December 31, 2007
No Behind the boxscore this morning, I didn't get to see enough of three of the games to pass on any insight that would be of service, and I'm not about to try and pull the wool over your eyes. I'll wait until I have a condo that rivals Bill Conlin's before I attempt that sort of "sportswriting."
The Laker/Celtic game, however, was too interesting to relegate it to the usual BtB standing. Sometimes these things have a way of working out. Dig:
*Los Angeles' short-shorts were ridiculous. You kind of hate the fact that you're watching a solid game between two great teams, and most of your focus is on how ridiculous Vladimir Radmanovic looks, or how much Javaris Crittenton reminds of Byron Scott (with that semi-fade haircut) from afar, but the eyes kept a-wanderin'. Do yourself a favor and go through Los Angeles' team photo page, every one of those shots seems worth a look. For the ladies, and I know 12 of you are out there, I've been told that Sasha Vujacic's locker room shot is worth a right-click.
*The Lakers alternated the same three problems, never at once (a 40-point blowout would have resulted), but it was enough for the loss: bad defense, bad shot selection, and bad defense. Crittenton was dominated by Boston's Tony Allen during one significant stretch in the first half, the Lakers had issues stopping the C's out of timeouts, and the perimeter defense reflected the team's 2006-07 levels of porous-o-osity.
And yet, the team got it together defensively at times, just in time to either blow a few offensive sets (resulting in one of the team's perimeter players having to improvise, and eventually launch an ill-advised jumper), or blow a whole host of chippies in the paint (Lamar Odom was the worst offender here). By the time things fleshed out, the poor offense (no doubt aided by the fine Boston defense) was the most egregious offender: the Lakers scored a pro-rated 90 points per 100 possessions, after coming into the game averaging about 107 per 100.
*With Rajon Rondo out, Doc Rivers started Tony Allen at point guard. I'll repeat: Doc Rivers started Tony Allen at point guard. Love Tony Allen, appreciate his game, enjoyed his breakout season last year - but he also entered the game turning the ball over on 18 percent of the possession he used up. That's not only bad, that's the worst mark of ANY guard in the entire NBA. And Doc Rivers started him, at point guard!
Somehow, it worked. Allen fouled out, did most of his damage against a clueless rookie (sorry for calling you "clueless," JC, happy birthday), and dished as many assists (four) as he had turnovers (four; and there was a backcourt violation he committed that wasn't called), but it worked. Or, let's change the wording on this: the Celtics won. If Rondo doesn't return for Boston's next game (at home, against the Rockets), then we might have a problem.
*When the C's made their moves last summer, one bonus for the team that no media outlet (mainstream or otherwise) mentioned was the idea that Paul Pierce's ability to get to the free throw line would likely put Boston over the top.
Kevin Garnett is brilliant, but his Timberwolves teams (as a result of his style of play, partially, but mostly because of his teammates; and, to a lesser extent, Flip Saunders' offense) always ranked amongst the worst teams in the NBA when it came to getting to the free throw line. Ray Allen can score, but he rarely gets fouled in instances outside of baseline defenders grabbing his jersey to keep up with him curling off screens.
But Pierce gets fouled, a lot, he puts teams in the penalty and he makes it possible for KG and Allen to grab late-period free throws with the work Paul puts in during the early part of the quarter.
In fact, during the first Boston possession of the game, the C's ran a quick post-up (front of the rim, in the paint) for Pierce that was the impetus behind this performance (with Antoine Walker throwing the pass) and Shaquille O'Neal's post-game declaration that Paul Pierce was " The [motherflippin'] Truth." Capital T.
*Without surfing too much, I can still safely assume that Laker fans are pounding the message boards with their frustration at the lineup that Phil Jackson threw out for most of the second quarter. Crittenton, Kwame Brown (who stayed in shape while on the inactive list, good for him ... seriously), Jordan Farmer, Lamar Odom (the ostensible calming influence), and Trevor Ariza all saw major burn as the Celtics pulled away, the Lakers faltered on both ends.
As someone who grew up kicking and screaming at Phil's seemingly indifferent approach, I have to beg the Laker fans to trust him in this instance. At some point, Jud Buechler--er, Bobby Hansen--igh, Kwame Brown's second quarter play is going to win a game for you. They have to learn, at some point, and if it means taking a loss in December ... so be it. I can only wish the current Chicago coaching staff could learn from this.
*When it comes right down to it, I can’t think of many other players I’d rather share a court with than Kevin Garnett. I cannot begin to express how absatively chuffed I am that this man is able to ply his all-around trade on a team that counts.