Without basketball to watch, I must resort to old game tapes to get my NBA fix. Like most addicts, I can’t stay away. I decided to start this new segment with the 2008 NBA Finals, my first NBA Finals as a Celtics fan (I was 1 when the 1986 banner went up). I picked game four of this series because this was the turning point in the series. The Celtics were up 2-1 going into game four. Los Angeles led for the majority of the game including a lead of 24 points in the third quarter. If the Lakers win game four, we would be looking at a best of three, but instead Boston pulled off one of the best comebacks in Finals history, almost as good as their New Jersey come back. Well this one meant more, so this was probably better.
I will be trying out a “new” box score. I am currently reading The Book of Basketball by Boston’s own Bill Simmons (whether you love or hate him, he knows his stuff). I got the idea to create a box score showing intangibles that don’t get measured in the original box score with the help of Simmons’ suggestions in the book. Here's a break down:
Clutch – Shooting stats with 5 minutes left in each quarter with the score within 3 points. For this game, these stats weren’t accumulated until the 4th quarter when the game became close.
Super Clutch – Shooting stats with 2 minutes left in each quarter with the score within 3 points. Again, this wasn’t collected until the 4th quarter in this game.
Nittys – Actual term is Nitty-Gritties, but for formatting purpose, I stuck to Nittys. These are hustle plays, or more famously for Celtic fans, Tommy Points, except you have to actually continue the play opposed to just hustling. A tipped rebound, saving a long rebound, saving the ball from going out of bounce, diving and getting the loose ball.
Wide Open – These are uncontested shots, I didn’t include lay ups or dunks, just shots outside of the paint that were uncontested. Guys like Kobe and Pierce don’t get many of these.
Dunks – Pretty self explanatory, one side note, the Celtics do not like to dunk, they prefer layups.
RB’s – Ref Bitching. This is anytime the camera catches a player excessively bitching to an official. Complete judgment on my part for excess because every whistle, some player has something to say. Also noted, I can only go with what the camera guys give me.
(u)TO – This is Unforced Turnovers. I really like how (u)TO looks, makes it seem like some MIT students final project for graduation coming up with a whole new equation. Anytime a player commits a bad pass, dribbles off his knee, etc. Steals don’t count because that is a forced turnover.
D Stops – Defensive stops, these don’t include missed shots, unless the shot was forced and just plain old ugly. Another judgment calls on some plays but for the most part, if the player stops the offensive player from a good look, he got the nod.
Russells – This is when Bill Russell blocks your shot, keeps the ball in bounds and the possession changes hands. The anti-Dwight Howard.
Mega Assists – These are assists that lead to a lay up or dunk. I did not include wide open looks because the Mega Assist is suppose to provide a shoo-in, a lay up, an easy basket. This is what makes Larry Bird and Steve Nash so great, also their hair.
Unseld’s – This is the hockey assist. The pass before the pass for the assist, a lot of these come from outlets to start the break. Named after Wes Unseld who was great at outlet passes, see Kevin Love. The Lakers accumulated a lot of these because of how the Triangle is formed with sharing the basketball.
Click on box score to enlarge:
Now that we understand what the first box score is saying we can better understand what happened in this game. Keep in mind, these stats are for one game, just because Sasha Vujacic went 0-2 in Super Clutch doesn’t mean he isn’t clutch, okay I lied, he is far from clutch. In the first quarter, PJ Brown had more free throw attempts than the big four combined, which explains how lackadaisical the Celtics offense was to start, prompting the 20 point first quarter deficit. At the 1:12 left in the first, Jeff Van Gundy announced this series is now tied. Good thing the game ends in the first quarter right?
The announcers are famous for being the worst jinx-ers ever, and if that is not a word, than I will trademark it. The booth started talking about how the Lakers are 9-0 at home so far in the playoffs and can’t be beat on the Forum’s floor. The lead was so big that the crowd started to doze off. Mike Breen followed up with this comment with 4:44 left in the half, “The crowd has gotten tired of cheering.” That explains LA’s crowd pretty well, the Lakers take their lead into halftime with the Celtics looking all but dead.
The third quarter this post season belonged to the Celtics. Dominating most third quarters, leaving teams stunned and this game was no different. Phil Jackson at half time spoke to his players about winning the third quarter. Kobe makes his first basket in the game in the third quarter, which happens to be the start of the Celtics runs to close the lead to 2 points. This was a common trend in discussions, that the Lakers were better when Kobe wasn’t scoring, which is a weird discussion in the first place.
The fourth quarter is where you can see the momentum changed. Los Angeles won the first half and that appeared good enough for them, while the Celtics refused to give up. The swagger was in Boston’s favor as everyone’s face showed it. Without Rondo and Perkins, the Celtics veterans came up big in this game, showing they wanted it more. We finally got to record the clutch stats as the game was close in the end with the Celtics pulling away. You won’t win many games when Sasha Vujacic takes 3 clutch shots while Kobe, Odom and Gasol take five combined.
Random Photo of the Game:
Looking through the original box score, we see that Kobe was LA’s best player with 17 points, 10 assists and 4 steals. For Boston, I would have picked Ray Allen with 19 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals and was very careful with the basketball. Remember Perkins and Rondo combined for 30 minutes, as Rondo was cautious with his ankle and Perkins dislocated a shoulder in the 2nd quarter. Pau Gasol turned in 17-9 but looking at the Simmons Score, you will see he had 4 (u)TO’s, missed all his wide open shots and had zero defensive stats. Lamar Odom was the unsung hero for this game, which is why the jumped out to a large lead early on. Odom had 3 Nitty’s, 2 dunks, 3 mega assists, and 1 Unseld, made all his open shots but some how didn’t take any shots in Super Clutch time. On Boston’s end, Kevin Garnett’s defense (2 stops, 3 Russell’s, and 1 Unseld) and James Posey’s shooting (3-5 wide open, and 1-1 Super Clutch). Actually the starting five for Boston had 8 stops combined. I would also point out that Kobe led all players with 4 RB’s, while Doc had way too many RB’s to count.
Although all Stats are works in progress, I enjoyed doing this post because it gives us another look into the box scores and see the plays that don’t show up in traditional box scores. We see how effective players are with passing. Los Angeles did a great job in the first half with ball movement leading to many Unseld’s and Mega Assists, while Boston played better on the defensive end late in the game registering most of their stops. We got to see who was taking the Clutch & Super Clutch attempts late in the game and who was making them. Paul Pierce did a good job on Kobe, however because Kobe gets a lot of shots up even though Pierce played great defense, they don’t count as stops. If we couldn’t opponents FG %, Pierce would have had a bigger highlight in the box score. Maybe next time. Big Game James proved to live up to his name for the Celtics in this game and was one of the big reasons they carried on. Feel free to shoot me a message in the comment section to see a game you want highlighted.