Zach Lowe of CelticsHub backs up the assertion in the headline in all kinds of smart ways, but the story begins with Ron Artest:
The presence of Artest as LA’s starting small forward is, on its own, a large enough change to make the 2008 Finals a near-irrelevant precedent. In other words: If both rosters were entirely the same, and everyone’s skill level had remained the same, making the single change of replacing Vladimir Radmanovic with Artest as LA’s starting small forward is big enough to blow up any ‘08/’10 comparisons.
The Lakers started Vlad Radmanovic at small forward in 2008! And he wasn’t a token starter! He played 21.5 minutes per game in the Finals, shooting 39 percent from the floor and playing mediocre defense against Boston’s best offensive player.
Luke Walton played 11 minutes per game in the Finals and shot 31 percent. Trevor Ariza, who supplanted both Rad Man and Walton in ‘09, was a total non-factor, logging just 7 minutes per game in the ‘08 Finals.
Those three players, combined, logged about 40 minutes per game in the 2008 Finals. I realize those minutes sometimes overlapped, but still: Forty minutes per game.
And now comes Artest, a guy who held Kevin Durant to 43-of-123 shooting (35 percent) in the first round.
Artest hasn’t exactly shut down Paul Pierce, but he has made Pierce work hard to score. In their last eight head-to-head match-ups dating to 2006, here are Pierce’s scoring numbers against Artest:
18.8 PPG, 43 percent shooting (46-of-107), 36 percent from three (14-of-39), 52 free throw attempts.