Ray Allen has convinced me that a traditionally weak defensive player can become an effective cover in the right system. Clearly, the Celtics have a very definitive m.o.: when the ball swings to the wing [in this case Kobe Bryant], the help comes quickly, and almost always from the right spot.
One of the ancillary problems created by the Lakers’ choosing to double Garnett off Perkins is that it leaves Perkins unchecked for offensive rebounds. He collected three over the course of his 14 minutes.
I know it seems counter-intuitive, because Kevin Garnett is this vaunted defensive monster, but given what the Celtics are doing defensively, I think the Gasol-Garnett matchup might be the most favorable on the floor for the Lakers. Gasol went 8-12 on the night against Garnett. Over a 90 second sequence in the first quarter – in the midst of what was ultimately the Lakers’ most prolific offensive stretch – Gasol hit three consecutive shots.
• [1st, 8:29] The Lakers isolate Gasol against Garnett. They overload the weak side, making it tougher for Boston to send help. Gasol employs a little rocker step, then launches a quick baseline drive. He breezes past Garnett to the hole for a layuo. Garnett traps the ball, but is whistled for goal tending.
• [1st, 8:00] Lamar Odom drops the ball into Gasol, this time in the mid-right post against Garnett. Gasol backs Garnett into the lane, then fakes a pass to an imaginary teammate on the baseline. Garnett bites, which allows Gasol enough space to spin back and toss up a pretty left-handed hook.
• [1st, 6:52] The prettiest of Gasol’s goals. Again, he’s in the mid-right post against Garnett. Bryant lingers on the perimeter. Allen hedges…about as much as you can hedge on Bryant from 21 feet. This time, Gasol spins baseline with a nasty right-handed dribble for a massive dunk.
I realize it’s strange to highlight the Lakers offensive success in a game they lost in third quarter, but it’s worth noting that any Game Three adjustment by Jackson will undoubtedly require leveraging Gasol…and forcing Boston to make some tougher help decisions.
Boston takes control of the game toward the end of the first half with a couple of 3PMs – one from Pierce, the other from Allen. On the former possession, watching Vlad Radmanovic completely lost in the defensive halfcourt brings back all kinds of fond memories. When the skip pass comes from Rajon Rondo in the near corner across the court to Pierce on the top right arc, Radmonovic is…maybe…what’s…does he…is he trapping Rondo?...He’s nowhere, basically, and the wide open look by Pierce gives Boston its first seven point lead. The second 3PM, 30 seconds later, comes in transition. The Lakers, all in all, have played tremendous halfcourt defense this season, but in transition against a team with dual threats on the wing and a big man who can shoot from anywhere inside 20, they’re lost. Bryant, smartly, attaches himself to Garnett downcourt until Odom arrives. The problem is, Allen sets up along the arc. By the time Odom catches up to the play, Allen has launched his 3PA, and the Celtics take their first double-digit lead of the game.
Boston ranked 19th in pace this season, but given the offensive versatility of their roster and the number of guys who can convert from any spot on the floor – they should run more against the Lakers.