Is this hot-dogging by LeBron James? Doc Rivers doesn't think so.
The Boston Celtics made some curious offensive choices in the half court, and coach Doc Rivers took responsibility for their inability to get the right guys the right shots in the right spots. "We've got to get the ball to the right guys and that's on me," he said.Case in point: Boston's repeated reliance on Glen Davis in the post. With the game in the balance in the early stages of the fourth quarter, Boston pounded the ball into Davis five times in six minutes.
The strategy started out well enough at the outset, as Davis drove Joel Anthony middle to start the period, flinging up a bank shot while drawing contact for the and-1. Davis then came back with the mirror version of the same play on the left side, drawing another foul on Anthony. But after that, the Davis parade down low continued, even as the Boston starters returned to the court. The result? Three unsuccessful attempts against Chris Bosh -- with defensive assists from Anthony, who was primed and ready to slide over along the baseline to alter Davis' shot. Meanwhile, the Celtics' primary scorers lingered motionless on the weakside perimeter. This isn't Boston basketball, something Rivers stressed after the game.
"We're not a one-on-one basketball team," Rivers said. "I thought Baby [Davis] was aggressive, but it is what it is."
It is what it is is a statement of resignation by a coach who doesn't want to embarrass a player, but is clearly unhappy with both the process and the result. The Celtics had about 55 purely half-court possessions on Tuesday night, or about 14 or so per quarter (the rest occurred on pushed balls, early offense and transition). To spend almost half of those on Davis isolation plays at the most crucial juncture of the game is the basketball equivalent of ordering fish at a steakhouse -- and it's not what the Celtics normally do.
Rivers was asked if he took umbrage at watching LeBron James shimmy on the rim after an emphatic slam. His answer? Not in the least. "He got to the rim," Rivers said. "I always said that, if you can get there, you should be allowed to do pushups, whatever the hell you want to do if we allow you to get there. That kind of stuff never bothers me."
After subsisting on midrange jumpers in Game 1, the Miami Heat realized they'd have to get their paint points in Game 2 by moving off the ball from the weakside. There's a nice example toward the end of the first quarter when the Heat exploit the backside of the Celtics' defense. Mike Bibby rejects a screen from Anthony along the right sideline and instead drives baseline. The Celtics zero in on Bibby as if he's Dwyane Wade. In addition to the trap, the Celtics, as they're wont to do, send yet another body sliding along the baseline. That man is Jeff Green, whose assignment is James. Green's incursion toward Bibby offers James the opportunity to cut baseline. Even in heavy traffic, Bibby finds James with a pretty bounce pass -- a layup for LeBron.Check out the Heat's first possession of the second half. Wade leaves the ball with James along the right sideline, then curls in a "reverse C" motion behind Ray Allen all the way to the cup. James finds him there, where Allen fouls him. Wade stretches the lead to seven.
The Heat need to challenge the Celtics inside with aggressive attacks on the rim, but there are back roads into the paint, and the Heat have the athleticism and instincts to find those back doors and work the baseline. On Tuesday night, they did.
Erik Spoelstra orchestrated another stellar set out of a timeout. This one occurred at the 3:12 mark of the first quarter. Nothing fancy -- just a brutally effective UCLA cut. Wade inbounds the ball to James from the left sideline. James immediately returns the ball to Wade, as Joel Anthony sets up at the elbow and sets a down screen. James streaks down the lane past Anthony's left hip. Jeff Green has no other recourse than to try to meet James at the basket by running to Anthony's right. Good luck with that. Wade lobs a perfect alley-oop to James at the rim, and LeBron slams it home.
As Rajon Rondo's primary defender, Bibby will endure a ton of scrutiny in this series. Rondo was able to break down Bibby on a number of occasions. He found seams on pick-and-rolls, slashing to the hoop. When Bibby roved off Rondo as a helper -- look at the possession with 2:00 remaining in the third quarter -- the Celtics exploited that decision by quickly swinging the ball back to Rondo. With James Jones having to scamper to fill the void left by Bibby, Rondo zoomed by Jones and drove down the gut of the lane for an easy layup. Bibby will continue to have his hands full with Rondo going forward. There's no reason to compound his problems by doubling Garnett across the floor, particularly when Anthony is more than capable of handling that matchup one-on-one. Bibby doesn't have to fully contain Rondo -- nor does he have the skills to do so consistently -- but he can't give Rondo carte blanche to breeze through open space.
In case you missed it, here's Dwyane Wade's euro-step against a backpedaling Kevin Garnett.