How to Win the Finals
The 2010 NBA Finals are nearly upon us and to help give a better idea of what the strategy between the Celtics and Lakers will look like, the call has been made to Bucks coaches Jim Boylan and Joe Wolf.
We've asked Jim Boylan to look at what you need to do to beat the Celtics while Joe Wolf will be telling us how to beat the Lakers. To help illustrate some of their points, I've added stats or other details in parenthesis. All the comments that aren't in parenthesis are either Jim or Joe's thoughts. Study up on the thoughts here in the final hours before the Finals begin and check back to see how closely the Finals have followed the strategies seen here. If it looks like this is headed to a six or seven game series we'll ask both coaches to revisit the strategies at a later date. In the meantime, we'll let Jim Boylan's analysis start us off.
One of the main things you need to do against the Celtics is match their physical play. They like to come out and try to intimidate you with their physicality around the basket and their veteran experience. In order to be successful against them, that's step number one.
Step number two is you have to have good ball movement against them. They're a very good strong-side defensive team, which means when the ball is on one side of the floor, they have everyone, defensively, on that side of the floor. So if you don't get some ball movement from one side to the other and make them have to move and close out, then they become a very difficult team to play against. If you keep it on one side and even if you beat your man and get into an area, there's going to be another player waiting there for you. So the ball movement is key in making them play from side to side and then attacking them. If you do that, you're going to have some opportunities. They're not as quick as they used to be, especially laterally. So with that ball movement from side to side you can then see areas to attack into a seam. You're causing them to move and reposition themselves defensively and they're not as quick as they used to be. That's the number one offensive thing that you need to do.
(Boston is allowing the second-fewest points per game in the postseason at 91.4 and foes are shooting 43.8 percent against them, the third-best mark. It should also be noted that their +5.3 scoring differential is second-best in the playoffs)
You want to try to play against them with a quick pace. You don't want to slow it down and allow their defense a chance to get setup. They are a very good defensive team. By using their physical play and their loading one side of the floor, they can really slow you down. So you want to get the ball up the floor as quickly as you can and try to take advantage of some scoring opportunities in transition before their defense gets set.
(Boston is allowing opponents to score 16.2 points off their turnovers each game, the third-most in the playoffs. To some extent, that speaks to Boylan's point about it being easier to score on Boston before their defense is set. Those 16.2 points account for 17.8 percent of the total for their opponents, only Miami (24.2 percent) gave up a higher percentage of their points off of turnovers.)
Another key is to rebound the basketball. You want to be able to get second chance opportunities - shoot the ball and get to the offensive glass to see if you can work the glass and get some extra scoring opportunities on them. That not only leads to some baskets but gives you the opportunities to draw some fouls on them, which is important to get some of their front line guys into some foul trouble.
(This should be an interesting battle. Boston allows 11.0 second chance points in the playoffs, good for fifth, while Los Angeles scores 15.3, good for second.)
The final thing is to have an inside scoring presence against Boston, which the Lakers have with (Pau) Gasol, (Andrew) Bynum and Kobe (Bryant) in the post. Having guys that can score the ball inside is important against the Celtics. Making them defend inside and possibly double-team. We had Andrew (Bogut) against them and he was effective scoring against Boston in the low post and that will really open up the offense against the Celtics. They have to be concerned and drop down and help in the post. When they do that, if you have the big man who can kick the ball out, which the Lakers do, now you have some open scoring opportunities from the perimeter because they're obviously coming back down to help against guys like Bynum, Gasol and Kobe.
Those are some areas that you need to be good at against the Celtics and I think the Lakers are good at all of those things.
If I had to pick a team right now to win it, I think the Lakers are the best team right now.
I think for the Lakers, Gasol is a key for them, because of the reasons I just stated. He has a back to the basket game, he can go to the offensive glass, he keeps balls alive, he's a long player. His affect on the series could be significant because of those skills. If you can do those things against Boston, it's going to make a difference in the long run of a series. Gasol is going to be one of the key players if he can have a good, active game inside; it will make a huge difference for the Lakers and possibly even win it for them.
(Gasol is averaging 20.0 points, 10.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.9 blocks in 38.8 minutes. He's shooting 56.5 percent from the field and 78.4 from the line. His rebounds are fourth most in the playoffs and his points are 12th.)
On the other side, you have to look at a guy like (Rajon) Rondo and see that he's had a great playoff series so far. You wonder how effective he can be against a team like the Lakers. Can he push the pace when he needs to push the pace? Can he get into the lane like he has been against most teams - which causes teams to react and their defense to kind of swarm to the ball and then he finds Ray Allen spotting up for threes and Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Rondo's play is going to be significant.
(Rondo is averaging 16.7 points, 10.0 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 2.1 steals in the playoffs while shooting 46.7 percent from the field and 38.9 from three. He's third in assists, just behind Deron Williams at 10.2 and Steve Nash at 10.1.)
Offensively the Celtics need to get quality shots every possession because it's going to be a low possession game based on their defense. When they're in Boston they really need to get quality shots. In L.A. it might be more of an up and down game, but at home, Boston's defense is really going to show. They need to get the quality shots with proper transition defense every time so the Lakers don't get any easy buckets on them.
One thing they must do in the half court set is if they're going to the rim, they have to attack the length of the Lakers. That means go through them, not around them when they get near the basket to get the Lakers bigs in foul trouble. I think Pierce can do a great job of this, as can Rondo, because he's very crafty.
(Pierce goes to the line an average of 6.2 times per game and knocks down 81.0 percent while Rondo gets to the line 5.6 times and makes 66.3 percent. For the playoffs, Pierce's 105 free throw attempts are sixth in the league and Rondo's 95 are eighth.)
Spacing and ball movement are key in any offensive set, but especially against the Lakers. Because of L.A.'s length, you have to be sure that the ball moves and moves and moves from side to side, so you can see the possible gaps to attack.
Defensively, you have to make sure that you limit them to one shot. They can't get their second chance points, they're second in the playoffs in second chance points (15.3 per game). (Kendrick) Perkins, Garnett, (Rasheed) Wallace and Big Baby (Glen Davis) have to be huge on their blockouts and going to get the ball so the Lakers length doesn't come into play with their second chance points.
The other thing about the Lakers length is their paint points. They score a lot of paint points even though you think of Kobe shooting jumpers and Derek Fisher shooting jumpers. Their paint points with Bynum, (Lamar) Odom, (Ron) Artest and Gasol, you have to make sure that you limit those post catches and scoring opportunities.
(The Lakers average 43.6 points in the paint each game in the postseason, third in the league.)
The main factor you're looking at on defense is Kobe Bryant. You have to be physical with him and challenge him every time down the court, making him work from the get go - from the first possession to the last possession - and be as physical as you can with him, also making sure you have a hand up on him every time. That being said, if you do come with a double-team, you have to make sure that you challenge their three-point shooters. Ron Artest can get a flow going, Odom can get a flow going and Fisher is a very respectable three point shooter. You can't allow them three-point shots, you've got to make them put it on the floor and then challenge their two-point shots.
(Bryant's playoff numbers: 29.4 points, 6.2 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.0 steal. He's shooting 48.3 percent from the field, 40.5 from three and 82.1 from the line. His 123 free throw attempts are the third most in the playoffs and average out to 7.7 per game. He's third in the playoffs in scoring and ninth in assists.)
If you look at how the Lakers go, somebody other than Kobe usually has to have a good game for them to win. Most of the time it's Gasol, but sometimes it can be Artest or Odom or Fisher or Bynum. You have to make sure that you make the in-game adjustment of whoever else is helping Kobe at that point and limit him for the rest of the game.
I think the keys are going to be the benches. The Celtics are the big three with Rondo becoming a key part and almost a big four now - a fantastic four. The Lakers starting lineup is also very strong. I think both benches are going to be key and if it goes seven games I think we may look back and say it's going to be the benches that decided the series.
With Boston, Big Baby, Rasheed Wallace and Tony Allen have seen the most minutes off of the bench. On L.A., Lamar Odom has been huge off the bench and sees nearly as many minutes as the starters with Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar also getting minutes off the bench.
(If you take the main three players from each bench, their numbers look like this:
Boston: 19.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 2.3 steals in 52.4 minutes.
Los Angeles: 21.7 points, 12.1 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.8 steals in 58.0 minutes.
Odom's numbers definitely are a big boost to the Lakers bench production as he puts up 10.6 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 29.7 minutes)