Yesterday afternoon the Celtics got a shred of retribution by defeating the Lakers in Los Angeles on an ABC nationally televised game. Early in the game, Ray Allen got two quick fouls, much like he did at the beginning of Game 1 in the 2010 NBA Finals. While the Celtics held several leads in the first half, Rajon Rondo looked dazed and confused by the Lakers' defensive strategy. During the second quarter, Kobe went into Kobe attack mode and decided to try to win the game by himself. It seemed to be working until the Celtics reminded the basketball world that a team approach (on both ends of the floor) is far more effective.
People forget, but Kobe tried this approach in Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals, the same game that the Celtics ended the series with a classic shellacking. Kobe went off in the first quarter, taking and making a bunch of absurd shots. But it's typically not Kobe who kills the Celtics when the Lakers beat them. It's usually a combination of Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, spreading the offense in the post and in Odom mismatches.
So with just over eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, Glen Davis converted on a lay-up to give the Celtics a solid, but not insurmountable nine point lead. On the following two Laker possessions, Pau Gasol missed two jumpers. Now with just over seven minutes remaining, Kobe decided enough was enough and took eleven consecutive shots. Most of them were not good and many of them were forcing the issue. Granted, Kobe is still one of the biggest scoring threats in the game, if not the biggest. But this strategy rarely works against the Celtics in the New Big Three Era. Especially in the finals last year when in the four Laker wins, Gasol was clearly the best player.
Check out the video after the jump comparing Kobe ball against the Celtics team ball. The game was close, but this time the Celtics executed near perfectly in the final seven minutes to win the game.
ESPN NBA analyst Jon Barry came to Kobe's defense, claiming the the other Lakers needed to make themselves more available on offense. Watch the commentary below, then watch our video edits (with breakdown) then decide for yourselves:
- The first clip is of Kobe backing down Pierce hard into the lane for two and a foul. He makes the basket, but essentially goes against the entire Celtic defense
- 0:12 – Pierce gives it to Rondo, setting up in the high post giving him the option of passing to the cutting KG (who scores) or Nate Robinson camping in the corner for a three
- 0:20 – Pau Gasol could easily take a jumper over KG, but is looking to feed it to Andrew Bynum who has the height advantage over Big Baby. Eventually, Kobe drives as soon as he gets the ball and gets fouled by Nate.
- 0:37 – With 10 seconds on the shot clock, Kobe jacks up a rushed three, with Pierce contesting with the left hand
- 0:47 – Kobe rebounds the KG miss, and without passing, takes it coast to coast and barrels over Pierce for two. Again, he makes it but takes it into the paint where Boston usually clogs. This is always a tricky decision since a block/charge call is close to 50/50.
- 0:57 – Rondo sets up in the high post, creating himself some angles to pass. He hands it off to Pierce who misses the shot.
- 1:10 – Kobe drives to the hoop, taking it one on five and makes the tough lay-up. But he could have passed it to the streaking Bynum. Check out the screen shot below:
- 1:19 – Big Baby sets a down screen for Pierce, who comes up to receive the pass from Ray. KG sets another screen for Pierce, rolls off, and drains a jumper. More than one player involved.
- 1:30 – Gasol passes to Kobe in the high post, who is defended by Ray. Rondo cheats off his man, Steve Blake, who is wide open ready to hoist a three. Kobe could also kick it out to an open Derek Fisher for three, but opts for a tough turn-around jumper over Ray that misses.
- 1:39 – On the ensuing Celtics possession, Rondo feeds it to Big Baby who takes Bynum one-on-one in the post for two and a foul. Let's be clear: Rondo, Ray, Pierce and KG are all options, yet Rondo mixes it up and lets Davis take the taller Bynum in the post.
- 1:53 – Kobe takes it to the basket against a forest of Celtic defenders, missing the bank attempt. He could have dumped it off to Gasol or kicked it out to Blake or Fisher who were both wide-open for three (they look available) yet opts not to. This allows Rondo and KG to get out on the break, finishing off an alley-oop.
- 2:14 – Kobe again in the high post with Ray on him, tries a series of pump-fakes that Ray stays home on. Bryant takes a tough contested jumper anyway (with 15 seconds on the shot clock) and makes it. Still, not a great shot here.
- 2:26 – Groundhog Day: Blake to Kobe in the high post, Kobe attempts another tough fade-away, misses and tries to draw a foul by falling down. This allows Ray to get a jump on him on the break as Rondo finds him for the transitional three.
- 2:44 – Bryant completely ignores any set, drives into the teeth of the Celtic defense and gets whistled for the charge. He didn't even give his teammates a chance to "make themselves available" on this possession.
- 3:15 – on the ensuing Celtic possession, Rondo and Ray run the basic Floppy option 1 as Big Baby sets a screen for Ray who catches and drains the jumper. Again, more than one player involved.
- 3:28 – Down by 14, Kobe again sets up shop in the high post, and again shoots over Ray knocking down the jumper. Blake and Fisher are once again "available" and open beyond the arc.
- 3:37 – Kobe ignores Bynum's screen (possibly making himself available for a pick-and-roll?), up-fakes Pierce, and takes it into KG. Gasol has inside position on Ray (easy lay-up if Kobe dumps it off) while Fisher and Blake are once again pretty "available" for three-point attempts. Check out the screen shot below:
- 3:44 – Rondo and Ray hold up a fast break, and run their offense. Eventually, Rondo fakes a screen for Ray, cuts back door where KG finds him from the high post for the wide-open lay-up. Again, using all sorts of ways to score.
- 4:10 – Coming off a time out, Kobe tries a similar play by cutting back door, instead the C's snuff it out and steal the ball as four Celtics were ready to clog the lane as opposed to zero Lakers checking Rondo's previous cut.
- 4:21 – Even with a sizeable lead, the C's run another different play. Pierce sets a high screen for Rondo who gets challenged too late by the rotating Luke Walton. Rondo notices this and at the last instant, dumps it off to Davis for the lay-up. Teamwork is nice.
- 4:30 – With Bynum and Gasol benched for not "making themselves available" enough, Shannon Brown is allowed to shoot, and makes a jumper.
- 4:40 – Lamar Odom is thinking that the C's will run another high screen for Rondo as KG makes his way to the top of the key. Instead, KG retreats, freeing himself for the Rondo lob for two and the foul. Mixing it up once again.