Celtics Need Shaq More Than We Thought

What the Celtics need to remember is a little phrase that Kevin Garnett himself screwed up in 2008; “anything is possible.” He meant to say “impossible is nothing”, the slogan of his former shoe sponsor, Adidas, but that’s besides the point. What matters here is the idea behind the phrase. While the Celitcs are looking at an improbable 2-0 hole, it’s not an impossible one. CelticsBlog did most of the leg work to breakdown the Celtics chances based on the NBA’s playoff history to actually come back and win this series.  According to the numbers, NBA teams have come back to win a series after going down 2-0 only 14 times.

But the game of basketball isn’t a coin flip and historic percentages don’t guarantee future results. Adjustments need to be made if the Celtics want to comeback to win. Watching the first two games, Miami seemed to outclass Boston in all aspects of basketball. in Game 1, the Heat won on virtue of their outside shooting. Not only did they hit 47% of their 3-pointers, they continually knocked down improbable jumpers from 17-20 feet out, one of the most inefficient shots you can take. The final result in the game was a  9-point victory for Miami but as a Boston fan, you weren’t that fearful. Pierce had been ejected in the game and outside of Ray Allen, no one showed up. Looking at the box score to see that Miami held the Celtics to just 42.7% shooting (Boston leads the NBA in FG%) was the most encouraging sign. There was no way Miami would stay that hot from the floor and Boston was bound to find the basket sooner or later.

Game 2 came and Miami’s shooting returned back to Earth but Boston still couldn’t find the rim and their defense seemed to be more Clippers than Celtics. Boston gave up 38 points in the paint and was only able to get Miami to turn the ball over 10 times. Add to that Miami’s game leading 44 rebounds, 12 of them on the offensive glass, and you begin to paint a picture of exactly how the Heat ground the Celtics down to pulp.

But this can’t be all the Celtics have left int he tank, can it? The Celtics beat the Heat three out of four times in the regular season and, for the most part, did it convincingly. So what’s different here?

Shaquille O’Neal.

Shaq has missed the last four games vs. Miami. Boston won the first game he missed but they had the assistance of Kendrick Perkins but dropped the final match-up of the season after Shaq was sidelined with injuries and Perkins was delt to the Thunder. In the games without a big man to clog the middle, Boston has gone 0-3 against the Heat. Not to knock Jermaine O’Neal but he’s played no more than 21 minutes in each of the playoff games vs. Miami. He’s played well,

having an overall +/- of +2 despite the Celtics being an overall -20 for the series but his limited minutes lead to long stretches of the game where Garnett or the struggling Glen Davis have to man the middle.

So, can a 39-year old, oft-injured, Shaq really be the answer? Currently, the Celtics are struggling on both ends of the floor so they can use all the help they can get. According to 82games.com, the line-up of Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett, S. O’Neal played 266 minutes together and produced an offensive rating of 117 points per 100 possessions while only allowing 99 points per 100 possession and producing a +/- of +101 points.  It’s not that Shaq is an all-world defender or a threat to win his 4th finals MVP trophy. He’s just big. He’s big and he can still score one-on-one due to his massive size.

One of the biggest issues Boston is having is with Wade and LeBron playing the passing lanes, essentially neutralizing Rondo’s greatest strength, passing. Rajon loves to get deep into the defense and then find the open man with a kick-out, but with Davis struggling and Jermaine not giving anything on offense, the Miami defense is able to rotate more and shoot the passing lanes in comfort. A few times in game 2 Rondo beat his defender off the dribble, got into the lane and had the defense collapse around him. He had no inside threat to hand the ball off to (Garnett loves to hang out at the 17-ft range) and was unable to get the ball to the shooters because Wade and LeBron had no need to rotate off of Allen and Pierce. The results from Rondo’s drives were a variation of a forced layup by Rondo, a blown lay up by Davis or steals on the desperation kick-out passes to the Boston shooters.

In the first three games with Miami, Boston won by a total of 16 points. In those games the Celtics had over 40 rebounds twice and had 19+ assist in all 3 games. They also got to the free throw line 25+ times in each game. Since the third game Boston hasn’t had a game of where they collected more than 39 rebounds, they haven’t had more 18 assists or gotten tot he line more than 22 times. They’ve also lost the battle for the paint. Boston scored a combined 112 points int he paint over the course of the first three games. over the last 3, they have scored just 90. They’ve also been outscored in the paint by 18 in those 3 games compared to their +22 point advantage in the paint over the previous 3 games.

Shaq’s ability to be that dump-down guy for Rondo will help immensely. Not to mention, it will probably force Spoelstra to play Big Z more minutes which will send unsung hero, Joel Anthony, to the bench for longer than Miami can afford. It worked in the first three match-ups and Boston has to hope it works in the playoffs. But the key, as has been since Danny Ainge decided to ship Perkins off, will be Shaq’s health. If he can fill in the 20+ minute void that Jermaine O’Neal is leaving behind, Boston will have a good chance to get back into this series, especially with three of the next four games being played in Boston.

It’s going to take a lot of hard work and some luck for the Celtics to turn this one around. Thankfully, the Big Shamrock is finally active for game three. Now let’s see if he’s effective.

Shane is a contributor to Stacheketball.com, LarryBrownSports.com & NBAoffseason.com. You can find him babbling about basketball all over the net or tune in as he tweets nonsense on twitter @Suga_Shane.

 

Double Dribble Podcast Ep.002 – FINALLY!

The playoffs are FINALLY here. Listen in on the Double Dribble Podcast as Ben Swanson joins Erroll and Shane as they breakdown playoff match ups, highlight advantages and give you their first round series predictions. A lot of interesting takes including some shocking upset predictions. Who? Tune in to find out!

 

Ep 002 – FINALLY! 2011 First Round Playoffs Review by Shane Baker

Kevin Garnett Was Just As Crazy In High School. Also, Just As Good.

Kevin Garnett loves to talk to basketball cushions, drool, pound his chest, and pick on little people.

Many of us think that this is all an act put on by Garnett to self-motivate as his skills begin to slip. Kevin doesn’t see it the same way. He’s been telling us forever that this is just who he has been, well, forever. Many of us just didn’t have the opportunity to watch The Big Ticket struggle in a small market and now that he’s in a huge market, everything has come to light.

The truth is, KG’s been a violent yet beautiful marvel on the court since his high school days in Chicago. Don’t believe me? Check out the video below and see how it compares to his dunk on Ronny Turiaf and the Knicks from Monday night:

High School Version of Kevin Garrnet:

2011 Version of Kevin Garnett:

The similarities are uncanny. In fact, most of the celebrations and motivational techniques are identical. Right down to the body language and the facial expressions.

Here is what former NBA coach, Clariance Gains, had to say about Garnett when he saw Kevin play in high school (including the scouting report):

Kevin Garnett – The best prospect that I have seen this year. Has the skills & mentality of a small forward & height & extension of a PF/Center. Very skilled BB player who has a tremendous understanding of the game of BB. If declares for 1995 draft,would recommend we take him, regardless of our drafting position.

That year in the 1995 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves ended up selecting KG with the #5 overall pick. The rest has been an expletive-filled historic career.

(H/T @ClarenceGaines2, Photo via Yahoo! Sports/AP)

Shane is a contributor toStacheketball.com, LarryBrownSports.com & NBAoffseason.com. You can find him babbling about basketball all over the net or tune in as he tweets nonsense on twitter @Suga_Shane.

Kevin Garnett and His Bros

It’s definitely true that, as evidence here, here, and here shows, I’m not much of a Kevin Garnett fan.

However, one thing is for sure, I’d much rather have him on my team than not.

Garnett talking about the departures of five of his teammates due to trades yesterday:

(Video via espnforsberg)

Ryan feels a little down after watching this video, cheer him up at @rpravato on Twitter. 

Lakers vs. Celtics: The Positive Impact of Andrew Bynum

Photo credit: Associated Press

In their 92-86 win over the Boston Celtics Thursday night, the Los Angeles Lakers added another win to their much-criticized record against the NBA’s top teams (1-6 in games vs. SA, BOS, MIA, DAL & CHI, the lone win coming against the Bulls). A key contributor in this win was the Laker center, Andrew Bynum, whose name had been thrown into the Carmelo Anthony trade fracas this week. With his play, though, he submitted favorable testimony as to why the Lakers would be wise to keep him. I am not one who likes to place too much significance on one regular season win or loss, especially early in the month of February. The focus here isn’t that the Lakers beat the Celtics, but on an example of how Andrew Bynum’s play can contribute to a Laker victory against a formidable opponent.

Bynum scored an efficient 12 points on six FG attempts in the 1st half, and played good defense, including an emphatic block of a Kendrick Perkins jump-hook. It was his play in the 2nd half, however, that provided the strongest impact. The Lakers had rallied from a 15 point deficit to trail only 53-45 to end the 1st half. They carried that momentum into the 3rd quarter as they staged a 10-0 run during which Bynum made multiple positive plays. Let’s examine his contributions.

First it’s important to note how the Lakers use Bynum. They do not run a lot of plays for him, nor do they frequently run the offense through him. He is primarily stationed on the weak side as he either looks to be a cutter to the basket or to receive a pass in the post on ball reversals; other times he will work as a screener in pick-and-roll (P&R) tandems with Kobe Bryant.

Byunm filled his role ably throughout the game and especially during this run as he set solid screens, and made strategic dives when rolling to the basket. Watching him, it was clear that he wanted the ball, yet the Lakers don’t always get it to him. He is at least 2nd to Pau Gasol in the post-touches pecking order, and the Lakers have been criticized for not even getting it enough to Pau. Still, he remained active and didn’t merely stand around when his number wasn’t called. He kept his hands extended, always ready to receive a pass when the ball was in his area. Twice, Kendrick Perkins chose not to rotate off of the cutting Bynum, even as Kobe Bryant eluded the other Celtics to score layups right in front of Perkins. Pau Gasol was also able to work Kevin Garnett one-on-one in the lane while Perkins was hesitant to leave Bynum.

This off-the-ball activity eventually netted him an easy dunk when the Boston D was overly focused on a Bryant drive; Kobe drew the D and passed out to Gasol, and as the Celtics rotated to close out on him, Pau found Bynum alone under the basket. Although he was anxious to be involved in the offense, he was patient and did not force shots when he finally received the ball. On his first touch he was doubled on the baseline, and made the right pass out to Gasol who converted an elbow jumper. Later when he caught the ball in the middle of the lane, he found an open shot as he turned away from the double team to nail a turn-around jumper.

His defense was particularly impressive, if not obviously so. During the Lakers’ 3rd-quarter run, he always made the right rotation, and exerted commendable effort showing on the pick-and-roll (P&R). His defensive highlights included a fine close-out on a Ray Allen 3PT attempt when he was drawn away from the lane defending the P&R; a forced turnover when Kendrick Perkins tried to face him up on the baseline; through his aggressive hedges, he twice forced Paul Pierce to give up the ball on the P&R; still another time he showed on the P&R and then rotated to close out on a Glen Davis jumper (which he missed). He secured rebounds, and only once (by my count) did he fail to contest a shot taken in his area.

Bynum and the Lakers continued their solid play in the 4th quarter as they were able to hold onto the lead they worked hard to build. Bynum never scored in the fourth quarter (0-2 on two good looks in the paint that just missed), but he continued his solid defense, and stayed out of the foul trouble that plagued him in the first match-up against Boston (an uneven 28 minutes with 5 fouls). This allowed him to be on the court for more minutes than any game in which he has played this season (nearly 34). This also showed trust from Phil Jackson, as he played him the entire first quarter and gave him extended run in the 3rd and through a good portion of the 4th while Pau Gasol rested.

There is still over a third of the season left to play, and to date, the Lakers have been one of the best teams in the league, even though they haven’t run away with the West as most predicted. They haven’t needed Bynum in every game to do this – their wins in games when he has played are nearly equal to those in which he has been out. They will need him in the playoffs, however, when the game typically slows down, and the size, skill and production of the Laker big men – including Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom – can overwhelm some opponents, and help them mitigate the front-courts strengths of others. Thursday night, Bynum, with his activity on both ends and his efficient scoring demonstrated the advantage the Lakers have when he plays well.

Jason Frazier is the founder of  NBAWiz.com, and a regular contributor to Stacheketball. Follow him on Twitter @NBA_Wiz.

If Ya Can’t Beat ‘em Elbow ‘em In The Groin

(Image via Chuck Burton-AP)

The Stephen Jackson-less (for the 2nd half anyway) Bobcats beat the Celtics Monday night.

Word on the street is that Garnett is a big ol’ you know what on the court. 

Ron Jeremy ain’t got nothing.

Zilch.

I used to like Kevin Garnett when he wasn’t a meany.  But actually he probably always was a meany and I just didn’t know it. If you remember a time when KG wasn’t a meany then get at me on Twitter @rpravato.

Behind The Arc (01/31/2011): Kevin Garnett’s Dirty Play

Much of the controversy this week surrounded Kevin Garnett‘s dirty play against Channing Frye. Everyone was talking about the groin punch on whether or not he deserved a suspension. Obviously, he didn’t get suspended as he went on to help beat the rival Los Angeles Lakers yesterday.

Reggie Evans grabbed Chris Kaman‘s jewels in a playoff game in 2006. Kaman ended up pushing Evans after the play, which resulted in a technical. But as far as I knew, there was no further disciplinary action taken.

Since that pretty much set the precedent, I wasn’t surprised Kevin Garnett was NOT suspended (I wasn’t going to be surprised either way). Sure, it also fueled conspiracy theorists saying that they wanted to see Lakers and Celtics at their best since it’s a marquee match-up but you gotta remember that David Stern will NOT hesitate to suspend players before a huge game (see 2007 Playoffs between the San Antonio Spurs and the Phoenix Suns.).

We also gotta know that basketball is a physical game. Basketball players will not hesitate to distract a shooter by putting their hand on a player’s stomach or nudge a player while shooting. I get it. It’s normal. I play basketball, too. Now for KG, that seems a tad low… and while people are calling accident, it’s hard to give Garnett the benefit of the doubt. It seemed like there was some intent. This should push the league to do some rule where it’s an automatic suspension when a player tries to do… harm to another player’s… area. Doesn’t matter if it connects or not. I mean, punches that get thrown (connected or not) get suspended. Do the same thing for ball-assaulters.

Another issue that seems to be forgotten here? Kevin Garnett sliding his foot under Channing Frye’s landing spot. Now I got into a debate with someone about how this happens a lot because they’ll take any advantage they get.

ARE YOU EFFIN’ KIDDING ME?

Okay, I almost shattered my ankle playing ball when I landed on someone’s foot. BUT… this happened when I was going for a rebound and this WILL happen once in a while. NOT often but it happens. It sucks. Accidents happen in playing ball. Just like accidents happen when you’re walking down the street.

But for someone to do it on purpose? Hell, no. I felt like Garnett did it on purpose because it looked pretty calculated to me. But who in their right mind would do this on purpose? And if this happened a lot, we’d have ten sprained ankles in every basketball game. So, NO, it does NOT happen in every game (it’s really rare, if you ask me). And I also do think that something has to be done with this sort of thing, too. That takes weeks (months) off a player’s playing career (I’m no professional athlete but it took me months to heal from this and it SUCKED). People gotta watch it, man. At the end, it’s still basketball. Don’t hurt someone. And DON’T HURT SOMEONE, KEVIN GARNETT.

Lastly, some people accused Channing Frye of “flopping.” He was down because his ANKLE got hurt. And he stayed down because he was gauging the pain AND he probably couldn’t believe KG did that. So don’t give me that crap that Frye flopped.

Have a good week, ladies and fellas.

PHOTO CREDIT: Christian Petersen/Getty Images.

Rey-Rey is the Editor of Stacheketball and founder of the L.A.-based NBA Blog, The No-Look Pass. Babble with him on Twitter at @TheNoLookPass.

Another Day At The Office For Kevin Garnett

(Getty Images)

Kevin Garnett knuckled Channing Frye in the groin (apparently it was the second time Garnett had done it that night) as Frye was in the air shooting a jumper (video here).  An altercation ensued..and I got the scoop.

Frye:  COME ON MAN! WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!

Garnett: Oh yeah you f***in LIKED it didn’t you you jump shootin pretty boy.

Frye: Man you got a lot of nerve.

Garnett: I got other tricks, man.  Nut shots are nothing compared to my speciality.

 Frye: My man Marcin is about to come over here and give you his speciality.

Garnett:  Uhh Yo Perk!?  I need backup. Now!

Yeah…being a chump is Garnett’s speciality.  Follow Ryan on Twitter @rpravato where he usually talks about people shooting balls, dribbling balls, passing balls…sometimes airballs. He’s not much for knuckling other’s balls.