NBA finals, Lakers Celtics Game 3: It’s all about the paint
Ray Allen got all the love last game, well deserved love at that. The man with the pure jumper was shooting it as well as anyone ever has. It was beautiful basketball.
But he’s not why Boston won.
The Celtics won because they took back the paint. On offense the Celtics got 46 shots in the paint, 38 of them at the rim. They only shot 39 percent in the paint, but it was a sign that they were attacking again, particularly Rajon Rondo.
Getting the ball inside matters. The Lakers pick-and-rolled the Celtics in Game 1 and that got them buckets at the rim. But Boston adjusted -- they are, after all, one of the best pick-and-roll defensive teams in the league. What did you expect? Well, apparently the Lakers weren’t expecting it because they seemed unprepared for better defense in the paint and their perimeter people went back to their default of shooting jumpers.
According to Hoopdata, the Lakers were 12 of 16 at the rim in Game 2, 17 for 55 (31 percent) everywhere else. Ron Artest was part of that going 1 for 10, but tried to make up for it by dribbling more.
Game 3 tonight will again be about the paint. For the Celtics it means continuing to get penetration and break down the Lakers defense that way. For the Lakers, it means the same thing it has meant all season when they struggled -- they have to get the ball inside again to Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
There are two constant keys in this series: points in the paint and points in transition.
The team that can get the most transition baskets will probably win. These are two good defensive teams. The Celtics held the Lakers to 40.8 percent shooting in Game 2, but the Lakers length really bothers the Celtics big men, as Boston shot just 14 of 38 at the rim (layups, dunks and put backs) last game.
When points are that hard to come by, the easy buckets that can come in the open court running after a miss or turnover are key. Remember, of the eight Allen three pointers, four of them came when he ran to the arc and got the ball in transition. Bottom line, the Lakers were better at this in Game 1, the Celtics in Game 2, and whoever is in Game 3 gets a huge win.
One key stat that goes with the transition game -- rebounds. You need them to run. When your point guard gets a dozen, as Rondo did, it jump starts the break.
Look for the Lakers to go back to getting the ball to Pau Gasol in the high post, that is when their offense functions best. The pick-and-roll is a treat for the Lakers offense, it cannot be the main course again. Boston is ready. But do expect to see Kobe Bryant try to attack more off the dribble, and hope his teammates follow his lead and not just settle for jumpers.
Look for Boston to continue to exploit the defense of Derek Fisher. He cannot guard Rondo or Allen, and he has to cover one of them. Allen likely wil not be that hot again from three, but if he gets the looks he got with Fisher chasing him he’s still going to get a lot of points. Rondo would just be able to get into the paint at will on Fisher (at least Kobe is long enough to recover and guide him to help). Look for the Lakers to move Kobe around and keep him on the hot Boston hand.
If either team can get production out of their missing fours -- Lamar Odom or Kevin Garnett -- they will have a huge advantage.
You can also figure that the referees and foul trouble will play a key role tonight. Pray that it doesn’t, but expect it to.
Lots of story lines. Lots of possibilities. But in the end, the team that scores more points in the paint will have the lead in this series.