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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Celtics Overwhelm Lakers, Claim 17th Championship

For the first five games of the NBA Finals, the heavyweight match between the Celtics' league best defense and the Lakers' high powered offense was a close bout but in game six the Celtics landed a stunning knockout punch, posting a 131-92 victory to claim the franchise's 17th championship. After a competitive first quarter, the Celtics completely dominated the Lakers in every conceivable way, finishing with a 48-29 rebounding advantage, outscoring the Lakers 16-2 in fast break points, demolishing the Lakers 44-29 in points in the paint and forcing 19 turnovers while only committing seven. The Celtics set a Finals single-game record with 18 steals and held the Lakers to a Finals record low two offensive rebounds, which is particularly remarkable considering that the Lakers shot just .422 from the field. The Lakers had absolutely no defensive presence, recording 0 blocked shots while letting the Celtics shoot .494 from the field, including 13-26 (.500) from three point range.

Kevin Garnett tied for game-high scoring honors with 26 points, ripped down a game-high 14 rebounds and added four assists, three steals and a blocked shot. Garnett shot 10-18 from the field and was the best all around player on the court. Ray Allen also scored 26 points, shooting 8-12 from the field, including 7-9 from three point range. Allen tied the single game Finals record with his seven three pointers and his 22 three pointers in the series shattered the old record of 17 that had been held by Dan Majerle (1993) and Derek Harper (1994). Rajon Rondo had a brilliant all around game: 21 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and six steals, just one short of Robert Horry's single game Finals record. James Posey came off of the bench to score 11 points on 4-4 shooting and play excellent defense against Kobe Bryant, while fellow reserve Eddie House added nine points and five assists.

Here is all you need to know about how balanced and deep the Celtics are: Finals MVP Paul Pierce shot 4-13 from the field and was Boston's fourth leading scorer in the series clincher. Pierce finished with 17 points and a game-high 10 assists. He averaged 21.8 ppg, 6.3 apg and 4.5 rpg while shooting .432 from the field in the series. It is interesting how perception becomes reality and how winning alters perception: this is being called a breakout series for Pierce, yet those numbers are lower than his career regular season averages in every category except assists. Pierce certainly played well in the Finals, he would have received my vote for Finals MVP and he was the best player on the court at times but this series and Boston's entire playoff run did not reveal anything new about his game except, perhaps, his ability to play very good defense; what this series showed is how much a team can accomplish when everyone focuses primarily on winning and when a team has a defensive mindset. Pierce has been a great player for many years but now that the Celtics are a championship team people are more willing and able to recognize and acknowledge his abilities.

Frankly, no Laker played particularly well. The Celtics were determined to not let regular season MVP Kobe Bryant beat them and, other than a quick 11 point burst in the first quarter, they forced Bryant to take contested shots or pass the ball to teammates who lacked focus, discipline and purpose. Bryant finished with a hard earned 22 points on 7-22 field goal shooting, plus three rebounds, one assist and four turnovers. Bryant would never admit to being tired but Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said that Bryant seemed a little leg weary as the game wore on; that is hardly surprising considering that this team depends on him to score 30 points while shooting a good percentage, create scoring opportunities for players who cannot do so for themselves and have a major impact defensively by either guarding a top notch scorer such as Paul Pierce or Ray Allen or by being a Scottie Pippen-like help defender who roams around covering up the defensive shortcomings of his teammates. I've said my piece on the stupid and superficial Michael Jordan-Kobe Bryant comparisons but any objective comparison of these two players has to begin with an incontrovertible fact: when Michael Jordan won six championships he played alongside a Top 50 player in Scottie Pippen, a guy who was the team's leading playmaker and who shouldered a major load defensively. In contrast, the Lakers essentially need Bryant to be Jordan and Pippen--scorer, facilitator, primary defender and help defender--while critics are interpreting Bryant's failure to be both guys to mean that he is not as good as Jordan was. I don't think that Bryant is as good as Jordan was but this series did not really shed any new light on that subject: the Celtics have three future Hall of Famers plus a number of excellent role players, while the Lakers have Bryant and a supporting cast that is not nearly as good as advertised, a point that I made repeatedly during the playoffs even as I correctly picked the Lakers to win the West precisely because I rightly expected that Bryant's greatness would be enough to mask the team's weaknesses.

Lamar Odom had quite possibly the least meaningful double double in Finals history, shooting just 2-8 from the field while compiling 14 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. He amassed 10 of his points and three of his rebounds after the Lakers already trailed by at least 24 points. Jordan Farmar scored 12 points off of the bench, but the Lakers trailed by between 27 and 40 points when he scored the last nine of them in the fourth quarter. Pau Gasol had an incredibly soft and indifferent performance, producing just 11 points and eight rebounds while committing five turnovers; the contrast between Garnett's strong presence in the paint and Gasol's meek, timid effort was stunning and that was probably the single biggest individual mismatch in this game, with Ray Allen versus Sasha Vujacic coming in second--the major difference being that Garnett dominated Gasol when the outcome was in doubt, while Allen rained three pointers versus Vujacic's clueless defense when the Celtics already enjoyed a large lead.

Nothing that happened in the first five games or the initial 17 minutes of game six gave any indication of how lopsided this contest would turn out to be. Keep in mind that in the past two games the Lakers ran out to huge first quarter leads and even when they trailed by 24 in game two they roared back to cut the margin to two points late in the fourth quarter. These teams seemed to be evenly matched squads that featured contrasting styles, a gritty and tenacious Boston defense battling a powerful L.A. offense--and then Boston simply steamrolled L.A. in the final 31 minutes.

The Lakers took a 4-0 lead after Bryant hit a long jumper and Derek Fisher sank two free throws. The Celtics missed their first four shots and the early moments of the game looked like a carbon copy of the first quarters of games four and five, when Bryant nominally guarded Rondo while roaming around disrupting Boston's offense. ABC's Jeff Van Gundy said, "I love what Kobe's done on the first two possessions, the help he's given to force the ball to Rondo." An early sign that the other Lakers were not prepared to match Boston's focus and physicality came when Gasol received the ball in the post and absentmindedly allowed Rondo to simply rip it right out of his hands. Rondo burst down court and fed Allen for a transition three pointer. On the next possession the Lakers again gave the ball to Gasol in the post but instead of making a strong move he fired a wild pass that Bryant had to run out to half court to save. Allen and Kendrick Perkins double teamed Bryant at halfcourt as the shot clock went below 10 seconds and the possession ended with Odom bricking a three pointer. ABC's Mark Jackson observed, "That's the third time he (Gasol) caught the ball on the block--very passive, very tentative. He has to look to score." The Celtics defense has primarily focused on stopping Bryant anyway and once it became clear that no other Laker had brought any kind of game with him they attacked Bryant like a shark detecting blood in the water.

Allen made a couple free throws to put the Celtics ahead by one point but then Bryant sandwiched two three pointers around a couple Rondo free throws to put the Lakers up, 10-7. Allen made a technical free throw after a defensive three seconds call and after Perkins missed a layup, Odom grabbed the rebound and went coast to coast. As he crossed midcourt, I wondered aloud, "Missed layup, offensive foul or turnover?" This time it turned out to be the former, as Odom's layup attempt bounced wildly off of the backboard. As I have mentioned before, Odom's shots have no touch from any distance--they either go directly in or they miss badly, but he rarely benefits from a "shooter's roll," even on layups. Hubie Brown often says that when you miss a layup in the NBA the other team scores within a few seconds and, sure enough, Garnett Bogarted Gasol in the lane and made a layup to tie the score.

The next time down the court, Bryant and Gasol ran a screen/roll play. Bryant threw a behind the back pass to Gasol but Rondo again ripped the ball out of Gasol's hands. Bryant stole the ball right back and when Rondo grabbed his jersey Bryant flung the ball at the hoop from behind the three point line, trying for a four point play but no foul was called. Incredibly, the ball almost went in the hoop anyway. The next time the Lakers had the ball, Gasol posted up the much smaller Pierce and, instead of forcefully using his height and size advantage, missed a fadeaway jumper. Mark Jackson declared, "That's good defense but that's horrible offense...Phil Jackson got up, looked at Gasol and said, 'You have to play tough.' And he's 100% right. There should be 13 guys talking to him that way."

The Celtics made just three of their first 15 field goal attempts but they kept the score close by forcing turnovers and crashing the offensive boards. Bryant continued to try to get Gasol and Odom involved but that simply did not work. Bryant drove to the hoop, drew a double team and tried to feed Odom in the paint but Odom literally backed away from the ball and Pierce stepped in for the steal. A Rondo jumper gave the Celtics a 12-10 lead and the Lakers once again fed Gasol in the post. Gasol got nothing accomplished and passed the ball back to Bryant with just four seconds left on the shot clock. Bryant pump faked, used an escape dribble and buried a three pointer to make the score 13-12 Lakers at the 5:30 mark; he made four of his first five shots and scored 11 of the Lakers' points. After Bryant's shot went in, Van Gundy exclaimed, "That is incredible right here. Good close out by Ray Allen, good pressure on the shot." The problem for the Lakers is that you cannot beat a 66 win team when only one player came to play and the other players expect him to do everything for them offensively and defensively. Van Gundy said of Gasol, "Three turnovers, soft on the boards, soft on the post. The contact level is going to be higher in this game and Pau Gasol's got to play through it."

If the Lakers had a better, more complete team then Bryant would guard Allen but the Lakers had so many other defensive problems that they put Fisher on Allen and used Bryant to roam around and clean up everyone else's mistakes. While that helped to keep Pierce and Garnett quiet in the early going, Allen scored eight points in the first 7:30. The Lakers enjoyed their last lead of the game at the 3:31 mark when Luke Walton's two free throws put them up 18-16. Garnett made three straight shots and Pierce hit a jumper to give the Celtics a 24-20 lead at the end of the quarter. The Lakers' final six possessions of the quarter consisted of another steal by Rondo from Gasol, a missed layup by Bryant, a turnover when Farmar dribbled between his legs and lost the ball out of bounds, a missed jumper by Farmar, two free throws by Farmar and a missed three pointer by Bryant. Bryant finished the quarter with 11 points on 4-7 shooting, while Garnett led the Celtics with 10 points on 5-7 shooting. Michele Tafoya interviewed Coach Jackson after the quarter and he stated the obvious: "Pau's got to do a better job...He's got to be stronger."

Jackson substituted Ronny Turiaf for Gasol at the start of the second quarter and kept Bryant in the game instead of giving him his usual rest. The Lakers tried to post up Turiaf but Sasha Vujacic was unable to feed him the ball, so Bryant received a pass at the top of the key with 11 seconds left on the shot clock. While the other four Lakers stood around instead of cutting or setting screens, Bryant tried to create something against some excellent defense by Posey. Bryant finally ended up nearly making a contested jumper over Posey. The Lakers retained possession after a loose ball foul and Vujacic made a jumper to cut the lead to 24-22.

I thought that the most important offensive set in this series would be the Bryant-Gasol screen/roll play but after some initial success early in the series Gasol became increasingly tentative and that set lost some of its effectiveness. Meanwhile, the Celtics gave the Lakers a taste of their own medicine by involving Pierce in a lot of screen/roll plays. Usually, Garnett set the screens but in game six House set the screens, forcing the Lakers to find a way to react without leaving him or Pierce open. The Lakers had a great deal of difficulty defending this play, as first House hit a jumper and then Pierce drained a three pointer. Odom actually had a productive coast to coast excursion, drawing a foul and making two free throws to pull the Lakers to within 29-26. Then Pierce missed a three pointer but after Odom got the rebound he threw a horrible full court pass that Posey easily intercepted. Pierce drove to the hoop and got his fifth assist on a nice feed to Leon Powe.

After Bryant missed a three pointer, another Pierce-House screen/roll led to Fisher switching on to Pierce, who took him into the post, drew a foul and split a pair of free throws. Bryant made a free throw after a defensive three seconds call and Gasol made perhaps his best move of the night, connecting on a hook shot for his first field goal of the game. The Lakers only trailed 32-29 at the 7:50 mark and no one could have imagined the onslaught that was about to take place. It began with the Celtics getting three offensive rebounds on one possession, a tremendous display of energy and hustle that led to a Posey three pointer. Then House hit a three pointer and two free throws and Posey drained a three pointer as the Celtics made an 11-0 run in just 2:21. The Lakers never got closer than 10 points the rest of the game.

After Vladimir Radmanovic missed a three pointer, he committed his third foul by bumping Pierce on an inbounds play. Van Gundy said, "That's an inexplicable play by Radmanovic. It's a hard enough matchup but to bail Pierce out at 20 feet knowing that you are in the penalty, that's just bad basketball." Pierce made the two free throws to increase the lead to 47-33. The Celtics closed the quarter on a 9-0 run in the last 1:59 to take a 58-35 halftime lead. Garnett had 17 points on 8-12 shooting plus six rebounds, while Pierce shot just 2-9 from the field but had 10 points and nine assists; the Lakers failed miserably to defend his screen/roll plays with House, repeatedly giving up open shots to Pierce, House or one of the Celtics' big men. Bryant had 14 points on 4-11 shooting, missing his last six attempts. Gasol had six points and four turnovers in the first half, while Odom scored just four points in the first half, missing all four of his field goal attempts.

If the Lakers took any solace from the fact that they had been able to cut a 24 point deficit to two points in game two, the Celtics quickly dashed those hopes in the third quarter. Van Gundy summed matters up nicely: "Indifferent defense by the Lakers as a team." The Lakers gave up 31 points in the third quarter and 42 points in the fourth quarter and did not even hint at making a rally. Allen hit six of his three pointers in the second half as Vujacic repeatedly failed to trail him on screens, leaving him wide open. Bryant made three of his first six field goal attempts of the half but after his driving layup at the 2:18 mark of the third quarter the Lakers still trailed 85-56. He missed his final five field goal attempts of the game.

The Celtics deserve a lot of credit for the tremendous commitment they displayed at the defensive end of the court from the first game of the regular season until the final moments of the NBA Finals. Coach Doc Rivers emphasized defense and he brought in assistant coach Tom Thibodeau to construct the team's defensive game plan; before ESPN.com's Bill Simmons dares to celebrate the Celtics' triumph he should have to write 100 times, a la Bart Simpson, "Doc Rivers is a very good NBA coach." Garnett set the tone at the defensive end of the court and everyone else followed. Pierce and Allen were not known as exceptional defenders prior to this season but they each rose to the challenge, especially in the playoffs. Anyone who thinks that one player should get all the credit or all the blame for what happens to his team must keep in mind that last season Pierce's Celtics, Garnett's Minnesota Timberwolves, and Allen's Seattle SuperSonics each missed the playoffs. Only by combining forces, sacrificing parts of their offensive games and committing to playing defense did these three future Hall of Famers finally win the championship that had eluded each of them for their entire careers. Another significant factor in the Celtics' success is the play of the team's bench, led by playoff tested veterans James Posey, Eddie House, Sam Cassell and P.J. Brown. Young big men Leon Powe and Glen "Big Baby" Davis also contributed at various times during the regular season and the playoffs. Finally, young starters Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins were considered to be major question marks coming into the season but they proved their value on many occasions.

The Lakers were a popular pick to win this series. I thought that the Lakers would win but not for the reasons that other people did, such as their supposed depth. Frankly, when I saw how many people were picking the Lakers--and who some of those people were--the thought occurred to me that perhaps I had made a mistake. I thought that the Lakers would win because of the very high level that Bryant played at during the first three playoff series, a run that included victories over the defending champion Spurs and the other 2007 Western Conference Finalists, the Utah Jazz. Both of those teams are more physical than the Lakers, who were outrebounded overall during their first 15 playoff games. Defense and rebounding win championships but the Lakers defended well enough in spurts and were so efficient offensively that I thought they could prevail over the Celtics even though I expected the Celtics to outrebound them. In the first three rounds, the Lakers made good use of the Bryant-Gasol screen/roll action, constantly creating good shots for Gasol or for various Lakers on the weak side. Bryant averaged more than 30 ppg while shooting better than .500 from the field. Watching the Celtics struggle to knock off Cleveland despite LeBron James' inability to shoot from the perimeter, I assumed that the Celtics would have a great deal of problems containing the Bryant-Gasol screen/roll because Bryant is such a great perimeter shooter. What went wrong for the Lakers?

1) Although Bryant shot better than James did versus Boston and committed fewer turnovers, Bryant did not shoot .450 from the field, which I considered to be the benchmark for both he and the Lakers.
2) Gasol and Odom played timidly for most of the series.
3) No other Laker stepped up consistently on offense.
4) Collectively the Lakers lacked energy and toughness.
5) Bryant proved to be the only competent Laker perimeter defender, which necessitated using him as a roamer plus as the primary defender on Pierce or Allen at different times.
6) The Lakers got no production out of the small forward position.
7) The Lakers got outrebounded by 5 rpg, which is right at the edge of what I considered to be a working margin for them, but they failed to make up for this deficit with excellent offensive execution.

All of the talk about a Lakers' dynasty in the making is extremely premature. Andrew Bynum has yet to put together half a season's worth of productive NBA games, let alone prove that he can be a reliable playoff performer. When--if--he fully returns to health he can give the Lakers more paint presence but he will not singlehandedly correct all of the problems that the Lakers had in the Finals. Also, I have yet to hear serious discussion of the fact that he, Gasol and Odom cannot possibly play extended minutes together because none of them is a small forward. Bynum or Gasol can play center with Odom at power forward or Bynum can play center with Gasol at power forward but if Gasol and Bynum are on the court together then Odom will have to be on the bench in favor of someone who can play small forward. The ideal scenario for the Lakers would be for Bynum to quickly prove that he is healthy and productive so that the Lakers can trade Odom in exchange for a legitimate starting small forward; that is a position that is a glaring need for them, because Vladimir Radmanovic, Luke Walton and Trevor Ariza are each best suited to be bench players.

Also, while many people have said how great Gasol is--and some have ludicrously suggested that he is more valuable than Bryant--I have consistently and correctly insisted that Gasol is a good player, a one-time All-Star, but not a true franchise player. Everyone who mocked Memphis for trading him failed to understand why they made that move. Gasol had been their best player for many years and they never won a single playoff game--not a series mind you, but a single game. The Grizzlies came to the conclusion that they could never build a championship team around him, so they decided to get rid of him and stockpile draft picks and expiring contracts. Whether this works depends on who they draft and which free agents they are able to sign but the relevant factor in this discussion is that Gasol is emphatically not a franchise player and not an elite player, a designation that I reserve for the top 15 players in the league--members of the All-NBA Team, a distinction that Gasol has never earned even once (Garnett has made the All-NBA Team nine times, Pierce has made it three times, Allen has made it twice and Cassell made it once). Gasol's field goal percentage soared as a Laker because of all of the easy scoring opportunities he received as a result of the defensive attention that is focused on Bryant.

The reality is that the Lakers are not as good a team from players 2-12 as many people think and Bryant deserves even more credit for the team's success than he has received, although you can be quite certain that the story will be spun 100% opposite to that truth in the coming days, weeks and months.

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posted by David Friedman @ 6:20 AM

36 comments

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36 Comments:

At Wednesday, June 18, 2008 8:46:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

Its unbelievable how manay people underestimated the Celtics.

The MJ/Bryant talk is very stupid and disgraceful. Ive never seen anyone play defense on Bryant the way Posey did. Bryant played a terrible series. I know he needs more help from Gasoft and Odom but players were getting technicals and taking stupid shots. Everyone had the Lakers as the favorite and because of Gasoft the Lakers were going to dominant the Celtics.

You asked what went wrong with the Lakers? The Celtics is what went wrong. You dont mention that. They played great defense and should have won the series in 4. The reason for your 7 points are the Celtics. They outphysicaled the Lakers and made Bryant work all series.

 
At Wednesday, June 18, 2008 9:29:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe Johnson & LeBron James were able to extend the Celtics to a game 7, Kobe got blown out in 6.

My take:
A. A championship team has to take its lumps before winning it all. Individually, KG, PP, and Allen got their lumps(a lot of them).
The Hawks series basically prepared them for the Cavs series. I think the Cavs would have beaten them if the Celtics, as a team, didn't get to face adversity earlier.
The Cavs series also hardened them for the Pistons, then the Lakers. Credit goes to the Celtics for learning quickly.

B. Kobe is not Joe Johnson/LeBron James. Both players are bigger and stronger. They can get into the lane and absorb contact a bit easier, and they didn't have to expend as much energy pushing PP out of the lane.
You keep saying that Kobe doesn't have any weaknesses, but there are some areas that other guards are better at than him.
The Celtics did a better job of keeping Kobe out of the paint and off the line than they did on Johnson and James.
You simply cannot blame this one on the Lakers supporting cast. They did spread the floor and they were pretty willing to fire up jumpers.
I'm not blaming Kobe here either, but he was not as good as Joe Johnson or LeBron James in the one area that the Celtics feared.

Your thoughts?


I completely disagree with you on Ray Allen's HoF worthiness, I'm not even convinced with Pierce's. Before this season, Pierce and Allen were putting up good numbers on bad teams.
They weren't known for their defense. You can easily put them together with Vince Carter, Jermaine O'Neal, Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol! KG was putting up incredible numbers on a bad team. Only KG is in the HoF debate.

I'm sorry, but as a reader, I keep on getting the feeling that you are hyping up the Celtics, and putting down the Lakers supporting casts to "counter balance" what most of the media is doing.
I don't think that I'm the only one who gets this feeling too. I don't even recall you ever mentioning Pierce and Allen with the HoF before this series. But if you did, I would have disagreed with you then as I am disagreeing now.

Yes Gasol and Odom were incredibly soft and timid in this series, but they didn't play like this in the regular season, or in the earlier rounds of the playoffs.
The Lakers have enought talent to beat the Celtics, everyone can see that. If Gasol was just at his normal level of softness, and Odom just averaged his career mistakes/game, you would pick the Lakers.
However, Odom got even more mistake prone and Gasol reached new levels of softness. They weren't playing to their potential and that's why they lost; not because they were not as talented as the Celtics as you seem to suggest.
Bottom line is, the Lakers are talented enough to beat the Celtics. The Celtics just played harder and tougher.

Z

 
At Wednesday, June 18, 2008 11:15:00 AM, Blogger Allen said...

Great. Let the media crucification of Kobe Bryant begin. Ugh. Yours is the only site I can bear to read after the Lakers debacle.

 
At Wednesday, June 18, 2008 1:07:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The reality is that the Lakers are not as good a team from players 2-12 as many people think and Bryant deserves even more credit for the team's success than he has received, although you can be quite certain that the story will be spun 100% opposite to that truth in the coming days, weeks and months."

finally some one gets it... thank you

i too came away from the celtics 39 point victory (to win the nba title) feeling that the key story of the game was that the NBA's MVP, who was on the losing end of that game (and shot 3-17, after the opening minutes) is underappreciated

you captured my reaction, in the conclusion to your piece, whereas the mainstream media continues to get it wrong

thank you

 
At Wednesday, June 18, 2008 5:58:00 PM, Anonymous DHSmd said...

Eric Pincus over at Hoopsworld is reporting rumors that Ron Artest may opt out this summer, looking for a five-year mid-level exemption contract. To which I responded:

OMG, news like this sure could brighten the Lakers Summer.

Sign Artest, get Bynum back healthy, and Bryant healthy, and this team goes from being a soft and cowardly team without a small forward to being rock solid, tough, tenacious, and complete. They could dump Odom for a draft pick, if anyone would take him.

Keeping my fingers crossed (when not joined in prayer that this comes true).

It is true that the Lakers would still be very young, untested at Center, and unproven/soft at power forward, but they would be infinitely better, with a short-to-medium term future that looked far more secure than it does at the moment.

My question for that team would mostly revolve around Pau. Does he hurt enough from this to be willing to learn from it? Will he work hard in the off-season on building his body, while opening his mind to accept some serious coaching? The right answers could bode well for him and the Lakers. The wrong ones, and he could be the subject of trade rumors for the rest of his career in LA.

 
At Wednesday, June 18, 2008 6:53:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: "Also, I have yet to hear serious discussion of the fact that he, Gasol and Odom cannot possibly play extended minutes together because none of them is a small forward."

Jerry West said the same thing on the Dan Patrick show, so you are in good, albeit small, company.

I expect Bynum will come off the bench until the Lakers see what he offers. I'm not sure Lamar and his contract will get them a good SF and if he doesn't, they should exercise his option anyway: he is a good, useful player that was integral to getting this team the #1 seed and to the finals. He's not great, he's not why they lost, and he's a pretty good part to have.

I worry about Kupchak's history with their mid level exception (Devean George, Aaron McKie, Vlad Radmonovic) or resigning Mihm and Walton. Fisher fell in his lap and Gasol did too but only because no other owner would take on the financial burden. What gives anyone confidence that he'll make a good signing or trade?

 
At Wednesday, June 18, 2008 7:18:00 PM, Anonymous S.Tiku said...

David,

Great post as usual. In this post, you have written how the Celtics dominated in almost all facets of the game, but yet you had chosen the Lakers to win this series, and you have embellished why you picked them to win. In one of your reasons, you said

"Watching the Celtics struggle to knock off Cleveland despite LeBron James' inability to shoot from the perimeter, I assumed that the Celtics would have a great deal of problems containing the Bryant-Gasol screen/roll because Bryant is such a great perimeter shooter."

I agree that Kobe Bryant has much more range than Lebron James, and his shooting form is superior to James', however, you have failed to acknowledge one fundamental difference between the two teams, that Cleveland Cavaliers are a much superior team defensively as a whole than the Los Angeles Lakers. During the course of the game, Van Gundy reiterated how poor the Lakers were defensively as a team, even though they arguably have better individual defenders (apart from Radmanovic) I think this is the main reason why the Cavaliers pushed Boston to the brink of elimination, apart from Lebron James

 
At Wednesday, June 18, 2008 9:13:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

big men win titles:

--Hakeem ('94, 95)

--Shaq ('00-02, 06)

--Duncan (99*, 03, 05,07)

--Garnett (08)

* (Duncan won 99 with another big man, Robinson)

...all of them were league mvps too

plus Ben Wallace (04) ... 4time defensive player of year

with exception of MJ/Pip, you need big men... it's as simple as that...

--J.

 
At Wednesday, June 18, 2008 11:36:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Madnice:

I'm not sure if I underestimated the Celtics or overestimated the Lakers' supporting cast based on how they performed in the first three series.

Battier, Bowen and Prince are similarly sized to Posey and play defense in a similar fashion, though Posey is probably a bit longer than Bowen. The Celtics have a very good team concept, so even if Kobe would get past Posey he would just be dribbling into trouble.

Bryant shot poorly but I would not say that he had a "terrible" series overall. He had a below average series based on his standards.

I disagree completely that I did not mention the Celtics. Most of my post explains exactly who played well for the Celtics and what their specific contributions were and I also explained who did not play well for the Lakers and what their "contributions" were.

I also disagree completely that the Celtics should have won in four games. That series came very close to being tied 2-2 and the first five games were all decided by 10 points or less. You are being swayed by what happened in the last 31 minutes of the final game.

 
At Thursday, June 19, 2008 12:46:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Z:

JJ and LeBron did not singlehandedly extend those series; their teams did. Atlanta posed a problem for the Celtics because the Hawks have a very athletic team, while the Cavs are a very good defensive team.

A: I agree with you that the Celtics seemed to improve with each round of the playoffs. They needed to do so because the competition got stiffer each round, although I think that Cleveland was a tougher test than Detroit.

B: JJ, LeBron and Kobe are each different players with different strengths. Let's look at their numbers versus Boston in this year's playoffs.

JJ averaged 20.0 ppg, 4.0 apg and 3.9 rpg versus Boston. He had two steals, no blocked shots and 16 turnovers in seven games. He shot .409 from the field, .444 from three point range and .909 on free throws. JJ attempted 33 free throws in that series.

LeBron averaged 26.7 ppg, 7.6 apg and 6.4 rpg versus Boston. He had 15 steals, nine blocked shots and 37 turnovers in seven games. He shot .355 from the field, .231 from three point range and .756 on free throws. LeBron attempted 90 free throws in that series.

Kobe averaged 25.7 ppg, 5.0 apg and 4.7 rpg versus Boston. He had 16 steals, one blocked shot and 23 turnovers in six games. He shot .405 from the field, .321 from three point range and .796 on free throws. Kobe attempted 49 free throws in that series.

Looking at the numbers, we see that Kobe averaged more points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocked shots versus Boston than JJ. Contrary to what you implied, he also shot more free throws than JJ and by a not insignificant margin. Their field goal percentages are a draw and JJ shot better from three point range and the free throw line. Overall, Kobe clearly did better versus Boston that JJ did.

LeBron is a small forward, while Kobe and JJ are guards, so it is not surprising that LeBron enjoyed a rebounding advantage; LeBron is as big as some power forwards. LeBron averaged more assists but he also had a lot more turnovers. His shooting percentages were terrible from the field and three point range and just average from the free throw line. By and large, what I have been saying all season proved to be true: I said that Kobe would shoot a higher percentage against great defenses like the Spurs and Celtics than LeBron and that he would turn the ball over fewer times. Both of those assertions proved to be true. Kobe was simply fantastic against the Spurs, better than even I expected him to be. Kobe did not shoot as well versus Boston as I expected; I thought that he could shoot around .450 from the field and that this would be enough for the Lakers to win.

It does not matter how much the Lakers tried to spread the floor; their shooters did not make shots and the Celtics were perfectly willing to let them fire away while they built a wall around the paint to prevent Kobe from driving. You have to balance LeBron's greater number of free throw attempts with his larger number of turnovers.

As for the HoF discussion, I don't consider this stat to be definitive but it is worth mentioning: Basketball Reference.com has a Hall of Fame monitor that compares players' stats in various categories to Hall of Famers and determines the probability that they will be inducted in the HoF. KG ranks out at 100%. He is without question a first ballot HoFer. Pierce is given a better than 95% chance, while Allen is given a better than 93% chance. If you look at Pierce and Allen's stats and career honors and compare them with HoFers it is pretty clear that they will attain this honor. More to the point regarding this series, KG was one of the top five players in the NBA this season, Pierce was a top 15 player (All-NBA Third Team) and Allen was a top 20-25 player (All-Star). Kobe was the best player in the NBA this season but Gasol was probably no better than 30th, Odom is significantly lower than that and the other Lakers aren't even worth mentioning because they would all be in triple digits. Take Kobe and KG out of the discussion, match the Lakers and Celtics up man for man by value--not necessarily by position--and I'd take the Celtics over the Lakers pretty much down the line: Pierce over Gasol, Allen over Odom and so on down the line--the bench disparity was glaringly in favor of Boston and proved what I've been saying all along, that the Lakers' bench is very overrated.

I have been very consistent with my evaluation of the Lakers' supporting cast and of the strengths and weaknesses of the Celtics' three star players.

The Lakers are less talented overall than the Celtics but prior to the series I did think that the advantage of having Kobe Bryant would outweigh that difference. Clearly, I was wrong about that.

 
At Thursday, June 19, 2008 2:00:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Allen:

This will be a very long summer for anyone who favors objective NBA analysis over superficial commentary and knee jerk reactions.

 
At Thursday, June 19, 2008 2:04:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

For some strange reason, people seem to be completely willing and able to totally forget about how Kobe averaged over 30 ppg while shooting better than .500 from the field as he led a young, inexperienced team to series victories over three 50+ win teams to win a Western Conference that many consider to be the most competitive ever. That is a remarkable accomplishment and nothing that happened in the Finals should take anything away from that.

The Lakers lost to a better team that was able to smother Kobe defensively without having to worry about anybody else hurting them.

 
At Thursday, June 19, 2008 2:14:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

I don't disagree about the value of having an HoF caliber big man. Kobe already teamed up with such a player to win three championships and I'm sure that if he currently had an HoF big man that his team would be in the Finals every year and win many championships.

My contention about Kobe is that he is capable of winning a championship with less help than any other perimeter player in the game today. Kobe came within two wins of a championship with a frontline consisting of a one-time All-Star, a power forward dubbed "confused" by his own coach and a small forward that coach called a "space cadet," with little frontcourt help on the bench. If the Lakers had had a legit NBA starting small forward or--even better--a big man who not only has skills but has a physical, nasty disposition, they could have beaten the Celtics. Matter of fact, if Gasol had not been spooked out of playing the way that he did in the first three series, the Lakers could have won this series. I mean no disrespect to the Celtics; they played great defense and they are worthy champions.

 
At Thursday, June 19, 2008 2:25:00 AM, Anonymous laperez8 said...

David,
thanks for your insightful analysis all year and your thoughtful responses to readers.

The readers here made some good points and also some knee-jerk reactions. But one thing is true, especially of the Lakers - They are a franchise that has not won a title in my recollection without a great center (Mikan, Chamberlain, Jabbar, Shaq) and I hope a healthy Bynum is next in line. I can't wait for next season.

 
At Thursday, June 19, 2008 2:29:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

DHSMD:

Artest certainly has the right skill set to fill the Lakers' needs at small forward and Jackson has proven that he can successfully coach players who are, shall we say, eccentric, but I don't think that Artest is as focused on basketball--or as smart of a player--as Dennis Rodman was. When the Bulls brought Rodman in he respected Jackson and Jordan; I remember a film clip when Rodman was acting up in some way and Jordan walked over and sternly said, "That's enough Dennis." Obviously, that did not always work because Rodman still got suspended sometimes but Jackson and Jordan were able to keep Rodman in the fold for the most part and those teams were laden with veterans. Other than Kobe and Fisher, this is a young team and not a particularly tough-minded one. I'm not sure if the positives of signing Artest would outweigh the negatives; I'm not dismissing the idea out of hand but I can't wholeheartedly endorse it, either. Jackson would have to have a face to face talk with Artest before the Lakers sign him and really outline exactly what they expect from him and see if Artest is willing to abide by that.

 
At Thursday, June 19, 2008 2:35:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

I don't listen to the Dan Patrick show but thank you for pointing this out. I did not mean to imply that serious basketball people--GMs, coaches and scouts--don't understand this point but rather that most members of the media neglect to mention this when they wax poetic about the Lakers' dynasty that is supposedly in the making.

I agree that Odom is a good piece to have--now that he is the third option behind Gasol. However, the Lakers have to get Gasol to always play like the second option and they have to get Odom to understand that being the third option means you get the defensive rebound, pass to a guard and fill a lane as opposed to dribbling down court acting like you are Magic Johnson. Odom is a very good defensive rebounder but he needs to give the ball up and be a finisher at the end of the break, not the decision maker leading the break.

I don't know what kind of deals are available for Kupchak to make or if he will make good ones; I just stated in the post what the Lakers need to do: I make no prediction about whether or not they will be able to follow my suggestions.

 
At Thursday, June 19, 2008 2:43:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

S. Tiku:

I agree that the Cavs are a much better defensive team than the Lakers but I am surprised that you think that I have not mentioned this difference. I have been calling the Cavs an underrated team for 2-3 years now and I have said on many occasions that their formula for victory is the brilliance of LeBron James, rebounding and defense.

However, I am also trying to make a point to all those who say that LeBron is better than Kobe; ever since last year's Finals I steadfastly maintained that no team could or would defend Kobe the way that the Spurs guarded LeBron--sagging off of him, conceding the jumper and clogging his passing lanes. Kobe absolutely destroyed that same Spurs team in this year's playoffs. Clearly, he did not have as much success against Boston, but Kobe shot much better than LeBron and had a much lower turnover rate, which is exactly what I predicted would happen. As Jerry West said during the series, you don't have to worry about Kobe: it's the other guys (on the Lakers) that you have to worry about. Those other guys let Kobe down in the Finals.

Also, although Boston used many of the same principles throughout the playoffs, a key difference in their approach versus Kobe is that they double-teamed him hard on screen/roll plays. If Gasol had been more aggressive then he could have had a field day against this coverage. The Spurs and Celtics did not trap LeBron for the most part and when they did it was a soft trap that conceded the outside shot.

 
At Thursday, June 19, 2008 2:51:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

laperez8:

You're welcome. Thank you for your interest in my site.

The Lakers definitely have a long, proud tradition of great centers, one that extends back to the earliest days of the league. I'm not sure if Bynum will turn out to be quite in the same class of the guys you mentioned--and I am a bit concerned about how serious his knee injury will really turn out to be--but, as I have said more than once, I don't believe that Kobe has to have a HoF quality big man to lead the Lakers to a title. If Bynum can produce even just 13-10 and play good defense in the paint as a center and Gasol can put up 18-9 as a power forward then the Lakers will be in fine shape at those positions. They will still have to figure out how to use Odom in that scenario and it would be helpful if they upgraded the sf position.

 
At Thursday, June 19, 2008 9:27:00 AM, Anonymous J said...

There's a great YouTube video of Ron Artest interviewing Kobe recently -- I think he respects Kobe plenty (he called him, along with LeBron, his basketball idol or something). I suspect Phil & Kobe could keep him in line just fine.

Thanks as always for your excellent analysis.

 
At Thursday, June 19, 2008 9:29:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

They easily should have won that series in 4. The final game has nothing to do with my opinion of the first 4 games.

In your seven points of what went wrong with the Lakers you didnt say it was the Celtics. Because thats what it was. I understand you broke it down more thorughly but the Celtics play contributed to all of the Lakers problems.

Bryant, who is supposed to be Jordan or better (you have never said this but some have) did not show why he should even be in the same sentence as Mike. He did not have a good series but his standards. His scoring average was lower than the past series and with the expection of some good quarters he never dominated a game like he usually does. Maybe terrible is a strong word but I expected a lot more and he didnt deliver at all.

 
At Thursday, June 19, 2008 9:31:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

Battier, Prince and Bowen have never played defense that well against Bryant. Posey was stealing the ball from him and not going for an shot fakes. The Celtics better keep him.

 
At Thursday, June 19, 2008 12:36:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Overall, Kobe clearly did better versus Boston that JJ did."

you didnt watch game 4 of atlanta series did you? JJ took over 4th quarter for 22 pts or something

interesting that you say that numbers are deceptive -- and thus Gasol is overrated, b/c he isnt as good as his numbers -- and then you rely solely on simple stats to put your kb24 over JJ...

maybe you could argue that boston played better D vs. LAL, but other than that, JJ was clearly better than your kb24

also it is very disappointing that this whole site is devoted to your kb24, without attention to players like Rondo, Powe, etc., who really swayed key games

 
At Thursday, June 19, 2008 3:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm probably misreading the HOF Monitor rankings somehow, but what I see on the site -- http://www.slate.com/id/2193841/ -- says that neither Pierce nor Allen are likely to make the HOF. (A score of 135 or more is "likely HOF;" Pierce is at 120 and Allen at 115. Both are below, for example, Horace Grant.

 
At Thursday, June 19, 2008 6:04:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

J:

I have not seen that video. I do remember hearing something about Artest really respecting Kobe's game. I suspect it would shock many casual fans how much Kobe is respected within the league, especially considering how much he is disrespected by people who don't understand the game.

I'm not ruling out that Artest would be a good fit for the Lakers. Skill set wise, he is perfect. I'm just a little skeptical based on his track record. He has serious anger management issues that have been well documented and actually go well beyond, say, Rasheed's penchant for getting technicals.

 
At Thursday, June 19, 2008 6:15:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Madnice:

Prior to game six, the outcome of every single game was in doubt in the last two or three minutes, so it is absurd to say that the Celtics should have won in four games; I could just as easily pick out a few possessions and say that the Lakers should have won in four games. I don't believe that, mind you, but that is every bit as plausible as what you are saying. Give the Lakers each shot by Bryant that went in and out of the hoop in game one and they win that game. If the Lakers get Kobe a touch on the last possession instead of having Vujacic shoot a three that Pierce blocks they could have won that game. Obviously, they blew a bunch of chances to win game four. So, there you go: Lakers sweep!

Again, let me emphasize that I don't buy what I just said. The Celtics earned those wins and proved that they are the superior team--but they are not better than the Lakers by the margin that you are suggesting.

As for MJ-Kobe, I have said many times that I think that MJ was a greater player--but why do you say that Kobe cannot even be in the same sentence? Honestly, you and others are getting to the point that you are deifying MJ. He's a human being. He's not perfect. He took bad shots, he made turnovers, his teams did not win every single game and every single championship. The reality is that MJ never took a team to the Finals that was as weak from 2-12 as this Lakers team. MJ never won a thing--not one playoff series--without having a HoF coach, a Top 50 player and a very, very good supporting cast. I rate MJ ahead of Kobe because MJ's skill set was superior in certain ways but the players certainly can be put in the same sentence and compared. Kobe is clearly the best player in the league right now and he is more similar to MJ than any other player has been since MJ retired. People inside the league--GMs, coaches, players, scouts--consistently say that.

 
At Thursday, June 19, 2008 6:22:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Madnice:

If you go back and read the full post, near the end I wrote a paragraph detailing things that the Celtics did well and then I did the paragraph detailing what the Lakers did poorly. I picked the Lakers to win, so I thought it was important to explain exactly what I had expected them to do that they did not get done.

This year in one of the games versus Houston, Battier face guarded Kobe (which is legal) and defended him about as well as I have ever seen Kobe defended. Prince did a good job against Kobe in the 2004 Finals. Bowen makes Kobe work, though Kobe can get to his spots and elevate over Bowen, who is not as big or long as Battier, Prince and Posey.

Unless I missed something, Posey got one steal off of Bryant and I could not tell if Posey actually deflected the ball or if Kobe simply mishandled it--credit Posey either way, but I could not tell what happened. Posey was not stealing the ball (plural) from Kobe. I agree that Posey did an excellent job of not going for shot fakes.

 
At Thursday, June 19, 2008 6:47:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

I wrote about JJ's game four performance in an April 29 post titled "J.J is Dynomite!"

I did not rely solely on numbers to conclude that Kobe played better versus Boston than J.J. did; I was responding directly to an assertion that J.J. drove to the hoop and drew more fouls than Kobe did. I showed that this is not the case and I also pointed out that Kobe outperformed J.J. in other statistical categories as well.

Let me clarify something: I am not against using numbers. What I am against is using numbers without context and without understanding of what takes place in basketball games and why those things take place.

Kobe had a greater impact versus Boston statistically, as I noted in my previous comment, and he attracted more defensive attention, which gave his teammates scoring opportunities. The other Lakers did not take advantage of those opportunities.

To say that this site is "devoted" to Kobe is ridiculous. The whole right sidebar of the front page is loaded with articles about past and present players. I provided recaps throughout the regular season and playoffs that were more detailed than anything else that is available in print or online and I did not exclusively cover Lakers' games here. Among other things, I wrote extensively about the Cavs during the season and the first two rounds, documented that CP3's assist totals are inflated and explained precisely why Boston would beat Detroit.

That said, Kobe won the MVP and led his team to the Western Conference championship, so he naturally was discussed in many posts. There is also a lot of nonsense that is written about Kobe that I sought to correct.

 
At Thursday, June 19, 2008 6:58:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

The link that you provided has nothing to do with the HoF.

I think that you are referring to a site called dataBase Basketball, which is basically a knock off of Basketball Reference.com.

Here is the link to the relevant page:

http://www.basketball-reference.com/leaders/
hof_prob_career.html

I don't rely entirely--or even mostly--on these numbers but I brought them up merely to point out that the Celtics' three top players have already each put together quite impressive statistical resumes. KG is an obvious first ballot HoFer. I suspect that Pierce will be a first ballot HoFer as well. Allen has been a top shooting guard for the better part of a decade and he has surpassed Reggie Miller in ppg, three point fg% and All-Star selections.

 
At Friday, June 20, 2008 6:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

the celts were the better team had the better team than lakers gasol was soft and so was odom kobe played not good as well shot 40 percent got 25ppg 5 4 paul pierce was best player in sereies kobe still better player not in series is my point. the first three rounds he was great jordaness not in finals. reality was he was playing aginst 3 hall of famers kevin garnett had 111 points pierce 134 allen 122 kobe 154 gasol 88 and odom 81 plus they role and bench was better than lakers.

but this end any notion he was as good as mike never in the finals was jordan not best player in series like pierce was over kobe he played aginst drexler barkley malone stockton all better than pierce mike never shot 6-19 8-21 and 7-22 back to back to back games in finals and got 17 25 22 the lowest mike averaged in finals was 27 ppg 96 and he wouldnt of let his team cough up a 24 point lead like kobe did in game 4. see jordan had better intangibles and leadership than kobe ever did no matter how tough the d was or who it was the knicks and pistons late early 90's he was dominant most of the time this celtic defense couldnt stop jordan no matter how they play lebron played better 5-7 than kobe as well shot 45 percent got 37.3 35 in game 5 32 in game 6 45 in game 7 now lebron shot 35 percent becuase he was terrible 1-4 shooting 25 percent. but kobe dipped to me he was not domminant and never been in finals joe johnson arguably played as well in his series the 3 home games at least than kobe shooting 40 percent after shooting 50 in first 3 is big dip.

now kobe still best player but not a finals to remeber for him and no one else with bynum back next year it coud be diffrent and they could win it he gives them a physical presence they desperately need.


just wondering if you look at garnett vs duncan duncan has 4 garnett 1 who would you say has more pierce and allen or parker and ginibillo helathy ginobbili is he to you better than allen and pierce would be better than parker and duncan probably just over kg just wondering the two have always been compared.

 
At Saturday, June 21, 2008 4:39:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

You keep comparing Kobe to MJ but MJ has been retired for years, so what's the point? I've never said that Kobe is better than MJ. In fact, I've repeatedly said exactly the opposite.

Still, all this year's Finals proved is that three HoFers plus a deep bench can corral one HoFer who has a soft frontline and a weaker bench. MJ was better than Kobe but you are kidding yourself if you think that subbing in MJ for Kobe would have changed the outcome of this particular series. If MJ were a Superman who could win with any supporting cast then he would have won 10 or 12 titles, not six. Give Kobe a Top 50 player--heck, give him one guy who has made multiple All-Star teams--and he could have led the Lakers to victory.

Although the game is less physical today than it was when MJ played--because of flagrant foul rules, etc.--keep in mind that zone defenses are legal now and were not legal back then. That means that MJ would have had similar problems to the ones that Kobe had in this series. MJ had a better postup game than Kobe, so he probably would have had to be double teamed on the block even with Pierce on him--unlike Kobe--but when MJ would be double teamed he'd still be passing to the same guys Kobe passed to, the same guys who did not get it done.

Here's another way to look at it. In '93 MJ had some horrible shooting games against the tough, physical Knicks, but Pip stepped up in those games and together they led the Bulls to victory. In the '93 Finals the Bulls played Phx, a finesse team, and MJ averaged 40-plus ppg with a great field goal percentage. My point is that tough, physical defense did have an effect on MJ but he had Pip as his wingman instead of Gasol. I'm not sure if Gasol would have stepped on the court versus Oakley and Mason and I'm sure he would not have gone anywhere near the paint; if Gasol is wary of challenging KG and Perkins he'd have a heart attack if he saw Oak waiting for him.

It's just silly to say that MJ would never have let his team lose a 24 point lead. How can you know what MJ would do in this exact situation? He never led a team that was this weak to the Finals. In a sense, you are punishing Kobe for carrying this team this far.

You can't just pick and choose games and try to argue that LeBron performed better against Boston than Kobe did. I said that Kobe would shoot better than LeBron and have fewer turnovers against both the Spurs and Celtics--and I explained why this would be the case--and that is exactly what happened. Yes, I thought that Kobe would shoot better than he did but he still shot significantly better than LeBron did against Boston--and what Kobe did versus the Spurs is simply off the charts.

If I understand your question correctly, assuming that all of the players are healthy I'd take Duncan over KG and Pierce over Ginobili. Allen versus Parker is really tough to call because their games are so completely different. The way the game is played now with the emphasis on dribble penetration I'd probably take Parker over Allen, though Allen has obviously had a longer and more decorated career.

I think that KG had more help this year than Duncan has had most of the years that he won, particularly if you look at 2003, when D-Rob was old and Parker and Manu were young.

 
At Saturday, June 21, 2008 11:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

micheal jordan would of won the finals with this same team he shot better and was better than kobe in the finals. kobe has never been dominant in finals and has been bottled up 3 times. jordan never was bottled up like that and played aginst better teams in a way more physical era you put him on the lakers they win in 6 because he would won game 4 when they were up 24 and wouldnt of shot 6-19 boston is not the knicks or pistons defensively and clearly kobe not jordan we see as well.

pierce was better than kobe in series jordan was never not better than every player in series he played aginst and kobe would play far worse than jordan back in his era aginst those 93 knicks. kobe did it aginst the spurs but boston was better defensively than spurs and he got bottled up lebron played better than him the latter part of his series and he took his team farther than kobe did his the closest boston came to loseing was too cleveland. no way cleveland got a better team than lakers put jordan even with gasol and odom they beat the big 3 without question as i said lebron probably would as well almost did with varejao and delonte west.

kobe a great player it was a joke to say he is in micheal jordan league from jump and to say he could do as much with less as mike jordan was only player to win with one hall of famer in your pantheon plus he won more titles than everybody except ruseel who played 7 other hall of famers in his career.

kobe and pip might win one or two titles not six becasue kobe is not mike he would not score 46 in clincher vs utah 39 when he was sick 37 game 2 vs utah and he would not go throug the knicks and pistons i think they would clobber kobe especially those rules back then they had scottie pippen quitting with headache problems.

 
At Sunday, June 22, 2008 12:52:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

I'm not saying that Kobe is better than MJ but I do disagree with some of the comparisons and statements that you made.

Being "bottled up" or not "bottled up" in the Finals has something to do with who you are playing against and who your teammates are. MJ never made it to the Finals without a Top 50 player next to him, so no one can say how "bottled up" he would have been in such a circumstance, particularly when faced with a great defensive team.

Jordan had playoff games in which he shot 6-19 or even a worse percentage, so there is no way to know what he may or may not have done versus Boston if his team built a 24 point lead. The Celtics are an outstanding defensive team and MJ had some pretty bad shooting games in the playoffs, including these numbers against the '93 Knicks: 10-27, 12-32, 3-18 in the first three games. The Bulls lost games one and two and needed 29 points on 10-12 shooting from Pip to win game three. To play your game, if MJ had had Gasol instead of Pip the Bulls would have been down 3-0 and lost that series eventually. MJ did put up 54 points in a game four win but in the game seven victory he shot just 8-24. Look, MJ was tremendous and I agree that he was better than Kobe but MJ was not God. He missed shots, he made mistakes and he needed to have good teammates in order to win championships.

Why is it so important to you to build MJ up to such an extent?

It is bizarre how you just dismiss what Kobe did against the Spurs. The Spurs were the defending champions and they sure "bottled up" LeBron last year. Instead of all these fake MJ-Kobe comparisons that are meaningless anyway because MJ has been retired for years, what people should be saying is that Kobe's field goal percentage and turnover numbers against the Spurs and Celtics mean that LeBron should not be elevated above Kobe until LeBron improves his outside shot and decision making. That comparison is a lot more relevant and meaningful than all of this other nonsense.

Again--and for the last time, because I don't intend to keep revisiting this--you cannot pick and choose games from the series in order to compare Kobe and LeBron. Kobe shot better than LeBron versus Boston and had fewer turnovers. The numbers are not even close. That is what I predicted would happen. The Cavs took Boston to seven games because their team is more physical, defends better and rebounds better than the Lakers.

Pip did not have "headache problems." He had a migraine. Ask Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Terrell Davis or anyone else who has had a migraine what that is like.

 
At Sunday, June 22, 2008 4:43:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

why is so important you build kobe up like he is this legend and better than everybody ever jordan is better than everybody ever im not building him up he was just better than evrybody jordan had bad shooting game the man is human but the 93 knicks was tougher than the celtics was kobe wouldnt of done as good aginst those knicks teams or the pistons or go nowhere near the paint aginst them jordan had alot of great games vs the knicks more great than bad and alot vs pistons and it was way rougher back then than today. if you get bottled up by boston now i couldnt imagine what the pistons and knicks would do to kobe or what he would shoot.

the bulls won by 20 when pippen had 29 it's not like they won by 2 or 3 and every point was quinessential jordan didnt play good he would of took more shots with gasol on team and if gasol could get 14 15 points they still would of won that game just alot closer.

the 2007 spurs were better than 2008 kobe got botttled up by best defense in league in boston you dont dismiss what happen aginst boston and say kobe had a great playoff because he dominated the spurs nuggets utah, boston doesnt count even though it was for the championship? it doesnt work that way aginst the best team and for the most at stake he came up short and when everybody thoguht he was the diffrence he was not he had one good game out of 6 game 3 really that it. everybody was yelling jordan this and that and for 3rd final out of 5 he didnt live up to the hype.

look he no jordan and never will be he didnt play well why cant you just admit that i know youre a fan but too me you take it to the next level every time kobe shoot bad it's a bulit in excuse for him. when lebron shoots bad you dont say he had alot of assits and made good descions and dont say he didnt either just cause he had alot of turnover he had 5 a game kobe had 4 a game but no you just say he shot bad every time kobe has a turover or anything you have a glass half empty theory never critical of kobe when he has terrible games. but say i think jordan a super hero or something you think kobe perfect or the same thing
i think of jordan supposedly.

jordan not giveing up 24 point lead paul pierce would never out play him in a series noone ever did even when he was playing the psitons he was the best player just pistons had better team in 89 90 and they was pushed to brink stone thing

kobe fans will say one thing basketball fans will say another if you watch the series you know what you saw.

 
At Sunday, June 22, 2008 6:46:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

Our exchange of comments here dramatically highlights the difference between being a fan, which is what you are, and being an NBA analyst, which is what I am.

1) You assert that I built Kobe up to be "better than everybody ever." I challenge you to find even one quote from me on this website--or anywhere else--where I said that. In contrast, you repeatedly speak about MJ as if he is some flawless deity who never had a bad game.

2) You are entitled to your opinion that the early 90s Knicks were tougher defensively than this year's Celtics but there is no way to prove that. The Knicks were allowed to be more physical because the rules were different back then but the Celtics are allowed to play zone defense. The Knicks did not have a defensive big with the skills and mobility of KG.

3) Your speculation about the impact of Pip versus Gasol is very poorly grounded. Gasol is a one-time All-Star who never led a team to even one playoff victory prior to this season. Pip is an all-time great who led a team to the Conference Finals without MJ--and that was after Pip had back surgery and was in the declining part of his career. MJ lost plenty of playoff series when he did not have enough help and swapping Pip for Gasol would most certainly qualify as not having enough help. Of course, you will never admit this because you think that MJ is God.

4) By what standard were the 2007 Spurs better than the 2008 Spurs? I understand that one team won the championship and one team did not but winning a championship is dependent not only on how good you are but how good the competition is. Kobe played much, much, much better versus San Antonio than LeBron did in the 2007 Finals and that was the difference. Otherwise, the Spurs would have returned to the Finals and perhaps they would have beaten the Celtics.

5) Who was "yelling Jordan this and Jordan that" in reference to Kobe? I certainly was not. You really need to post your comments about this subject at the websites that publish the remarks that are irritating you so much.

6) I don't analyze Kobe any differently than I analyze LeBron. When LeBron shot poorly I mentioned that he played a good floor game. When LeBron was criticized for passing to Marshall instead of taking the last shot (in 2007) I defended him. I was about the only person to pick the Cavs to beat Detroit in 2007. You don't want to admit that Kobe is objectively better than LeBron, so you accuse me of being biased--but the only one who is showing bias here is you with your deification of MJ.

7) One player neither builds a 24 point lead nor gives up a 24 point lead. The Lakers lost because the Celtics played better overall. When MJ was not on the best team then he lost, also. If he had managed to carry a flawed team to the Finals then he very well may have been on the wrong side of a blown 24 point lead.

The bottom line is that it is foolish to base your evaluation of a player's overall skill set and career on one game.

 
At Wednesday, July 09, 2008 10:43:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reason why so many people picked the Lakers was for two reasons in my opinion. One was the fact of how quickly the Lakers defeated the Spurs. Another was the over hyped love affair everyone was having with Kobe. People forgot that the C's hadn't lost 4 out of 7 games all season. With the early hiccups against Atlanta and Cleveland, the people who had doubts about the C's early in the season figured they had been right all along. Boston dominated from start to finish and absolutely were too hungry for the title. Bryant needed the title for the MJ comparison. KG, PP, and RA needed the title for their own individual legacies. That desire was too much for the Lakers to overcome. In every major sport, good "d" most often over good "o". The Super Bowl this year and these finals only strengthens that point. Experts don't be fooled next time!

 
At Wednesday, July 09, 2008 3:02:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

I can't speak for others but I picked the Lakers to win because I thought that the Celtics would not be able to effectively guard the Bryant-Gasol screen/roll action: the Lakers killed two physical teams (Spurs, Jazz) by running that play repeatedly in the half court set. However, Gasol played very softly against the Celtics in terms of how he set his screens, how he rolled to the hoop and the shots that he took.

In general, I do pick the better defensive team to win a series and, in retrospect, that is what I should have done in this case as well.

 

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