes will be on Bynum and Perk on Christmas Day as the Lakers look to snap the Celtics 19-game winning streak, with many hoping Bynum will dominate Perkins and the Cs in the paint. Both big men went through struggles early in the season but Perk has demonstrated the maturity to overcome his setbacks while Bynum continues to be inconsistent.
Perkins was called for nine technical fouls by the first week in December. He looked like an emotional ticking time bomb on the court and was on pace to unseat Rasheed Wallace as the King of the Ts. But then something clicked. Perkins channeled his energy to his own game, focusing on his shot and protecting the glass. In the ten games since his last technical foul, he is shooting better than 60% from the field and averaging nearly 13 points and 10 rebounds. Last week Perkins posted 25 points and eight rebounds against the Chicago Bulls … without a single foul.
Whether it is the veteran leadership of the Big Three, the momentum of a historic winning streak, or simply the maturation process, Perkins has taken his game out of his head and onto the court. He is just as reliable at the start of the game as he is at the end in close situations. The same can’t be said for Bynum.
This season Bynum has found himself on the bench down the stretch, and he’s let everyone know he thinks he deserves more. Unlike the Celtics, who don’t get the nod until they’ve earned the minutes, Bynum wants more time to prove himself on the court. How did Phil Jackson respond? “When he shows the ability to play defense appropriately, he’ll probably be there,” Jackson said. It’s a clear message that hasn’t seemed to resonate.
On the night of Perkins’ season-high performance, Bynum was held to four points, six rebounds, and four fouls in a two-point loss to the Miami Heat. He followed up that game with just three points, one rebound, and five fouls in a loss to the Orlando Magic. Having a bad night against Dwight Howard is one thing, but four points against Joel Anthony? There’s no explanation for that when you’re supposed to be the savior of a championship contender. Even though his performance slightly improved in the past two games, which version of Bynum will show up against the Celtics?
“If we had Andrew Bynum, it would have been different.”
On Christmas Day the Celtics and Lakers will see just how different it could have been.